Jade Imperium - The War At Home

punkey 2011-04-06 20:02:34
The lieutenant nods and walks back to take his seat at the front of the cabin.

Gorlan takes a sip of his drink, and after the initial shock of how strong it is, settles down and enjoys the drink. "Again, I'm very sorry, Captain. To avoid future problems, what will the indentured servants we do see look like?"
"Um, Gorlan...there are no indentured servants on Narsai." Hugh thinks for a moment, then continues. "Okay, it's more complicated than that, but let's just say that you will not meet anyone who is an indentured servant, so the question is moot. Just...like I said, forget the word."
"Oh!" Gorlan looks like he hadn't even considered the possibility that a major government wouldn't keep indentured servants. "I see." He nods thoughtfully. "That's..." His nodding turns from introspection to approval. "...very egalitarian of you." He sips his drink and settles back into the seat.
punkey 2011-04-07 00:18:27
Once the plane is fueled and everyone has their drinks and entertainment lined up for the long flight from Diego Garcia to Los Angeles, the plane taxis back onto the runway and roars into the night sky. It’s well past 2300 by the time you’re in the air, and given the half a day between Diego Garcia and Los Angeles, sleep certainly seems like a viable option at this point. Davis and Ngawai curl up against each other in their seats, while Swims-the-Black leans against the bulkhead next to his seat nearer to the front and passes out almost immediately. Once informed of the length of the flight, Gorlan also settles down into his seat and tries to catch some shuteye. Hugh, seated the next row back from Gorlan, stretches his legs out on the seat in front of him in the split-row section of the plane and folds his arms in. The rest of the team finds their own comfortable positions, taking full advantage of the mostly-empty nature of the flight, and everyone one-by-one drops off to get some rest.

The Sun seems to come up even sooner than it should with the travel speed and time changes, but the warming light of the airborne morning wakes Swims-the-Black and a few others, and they wake everyone else. The Navy lieutenant and an actual civilian flight attendant provide a basic breakfast of eggs and sausage from the small kitchenette in the front before settling down to eat themselves. Between the satellite Internet access (with WiFi, Luis’ internal vox reports) and the briefings Barnes had prepared for them from her office, there’s no shortage of reading material over breakfast.

Directly pertaining to their layover stop, the settling in of the defectors from Whiirr that are not working on Diego Garcia and their families has reached a stopping point for the time being. They’re being housed in a guarded military family apartment block at Fort MacArthur in San Pedro, sharing housing with the Los Angeles Air Force Base families. The apartments are turning out to be an excellent stop-gap until more permanent housing can be built: the view of Los Angeles Harbor and the Pacific Ocean is beautiful, the apartment block was recently renovated, and being on a military base, the security keeps rabble-rousers and lookie-loos out, giving the families time to adjust. The few teenagers that were relocated have been something of a problem for the MPs after being uprooted from their homes overnight, but that aside, the families are settling in nicely. Most of them are finding themselves pleasantly surprised with life on Narsai, and even the more die-hard Imperial supporters in the group are at least grudgingly admitting that life here is less restrictive than the Imperium as of late, if more technologically backwards.

Also living in the housing are the few rebel consultants that are working with the defectors to start the process of bringing Earth’s best and brightest up to speed on how Imperial technology works. While plans and schematics for dozens of Imperial technologies were stolen from the Cortex, no one on Earth has the first idea of what they’re looking at, let alone how to build it or even build what they need to build the end products. Some of the rebels’ specialists in producing what tools, devices and gadgets they can’t buy or steal have been brought in, and some of the technicians from the orbital and the camp are working with them. Graiza, the medic from the orbital, is helping show doctors and medical device engineers how to use and maintain Imperial medical technology (she might not be a doctor, but she knows more about the machines than anyone on Earth), while others teach them the basics of Imperial structural, electrical and spaceship engineering. Swims-the-Black is both pleased and proud to note that his old shipkid from Akamu is aiding in instruction on spacecraft operation and some of the more basic engineering functions, and is going by the name “Red”, which gave Swims a laugh. What’s most clear at this point is how far Earth has to go before they can even hope to start building anything more than the most basic Imperial devices and vessels on their own. Commonplace objects like voxes require electrical elements far beyond the cutting edge of Earth’s capabilities, and the materials and production processes needed to even consider building a basic tramp freighter cruise drive and hull would have been considered a fantasy before the announcement of contact with the Imperium. The most optimistic guesses at Earth’s first space ship are five years or more away, and that’s assuming they copy an existing Imperial design. That timeline makes the nearly 30 years between now and the arrival of the Gateships seem a lot closer than previously thought.

