Jade Imperium - Afghanistan, Pt. 3

punkey 2019-03-12 02:00:54
"Then let's get you a date with a cogitator," Hale says, navigating his crate towards the work shelter.

Hale and FTE maneuver their crates under the shelter as a dozen or so Turai are working on a line of parked Mantas in various stages of disassembly underneath an extended metal awning. The cover is obviously designed to collapse and expand to match what size is needed, and this one is all the way out. Off to one side are a series of hard case crates with cables running to the roof - those would be the cogitators. Problem is, they're just...kind of out there in the open, and not hidden behind anything. Less than ideal.

"So, what's the play, lover-bot?" Hale asks.
Admiral Duck Sauce 2019-03-12 02:14:31
"Performance anxiety," FTE says, indicating the Turai. "Why don't we position these crates over... here" - it adds, sliding its crate to block easy view of the cogitator stack - "and I'll start coaxing the tux off my prom date." It bends down behind the crates and pulls a cable from under the shell's helmet. The end frays into a multitude of questing, hungry feelers before finding the standard vox-jack and writhing inside. Front Toward Enemy looks like nothing so much as a big chrome doctor checking someone with a stethoscope, or perhaps a jogger bending down to tie their shoes, earbuds plugged into an oversized crop of smartphones.
punkey 2019-03-12 09:31:29
(FTE Hide vs. Turai Notice: 1d8 vs. 1d6 = 6 vs. 5)

"I have no idea what a 'prom' or 'tux' are," Hale replies as he keeps a lookout, as the stack of crates is just short enough to not give a Turai cover to crouch down behind them and remain unseen. Fortunately, FTE is only a Sheen in a shell that looks like a Turai. Its legs slide up its torso just enough to lower the shell down to where its robutt is touching the ground and cranes its head over to an angle that would clearly be deeply uncomfortable even as broken necks go, but it's now entirely hidden by the crates as the interface jack clicks into the cogitator.

And just like that, FTE's mind expands to encompass the base's dispatching and maintenance system. Obviously not the most high-priority of systems, not even rudimentary security internally, but it definitely feels a much stronger security system off in the direction of a bidirectional data uplink, probably the Turai's operations center. Still, this is enough to have tasking and status of the First's fleet on Narsai, and big sigh of relief number one - none of them are exoatmospheric. The system doesn't even have entries for the bulk freighters required to haul a orbital Gatekeg up to space, so that's a big sign that there's probably no orbital under construction. Most of the Mantas are tasked out to various locations close to the borders of China; forward operating posts for the Rah'pah systems, most likely, but there's eight that are in cities - five of them are marked similarly to the border FOB taskings, meaning they're likely supporting Rah'pah as well, but three of them departed a few days ago and have bounced all around Shanghai and Beijing. What could those be?
e of pi 2019-03-13 02:47:40
"The First is always where things get hot, Turai," Luis says, trying to project confidence. "You'll be ready for it, we're just here to find out if the Narsai'i have any tricks up their sleeve. I'm sure there's nothing here we can't handle once we get a read on what they can throw at us. Fusion drones though...those could be nasty if you're not ready. Did the Rah’pahs have any trouble taking care of them ?"
punkey 2019-03-16 02:05:33
"You'll have to talk to operations, Rav-Turai," Magreol says. "I'm just a lowly supply specialist. If it doesn't pass through this building, they don't let me know about it."
skullandscythe 2019-03-17 21:58:23
Zaef makes an exasperated noise. A few hours is not very good turn-around, and frankly Zaef wants to be on the next Gate out of here.

"I can't help speed that up in any way? I've helped service a Manta before - rather do that than catch an earful from the Samal."
punkey 2019-03-18 12:30:44
Johnan grunts in annoyance, but drops two fist-sized couplers on the counter. "Grease these up, then we'll talk."

