Jade Imperium - May We Die In The Forest

Admiral Duck Sauce 2010-07-23 03:48:51
Graiza, the female medicae from the orbital, is far less guarded than Kosai when Davis approaches her after returning from his chat. She quickly agrees to time outside and soon she's looking at the wreckage and ruin around camp, walking through the mud with Davis.

Davis smiles warmly at Graiza as they turn the corner away from the dome doors. "I never got the chance to thank you for your help before, Graiza. You've done a lot to help keep everything together and everyone alive."

"I didn't do it for you, but thanks all the same," the woman says.

"Oh, I know," Davis says. "I'm sorry if I gave the impression otherwise. Whether or not you did them for me, acts of kindness are still acts of kindness." They take a few more steps around the dome. "I also want to apologize for how things went in the dome last night. I would have tried to calm things down, but..."

"But you were blown up, I understand," Graiza says. She looks down as she picks her way through some of the rooftop debris from the dome. "Kosai's plan didn't exactly work, so I suppose I'm glad you survived."

Davis laughs. "I'll take 'I suppose', thanks," Davis says. "So, what are your plans for the next day or so?"

She shrugs. "What are my options?"

"Well, pretty much up to you," Davis says. "I'm more than willing to forget about what happened last night. You got caught up in what happened, right? It seemed like the right thing to do."

"I think we all trusted Kosai after she got us out of the orbital. She's not crazy and she's not like Hoei. I thought the Keepers were going to help, I didn't know they were just going to sit there. I thought we would have numbers and we could overwhelm the wherren before it got too serious."

Davis nods. "And I would have done exactly the same thing in your position. You're a good person, Graiza, I know you wouldn't want to do anything that could seriously injure or kill someone unless you absolutely had to. I'm willing to trust you well enough to let you choose where you go and what you do in camp."

They both stop, and Graiza looks up to see the front door to Hab 3, where the wounded wherren and Hale have been placed to recover. "But for right now, may I make a suggestion?" He leans inside. "Hey, Luis, I've got a guest, can we come in?"

Luis barely looks up. "Yeah, sure."

Davis leans back out and stands aside. "Do you want to come in, Graiza? It's up to you."

She peers inside the hab, then angles past Davis and walks up to Luis. "Give me a rundown of these patients," she says to Luis. It's more an order than a question.

"We have 11 Wherren here, and Hale," Luis says. "The Wherren are a mix of spears, arrows, bullets, and beam wounds. Hale suffered crush trauma and then had to have an arm amputated to be rescued from the rubble. He was treated with a kauka, but I'm keeping an eye on him until I can be sure he's going to be all right. Unless he suffers any blood-loss-related issues, I'm focusing on the Wherren casualties." He regards the patients for a moment, then looks to Graiza. "It's a lot for one person. If you could, I'd appreciate any help."

Graiza nods as Luis summarizes the wounded. "I'll check Hale, then I'll take the beam-wounded wherren. I'm more experienced with those than your primitive-style weapons."

Davis nods. "Great. Graiza, can I speak to you for a minute?"

The medicae's already doing her best to sanitize her hands given the conditions, and she looks over to Davis as she scrubs at blood and dirt under her nails. "Good, yes, come over here," she waves Davis over and thrusts an open medkit towards him. "Just keep that open and near my left side."

Davis takes the medkit. "Err, okay," he says, and folds the cover back for Graiza. "So, I've noticed a certain lack of trust between myself and you, and most of the others here. It's not about the camp though, you believe me when I talk about the conditions here, but not about Narsai, what we're doing here, or anything like that. It's like you think I'm just blowing smoke up your cloaks for my own benefit with all of this stuff, or at least I'm the only one who believes any of what I'm saying. That about right?"

Graiza removes a bag of liquid from the kit and starts feeding it into Hale's good arm. "I think maybe that's a good way to put it," she replies. "We only ever talk to you, and maybe Luis over there. The rest of you people... well, they're soldiers and for the most part I don't think they want anything to do with us. The end result is that we only have your word that Narsai is full of sunshine and rainbows and it's just not enough." Graiza empties the bag quickly, mentioning, "He's dehydrated and needs nourishment. Make sure he gets at least one of these bags a day to keep the regeneration going. Other than that, he should pull through." She then turns and heads for the wherren that have been wounded by beamer fire - most notably two warriors who were guarding the prisoners during the riot.

"Yo, Stanhill," Hugh says. "You here? I got -" He stops when he sees Davis and Graiza staring at him and switches to Imperial. "Hello, Davis. Hello - medic lady. I'm sorry, I didn't catch your name."

"Graiza," she replies on her way to the wherren she doesn't recognize first.

"Graiza, right," Hugh says. He looks around. "What am I interrupting? You guys are talking shop, I can smell it. Serious discussion in the air."

