Jade Imperium - May We Die In The Forest

Admiral Duck Sauce 2010-07-29 23:14:01
The recovery room is cold; poor planning and near-constant building-juggling result in the medical area's A/C cranked up to combat throngs of personnel elsewhere on the base. Sexton Hale, formerly Imperial Rav-Turai, sits up in his bed when Davis enters. He watches the last of the medics leave while he scoops mashed potatoes into his mouth.

Davis smiles as he takes a seat next to Hale's bed. "So, how do they say you're doing? Not everyone comes back from eating half a vox console."

Hale replies through the potatoes. "I'm as surprised as anyone." It comes out as, well, as messy as you'd expect. "I understand I have you to thank for that?"

"No thanks are necessary..." Davis snaps up Hale's chart and reads the glyphs under the Name heading. "Sexton! Finally got your first name. But you don't have to thank me. I said I'd take care of you, that's what I did. Nothing more."

Hale shrugs - his new arm's conspicuously... fresher... than his original. "What did I miss?"

"Gateway opening aside? Been making some good headway with the civilians and the Keepers, convincing them to stay. Been participating in the talks with the Sheen, the Wherren negotiations, they've been going well." Davis leans back in the chair and looks at Hale. "They're smarter than you give them credit for. Hiigra's pretty damn shrewd, he's put one over on our side a few times. Also, I have a question for you."

Hale keeps shoveling food - clearly it's simply for calories, because nobody gets the mess hall spaghetti - and looks expectantly to Davis to continue.

"What are you going to do now? It's kinda the theme of the last few days, since we got back from Whiirr."

"I don't know," Hale answers truthfully. "Hey, I thought I'd have some time to think about it after the battle, if there was an 'after the battle'. I suppose I'm a full-on rebel now, even if I didn't get a whole lot of shooting in. How does your group work? Do the rebels have a faction here, or are they separate, or what?"

"They have people here, and elsewhere on Narsai," Davis says. "Mostly representatives and researchers, helping us catch up with the Imperium technologically. Some soldiers, you met Zaef before. That aside, 'our group' is sort of in flux at the moment. I've got a lot of things to do with that, but if it all shakes out, anyone who wants to join up who can help us out is a welcome addition to the team."

"I'll give it some thought after your medicae stop prodding at me. They were extremely interested in... how did they say it? Hell, I don't remember. Me coming back from 'extremely fucked-up', I think."

"Their Imperial isn't the best, but they do good work," Davis says. He stands up and takes a look outside. "Hey, you feel like standing up and getting out of this ice box?"

"Yes. By all means, yes." Hale puts his now-empty plate on the side tray and shakily gets to his feet. Davis helps him, and Hale's too wobbly to argue. The two men toddle their way out of the recovery area and out into Diego Garcia's sunshine and ocean breeze. Davis remembers how Ngawai reacted to seeing the palm trees and warm sand (okay, maybe hot asphalt), but perhaps Hale's had enough of jungles, or perhaps he's too busy trying to balance. He does seem happier, as if Earth turned out better than he was expecting.

"I know, it's another tropical place, but we have cooler places. Mountains, nice temperate places," Davis says as he and Hale ease onto a bench out in front of the hospital. "At least you don't have to worry about anyone shooting at you here," he says with a smile.

"I suppose I'll have to learn your blasphemous tongue," Hale jokes. "I only know 'Want some candy?', 'Die, rebel scum', and 'Help me biblioteca', whatever a biblioteca is."

Davis thinks for a second. "You know, I have no clue either. Something we can both learn, I suppose."
Admiral Duck Sauce 2010-08-01 18:07:47

"I thought we wouldn't have to look at these motherfuckers anymore," quips the shortest and thickest of the four soldiers. They're clean on the outside, but as Zaef picks up their comments towards Kaoak and Vimu, it's clear their stint on Boranai's left grime behind that decontamination can't scrub out. "Now they're here, breathing our air, eating our food...."

The two Turai look up at the four grunts. Vimu and Kaoak's trays are mostly empty - they always eat quickly and return to the dorms where the other Imperials are sequestered. They might have taken offense, had the lead soldier opted to use Imperial instead of English.

"Now ain't the place," another says softly. This one's sporting fresh kauka patches across his cheek. "Willis wouldn't have wanted this-"

The short one spins to face the taller. "Willis is dead because one of these bastards' fuck-buddies -" he spins to point at the Turai again - "dragged him into those fucking tunnels!" He's definitely got Vimu's attention.

"'Sup," Vimu tries in passable English. It's the only word he knows so far besides "bathroom". All Vimu gets in reply is a twisted-up face and a curse spat in his direction.

Zaef strides over to the angry little bastard. "I'd listen to your friend here," Zaef growls in English. "These men are prisoners of war, and touching a hair on their heads could get you imprisoned faster than you can say 'Geneva Convention.'" He pauses for a second, then continues in a softer tone. "I'm sorry about your friend, but these men didn't kill him. Your anger is better spent elsewhere."

Short Guy raises his hands, as if to say "I'm not touching a damn thing", and faces Zaef. "Oh great, another one. Fuck this." The guy walks out of the mess hall, muttering "Should just roll nukes through every gate we've got a code for..." His fellow soldiers follow quickly.

