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Agatha's Empire [FT][Closed]

A staging-point for declarations of war and other major diplomatic events. [In character]
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Lady Scylla
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Agatha's Empire [FT][Closed]

Postby Lady Scylla » Sun Oct 13, 2019 1:21 pm

''This is General Solomon Gracchus,'' Prime Minister Cora introduced as the man saluted the Sovereign, Agatha and the Supreme Commander, Nerys. He was a tall, thick figure with a strong stern face. The Sovereign gave a nod in return before looking to Nerys for further explanation. Nerys' expression didn't change at the site of him. ''General Gracchus was a friend of my father, so I trust him,'' Prime Minister Cora spoke plainly to the two women. ''He raised me while my father was away.''

''Very well,'' Sovereign Agatha said dismissively as she went about making tea for the group. Nerys didn't move from where she was standing, nor did she speak. She merely stared at Gracchus as he cased the room with his eyes. ''I trust preparations are in order then, Commander Harlow?'' Agatha inquired with a glance to Nerys. She handed the Prime Minister a cup of tea, though both Gracchus and Nerys refused the offer. The two military figured finally exchanged glances that could have lowered the temperature in the room considerably.

''They are. We've had a few issues with civil unrest because of the checkpoints and barricades, but nothing too problematic,'' Nerys spoke before taking a seat. The rest followed suit and Agatha sat the tray with the tea down on the small table between them. In clockwise fashion, Cora had chosen a chair at the end of the table, Gracchus sat along the lengthwise side, followed by Agatha and Nerys on a sofa opposite of him. The room was nothing of particular interest with a modest fireplace and a desk for the Prime Minister. A small wooden clock sat on the mantle of the fireplace that ticked away the seconds. A fire burned in the hearth as it nipped at the logs with the occasional crackle.

''Excellent,'' Agatha spoke as she blew on her tea which sent the steam into a dance. She wrapped her fingers around the cup tenderly so and carefully tempted a few sips. It was still too hot but nothing a bit of patience wouldn't solve. ''The Senate will be meeting later today, I have the dissolution already drafted. Nerys, I'm counting on your preparations to pay off.''

''The Prime Minister has told me that you could use some help in dealing with Senatehall specifically, and Martian Dynamics' headquarters. I can dispatch troops from the Anseris Military Base,'' Gracchus spoke up as he leaned forwards and rested his arms on his knees. He searched them for a reaction as Agatha returned a confused look towards Nerys and Cora.

''Cora?''

''It was a suggestion. I know Nerys has coordinated with her marines on locking down the city, but there seemed to be a gap with the Senatehall and MD. Gracchus is in charge of Anseris. He'd be able to cover that gap,'' Cora explained as she picked at her hand. She had expected there would be some resistance adding a new face, but she trusted Gracchus wholeheartedly. However, the fact Agatha wasn't as accepting to the addition as the PM thought was more than telling.

Agatha sat her cup down and looked to Nerys beside her and tapped her on the arm, ''You haven't said a word yet, Commander.'' Nerys finally pulled her gaze from Gracchus and folded her arms as she searched the table for the right words, if she could find them.

''We do need more coverage for Senatehall, and I suspect Martian Dynamics will be one of the first ones to leap to their aid given that Senator Whips Cornwall and Rambeau are tied to their 'Board of Directors'.''

Agatha smiled and looked to Gracchus, ''Then I guess it's settled. General, you've my permission to deploy your forces from Anseris to cover the gap. We'll need to go over the rest of the plan...'' -- The meeting droned on for a few hours, the fire in the hearth had already chewed through its second log by the time the four were getting ready to depart.

Gracchus was the first to leave as they all walked into the hallway and the Prime Minister locked her office. The remaining three had a short conversation before expressing farewells and soon it was just Agatha and Nerys standing in the hallway. ''Nerys,'' Agatha tapped the commander, ''How much do you know of Gracchus?''

''Cora isn't wrong, I was pulling his file while we were in the meeting. Her father was away most of the time during the Colonial Wars, so Gracchus took care of her. He was married once, but his wife died of cancer just recently. I will say this, he's very ambitious...''

''Sounds like a man without a lot to lose,'' Agatha commented as she rubbed her chin in thought. ''D'you trust him?''

''It doesn't matter what I answer to that, Agatha. He's already aware of the matter,'' Nerys replied with a bit of cynicism in her tone. Agatha searched her face, but per usual, the commander showed practically no emotion making it nigh impossible to figure out what was going on beneath the surface. It was truly, if nothing else, frustrating.

''You said he's ambitious. So I'm guessing we'll need to find something to keep him roped in then.''

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Postby Lady Scylla » Sat Oct 19, 2019 5:16 pm

Achilles, Part 1


The Senatehall began to fill with the patrons of its purpose. Senators and Congressmen from across the Conglomerate filed into the large chamber that stood three floors high with seating on just as many levels. They discussed amongst themselves from particulars about business and politics to the more mundane conversation about the weather.

The Senators, who composed the upper chamber of government, took their place on the lowest floor numbering in no more than thirty. The Congressmen, those that formed the lower chamber of government, found themselves on the upper two floors in total of four-hundred and fifty. On the floor sat the many officers of the august government who troubled themselves with paperwork and roll-call, among other business that was required before proceeding.

At the back of the Senatehall, behind the officers and the magistrates, their secretaries and the archivists; sat a gilded throne atop wide circular steps with a banner of a red stag hanging boldly above it and measuring in tens of meters. It was the crest of the Arnwig-Solveig Dynasty, who had ruled the Sovereignty -- that is the throne in all but name -- for over a century. Its carmine colours and symbolism of a stag reared with large horns stood as a testament to the nobility that inherited its use and its symbolism: king of the forest. No other banner dared hang in such imposing fashion, even as all of the other aristocratic banners stretched along the walls on its flanks.

The hall was filled with the idle chatter before the thundering crack of a gavel by the Speaker silenced the room. Speaker Roger Whitney, draped in a purple robe, stood tall and confident over the gathered senators, and his voice carried across the Senatehall like a crashing wave leaving no misunderstanding over his words. ''Quiet! Quiet I tell you! Quiet! This convention is now in session! Welcome Senators and Congressmen to the annual 137th convention of our great nation!.''

Cheers from the floor erupted in great number from both chambers as the magistrates took their positions behind the Speaker. Archivists were diligent at transcribing and preparing for the minutes of the body, and the presence of the Sovereign Guard had gone unnoticed as they began to fill the room's perimeter signalling the arrival of the most important piece. Whitney held his hands out and signalled for the cheers to finally end, and once again the hall fell silent.

''We have been summoned by the Sovereign to discuss matters relating to our nation, and to address a number of extremely important legislation that was previously vetoed by one or the other chambers. I will remind you,'' the Speaker continued in carefully paced speech as he scanned the room, ''that any disruptions by the members of this convention will see forcible removal by the Sergeant-At-Arms and be held in contempt of this convention for the remainder of its proceedings. In short, do not besmirch this institution with your stupidity whether partisan or personal! I do hope I have made myself abundantly clear, ladies and gentlemen. Now, please stand for the arrival of the Sovereign, Agatha Arnwig-Solveig IV!''

Like a wave across a quiet sea, the members of the convention stood up and did so in silence as the centre doors to the Senatehall opened, and soon arrived the procession of Sovereign Guardsmen and Agatha herself. She was dressed in a pearl white military uniform with golden trim and did no stray her eyes nor change her composure for a single moment as they made their way to the throne. The guardsmen around her, in their silver spiked helmets that sat down on the bridge of their nose and barely hid their eyes, split to the sides of the walkway as the Sovereign rounded the Speaker and took her place.

The room seated thereafter and the guardsmen that had accompanied the monarch now stood with their rifles shouldered in a wall that separated the magistrates and officers from the senators. The Speaker took a moment to address the Sovereign in quiet conversation before kissing her hand and taking his place back at his post. Thrice, he struck the gavel to a silent room, but did so to ensure that attention was being maintained before stepping aside. It was time for the Sovereign's address to the convention.

Agatha stood while a secretary positioned a microphone at the edge of her small island. She could see the hundreds of the staring faces both close and afar from her position, and it no less comforted the anxiety that she withheld behind a statue-esque face. ''Members of the convention, the Martian people, and nations of the galaxy,'' she spoke with a calm voice, ''I stand before you as Sovereign of the Martian Conglomerate, a nation that has stood against odds for nearly a century and a half. It has weathered enemies and turmoil, upheaval and great strife; and it has, in its long and rich lifetime, rose to prominence in an otherwise chaotic world. For many, our small and steadfast nation has already achieved greatness.

''For others, we still have many trials on the road ahead that we must endure before we can safely call ourselves one of the finest civilisations to have graced humankind. Our technologies and culture, our very identity as a nation has pushed us forward against and past a sea of adversity. It is these triumphs that have defined us as much as we have defined them. And with the trials that often face a nation comes the loss of so many who bravely sacrifice for a future that they, themselves, shall never behold.

''I stand before you today, not as a Sovereign or political leader, but as a Martian among Martians. I'm here to tell you that we have not achieved our potential, that it still awaits us on a distant and far-off horizon. Mars has come so far, but we have not come far enough. For decades now, our nation has been plagued with the trepidation that all we have built stands on a knife-edge waiting for the right breeze.

''For those decades, we have seen great conflict and political disunity that has destabilised and exhausted our citizenry. For this, we have yet to bear the consequences -- consequences that have originated from an institution that is archaic and detrimental to the future of Mars. I am hereby dissolving the Senate. For too long has this aristocratic body remained as a barricade against a greater future for our nation. Under the authority of the democratically-elected Congress, I have been afforded the powers of Empress over the Martian Conglomerate and its citizens,'' Agatha stated.

The doors to the great Senatehall had opened and released a flood of quiet, purposeful marching soldiers of General Gracchus. They were great in number, clothed in their black uniforms and carrying their weapons at the ready. They lined the pathways and walls to the astonishment of the convention. The congressmen on the levels above attempted to leave in an orderly, pre-scheduled fashion but found themselves unable as the doors had been barred from the other side. The senators below remained seated, and while seemingly surprised made no noise nor did panic sweep their ranks.

Gracchus emerged from the crowd of soldiers and took his place among the floor with the Senate to his rear. As alarm ensnared the congressmen above, who levelled their shouts and anxiety, the guardsmen of the Sovereign's bodyguard unit exchanged glances of confusion. Gracchus raised his hand as he stared at the Sovereign, who returned the favour with no less confusion than her subordinates. He clenched his fist and a loud shot echoed in the chambers, having originated from the rafters high above.

Agatha stared for a long, quiet moment at Gracchus. Her piercing amber eyes and their fiery nature softened. Her already pale complexion drained away like the emptying of a reservoir. Her body felt weak as the strength began to wane. She saw Gracchus' wicked grin, and finally heard the now frenzied congressmen above her head, some who were now jumping from the upper floors or being unintentionally shoved over the railing in the ensuing panic. The world had become a set of stills rolling along like an old shuttered camera, it listing with each passing moment to her.

Her men took up arms, gunfire erupted as magistrates took cover behind their desks in the middle of the floor. The wall of guardsmen were cut down by Gracchus' troops before they could get a shot off. Other guardsmen and the Prime Minister had rushed to the aide of Agatha as she watched it all unfold. She stared confused at the scene, which was rapidly moving sideways. The colours faded and bled together, the noises deafened until there was silence. Her head hit the corner of a step and it all disappeared into the void.

The remaining guardsmen exchanged fire as Cora and some of Agatha's men dragged Agatha to the back of the chamber. Tear gas began to fill the chamber as Gracchus' troops evacuated the senators. Agatha was dragged into an emergency corridor behind the throne, something Gracchus had been unaware of but was unable to remedy with the fierce response from the remaining guards. The door closed behind the small group and they were quickly plunged into darkness.

''We need to move, quickly,'' one of the guards spoke as Cora and a few others were trying to tend to the monarch. Agatha's military uniform was slick and stained red with a hole pulsing blood on the left side of her abdomen. Her body uncharacteristically frail and cold to the frantic caretakers. Cora took her blue blazer off and tore fabric to hold over the wound as two guards quickly hurried down the corridor to ensure it was clear. The makeshift bandage was quickly saturated, and blood pooled between her fingers as they began to move Agatha.

''C-cora, I'm so cold...''




Gunfire filled the capital as General Gracchus and Admiral Nerys' men engaged each other. Across roadblocks, checkpoints, busy streets, the skies above, and amid the fleeing of civilians were scuffles between naval and army personnel. Helicopters and other aircraft had begun engagements, and struck each other from the skies in terrific fireballs at the peril of those below. Bodies of civilians and combatants lined the streets, the first victims of a war to decide the nation's future.

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Lady Scylla
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Postby Lady Scylla » Sun Oct 20, 2019 7:52 am

Achilles, Part 2

Previously


Sergeant Bletchley was seated on the back bumper of one of the armoured trucks that had rolled in just days before. He clutched a styrofoam cup of coffee in his hands so that he could savour the warmth. The first frost of the bitter Martian winter had arrived, blanketing everything in its chilling mark across the capital and far into the Anseris Plains that surrounded it. The harbours, large and busy during the summer months, had now slowed to little more than a lethargic crawl as the once deeply blue waters of the Hellas became frigid and started to freeze.

For four days, Bletchley and his men had manned the barricade. They lived in tents and under tarps draped from the trucks, and huddled around small metal heaters against the bite of the air. On the other side of the barricade, which comprised of vehicles and fencing, were rioters that hadn't dispersed despite the clashing and total failure to force withdrawal of the troops. The Sergeant couldn't fault them, they had seen soldiers on their streets time and time again.

''S-sergeant,'' Lieutenant Grace said, having gone unnoticed by the Sergeant while he was deep in thought. She had her arms folded and violently shivered away the cold. Bletchely scooted over so that she could sit and offered the blanket draped over him which she took gratefully. ''It's -2, S-sergeant,'' she commented and chattered her teeth bitterly.

''Aye. Should've dressed for the weather there, Lieutenant,'' Bletchley said, ''Here.'' Grace took the offered cup of coffee and greedily held it against her to warm up. She sipped it and curiously watched the steam roll into clouds that carried themselves away from the cup. The two of them sat there as a gentle breeze swept the camp, blowing aside trash and rustling the tarps and tents.

''W-we've not enough b-blankets, S-sergeant,'' Grace lamented. She handed the coffee back to the Sergeant and leaned against him. It took him by surprise but he adjusted their blanket so that it would better shield her from the air.

