Jade Imperium - Afghanistan, Pt. 3

Admiral Duck Sauce 2019-04-09 14:41:43
"They don't have the numbers, and they're not planning on getting the numbers, but they're counting on us not knowing that," Front Toward Enemy muses. "As for cutting them off here, I like it in theory. Does that doc have the location and number of their gates?"
punkey 2019-04-12 02:41:44
"Yeah, we've got them here," Garrett replies. "They've got the three in that base, and it looks like they're putting a couple in a few of their forward bases in a few big cities."
Admiral Duck Sauce 2019-04-12 03:40:45
"The planes might not sway Imperial citizens but they might erode Chinese support", says FTE. "Maybe combined with a power and comms disruption, we could maybe put a target on this place and get someone else to swing the hammer."
punkey 2019-04-12 15:47:06
"I'd Google Tienanmen Square if you want a sneak preview of what it looks like when people rebel in China," Garrett says. "And that was before they put the whole country at war."
Admiral Duck Sauce 2019-04-12 18:34:48
FTE googles it. "Well, that's no help. In the meantime, we also are headed for the railgun sites in a presumed-friendly manta. Sooner or later we'll need to cut a hole in that wall. Let's get what we need to Navarone this shit."
e of pi 2019-04-14 20:44:01
"Speaking of, we're officially arriving," Luis says as he follows the beacon-waving Turai's instructions and comes into a hover over the landing zone. "Thank you for flying Infiltrator Air, and please ensure you have all your covers ready before unloading the Manta."
punkey 2019-04-20 08:33:37
The Turai with the beacon turns out to be the Samal of the quad, and greets Garrett with a friendly wave as he leads the way out of the Manta. "Samal!" she calls out, "Qubo" spelled out in the glyphs on her armor. "My quad and I appreciate you getting out here as fast as you can, we've got inflatables up for your quad's gear already."
"I'm sure you're eager to get out of here as soon as possible," Garrett replies.
"You got that right, hanging around a burning drone with ruined plutonium warheads isn't exactly my idea of a good time," Samal Qubo replies.
"We'll gather our samples and scans as fast as we're able," Garrett replies, and turns back to the rest of the team. Zaef is already guiding one of the two science packages out of the Manta, the rest of the team tagging alongside. Garrett directs him into the inflatable, and it's time for the team's three-hour crash course on collecting samples and scans to spring into action.

Luis, naturally, is on top of the scans - a small flotilla of drones lifts up out of the crate and spreads out across the area. Seeing through a dozen eyes, Luis quickly gathers a detailed 3D scan of the entire crash site as the drones orbit and crisscross the site. Zaef, Hale, Angel, and FTE grab smaller boxes from inside the larger crate, looking like oversized chrome and black toolboxes, and after making sure the radiation sensors on their armor are working (or miming the action on FTE's part), head out into the wreckage itself. Onas and Arketta did their best to show what the Keepers usually look for in samples - unique materials, complex parts, anything odd - and the foursome do their best to play along. After all, it's not like the Imperium is actually going to get any of this. Garrett and Ngawai, playing the part of commander and second of the little unit, monitor progress, approve samples, and make sure everything ends up in the right place. It doesn't take more than a half-hour, and it seems like everything has gone well so far.

"Thanks for making this fast," Samal Qubo says as the team packs up. "I see you got two sample packs, what's the other one?"
"Civilian plane, outside one of the cities," Ngawai replies.
"Oh," Qubo replies. Her head is covered by the helm, but the awkward pause doesn't need facial expressions to be communicated.
"Yeah, that one's gonna be...rough," Ngawai says.


The plane came down in a field.

Above the Zhujiang River estuary from the Shenzhen International Airport, the plumes of smoke from a half-dozen shot-down large airliners still trail off into the sky. As the Manta flies over the city below, the signs of martial law are already apparent - roadblocks and checkpoints sit on every major highway out of the city, backed up with tanks. Vehicle traffic has ceased entirely - there's nowhere to go outside the city and no room to move inside it. As you fly low over the airport, the runways are blocked with Dongfeng Mengshi trucks, machine guns pointed down the runway to further deter any attempted takeoffs. Civilians are being herded into buses, off to who-knows-where. The PLA have definitely moved fast, and the silver emplacement sitting in an open field to the south is part of the reason why - one of the three Rah'pahs erected around Shenzhen. The Turai forward base for the city is well to the north, and they're mostly just sitting in reserve in case anything exciting happens. Notably, they are doing the opposite of the PLA forces, all of which seem to be mustering and organizing in the shadow of the Rah'pah cannons, while the Turai are as far away from them as they can be while still being around Shenzhen. It seems that the Turai don't trust the cogitator-controlled automated relativistic cannons - possibly a smart move on a planet with Sheen around.