"Thanks?" Kaoak asks Zaef in Imperial as the mess hall doors slam. "Did we break some native taboo?"

"Nah. They returned from Boranai. It sounds like the fighting is ugly there."

"Yeah. Thanks for the help, though," Kaoak replies.

Zaef shrugs. "It's nothing. Have there been other soldiers who've treated you like that?"

Kaoak nods. "Sure, if what they say at us matches the tone they say it in. I think I know what 'fucker' means now. Nothing serious, though. Davis' word seems like it carries some weight around here, it's just not very popular is all."

"You kept yours just now too," Vimu adds. "Not everyone's like those guys you ran off, though. Most've been professional about things I suppose, but you can see it in their eyes. They don't want to send us back 'cause they think we're just going to shoot them or their friends next time around."

Zaef shrugs again. "That's the risk you run when you release prisoners. There's not much you can do about it."

"Well, if we meet again out there, I'll try to miss," Vimu jokes.

Zaef smirks a little at that. "Still set on walking out of here, huh?"

"Yes," Vimu replies simply.

"Alright. Good luck. Let me know if you have any problems."
skullandscythe 2010-08-02 05:43:45
The sky turns, and Zaef watches it.

The slow taps of army boots comes and goes, muffled by the layers of concrete and steel. This patrol was a little late, by Zaef's reckoning. He had watched this particular route for a few days, learned when they walked by the door to the roof. The regular timing made it child's play to get up here, though most children hadn't learned to sneak around in the tight and narrow spaces on starships where even the slightest sound could carry at times. Of course, Zaef had been a weird kid.

The sky turns, and Zaef watches it.

The ocean breeze feels cool against his bare skin, still sweating from long hours in the fitness complex on the base. Zaef's transfer to Atea is still being delayed by the near-constant Gate traffic, and after the bungling on Whiirr, it's clear that Zaef needs to improve if he's going to live through more clashes with the Imperium's best. Besides, it was nice to do something with his hands instead of staring at them trying to get them to stop shaking. In fact, he might have ended up doing that right now if he hadn't found that damn gym.

The sky turns, and Zaef watches it.

A convoy of trucks comes growling into the base, full of creaking crates and chatty men, ready to be shipped through the Gate. Tomorrow, Zaef will be one of those men along with Kaoak and Vimu and the other murderers. None of them know what lies on the other side: the Turai may be walking into a trap, the Narsai may be walking onto a battlefield or a ruined world, Zaef may end up walking into a vice den or the Arena, like the past five years or so was just a dream.

The convoy sputters off, empty.

The sky turns, and Zaef watches it.

It's a clear night tonight, something Zaef was hoping for. The stars shine brightly, the moon(Narsai has a fucking moon!) is full, showing every blemish. Zaef's eyes trace the image of what could be a man, or maybe a man's face, shaped by craters. Looks kinda like Onas, matter of fact. There, those stars make the shape of Ghostskin fighting his last Arena fight! There's the Wanderer, looking for new gates and new planets to visit! There's Zaef Utari on Whiirr, fighting the Immortal! Surrounded by empty space, save for the tiny points of light, Zaef stretches out and starts drinking some of the Coke he brought.

The sky turns, and Zaef dreams of sitting next to the Shipmaster, learning to love the stars again.
CrazyIvan 2010-08-03 08:58:54
Angel watches Davis' reunion with his wife as the returning team makes its slow, pencil-pusher lined way toward decontamination.

Lucky man...

He shuffles forward, intent on sleep, then blowing through whatever accumulated back-pay he's earned on alcohol, the closest approximation to a proper burger, and a pretty blonde who appreciates the notion of a star-spanning freedom fighter. But first sleep - the burns on his chest, and the sheer shock of being alive through that particular firestorm demands sleep.

That was the plan. Was a good plan. Plan involving Corona, a balcony, and a lady in something small and lacy.

Instead he finds himself on the short-list for some sort of Sheen training cadre. The short list meaning "You're it son." He agrees, readily. While Charlie and Martin have given him more than his fair share of concern, they're no more volatile than the "Gonna wax me some Tangos!" types he was shepherding through combat zones back on Earth. An ally, well-trained and disciplined, might do a hell of alot of good. Besides, there was more brass in the room than you could shake a stick at. Might as well have had the President pull him aside at a barbecue and ask him to look into some things.

And once again, everyone seems to ignore the patch on his arm. Specialist Riviera, on special assignment to one of humanity's strongest allies - and requested by name. Part of some new "Task Force" still carrying the war to the enemy across the Gates. One of the most experienced men the Army had at fighting the Imperials.

At some point, he manages to get a genuine appointment with the Captain. "Sir? Not complaining Sir, but feeling a touch in over my head at the moment."
Gatac 2010-08-03 10:59:24
Hugh can deal with lying to Danny Kang's parents about how their son died. Heroic holding action, not an enemy ambush they couldn't follow up on. No, their son died a hero. Don't they all. At least, Hugh muses to himself, he knows that Kang won't end up working for the other side. They have his body.

It's only on the flight back to base that he realizes how profoundly fucked up that thought is.