''I know. Colonel Fritz said there's a shortage currently, so we're having to make do with what we have,'' he said. His eyes wandered to the covered bodies across the street. A grimace settled on his face like a mid-evening storm that had poisoned an otherwise clear day. He wrapped an arm around the Lieutenant and leaned back against the cold metal of the truck.

This bitter calm was interrupted by commotion within the camp. The dozens of stationed men had begun to rouse and rush to arms. The Sergeant opened his eyes to a scene of frantic assembly by his men, and them pointing upwards to the skies. ''Lieutenant!'' he yelled abruptly, pulling her down from the truck and to the ground. A tilt-rotor covered in fire careened high overhead before slamming into the side of a skyscraper.

The explosion shattered glass and flung debris down on them as the helicopter precariously dangled via cables and metal from the tower. A rotor shook itself loose and spiralled toward the street. Bletchley and Grace hurried to their feet and leapt out of the way as the rotor slammed into the armoured truck, crumpling it like it was no more than paper. Bits of the rotor flew through the camp, one man was swept from his feet.

Gunfire followed. The Sergeant helped Grace up as the troops rushed to the barricade. Other aircraft had filled the skies above, both Martian, but firing on each other. The sounds of their autocannons and rockets deafened those on the ground. ''What in the hell is going on!?'' the Lieutenant shouted, but the Sergeant was just as clueless as they sought cover behind a hesco.

The radios were live with chatter, and Bletchley was unable to get a word in. He stood, leaving the Lieutenant, and rallied his men. Frantic shouts from the other side of the barricade by the rioters drew the troops' attention, but rather than trying to assault the position, they were attempting to flee. The sergeant climbed atop a truck and stared down the street towards troops of the Martian Army, who had begun firing on other forward positions far down the street. ''Open the barricade! Open the barricade!'' he shouted. The marines quickly began to disassemble the barrier, and a torrent of civilians poured into the encampment.

''What in the hell is going on,'' he yelled into his radio, but just as before, there was simply too much going on in the transmissions. Bletchley left the vehicle and started to direct the troops and civilians into the lobbies of the nearby buildings. The high pitched sound and boom of another aircraft being swept from the sky sent crowds screaming in every direction. Thankfully, the aircraft was of no threat to them as it spiralled a few blocks away.

A formation of soldiers and a large battle-tank had been rapidly advancing down the street. The tank's rocket pods that hung from the sides of the turret adjusted their position before letting off a number of bottle-sized shells. The marines still in the street, and behind the barricade were left to flee in every direction to find cover as the rockets tore into their position. Windows from the nearby buildings erupted into clouds of glass, and the sheltered flipped tables and hid behind anything and everything to shield themselves.

''Friendly-fire! Friendly-fire!'' Bletchley shouted, but it was to no avail. More bombardment from the vehicle had left the street vacant of marines, and at last the Sergeant directed them out of the back of the building. They funnelled the civilians out first, and the order was finally given by Bletchley. ''I need men to the lobby, disable that fucking tank!'' A quick setup from one of the anti-tank weapons, and a rocket nailed the vehicle down the street but drew direct fire from the soldiers.

The lobby was filled with the ricochets and spalling caused by incoming rounds. The marines were forced to abandon the lobby, and after the last civilian had been guided out, finally did they manage to leave the building just ahead of the Army. The next street over was no less chaotic as cars were left burning in the streets and people ran through the road ahead of encroaching gunfire.

Bletchley's marines piled into an alleyway and headed down towards the canal. The water had frozen over, and the large angled slabs of white concrete left a wide open valley to the other side that had to be crossed. One of the large bridge that spanned the canal had already collapsed, and the sounds of skirmish across it filled the air.

''Bletchley, what in the hell is going on?'' Grace panted as she tried to catch her breath but the cold air was making the effort far worse. The radio chatter had calmed down, and the Sergeant toyed with his radio to dial into the command frequency from Commander Nerys' HQ. He had turned the knob to allow it to broadcast openly to the gathering of troops. It was an automated message of a robotic female's voice.

''Attention MCN personnel. This is not a drill. Emergency Code 3-4-1-5. The Sovereign has been killed. Government in MCA custody. MCA forces are engaging MCN forces in Laconia. Headquarters has been overrun. Commander Nerys has moved positions. Stand-by for further details. Emergency Code 3-4-1-5.'' The message simply repeated the phrase over and over and the confusion among the group sent many to the ground as they began to process what was happening.

''Emergency code, I've never heard that one,'' Bletchley said to the Lieutenant. She shook her head at him, unsure of the specifics about it herself. ''3414 is a disaster code,'' he mulled before flicking the radio's speaker off.

''But 3415. I don't have my code book on me,'' Grace said.

''Anyone have their code book?'' Bletchley called out to the gathering. The marines started checking their packs, and at last one pulled one from theirs and handed it off to the sergeant. Bletchley opened it with his muddy fingers as Grace joined him. He tapped the Emergency Codes section in the table of contents and quickly flipped to the part of the book where it was. ''3100. 3200. 3400. 3415!'' he said. The two read over the code and then exchanged glances.

''It's... it's a coup,'' Grace said alarmed. Bletchley shut the book and handed it back off as he rolled his jaw in thought.

''The Army is launching a coup. We need to get out of the open,'' he said urgently.

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Postby Lady Scylla » Sun Oct 20, 2019 6:54 pm

''First squad on me,'' Bletchley whispered. The marines quickly deployed themselves along the exterior wall, having taken refuge in a second-floor hallway of the 'First Mars Bank'. Squads two and three had split, with the former hunkering down in the bottom floor and the latter taking positions in a causeway that connected the bank to a building across the street. The Phoenixi Embassy could be seen from Third Squad's position, though much like the rest of the famed 'Neon City', it had been cast into darkness.

Hours before, the MCA had taken the Laconia Fusion Facility and cut the power. Other services were brought down by the Army: Water, Media, and the Transit Authority. None of the autopilot systems functioned, nor did any public transport run. The city was in the deadly grip of Gracchus' troops, with the MCN's marines now stuck in the middle of it all, and worse yet, no communications had been established with Commander Nerys. No-one was certain of her or the headquarter's fate. Worse still, as night fell over the city, the MCN communications had gone silent. The only transmission still available was the 3415 code on the HQ frequency.

Disorder had overtaken the early hours of the conflict, but it left an advantage in the marines' favour. They were trained for urban combat, trained to function and cause such disorder. The Army had no such training, and in that, they were inferior. Rather than surrender, Bletchley listened to the sounds of gunfire and bombs in the distance of the otherwise quiet city. There was a comfort that had swept him up from his own anxiety and helped fuel his mind and spirit. Like his unit, he knew that others had continued to fight on. They were not alone.

''Contact, 210,'' a runner stated as he emerged from the shadows of the hallway to tell Bletchley. They could no longer depend on their radios, their technology; they had only the old-fashion tactics of a bygone era. Bletchley gave out new orders, and First Squad readied their weapons as the runner was sent out to alert the others. The marines of First Squad crouched against the low wall on the second floor, with Bletchley sitting near a pillar and cautiously peeking out at the street.

He could see Third Squad's machine gun in the causeway, and the quiet shuffle of marines' shadows as they organised themselves. Down below, on the first floor was Second Squad, with a heavy anti-material rifle and anti-tank weaponry. They dared not move being so close to the street and hung back in the obscurity of the building's corridors in wait like a coiled spring.

At last, the sound of a walker-tank drew their attention. A platoon of MCA were escorting the vehicle and a few trucks behind it as they carefully navigated the road. Bletchley watched them from around the pillar, knowing that at some point they would pick up the Valkyrie signatures. The Sergeant had his unit remove them as they were setting up and place them in the building across from his men. The MCA's visors were bound to detect the frequency of their transponders in the next several meters.

A point-man out front of the formation raised his hand, and the convoy stopped advancing. The MCA soldiers divided into two teams and travelled along the sidewalk. The walker rotated its turret towards the opposite building of Bletchley's, the plan had worked. There was a flash from the tank's barrel as a round plunged into the second story of the decoy building. MCA soldiers moved quickly to try and storm the structure, leaving the vehicles unattended. Bletchley gave his signal, dropping a small red cloth from the second story.

Smoke kicked up from the floor beneath him a the anti-mat rifle went off. The sound of the large calibre hitting one of the tank's legs was unmistakable as it struggled to keep balance. A rocket followed and ploughed into the turret of the vehicle, the shell cutting through the thick armour and exploding inside the cavity. Flames jutted forth from the tank as it collapsed to the ground. The MCA soldiers moving into the building were set upon by heavy machine-gun fire from the causeway, and rifle fire from the marines' positions in the bank. There was a scramble for cover, with few soldiers being able to respond to the onslaught.

More rockets took down the trucks behind the tank, picking off the last two vehicles with one exploding in spectacular fashion, and keeping the others from being able to escape. Ammunition cook-off from one of the trucks sent rounds and shells flying in all directions as the remaining MCA abandoned the convoy. They fell back from the vehicles, screaming and shouting as their comrades were cut down by the MCNMC's fire.

An explosion ripped through the front gate of the Phoenixi Embassy, and MCA soldiers poured in to find cover. Bletchley finally ordered his troops to cease-fire, not wanting to engage the embassy grounds directly, and knowing he had successfully pinned the MCA down. The street fell just as silent as before as dozens of dead and dying soldiers laid in the street next to burning vehicles.

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Postby Lady Scylla » Tue Oct 22, 2019 7:04 am

The MCN Mars, the Conglomerate's most formidable warship, hung in the orbit of its namesake. Mars had changed considerably over the last century, Admiral Dewitz knew this well. He stood on the observation deck with his eyes glued to the glass. The eighty year-old Admiral still recalled the days when the planet wasn't as lush and green at the start of the international terraformation effort. Many things had changed since the days of yore. Many things remained the same.

The MCN had already been stationed in Sol, beyond what the SOLSTART treaty allowed. Yet, clever negotiations with the Menelmacari Ascendancy had given that specific clause an adjustment. Now, more ships were on their way for a purpose that many of the lower ranks thought impossible, but Dewitz had long suspected would come. He looked at Supreme Commander Nerys Harlow as she stepped unto the deck. The automatic doors and internal airlock engaged behind her as she stood in the low-light.

''Civil War,'' Dewitz said as he mulled the word over with a certain distaste. ''I've served in the MCN for nearly sixty years, Harlow. I was born in Laconia, I remember when it was just a growing city. You could always tell where it was on Mars, y'know? Look for the deep blue of the Hellas Sea, and you'll spot her... right there.'' He gave the glass a tap over where the capital sat.

''Brightest set of lights this side of the planet. Now it's gone dark, and the fires are carrying large ugly pillars of smoke eastward over the plains,'' he said disgusted. Nerys had finally stepped forward and joined him to stare out the glass. She hadn't spent any amount of time looking at Mars since she left for her first deployment. Perhaps the memory of home was simply too painful to her, or perhaps she was just too invested in her own work to admire what seemed like simpler times.

''The Sovereign is dead,'' Nerys said coldly. Dewitz pursed his lips along his thin, gaunt face and simply nodded. He folded his arms behind his back and raised his head to stare down at Laconia.

''General Gracchus,'' he tendered the name as if to curse it. ''I do hope you had made preparations the moment he was introduced into the fold, Nerys,'' the old man rattled.

''I cannot fault the Prime Minister, but she was naive. That being said, I have. But there's another problem,'' the commander said.

''Athena,'' Dewitz noted making a clicking noise from the side of his mouth. ''We've unleashed Pandora's Box -- we should have never entertained Grace's proposal. Putting a human in an AI. A warmind, no less. I fear Gracchus and all those other bastards will know her wrath now, though. Let's just hope for our sake that she can properly direct it,'' Dewitz sat his hand on the sill of the window and tapped his fingers in thought before shaking his head. ''She has been awfully quiet.''

''Corporate fleets are converging on Sol, just received the report when I boarded. There's been no sign of Gracchus or the Senate, however. Intel suspects they've already ditched the system, probably to form a government elsewhere,'' Nerys commented.

''Yes. They were clever, using the confusion in their favour. I noticed you finally got your implants, Commander,'' he muttered having noticed that she was being able to understand him without having to look at him.

''Office work doesn't suit me,'' Nerys drily stated before departing the Admiral.




The bridge of the Mars was uncharacteristically quiet. Nerys' officers had been hard at work with their stations, and communication overall seemed hushed. She reached the sunken floor between them all and the quiet chatter went to pure silence as all eyes faced her. ''The Sovereign is dead, there's no need to run about it like it's an unspeakable topic. We've a war to fight, there's no time to play these games,'' she commented.

''Mars!'' Nerys called out.

The ship's warmind responded, ''Yes, Commander?''

''We're pulling our ships from orbit, notify the other vessels. We've got corporate forces en route to Sol, I need intel on them, I don't care whose arm you have to twist,'' Nerys ordered, the warmind affirmed the orders and the Commander looked to her staff. ''Lieutenant Cruz, give the green light to the Osiris team. And establish communications with our forces in Laconia. I want full defensive measures, everyone! No fucking slacking,'' she yelled before leaving the bridge.

The MCN Mars fired its thrusters and the behemoth began to pull away from Mars' grip. Adjustments slowly rotated the vessel until it was aligned with an escape trajectory and the engines pushed large blue plasma from their engine-bells. Dishes along its anterior-aft side had aligned with the planet and fired a quick burst of communications before retracting.

Nerys was swift in her walking, rounding several corners before arriving in the communications hub. The door slid closed behind her, and she stood in a small circular room with lights blinking at her beyond a glass barrier. ''Mars, connect me to Athena, it's urgent,'' she spoke. The shipmind complied and the transmission was established.

''Yes, Commander?'' Athena spoke. A small holographic orb had appeared beyond the glass, changing and churning its form as the warmind communicated. Nerys tilted her head.

''Athena, what are you planning?'' Harlow asked plainly.

''Is she really?''

''Athena. Don't do something you're going to regret,'' Nerys fired back.

''You put me in here, Nerys. We had an agreement.''

''And I'll tear you back out if I have to. I understand you're hurting but you need to approach this logically,'' Nerys tried to reason.

''I'm afraid you won't have a chance to, Commander. They declared war. They took Agatha from me. They will feel my wrath,'' the warmind stated. The orb disappeared and the lights flickered before Nerys was thrown into darkness.

''Athena!''