However, the walls of CalTech and UCLA aside, the influence of the knowledge that not only is humanity not alone in the universe, but that the aliens are us and they want to conquer our planet hasn’t shaken the rest of the world to pieces. Once the first shock wore off and the new paradigm of the universe and our place in it was anchored in people’s minds, it was quickly realized that as of right now, there’s next to nothing about the Imperium that will affect everyday life. Less than 100 Imperials are living and working on Earth, all either on military bases or with the business and scientific elite, none of their purported hyper-advanced technology has made it into the lives of anyone not working for GRHDI or the military, all the battles are being fought dozens if not thousands of light-years away, and the 30-year threat of annihilation is just far enough away that it’s easy to put out of your mind. Everyone knows that the Imperium is coming and that Earth has to mobilize to stop them, but nothing has really happened to shake people up and make them see the world any differently than they did before.

The GRHDI report does go on to mention that the team has achieved a degree of notoriety after the liberation of Whiirr, but the emphasis in the national media as far as off-world affairs goes has quickly shifted back towards the completion of reconstruction on Boranai, the Wherren people and their new freedom, and relations with the rebels. The military control on what information is released to the press at large means that no one outside of GRHDI and the military even knows about the Hedion Blackout, let alone that the team was responsible. And given the cold shoulder you’ve all been getting from the military as of late, it seems like your reputation might be taking another dive sometime soon, unless something is done about it.

Now that not only the government of the United States of America, but every government around the world is faced with a clear threat of annihilation that will possibly demand every bit of Earth’s resources and manpower be pooled to address the threat, the governments of Earth have reacted in a sadly predictable manner: with complete disharmony. The US and the other NATO countries, along with Russia, Japan, Australia and a few other nations have agreed to pool their military resources to fight the Imperium, but without an enemy that they can actually face down, or any way to realistically win a stand-up fight, the combined military might of most of the major powers on Earth is all pretty useless as of this moment.

With their militaries all dressed up with no place to go, the governments of the world have settled down to bicker about who’s doing what and how this incredible wealth of knowledge, resources and technology should be shared. The US, naturally, is pushing for the lion’s share of the prize, as with rare exception, it’s US forces on the ground off-world and the Gateways are in US hands. Forces from other nations participating in the military alliance working alongside the GRHDI are starting to trickle in, but they remain a very small percentage of Earth forces off-world. As they know how little there is to actually share at this point, the nations in the GRHDI aside from the US are not complaining about technology sharing, but mostly demanding more participation in off-world operations. The lack of a multi-national equivalent (or any equivalent at all, really) to the GRHDI’s Task Force 815, which is increasingly regarded as independent of any major nation, is a sore topic of discussion. The US is prepping their own group with similar intentions, as are the nations of the EU. China, having been left out of the Gateway business entirely until the attacks on Boranai and Napai were announced to the world, has decided that they will not cooperate in any off-world operations until they are given full and complete access to not only Imperial technology and Imperial experts, but equal-time access to the Gateways with the US and the ability to send independent and unmonitored teams through to the other side. Naturally, no one has any interest in giving this to them, so for now, China remains uninvolved in the Gateways.