She looks up from injecting the first of a handful of painkillers into a wherren. "We were discussing what I am to do while I'm here on Whiirr, and I told Davis that his word is not enough for me to believe that Narsai is the shining beacon of civilization from the old tales."

"Apparently," Davis says. "They don't believe me about how we are and why we're here because I'm the only one who ever says anything."

"Okay, I think I got the gist of it," Hugh says. "Now, Davis may have more of a salesman in him than I do, but he's not lying. We really would like it much better if we could come to a peaceful arrangement with the Imperium, and I don't harbor grudges against the people of the Imperium. Whereever you wanna go and whatever you wanna do is just fine by me, as long as you're not fighting me. And what I'm fighting for - the right for us to exist, the right for people to make their own choices instead of having their life handed down from the golden throne - that doesn't sound so bad to me."

"No, it doesn't," Graiza agrees, trading the spent injectors for a waiting anti-burn spray, "And I don't know, maybe I'd want to stay if I saw it, but I'm not going to just leave my husband on Aikoro. My parents... my job... I can't leave my entire life like that."

"Your call," Hugh says. "Davis has probably already told you about the 'extraction' option. If not, well, let me put it this way: your family doesn't have to be left behind. We've got enough chops to get the people who are near and dear to you to safety. Question is, do you want to risk that, do you want to make them go through that - but it can be done."

"And you'd do this for me, take in a family with no... no military value or whatever? Just people who'd want to... to... there's a word, to come into and live... immigrants?"

"I'm not in the Salvation Army," Hugh replies, "but I figure we dicked you over here, so if you're willing to throw in with us, I'd feel kinda honor-bound to make the experience as not-shitty as we can humanly manage."

Luis listens in as he works as well, and as he and Graiza treat the wounded he realizes just how over his head he would have been without her help. Nobody stays in the same shape they were in when they were first triaged, and keeping up with little emergencies here and there takes both medics and the Shaman, in addition to whatever help they can coax out of Davis and Hugh as they talk.

Graiza finishes closing up one of the prison guards' nasty beam-craters and hits him with another shot to keep him under. "It won't be easy to convince them... they only know what the ravilars say, and you know what they say. But if you really can get us to Narsai, I can at least convince my family that it would be best."

"Sensible call," Hugh says. "Postpone the worrying until that gateway is finished, 'cause right now nobody's going nowhere."

"But the deal is good, Graiza," Davis says, handing her another bandage. "Our word will not suddenly cease to be valid once we leave this place. Just remember that if we say that we will work to get your family to Narsai safe, that is what is going to happen. Okay, Graiza?"

"Okay," she agrees.
Admiral Duck Sauce 2010-07-23 03:57:04
Davis spends the rest of the day with the civilian prisoners. Although he smooths over the recent events, he gets the full range of responses to suggestions of defection. A few people, like Graiza, are receptive to the idea but have conditions (usually family package deals or assurances of certain benefits once they come over). Some flat-out refuse, and a few agree right off the bat. Hale remains in a comatose state of slow regeneration, but his condition doesn't worsen. As for the Gateway, the Keg has changed its tune from "a few days" to "almost done". Meanwhile, Cowboy finishes patching the hab roofs, and just in time too. It looks like another rainstorm is on its way.

His duties finished for now, Davis settles down in Hab 2 for a bit of relaxation - the first chance he'd had since they crash-landed on this planet. A smuggled MP3 player and deck of cards is rescued from a deep pocket in his rucksack, and he starts a brief game of solitaire but quickly ends it as Shenest notices what he's doing and walks over, curious about the Narsai items. A hacked-together cable from Diego Garcia patches the player into the holoprojector, but Davis' collection of alt-rock, classic rock and punk is far more interesting to Shenest than the primitive device. Kaoak pokes his head in as Davis starts to teach Shenest the universal language of poker hands, and joins the training game in progress.

Ten minutes later, Kaoak and Shenest are picking up the basics of the game. Both Kaoak and Shenest found Muse and Silversun Pickups likable, but Shenest's rather sudden liking of Bad Religion and Green Day surprises Davis, even when he explained to her what the singers are actually saying.

"Four reds," Shenest proclaims victoriously as Luis and Arketta wander their way into the hab. Arketta nudges at Luis, like she's prompting him for something she's (surprisingly) too shy to come right out and say.

Luis takes the hint. "Hey, Davis? Can we talk for a minute?"

Davis looks up from the paper he's scribbling on. "Sure, one sec." He tears the page out of his notebook and leaves in with Kaoak and Shenest. "Here, these are the hands for poker. We'll start playing for stakes when I get back." He stands up and turns to Luis and Arketta. "Sure, follow me," he says. Davis leads them out of Hab 2 and over into the underground utility bunker. "You two were looking like you wanted some privacy for this. What's up?"

Luis looks to Arketta, then back to Davis. "We were talking earlier about trying to contact Arketta's family, and maybe getting them out if they're willing. You're making that same basic offer to the people here, can we get her family on that list too?"