Airports, in general, seem strange now to a gateway veteran. The endless wait, the bad food - oh, wait. That part's very familiar. No, it's the young soldiers. Sergeants that still look like they just walked out of high school. Even the ones out of uniform are easy to recognize with their GoArmy.com assault packs and haircuts. They can smell Hugh's Class A uniform from a mile away and snap to attention. A few of the older ones even recognize his patch. Whispered conversations. "Dude, that guy's Special Forces!" "My cousin is Special Forces." "Fuck, man, I went to Ranger School. That pussy can suck it."

Until one pipes up a little more. "Dude! See that unit patch? He's GRHDI." That elicits a hushed chorus of "Holy shit!", "No way!" and "My cousin got orders..." which Hugh dutifully ignores.

"Thank you for your service." Hugh can't buy a beer without hearing it. Damn uniform.


Hugh has barely settled back into his office - well, the office that was assigned to him. He would have to spend more than five minutes at a time in it to rightfully claim it as his office. There's Army mail on the desk. The Army has gotten into the business of essentially fellating the survivors of the gateway commando missions, the hard core of what is now the GRHDI's team. This letter generously offers a promotion - they'd waive time-in-grade requirements, and hell, Major's not really a rank, you could be a Light Colonel in a year. Hugh files the letter neatly in his Shit I Will Never Agree To folder. (It's getting pretty large.)

Then Angel shows up. Hugh's still in uniform, Angel's in uniform, they're back on Earth, and for a moment it's not entirely clear if they should salute under these circumstances. Hugh brings his hand up first to break the stalemate. Not really appropriate, but hell, nobody's looking.

Angel's come to talk about his future. Hugh can only imagine that he's dogged even worse with potential promotions (can't have a Specialist be the best at something, promote that son of a bitch to a real rank!) and potential postings. Finally, Angel closes with feeling in over his head. Hugh winces. That feeling is still way too familiar.

"What can I tell you, Angel?" Not Specialist. Not Riviera. Angel. "You do your job too well, they'll push you up. You know your shit, and they want more of that going around. Hell, I'm barely fighting off the attempts on my career."

He folds his hands.

"Now, I don't have this down to a science, but the key is, don't overthink what you're doing. You lead those guys by example. Just do what you do and do it well. Correct when it goes off the rails. Leave the psychology and the paperwork bullshit to someone else, I imagine you've got people falling over themselves trying to get assigned as your second. And above all, don't be afraid of yourself. That's the key. You can do all that, you deserve all that. Give it your best shot like you always do and I guaran-fucking-tee you you'll be the best damn man they could have picked for the job. Anybody gives you static, you don't give a fuck, because you'll stand there being awesome and they'll just be wrong."
Community Lotion 2010-08-03 22:59:28
Small world, Robin Barksdale can't help but think. She then mentally edits that to small worlds as sets her heavy bag down on the aged linoleum floor and tosses her shoulder bag on the bunk. She didn't know at the time, but the increasingly pregnant native Imperial who taught Robin's culture-and-language class was Garrett Davis' wife. Robin knew Davis back in Afghanistan, and suspects he had something to do with her transfer from her post under Paul Sturgis at Mesas Negras to this "GRHDI Task Force 815". At any rate, she has a new base to navigate and a meeting with Agent Davis (the "agent's" been crossed off but they haven't attached a new title yet) in a few minutes. Finding Davis' "office" is the first of what should be many challenges as part of this new team. Robin finally tracks down someone who actually knows where his current space is (there's been remodeling and repurposing going on across the entire Diego Garcia base), and finds Davis trying his damndest to organize the piles upon piles of paperwork for all the various pies he has his fingers in. It's not really an office, more just a place to put papers with a creaking metal chair and a window that looks out onto the Imperial detainees' building's corrugated metal wall.

Davis had not noticed her entrance. He was the same Davis, perpetually busy, immersed amidst what to outsiders looked like the aftermath of a mortar hit, but to his purposeful logic, was in perfect order. They were both great at what they did, but he was a natural, while she had to work at it.

"Your wife wanted to remind you not to take on too many tasks - she fully expects to go kayaking through the Yukon this summer."

Davis looks up from his papers and grins. "Hey! Robin, come in and - err..." Davis stands up out of the room's one unoccupied seat and walks around to the other side of the desk. "Take a seat! When'd you fly in? You're here a bit early."

"Just last night. I read the reports of what you have been up to these last few years - I don't think anyone could have handled that mess as well as you did. In return, it seems they give you a closet to work in. Only the Army."

"Thanks, Robin. And this is just temporary, soon I'll have a real office that I can start neglecting. How's SAD been treating you? Anything interesting happen on the streets of Afghanistan that you can talk about?" Davis leans up against the wall.

"Its hopeless out there. All those alliances we worked to build have unraveled in the past couple of years. Frankly, I'm glad for the change, though I expect that the politics of galactic empire will be quite similar to the horse-trading of mountain warlords. And, to be honest, its been a while since I've been able to get dirty in the field, if you get my meaning." As she said those last few words, she unconsciously punched her right fist into her left palm.

Davis smiles. "I was hoping I'd see that feisty field agent again. So! Welcome to Task Force 815. What have you been told, what have you read, and what have you found out for yourself?"