Back in the United States, the debate over the Imperium crisis has settled down into a predictable pattern. Many of the members of Congress on the political far right are calling for simply rolling nuclear warheads through the Diego Garcia Gateway into their cities until they agree to a cease-fire, calling it a preemptive strike against their population centers before Earth is incinerated. While these calls do have a modicum of support nation-wide, the overwhelming majority of people believe that these calls are insane and more like walking up to a mother bear and hitting her cubs with a baseball bat. Most members of Congress are simply calling for a repeat of Boranai, possibly this time across several worlds simultaneously and with the help of the militaries of several other nations. The more prickly issue is the cultural question. The knowledge that not only is Earth not alone, but is the overwhelming minority of humanity in the cosmos has broached quite a large debate as to how the United States should welcome the culture of the Imperium, given that even if or when Earth wins and the Imperium falls, more than 9 out of 10 humans will be Imperial by custom. There are calls for laws protecting what has been called “the sanctity of Earth’s culture as the home of humanity”, mandating that Imperials defecting to the United States and living on Boranai be taught to speak English as a primary language, renaming the cities on Boranai in English, and possibly renaming the planet itself. From the other side of the debate are efforts to introduce mandatory Imperial language and culture classes in elementary schools to be taught alongside English, the establishment of a Imperial-style settlement in the US for refugees and defectors of all species, and working to smooth the future transition from Earth standing alone in the galaxy to Earth as a part of this new galactic community. Both sides are constantly demonized by the other, and those in the middle, as per usual, are simply waiting to see what happens next.


A 13 hour flight provided more than enough time to read Barnes’ assembled report several times over, surf the Internet on your individual voxes, handheld or otherwise, watch an in-flight movie and catch another nap before finally becoming bored. Even though the military Gulfstream is more luxurious than any C-130 flight (or any flight, period) that the team has ever taken, the interior of the plane is not a big place, and by the time you touch down in Los Angeles, time has become seriously twisted. Only adding to the unreality of the flight is the fact that it’s only an hour later than the time and day that you left Diego Garcia at, sometime after 0030.

Some of the team gets out and stretches their legs on the tarmac as the plane refuels. Davis follows his wife down the steps as Swims-the-Black stretches his arms and legs, his yawn rippling a wave of color across his fur. As the team works stiffened joints back into motion, you notice someone walk under the hangar lights towards the plane, her own bags in tow. As she gets closer, you see that she's a black woman, average height and weight for a fit woman from Earth (meaning three or four inches shorter than Ngawai and the top of her head barely comes up over Arketta's chin), and wearing what those of you from Earth’s militaries recognize as British Army standard fatigues. She looks at the plane and the tired collection of sophonts standing around in front of it as a car passes in front of her on an access road out to the tarmac and shades her eyes from the bright headlights in the dead of night, and then resumes her quick walking pace towards the plane.
Mister Andersen 2011-04-07 17:19:15
A briefing room,
Somewhere in London,
Three days ago.

Faces. Names. Service records. Action reports. Information openly supplied and covertly acquired. Everything they have and think they have on the 815. All of it laid out, broken up into bite sized pieces for her to digest.

They fire off questions. About the aliens. About the Americans. About the people and the things to be entrusted with life. About the expectations her world and her country and her senior officers have of her.

She jumps through all the hoops that the brass and the suits have for her. Tells them what they need to hear. Doesn't spare a thought for the men she's broken in order to be in this seat instead of them.

"Well, Sergeant Major, you've gotten yourself your shot, and ours. Don't fuck it up."

* * *

The newcomer coolly assess the people clustered around the boarding ramp as she approaches, moving with the lithe self-possession of an athlete. Two of the silhouettes are instantly identifiable to her: the looming non-human Swims-the-Black and the very pregnant Ngawai Lea Holoni. The third figure she pegs via association as Holoni's husband Garret Davis. All of them dressed Imperial style, even the walking carpet.

So basically, she thinks, it's Lawrence, Fasal and one of their Arabians taking in the sights of this benighted oasis of concrete and jet fuel.

By the time she reaches the ramp, the sleek executive phallus has disgorged the rest of the tribe. The sniper Riviera standing overwatch at the top, looking tired but comfortingly familiar in his fatigues and posture. In front of him, dressed casual, the tech expert Stanhill; there's something odd about his eyes, she notes, contacts maybe? Preceding him is Corporal Quis, whom for all her size — women just shouldn't be that tall — gives off a very similar vibe to Riviera. At the ramp's foot is Utari, the final Imperial member of the group, flaunting his physique like the cover of a romance novel even as he stands like a bodyguard. And his seeming charge, Captain Verril, standing human casual next to the spook.

It's hard to tell which of the two men think they're running the show, but when faced with a choice between a Company man seemingly gone native, and someone recognisable as a military officer, she knows she'd prefer the bars every time. So, when she drops her bags on the ground, it's to him she offers a crisp salute.