(Zaef Repair: 2d8 vs. 1d6 = 7 vs. 5)

Electoconductive grease serves many functions in ships - the nano-scale variations in surface that provide the nearly infinitely variable conductivity gradients across their surfaces also require a medium to ensure optimal connection, a function that the silvery paste fulfills very nicely. It also serves as heat transfer medium, siphoning off heat into the conduit surrounding the joint, shock absorber, and vacuum sealant. At least, it normally does - in what is obvious schmuck bait, the salty maintenance Rav-Turai has dropped two dissimilar couplers in front of Zaef. If you didn't know your ass from a impeller feed, you'd miss it, but while Zaef might not have memorized the Manta maintenance holos, he's turned a spanner a time or two.


Garrett throws in a short sign of the Akwhela. "Where were the impact sites?"
Odun Iawrosa cracks a little smile. "Very good," she says. "The first question I asked after our allies stopped cheering the fireworks." She walks to a smaller holodisplay and quickly reconfigures it to show a topo-map of the northern Chinese-Russian border, in faux color overlays that show both debris fields and the radiation dispersed by the destroyed warheads in the wind. "Most of them are on the other side of the border - not that the Narsai'i are eager to approach the fire arcs of our Rah'pahs and come collect the debris. A few came down within the perimeter in a whole lot of nothing. Thank the Masters for that. Our outposts are safe."

"What are these?" Ngawai asks, standing by the "China" portion of the big holo and pointing at a string of impacts around the border, especially the southeast portion.
"Civilians," Iawrosa says, the smile disappearing just as fast. "The Narsai'i flying machines are not very fast. It would have cost them nothing to give five or even ten minutes warning before activating the perimeter. But our Narsai'i 'partners' wanted a show, and Vidas Lam they got one." It's clear only military decorum is keeping her from spitting on the ground. "These people are capable of anything, Rav-Turai. They lack the technology and the strategic thought...but they also lack scruples." She turns back to the big globe. "Just what the Bashakra'i terrorists need to swell their ranks."
Angel's fist tightens. "How many dead?" he growls through the helm.
"If the reported manifests, there are a total of 1670 people missing, presumed dead," Iawrosa says. "If even three of them survived, I would call it a miracle. Right now, the only word for it is slaughter."

Angel's hand twitches - a twitch that Ngawai and Garrett both recognize and tense up in anticipation - but he draws in a deep breath and holds it before stomping out out of the room.
"My reaction exactly," Iawrosa says. "But they are our allies, I am told, and the Emperor's First brings the Emperor's peace in any way that the Emperor wills it. If it is handing our finest defensive weapons to these barbarians and watching them kill each other with them, then that is what we are going to do - until we get new orders."
"So, we are here to sample the debris of...ineffective drones and pick though the debris of civilian transports?" Garrett asks.
"Yes, you are," Iawrosa says. "And you will do a First-damned great job of it. I already have too many Turai who think the Rah'pah have won the battle for them. But I look at the Narsai'i across the border and I see that they are still dangerous. If not to us or our allies, then to this very planet. Narsai is an Imperial protectorate and our homeworld, and I intend to treat it as such. If we are to end this war and leave Narsai as intact as possible, it will be on a foundation of discipline and knowledge of our enemy, not with laziness and arrogance. Don't you agree, Samal?"

"Couldn't agree more, Odun," Garrett says, his jaw tight behind the helm. He motions to the smaller display. "May I?"
"You're welcome to the atmospheric data we have," Iawrosa says, stepping aside. "Make sure you keep carapace sealed up at the crash sites. You don't want any of that particulate in your system. I'll have decon set up for you when you return."
"Thank you, Odun," Garrett replies, and flicks the display open. Iawrosa hasn't given him the crown jewels, but maybe he can at least find out how many Turai there are out there.

(Garrett Wits: 2d10 vs. 2d8 = 10 vs. 7)

Okay, well, atmospheric data and logs aren't exactly the treasure trove Garrett was hoping for, but it's at least a start. He flicks open the data records and - Vidas fucking Lam that's a lot of data. Thousands of points of atmo data from all over the territory, each reported daily at exactly regimented time stamps. It looks to Garrett to be some kind of automated process, but from where? He picks a file at random and opens it up: particulate measurements, oxygen, nitrogen compounds, hydrocarbon, exotic and radioactive elements, toxin screens, and a unique ID code that seems to be date, time, location and...is that a quad ID? 4/50 of the 2nd Division of the Third of the Emperor's First - well Masters smite Garrett on the spot, it's a quad ID.