"Well", she replies, thoughtfully, "I've studied the history of this entire operation. Your wife got me up to speed on the new cultures involved, and I gather that of the several hundred people living on this base, about 20% are optimistic and interested in what we are doing, another 50% are wary and skeptical, and the remaining 30% have new profit margins on the brain." She leans in close, her face showing concern. "So listen, I'm guessing you didn't bring me here to teach Durkheim to some Imperials. What's in the pipeline?"

"Well, you know the kind of mission profile we run. High risk, high reward, almost all behind enemy lines. We go in, set up a strike, and execute fast and hard before the Imperials can respond, that whole 'razor's edge of the sword' thing that they sold us on at the Farm. We're looking at a few missions coming up, closest one is extracting a team member's family from Hedion," Davis says. "I needed someone who's top-notch at working the streets and can still fight. I saw your name on the list and remembered when you disassembled that three-man hit squad in Herat and thought, 'Robin! That hyper-competitive bitch is exactly what I'm looking for,' so here you are."

Robin laughs, and her face relaxes with relief. "You sure know how to sweet-talk a lady, Garrett! That's exactly what I was looking to hear. I'm so sick of -" she looks at the heaps of printouts, file folders, photographs and printed minutae in front of her commanding officer - "paperwork and analysis."

"Trust me, you're going to get plenty of field time in 815. How's your tradecraft, you been keeping sharp?" Davis switches to Imperial and continues. His accent is flawless, and actually bleeding into his English a bit, Robin notices. "How's your local knowledge and Imperial?"

Robin replies in Imperial, and corrects Davis' mistaken inflection. "My local knowledge and Imperial are adequate, but I have a lot of work to do in that department." She shifts into a Hedion dialect. "I've been working through some scholastic works on Imperium economic policy over the last few centuries." She shifts dialects again, this time into an unusual spacer dialect. "There may be a way to predict future imperial policy based on transaction costs for companies on a subjugated planet. A good case is Bashakra." She changes back to English. "Mostly, this stuff is conjectural, but with most modeling, there might be a fragment of something worthwhile there."

Robin looks down at her watch. "Ah, it's getting late. I hear good things about the Thai food station in the mess hall. After sundown, I'm going to get in a dive in the reefs off of Eclipse Point. The coral polyps are supposed to be spawning this time of year, and the entire thing is faintly bio-luminescent. Care to join me?"

"Sharp as always, Robin. Let me know how your research goes, it'll be useful with the rebels and kicking up trouble on some of the planets." Davis checks his watch. "If I can negotiate some kind of deal with Ngawai, I can join you. I'll vox you with the news. If you thought tribal negotiations were tense..."

"Well," she grins, "as a matter of fact I am under orders from Ngawai to drag you away from that pile of work there.. She wants you in shape and in the proper mindset for her wilderness vacation."

Davis pushes himself off the wall. "A spy for my wife in my own unit! She's far more devious than even I imagined!" he exclaims with a grin. "Why, I never would have expected such treachery from you, Robin. Fine, I surrender. Dinner, then we'll meet you on the beach. I might have to...interrogate Ngawai, first, though."
Admiral Duck Sauce 2010-08-04 05:12:08
Atea is in bloom. Not literally, of course - its hydroponics gardens are lush year-round, for survival's sake - but its whiskery solar collectors are unfurled as the worldship closes on its long elliptical orbit with the little lost sun that drew an errant Gateship years ago. The familiar engine-grease-and-body-odor stank slaps Davis' nose when he comes aboard, and Brinai laughs when he can't keep his grimace off his face.

"I suppose we are used to it," the old withered rebel says. "Good to see you, Garrett."

Davis shakes his head to clear his nose, then inhales deep and smiles. "Just takes a moment to get used to it, is all. Great to see you too, Brinai. How have you been? How have things been going on Atea"

"Busy," the matriarch replies as she starts to lead Davis out of the transfer pit. "Through our efforts, more people are seeing that they have a choice in their future. We... we welcome them but we cannot always use them. And our success has brought more scrutiny, of course. Methods of passing information that were innocuous before are less so when they need to be used weekly, for example." The pair pass by some new faces in the cramped, pipe-lined corridor. They recognize Davis, and some of the rebels smile and nod. Brinai ends up in one of the many war rooms on Atea.

She sits, clearly feeling even the short walk, and consults her vox. "We fight hard, and we try where we can to insinuate our people, but we suffer so many losses for what seems little gain. We need more loyal - no, make that trained loyal people in positions where they can further our goals. Loyalty without training is well enough, but loyalty alone does not keep one from being captured when one attempts to impersonate a Gate traffic-administratum. Conversely, training without loyalty... well, we try to screen those recruits before something can go wrong."

Davis takes a seat near Brinai on the large table/holoprojector. "Well, training is definitely something we can provide, both for soldiers and for agents. We're in the process of approving a new Gate on Narsai, something on the mainland this time, and we'll be able to train all the recruits we can get soon enough, Brinai. As for the rest of it, Sturgis and I can talk to the CIA about working with Imperial tech to open a few new communications methods. How are Onas and Sturgis doing these days, anyway?"