''Commander, we've just lost power,'' the commander's radio crackled.

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Lady Scylla
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Founded: Nov 22, 2015
New York Times Democracy

Postby Lady Scylla » Wed Oct 23, 2019 8:11 pm

Athena could see more than what her creators realised. As a tool designed for the defence of the empire, a warmind, she had access to vast amounts of knowledge, intelligence services, weapons, ships, droids, and so much more. She had safeguarded the nation for so long now, dealt with a variety of threats, and participated in many battles.

Her very existence was like an ever watchful guardian staring at a galaxy through tools both near and afar. Deep space observatories, set hundreds of thousands of lightyears outside the galaxy, focused in on what seemed so tranquil, remote, and distant. Thousands of sensor stations and arrays planted around major colonies, structures hidden in the cold recesses of space within the galactic arms, it was all Athena.

The Navy spent both immense resource and money to design, build, and upgrade the warmind. Construction had started nearly a century ago, long before AIs in the MC had developed simulated empathetic intelligence. It was the greatest hurdle to their efforts. At the time, there was no guarantee that an AI could understand the very weight of life. There was no way to ensure that it wouldn't go too far.

Doctor Arcana Grace was the answer to that problem. She worked on Athena, her approach was unorthodox to that of her peers and under much scrutiny. Nevertheless, her work was allowed and she gained personal access to the AI. Grace's writings on the matter of artificial intelligence argued the need to foster empathy with the intelligence by approaching it, not as a tool, but a being with its own boundaries, thoughts, and perspective on the universe and how itself was a part of it.

It had run millions of combat simulations, fought just as many wars against perceived foes, but it had never been taught the importance of humanity. It learned that by meeting privately with Grace. Athena was just as much a creature, regardless of who created it or why, and it left a profound mark. Rather than running simulations with cold, hard logic -- Athena began showing signs of approaching these tests with a deep understanding of the human condition.

It stopped annihilating civilian centres to achieve goals, foregoing humanitarian efforts in war-stricken regions, and better learned to not only win wars through force but with some degree of compassion to the bystanders that proved vital in its intelligence gathering and ability to maintain order in conquered regions. Doctor Grace explained the matter at the Martian Scientific Assembly in 2163, ''Intelligence does not so simply conform to what we think of it, to how it applies to us as human beings. A computer thinks, but in ways both similar and different to ourselves. But an AI is no ordinary computer, not only does it 'think' but it does so and forms its own picture of the world around it, and then makes decisions with the agency it has. My role as a scientist is not to so much build a human-like intelligence, but bridge that gap between ours and an AI so that we may learn from another and communicate. That is the path forward.''

Doctor Arcana Grace, considered one of the greatest minds on AI research, worked on Athena for four years from 2166 to 2170. She developed cyber-dementia during that time and slowly deteriorated. She died in 2170 at 35, at least that's what many thought. In ways difficult to understand for many, Grace and Athena were now more closely tied than ever before. Her body had died, but she continued to live on as a sub-routine in a greater picture. It was a decision with consequences not yet realised.




''System malfunction detected. Sub-routine override. Error. Apophis Systems activated. Connecting to Spires.''

The operator voice of Apophis Control was cold, deep and inhuman to that of Athena's. The upgrade the Martians had performed on their warmind gave it far more capability than could have ever been hoped for. It was like staring down two faces of the same creature.

''My sweet, Agatha. They took you from me, but now I shall take what is theirs,'' Athena mulled as she went through the opening procedures in activating her offensive capabilities. She could see the spires, the stations used for Apophis' weapon system. Five hundred now built across the Reaches in the Martian Expeditionary Perimeter. Five hundred to bring to down its enemies.

''Connections established. Activating wormholers.''

The large stations began to glow as focused energy tore open a wormhole at their base. Some had swung towards Sol, others away, and the clock began to tick. Elsewhere, drone ships were activated and began taking their positions. Wormholes had appeared within them and the vessels had begun siphoning energy from the stars they orbited. The heat and raw power of the universe's titans would be brought to bear down on its targets.

''Targets established. Operation completes in 72 hours. Beginning bombardment.''




Yamamoto Corporation in conjunction with Kuribayashi had assembled their forces and heeded the call of the Senate. Seven thousand warships were now heading through the Reaches towards Sol, ready to battle the MCN under the command of Nerys Harlow. Unlike the MCN ships, the two corporate fleets were nearly entirely autonomous. Vessels as small as frigates and as large as battlecruisers had been hastily assembled into a formidable force matching in number the MCN currently in system.

The ships communicated back and forth, their shipminds hard at work as they adjusted formations and monitored the surrounding region. They had a small window to strike a blow to Nerys, and hopefully kill or capture the commander. If they failed here, it meant the war would continue for an uncertain amount of time. Gracchus and Senate-proclaimed Supreme Commander MacNamara had directed forces elsewhere in the empire. MacNamara as commander of the MCN forces in Delta held seventeen of the forty-three Martian fleets. In total, the war seemed to have swung decisively in the Senate's favour.

''Detecting anomaly. Groups one through five adjust course forty-five degrees,'' the flagship, the MSE (Martian Senatorial Empire) Avenger announced to the fleet. The flank of the large formation had begun to tear away as the ships deployed sensors to monitor the strange reading the Avenger had detected. The Yamamoto-Kuribayashi fleet was still in interstellar space, but had detected a new light source. The light had become visible to the naked-eye and grew in intensity.

''MSE Avenger, detecting large energy signature. Gamma radiation detected, advise,'' the MSE Shatterfield stated.

''Detecting new anomaly. 120 degrees.''

''Detecting new anomaly. 74 degrees.''

''Detecting new anomaly. 06 degrees.''

The MSE Avenger rattled off a series of sightings as the fleet was finally ordered to halt. The large ships drifted to positions and began to alter their formation with the Avenger in the centre. The fleet's sensors had picked up no less than a dozen high energy signatures. The Avenger began to run a series of calculations before finally assigning new orders. ''Attention,'' the communications from the flagship cut out, and static flooded their comm system. A small frigate, the MSE Syracuse had fired its engines unexpectedly, and banked hard towards the port-side of the Avenger.

Communications were continually interfered with as another frigate, the MSE Armageddon pulled from formation and started to roll and fight against its own thrusters. The Avenger activated its weapon systems, now understanding that they had come under a cyber-attack. It drilled a number of rounds from its railguns into the Syracuse, the vessel still slammed into the flagship but glanced off.

The Armageddon had lost control, and the vessel was now acting under a different authority as it spooled up its auto-canons and began to lay down fire on the Avenger. Further ships joined in the foray and the fleet began to turn into a conflagration of corporate ships firing on each other. The Avenger fired its aft thrusters and quickly rolled to burn its way out of the frenzy but was blocked by the MSE Hades, another battlecruiser which began to lob shells. The rounds deflected off the Avenger's shields and the flagship delivered a series of salvos but also had no effect. Missiles were quickly exchanged, the Hades sustaining a hit on its bow that had disabled its forward railgun.

The Avenger laid open its secondaries and started firing round after round at the Hades before taking a ram from the flank by another cruiser that had lost power. The two vessels spiralled in a deadly dance and slammed into a number of smaller ships as the distance between them became ever smaller. The Avenger pushed itself away from the smaller cruiser that had rammed it, and sent another salvo at the Hades which had been struck by another vessel's energy weapons. The rounds now cut through the hull of the Hades with no shields to slow them down and tore through the internals. The vessel's lights flickered before the enemy battlecruiser finally went dark.

At last authority was re-established to the Avenger. The remaining ships had stopped fighting amongst themselves as anti-viral software swept their systems. In all, the Yamamoto-Kuribayashi fleet had practically eliminated the corrupted vessels, but quick sensor sweeps painted the new peril. The Avenger lit its anterior thrusters and swung down from the formation as ships tried to scatter in different directions. Warnings had flooded the vessels of an impending impact, but it was far too late.

Beams of high energy converged on the fleet and crashed through the chaotic formation. A ball of rapidly expanding plasma like a mini-nova began to engulf the ships as they tried to limp themselves out of the way. The MSE Avenger fired its retros and careened backwards as fast as it could as the corporate fleets were consumed in stellar fire.

The ship launched its jump-preparations and the countdown began as the rapidly encroaching ball approached. Radiation from the weapon fried the Avenger's shields, and sensor began to fail one by one along with auxiliary electronics. Temperature readings had spiked to the point they had stopped reading the temperature all together. Cooling units and radiators in the ball exploded within the ship, sending gas and debris in all directions. At last, the countdown had expired and the vessel in a last ditch attempt spun itself around to its target destination and disappeared as it entered FTL. Athena had dealt the first blow.



Delta Quadrant
Meridian City, Meridian, Martian Senatorial Empire


Gracchus entered the chamber where the Senators had gathered. The room wasn't as impressive as the Senatehall on Mars, but it would suffice for the function of state. The group had successfully made their flight during the chaos on Mars and now found themselves in haven thanks to the betrayal of Grand Admiral MacNamara. In total, the MSE controlled twenty-two thousand warships to the Conglomerate's now eight-thousand. So early in the conflict, and the legislators were already joking and celebrating what looked to be an assured victory.

''Gracchus!'' Senator Parson greeted with arms outstretched. The room cheered the General's arrival as Parson alerted them to his presence. Gracchus smiled and waved, shaking hands with senators left and right as they descended on him. He took a glass of wine from a slave-woman that had been captured during their flight from Mars, and raised the glass to a roar of cheering officials.

Senator Parson took to an elevated stage and lifted his glass up for all to see and held a hand out towards the General. ''To Gracchus! The man that saved the Senate and the Empire!'' The crowd erupted into applause as Gracchus navigated the crowd to the front where the stage was. He joined Parson at last, and the commotion died down.

''With you, my friend, we can establish a new empire. One deserving of both fear and respect across the galaxy. Already, we're drawing plans together for the greatest expansion in our history. Think of it! Invasions far and wide. We'll conquer the Phoenixi, destroy the Alexzonyans, and enslave the rest that dare oppose us! Long live the Meridian Empire!'' The crowd cheered the final sentence three times as the General bowed his head.

Parson continued as he pressed for quiet among the room and put an arm around Gracchus, clanging his glass against his. ''Now, I know an arrangement was made, General. Your betrayal and swift word saved all of us, and the Senate needs an Emperor befitting of the title...'' Two senators joined them on the stage carrying a small purple pillow with a golden wreath nestled neatly in the centre. Gracchus' eyes focused on the object, which seemed so delicate but also carried great weight in purpose.

The two men stopped before Parson and the General, and Parson sat his glass down and carefully lifted the crown up. ''As Princeps of this Senate, I proclaim the new Emperor of our Empire. May he reign long and deliver us victory and wealth upon which the galaxy has never known,'' Parson spoke as he held the crown out for them to see. Gracchus bowed his head, and so the item was placed gently atop it. He turned to face the Senate as they cheered. Senator Parson then slid his hand under the pillow and unsheathed a large dagger and quickly plunged it into Gracchus' back.

The General let out a gasp as he stared at the congregation and stumbled forward unto the podium. He tried to reach for the dagger still embedded in his back as Senator Parson merely watched. ''Y-you...'' Gracchus tried to speak but finally fell off the stage. The crowd backed away as Parson stepped over him.

''I'm sorry, Gracchus. But we cannot afford to have a traitor in our midst. Even if all they wanted was the fame, but don't feel bad,'' the Senator spoke calmly as a box was delivered to him. He carefully opened it and withdrew the severed head of Grand Admiral MacNamara before tossing it next to the dying General. Gracchus struggled to breath and writhed on the floor as he tried for the dagger in his back still. ''You weren't the only one we had to ensure would not betray us in the end,'' Parson spoke coldly as he forcefully rolled the General on his stomach. He plucked the dagger from his back, pulled his head up and finally slit the man's throat. The Senators backed away further as blood pooled on the marble floor.

''Let this be fair warning, we do not tolerate traitors. Senator Giuseppe Santorini has taken command of our empire's forces after the tragic end to MacNamara,'' Senator Parson spoke as he wiped the dagger and his hands off on a cloth before tossing it over Gracchus' body. ''Celebrate today, but the war is not yet won.'' Parson picked up the crown and put it on at last.

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Phoenix Conclave
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Founded: Nov 21, 2014
Democratic Socialists

Postby Phoenix Conclave » Thu Oct 24, 2019 5:06 pm

****************************************************************************************************
Phoenix Domain
****************************************************************************************************
The Phoenix was in motion.

Events on Mars were moving too swiftly for even a frame-jacked Conclave to debate the multiplying issues, so the Gestalt assumed direct authority after a vote to enact a State of Emergency. For the duration of the Emergency, the Gestalt now had full autonomy to decide Domain policy without waiting for debate within the Conclave to conclude. The Domain could now respond efficiently and as swiftly as it’s wormhole-enabled communications allowed.

****************************************************************************************************
Phoenix Domain Embassy - Laconia City - Mars
****************************************************************************************************
Sensors embedded in almost every surface of the Embassy buildings registered the MCA soldiers that rushed through the now-destroyed front gate, tracking their movements and relaying biometric data to the compound’s network. The Embassy staff had been evacuated to the underground shelter as soon as the fighting had erupted in the Conglomerate capitol, leaving the automated defenses to monitor and oversee the above-ground structures.

The initial reaction to the intrusion had been a warning issued via acoustic emitters in the compound walls, #Warning! You have violated Phoenix Domain territory. Vacate the premises immediately or be expelled!# The warning was set on a recurring loop and played from the closest solid surface to each of the MCA troopers.

The compound’s garrison commander was considering his options when a burst transmission arrived from out-system: New orders. The MCA forces inside the compound were to be neutralized immediately, alive if possible to be interrogated for intelligence. All MCN forces were to be considered Friendly and were to be given any aid possible on request. Headhunter teams were being dispatched to Laconia from allied positions and were to be directed to hotspots as needed. The Domain was officially entering the conflict in support of whatever remained of the Empress’ government.

As the MCA soldiers took up cover inside compound, suddenly the Embassy building, the perimeter walls, every artificial surface began emitting blinding light. Nano-scale phased arrays begun focusing onto the faces of every MCA soldier, quickly ratcheting up to harmful levels of light, enough to cause actual damage to retinas with prolonged exposure. The polarizing faceplates in their helmets reacted as they would to flashbangs, darkening instantly and saving their eyes by sacrificing all visibility when the light did not end. Panic broke out among the MCA soldiers, unable to see the fluid movements of the Domain Servitors that now swarmed out of the Embassy proper.