A few furious waggles of his fingers later, and Garrett has the whole batch of data sorted by quad, then collapsed down under each quad, and finally mapped to the geographic coordinates attached to each log. It won't be 100% accurate based on some quads being short-handed or other quads not having to report atmo data, but based on this, there's...just over 6,500 Imperial Turai Narsai'i-side. They're mostly spread out around the borders, but there's at least a few quads in every city over 50k people, and what looks like a couple hundred in Beijing. Any idea of stopping this invasion before it starts is over - the invasion has not only already begun, it's finished. The Imperium has come to Narsai.
skullandscythe 2019-03-20 15:28:38
Zaef tries to downplay what he knows, to a degree - instead of immediately calling Jonhan out, he takes a little time to examine the impellers and even requests grease before immediately retracting it. "These are disimiliar," Zaef states before raising his voice a fraction. "I'm glad to have brought you a little amusement. I'll be sure to pass along the joke to my Samal - he has a sense of humor much like yours."
punkey 2019-03-20 23:18:48
Jonhan grunts - in an approving tone this time. "Usually get the new Turai at least once with that." He nods towards his tool rack hanging from the shelter outside. "Tell you what. Yours is Three-Hona-Fi outside. Check the 'tater for the work sheet. You get it done - and it passes my check - I'll clear it."
Admiral Duck Sauce 2019-03-25 17:45:46
"Yo," FTE sends in its usual by-the-book manner over the secure comms. "I've got three of these mantas whose flightplans aren't obvious. Sending the telemetry, maybe you've got something to match it."

Its shell unfurls from behind the crates. To Hale, it mutters, "Let's get out of here before I shoot one of these fuckers."

Front Toward Enemy ran a self-diagnostic. It thought it had its feelings clamped down better than that. It was Sheen, it was supposed to be better than that, but seeing how fucked these idiot Earthlings were, how they'd done it to themselves, it felt like trying to shovel a avalanche. The rage was real because all the other times it was a simulation. It finally hit FTE that it wasn't a game, and now it wanted to break and stomp and tear and laugh, to start balancing the scales again with bullet holes because you couldn't put the bodies back in the broken planes. FTE's diagnostic finally refactored some of the more problematic fluctuations and it got a grip on itself. There'd be time for the joy of violence. Just not yet.
CrazyIvan 2019-03-25 22:24:15
Angel walks up behind Garrett, the slight stuff of his boot likely intentional to let the spook know he was there.

"Had a dream about this once." He looks down at his presently disguised hand. "Different clothing though. Didn't end pretty."

He sighs, reading the expression in Garrett's face. "So, what's the plan? Besides picking through the wreckage of a bunch of triple-7's?"
e of pi 2019-03-27 01:23:56
"You can't underestimate what logistics knows," Luis says. "Nothing happens without supplies, Turai, that's a pretty good rule. It certainly looks like you're gearing up for a lot here. Is it likely to get any more exciting while we're on the ground out there?"
"Uh, well, I'm still new, but nothing too crazy, Rav-Turai," Turai Magreol replies. "Not like when we were first here, getting the outposts supplied."
"That's good. It makes our job of evaluating the enemy's gear easier when we don't have to evaluate it coming right at us and when we've got a little time to do it right. How long have you been here?"
"A couple months," Magreol replies warily.
"You've gotten a lot done, then. Keep it up, and you'll fit right into the First." Luis turns to Arketta. "Anything else we need?"
Luis turns back. "Anything you need from us, Turai?"
There's a chime that sounds from the wall behind Magreol, and one of the little hatch status lights turns green. "Just your recquisition," Magreol says, and pops the hatch open to retrieve a bundle vacuum sealed in silver foil. She slides it across the counter to Luis. "Just fill out the hand receipt." She flips her tablet around to him.