Across the river and down the estuary lay the end results of that cannon. The wreckage of six airliners floats in the river and smolders on the opposite shore. It would have taken seconds for this one cannon to down all six aircraft - and as close as they are to the controlled border, with the force barrier stretching across the river just miles away, the pilots never had a chance to react. One plane seems to be more intact than the others, with the shot passing clean through the fuselage and simply splitting the plane in two before the two halves impacted and crumpled on the ground, and it's that plane that the operations center back at the main base highlighted for their survey. It's a similar setup to the last one - one quad, one Manta, a few inflatable temporary shelters, but this time there's a PLA presence. Three more Mengshi are parked nearby, and a whole platoon of PLA soldiers are milling around.
skullandscythe 2019-04-22 03:08:43
Zaef looks over the trucks, the soldiers on patrol, wondering how they feel about the Imperial presence; the Turai seem to look down on their 'allies.' Just one problem with finding out...

"Does anyone speak Chinese?"
punkey 2019-04-22 06:58:45
Ngawai looks at Garrett, who looks back at her. "Don't look at me, I was Middle East, not Far East."
e of pi 2019-04-24 23:03:58
Luis shrugs. "Me too." He looks to FTE, "Any chance you downloaded the language?"
Admiral Duck Sauce 2019-04-25 19:36:14
"Just 'cause my ass says 'made in China'..." FTE mutters good-naturedly. "Yeah, I've got the best Google Translate can pump out. What should I say? 'Hi there, hope nobody you knew was on those?'"
punkey 2019-04-26 05:34:13
"We're all just good little Turai," Garrett says. "But knowing what the PLA soldiers are saying would definitely be a good thing."
punkey 2019-04-29 23:45:12
Zaef brings the Manta down by the Turai quad, the impellers rippling the grass underneath the craft as it settles down onto its landing legs. The quad's Samal, Samal Kaota, greets Garrett with the sign of the Akwhela as he steps out of the Manta, which Garrett returns in kind before nodding in the direction of the PLA soldiers, five of which are rapidly stepping their way.
"Friends of yours?" Garrett asks.
"Hardly," Samal Kaota says. "Just smile and nod, and let me deal with the Narsai'i. Trust me."

One man whose shoulders have the most impressive set of stars - three of them with a line through them, which to FTE's quick image search means he's a Captain and probably in charge - steps up to the group of Turai and fake-Turai. Garrett gives the Chinese officer a bow as well, which the Chinese officer does not return. "Is this the inspection group?" FTE's translation hack literally seems to grind in its quantum processors, but a few milliseconds later it gets the gist of it. Another man next to him takes a couple seconds to translate from Chinese to Imperial - an eternity to FTE.
"Yes, this is the survey team," Samal Kaota says. "They're here to inspect the effect of the Rah'pah emplacements on Narsai'i craft."
"Very well, but must be fast, my unit has important tasks to accomplish," the PLA Captain says. "And I will approve all samples taken."
That seems to grind the processors of everyone in Turai armor, not just FTE. "Wouldn't that be...slower?" Samal Kaota replies. "Samal Phest and his team are well trained, they know what they're looking for."
"I know what I am ordered to defend as trade secrets of the People's Republic of China," the PLA Captain replies. "We will take and study them for ourselves."
Garrett turns to Kaota, who shrugs. "It's your show. Samal, if you could get started so we can all get out of this soggy field?" He motions for some of his Turai to help unpack the sample mission crate that is already being hovered out of the Manta. The PLA officer and his squad of entourage shift to following Zaef, FTE, Hale, and Angel as they move the crate towards the inflated work shelter with Luis and Arketta following behind, leaving Kaota with Garrett and Ngawai.
"He's pleasant," Ngawai remarks.

In the tent, a Rav-Turai has taken charge - must be Kaota's second, a man named Brimis. "Move the crate over here," he says, pointing to a set of plastic risers. "Got this set up to keep it out of the muck."
"Thank you, Rav-Turai," Hale says. The foursome push the crate over the uneven swampy ground and set it down on the risers, then the six not-Turai get to work, cracking it open.
"What is this for?" the PLA Captain asks, pointing at a hand portable mass-spectrometer. "Or these boxes, where are you sending these samples? Who will study them?" He looks to Luis, who by dint of using the tablet for the drones, must look the smartest of the group. "What are you doing?"

Brimis flips through a haptic behind his back, opening a private channel to the team. "Just answer his questions, they can't do anything with the answers anyway."
"No one seems to be very happy to work with these Narsai'i," Arketta points out as she checks the seal on the sample carriers.
"They act like we're fucking indentured servants, it's insulting," Brimis says. "But we need to work with them for the mission, so we're good Turai and put up with it."
"They seem enthusiastic about these pacifications," Hale says, checking the calibration for the mass spec that the PLA officer isn't waving at Luis.
"This?" Brimis spits. "These weren't pacifications, they were massacres. What a First-damned waste this is. All these people dead, and for what? What order is being maintained here? This is just the Narsai'i showing their power and causing chaos." The other Turai in the tent nod in agreement. "I tell you what, every time the Narsai'i get involved in this Bashakra'i war, the more Narsai'i end up dead. Ask me, we need to take control of Narsai while there's still Narsai'i left."
skullandscythe 2019-05-01 14:27:32
Zaef does not engage anyone in a debate of how 'pacification' and 'massacre' are just one word, or listing examples of the Turai - or the people the Turai would serve - performing drastic measures due to what was basically office politics. He buckles down and does the work.