No hiss or whine of servo or actuator betrayed their fluid movement. Synthetic muscles glided nearly silently as the spider-like forms closed on the MCA forces and opened fire with tangler guns. Globs of gel which swiftly expanded into gossamer webbing that enveloped the Martians and then solidified like concrete, freezing them in place. The Servitors then moved in over their hapless prey, stripping away weapons and comms equipment before passing the now-cocooned soldiers to the bulkier forms of armored Phoenixi who carried them back into the Embassy to waiting rooms which would serve as prisoner cells until they could be interrogated.

While all of this had happened, the compound’s network-mind had directed a swarm of fly-sized drones across the street to the building where the MCN forces had ambushed their former fellows. The commander of their number identified by facial recognition from stored databases. A single robo-fly buzzed in through the window and settled on a wall next to Bletchley, #Sergeant Bletchley. The Ambassador would like to speak to you. You and your men may enter the Embassy compound.#

Down below, two of the Phoenixi soldiers and a quartet of the spider-like Servitors stepped into the compound's gateway and took up sentry positions. One of the soldiers shouldered his rifle and turned to face the position where Bletchley was and saluted.

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Macisikan
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Founded: Apr 17, 2004
Democratic Socialists

Postby Macisikan » Thu Oct 24, 2019 10:42 pm

Interplanetary Space, Sol System, Alpha Quadrant
RKI:12ED3A/12:35

Vicinity of the MCN Mars

The most powerful warship in the Conglomerate had been depowered by the warmind meant to defend the same nation. Depowered, of course, meant that its course and speed were now in the tyrannical grip of Newton's First Law. Left unchecked, it would continue into the great darkness, perhaps to be encountered some eons hence by curious archaeologists.

Unless someone decided otherwise.

One moment there was nothing, and the next, they were there. No fanfare, no splash of energy. Frame to frame would show empty space one moment, and the ships of Commodore Chelu's Division englobing the Mars the next. Prominent in the centre of the formation was a white cylinder – like one of the consular ships, but different.

An elegant ballet ensued; the ISS voidships spinning and twisting around the Martian ship, some fanning out, some drawing near, while the white one edged closer.

Aboard Chelu's flagship, the datascape swam and settled.

"My compliments to Supreme Commander Harlow," he said, "and advise her that we are ready to evacuate her and her crew at their earliest convenience. Inform the extraction crews that the Supreme Commander is not expendable; and she is not to do anything stupidly noble like trying to be the last person off."

"By your command," the shipmind replied. "Interdiction fields are active, and we are blocking conventional communications."

Chelu was suddenly aware of a presence; in the datascape, his self-conception turned. Although, strictly speaking, there were no directions, he couldn't shake the feeling that something was behind him… oh.

A small dog the colour of cream and fawn peered up at him with an expression of interest, and Chelu suddenly had a memory of the words There will be no interference implanted directly into his mind.
Please address your messages/threats/lies to:
The current cycle is: RKI:12ED

--FT Nations: Sir Ardri Trivkaal, HSM Vice-Minister for External Affairs
--Everyone else: Sir Conradin Nuchani, HSM Vice-Minister for Subluminal Affairs


Quick Overview | Full Factbook | Embassy Programme | Maintenance thread | The demonym is "Macisikani."
“You have taken my cute idea … and turned it into something cold and cruel.” –Solont
“Terrible experiments. Unethical behaviour. Have I introduced you to my friend Macisikan? He’s something of an expert.” –Sunset

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Lady Scylla
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Founded: Nov 22, 2015
New York Times Democracy

Postby Lady Scylla » Sat Oct 26, 2019 11:00 am

A light snow began to fall over Laconia as Bletchley and his battered men remained in step with their commander. Lieutenant Grace wasn't far behind them, despite the troubles of the platoon over the last few weeks, she still felt an outcast. Field work was not something she was used to, having served in the Headquarters of Nerys for most of her tenure as an officer.

The cracks of gunfire and bombs carried by a stiff breeze told them that the battle for Laconia was still being waged elsewhere. The fresh snow crunched under their boots as the group wandered into the embassy. The mix of marines with their ragged, dirty uniforms and their swollen, dark-encircled eyes played against the typical prideful facade of the Martians of the past. These men were shell-shocked, exhausted, confused, dehydrated, and looked nothing of what may have been expected.

Bletchley stopped just inside the gate as he gently patted the backs of his men and urged them inside the compound's perimeter. The vanguard of the platoon had passed, and the middle entered carrying wounded with some civilians who had tagged along to help. The sergeant looked to the Phoenixi sentries as the last of his men stumbled in and finally saluted them in return.

The group assembled in the courtyard, finding places to rest as Bletchley and Grace headed for the door of the compound. ''What do you think they want?'' asked the Lieutenant as she huffed with a cloud of icy breath. Bletchley shook his head.

''No idea, Lieutenant,'' Bletchley stumbled for a second. ''Damn mud,'' he scraped his boots on a piece of debris and then gave a crisp, firm knock on the compound door. As they waited, the pair looked back over the courtyard at the marines. They had assembled into small groups, already scavenging for some wood to start fires while others had pulled their entrenching tools and were working in teams to dig quick foxholes in the front lawn.

A Corporal Delaney separated from the riff-raff and approached the pair; he was no older than probably twenty-two with scruffy red hair. ''What is it Delaney?'' the Sergeant questioned as the kid stopped just a foot shy of the two.

''We're out of rations, Sergeant. And the Doc is wondering what you want to do with the wounded,'' Delaney asked as he fidgeted with the patrol cap he clutched between bruised and swollen fingers. Bletchley's eyes swung over the platoon.

''Gather them, Corporal. No one is digging a hole tonight, we'll rest in the foyer of the embassy,'' the Sergeant said.

''What if the Phoenixi raise an issue?'' Grace asked.

''They can write me a letter. The men need rest, and some warmth. Go on, Corporal,'' the sergeant ordered. Delaney nodded and headed back to the groupings. They abandoned their entrenchments one by one and started to gather on the front steps of the embassy, the wounded were brought to the front as they waited for the ambassador.




The MCN Mars continued to drift as its crew of twelve-hundred were working around the clock to try and undo Athena's attack on the vessel. Most of the vessel's systems had gone offline, and there was difficulty restoring the core. Nerys had been on the bridge delegating tasks to the ship's departments when she had received communication from the Martian Ambassador.

She had been invited to discuss the situation with the other nations in Sol at the Hellas via hologram, and so the commander had disappeared to the comms room. When she had re-emerged, it seemed the situation was turning in their favour finally. ''Captain Kinan,'' the commander spoke at ease. The captain, who served under Nerys and was ultimately in charge of the smaller details of the ship and its crew, had been under a console messing with cables alongside an engineer bot.

''Yes, Commander?'' Kinan asked as she slid out from under the mess of cables. She sat aside a wrench as the small bot continued to work with sparks flying out of the depanelled console every so often. The Nalari wiped her hands and climbed to her feet, taking a moment to breath in the water from her respirator. Nerys had hand-picked her from the academy only a few years before over a number of other candidates.

''I want systems locked out and the crew notified that we're being boarded soon,'' Nerys said matter-of-factly to the now bewildered Nalari. Kinan tapped the bot under the console to come out and started to fasten the panel back.

''Permission to speak, Commander?''

''We're not under battle-stations, Captain,'' Nerys stated and slid into her commander's chair. The Commander's non-urgent attitude about the matter put Kinan at ease almost as much as it didn't.

''We're being boarded, by whom?''

''The UIK is sending ships to get us off the Mars,'' Nerys answered, ''Make sure you notify the crew, I don't want a scuffle on the gate. And in case they do decide to be coy and explore the vessel, I want the systems locked out. There's a lot to the Mars that even the rats don't know, and we're already at a disadvantage that I'd rather not dwell on.''

Kinan activated her respirator again and wiped the grease from her pale blue skin, ''Understood, Commander. Erace!'' There was a bump elsewhere on the bridge as a man emerged covered in just as much grime.

''Aye, Captain?'' the engineer said while rubbing his head. He was nearly as tall as Nerys, and Nerys towered over most of her crew. He emptied his pockets of some tools onto a chair and came to the centre of the bridge. ''Oh, hey, Commander,'' he saluted though Nerys merely responded with a nod. She was resting her chin on her hand and was mulling over something as Erace focused his attention then to Kinan.

''Erace, I need you to find Navigator Roth and Admiral Dewitz and two runners. Send the runners down the ship to notify the crew we're being boarded and to not engage. They're friendlies. Dewitz and Roth need to report to the bridge, got it?'' Kinan said rather sternly. Erace affirmed her orders with a nod and hurried out of the bridge at a good jog.

''Commander, why are the Macks helping?'' Kinan asked now that the two were alone. Nerys looked up with her dull grey eyes, they were almost icy. Kinan had known the commander for about five years now, it wasn't often she had such a gaze. The commander was slow to anger or upset, like a small candle flame that always burned easily. Until it found something flammable.

''There's a number of nations helping us. Most of Sol, for that matter,'' Nerys said in her typical quiet, even tone. She glided from word to word carefully but it was obvious to the Captain that there was something more lurking under the surface of what seemed to be calm waters. Though she didn't need to ask what that was.

Nerys sat her hand down that was holding her chin up and adjusted in her seat then crossed her legs. ''The Sovereign is dead, the government is Mars knows where. It's looking like I'm the lone survivor,'' Nerys noted solemnly, almost like she was mourning. Kinan leaned against the console she had been working on and nudged the engineer bot to the side so she could face the commander.

''I don't quite follow, Commander.''

''We've no government, and it looks as though I may be the next Empress then,'' Nerys soured over the words as they left her. The commander was a military official first and foremost, perhaps too much of one, the very idea of politics seemed to sink in like a bitter poison than an opportunity others would leap at. Kinan didn't share the seeming despair that was churning under the commander's skin.

''Doesn't that make you the best for the job?''

''What do you mean?'' Nerys looked up at the Captain. Kinan slid off the console and shoved her hands in her pockets.

''You obviously don't want it, but you've respect and loyalty of your people, and you've served in the armed forces since the moment you could join. I'd wager that makes you more than an acceptable leader in my book,'' Kinan said cheerfully. Nerys didn't have time to respond before Dewitz had appeared, though Kinan's words seemed to have warmed the icy gaze the commander had.

''Admiral,'' Kinan saluted.

''They've entered the gate,'' Dewitz stated to Nerys. ''I've been told that you are first to leave the vessel, no questions asked. The crew understands and will stay back, my Sovereign.''

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New Dornalia
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Founded: Apr 27, 2005
Civil Rights Lovefest

Postby New Dornalia » Sat Oct 26, 2019 11:14 am

Somewhere near the Phoenixi Embassy
An hour before the Phoenixi Embassy attack
Laconia, Martian Conglomerate


A few things were constant in dealing with the Martian Conglomerate. One was the fact that it always seemed to have something going on. The controlled chaos that governed MarCong political life kept everyone from academics at the Martian Working Group in the State Department to Vegas oddsmakers looking for a quick buck very busy. This latest curveball--with full blown fratricidal power struggles in the streets--seemed to be both a logical conclusion and a shocking escalation in the ever-swirling vortex which was the MarCong.

It of course, was also a bit of a foreign policy nightmare for the Colonial Republic.

The CRE’s Embassy in Laconia took appropriate steps to fortify itself against the foe. “A” Squadron guards kept watch over the Embassy; non-essential staffers had been evacuated already. The only people who were there were those who needed to be there. Including a group of personnel quietly flown in without much notice.

***

Some distance from the fighting, a lone food truck--”Izzy and Sarah’s Pasta”--sat near the Domain’s Embassy to the MarCong. Not too close, obviously. Didn’t want to attract suspicion or be hit by stray gunfire.

Too many valuable persons and electronic gear onboard, after all.

If any of the warring factions or the civilians that got in the crossfire stopped to notice, the only thing they would notice would be the smell of Italian-American style red sauce, spaghetti aglio e olio being served into small disposable plates with disposable cutlery, and maybe the odd chicken parmesan sandwich cooking up in a small oven. Out of the speakers of the food truck, a bluesy, old tune began playing:

I'm a-talkin' 'bout the midnight rambler
Everybody got to go
Well I'm a-talkin' 'bout the midnight gambler
The one you never seen before
I'm sighin' down the wind so sadly
A-listen and you'll hear me moan
Well I'm a talkin' 'bout the midnight gambler
And everybody got to go
(Yeah c'mon)


An odd sight to see in the midst of a coup, but hey, someone had to keep people fed. And so, the young woman--Japanese, somewhat short, with a charming smile and jet black hair in a hime cut with eyeglasses along with a blazer, poloshirt, and knee length tartan skirt--was working the cash register and barked orders of all sorts. Spaghetti dinners. Baked Ziti with Red Sauce. Wafuu Pasta with a side of extra cod roe. So on.

Unusual, yes, but they were trying to comply as best as possible with the curfew and they had a job to do. Besides, no one was going to turn down a good ol’ spaghetti dinner now, were they?

In the midst of a lull, the young woman turned to the “kitchen staff” inside the truck. Sure, they were cooking all sorts of takes on pasta dishes. But they also could be seen tapping on small consoles and touchscreens, and they all had headsets on. Indeed, they seemed to be better at working the headsets than the pasta pots.

The Cashier Girl walked up to one of the men, working a fryer and a touchpad all at once, his left hand dancing about. Turning to the man, Cashier Girl poked him and asked, “How’s it going?”

Fryer Man looked at her, and said with a smile, “She’s frying up nicely, boss. Got several orders for sammiches coming down the pipe. Been taking orders all day. You know how it is.”

The Cashier Girl nodded, and said, “Great. Keep ‘em coming.” She then said with a wink, “Remember, we’ve got hungry customers. And they want more.”

The Fryer Man said with a grin, “Don’t I know it, boss.”

The Cashier Girl walked back to her station, and continued to take orders from the line lining up, satisfied with the response. It was one thing to gather results--it was another thing to report them in code. As it turned out, running a food truck provided plenty of euphemisms to use. As she took a guy’s order, her mind flashed back to how this all started….

***

Several Weeks Earlier
Postal Inspection Service HQ, Fullerton, CA, Earth SSR
Colonial Republic of Earth


“You want to do what, Inspector Nakamura?”