Davis smiles. "Fuck yeah, we can. I was worried about having to do it completely under the radar. So, are the two of you a thing now?"

Arketta looks at Davis askance. "We are people, not... oh. Yes. Yes we are."

Luis looks less ready to come right out and say it, but after Arketta does, he nods sheepishly. "Yeah. Was it obvious?"

"I think they know it all the way on Napai," Davis says with a grin. "It's good though, good for the both of you. I was wondering when you two were going to get it over with. But yes, I've been thinking about this for a while, it's where I got the amnesty idea from in the first place. Your relationship does change things a bit."

"Change things how?" Arketta asks quickly. Davis can see that she's nervous asking for help like this, but this is something that she wants very badly.

"Don't worry, Arketta," Davis says. "It's just that I might have to adjust my pitch to Barnes about detaching you guys to the GRHDI. Luis might have to make the move with me to the GRHDI when we get out of here. Otherwise, some of the more...closed-minded people in the Army might use a fraternization charge to stop the move."

"If that's what it takes, I'm fine with that," Luis says.

"You'll wear a suit instead of a uniform and you'll have an office you rarely visit, but other than that, things will be pretty much the same," Davis says. He looks at Arketta. "Don't worry. My first mission priority once we've gotten everything from Whiirr sorted out is getting your family to Narsai safely. We're going to bring them home, okay?"

Arketta nods and smiles in relief. "Good. Thank you."

"You're family, one of us, Arketta," Davis says. "We take care of our own." He watches the look that Arketta and Luis share, and smiles. "Well, I'll leave you two alone. I'll keep an eye on the Keepers for you for, say, an hour or two, Luis," he says as he walks out of the bunker.

Luis grins, "Thanks. You might also want to look in on Graiza, make sure she still has things in hand. She did when I left, but with as many casualties as we have it may be worth checking."

Davis doesn't look back, and just waves as he climbs the steps out of the bunker.

Luis turns to Arketta as Davis leaves. He smiles, "I knew he'd know how to handle it. He's probably been planning that for months."

"Stop talking and take your pants off," Arketta says.
Dieter 2010-07-23 16:27:07
"Repairs are finished, Captain." says Cowboy to Hugh, struggling to find the ice tea setting on the Autochef.

"I'll be glad when we're able to get some more manpower and permanent living quarters. This A-Team shit will hold for a while, but eventually nothing is going to keep the rain out."
Gatac 2010-07-23 18:10:37
"Just gotta get the gateway up," Hugh says, "the second we got that, it's free blowjobs for everyone. Figuratively speaking."

He looks Cowboy over.

"How are you holding up, DeFranco? You gettin' your kicks between Alamo reenactments and carpentry?"
Dieter 2010-07-23 18:47:08
Gatac wrote:

"Just gotta get the gateway up," Hugh says, "the second we got that, it's free blowjobs for everyone. Figuratively speaking."

He looks Cowboy over.

"How are you holding up, DeFranco? You gettin' your kicks between Alamo reenactments and carpentry?"

"If it ain't raining, we ain't training...such is the life of the grunt. Haven't done this much fixing since the Taliban mortared our fire base outside of Kabul. But to be honest, I could definitely use some R&R after we finish the shindig. Hell, an honest to goodness beer would suffice. The autochef apparently doesn't compute Dogfish 90-Minute IPA. The closest I could get was this awful tasting, yellow, swill-like concoction. The upside is that the Imperium apparently already knows how to make Bud Light."
Gatac 2010-07-23 21:15:02
Hugh chuckles. "Yeah, well, it doesn't make Kobe beef, either," he says. "Some things I rather go without than have my appetite ruined by a shitty substitute, you know?"

He looks up to the roof.

"So, I'm curious. Is this the kinda front-line action you were looking for when you signed those marching papers? We usually go lighter on the mass combat but it doesn't get any more comfortable than this. I figure you're a guy who wants to be here, but isn't doing it for the ideology - you don't seem the 'ideology' kind of type, DeFranco. What's your poison? Glory? Challenging yourself? The official license to requisition anything and give the finger to anyone?"
Dieter 2010-07-26 21:03:34
Gatac wrote:

"So, I'm curious. Is this the kinda front-line action you were looking for when you signed those marching papers? We usually go lighter on the mass combat but it doesn't get any more comfortable than this. I figure you're a guy who wants to be here, but isn't doing it for the ideology - you don't seem the 'ideology' kind of type, DeFranco. What's your poison? Glory? Challenging yourself? The official license to requisition anything and give the finger to anyone?"

