Hedion 05

punkey 2011-02-28 23:20:03
After that grilling, Luis just needs to find someplace to decompress and relax. He knows just the place: an observation lounge and illicit bar a few decks above, where a few sheets of transparent steel shield off-duty rebels from the radiation of space, and improvised stills provide some pretty damn decent moonshine. Luis takes a glass of the pronap-fruit relative of vodka and takes a cushioned seat looking out into the void.

Fifteen minutes and half a drink later, the chime and flashing vox gliph appears in the top-right of his vision. Luis stares at it for a moment, then accepts the call. *Stanhill speaking.*
Arketta's on the other end, sounding like she's on the verge of tears. "*Luis, where are you? I need...I need to talk to you.*"
*Meet me here,* Luis says and flashes a map of his location on the station. Concern leaking into his "voice," he adds, *Was it Simmons?*
"*Yes,*" she replies, then receives the map. "*Good, I need a drink, right now. See you in a few minutes.*"

Arketta disconnects, then Luis waves over the bartender and puts in an order for Arketta. Three minutes later, Arketta stomps in with red, watery eyes and rosy cheeks, and Luis can tell it's not from allergies.

She drops down into the seat next to him and downs the entire drink at once, then wraps her arms around Luis in a big, tight hug. "I'm going to murder that Simmons bastard the next time I see him," she whispers to Luis, then lets go and leans back in her seat, wiping her eyes.

Luis just hugs back for a moment. "What bull was he spouting to you?"
"Asshole all but accused me of trying to brainwash you into some kind of Imperial spy." She takes a few deep breaths, and gets her composure back. "I was going to tell him to fuck off, but he made it clear that either I 'leave you alone', or he'll get me discharged from the US Army and both of us kicked out of 815." She puts a hand on his thigh. "I know what I want to do, but I don't know where you'd go if we were dropped from the task force. All your dreams, everything that you want to do...I don't want to ruin that for you."

Luis lifts her face to his, and kisses her softly. "As long as I have you, everything else is just the details. Besides, I think if he pushed that hard, they'd discover they'd lose 815 altogether. 815's the team, not the name or the organization. If they kick out you and me or they kick off Davis or they let Zaef go, or whatever else they're trying to threaten people with, I think they'd find themselves short one entire elite field team. Let Simmons have his fun, but if he tries to push too hard, we'll see who pushes back."
Arketta smiles. "A mutiny. I love it."

A new ding sounds in Luis' head, that builds into a tiny symphony. Arketta looks at his helm and moves her head back. "Luis, your helm is...playing music, and changing colors."

An ad jingle comes on inside the vox, and a video comes on with a well-dressed yet scantily clad woman in Faxom-Io colors. *Thank you for purchasing Faxom-Io cybernetic augmentations! We hope you enjoy the new you. Remember, if the old body needs new features, think Faxom-Io!* The video is then replaced with instructions for the haptic motions that will disengage the helm.

Luis grins, "At least there are some annoyances we can do something about immediately." He starts working through the instructions. The thought of, well, thinking the vox system into working is still somewhat foreign, but after a few tries, and a couple of facial expressions that make Arketta smile, he feels the helm detach from his headjack and just rest balanced on the back of his head. His vision suddenly goes dark, but a moment of panic later, he realizes that it's just because the helm's sconces are no longer seeing for him. Luis blinks at the darkness another moment, then eases the helm off, wary of some light-adaption issue. However, there's no temporary blindness, no flash of light, as his new eyes instantaneously adjust to the new light levels. The room is sharper, the details more clear--not exactly a benefit in the illicit bar. The dark of space outside the ports seems to retain the subtle "blacker-than-black" of the camera sconces, but if he focuses, he can see some of the nicks in the glass. He grins, and looks back at Arketta. Here, too, there's more detail, more richness--like seeing a favorite show remastered in HD. "How's it look?" he asks.

Arketta's smile widens. "You look great, Luis," she says.

Luis is looking right at her with his new eyes, two golden multi-faceted orbs, both covered with slight angles but coated with transparent grown crystal to become perfectly smooth. Nanocircuit traces glint and shine in the light, occasionally tracing out lines of blue across the surface of the eye, and the tight squiggles that mark out the part of the implants that are the most tightly packed with photon sensors form concentric circles around the front, giving him "irises" traced in gold circuitry, lit with the occasional streaks of blue.

Arketta pulls a signal mirror out of her pocket and holds it up for Luis to see his new eyes. "What do you think?"