(Wits vs. Magreol: Luis: 1d6 = 4, Magreol: 2d6 = 4, Arketta: 2d8 = 8)

Luis takes the paperwork and looks it over. Fortunately, he remembers at least most of the ID information for the hastily-assembled cover unit. Unfortunately, where it all goes in the form is completely drawing a blank.
But before Luis can say anything to the contrary, Arketta takes the slate. "I'll get it, I grabbed the quad auth codes before we left," she says, and quickly fills the form out.
Magreol seems to untense a bit as Arketta hands the slate back. "Okay, well, good luck," she says, a bit of the sing-song tone back in her voice.
"You too," Luis says.
Arketta grabs the crate and follows Luis out the door with it. "You can thank me later," she says over internal vox.

edited by punkey on 2019-03-28 02:03:19
punkey 2019-03-27 07:54:30
"We take their systems for all the intel they're worth, learn as much as we can about what's going on here and what they're planning, and get the fuck out before the entire PRC and three whole sections of the First come down on our heads," Garrett hisses. "You know how much I hate to say it, but we might be a bit over our heads here."
punkey 2019-04-04 09:58:42
(Garrett Tech: 1d8 vs. 2d8: 8 vs. 4)

With Angel and Ngawai watching his back, Garrett's free to focus on rifling through the Emperor's First's digital filing cabinet. And he gets lucky - shifting through a subfolder, he catches a glimpse of a familiar looking document layout. It might have been a few...decades or so since Garrett was in uniform, but Garrett recognizes an operations order when he sees one. It seems that the Imperial Turai and the US Army have very similar ideas about how to write an OPORD - which means Garrett hits the jackpot straight away. "Friendly" and "Enemy" force information, including the general layout of what the First has on Narsai and what Narsai'i forces they expect to confront, coordinating instructions, sustainment and resupply, comms protocols - and the mission as a whole.

He only has a moment to skim it before someone might notice, but he gets the general gist: to disrupt Narsai'i government, sew mistrust and in-fighting, and divert effort, personnel, and resources away from directly confronting the Imperium, especially from the Narsai'i as they are the most numerous member of the alliance. Nothing much about global domination, just a constant crisis the Narsai'i can't ignore.

Garrett sweeps the OPORD into his vox and stands up. "We'll just wait by the Manta pads for our ride, Odun," he says to Odun Iawrosa, and bows again. "Thanks for your hospitality."
Iawrosa nods. "Good luck out there, Samal. Try not to glow in the dark."


It doesn't take Zaef long to get the Manta re-greased. Jonhan wasn't kidding, the grease has gone from a metallic gray to a muddy brown with dust that stains every plate on his gauntlets, but it's not the most difficult job. Mantas are designed for rapid service, so it's just a few bolts to pop each panel loose, two long and thick tungsten bolts holding the impellers in place, and then just scooping the bad grease out and slathering the couplings with the good stuff before sealing everything back up. Six minutes per impeller bank, six impeller banks in total, and just over 40 minutes later Zaef is dunking his arms in the solvent tanks to degrease his armor and the Manta is good to go.
punkey 2019-04-04 19:59:36
Once the team is away from the prying eyes and ears of hundreds of Turai, all the information that was gathered is shared. The belle of the ball, though, is the OPORD from the Operations center. When you get a look behind the curtain of the entire enemy operation on Narsai, it's something you read thoroughly.


1. Situation
3. Enemy Forces
ܐ: United States of America: Primary partners with the Bashakra'i separatists on Narsai, the States armed forces present a numerical threat to both our China partners and Imperial Turai forces. States armed forces are able to field tens of thousands of ground troops, 12-36 air vehicles armed with stand-off range drones, and 6-12 waterborne craft of significant size within 1 week. Without orbital support, the ability to engage and destroy large massed formations is severely reduced. States proxies have made contact with Sheen and Wherren forces. Intelligence reports indicate friction with Bashakra'i, Sheen, and Wherren forces as well as internally. Ultimate goal is disruption and removal of legitimate Imperial authority on Narsai.
ܒ: The 815: The 815 present a persistent threat to Imperial Turai operations in the area of operations. 815 operations have numbered as many as 12 personnel, but have proven able to leverage organizational weaknesses and discontent within civilian populations, as well as a noted preference for false identification and infiltration. Intelligence reports indicate friction between the 815 and Narsai’i leadership groups but also openness to going outside Narsai’i leadership to work directly with their Bashakra’i, Sheen, and Wherren partners. Ultimate goal is disruption of Imperial leadership galaxy-wide and dissolution of the Jade Imperium.
ܓ: Russia: …