"I go where the Army sends me, Sir. Although, I can't venture to say anyone on any of my teams really wanted to go to such wonderful places like the crotch-rot, malaria-infested jungles of the Philippines for six months...but there we were. I could have bailed on ole' Uncle Sam after Desert Storm, but I didn't. Hell if I know why I'm still here. Ten years ago, I'd be the first to say it was the visit exotic places, meet strange people, then kill them the Staff Sergeants spouted about enlistment doctrine. These days, it's either this or working on my uncle's ranch out in Lubbock, Texas. Ever had the pleasure of artificially inseminating cows in heat or standing ankle dip in steer shit all day? Yeah, neither have I nor do I want to...so I think I'll just stick with keeping the fire downrange, on the lookout for Tangos, and watching your six...if you don't mind, Sir."
Admiral Duck Sauce 2010-07-26 21:06:06
They arrive the evening of the sixth day. Hiigra trudges out of the treeline with almost double the wherren he left with. Delegates from other tribes, extra warriors in case of further Imperial trickery, and recent converts eager to see their planet's saviors come forth from the holy ring all filter into the research camp.

As for the "holy ring", the space that used to be the dome's maintenance bay is nearly filled with a gleaming silver ring-shaped cocoon. This good news is tempered by the realization that there are nowhere near enough autochef reserves left to feed this many sentients.

Hugh watches the convoy of newly arriving Wherren. He's glad to have fresh allies on location - just in case there's another crisis -, but having so many new faces here is a serious security problem, and he doesn't want just anyone to walk into sensitive areas and get a chance to mess with the camp's operation. For now, he'll keep watching and leave the diplomacy to others.

Davis hears the commotion in the trenches before the radio call comes in reporting the arrival of Hiigra's group. He stands up from one of the tables in Hab 2 that have been generally taken over for full-time poker and other card game duties, with all but the most curmudgeonly civilians and Keepers joining in by this point, along with Kaoak and Vimu when they're not in the trenches on watch.

"Deal me out, Shenest," Davis says, and heads outside to be ready to greet Hiigra and his fellow chiefs when they arrive.


The normal pleasantries take far longer than anyone expects. Families are reunited, others are mourned. Davis, Swims, and the shaman gently explain to Hiigra and the warriors how the Imperials in the camp aren't enemies and generally recap the events leading up to now. While the high muckamucks talk, Semo organizes a few hunting parties to complement the autochef''s dwindling bounty.

"...and your wherren and the rest of our group have been pretty much just passing the time and socializing with the majority of the Imperials who have seen past what lies they have been told about us and about your people," Davis says to Hiigra and the assembled chiefs.

"You are right, Steel Tusk," one chief says to Hiigra. "They are good gods, and the Long Runners tribe will follow them."

Hiigra shakes his head, and you get the feeling that he's had to do this several times over the past week. "No, they are not gods. They are like us, but they will help us become as they are. We will have great teachings, and make our own talismans, and before too long we will expand into the sky itself." Hiigra has tears of joy in his eyes as he crushes each team member in a huge wherren hug. "These humans have set us on the path to our own destiny!"

As the team watches Hiigra bellow to the gathered tribes, some can't help but be moved by the scene, but there are some thoughts that rise up and don't go back down so quickly. There are things to worry about, certainly - how many of these grand promises does the team actually have any control over? How fragile Whiirr is right now doesn't excape anyone's thoughts. The more you watch the wherren celebrate, the more you realize this is just a small step on a very long road. There are battles still to come, hard-fought skirmishes across budget committees as well as in deep space. Right now, however, Whiirr IS free, and a thousand worlds could not stop that from happening.
Admiral Duck Sauce 2010-07-26 21:06:39
The reunions and celebrations are just getting started a little later when Hiigra steps up on a cluster of crates. He waves at the camp and motions for quiet. He's clearly got something to sign.

"All the tribes gathered here, hear and see me now! We have much to be thankful for, and before we-"

The wherren chief's interrupted by a piercing flash from the maintenance bay. A deep, dark, low hum pulses in time after it. Everyone turns to look at the dome - the Gatekeg cocoon is dripping off an infant Gateway in thick, sentient rivulets that collect in a great lump in the center of the bay. One final thick tendril remains wrapped around the Gateway.
Admiral Duck Sauce 2010-07-26 21:59:19
Davis stands up from his spot next to Swims and some of the new wherren. "I think it's for me," he jokes, and walks into the maintenance bay. He puts a hand on the gatekeg and waits for the familiar static buzz of a connection. Davis feels the cold psychological tendrils snake in almost immediately.

All done. The Gateway is charged. You may display the new instance's local address again or you may sever the connection.

Sorry, missed it the first time. Just give me a moment, please. Davis looks over to Swims, Hiigra and Hugh. "It's ready." He pulls his hand off the keg to sign properly. "Swims-the-Black, Hiigra, you might want to get your people ready, we're about to open the Gateway. Hugh, do you or Luis have some kind of recording setup handy to film the gate code?"
Admiral Duck Sauce 2010-07-26 23:34:19
"You're on camera duty, Stanhill," Hugh replies, readying his weapon. "Perimeter security, form up! Team One on me!" He turns to Davis. "Any time you're ready."