Luis looks back at himself, the new eyes picking out details in themselves he never would have seen with his old eyes. "Going to take some getting used to, I think," he says. "Probably means I need to update my driver's license."
"Maybe," Arketta says. She takes his hand. "They'll try to use that against us. You know that, right?"
Luis' grin fades. "They already did, Simmons brought it up earlier today. They can go walk out an airlock for all I care. It's my body."
Arketta laughs. "There's that strong, confident Luis. We should see him more often." She pauses for a second. "I say that if your Narsai leaders ever try to come between us again, ever, we walk away. Join the rebels and keep fighting, but leave your petty leaders behind. I'm tired of their suspicion. If they want to believe that we're no longer their good little soldiers, then I think we should stop pretending."
Luis sighs. "I think you may be right, but I'm not going to do it unless they make me."
Arketta nods. "I understand. Narsai is your home. Maybe there will be some way for us to live there but still fight for the rebels. I love Narsai, but their stupid paranoia about you, about me and about us is not worth it. I will hold out if you want me to, but I want you to promise me that you will tell me the instant you think you want to leave. Fair?"
Luis nods, "Fair. Now, you want another drink you'll actually bother to taste this time?"
Arketta wraps her arms around the back of Luis' neck and leans in for a long kiss. When they both pull back, she smiles at him. "Luis Stanhill, are you trying to make me forget about how awful Simmons and Narsai just was to us?"
"Well, if I want to ever be able to keep up with Davis, I have to practice scheming sometime," Luis says with a grin.
"Well then!" Arketta waves to the bartender. "Send over a double! For the both of us!"
punkey 2011-02-28 23:24:32
Angel, despite his best wishes, had only been given a few hours of downtime. Between Simmons' report and trying to find a space alone with his thoughts, relaxation on Atea was much more difficult to find than he would have liked. Still, he did manage to have some time to himself before Simmons' vox pinged on his unit.

The storage closet seemed less than inviting, given what Angel had heard from Arketta, Zaef and Luis. The door was left open as Angel approached. Simmons was already waiting for Angel when he made the mistake of showing his head through the doorway.

"Please, Specialist Riviera, come in and take a seat," Simmons said from behind the table. Dossiers and a laptop sat on the surface, angled to give Simmons access at a glance but deny Angel a glimpse of what was on them.

"Nice digs." Angel sounds tired, and a little worn, the return home not having been one of unmitigated victory.
"So, let's get started, shall we?" Simmons flashes Angel a smile and opens a folder. "I've got your AAR right here, nice and detailed as always. So, Angel, how would you characterize the way the different parts of Task Force 815 worked on Hedion? Any successes, any problems with leadership or weaknesses in the team?"

Angel sits, giving the man an even expression. A lifetime of dealing with desk jockeys, and too much time spent exposed to Davis has taken a toll on his susceptibility to an easy complement and a smile.

"We toppled a corrupt government, got the people to rise up in their own defense, and furthered 'the strategic interests of the United States'. Used to be you did something like that, the President would be by with a banner, and a pretty reporter would be asking questions instead of you."
"And if you had done it for the US, your blowjobs would be on their way." Simmons smiles at his own joke. "However, you went a bit off the reservation on this mission. We're willing to overlook it, if everything went well." He turns up the "I'm your friend" look. "So, give me the low-down on the mission. Any comments about Davis or Luis? How about the Imperials, Zaef and Arketta? How did they perform?"
Angel shrugs. "Davis is a spook. He makes things complicated. Asking him not to would be like telling a fish not to swim. Round-about or not, it gets the job done. Sergeant Stanhill seems to have taken well to going CIA. Good for him. Better benefits I hear."

He pauses, tapping his fingers in feigned thought. "The Imperials...both Zaef and Arketta are outstanding members of 815. I've had COs who would give their right eye for folks that good in the field."
"Anyone have any problems operating under deep cover as Imperials? Any problems with the covers, either maintaining them...or otherwise?" Simmons asks.

Simmons taps a few words out on his laptop and opens up a couple files. "How about your targets on Hedion? Any problems involving them, any rough spots?"
"Local politics are complicated as hell. Generally I found it easier to keep my mouth shut and look dangerous. The practical details you'd be better off sorting with Davis."
Simmons looks down at one of the files. "How about with the Keshes? That certainly was a mess, wasn't it?"
"Local clans with split loyalties and an ambitious streak always are." His tone is flatter than it normally is, even for him.

"Still, it had to be hard, especially for you." Simmons pauses, and looks Angel in the eyes. "Since you had a fling with Tora Kesh."
Any sense of cooperation, even feigned, vanishes from the scout. "Suppose that depends on your definition of hard."
"What was your motivation for becoming personally involved with a target?" Simmons asks. "She was potentially a part of what Reno Kesh was doing, and yet you not only blew your cover to her, but you then met her, alone, and had sex with her. Did you send her in to Reno afterwards, too?"

"You know Simmons, I never thought about it like that." Angel sits back, fixing the man with an entirely even stare. "Discerning the motivations of the Kesh family was important to arrainging the mission. I took a calculated risk revealing the truth to her once I had gotten a gauge of where her loyalties were, and took charge of bringing her around to our side. For her, it was a personal matter as much as a political one. As for the last bit, suggest that again and see what happens."

"And it was purely in the interest of that effort that you went AWOL after she was murdered by her brother?" Simmons snaps a file upright and starts reading from it directly. "Were found plotting to break into the Kesh estate, kill anyone between you and Reno and finally assassinate him?" He puts the file down underneath his laptop. "That was all in service of the mission, right?"
"The term is 'reconnaissance'. Tora Kesh had clearly been killed by her brother trying to bring him over to our side of things, which for someone like him meant making a move..."

Simmons cuts Angel off. "That's not what this AAR says, Specialist. It's very clear, you were there to kill Reno. You had become personally invested in a target, an Imperial, and you lost your perspective." He raises his hands in mock confusion. "What am I supposed to do, Angel? You're a valuable member of Task Force 815, of the US Army, but as far as I can tell, you made a serious mistake here. Tora Kesh was an Imperial, and you...I don't even know what to call it. Help me here, Angel. What could have possibly possessed you to consort with her?"