"Sergeant Major Kadiatu Aaronovitch, UK Special Recon Regiment," she introduces herself before reaching into her tunic and producing her papers. Then, in flawless Imperial, without the trace of a Narsai accent, she continues.

"I'm your new team member."
Gatac 2011-04-07 18:12:32
Hugh's eyes instantly fly to the Sergeant Major's rank insignia. I think that's a WO2...that would make sense. I think. Damn, need to go drink with the squaddies again sometime. He returns her salute.

"Captain Hubert Verrill," Hugh replies. "Good to have you, Sergeant Major. So you're Regiment - what color is the boat house at Hereford, anyway?"
Mister Andersen 2011-04-07 23:54:31
Kadi's face remains impassive, although there is a slight note of professional disdain in her voice. "I believe you're confusing the SRR with the SAS, Sir," she responds. "Like your own special forces, they're still a bunch of unenlightened chauvanists."
Gatac 2011-04-08 06:32:53
"Right, sorry," Hugh replies. I bet it's green like baby puke.

He takes a quick glance at the papers she's handed him - he'll have to take a decent look at them later. "Alright, Sergeant Major - Aaronovitch, was it? We're on the move right now, so if you'll just walk with us, we can discuss the details on the way. For right now, welcome to the 815" - he pronounces it 'eight fifteen' - "hope you know what you're getting into."
punkey 2011-04-08 06:52:39
Davis walks over, hand extended and a smile on his face. "Garrett Davis, pleased to meet you," he says. "Go ahead and stow your bags in the hold with ours, we'll be on our way in about ten."
Mister Andersen 2011-04-08 13:10:24
Kadi returns the spook's shake. "Nice to meet you," she replies, still speaking flawless Imperial. "Would one of you care to help me up with my other bag?"
punkey 2011-04-09 07:37:56
Gorlan, having stood by and listening into the parts of the conversation that are in a language he understands, approaches the new woman and bows a greeting. "My name is Gorlan Kesh, its a pleasure to meet another Narsai'i on this trip," he says. "I'm sure 'Lieuchenanch' will be glad to help with your bags."
Almost on cue, the poor lieutenant walks out of the plane and sees Kadi and he bags. "Oh, let me get those for you, Ma'am," he says in English, and hustle down the steps.
Gorlan watches the Lieutenant and nods in approval when he picks up her bags, the looks back to Hugh and Davis for a cue on if he'd violated another social more.
Gatac 2011-04-09 08:14:37
Hugh's look is more "Eh, we'll work on that" than "ZOMG you are a walking social disaster area".

"So, Sergeant Major," Hugh starts again. "You'll have to do your own staff briefing. Hit me with the highlights."
Mister Andersen 2011-04-09 12:10:08
Kadi's left eyebrow twitches upwards a fraction of a centimetre as she observes her new CO's casual non-reaction to this breach of military etiquette and the new alien's -- unsurprising -- ignorance of it.

Her eyes shift to the descending Lieutenant. No, Lieutenant, junior grade, she corrects herself as she notes the colour of his bar. Sub-Lieutenant in real money. His name tag -- Major -- makes her wonder if it was a fear that his superiors elsewhere were familiar with Joseph Heller that had prompted him to join this particular branch of the service.

Kesh. None back home had even mentioned him, but he looks far more out of place than anyone other Imperial. Wardrobe and demeanour scream some sort of decadent peer of the realm or mid-level bureaucrat who'd crap himself in a real fight. 815's disposition peg him as reliable asset who hasn't been Earthside before now, Major's presence in his whites suggests he's new to the brass and they're trying to make nice with him before his first debrief rather than maintaining an effort to keep him sweet.

Something about Major suggests he's not been long in grade. Probably has a sponsor that pulled strings to land him the gig, but not someone in a position to know about her addition to 815. Even with a patron, though, he'd have to have a functional grasp of at least the major Imperial dialect to have a shot at this and not come off as a total twat.

Kadi offers Kesh her hand. "Pleased to meet you, Sir," she responds in Imperial. "And I extend greetings on behalf of the government of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, and the citizens of the United Kingdom."