2. Mission
Emperor’s First deploys to Narsai to deploy Rah’pah network around China border and construct permanent forward bases of operation IOT disrupt Narsai’i involvement with Bashakra’i/Sheen/Wherren alliance, divert Narsai’i resources away from enemy efforts, and enable future Turai operations on Narsai.

3. Execution
ܐ: Emperor’s Intent: …


It’s all there - Turai dispositions on Narsai, their overall plans for their forces down to the number, resupply plans, comm channels and methods. The headlines, though: nothing in there indicates that this is a true invasion force. All the OPORD talks about is fortifying the Chinese border and securing control within China (the PRC leadership being less than an afterthought, it seems that “play along and then secure control” is just as popular with interplanetary empires as it is with Narsai’i ones). They don’t even assume that they’ll have orbitals: all the resupply lines go through foot gates. It’s much more about harassing Narsai’i forces and driving the Narsai’i into a panic than Phase 1 of glassing Narsai from orbit.

There’s a lot to go over, and OPORDs at this level are plenty thick and dense, so by the time everyone’s had a chance to decipher the military-ese, Luis can see the first landing zone up ahead. A few pop-up shelters stand a couple hundred meters away from a charred patch of grass surrounding a crumpled hulk of metal a dozen meters long - the remains of a Russian ICBM. The debris from the impact is scattered far and wide, but not as far as the Turai are waiting for your arrival. One of them waves a beacon in the air, the microwave light only visible on the HUD of the Manta (and Luis’ ocular implants). Looks like that’s where you’re supposed to land.
CrazyIvan 2019-04-05 06:03:55
Angel looks over the document thoughtfully, his decidedly unamused expression remaining...decidedly unamused.

"It's not a bad plan. Having us all wound up about each other, and fixated on an unassailable fortress of one billion people lined with railguns is one hell of a decent distracting plow. Pin us in place, and you can mop us up at whim once you've eliminated our allies. Because there's no way we're not throwing them under the bus with something like this in our back yards."

He drums his fingers on the unfamiliar thigh-plate of the Turai armor he's wearing.

"But that does imply two things. First, an odd unwillingness to just get in a full on shooting was on Earth. They'd win, but right now as much of a fuss as the Imperium makes about us, we're not really a threat to their existence. The average Imperial citizen doesn't really feel like they're at war. And while they would win, this feels like maybe they're trying to avoid excess body bags."

"Which means we need to find a way to turn this stately little deployment of theirs into something expensive and bad for the cameras."
punkey 2019-04-06 18:50:37
"Even the Turai here seemed disgusted about the civilian plane shoot-downs," Garrett points out. "We might have one hell of a propaganda chance coming up right away."
e of pi 2019-04-08 03:16:29
Luis nods while Angel and Garrett talk. "It's a relief in a way that they don't plan on moving fast, but that's interesting itself. Like you said Angel, it's sort of a suggestion they intend this as an annoyance and something to get Narsai to focus on the wrong things, not a big showy propaganda victory. Just being here is enough to be worth something, even if they're cautious in turning it into more than just a bridgehead while they get their people ready for something more expensive. The question is what we can do to make that calculus harder for them."

"Revealing their strikes on civilians before they have the chance to white wash it seems like an interesting chance, but the Imperium's never been that shy about killing their own civilians back home either. Do we really think we can make an impression with the deaths of ours here? I think the bigger blow would have to be in cutting them off entirely here, managing to interrupt their power or something and shutting down the footgates long enough to turn this whole expedition by the First into their own Boronai. They use the First for big showy things, and so capturing it or doing something to put pain on it and driving it back would be worth a lot. I want to do that, I'm just not sure how or if we can."