"And which AAR report is that? Hell yes I was there to kill Reno. Preferably alone. He had murdered an asset, clearly had undone at least Davis and my cover before or as he killed Tora, and both needed to be taken out, and needed to be taken out while exposing the team to the least amount of risk."
"AARs from Task Force 815 are confidential and need-to-know, Specialist," Simmons replies, then refocuses on Angel. "And as for killing Reno, getting revenge for your Imperial lover was just a nice side bonus, then?"
"Of course they are." Angel leans back, idly thumbing the edge of the desk. "And yes, it was a nice side bonus. But it needed to be done, and I didn't jeopardize the mission doing it my way."
"No, you had already done enough of that sticking your dick in an Imperial," Simmons says. "If you don't have an explanation for what could have possibly come over you to do something like that..." He waits for Angel to reply.

Angel gets quiet. Dangerous, 'I've killed people in ways you can't begin to imagine' quiet. "A woman died trying to bring freedom to her planet Simmons. Show some goddamned respect."
Simmons nods and puts his hands in the air. "Yes, yes, it was very tragic. But she was also an Imperial. Remember that for the next time, Specialist, and don't make this mistake again." He looks at his folders, then back up at Angel. "If you don't have anything else to say, then we're done here."

Angel's tone doesn't change. "Let me make something clear to you Simmons. The only mistake I made was not keeping Tora in a locked room until we had dealt with her brother. I've had my life saved by Imperials, put more trust in them than I put in you, and gotten more out. Tora Kesh needed a personal connection - they've still got fucking 'gentleman adventurers' in the Imperium. She needed to be shown another way. Not her family, or an Imperial official. Her. It ended in something between us. I have regrets about what happened, alot of them. But starting it wasn't one of them."

He stands, pushing the chair in. "But suggest again that I got turned around by the first Imperial with a nice smile, or didn't think about what I was doing, and we," there's a suggestion that he means more than Simmons, "will be done."

Simmons nods. "If that's what you have to say, then fine. You're dismissed, Specialist."
"Have a nice day Sir." It's ironic - before they left, if Simmons had been looking for a friendly voice on 815, Angel would have been a decent choice. Would have been. That bridge was well and truly burnt.

Angel stalks through the halls to the mess, ordering a grilled cheese and fries before finding a dim corner to sit in. The fries still need work - undercooked on the inside - but apparently the Kraft Single is singularly compatible with artificial food fabricators. He eats quietly, trying to picture whose name was sitting at the top of that AAR.
punkey 2011-02-28 23:25:06
Once the pleasantries are concluded at the dock, Davis heads straight for his temporary quarters on the Atea's command deck, not even bothering to change out of his Turai armor. The door to the room is shut, with the pulsing red light above the door letting him know that it's locked tight. He smiles, and pushes the button for the intercom.

"Your husband is here to see you, m'lady," Davis says.
"*Oh, really?*" Ngawai replies through the intercom. "*Would this be my husband, Garrett Davis, or Haralin Arakuna?*"
"Considering that there's a 150,000 lat bounty on Haralin Arakuna's head right now, it's very definitely Garrett Davis," he replies.
"*Then in that case, show him right in.*" The door slides open to reveal Ngawai standing next to the door, a massive grin on her face. They embrace and kiss as Davis waves his hand next to the controls for the door, resealing them inside.
After a few seconds, they release and stand there in each others arms. "Hello," Davis says, breaking the silence.
"Hello yourself," Ngawai says. The both walk back to the small table and take a seat next to each other.

"150,000, huh?" Ngawai says, taking a drink of water from the container on the table. "That's as much as the bounty on our heads for real. Haralin must have done something really bad to earn that much that quickly."
"You could say that," Davis says with a smile. "You could make a quick buck turning him in, I suppose. They left your Apprehender's ticket active, right?"
"As a trap, in case I pop up on any official scanners, but yes," Ngawai says. "I think I love you both too much to collect on that bounty, though."
Davis puts a hand on Ngawai's. "Gee, thanks babe," he says. "So, what's the situation like?"
"Naloni's getting more active," Ngawai says. "She likes your music, though. Settles her right down."
"The soothing sounds of rock and roll?" Davis asks, raising an eyebrow.
"Of course." Ngawai takes another drink. "Brinai and Bello can barely figure out what to do with themselves, they've been running around, putting together trustworthy agents for Hedion all week. And once news hit that you had pulled it off, the whole rebel network's been celebrating in its own quiet way. They've been good about discipline, nothing directly claiming responsibility. Hasn't stopped Shenmai from trying to blame us, but the way things are sounding back on Sambasan and Napai, he's got bigger problems."
Davis nods. "Yeah, I figure he's not too popular at the moment."
"As for Narsai, well, they're happy for us, but I get the feeling that they don't like that we went off and liberated a planet without them. That scrofa-spawned asshole, Simmons, he gated in with me."
"Brinai told us," Davis says. "I do wonder what he's up to."
"No good," Ngawai says. "Barnes voxed me that he's got some new friends in your CIA and military, that he's been making more requests of GRHDI and been snooping around. Be careful, it sounds like this might be the opening round of something bigger."