When Major reaches the bottom the ramp, she throws him a salute. "Thank you, Sir," she says in english, speaking with a broad London accent. "I'm not sure how it works here, but back home we use either Sergeant Major or Ms Aaronovitch."

Then, back to Hugh. "What do you want to know, Sir?" she continues in english. "I'm here because in addition to staging their own sortes, Whitewall wants in at the coal face 815 are working in return for the hundreds of millions of pounds they're contributing to the 'Special Relationship'."
Gatac 2011-04-09 13:22:26
"I want to know what your specialties are, Sergeant Major," Hugh answers. "I'll take riflery and polishing boots as given, but I assume the MOD didn't spend all that cash for just any grunt."
Mister Andersen 2011-04-09 16:53:32
"Combat Medicine, Recon and HUMINT, Sir," she answers. "I have a talent for assimilating languages and cultures. I'm natively fluent in seven terrestial languages as well as the major Imperial language group, functionally fluent in over a dozen more as well as 2 ancilliary alien dialects. While my off-world experience has been limited to after action reports, recon data and those few immigrant assets the your country has deigned to grant its allies access to, I am not boasting when I say that outside of this unit I am one of the 5 most qualified people on the planet to be here, and the only one not working for your Intelligence infrastructure."
skullandscythe 2011-04-09 19:30:50
Zaef helps the Lt. with the luggage. Poor bastard's had rotten luck this whole trip, and Zaef himself is getting restless waiting for the layover

Maybe if I learn to fly one of these gas-guzzling spinkshits we can actually get somewhere on time.
punkey 2011-04-09 20:39:46
"So, you're a spy," Ngawai says curtly, her Imperial cutting into the conversation. "Ngawai Lea Holoni." She offers a quick Imperial bow of greeting. "Well, a spy and a medic. I do believe we've met before, on Diego Garcia? I was one of your Imperial culture teachers." The question, and her demeanor, aren't quite as friendly as a meeting between teacher and student would normally be. Guess she doesn't like the new kid.

What she does notice is Davis staring at her face, probably fishing for emotional cues. His eyes drop after a few seconds, whatever he was looking for, he didn't find.
CrazyIvan 2011-04-09 23:20:38
Angel watches the newcomer, and Gorlan's continued social struggles with faint amusement. There is an absurdity to the whole thing - if nothing else, Angel's rank is is still Specialist - regardless of what Hugh and Davis like to pretend, and Specialists don't ride on Gulfstreams.

The bar is taken advantage of, and once a beer is acquired, the flight attendant is flirted with now and again. Nothing serious, but there are only so many ways to amuse oneself on a flight like this. A nap makes up the rest of the time.

Taking in the uniform, he shakes his head. "A Brit. Wonderful." His tone is, as always, somewhat flat.
Gatac 2011-04-10 00:31:02
"Combat medicine, thank fucking God," Hugh says. "You know what a kauka is? I'd be very happy if I never have to see one again, I'll take stitches and needles over one any day."
e of pi 2011-04-10 06:30:23
"What, Captain, don't trust my skills anymore?" Luis says with a grin. "Mind you," he adds, turning to Kadi, "It'll be nice being able to have someone qualified to work around the new eyes if anything goes sour," he nods. "Luis Stanhill. Welcome to 815."
Mister Andersen 2011-04-10 08:28:44
"I'm aware of them, Sir, and have studied the schematics that have been worked up, but so far I haven't had any hands on experience with the things."

Kadi's gaze shifts cooly to the pregnant woman, making her first personal assessment of Ngawai's gravidness. "No," she tells her flatly. In english. "We've never met, though I've sat in on one or two of the few teleconferences the DoD saw fit to establish before the current situation forced their hand towards the limited degree of openess they've struggled to accomplish.

"And we members of the SRR prefer to think of ourselves as scouts preparing the way for our brothers," and there's a certain distinct non-filial stress on the word, "lest they go in blind and get their gung-ho arses shot off. Behind every great man, and so on."

When Luis offers his hand, Kadi noticeably takes pause before unashamedly scrutinizing those golden orbs. "Excuse my French, mate, but what the Hell have you gone and done to yourself?" She waves her fingers curiously in front of them, watching for their reaction.