"Probably busier than me, actually." Brinai smiles and uncovers a small cup or saucer next to her. She wafts fumes towards her face and breathes deeply before continuing with just a little more of the energy she had when the team met her back on Aikoro. "They each run their own teams, although Sturgis has his hands full on Boranai I'm told. Onas has been more wide-ranging as of late."

Davis nods. "There's a lot going on right now, some big changes coming through. That's why I wanted to meet with you, Brinai, to talk about some big changes. And to see your smiling face, of course." He grins.

"I am old and immune to your flattery, boy," she grins back. "What changes, and why come just to me? Or is this something that doesn't concern the rest of our junta?"

"It will, in time, but to say that the rest of Narsai is...reluctant to see the realities of the situation is putting it mildly," Davis says. "They still see Narsai as separate and apart from the rest of the galaxy, they don't see the scale of the society that we're now a part of, like it or not, and that separation is a problem for us, both strategically and socially. Wouldn't you agree?"

"Wouldn't I agree..." Brinai sits back, mulling Davis' phrase a few more times softly, like she's tasting some appetizer she's not sure about. "Save your evangelism for your narrow-minded countrymen, boy. Of course I agree. My people may be fractured in their purpose, but we all know what it is we fight. Sometimes I wonder if it would do Narsai good to be invaded by the Imperium, so that your people would finally realize what we are talking about around that luxurious wooden table in those comfortable rooms secured behind a Gate blocked with three feet of solid steel."

Davis smiles. "Who's evangelizing now? But you're right, of course. Maybe about the invasion, I hope that never comes to pass, but certainly about the Narsai'i. We need to become one people, to combine our militaries and eventually our societies as one, and I want to talk about a first step. I just finished separating my team off from the Narsai military at large, we're our own group now, but still affiliated with Narsai. I want to enter the same arrangement with the Bashakrans. Roll our unit into your organization, your people. One foot in Narsai, one foot in Bashakra. If there's anything specific that needs to be done with us to make that happen, I want to hear it."

Brinai nods in satisfaction and wafts more of the saucer's fumes before closing up the container. "I believe that solves my trained and loyal dilemma. We will gladly accept your team, Garrett. I'll pass word down the line."

Davis nods. "Good. Speaking of which, I'd like to make a formal request of my new partners." He grins and leans back in the seat. Brinai motions for him to continue with a wry look. "I'd like Zaef Utari to be permanently transferred to my team," Davis finishes.

"Done," Brinai agrees.

"That was a lot easier than I thought it would be," Davis says. "Zaef's a good man, a great pilot and an even better fighter. What do I need to know about him?"

"You've been with him through your last mission," Brinai replies. "I would wager you know all you need. Utari is a fine sword forged on the anvil of tragedy. Take care you do not confuse integration between our societies with integration with the Imperium around him. It is perhaps a subtlety, but the former is who he is while the latter destroyed all he knew."

Davis nods. "That isn't a concern he has to worry about with me, Brinai. He's been rather...haunted since we came back from Whiirr. Spending a lot of time alone, drinking cans of Coke he's taken from the base. It's just concerning, that's all. I don't want him falling apart on us, either on mission or personally."

"Psychology is your forte, and I am no exorcist," Brinai says. "We all have our demons, but I do not know Utari's."

"All right, then," Davis says. "I'll keep an eye on him." He looks at Brinai for a second, the old rebel staring back expectantly. "How are you doing, Brinai? I noticed that your...drink there seems to be more about the steam coming off it than it is for consumption."

Brinai's laugh is raspy. "Indeed. I am old, Garrett, and as I mentioned, very busy. Getting the right mixture of cerebral stimulants and longevity treatment is tricky, and only wards off the inevitable so long."

"Hopefully this ends quickly enough that your longevity isn't a concern," Davis replies. "Let me know if there is anything I can do, Brinai. I'd hate to have to see this to the end without my fellow rebel - without my friend."

"Win this war," she says softly.

"Yes, ma'am," Davis says. He stands up and bows a full Bashakran honorific salute. It's something not seen very often, since Bashakra was burned and its culture outlawed.

"Immune to your flattery, boy." She tries to play it off, but the gesture is like a waft of her energizing drug bowl anyway.
Admiral Duck Sauce 2010-08-04 05:16:04
The "Hitch'n Post" on Diego Garcia doesn't take money, only alcoholic donations, and with the constant influx of new policies and personnel it's easy to see why the Hitch'n Post never really closes. Ngawai and Davis spot Luis and Arketta (now free to openly fraternize) sitting under the Post's canopy while on one of their walks, and amble on over.

Davis waves with his off hand that isn't wrapped around Ngawai's waist. "Hey, Luis! Arketta! Mind if we join you?"

"We mind it if you don't," Arketta says, and drags a protesting chair across from another table.

Luis looks up, "Yeah, sure. Pull up a chair." It takes just a moment for his brain to pass the note that a chair is already being pulled.

Davis grabs a second chair and helps Ngawai down into it, then takes a seat himself. Drinks are ordered, a beer for Davis and a ginger ale for Ngawai. "So! What's it like not having to look over your shoulder for the brass anymore, you two?"

Luis raises his drink, "A lot like being able to have a drink without the nagging worry about needing to perform surgery an hour later---a weight off the mind."

"They were silly rules and I'm glad they're gone," Arketta adds.