Davis nods. "Will do." He stands, and takes Ngawai's hand with him. "Now, I could use some time laying down with you, just the two of us. I'll rub your back, if you want."
Ngawai stands up and smiles. "How could I turn down an offer like that?"

After hearing the vague references to the railroading Zaef, Luis, Arketta and Angel suffered at Simmons' hands, Davis doesn't bother knocking on the entrance to his interview room when he gets Simmons' vox. He just marches straight into the interview room and takes a seat, crosses his legs and arms and stares a hole through Simmons' head.

"So, let's get this started," Davis says in English. His use of the language is still as smooth as ever, but the accent hasn't wavered.
Simmons slowly nods, then opens a file. "Sure, why not. I've got your AAR right here. Nothing much to say besides that?" Simmons keeps the conversation in English.
"Just that if you and your buddies at the Pentagon want to come after me, doing it through my teammates is a chickenshit way to handle it."
Simmons closes the folder and smirks at Davis. "Please, Garrett. This is just a routine debrief, even though this was an unsanctioned mission. Just making sure that the nuts and bolts all go together smoothly."
"Well, they do, and I don't see what raking my friends over the coals will get you." Davis' stare might start cutting a little bald spot in Simmons' head at this rate.
"Did they say anything specific? Did I make any threats towards them? We're just concerned that they've got their heads in the right place, that's all," Simmons says. "Look at it from our perspective. You ran off and did a mission that we did not approve, and turned an entire planet upside down in the process."
"We kick-started the liberation of Hedion, one of the Imperium's most valuable worlds," Davis shoots back. "In six months or so, we'll have enough influence on Hedion to start making real changes, and be able to start getting resources and support from their industriums."
"The rebels will, Davis, the rebels," Simmons says, chiding Davis. "Not us."
"No difference there."
"We disagree."

Davis leans forward. "Who is this 'we', anyway?"
"A lot of very powerful people, in the Pentagon and elsewhere. They're concerned that the war effort has become less about keeping the Earth safe, and more about fighting some war we don't need to be a part of," Simmons replies.
Davis throws his hands up into the air. "Don't need to be a part of? They're living under an oppressive dictatorship! They're being treated like disposable resources, and those who speak out for their freedoms get gunned down in the street! That's exactly the kind of shit that we're supposed to be stopping!"
"When we can," Simmons says. "We've got enough on our plate just getting the Imperium off our backs, let alone fighting for the rebels, too. You know how this goes, Garrett. This is the kind of decision you used to make all the time. Be smart about this."
"I never turned my back on something like this, Simmons."
"Well, maybe that's why I'm on this side of the table," Simmons replies. "If there's nothing else you have to say..."
"No, I think I've heard enough."
"Then we'll talk to you again later, Garrett." He pauses to re-stack his files, then fixes Davis with a solid look. "Count on it."
"I'll be waiting for your vox," Davis says, and walks out of the room.
punkey 2011-02-28 23:30:21
Hugh's taken his sweet time getting to the debriefing - he's way down the list as is, and not in much of a hurry to talk to Simmons again. Still, he does show up on time, gives the agent a short but cordial greeting, and sits down at the table.

"Ready when you are, Agent Simmons."
Simmons waves over the panel on the wall that shuts and locks the door before saying a word. "Well, first, I want to thank you for your AAR." He waves the file folder. "It was very useful in my interviews with the rest of your team, especially Angel's. I suppose you've spoken with the rest of them, heard about what went on?"
"I did, and the way it sounded, you're not invited to the next pub crawl," Hugh says matter-of-factly. "But I figured at least the two of us could try not pissing each other off, so I didn't pretty up the AAR. I don't need to lie to you."
"And I thank you for that, Captain," Simmons says. "It's good to see at least one of Task Force 815 has their head on straight. Between Davis and the Imperials in the team, it's no wonder they dragged you along on that stunt. We need you on that team, keeping us informed on how far things are going, and your actions have not gone unnoticed."
"Sounds nice, but just so we understand each other - this isn't me getting in bed with you or trying to work an angle on the team. I just think that the US government deserves to know what we're doing because this working relationship desperately needs some trust and frankness, and that whoever you're putting together as Plan B needs to see what works and doesn't work in this campaign so they don't fuck up and die."

Hugh leans forward. "So, you see, I'm just being pragmatic. I'm sure you can appreciate that."
"Of course," Simmons replies. "And so are we." He stands up from behind the table and leans over his chair. "You see, Captain, there's people at the Pentagon, influencial people, who are more than a little concerned about Task Force 815, have been so since Davis forced the military to go along for the ride. Davis is a known alien-lover, literally, and with all those Imperials on the team, plus that...Wherren...it's a big source of concern. Especially now that Davis and Quis lead you all off on some wild-ass mission, against our wishes. You can understand, right?"
"Yeah, I understand," Hugh says. "My problem is that I can't figure out what you want. Do you want Davis 100% back on Team Earth? Do you want 815 under exclusive US military control? Do you want the war with the Jade Imperium to go away? I'll take a hint, if you're offering."
Simmons nods, and thinks for a moment. "I think I can give you more than a hint, Captain. Yes, we do want 815 back under military control, but we know that's not going to happen with Davis still around. We thought we could get Stanhill and Riviera on board, but now that Stanhill had his Goddamn eyes plucked out to fit in more with the aliens and Quis has him twisted around her finger, and Riviera's pining after some dead alien bitch, they're too far gone. Quis, Holoni, Utari and the Wherren, well, no one wants them around, at all. They've already seen and heard too much, we need to limit that damage and fast, yeah?"