Luis readies his vox to record holofeeds of the Gateway. Around the sergeant, a few other voxes get held up. The shaman's holding his up high, and it prompts anyone who has one to follow along. Luis definitely has the "official" duty, and he timestamps and narrates the proceedings.

Davis nods, and sticks a hand back on the keg. Flash the gate address again, please, then sever the connection.

The Keg acquiesces, and the Gateway's glyphs glow in its own unique order. The code flashes for all to see, human, wherren, and vox, then the silver tendril disengages from the holy ring and snakes its bulk back into the mercurial lump. The lump gradually metamorphoses back into its familiar, dormant keg shape. It's now completely separated from the Gateway as well as the Groi reactor that was powering it. It's easy work to hook that reactor directly into the Gateway, and a minute or two later the nascent artifact is ready for dialing.

Davis walks up and presses all but the last glyph on the Gateway, then motions for Hiigra to join him. "I think it would be fitting if you completed the gatecode, Hiigra. Just push that last glyph right there, and the Gateway will open."

"Whiirr-people!" Hiigra signs - his fur is blazing with color. "This holy ring opens the path, not of subjugation, but freedom!" The old warchief gives a Braveheart-worthy howl and lights up the Gateway. Luis smiles - this footage is historic.

To the throng of gathered aliens, it's kind of unimpressive. The glyphs indicate a blocked connection, which is SOP when connecting to Earth. Passcodes are broadcast, identities are verified, and after what seems like an eternity of cross-checking, a familiar female voice comes on the channel.

Samantha Barnes sounds fairly happy to hear from you, actually. "Agent Davis, Captain Verrill, you've done a great service to the... people... of Whiirr. What is your status? What do you need?"

"We need a welcome tour ready for some Wherren VIPs and a bunch of Imperials who are looking at maybe making a change of scenery, ready-to-gate hab prefabs and transport to get the base rolling, and the education corps we talked about ASAP, Miss Barnes," Davis says. "And a lot of beer and some good steaks, there's a lot of people and wherren here looking to celebrate as soon as you pop the gate."

"All right, they're telling me you need to send us your code so we can- oh, yes, what about the orbital gates?"

"Direct orbit gate is blocked, outsystem gate is secured but unblocked, as soon as we can communicate to the outsystem, we can get the gate code and have our Bashakran friends open their orbital and send a blocking crew through."

You can hear the scrambling in the background as Davis sends the status update. "Um, Agent Davis, send us the Whiirr code and we'll have to dial you back once we talk to Atea and get the ships moving."

Davis recites the gatecode glyphs back to Barnes. "Don't take too long, we've got a lot of wherren and Imperials anxious to see the new world."

Barnes is in crisis mode and gives a terse (but not terribly unfriendly) "Barnes out", then the connection aborts from Diego Garcia's side.


When Earth redials the Gateway about an hour later, Semo's hunting party has already returned and started a BBQ pit. The last of the autochef's used up for Dr. Zaef's Magic Moonshine, and several wherren are already "enjoying themselves".

The Gateflash is a welcome surprise, but even more surprising is who gets out of the lead Humvee. While three more Humvees and two big flatbeds muscle their way through the Whiirr mud, four Brits disembark from the truck.

"Right," the leader says. "I'm Captain Murray, this is McKidd, Fairbrass, and our translator, Baker. Beer's in the boot, lads."

Davis shakes Murray's hand with a smile. "Welcome to Whiirr, Captain, Garrett Davis. There's plenty of space in the clearing for the semis and personnel, just tell me what you need and I will get it for you."

"He needs my boot up his fat ass," Hugh says, joining the conversation with a grin. "Still with the 5th Queen's Rifles, Murray?"

"Hugh!" Murray's infamous mutton chops distort in a huge smile as he and Hugh trade a few light punches. "Wish I was, mate. We've been shanghaied into this 'hurdy-GRHDI' business. Before that, we was runnin' 'round Panama with your boy DeFranco there. Oi! Oi, Cowboy, you fuckin' wanker!" Murray turns back to Hugh after shouting at the Texan. "So, all the pricks dead 'round 'ere?"

"Haven't had any trouble for the last few days," Davis says, "think we got them all, but we've been running a watch rotation with the locals and some of the former Turai assigned here."

"Well, as the good Agent Davis said, we flattened the area and the pricks, as you so nicely put it, are no longer of consequence." He looks at Murray. "So, you're with GRHDI" - Hugh pronounces it 'groady' - "and you brought your own translator? I thought they brainwash everyone now." He looks to the translator and briefly switches to Imperial. "What are you good for then, other than floating around like a spink fart?"

Baker grins and replies in whiirrsign, "Fuck you, sir. I also speak Arabic, Chinese, and Bashakran."