Ngawai nods. "I never understood the military obsession with controlling every bit of the lives of soldiers."

"Why do you think I joined the CIA?" Davis says with a smile. "And how do you find working for the Company, Agent Stanhill?"

"I could tell you, but I'd have to kill you." He manages to avoid cracking a grin for a moment, but then his attempts to suppress it fail.

Davis laughs. "Ah, yes. Operational secrecy and all that. Still, I'm glad I could help you two out."

Luis nods, "Yeah, thanks again for everything."

Davis starts to reply, but Ngawai grabs his hand and places it on her stomach. Both of them smile. "She kicks as hard her mother," Davis says. "I'd better watch out." They lean towards each other and kiss. After a minute, they look back towards Luis and Arketta, Davis keeping his hand on Ngawai's bump.

"So, how long have you two been keeping this from us?" Ngawai asks.

"Since your wedding," Arketta replies.

"Glad we could help, then," Ngawai jokes.

"And what about going forward?" Davis asks. "You two have any plans for the future?"

Luis looks Arketta in the eyes for a moment for a moment, then turns back and shrugs. "We'll see what happens. There's a lot of factors." He tries a grin, "I mean, I haven't even met her parents yet."

Ngawai and Davis simultaneously smile and shift their gaze over to Arketta.

"We'll let you know if we set any dates you'll need to mark on your calendar," Arketta says with a smile, then leans over and kisses Luis on the cheek. "I know we were talking about a group trip to visit my parents, though," she continues. "Did you check into any travel agencies?" Arketta's being sly, but it's clear Luis' offhand comment brought the possibility of defecting her family to Earth to the forefront of her thoughts.

Davis leans forward as his and Ngawai's drinks are brought to the table. "No one specific yet, but I have made alternative travel arrangements with the Bashakrans if things fall through here. Don't worry about how we're getting there." Davis takes a draw off his beer and looks Arketta in the eyes. "What's more important is if we can do it at all. Now, I have to ask you some hard questions, Arketta. Do you want to do this here, or in a more private setting, like a briefing room?"

Arketta taps on her glass a moment, weighing 'tropical night air and umbrella drinks' versus 'linoleum and taupe cinderblock'. "Here's just fine."

"Okay. Hard question first." Davis looks at Ngawai, then back at Arketta. "How much do you trust your family? How much do they trust you? Your mother was a Samal, and we need to have a very good idea if we can trust your family, if they're willing to go along with us. You've been branded as Whetu across the whole Imperium. We need to know if they...trust you enough to not betray us."

"If my family is not dead already, if they haven't been interrogated and discarded simply for being related to me, if they haven't been carted off to some facility or ringed with onion-layers of watchdogs, then yes, they will follow us to Earth." Arketta expounds after a gulp of her appletini. "It is perhaps not your way, but Ngawai would agree with me, I think, when I say that our presence there will decide for them."

"She's being vague," Ngawai explains. "If we show up and her family doesn't go with us, all those fates Arketta just mentioned are going to happen no matter where their actual loyalties will lie. They'll have seen us, they'll have talked to us, and that makes them disposable sources of intel. Disposable - sorry, Arketta - because her family just refused to defect to Earth, right? They won't be useful as bait a second time."

"... Yes." Arketta agrees. "They will have to come with us, and no matter how they react, we will have to convince them that it is the best and safest option. There is no if we can trust them. By the time we leave, they will trust us."

"We will have to make first contact before we embark, so they can be ready to move on our signal, though. They could betray us when we land, and I would prefer not to have to force their hand," Davis says. "Can you convince your mother and father to join us before we leave?"

"I just said I could," Arketta replies. Her eyes flash with indignation, but it's hiding a trickle of doubt. She's just not letting herself accept any other outcome.

"And I believe you, Arketta," Davis says.

"We believe you," Ngawai says. "But this is the most critical part of the plan, and we need to know if we're going to convince the Narsai military to help us. Okay?"

"I suppose," Arketta says, clearly not happy with the current line of questioning.

"I'm sorry, but we had to ask," Davis says. "Okay. Now, we need to make contact secretly. I'm thinking, we send a covert message to your mother or father, some kind of message that only you and your parents would recognize. Common history is the best thing for that, is there some sort of story or bit of history your mother or father told you? Something from your mother's military days, maybe?"

Arketta knows before Davis finishes explaining. "Use 'Lali Luleelo'," she says. "They will know it is me."

Davis nods. "Okay. We're probably going to need to get some good eyes-on intel before the mission proper, but before that, we need to find out where your parents are. What are their names, so I can get our friends looking for where they are on Hedion."

Arketta laughs into her drink. "I thought you knew that - Arlana and Ody Quis."