Simmons smiles. "I'm here to break up Task Force 815, replace the current roster with people we can trust, Earth people who have their heads on straight. We can't do it overtly, that would piss off the rebels and the bleeding hearts at the GRHDI, but we have other ways to get the job done."
"I hate to break it to you, Agent Simmons, but that ship has sailed," Hugh says. "There's nobody on this team who really, actually wants to work for you. You put anyone on the team in front of the choice and you're gonna lose them. See, that's why I think it's important to give your plan B - whoever it is - good intel. Because you can keep chasing that dream here, but all you're doing is pissing my teammates off with your heavy-handed crap. You want my honest opinion? You need to start over. New faces."
"And I agree," Simmons says. "What do you think I was doing on this fucking tin can for the last day? We can't fire or reassign them, so I came here to piss them off enough that they all quit. Your AAR was enormously helpful in that, thank you, again. I couldn't have done my job here without it. I was sent here to clear out the aliens and the alien-lovers, and then we're going to move on in a full roster of new soldiers, people that remember who's in charge here."

Simmons sits back down. "And I'm here to give you an offer. You've done a great job, Captain, and we want to reward you. You're going to get full command of Task Force 815 when the dust settles from all of this. Davis, Stanhill, Quis, Holoni, all of them gone, and you'll have your team back. What do you say to that?"
"A couple of things, Agent Simmons. One, if you clear out the aliens and Imperials and their sympathizers - then Task Force 815 is empty. I mean, who did you have in mind? Just me? You could have just put up a new unit and asked me to transfer. How about not building up a massive pile of resentment in the movers and shakers department?"
"No, we need the symbol of 815, the name," Simmons says. "We get rid of that, we lose a lot of support."
"You can have the damn name!" Hugh interjects.
"And," Simmons continues, "we don't want or need your 'movers and shakers' like Davis and his buddies around. They're too focused on winning their suicidal war against the Imperium, getting themselves and the rebels killed. It's a loser, so we're focusing on saving Earth, not some fight we can't win. So, what's your other point?"
"Two more points, actually, if you don't mind," Hugh says. "There's no saving Earth without permanently destroying the Imperium's ability and will to fight us. That means we either go around and commit genocide, or we go around and change the Imperium. Any half-measures and it will stabilize again, regain its strength, push back, and then it's just a matter of time before Earth is screwed. I don't much like the idea of being the guy who has to liberate a thousand worlds, but it beats watching one more world get glassed."

Hugh leans back again. "Lastly, you're not saving anything. You're sniping at the only thing that's working, you've got piss all else to show for it..."
"We've got Boranai, Captain. That was our win, and we can do it again."
"Then get out there and do it!" Hugh says. "God knows we'll take the help. But this chickenshit 'get our house in order before we fight' thing you're trying to pull is plain and simple not helping your cause. You come at me with this whole 'Davis is mired in idealism' thing you must have rehearsed a couple times, but you're not being very practical about the whole thing, either. And at the end of the day - which you should know, Agent Simmons, since you like sucking my dick so much - I side with results. Davis has them. You don't. Get back to me when you've got your shit together."
"So, that's a no on my offer, then, Captain?" Simmons asks.
"Yeah, it is," Hugh says. "Now, if you'll excuse me. I have to apply my honesty to a few other people."

"You might want to take a look at this before you make your decision, Captain." Simmons flips open a new folder and spins it around. Inside is a signed letter from Major Cawsworth, the man who gave Hugh his promotion to Delta in the first place. It's a letter recommending an immediate dishonrable discharge from the US Army. "And this, as well." Simmons pulls out a second letter, classifying Hugh as a threat to Earth's security, from the Army CID, recommending he be escorted through the Diego Garcia gate and off of Earth as soon as possible. "And there's a third letter around here somewhere, addressed to Brinai and her alien pals, letting them know what you've been doing for me. And, of course, I'll have to tell Angel, Luis, and the rest of 815 what you put in your AAR. Maybe give them a copy for good measure."

Simmons smiles. He's seen Davis give a similar smile a few times over the last week, and being on the receiving end of it sucks just as badly as he though it would. "Of course, this is only if you've proven to be a threat to us. If you're on our side, there's no reason for anyone to see any of this. There'd be no outrage amongst the aliens if they find out what you've done, and then we fire you from 815, Captain. Think about that for a second before you respond."
"While I think about that, Agent Simmons, I want you to take a look around. Tell me what you see when you're done."
"I see a ship that's hanging bare-assed out in space, filled with aliens who know that they need our help," Simmons says. "They know what happens if I don't come back through that gate alive." He stands up straight. "We're tired of 815 being some rogue group that we can't control. We will bring 815 back under control, and you will do it for us, or we'll be sure to send you packing right into the Arena. Got it?"