"You'll go far," Hugh says. "Now, Murray, how about we raid your vehicle there for the useful, morale-boosting supplies and get you blokes sloshed right 'n proper?"
Dieter 2010-07-26 23:52:44
DeFranco's the first to raid the boot for the aqua vitae, grabbing two cold ones and walking up to Murray.

"Murray, you bastard. I do all the heavy lifting and what do I get in return...ten cases of English lager?!" grunts Cowboy, taking a short sip before shotgunning the rest in one gulp.

*cracks open the second can*

"Ah...cheers, old boy." quips Murray, reaching for the other can just as DeFranco starts drinking it, about-facing and walking away from the convoy.

"Welcome to Whirr, you limey motherfucker!"
Admiral Duck Sauce 2010-07-27 03:57:47
"Glad to see you too, Cowboy!" Murray says jovially. Fairbrass adds, "I did bring you some o' that Dogfish ye like, just lemme get me pants off, yeah?"
Dieter 2010-07-27 15:45:13
"Don't ask, don't tell Fairbrass. Keep your junk in your pants and off my beer!" adds Cowboy, jumping on the back of the lead Humvee and looking for the good stuff.
Admiral Duck Sauce 2010-07-28 21:40:35
Hugh, Cowboy, and Murray's task force continue their friendly ribbing as the bulk of the reinforcements finish trickling through. The last groups through are the education volunteers; a smattering of scientists and educators from all manner of alphabet-soup organizations. Once the team is satisfied that the camp is in good hands, and the buzz from the celebration dies off enough, an excited Davis calls Diego Garcia back and requests confirmation to translate the Imperials, the wherren leadership, and the team home.


Earth is a blur. Nobody realizes just how tired and hungry they are until they have something to look forward to - family for Davis, sleep for Angel, real food for Hugh, and so on. The decontamination takes forever, and the extra bureaucracy, the cleansuited GRHDI officials jockeying for position to meet Hiigra and the other wherren leaders, the additional security to handle the Imperial "guests" (because 'Davis said they were cool' doesn't carry the same weight on Earth as it does on Whiirr) all makes a claustrophobic, jostling, protocol-for-protocol's-sake mess.

Eventually everything gets sorted. Hiigra, the shaman, and the other chiefs are all pleased as punch to meet with the GRHDI leadership. They take baby steps - nothing that won't serve Earth's purposes, and nothing that'd exploit the wherren. Right now, organizing chopper flights to bring delegates around to as many tribes they can find is the priority.

Davis makes Graiza and the other Imperials his pet project during his stay on Diego Garcia. It's clear that many of the base personnel don't have the same tolerance for Imperials - especially Vimu, Kosai, and Kaoak as Turai - that Davis would like. It's not that the Imperials are actively mistreated - Zaef makes it his personal mission to see that none of the base personnel act out any misguided vengeance for comrades lost on Boranai or practice the simple prejudice that many soldiers have for their enemy. Meanwhile, trying to explain the same thing to nearly everyone who comes in contact with the Imperials is wearing on Davis. He endures, and spends time with his increasingly-pregnant wife, and calls the rebels, and coordinates a rescue of Graiza's family from Aikoro. Meanwhile, Shenest and all but three of her Keepers work out details for their return to Whiirr, this time doing research for Earth interests.


Despite what gets leaked to the internet and news, despite what rules of engagement might be ignored in the field, at the top of the food chain the Rules are taken seriously, and Hugh, Angel, and Davis find that General Hogue, Lt. Colonel Gibbons, Ms. Barnes, and the GRHDI as a whole all agree that the Sheen need to be taught some Rules if they are to engage in future joint operations. The humans mentally prepare for a lengthy and painful debate but the Sheen Ambassador turns out to be quite receptive to the idea of a Sheen training camp. It's entirely voluntary, of course. Any Sheen who wish to help humans in combat will receive the training, either in person or through updates from other Sheen. Angel's asked to lead this phase of the Sheen-Earth integration by the Ambassador itself - the Sheen warforms seem to have a respect for him and a few other highly-skilled humans that they don't have for... well, just about everything else, and Angel's one of only three humans that have been on Hashateem.

Of the other two humans to visit Hashateem, Luis is too busy moving out of the Army and into a CIA office precisely because of Arketta, the third human in that rarified group. The unofficial reason is plainly obvious to anyone who knows them - Fraternization. The official reasons, of course, have to do with Luis' skillset and how it is directly applicable to CIA's Special Activities Division. The name on all the recommendations reads "Garrett Davis".


Speaking of the spook (not Luis), Davis takes his unqualified success on Whiirr and goes to Samantha Barnes, looking for a seat on the GRHDI proper. Although his time is limited by Ngawai as well as the Imperials' needs, Davis simply cuts out sleep and manages to prevent Bob, his superior at the CIA, from claiming the lion's share of the success. Davis' new position doesn't grant him unilateral power, but it is a seat on the committee with the likes of Barnes, Hogue, Brinai, Reynolds, Vladimirovich, and many other delegates from other countries and rebel factions. The main benefit is that Davis and Barnes create a GRHDI task force, like Captain Murray's, a fighting-team comprised of whoever it takes to get the job done.