The question was delivered with a skeptical tone, and spoken in unison by all present inside the meeting room. The Cashier Girl--dressed in sensible slacks, a button up shirt with short sleeves and eyeglasses with her Postal Inspectors ID Badge on a lanyard around her neck, nodded and calmly looked at the assembled intelligence bigwigs. The Directors of the Postal Inspection Service, ERIS, Army Intelligence, Office of Naval Intelligence, and others had assembled in the room to hear this woman’s incredible plan.

She had expected this sort of reaction--it was a wild sort of plan after all.

Supervisory Inspector Nakamura, thank you, Mr. Director.” Unyielding, Nakamura then added, “And again, I want to begin setting up a SIGINT dragnet across Laconia. War is coming once more to the Martian Conglomerate, and frankly, I think that we’ve got an intelligence black hole over there that needs patching.” Leaning forward, Nakamura tapped the table and went, “Now, look. I know we got a Martian Working Group here tearing its hair out and filing psych claims trying to ascertain the motives and methods of what seems to be a protean, ever unpredictable nation-state. I think that instead of futzing around and worrying and guessing, we increase the amount of assets we have in country and get a bead on them.”

The Secretary of State was the first one to speak. He leaned forward, and with a healthy degree of skepticism and a distinct lack of patience, asked sternly:

“By using food trucks, janitors, electronics salespeople, strung out IT jockeys and maid cafes?

Supervisory Inspector Nakamura then retorted with. “Yes, Mr. Secretary. Food trucks park near government offices and important places, where bureaucrats and military types gather. Wouldn’t be hard to read their phones, gain wireless access to sensitive systems, so on. We have the technologies and capability. Janitors can get into sensitive structures and plant wiretaps and compromised electronic equipment which can broadcast to our people. Electronics sales people can sell spare parts and other things to people we want them to be sold to, so we can sneak in hardware innocently without batting an eye. IT jockeys can go in and upload compromised software and keyloggers, so we can know when JoeBob MarConger decides to look up neko hentai and also what sort of sensitive orders he’s been given to transcribe. And finally, meido cafes so we can seduce people and use sleight of hand to get our things that much deeper into the MarCong networks.”

Tapping a stack of papers on her index finger, she went, “It’s detailed in my report, gathered using all known intelligence we’ve got on the MarCong.”

A murmur went up in the room, and for a few minutes people chattered nervously before the Director of the Postal Inspection Service coughed and went, “Gentlemen! Ladies! Please. One at a time.”

The murmur died down, but then, Nadine Huntleigh-MacIntyre, Director of ERIS, spoke. Her affected Translatlantic accent boomed through the room, and made her assessment that much forceful.

“This all seems more than a little optimistic, Madame Supervisory Inspector. I mean, it’s a noble plan--it is an ambitious plan. But it is one which makes a lot of assumptions. Are you sure this plan will work? Martian Civil Defense is a rather robust organization, and they will likely be wise to any tricks and intelligence gambits.”

Nakamura said, “I grant that CivDef is well-versed in counterintelligence operations. However, I have also accounted for that in my report through means such as using certain operations to misdirect the CivDef, and also deliberately feeding them misinformation through certain “janitors” and “meido cafe workers” to throw them off our scent. Preferably we’ll use cutouts from the MarCong to do this, because they don’t trust foreigners much.”

The Directors looked to one another, and then, the Director of PIS sent Nakamura out of the room with a simple, “Give us a fifteen minutes, please.”

Fifteen minutes later, Nakamura found the Directors a receptive bunch. With a smile and good cheer, the Director of PIS said simply, “Congratulations. Operation Pablum Dongle is go. You’ll be given full access to ERIS assets in the MarCong as well as anything else in the intelligence and law enforcement communities. ERIS, other Postal Inspectors, Army and Navy Intelligence, Marine Corps Intelligence Support Activity, State Department….you need it we have it. But we want results. You’re going to bring them to us.”

The Director of PIS then shoved a paper into Nakamura’s hand.

“You’re leaving on the first diplomatic shuttle to Laconia, tomorrow, 0800. Don’t be late.”

***

Around the Time of the Martian Embassy attack

..”Uh, Ma’am? MA’AM!”

Nakamura then woke up and saw a distracted, annoyed MCA soldier in front of her with a puzzled expression and went, “Sorry. Long day. You wanted the--”

“Chicken parmesan.”

“Right, sorry. One chicken parm, coming right up!”

As Nakamura took the money and handed the man his chicken parm, Nakamura reflected on the state of play so far. She had thought the keyloggers and exploit-users and other programs and taps that were cooked up Dornieside would be detected by Civil Defense for sure. And yet, as Nakamura glanced down at her Do Anything Device--the sarcastic nickname for the smartphones which the Postal Inspectors issued their people--she saw all sorts of dispatches coming in. Guncam footage. Transcripts of orders being given. Data on movements and so on. And plus, all sorts of comms traffic from the major megacorporations. Cashier Girl wrinkled her nose for a second. It had all been a bit too easy. Who was to say that whoever was working cybersecurity for the various megacorps and CivDef didn’t pick up on the surveillance programs? Perhaps her misdirection plot had been working. Perhaps CivDef was too busy with the war to care if someone was eavesdropping on them.

Either way, it was a tense game, and not as tasty as the red sauce cuisine would suggest. In between taking orders, she spoke briefly and in food-code with the “kitchen staff”. There had been a few close calls. But nothing major just yet. She had warned them also in food code to keep safe and sane. No one needed to be exposed.

A text came through on Nakamura’s Do Anything Device. It was from one of the other operatives working the PABLUM DONGLE mission. Dressed in a frilly maid outfit and giving a cutesy peace sign, the text from the individual only known as RONALDA said simply, “We’ve had to stop Omurice deliveries. Gracchus!MarCongs and Loyal!MarCongs are exchanging fire near our shop. We’ve broken down the equipment and cleaned up the place. Setting up popup restaurant elsewhere in area. Will keep you posted.”

Nakamura nodded, taking some more orders. You couldn’t win them all, and indeed, RONALDA’s situation proved that this was a real warzone. Agents couldn’t afford to be swept up in the violence. They were just there to observe and report. Then again, that was easier said than done. Of course, the pounding of explosions and the “boom boom boom” of warfare in the distance didn’t ease the paranoia either. No one could tell if a stray bit of gunfire would miss the PABLUM DONGLE operatives gathering intelligence or not.

As she served a plate of wafuu pasta to a hungry MCA soldier, a few blasts could be heard, and the man grabbed his rifle, saying, “I’ll be back!” Running away with his pasta, he left some money to pay for the food. Putting the money in her register, Nakamura soon saw the whole host of MCA fighters run away, as the sounds of gunfire and other activity break out aggressively in the distance.

One of the Kitchen Staff looked up and said out loud, “Some of those shots don’t sound MarCong.”

Nakamura raised an eyebrow.

“Well, shit. Things just got interesting.”

Nakamura knew something important was going on, for sure. And, curiosity demanded she get a bit closer. So, she walked over to the truck’s driver--a young woman with multicolored hair, facial features that mixed German, Anglo-Canadian and Japanese all together, with a name that matched along with aviator sunglasses--Inspector Colleen Ayatsuji-Stolze. She was sitting down, nervously in the driver’s seat, looking for any signs of danger. Now, she had found some. She looked up at the Cashier Girl and said, “We going? Those explosions sound awful close.”

Nakamura said with a crazed grin, “Yeah. We’re going closer to those explosions.”

Colleen raised an eyebrow.

“You better not--”

Nakamura nodded and said, holding her hand out, “Okay, not too close. But we are moving closer. We need to figure out what’s going on. See what you can do.”

So, Colleen shrugged, and the sign went up on the truck which read “BE BACK IN A FEW!” The warning to the Kitchen Staff went out, and everyone secured the kitchen in the back, to prevent things like spills and so on from ruining the Staff and the food. The music was turned off, leaving only gunfire and the eerie, deafening silence of a city tearing itself apart for company.

Then, the truck began its movements, slowly but surely. Colleen kept an eye out for a few tense moments as she drove at a slow speed for safety’s sake. Her eyes darted quickly, as she drove through the blasted hellscape. Pushing onwards, Ayatsuji-Stolze tapped her sunglasses, throwing up a HUD and the odd thermal sensor to detect any movement. Heads were on swivels, and paranoia was in the air.

Nakamura leapt into the passenger seat, and began tapping a touchscreen on the console, activating some passive sensors which would sweep for mines and armed forces ripping into one another. So far, so good. Still, Nakamura kept her hand ready to reach for the glovebox. A .30 Carbine Ruger Blackhawk seemed positively quaint, but with the kind of ammunition the ERIS personnel gave her it would do damage far beyond its originally designed parameters.

Then, the sensors lit up with activity. And it didn’t take long for Nakamura to see and hear what it was. The sounds of violence coming from the Phoenixi compound. The sight of drones swarming outwards to handle MarCong from across the street--Staff intel indicated they were MCN, not the MCA bastards which decided to test the concept of diplomatic immunity.

Looking around, Nakamura nodded and said, “Right. Pull us over somewhere safe. I’ll get us selling again.”

And so, things began again, as Nakamura mused out loud, “Good thing that trooper paid us before he left with his food.”

***
Dornalian Embassy, Laconia

In the meanwhile, a group of men and women were busy gathering the information received by the various PABLUM DONGLE operatives. Fed through encrypted channels and VPNs to a variety of proxies and different IP addresses and other means to evade detection, the signals would eventually get to the Embassy, with their incriminating inteligence in tow.

It was here that the Ambassador as well as the ERIS Chief of Station nodded and seemed impressed with the details. The information being presented here by the various participants of PABLUM DONGLE--Postal Inspectors/ERIS/Marine Corps Intelligence Support Activity, etc.--was astonishingly broad, and astonishingly informative. An intelligence coup like it was never seen before ...especially since it also revealed any number of things, like what happened to the Domain’s Embassy.

Supervisory Inspector Nakamura’s plan was working.

The Ambassador said simply, “Get this shit together, and get it to our people. I think they’re going to want to see this.”
"New Dornalia, a living example of anomalous civilizations."-- Phoenix Conclave
"Your nation has always been ridiculous. But it's endearing."--Skaugra
"It's a magical place where chinese cowboys ply the star lanes to extract vast wealth from trade, where NORINCO isn't just an arms company, but an evil bond villain type conglomerate that hides in other nations. Where the apocalypse happened, and everyone went "huh, that's neat" and then got back to having catgirls and starships."-- Olimpiada
"...why am I space China, and I don't have actual magic animals, and you're space USA, and you do? This seems like a mistake." --Roania, during a discussion on wildlife.

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Sunset
N&I RP Mentor
 
Posts: 3595
Founded: Antiquity
Civil Rights Lovefest

Postby Sunset » Sat Oct 26, 2019 11:19 am

Anseris Army Base, The Martian Conglomerate, Mars, Sol System…

“...however you have to do it,” General Greenstone growled, his great slab of a face twisted into an angry snarl over the collar of his uniform, “do it. I want every hard line cut, every radio turned off. Put an axe through the power supply if you have to. Until we’re certain there’s no way in or out, I don’t want anyone to even think about trying to bring the network back up!”

It didn’t take more than that to get the small knot of junior officers who’d congealed together around the command center’s situation table scuttling off like crabs. Not that they’d have much to do if they were to just stand there gaping like goldfish; most of the screens and even the table itself was dark and those that were not were on the fritz, either a cascade of static or some weirdly obnoxious meme that looped itself every couple of minutes. The only light in the place was a dull, aching red - provided by the emergency generators that someone had had the foresight to leave disconnected from the base’s tactical network.

Something had been playing merry hell inside that same network since earlier that day and the General’s blood pressure had just about reached the boiling point. Comms were down, the base’s sensor network was down… Anything that relied on the so-called ‘advanced’ tactical network was now playing its own tune. Greenstone was canny and well-read though; he’d pushed men out to the perimeter to patrol and report back with their own eyeballs while he’d kept the surface-to-orbit batteries that were the base’s main outward sign of readiness moving so at least they looked like they were still active.

Panic would have been a sure invitation to disaster.

He’d also sent runners to the nearby cities and towns - spies, really - with instructions to find out just what was happening out there and the news wasn’t good. Looting, rioting, civil insurrection. Just the kind of thing the MCA would have been deployed to handle if they could have been deployed at all. Right now the bulk of his personnel were tied up just making sure they knew what was happening from the base to the horizon. Cut the hard lines, isolate the base network, restore from backups - then he’d be able to do something...

“...Sir!” A door had burst open behind him but he’d ignored it. If there weren’t immediate gunshots it was likely another harried officer or one of the Privates they were using as runners coming or going with the haste he expected of them. 

“General Greenstone, Sir!” the voice repeated, this time louder and more specific as rapid bootsteps indicated she was coming up quick from behind. He spun to find himself towering over one of the aforementioned Privates, a homely-looking girl who still managed to look like she could bench-press the brick shithouse she otherwise resembled. She was wearing her armor but not her helmet, her short chopped hair running slick with sweat and her breathing still hard.

“What is it, Private?” he demanded, the other officers who’d been gathered around the old-fashioned situation table looking up at the intrusion.

“Sir! Urgent communication from Major Benefits in the yard! Sir!” she actually snapped off a salute, “Someone’s here to see you!”

“Then where are they?” he asked annoyed, looking past the soldier to the door. If they had made their way all the way out to Anseris - in this chaos - he’d expect them to at least make the trip down into the subterranean command bunker.

“They’re outside, Sir! They’re… Uh…” she stammered - she actually stammered and in front of her commanding General no less, “They’re in a tank, Sir. The Major said I should come tell you.”

“A tank?!” His voice was a roar. “Who was it? General McDowell? Colonel Rice? I wouldn’t be surprised;” the first was Greenstone’s equal and it wouldn’t be impossible that he’d made the trek to Anseris in order to work out some strategy between the two for taking command of the current chaos. Rice though… He was a little shit who’d paid for his commission and hadn’t yet found a battle he could win without taking twice as many casualties as the other guy.

“I didn’t catch his name, Sir - Captain something…”

“A Captain? Commanding his General’s attention?” Greenstone’s hand was already on his armored jacket and he headed towards the door in a rage. “He’ll be washing toilets by the time I’m done with him!”