"Wow, seeing the past. Neat trick." Hugh remains unimpressed. "Listen, Simmons, I know you like to talk about yourself like you're a big picture guy, so I'll break this down for you into a few key details. This isn't Earth. This is not your turf. It's ours. And there's fuck all you can do to keep us from doing whatever we want to you on our turf. Do we look like the 'consequences' type of people? Go ahead, you little shit. Mail your letters. I'll make sure the team gets copies of my AAR as soon as I walk through this door. I'm not afraid of them reading what I wrote. I'm not afraid of getting kicked out of your little club - you strongarmed the Major into getting me into Delta, you can strongarm him into kicking me out, what does that prove to anyone?"
Simmons nods. "Is that what you think happened? He wants you gone. Half of the generals in the Pentagon do. But they have decided to give you a chance to prove that the rebels and 815 can be brought under control. The rebels think that you're some kind of hero, and we are giving you the opportunity to show why we shouldn't just cut you, Brinai, and the whole rebellion off and handle this ourselves. If you walk out that door, Captain, Atea stops being a safe haven, for you, or for anybody. Now, sit down and get with the program, is that clear?"

"Okay, that's enough out of you," Hugh says. "You don't scare me. Thank God you don't, I'd be fucking embarassed if you did. You can't handle this yourself. Everything we've done has proven you can't handle this yourself. You're fucking Earth out of the best shot it has at winning the war because you think aliens are icky and you don't like that we let our hair grow out. Grow the hell up, Simmons. But do it somewhere else. I'm starting to entertain notions of putting a few rounds in you, and that won't end well for you."

Hugh makes for the door.

"Hoo boy," he says. "Feels kinda good, doesn't it? Cards on the table. Gonna take a while to see who's lost this one, but I'm looking forward to the results. Wish I could hear the recording of your report to the brass. I know I'm gonna savor this conversation a few more times in the evening. Remember the day that you managed to piss off everyone and but everyone in Task Force 815. Remember the day you lost us. You have fun with those pieces of paper now. I gotta get my team together and lay a few things out."
Simmons stands there, fuming at Hugh. "And you remember this conversation the next time you need support from us, Captain. You and your alien fuckbuddies might want to be careful whose toes you step on."
"Don't let the airlock pinch your dick on the way out, Simmons."


Outside the room, Hugh keeps a brisk pace as he fishes for his vox. "Davis, come in."
Davis picks up his vox on the second tone. "*Yeah, how'd it go with Simmons? He squeeze you, too?*"
"Yep. Couldn't keep myself from squeezing back. He's gonna be trouble - not sure how much exactly, but I'm not expecting this one to pass."
"*Why, what shit did he try to pull on you? Anything we need to worry about?*"

"Yeah. Long bullshit short: he basically wanted everyone but me out of 815, and to fill it back up with 'loyal soldiers'. When I told him to get bent, he threatened to go nuclear - cut us off from Earth's support, smear campaign, the whole works."
Davis laughs. "*What? What stupid fucking idea was that? He doesn't have shit to stand on, his own little personal crusade can't fucking get rid of our coffee maker, let alone get us fired. And what possessed him to come to you with this dumbshit idea, of all people?*"

"Well, here's the thing, Davis," Hugh says. How to phrase this tactfully - ah, hell. "I've been frank in my AARs. Maybe dropped a few things I should've kept to myself. Just, you know, been truthful. And since everyone else's AARs seem to have been written to be rather more...sparse...he figured I was on his side, or could be brought around, or whatever. To be honest, he approached me with this crap before."
"*And you told him to go fuck himself, right?*"
"Would that I had," Hugh replies. "No, I colored inside the lines. I didn't bug your shower or anything, but if you've been wondering who dropped the Tora thing, well, you're talking to him. At the time, I figured it was just good policy, after getting a knock on the fingers from Earth over getting a little too independent, so I went along with it."

Hugh pauses for a moment.

"There's no nice way, so: I fucked it up."

Davis is quiet for a moment. "*Okay. And I assume that there's more than just Simmons backing this play?*"
"He made it sound like he's got half of the Pentagon chomping at the bit to cut us loose and piss on our graves. Scanned like bullshit to me, though."
"*Maybe, maybe not. Ngawai says that Barnes has heard that Simmons has some new, powerful friends at the Pentagon and Langley. Could be that he's just the public face of some club in the government that aren't our biggest fans.*"

"Peachy," Hugh says. "Anyway, I figured I'd give you a heads up before he has a chance to get off the ship." Hugh leaves off the 'if you want me to do something nasty, I'm game' part. That's heavily implied, though.
"*Yeah, we'll leave him alone for now. If he's as connected as he sounds, we're better off not giving them any actual insubordination to hit us with. I'll call Barnes and Brinai, we'll figure something out later. Right now, I think we need to meet in the briefing room and get the rest of the team's input on this.*"
"Good call," Hugh says, and adds a sigh. "Fucking politics. This shit is why I don't take no fucking promotions."
Davis chuckles. "*Well, good news for you, then: I don't think you'll have to worry about that anymore. See you in five.*"
punkey 2011-02-28 23:32:03
As you all wander your way into the briefing room after getting two separate "We need to meet now" messages (one from Hugh, one from Davis), you notice five things: Hugh, Davis, Ngawai, a holo of Swims-the-Black, and a seriously sour mood hanging in the air. Davis and Hugh are both wearing their "shit is serious" looks, and Ngawai's alternating between giving Davis worried looks and giving Hugh the stink eye, something that she apparently toned to perfection as an Apprehender. Swims-the-Black sits in a chair on the other side of the vox call, simply looking pensive, his fur tinged with worried shades of blue.
skullandscythe 2011-03-01 01:25:19
Zaef walks in wearing a pair of dirty pants, a layer of grease and oil, and a frown. His griminess and the S-shaped tool in his right hand suggests that he was working when he got the call, although the sloshing glass in his left hand causes some to wonder exactly what. He sits down and takes a sip without saying a single word. His face is impassive, but he's gripping the glass a little too tightly to be really calm.