Inwardly, he does note that the attitudes they hold have not been quelled by their superiors. While the report implied that the Turai intended to edge out and take over the local government at some point, it seems that the 'merger' may happen sooner rather than later.

He also notes, and laments, that the Turai do not see themselves as accountable for the killings. They are only the chamakana, not the finger on the trigger. There is no angle to attack the Imperium from with this - 'pacifications' are business as usual, in many ways. But maybe this can galvanize the Narsai'i.

This is what the Imperium does. What will you do about it?
Admiral Duck Sauce 2019-05-09 18:06:44
"I hear that," FTE adds as it helps set up the equipment. "But honestly, Narsai'd be a lot better - long term, of course - without the Narsai'i on it at all, am I right?" It surreptitiously notes who might be unconsciously nodding.
punkey 2019-05-13 15:33:20
"I've heard rumors that the Emperor might turn it into a nature preserve," one of the Turai says. "Move most of the Narsai'i off-world and turn it into a living monument."
"That's if the Narsai'i don't make us burn the whole planet," Brimis says. "First-damned tragedy what's going on. Why don't they get that they've already lost? All they're doing it making it worse for themselves."
"Yeah, the faster they surrender, the better it'll be for everyone," the younger Turai agrees. "We can get on fixing what they've done to Narsai and move them to the other planets so they can learn something useful and contribute to the galaxy. It's a win for everyone, I think."
"Spoken like a true ravilar," Brimis says, and gives the Turai a pat on the back. "How's the unloading going?"
e of pi 2019-05-19 04:49:43
Luis gives him a look, then gestures at the drones flying over the site at low altitudes. "I'm mapping the site. With that map of the ground and the wreck, we'll be able to model it and untangle the damage from the crash and the impact from the Rah'pah. That'll tell us more about the effectiveness of the structure, armor, and defenses of the craft and what that implies for engaging military vehicles."
punkey 2019-05-23 11:26:05
The PLA Captain nods as his translator does his job. "Ah, making weapons better! Yes, yes, good. Be sure to send us a copy, I will check to make sure. Do not forget about your partners, after all."


The scene couldn’t be more different. Dry steppes replaced with swampy grass, isolated environs with Turai basically killing time until they got to go back to their bases and bunks swapped out for being surrounded by a city increasingly on full panicked lockdown and intrusive PLA soldiers following your every move. And, of course, instead of radiation, there’s the bodies. Blessedly or not, the accelerator shot vaporized the center section of the plane on impact, which meant that the bodies of the victims on the plane are either intact or ash. Angel and Ngawai hesitate before stepping into the plane for “samples”, and both Samal Kaota and Rav-Turai Brimis simultaneously turn to their PLA “partners” to explain that there’s nothing interesting inside the fuselage, so no reason for the survey team to go inside. As blood-boiling as this whole exercise is, Ngawai can’t help but give a nod of appreciation to spare them that particular horror.

As quickly as they can manage and avoid suspicion, the job is finished - which takes about half as long as the last one, between the Imperial Turai quad running interference with the PLA soldiers looking on with suspicion and the team’s general reticence to wallow around in a war crime. The equipment is packed away, and the Turai are especially helpful in getting things packed up and put away on the Manta.

Good, good,” the PLA captain said. “I will report that your samples were well taken and that we expect your results in a week’s time - if not sooner.
“Yeah,” Samal Kaota said. You can’t see through the man’s helm, but the grinding of his teeth is practically audible. “Yeah, sure. Let’s just get these Turai on their way. Good luck, Samal.” He bows to Garrett.
“Good luck to you as well,” Garrett says, returning the bow before stepping up the ramp and letting it seal up behind him.

As the Manta takes to the air for the return to the main Turai base in the mountains, things go quiet inside. Hale seems lost in thought, staring at the floor, while Garrett and Ngawai simply curl up in a corner together.
punkey 2019-06-08 01:38:32
The return flight is very quiet. For some it's out of quiet mourning for the dead, some out of contemplation of what to do next, some evaluating what got them to that point, some out of pure silent rage. The few hours back allows time for everyone's thoughts to find their way to a conclusion, if not a comfortable one. All that's left is to make your way back out through the Gateways and the day long flight through space back to Atea.

Zaef touches the Manta down on the pads at the main Turai base in the Chinese highlands easily enough, which is only slightly complicated by the almost complete absence of any Turai on the landing pads. A different Rav-Turai than Rav-Turai Jonhan leans out the window and waves at them. "Hey! You must have not been looped into the message! Rav-Turai Harsani is leading a formation in the main square in 5 minutes!" A quad's worth of blank stares comes back. "The Hand that Protects The First? Rav-Odun Viai's Rav-Turai? Get over there, I'll secure the Manta!"
CrazyIvan 2019-06-08 02:11:31
Angel's been in a quiet, and dangerous, mood for the better part of the day already. As the team's redirected, the way he grinds his teeth is almost audible as he mutters under his breath, out of earshot of the Turai.

"Gotta have a proper parade, to celebrate how clever and totally not complicit they are in handing over a bunch of railguns to a regime with a penchant for forgetting that human rights are a thing."