Luis is only a CIA agent for a week before he's attached directly to Task Force 815 (yes, it's named after Hiigra's village). He is not surprised in the least when he sees who's on the roster.


As more and more groups need access to the Gateway, Diego Garcia slowly changes its purpose. The security around the Gateway gradually surpasses the already impressive outer defenses of the base. The artifacts recovered from Boranai and elsewhere are moved off-site, and the island becomes a staging area not just for naval vessels but a sort of buffer or fortress against a possible incursion into Earth.


Graiza and her family arrive safely on Earth, although the group is two rebels light. Her father apparently took some convincing, and the team had to shoot their way out of Graiza's hab-block before they could lose pursuit in the forests. The handful of other, similar operations, go smoothly, and once the immigrating Imperials are taken care of and flown off Diego Garcia, the ones who want to return are filtered through to Atea and then onto innocuous ships for transport back to their worlds. Vimu and Kaoak do not stay; they accompany Kosai along with three Keepers and two civilians.

Davis checks the Cortex when he can, but Kosai's private channel remains conspicuously silent.
punkey 2010-07-28 22:35:30
Davis leads the group back through the Whiirr gate, partly because it's his job to look like a leader, but mostly for a much more personal reason. When he steps through the gate and back into the air-conditioned gate complex bunker on Diego Garcia, the only thing he sees is Ngawai waiting for him at the front of the group of GRHDI and military officials. They both smile at each other, and Davis breaks from his position and charges towards her.

Unfortunately, his tunnel vision means he doesn't notice the bullet and beamer-proof Lexan tunnel that's been erected around the gateway, and smacks straight into it, vest first. Ngawai almost falls over laughing, but he can't hear her through the two inches of polycarbonate.

"I'll see you on the other side of decontamination," she mouths in Imperial.
"All right," Davis mouths back. "I missed you."
"We missed you, too," Ngawai replies, and then she motions for him to turn around as a very startled Hiigra walks through the portal and into the weirdest shit he has ever seen in his primitive life.
punkey 2010-07-28 22:49:21
Ngawai quickly tracks Davis down after decon. Everything feels too cold after Whiirr, and Davis feels off-balance, as if he was finally getting used to the layers and layers of sweat and grime. Once Ngawai elbows her way through the crowd of brass and suits (including one poor GRHDI junior officer she almost knocks to the ground), she and Davis finally embrace and slide from kiss into short make-out session, much to the amusement of Swims-the-Black and the other members of the team, the interest of the Whiirr wherren and Imperials, and the deep discomfort of practically everyone else.

"Watch it, Garrett," she says as they finally come up for air. "I'm getting as big as a twin-hab these days."
"Just means you can do more damage," Davis says. "I think you dislocated that guy's shoulder." Ngawai plays at mock surprise and punches Davis in the shoulder. "How have you and Naloni been?"
"Good, doctor's visit went fine, but of course we're better now-" Ngawai's Apprehender eyes start picking out things and her smile turns into a stern frown. "What the fuck is this, Garrett? Kauka marks... all over? What did you do?"
"Khiraba dropped the roof of a dome on me, the bastards. Swims saved my ass. Thought they were more internal, but..." Davis pauses. "And there's a new beamer wound on my stomach. That one's self-inflicted, though. Demo for the Wherren, Swims shot me, but I got patched up right away." He braces for a second punch, this one delivered with force.
Ngawai doesn't throw a physical punch. Her eyes tear up but she doesn't go all the way to crying. "Vidas fucking Christ," she malapropisms softly. "Naloni needs her father. Look down at your left hand, Garrett. You see that ring? That ring says 'I will not make Ngawai a widow doing stupid shit'. I've said my piece, and I trust you, so... no more stupid shit, okay?"
Davis kisses Ngawai on her forehead. "I promise."

He pauses for a second. "I especially promise to never let Khiraba drop a roof on me ever again. That hurt a lot. And you oversold the beginning a bit there." He smiles and wipes her eyes.
Ngawai smiles back. "I know, but I meant all of it. It was still really fucking stupid of you and I will make you pay if you do that again, pregnant or not."
"I know, Ngawai. Thanks." He kisses her again, and stays cheek-to-cheek with her, outwardly as an expression of affection, but also so they can whisper to each other. "So, what's the landscape like here?" Davis asks.
"Lots of preening akwhelas showing up over the last few days," Ngawai says. "I'll brief you later, when we're alone.." She slaps Davis on the ass and falls arm in arm with him.
Dieter 2010-07-28 23:05:17
Provided with a now constant supply of Earth's necessities, Cowboy's quick to come back from leave with a pack full of goodies for himself and anyone else who want to partake of his scrounging.