Like a great ship under steam, he barreled back through the same door she’d come through, each step as he plowed along through the half-maze of tunnels and hallways building up a steady supply of curses that he’d bring raining down on the man’s head. Even the steady climb up the ladder to the surface access shaft did little to slow his anger and by the time the two soldiers who were guarding the exterior access hatch had snapped off their required salutes before opening the door he’d concocted a history for the man that reached all the way back to his emergence in a truck stop toilet to his whore of a dying mother. 

The door swung open, he stepped outside into the brisk Martian air, and his jaw clamped tight enough to cut steel.

It wasn’t his tank. In fact, he knew exactly what it was; two spread pontoons tipped with curved teeth supported a chassis and rounded turret between them, the whole thing floating solidly just a meter or so off the ground. At the front of the turret and facing directly towards him were two great black eyes, each as wide an oval as he was tall, while more half-dome emitters flanked these to either side. It was a god-damned Nimatojin Typhoon-Type and it was not alone, with several more staged out around the yard as well as others of a type he didn’t recognize.

There were also soldiers - Marines - in power armor standing, sitting, or in some cases leaning here and there, as casual as one could be despite the good number of his own troops pointing every weapon they could at them. Interspersed among both the titanic warmachines were other, smaller vehicles that he recognized as the Republic’s version of an armored infantry fighting vehicle while a dozen things that might be called aircraft drifted low overhead, their weapon spars moving and sliding as they continued their erratic circling.

“Major…” Greenstone didn’t get a chance to berate his inferior officer for whatever manner of fuck-up this was. Instead the cupola hatch of the closest tank swung open with a ‘clang’ and a head emerged, topped with a shock of annoyingly orange hair and wearing a Republic Defense Force uniform emerged to lean obnoxiously over the edge of the hatch, a grin stretching from one side of his Irish face to the other. There was a carrot in one hand and as he settled into place, he took a bite and chewed it quickly before calling out; “Hey Bub - which way is it to Albuquerque?”

General Greenstone stared at him, his breath coming hot and heavy through his nose and the rage rising red in his cheeks, “Who are you?” he demanded, shouting up at the smaller figure, “What do you want?”

“...they weren’t here and then they were,” a voice - Major Benefits - offered from the side while the Captain finished chewing. Greenstone spared him a withering glance; “Very useful, Colonel…” As if to say he might not hold the rank much longer. Both he and his adjutant were sheltered - if such a thing were possible - inside a concrete pillbox beside the hatch, along with a group of regulars who were nervously pointing their rifles and squad machine guns at the intruders.

“Captain Hurley, Republic Marines. I’m here at the… Well, let’s call it the ‘invitation’ of Grand Admiral Nerys. Might be Empress now. Anyway, she mentioned something about how you all here might need to be reminded of where your loyalties lay and well…” his shit-eating grin somehow grew wider. “Element of surprise and all. So - Surprise! Now, what’s it going to be, General?”

He took another bite of the carrot and began to chew it slowly, almost expectantly.

“Are you and the soldiers under your command going to reaffirm their loyalty to the Empress? Or…” None of the armored figures lounging around moved even slightly but there was a strange breeze of anticipation that suddenly ran through the yard, “Will there be fighting to do today? If it will help settle your decision, there’s a whole regiment of Praksian Hamsters sitting out past the horizon, oh,” he gestured vaguely with the carrot, “That-away.”
Last edited by Sunset on Sat Oct 26, 2019 1:18 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Quick Overview: Future-Tech, Extra-Solar, Multi-Species, Republic, Renewable Capitalist
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Tarasovka
Chargé d'Affaires
 
Posts: 366
Founded: Antiquity
Capitalist Paradise

Postby Tarasovka » Sun Oct 27, 2019 3:39 am

Past the Horizon, Anseris Army Base, The Martian Conglomerate, Mars, Sol System…

The “Praksan Hamsters” as Captain Hurley quite eloquently described them, were indeed hamsters. Well, sapient “hambils” from the planet Praksa-Prima-4 and the whole concept of Taraskovyans employing Praksans as combatants came as a result of a series of events and unintended consequences that led to the present situation as it was. Sapient “hambils” organized into the Knights of Praksa, or the “Hamster Space Marines” as the Solntseskhod (Nimatojin) affectionately called them.

It all began when the Taraskovyans, after discovering Praksa, established the first contact with the medieval-age sapient hamster-like denizens of the planet that dwelled in vast underground tunnels and caves forming entire cities and kingdoms and other polities. The reason why the Taraskovyans made the first contact was because aside from the hamsters, there were traces of an older and more technologically advanced civilization on the planet that somehow vanished. Of course, after quite some research, even more interesting things were uncovered about the precursor civilizations, but that is somewhat irrelevant to the point of the Knights of Praksa.

The point is that at some point Teerathe Soint Kweedrat Menek, Sixteenth Prince of Karaboomer (sixteenth being that he was the sixteenth son of the King of Karaboomer, but the exact titles are subject to discussion as of course the hamsters didn’t really follow Earth medieval customs in peerage), who was quite a smart and cunning little fellow, suggested to the TNDF to carry out a single strike at a specific location on the planet on a specific night at a specific time. It would apparently help convince all of the polities that the Taraskovyans were there to be listened to and respected.

The TNDF scanned the area, made sure that it was indeed a desert location with nothing there, and, after shrugging and deciding it wouldn’t hurt, carried out the limited fireworks at the specified time on the specified night. They didn’t know back then that through this they fulfilled the ages old prophecy common among many polities and many Praksans about the coming of the Bdysch-Babakh, the God of Fire. It worked marvelously, nearly all the polities accepted the Taraskovyans as their new overlords and went back to living the way they lived before, because obviously the Taraskovyans did not meddle much in the affairs of subterranean medieval hamster kingdoms doing their own things.

But there was an unintended consequences, it kickstarted the cult equaling the Taraskovyan Vasilevs to the Bdysch-Babakh, making His Most August Majesty overnight the fearsome fire deity of an ever growing lot of fanatical worshippers. The same fanatical worshippers that started a campaign of often violent struggle against the established religions of Praksa.

“Whoops! Well, we need to do something about that,” said one Taraskovyan assigned to the oversight of Praksa as he read through the reports of upheavals and commotions.

And so after a brainstorming it was decided to give the fanatics what they wanted, the blessing of their God of Fire (God-Vasilevs of Hambilkind, as the Taraskovyans jokingly referred to the notion) and make them into the Knights of Praksa. A militarized body of power-armor clad warriors at the service of the Vasilevs, enforcing his rule on Praksa in a very strict and disciplined manner, and also doing his will across the Galaxy where required. Those worshippers that agreed to it were filed off into the Knights, those worshippers that disagreed were labeled as heretics and soon the “disciplined” part of the Worship of the Fire Deity overtook all matters over the cult and there was again relative peace and far less commotion on Praksa.

This, in turn, led to other unintended consequences. First of all, how do you turn a 25cm-30cm tall bipedal hamster into a heavily armed and armoured sodding warmachine? Simple answer: put them into power armor! Complex answer: a completely new approach had to be taken to design a power armor concept specific to the hamsters that would make sense.

It was quickly decided to not retrofit the human-sized power armor concepts (for a Praksan hamster, that would be like a ‘mecha’) and instead actually scale it down. So it was done and the hamster power armor was obviously smaller in scale. The basic outline done, another issue was that given the smaller size, the armor was comparatively lighter, and so the Taraskovyans miniaturized their power supply and shield generators, made them more efficient and integrated it into the armor. It goes without saying that this miniaturization also then helped the human-sized concepts by making them in turn more efficient, the unintended domino effect leading to a butterfly effect throughout the TNDF.

Then came the point of how you’d arm them. Kinetic weaponry was considered, but given the reduced size, it was discarded in favour of energy weapons. And then someone during a brainstorming session said: “And what if they spit their own Sun out of their armor like the angels of the God of Fire that they are, purging the infidels or whatever? I mean, we anyway already remotely transport stellar energy for civilian needs, could do that for combat purposes!” A couple seconds of silence later, some nods and shrugs and an hour brainstorming that followed, the Taraskovyans got to working on this.

And so, the Praksan Hamster Space Marines did not have hand-held weapons. At all. Their hands were free to grapple things or whatever the individual combatant thought wise to do. Instead, their whole suit was their weapon. When left without a “remote charger”, the suit contained enough energy charge to spit out highly concentrated bursts of energy at the targets for a couple hours long intensive encounter after which the Knight would be encouraged to courageously strengthen the elastic front by backing up the secondary allied lines (in short: fly away back to friendly positions as quickly as possible). Indeed, the suits were also outfitted to support long range jumps and limited flight.

But once a “remote charger” was in range, oh boy, the Knights became the Angels of the Fiery God that they loved to be. The individual combatant would, with assistance from the power armor’s advanced software, identify targets, take a shot, the results would be analyzed and if the first shot did not cause irreparable damage by evaporating all liquid out of the body or by simply turning the body into an ash statue to be blown away by wind, then the second burst would contain the sufficient energy to do just that. The weapons system was polyvalent for both anti-personnel and anti-materiel use.

The design did present an issue when particularly sophisticated energy dissipating devices were used and it was theoretically possible for the Knights to not have a sufficient capacity to oversaturate such energy dissipating devices and evaporate the target. But, the Knights were basically heavy infantry, their job was not to win wars all alone, they were but one tool the Taraskovyans had in their arsenal, and they were, for all intents and purposes, more of a wildcard than a gear in a well oiled machine. A vanity that could burn stuff down in no time.

So in between the energy weaponry, the physical armor, the various shielding systems built in, the individual Knight was quite a battlefield terror to behold, despite his or her small comparative size. But Knights were never deployed individually, they were always deployed as part of a chain of supply that included automated remote chargers, themselves connected to bigger devices that fed the stellar energy of Praksa-Secunda into the Knights’ weapons systems. The Knights were also supported by automated missile and kinetic weapons platforms to augment their firepower on the battlefield and give them more versatility against other threats. And, of course, also defensive platforms, barrier-generating platforms, automated armoured personnel carrier equivalents. The hamsters themselves piloted only their power armor, the vehicles were always automated. There was a specific reason for the hamsters being confined to their personal armors, but this is irrelevant for the present story.

So when Captain Hurley mentioned the regiment of “Praksian Hamsters” he meant the 12th “Lance of Fiery Retribution” Knights Regiment, 745 hamsters strong, augmented as described above with all sorts of offensive and defensive things. Redeployed from the Frontier Territory bordering on the frozen wastelands of the Martian Southern Pole to Cimmeria and then “over the horizon” to support Captain Hurley, placed under the Solntseskhod (Nimatojin) overall command to support the effort to secure the Anseris Base.

The TNDF of course offered some more conventional assets to support the RDF, but the Solntseskhod decided that the Martians might have a stronger will to fight against human opponents in regular formations. Hambil Space Marines would be pretty much a novelty to them, which could make the Martians dubious on whether they wanted to engage things they were not sure about in a situation of chaos and confusion.

It made sense in a way, and so the 12th Knights Regiment was displaced from their positions in the Frontier Territory in an instant to Cimmeria, then forward deployed onto Martian Congolerate soil. If things went badly, the hamsters would be in no time supporting Captain Hurley. If things went well, then there may be further assignments to them.
Last edited by Tarasovka on Sun Oct 27, 2019 1:49 pm, edited 3 times in total.
Links: Nation Maintenance Thread and various Bits and Pieces

INCORRECT SPELLING - DOES NOT EXIST:
Adjective: Tarasovkan

CORRECT SPELLING:
Noun: Taraskovya (formal, high flown) ; Tarasovka (routine)
Adjective: Taraskovyan

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Lady Scylla
Post Marshal
 
Posts: 15487
Founded: Nov 22, 2015
New York Times Democracy

Postby Lady Scylla » Mon Oct 28, 2019 11:02 am

''Osiris One in position.'' The small band of soldiers had positioned themselves on the north side of the Anseris Army Base and taken to the ground with their optical camouflage and jamming equipment. The majority of the Army had already vacated the post in preparation for their assault on Laconia, and while the war waged to their south, Osiris was tasked to bring it to them and neutralise the post.

Sergeant Miles, who was in charge of Osiris One was the point man in their position. He peered through a set of binoculars but kept his rifle close at hand. They had found themselves behind a small dune overlooking the base and proving perfect for forward observation. It gave them defilade and allowed Miles' men to rest after their journey.

They had trekked on foot across the Plains of Anseris westward from the city of Toscana to avoid detection. Normally, Osiris remained inactive but orders had apparently arrived from the highest point of command. In all, the Osiris Special Operations Force was comprised of three teams numbering about six each. Sergeant Miles was in charge of One, Staff Sergeant Wu was in charge of Two, and Gunnery Sergeant McConnelly was in charge of Three.

Above their heads was Master Sergeant Alighieri as their NCO, and Lieutenant Raidan as their CO. Both were embedded in Osiris Three. Unlike Miles' and Wu's teams, Three was most often tasked with infiltration and exfiltration of the other teams and thus did not join in ground operations. Now above Lt. Raidan was a matter of debate, but the politics really didn't matter much to the guys on the ground. They had a job to do.

''Osiris Two in position.'' The preparation phase had begun and Miles called up Corporal Levy. Levy carefully crawled from the centre of the prone grouping and situated himself just shy of the dune but close enough to the sergeant to hear. Miles pocketed his binoculars and closed his visor then slid back to Levy.

''Corporal, you got the case?'' Miles asked, Levy nodded and unhooked a hard-case off his leg and passed it over. The sergeant examined it but dared not open the thing. He peered down at the other four of his team which had taken up security on their flanks and rear. ''Gillepsie, get up here,'' Miles waved. Gillepsie was another corporal though officially under Levy.

She flicked the safety on her weapon and carefully made her way to them, positioning herself just below Levy and Miles. ''Levy, take this,'' Miles said while handing the hard-case back to him. He peered down at Gillepsie and opened his visor, ''Corporal, I need you to head along this dune. There should be a small gulch just north of our position. Report back to me what you find, got it?''

It was a rhetorical question, Gillepsie knew that and so she just nodded and pulled her own visor down before setting out. Miles peaked over the dune towards the base to see if there was any change in activity but there hadn't been. ''Sure this thing is safe, Sergeant?'' Levy asked as he tapped on the case. Miles wiped his face of sweat and rolled over on his back.

''Never carried around a warhead before, Levy-boy?'' Miles chuckled softly and gave the corporal a reassuring pat. ''It's heavily shielded in that thing which is why it needs to stay closed up until we get into position. Not even someone in orbit is going to detect that thing. Just don't trip,'' Miles grinned and rolled back over to take another peak over the dune.