"Not quite," Davis says. He takes another drink, while Ngawai stares down her ginger ale with an accusatory look. Bars suck when you're pregnant, she thinks. "Well, I'll let Brinai know to pass us the location of your family, and then we'll get in front of the DoD brass the day after tomorrow and get their go-ahead for the rescue. Okay?" Davis leans forward. "We'll rescue your family from the Imperium, no matter where they are and no matter what it takes. I promise."
Admiral Duck Sauce 2010-08-04 22:59:43
Angel's barely got a plan for his training cadre set up before he learns about the new away mission, the one to sneak in and rescue Arketta's family from Hedion. It's almost enough to make him lose his infamous steely calm - how is he supposed to start training killer robots and go defect his friend's folks? Just another case of the bureaucratic GRHDI hydra not knowing which hand it's wiping with. At least if the murmurs about scheduling hold true, Angel should at least be back Earthside before the first actual Sheen recruits make it over from Hashateem. He just won't have a lesson plan or any staff lined up. God, the staff... Angel's drowning in a tsunami of choices. All are qualified, and most outrank him (if he falls back into thinking like he's not part of the GRHDI now, which is all too easy), but Angel is the one they picked.

Thanks, Davis.

Hey, he could always get killed on Hedion. Then he wouldn't have to go through with this. Grim laughter notwithstanding, Angel puts the dossiers aside and tries to get some sleep.
Admiral Duck Sauce 2010-08-04 23:14:40
It's lunch time, or maybe that's just what Hugh's stomach thinks, but either way it's time for food. Usually, Hugh would go for something substantial that reminds him of home, but there's a big red note on his wall calender warning him that he's got a fitness test coming up, and it'd be downright embarassing for a newly minted Delta operator to score "only" a 240. Maxing it out probably isn't in the cards, Hugh figures, but at least he'll have to work on his atrocious run times. With that in mind, he settles for the Subway franchise of the base's food court, which kinda-sorta if-you-squint serves both purposes.

Hugh stays strong in ordering lean turkey with no cheese, and makes sure to get plenty of the green stuff. His last-second inch of having it topped with honey-mustard sauce completely destroys the "healthy" aspect, but fortunately Hugh doesn't know that.

On the lookout for a free table to sit down - damn, when did Diego Garcia get so busy? - he spots a table in the corner wtih a young woman sitting alone. Hugh can't help but notice that the young (and loud) gaggle of fresh arrivals already knows to leave a big perimeter around her, and after a second of contemplation, Hugh realizes that he's read this woman's file on the flight back from Danny Kang's parents - Robin Barksdale, newest addition to "the team".

Hell, it's better than my office, he muses, and walks over to her table.

"Agent Barksdale?" he says by way of introduction, offering his right hand to shake while balancing his food tray in his left. "I'm Captain Verrill. That seat taken?"

Robin Barksdale has just finished working out, and was famished. She had a mouthful of green curry vegetables when Verrill arrived, preventing her from returning his greeting. Instead, she leaped up from her seat, and attempted, with eager eyes and flailing hands, to communicate "have a seat, please."

Hugh smiles briefly, then sits down. The sub reeks of compromise, and so he turns most of his attention to Agent Barksdale. "So, you'll be joining us for our next run. I assume you've already talked to Davis? He always gets to the new guys first, it's a little spooky sometimes."

After a moment, he amends "I'll let you finish chewing first."

With a hurried swallow, she grins and holds out her hand. "Its a pleasure to finally meet you, Captain Verrill. Garrett and I know each other from Afghanistan, so I had to drop in on him first." She notices his sandwich. "Subway hrm? Have you ever noticed that, no matter what you order from a Subway, it always smells exactly the same?"

"Yeah," Hugh says, "it's the only sandwich cheap enough to wear perfume." The disdain for his compromise lunch visibly grows. "But I'm trying not to eat so badly anymore, a man my age has to stop scarfing down burgers and fries for every lunch. And, well, you see what food court management has wrought on this nice little island."

After a pause, he picks up again.

"So, I read your file on my last flight. Not too often that I meet ex-Delta that are not ugly guys trying to pick up drunk women in seedy bars. Why'd you leave, anyway?"

"The CIA has a habit of making offers that you can't refuse. I don't know if my file communicates this about me, but I tend to get bored after a while..." she rolls her eyes and gestures with her fork "...particularly if you drown me in paperwork. I've heard some pretty amazing things about you Captian." She attempts to divert the conversation away from talking about herself. "Your exploits on the other side of that artifact would be prime Hollywood material if they weren't classified."

Hugh shrugs. "I got a good team," he says, and that's that on the topic. "I'm not the paperwork kind of officer, if you're worried about that. I appreciate when things go by the book but at the end of the day, it has to work. In my team, I don't give a shit who you are or what your rank is, you do your job and everything's fine. I guess that's not a problem for you, though. You don't strike me as the 'Sir yes Sir!' type. You know the ones, all moto, no skills."

"That's the CIA's training. At heart though, I'm as much a grunt as anyone here, and you won't have any problems with me, Captain." She swabs the remaining curry from her bowl with her finger. "Say, I haven't been down to have a look at the Gateway yet. Do you think you could show me around?"

"Sure," Hugh says. He looks at the sub on his tray and sighs. "Don't know how much you'll see down there, but at least you'll get a rough idea of how we do things down there."

Hugh gets up and grabs his tray, intent on simply shoving the untouched sub into the next trash bin. "How's your weapon handling? You got any range time on the Tenner yet?"

The pair head down a hallway towards a doorway, monitored by an armed guardsman, with warning labels of all kinds covering its surface. "I haven't touched a rifle in almost two years. It seems the better one is in the field, the more the administration wants to put you in an office. Its one of the reasons I'm so excited about this opportunity, Captain."