"....Got these from a guy who knows a guy who used to work for Fidel Castro." quips the Texan, lighting up a fat Havana and passing around one of the three boxes he managed to smuggle past Diego Garcia security.

"....Twenty-year-old Scotch. Thought you and your limey mates would like a taste of the motherland. Murray, trust me! I tried...even went so far as bribing a Colonel with one of those boxes of Cubans! He wasn't about to budge on the Dutch hookers I had lined up to come with me as morale boosters."

The next day, the normal gate transmission brings several large coolers stuffed with what appears to be nearly a whole damn butchered cow

"Ah, ole' Uncle Emmitt came through after all!" hoots and hollers Cowboy, pulling out several racks of beef ribs from within one of the coolers.

"Gents, we eat good tonight!"
Gatac 2010-07-28 23:46:32
Unfortunately for Hugh, what's waiting for him isn't a beautiful woman ready to embrace him; instead, he finds himself facing a weathered Colonel with the smallest of mustaches and - as if to balance that - quite bushy eyebrows, both with hints of grey.

"Captain Verrill?" he asks respectfully. "I'm Colonel Gyrich. I'm with the 3rd."

Hugh was expecting it, but that doesn't make it easier. When you run into someone from the 3rd Infantry - the Old Guard -, you know you're going to a funeral.

"Good to see you, Colonel," Hugh says, shaking Gyrich's hand. It's not good to see him, but this isn't the place or time to say. "The...body should be coming through soon."
"Good. I have people standing by for the transport once decon clears it." He looks at Hugh. "You requested to tell his family."
"I did."
Gyrich nods. "We have a plane booked for 1700. Is that enough time for you to get your debriefs done?"
"It should be," Hugh replies. "I'll let you know if I can't make it."
Gyrich smiles. "I have a feeling you will make it, Captain. Do you need a speech? I mean, of course, you'll want your own words, but..."
"I'll look at it," Hugh says. Gyrich hands him a small envelope. "Thank you, Colonel."
"Take care, Captain Verrill."

No more handshakes. Not even a nod. Hugh steps past Gyrich and further on. He can do the debriefs in three hours, he reckons; he's already prepared them in his head, all the pertinent points. He's good at that.

And so, his mind jumps to preparing for another occasion.

Mr. and Mrs. Kang, I'm here to talk to you about your son Daniel...
Admiral Duck Sauce 2010-07-29 21:40:41
For Zaef Utari, the fight for Whiirr was a wake-up call. He keeps churning the events over in his mind and can't help but think that if he had been faster, tougher, better, he could've taken the Khiraba's manta apart from the get-go and avoided so much bloodshed. Earth doesn't make the kind of boosters Zaef used to take, but when he returns to Atea he finds all manner of things to either take the edge off or get an edge against the Imperium. Most people don't turn against their governments because they're happy and successful, and the temptation to juice, bowl, boost, or what have you is only increased by the harsh conditions aboard the worldship, the constant fear of discovery, and the memories of pain and loss.

It's not long, however, before Zaef is sent back to Earth, this time as a member of Task Force 815. He sees it as perhaps a second chance, but whether he's ready due to inner strength or reflex-juicers remains to be seen.


Over the next week or so, reports trickle in from Atea and other offworld operations. The loss of Whiirr has been a big blow to the Imperium, and a rising chaos brought on by increased wherren riots and subsequent crackdowns threatens the industrial infrastructure across dozens of planets. The Imperial bureaucracy points its spindly fingers squarely at Narsai's continued impudence, and the accounts of the handful of survivors are used to further the image of your group and Narsai'i in general as evil tempters, adept at brainwashing and deception.

There are rumors that Emperor Sun Shenmai's hold on the Imperium is tenuous at best, that his unique skillset at being "the lesser of all evils" means that he's not particularly effective at anything, but they're just rumors. It's not like the ravilars would broadcast such things over the Cortex, and you couldn't trust them even if they did.

There are even rumors that a Jade Caretaker just up and walked out of the Imperial Palace, but whether he was actually allowed to leave / shot on sight / his fellow Caretakers killed him / put into the Arena under a different name is a matter of debate.


The team loses two members to the task force shifting and GRHDI-reorganizing. Semo and Cowboy end up attached to Captain Murray's team and travel back to Whiirr for the near future. They're familiar faces, well-versed in jungle warfare, and they help defend the new outpost from a handful of scattered wherren attacks from tribes who aren't so eager to give up their deluded traditions.

Paul Sturgis has a candidate for the team soon after you learn that Semo and Cowboy are being transferred. Specialist Robin Barksdale, late of Delta's fabled "Funny Platoon", doesn't seem like much; barely over 5 feet tall, but the scarred knuckles and other damages accrued over decades of training are signs that you shouldn't judge this book by its cover. As testament to that, on the second day of training she kicks out a lamppost from a standing start because someone said she couldn't do it.