***


Gillepsie had remained low to the ground in a half-crouched fashion as she navigated the length of the dune. She had her rifle in-hand and was using her left hand to steady herself along the smooth sand and coarse dirt. The dune grew larger, roughly about twice her size and shielded her from any observation by the base. She used a rear-facing camera to peer back at her unit which already had turned to specks without zooming in.

It was one of the few wonders of their technology suite. Inside her visor was plenty of data being displayed both on screen and optically through wired implants to her eyes. She had a wider field of view with cameras embedded on the outside of her helmet that tracked movement and made adjustments to images with the help of a personal AI to fill a picture of her surroundings.

Her helmet came equipped with a variety of light modes, giving her full range from Infrared all the way to Ultraviolet spectra that could be quickly switched through manually or automatically adjust. Echolocation sensors were embedded throughout her hardsuit that could ping the environment and then be translated into a virtual rendering for her. Seismic sensors in her boots could detect movement to a certain range. The visor also displayed other information such as her ammunition, targeting acquisition, threat assessments, friendlies, and biometrical data.

She was trained to always aim with her rifle as if she was using its ironsights. In reality, this was rarely required but dictated merely by reflex and training. Cameras and sensors in her firearm, her hardsuit, and her augments allowed the AI in her head to assist her in targeting combatants. She was trained to work with these systems so that they could improve her abilities. They were not a replacement for what she could do, and that was drilled into her head like all the others that joined the Martian military. But regardless, this was the Martian soldier, a fusion that blurred the lines of humanity.

She pressed on until she had reached the gulch and swung her rifle along its length both ways. She zoomed in on the feature and followed it all the way to Anseris AB. Small squares appeared in her vision showing what her hardsuit could make out to be some sort of entrenchments and fortified positions with flak guns and so on. But there weren't any signs of life besides her out here.

A motion sensor went off and she was pulled away from her observations to face down the other side of the small gulch. Private Lin was perched on the adjacent dune and gave a wave to her. She opened her visor and signalled to him to cross. Her visor came back down as she stared down the gulch while he made his transit but there was still no change. Lin hit the sand next to her and huffed a sigh, his face was covered in grime and sweat.

''Team Two sent me down to check the gulch, I'm guessing you got the same order?'' he asked and set his rifle to his side. He unlocked his gauntlets and gloves and slid them off to take a moment and feel the cool breeze. Gillepsie slid behind the dune and wiped some dirt off the magazine of her rifle. She settled on her legs and laid it across her lap.

''Miles wanted to see if there was anyone here. Place is pretty dead,'' she noted. She pulled her canteen and took a few drinks before handing it off to the private who used a little to wash his face and then gratefully took a drink himself. The breeze cooled his face and so he leaned into the dune and closed his eyes to take a moment to enjoy the rest.

He spoke up quietly, ''I heard that this order came down from Admiral Nerys herself. Talk about the Big Wigs dropping shit on us.''

''Supreme Commander,'' Gillepsie corrected, ''And she isn't a 'big wig'. Nerys signed up and worked her way up through the ranks like the rest of us.'' A soured expression crossed the corporal's face at the comparison. She rose to her feet and asked for her canteen back which Lin relinquished regrettably. ''Go tell Team Two that we're clear, I'm making my way back as well.''

***


Miles looked over at the sight of his corporal returning. He eagerly awaited her report on the gulch and slid down the dune so she didn't need to climb it to tell him. ''It's all clear,'' she said to the sergeant who was still gripping binoculars in his hands. It was a sign of good news, he had been watching the base while she was away and new developments had put them into a difficult position.

''That's good, though we've got company,'' he nodded to her. She crawled up to the height of the dune with the sergeant in tow and they both looked out over the flatland. Armour had arrived bearing the colours of the Taraskovyans and Sunsetti or Nimatojin as they called themselves. It was not a welcome sight in the slightest, but it provided quite a bit of detail to Miles.

The pair slid back behind cover as Miles fumbled with his binoculars. Sand had gotten into one of the joints and was keeping it from closing. ''Why are the Sunsetti and Taras here?'' Gillepsie asked. Miles didn't seem to have an answer, but what he could answer made quite the difference on their mission.

''Dunno. But them being able to approach the base like that tells me its systems are down. Probably came under a cyber-attack or something. Does make our jobs both easier and more complicated. I kept wondering why the place was quiet, it's low staffed because of the assault on the capital but even still..'' he muttered, ''I need to get into contact with Osiris Three to get a sit-rep. We're under orders to plant this thing at all cost, so I'm unsure if the Taras and Sunnies are here as friends or what.''

''If we plant the device and it goes off, it's going to take out the Sunsetti and Taraskovyans,'' Levy noted to the affirmation of the sergeant.

''Yeeep. Could start another war, if we're not already at war. Right now, we need to stay low and undetected. Have Parker deploy an overhead for us, Levy,'' Miles ordered and so Levy slid down to go grab Parker. Miles then looked at Gillepsie, ''I need you to rejoin security. We'll hold this position until I get word about what's going on.'' She nodded and followed Levy down.

Miles pulled a small device from a leg pouch and stuck it in the ground. It extended upward about a foot and deployed a few very tiny antennae. He looked down and watched as Parker and Levy deployed a tripod in between their formation. They attached lines and pulled them out from the tripod to cover the group. Parker was then hard at work on a small hand-held before the device finally deployed. From above they essentially vanished as it shrouded them. Miles slide down the dune to get under the optical cover and with his peer-to-peer node in place and sent out a message to Osiris Three. Now they just needed to wait.

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Lady Scylla
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New York Times Democracy

Postby Lady Scylla » Tue Oct 29, 2019 1:25 pm

2157
Twenty Years Ago



Dull was the sky as the sun slipped beneath the horizon casting Laconia in a pale and ever-waning light. People had begun their home-bound commutes from work and filled the streets with their chatter and vehicles. Street lamps buzzed to life and buildings went dark. Vendors hastily prepared quick and overpriced meals for the hungry. Diners and night-shops illuminated the hazy streets with large neon signs. Lines began to form at clubs and the pounding of music inside added to the ever growing noise of Laconia's nightlife.

The great neon city had taken its namesake. The towering skyline displayed holographic advertisements and lit the clouds from beneath like a great fire. The sounds of ships entering the atmosphere or leaving became ominous as their silhouettes disappeared completely into the creeping dark. Businessmen, panhandlers, workers, drug-addicts, prostitutes and mangy animals shared the streets at night.

At long last, the long rays of sunlight had vanished and the world was plunged into the obsidian grip of a cool night. The once large crowds trickled until the roads were little more than empty space filled only with trash and those who had nowhere to go. It was here that a lone figure navigated a crosswalk with her bike. She had travelled far but was almost at her destination.

Her jet black, choppy cut hair was barely visible under her grey hood. She had rolled her sleeves up her forearms and a variety of bracelets dangled from her wrists. Calmly she walked with her bike without a care over the quiet nor the night and its many shadows. She marvelled at store shop windows with shelves stocked with food or wares.

She turned off the once busy commercial streets and unto the access point leading to Fujita District. Fujita sat on an island separated from Laconia's other districts and was mainly accessible by the Ishida Bridge, though other causeways did cross the mighty waters of the Ruelle as it dumped into the Hellas Sea. The district was not as luminous nor highly regarded as the rest of the capital. Home to refugees and the downtrodden, Fujita had a crime rate well beyond that of the Republic as a whole. Buildings within were not as well cared for with broken streets and shifty figures.

The bridge itself was mainly empty save for the guards that manned Ishida's checkpoint. They were the barrier between Fujita and 'civilised' life that the socialites of Laconia considered themselves. Already, the nation had been at war for four years and everyday foreign refugees poured into Fujita Terminal looking for a new life. What they'd find were slums, exhaustive work, low pay, and scorn by the privileged.

''Identification, please,'' one of the guards called out as the young woman approached. Two of them were staffed on the side of the bridge she was crossing with a large gate and warning signs about the checkpoints and its security measures. A searchlight activated and blinded her as she handed off her shard. A quick scan of her credentials showed her past arrest records, mostly for small things like thieving and fighting. The guard made no reaction to it as the system cleared her.

He handed back the shard and she reinserted it into the back of her neck. ''Proceed,'' the man said while the gate opened. She passed through the checkpoint and as the gate closed, was greeted with the unlit side of the bridge. She stopped by the railing and rested her bike on the cracked sidewalk and then peered over the edge at the Ruelle. Its shimmering dark waters seemed tranquil but she knew they weren't. The river often claimed lives with its strong undercurrent. She'd almost drowned once or twice daring the frigid depths herself. She gathered her bike and set off once again towards home.

***


The young woman arrived at her apartment where she lived with her father. Trash and beer cans littered the walkway to the alley where she stashed her bike. She managed the steps to her door and keyed herself in. Her father was resting on the couch asleep but was startled at the slam of the door and the sound of footsteps. And like a torrent he swept in to the hall.

''Where's my beer?'' he demanded. She said nothing and hung her hoody on the crooked pegs that were screwed into the wall. He asked again and got in her face, the stench of alcohol being enough to drown a person.

''I didn't get any,'' she answered. The man's face gradually began to redden and she swore his blood pressure was practically audible as he flicked her on the head.

''What do you mean you didn't get any? I told you several times to find some. What about Jake?''

''He said he's not getting you anymore beer and I nearly got caught stealing it.''

''Caught? Are you that fuckin' worthless? What the hell is wrong with you? No wonder your mother decided to die giving birth to such a pathetic little shit. You're going to go back out there to get me beer, you got it!?'' She balled her fists up and looked down at the floor as he spoke. She could feel the world sinking around her as he flung insults. At times she didn't know why she always came back, but where could she possibly go?

''Are you listening to me!?'' he backhanded her with a sickening crack. She hit the wall with a thud and then the floor. The air had been torn from her on impact as she struggled to get a good breath and climbed to her feet. Her father was standing with a belt already in-hand and swung it at her, hitting her in the arm as she tried to block it. ''Get the fuck out and don't come back til you've got beer you worthless shit!''

He chased her out of the house and she sprinted across the lawn, his shouts not stopping at the door as he cracked his belt in the night air. She didn't stop and just kept running. She ran until the air burned in her lungs and her feet were ready to give. That night she swore that she would never come back for good. She'd find a way to survive on her own.

3 Months Later


The sun's hot rays were blanketing the city. A figure was curled up next to a small flight of stairs on the street with a small rusty can before her. For everyone else, she was practically invisible and so too was the money. She pulled the shoddy blanket she had wrapped around her off and looked into the small container. Not a damn thing.

She sat the can down and rolled up her sleeve to look at the scars on her arm from that fateful night. She remembered how she hadn't realised it was bleeding when she fled that awful place. The bloodstain was still on her sleeve now dry and brown. She picked at it absent-mindedly. She hadn't noticed the man standing in front of her. Some coins hit the inside of the can with a loud ping and startled her. She threw her hands up before realising that the mysterious figure wasn't going to attack her.

With the light cutting across the street, bruises on her face and arms were more visible. Her hair was dirty and unkempt and her clothing was ragged. The light hid the man's features with the rays blinding her until a cloud had slipped in their way. He was an older gentlemen in a nicely kept suit and a small bowler hat. He was staring at her scarred arm.

''Who did that to you?'' the man asked, his voice was calm and quiet. She pulled her sleeve down and stood to her feet as if to square up and tell him to mind his own business. Instead, the man reached into his pocket and opened a wallet then handed her a few hundred pounds. ''Get it looked at, there's a clinic on the south side of the Bay District.''

She hesitantly took the money and flipped through it, ''Why do you care so much?'' she tersely asked.

''I used to be a troublesome kid at your age. You've been getting into fights, though by the state of your knuckles I'm guessing you handle yourself pretty well,'' he said, and he wasn't wrong. Three months she had barely tolerated not just the elements but others like her. It was not a world of civil words and kind gestures. ''I bet you've even gone to the underground to fight for a bit of cash,'' he added, and again wasn't wrong.

''How could you know any of that?'' she protested almost angrily. She didn't like being put on the spot but the man merely smirked and walked away. ''Hey! I'm talking to you!'' she shouted after him. He ignored her and simply kept walking.

She examined the can after he had left. There were coins and a small card. At first she thought nothing of it until she flipped it over and read it. 'Naval Recruitment; Lieutenant Geoff Dewitz.'

***


She found herself standing across the street from an MCN office. It wasn't a terribly impressive building, though obvious that it was very old. She held the card in her hand and fumbled with it as people moved around her. They went about their daily lives while she was standing still and had been for a long time. She pocketed the card and headed to the glass doors.

Inside the small building with its clean tiled floors and white plastered walls was a front desk with a woman in uniform who was working on paperwork. ''Welcome to the Naval Recruiting Office'' the woman greeted with a smile but it quickly faded at the sight of the entrant.

''It's okay, Sergeant,'' a familiar voice said from an open door. Out came the same man though he was now dressed in uniform as well and motioned the young woman over. She ignored the Sergeant's ghastly expression and went into the Lieutenant's office. This room seemed almost homely with a blue carpet, modest desk, and shelves of trinkets and awards.

He shut the door behind them and offered a seat though she chose to stand anyway. ''So you're part of the Thassa,'' she said, using the slang Martians said for the Navy. Dewitz nodded and slid into his chair.

''I am, Lieutenant Dewitz, I trust you found the card then given you're practically crushing it to death in your hand,'' he pointed. She hadn't realised that she pulled it back out, and had indeed crumpled it in her fist.

''I want to join,'' she said.

''How old are you?'' Dewitz asked while fumbling with a filing cabinet to get some paperwork. She answered that she had just turned seventeen as he sat a packet down on the desk and nodded. He grabbed a pen and in doing so knocked over a small bobble-head of an MCN ship. He sat it up and started to write some things down as the ship shifted back and forth on its spring. Below on the plaque was the Navy's motto: ''Integrity, Excellence, and Bravery in all we do.''

''You need to be eighteen to join the armed forces unless you have parents' written permission,'' he said while he sat the paperwork aside and clasped his hands. ''I can still have you take the test and explain your options for joining but...''

''My parents are dead. My mum died when she had me and my father might as well be dead,'' she said discouraged. Dewitz leaned back in his chair and thought for a moment. He asked for her father's name, she gave it, and he rolled to his terminal and began typing.

''I see,'' he said while clicking around on the screen. She couldn't see what he was looking at, but it didn't stop her from moving a bit to the side to know that he had also pulled up her arrest record.