Hell, maybe it's just the engine grease.
e of pi 2011-03-01 19:22:08
After she calms down, Arketta suggests that they go talk with her parents, who are settled into Atea guest quarters. Ody and Arlanna have a lot of questions, and answering them is enough to keep Arketta and Luis from thinking about Simmons. They talk about Narsai, they talk about Luis and Arketta's positions in Task Force 815 and the military, which leads to the GRHDI and the situation of Imperial expatriots on Earth, which both Ody and Arlana are very interested in. Also, they find the status of Luis and Arketta's relationship endlessly fascinating; fortunately for both Luis and Arketta, the call goes out for the emergency meeting as Arlana starts asking questions involving the words "marriage", "committment" and "children".

Luis's relief at the meeting call fades the instant he walks into the room to see Hugh and Davis looking serious, Ngawai looking some strange combination of worried and pissed, and perhaps most surprisingly, Swims, present via holo and looking a shade of blue Luis wishes he could attribute to bad projection. Arketta and Luis give each other a concerned look, then take a seat at the table. Luis looks around the room while Arketta takes a drink of water. "So, what's this all about? New trouble on Whiirr?"
CrazyIvan 2011-03-01 23:45:49
Angel arrives for the meeting with a neutral, thoughtful expression. From the rumors flying around Atea, the debriefings conducted by Simmons had gone just as pear-shaped for everyone else on 815. The scout had spent most of his time pondering the author of a certain AAR.

It was Davis or Hugh. If it was Davis, it was the spook doing one of these 'too complex for its own good' double-cons he was so fond of - and his pregnant, extremely lethal wife or not, he'd be missing his front teeth. If it was Hugh it was the Captain...doing the right thing. Everyone else either had nothing to gain from an AAR like that, or was farther down on the xenophobic prick's shitlist than he was.

Angel wasn't really sure what to make of that last bit, and from the looks in the room, noone else was either.
Gatac 2011-03-02 08:51:20
"Let's put any rumors to rest right here," Hugh says. "Angel, I mentioned your relationship with Tora in my AAR. I did it to show the brass that we can be relied on to give an honest account of what we do. I didn't know Simmons would twist it around to get us in trouble. I should've known better." Hugh nods to himself. "I'm sorry."

"And because I know Simmons is gonna try to play this card, I wasn't spying on you for him. I agreed to send him accurate reports for the sake of not torpedoing our relationship with his backers. Didn't know they were already spinning the rope and just needed yarn. Again, should've known better, should've talked about this with you."

"Now, here's the situation. Basically, Simmons has threatened to go nuclear and cut our support and kick us and the rebels off Earth with a nice smear campaign on top. You know how he was walking around pissing all of you off? Yeah, he wanted you off the team, and because he thought he'd turned me, he wanted me to stay and lead the bunch of saps he's picked to replace you. When I told him no, he just about blew up. Don't know if he's gonna go ahead with cutting us off, don't know if he even has the pull to do it - but that's the thing, we don't know a lot of things about that bastard."

"So here's what I propose: we go to Barnes and see if we can't get ourselves some brass on our side of the issue. And then we go after Simmons. That bastard has gotten as far as he has because we've let him. But ladies and gentlemen, we just turned an entire fucking planet. And I'm sick and fucking tired of running around the universe while this seminal shitbucket fucks up things for us at home. It's time we put our house in order and make him wish he'd never messed with us."
CrazyIvan 2011-03-03 09:49:35
Would have been so much easier if it was Davis.

Angel nods, almost imperceptibly.

"Wasn't you who decided what to do with it Sir. Still, could stand to see Simmons knocked down a peg or three."
e of pi 2011-03-04 00:35:47
Hugh's confession is a punch in the gut to Luis. He's trusted Hugh, maybe even idolized him a bit, since they were first posted together. He sees why Hugh did what he did, and he's uncomfortable thinking whether he or not would have done the same, but there's still a flicker of betrayal. He tamps it down and focuses on the rest of what Hugh says.

"Simmons is a bastard," Luis says, "We've known that, this is just more of the same. What can we do about him and...whatever support and plans he has?"
skullandscythe 2011-03-04 04:24:01
"Can't do anything without knowing more, that's what." Frowning, Zaef puts his drink down and folds his arms.