"You should probably try a full spread," Hugh advises. "Get a feel for the Imperial weapons, but as far as I'm concerned, the Tenner beats the whole lot. The whole no-recoil thing can mess you up if you're not used to it, though."

"Will do Captain" Robin replies as they move through the checkpoint. She looks over to him, trying to get a read on his stoic face. "What are you looking for out of me, sir, if you do not mind my asking?"

"I don't," Hugh says. "Now, to put it as succinctly as I can - I need a bruiser. Someone who can go in there and fuck shit up. I don't know how much of a briefing you got, but my team is losing a Sergeant Putupu - big guy, dependable like clockwork - and if I could have a carbon copy of him I wouldn't be complaining. Now, that said, I don't expect you to play exactly the same role. I read that you're also a pretty good runner - I figure Zaef will like you - and if you can put that to good use, that's fine, too. I'll tell what I don't need, though: people who won't take a shit without orders. Out there, it's all in the reflexes. Doesn't mean always shoot first, but what I really need are people who can think for themselves and act on their own when warranted."

Robin exhales forcibly, and stops, turning to Hugh. "No disrespect intended, Captain, but I've dealt with that my entire career, and I don't need it now. I'm small, and I'm a woman - and a lot of soldiers have a problem with that. You say you've read my report. I'm always the one kicking the door down; I'm the first one in. I'm goddamned dependable, and I always get results. I can best anyone on this base in hand to hand combat; I work harder, smarter, than any of them. I know the army isn't exactly a meritocracy, but I don't need this kind of bullshit."

Hugh cracks a grin, but swiftly wipes it off his face.

"Alright, point taken. I didn't mean to insult you, Agent Barksdale. I know what you can do. What I'm saying is that that's exactly what we need."

Robin suppresses a laugh. "Has anyone ever told you that you have a" she considers her words "an odd look on your face when you apologize, Captain?"

"Must be lack of practice," Hugh replies. "You know, what with the people we like to piss off usually being on the Imperial side. Not too many apologies there."

They hit the elevator's last stop. A few more steps and a security checkpoint later, they're in the main gate arrival terminal. Being purpose-built, it's a good deal more intricate than the original gateway room in Mesas Negras, but the circular alien device is still the clear center of the whole arrangement.

"And here we are," Hugh says dryly. "Whereever you want to go, this will take you there."

Robin takes her time, examining it from various angles. "You know, I was expecting to feel something when I saw it. I mean, finding this thing was the single most important event in human history, but its just a glorified elevator."

After a few more minutes of inspection, she walks back up to Hugh. "I understand we're soon to go through that thing - an extraction mission, right?"

"Yeah," Hugh says. "One of our converts has family on Hedion we need to get out of there before the Imperials get any bright ideas. We got her into this mess, so I figure the least we can do is a happy family reunion. And, to be perfectly honest - it's nice to get that warm, fuzzy feeling, you know? Makes this the best job in the world."

"To be perfectly honest with you" Robin deadpans, "caving in a few chests and snapping a few femurs sounds like a fine recipe for that warm, fuzzy feeling. What work do you need me to do before we get started?"

"Range time," Hugh says. "Meet the crew. Be available for drills, if we've got time. I'd love to say I don't expect much trouble on this one, but if experience has taught me anything, a few runs through the killhouse to keep your reflexes sharp will be the best time investment you can make."
CrazyIvan 2010-08-06 08:31:48
Gatac wrote:

Then Angel shows up. Hugh's still in uniform, Angel's in uniform, they're back on Earth, and for a moment it's not entirely clear if they should salute under these circumstances. Hugh brings his hand up first to break the stalemate. Not really appropriate, but hell, nobody's looking.

Angel's come to talk about his future. Hugh can only imagine that he's dogged even worse with potential promotions (can't have a Specialist be the best at something, promote that son of a bitch to a real rank!) and potential postings. Finally, Angel closes with feeling in over his head. Hugh winces. That feeling is still way too familiar.

"What can I tell you, Angel?" Not Specialist. Not Riviera. Angel. "You do your job too well, they'll push you up. You know your shit, and they want more of that going around. Hell, I'm barely fighting off the attempts on my career."

He folds his hands.

"Now, I don't have this down to a science, but the key is, don't overthink what you're doing. You lead those guys by example. Just do what you do and do it well. Correct when it goes off the rails. Leave the psychology and the paperwork bullshit to someone else, I imagine you've got people falling over themselves trying to get assigned as your second. And above all, don't be afraid of yourself. That's the key. You can do all that, you deserve all that. Give it your best shot like you always do and I guaran-fucking-tee you you'll be the best damn man they could have picked for the job. Anybody gives you static, you don't give a fuck, because you'll stand there being awesome and they'll just be wrong."

Angel cracks a smile. "Good advice Sir. It's what I needed to hear."

He shakes his head, looking down at the pile of letters on the desk. "No cushy consulting gig at the Pentagon for you? In that case, how about I buy you a beer at dinner. I'd offer now, but I've got to go sort through a pile of paper myself." He turns, and Hugh can hear him mutter in the hall.

"Join the Army. See the world. See some other worlds. Storm the Emperor's inner sanctum. Get yourself a goddamned secretary."