"How long ago was this, Verrill? If he's still on the ship, we can try to delay him. Buy us some time to learn what we can and make our case to some supportive ears."
punkey 2011-03-04 11:23:34
"I think it's better if we just leave Simmons alone for now," Davis says. "He's got enough ammunition against us as it is."
"Yes, he certainly does," Ngawai says, giving Hugh a dirty look. "It might be best to ensure that he trips and falls into a cycling airlock. Take his blackmail material with him."
"I think that counts as giving them more ammunition, babe," Davis says, taking Ngawai's hand. "Until we know who's giving Simmons the firepower to come after us, we can't throw him out of an airlock, or shoot him in the kneecaps, no matter how much you want to." He gives Ngawai a peck on the cheek.
"Oh, you have no idea how much I want to." Ngawai keeps glaring at Hugh, but she relents as Davis starts rubbing her hand with his.

"We let Simmons leave, and then we can get to work on figuring out what he's up to, who his backers are, and what we can do about it," Davis says.
"*I will do what I can on Diego Garcia until you return. I know we have friends here that will listen, in both GRHDI and the military,*" Swims-the-Black says. He shifts in his seat, adjusting his color-matching overcoat in what you all assume is the AC of the office Swims-the-Black shares with Davis. "*When Miss Barnes is notified, I'm sure she will be willing to help.*"

"*Thank you, Swims-the-Black. It's good to know we have a wherren on the inside,*" Davis signs with a smile, then switches back to Imperial. "Now, I know what you all want to do, and I agree, we need to deal with this shit before it gets any worse. However, Simmons is right about one thing, we need Narsai right now. We can't just up and quit or start a political pissing match right in front of everyone. Too much is riding on us keeping Narsai and the rebellion working together."

Davis motions towards Angel, still brooding over the revelation of Hugh's betrayal. "Angel, you've got your training program with the Sheen coming up, and the Ambassador made it pretty clear that they want you for the job. The rest of us are playing key roles in bringing the rebels much-needed training and supplies, and getting the Wherren up on their own feet and training to join in this fight. I hate the bastard too, and whoever he's got backing him is going to be a big problem that's probably going to get worse before it gets better, but I think we have to stay the course for now. We act nice, work with Barnes and anyone else we can trust, and get as much information as we can on these assholes right now. Once we've got enough dirt to bury Simmons and whoever's backing him under a fucking mountain, then we make our move, or if it comes to it, break ties with Narsai. But for right now, we find out what we can, and wait."

Davis smiles. "Besides, we quit now, we'd just be giving that bastard what he wants, and I have no intention of doing that."
e of pi 2011-03-05 04:03:49
Luis nods slowly, "Okay, so figure out the situation, get an idea of exactly how this is, but keep things going in the meantime? I...guess I'm all right with that, if it's what we have to do. There's nothing immediate we can do about Simmons?"
punkey 2011-03-05 05:10:45
"Oh, I can think of a few things we can do about Simmons," Arketta says, crossing her arms and frowning at the suggestion on the table. "Bastard told me he would transfer me away from Luis if I didn't end it with him, for his 'protection'. He deserves to pay."
Gatac 2011-03-07 19:15:02
Hugh listens to Arketta, then sums up his opinion with one neat and clearly audible "Asshole."
CrazyIvan 2011-03-08 04:54:09
"Knew you'd come around Captain." Angel's tone remains...oddly flat.

"As much as I'd like to see him trip in an airlock, I think it would be rather more...fitting...if we follow Davis's plan. Because A. It's Davis's plan, and that shit will just drive him up the wall. And B. Because Simmons crushed in an avalanche of red tape and paperwork still gets him crushed."
punkey 2011-03-09 12:45:03
Davis nods. "Thank you, Angel. I know that this hasn't been the welcome we were all hoping for when we got back from Hedion, but I think that it's better that we deal with this now rather than later. Arketta, Luis, Angel, I really am sorry for all of this. We'll make it right." He takes Ngawai's hand and squeezes it, as she's the unspoken fourth person in that list. "Well, if that's what we're going with, we should wait for the news that Simmons has gated off Atea, and then we'll get Brinai in here and tell her what's been going on."


A few minutes later, Davis gets a vox call. It's from one of the rebels working the Gate, Jondor or something. Davis thanks him for the heads-up, and calls Brinai.

A few minutes later, the rebel leader walks through the briefing room door and takes a seat near the head of the table. She's not quite as beaming as she was when you arrived, but she certainly looks better than before. Whatever was ailing her before you left must have cleared itself up over the week you were on Hedion.

Brinai looks over the table, then settles on Davis while she's talking. "So, what was that unpleasant man here to do? I presume that your meeting here means that Simmons' business is concluded, and it was not good for us."
"Simmons is trying to break up Task Force 815, Brinai," Davis says. "Some of Narsai's leadership don't like that we're associating with off-worlders, don't like that we're not under their control, and apparently don't like off-worlders in general. Simmons was sent here to drive a wedge between members of the team and the team and Narsai, drive us all to quit or threaten us to keep us in line."
Brinai crosses her arms and narrows her eyes. "Hmph. What did he do?" You can all see the wheels turning in Brinai's mind already.
"He threatened to transfer Luis and I away from each other if I did not end our relationship," Arketta spits out.
Gatac 2011-03-09 17:14:12
"And he tried to recruit me," Hugh says. "To run the team after throwing literally everybody else to the wolves."
e of pi 2011-03-09 20:40:12
"He implied that my relationship with Arketta and working with Davis was causing me to go native," Luis says, "Said I needed to be careful about people 'influencing me'. He knew what to say to piss us all off and get us to play into what he wanted to happen."