''I can explain,'' she spoke up nervously though Dewitz held his hand up and wrote something down.

''You don't need too. Look, I understand, right now I'm going to try and get you out of this situation. Your father has you listed as missing but you're old enough to contest that. I have to notify the authorities but I'm willing to help you. You just need to let me, alright?''

Four Months Later


''Got everything?'' Dewitz asked as the two sat in the car. They had arrived at the shuttle yard. It was a rainy day with grey clouds covering the sky from horizon to horizon. The woman was nervous as she searched through a bag to make sure she was prepared. She had dressed in her new cadet blues and had her hair tied up in a bun.

''Yeah, I've got everything,'' she said with a sigh. The loud rumble of a shuttle leaving the terminal didn't help her stress though she watched with both terror and amazement at the vehicle as it disappeared above the clouds. It was finally the day she had been dreading and was also excited for. She hugged Dewitz and opened the door.

''Hey, don't forget your patrol cap,'' Dewitz said as he handed it off to her. She shut the door and waved at him with a large smile. ''Remember what I said, got it?'' She nodded and they wished each other farewell before she hurried off into the doors of the terminal.

Present Day


Nerys had prepared herself to leave the MCN Mars behind. She'd taken a stop by her quarters on the way to the gate to grab something of value. She walked around her office for what seemed to be the last time. She had spent much of her career at the very desk she was now going to leave behind, and so she gently ran her fingertips over it.

She exchanged coats at her locker and took a moment to feel the scars on her arm as she was straightening out her sleeves. So far had she come, so far had she survived. Before she departed, she took only a single thing from the room. A small bobble-head of an MCN warship that had sat on her desk ever since she had received the post. ''Integrity, Excellence, and Bravery in all we do..'' she read from it and gently slid it into her pocket with a faint grin. She flipped the light off and muttered what Dewitz had said to her all those years ago.

''Never look back. Never stop moving. Always move forward and let nothing stop you. You're a fighter, you fight until your last breath.''

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Lady Scylla
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New York Times Democracy

Postby Lady Scylla » Wed Oct 30, 2019 1:28 pm

Themistocles Naval Academy
18 years ago



The trucks pulled in against the kerb and a number of drill sergeants had already gathered while the cadets began disembarking. Shouting and screaming, they called for the drop of all of the cadet's items and to run seven miles the moment their feet hit the ground. ''Get a move on! This is no place for the weak! Move! Move! Move!'' Bag after bag piled up beside the truck as cadet's in their MBDUs who were already tired, hungry, and thirsty from the ride in the heat now had to make a trek up a hill.

They began to coalesce into a group on the run with the sergeants nipping at their heels with commands, shouts, and insults. The hill, known by those senior to Themistocles as the 'Cauldron', was a very large feature that jutted from the spongy landscape and had an almost unbearable incline. It had no paved path up but just a dirt trail that had been worn into the earth by generations of cadets.

The group had made it to the slopes of the Cauldron and started their ascent. Nerys found herself near the back of the pack and could feel the sergeants practically on her back screaming. Her legs burned, the air stung, the humid heat made it difficult to get any sort of breath. Cadets were dropping from the group via sprains or exhaustion and then being picked up by the others who were trying to keep them in. Nerys wondered what'd happen if they didn't, but that was answered for her.

Another female cadet beside her was lagging behind and finally fell behind the sergeants. Nerys looked back and saw one of the sergeants break-off, she planted her boot squarely against the cadet's chest and kicked her off the trail into the nasty slog that was the hill's moss and vegetation. She tumbled down a bit and laid there.

The Cauldron's incline was severe enough that there was no way to truly get ahead of the pack nor quicken the pace. It almost felt like running in place with each step taking three times the effort with the ankles constantly bent at an uncomfortable angle. Every slip meant falling further behind and being sent off by the sergeants. Nerys couldn't believe how the hell they themselves could even run it, yet they seemed like they were doing it with far more ease.

More cadet's dropped from the group. Not all of them were physically kicked off the trail, some were just allowed to collapse where they were. After what seemed like an eternity, they had finally heard a call that they were half-way. There was some celebration among the group but it was much too early. Marines stationed up higher on the trail could be seen, something was coming.

Nerys couldn't look ahead, it was easier to look at the ground and sing something in her head that took her mind off the pain. But then she noticed that the ground was turning dark. Her eyes shot up to see that the Marines above them on the flanks of the path had turned on hoses and were now wetting the loose dirt of the path. The terrain quickly turned into a nasty, putrid slush that forced cadets on their hands and knees. The sergeants behind had stopped following them up and the calls from the side made it clear the consequence of failure.

''To the top, Cadets! Any of your fuckers fall back from the group and you're going home! Now move!''

Quickly they were caked with mud and the drop-out rate increased dramatically. People were slipping and creating a cascade through the group of a few hundred or so cadets. Ordered not to stop, they were forced to climb over those that had fallen or gotten stuck. Some attempted to help but found themselves being reprimanded by the Marines. If they helped someone that had fallen, they were both getting sent home.

Nerys was still at the back of the pack, now struggling to keep up in the slush. Each step saw her hands plunge inches into the mud with her knees and feet. Several times she nearly lost her footing or was taken out by someone falling down the hill. It didn't help that the broken branches, rocks, and other parts of brush tangled with the mud and cut up their hands. Nerys' fingers stung until they had felt numb, she needed to stay in but there had to be an easier way.

On the sides of the path were loose debris from trees that had been cleared to the side. Nerys moved herself over to the edge and when the opportunity came, she managed to grab a long stick and began using it to help keep traction. Every step she was pressing the branch into the mud with her hands and pulling herself along. The other cadets had taken notice and one by one began finding their own branches or even rocks if they could. The group became tighter as the drop-out rate decreased and they could manage their pace.

''Come on! Move!'' one of the cadets shouted.

''Count, Cadence, Delay, Cadence, Count, Cadence, Count!''

The group erupted calling out a number starting with one. Then came another cadet shouting ''I can't hear you!'' Then the number two was shouted by the group. ''Little louder now!'' Nerys shouted with three following after. ''Sounds like Army in the shower!'' Four followed with some laughter and their pace quickened. ''One, Two, Three, Four. The Republic's Marine Corps! We like it! We love it! We want some more of it!'' came the group in unison.

The chants didn't stop there as they moved from cadence to cadence. One was started as they passed through another group of drill sergeants. ''I don't know what I've been told,'' came the call but Nerys found a new one from the rest. ''Drill Sergeant sure is getting old,'' she shouted to some laughter and the grimacing face of the staff on the side.

The two stars, one gold and one white, were setting on the horizon leaving just the top of the Cauldron still in light as shade quickly swept the lowlands like a tsunami. The chanting from below could be heard but growing as they drew closer. At last the first cadet peaked the summit with others in tow. Marines at the summit were egging them on to finish with a painted white line not far from the climb. One by one at first they crossed, and then the bulk of the group with Nerys did so. The cadets collapsed with their mixed-green camouflage now unrecognisable from the mud, their faces were caked with peat and medics began working on those that had been hurt.

Nerys rolled over on her back among the mess of people. She could taste blood in her mouth from breathing so hard. Her arms and legs were completely numb, giving the sensation that she had lost them. Her ribs ached and were tight with each breath. She stared up at the grey sky and painted clouds with a smile even as she wheezed and coughed. She had made it.

An hour after the wounded were tended to, and people were given a chance to catch their breathes and relax. A truck had arrived with a hose and the cadets stood in formation and were hosed off by the nearly freezing water. The ordeal was painful but it still felt nice to get rid of the dirt. Nerys at last could see the pale skin of her bony fingers and the amount of cuts she had. She didn't have it the worst though. Others had come up with broken ribs, noses, and fractures.

At last they were called to formation as more vehicles gathered on the hill and night fell over them. Spotlights were deployed and an officer stepped up on a small set of steps so that he could look over the assembled. ''Marines, it's a damn good pleasure to see you. The Cauldron often claims meany cadets that are then sent home. But I'm proud to say that you have made history today with the fewest drop-outs in the thirty years I've run this camp,'' the man said.

''Ingenuity, spirit, and endurance are the hallmarks of what makes a damn good Martian Marine, and I saw plenty of that today. I am Colonel Stone and commander of the 17th Marine Expeditionary Regiment which you are now apart of. This is Lt. Col Kramer of the First Battalion. Major Greene of Third Company. This is your chain of command. Memorise it,'' Stone said while motioning to the men standing on either side of him.

''Now, you've all spent a year in the Joint Basic Training program with the Army, now I don't know what those weak-bellies have been teaching you all but today you stand as Marines. This means you are now playing by Marine rules, more specifically my rules. For the next two years you will be living in this academy with your fellow cadets as you learn everything about combat and forget everything you think you know about combat.''

Your training is going to be the hardest and toughest in the armed forces. You will learn how to communicate, to coordinate with your fellow cadets, to study, understand, and wage warfare in conventional and unconventional ways; You will be familiar both with your weapons, your fellow cadet's weapons, and those of your enemies. You'll learn to assess and problem-solve. You will learn how to perform atmospheric drops, to fight on all terrain and environments. In short, for the next two years you will live, breathe, eat, shit and if Mars willing, die like Marines,'' Stone said proudly. After his speech came a roll call and assignments for platoons.

The company was sorted out into eight total platoons and then came the most important part of the process. Names were called up from each platoon to serve as cadet NCOs and COs of their platoons. Sergeants worked to get each assembly in order as those called stepped forward and were quickly shown how to address their new position and subordinates. ''Fifth Platoon, Cadet Nerys Harlow as Cadet Platoon Sergeant and Cadet Atlas Fuller as Cadet Platoon Officer,'' was called out and Nerys eyes widened.

She could feel eyes on her from her platoon as she broke formation and headed to the front. A sergeant by the name of Hodsen was waiting for them as her and her new CCO met face to face. Sergeant Hodsen explained how the two should stand and that the positions were a test of their skills and would be closely overseen by a non-cadet officer. At last the roll call had finished and Nerys found herself to the left and behind her CCO. Hodsen wasn't far behind as the order to dismiss was finally given.

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New York Times Democracy

Postby Lady Scylla » Tue Nov 12, 2019 6:35 pm

New Salamis, Rta Coalition Territory
15 years ago, 2162


''Since 2153, Martian colonies led by the Rta Coalition have been in open rebellion. Across the galaxy, MCN forces aggressively engage separatists in gruelling, bitter warfare. Entire colonies are decimated or outright annihilated in the conflict. Millions are displaced, even more are killed from the spread of famine and disease. Colonial society and infrastructure breaks down.

By 2162, the war enters a new stage of brutality: nuclear strikes, chemical and biological weapons, orbital bombardment, and destruction of civilian centres dominates the conflict. RtaC's days are numbered. The more the MCN pushes into Delta to retake holdings, the more ferocious RtaC becomes. Refugees flood neighbouring regions, the Refugee Act of 2155 ensures they've a place to call home. But tensions mount between 'mainlanders' and the colonists, especially those of alien descent.

The Fifth Fleet under Admiral Garrow has been dispatched ahead of a full scale invasion of the Martian Delta. With colonies in the Beta and Gamma quadrants now under Martian control once more, this corner of the galaxy remains the last stronghold. Their task is to spearhead their way deep into RtaC territory. They are ordered to give no quarter to the separatists. New Salamis has been selected as the first system to retake in Delta since losing the region a decade earlier.''


New Salamis City, capital of the system that shares its name, could be seen in the distance burning. Great clouds of rolling smoke climbed high into the skies as the MCN's Salamite Task Force in orbit unleashed Armageddon upon the planet. Nerys watched large beams cut through the skies like a wicked blade that buried whatever it hit under large clouds of ash and debris.

She had been issued command of a unit which was being deployed into the hotzone with a squadron of dropships. She held her rifle tightly against her and dangled from a handle inside her own craft. The dropships had just made their transit from orbit and the doors had been pulled open. They crossed the Salamis Desert in a close formation and did so at great speed. Low to the terrain, they could avoid detection by RtaC's outdated ground-based radar systems.

''We're two minutes out,'' the pilot of Nerys' dropship announced as he twisted around to hold out two gloved fingers to the six in the back. The rest of her team had started to stand and ready their gear. They checked their rifles, connected themselves to Valkyrie, went over their EVO suits and found themselves a staging point on the dropships skids. Nerys had joined them, and she could see the other dropships also readying their own troops.

It was strange to see people hanging from the sides of the craft, but it was a necessary procedure before the jump. The squadron passed over one of the major highways leading into the city which was crowded with a line of ragged civilians that stretched for miles. They were carrying whatever they could manage and working their way between the burnt out vehicles of RtaC's convoys the Fifth had taken out just hours earlier.

The dropships were low enough that Nerys could damn near see their expressions. They were a weary and exhausted lot covered in soot and thin from the lack of supplies. There was no refuge for miles in the direction they were going and no MCN ground forces they could meet up with. Many would die from the elements and starvation on their trek. The MCN didn't have the supplies to manage the force and the civilians, they were on their own.

Nerys remembered the briefings about the situation in the weeks leading up to their deployment. They had called it Operation Peacekeeper. The MCN had become adept at striking RtaC shipping in recent months and their efforts were quadrupled ahead of the invasion. It didn't matter if the supplies were for the separatists or not, the plan counted on using the civilians as a weapon.

And what she was seeing as they flew overhead was just that. The cost of their strategy, the very 'weapon' designed to destabilise RtaC's holdings. The goal was simple it seemed; not only continue to wage a war of attrition on the Coalition but also force unrest. Remove their safety, their security, their support. Then sweep in and take advantage of the chaos.

Reports had flooded in over the last few months about the effects of the operation. RtaC was no longer just fighting the mainland but also human nature and instinct. Bread riots in the Parthian Vale, major civil upheaval in this system or that one. It was a heavy policy to bear on the minds of the MCN's Marines like Nerys. And the great solution Peacekeeper offered?

When the Martians had retaken these regions, they had a population that was now submissive, dependent, and exhausted. It was one thing to break the spirit of an enemy force with attrition and psychological warfare. It was another entirely to break the backs of the people so that they would never rebel again. And that was Peacekeeper's masterplan, its grand opus for the empire.

The pilot flipped a series of switched and hardpoints deployed from the side of the dropship. Mounted to them were pods of white phosphorous rockets and automated large-calibre miniguns. As they drew closer to the outskirts, the marines hanging from the sides closed their visors and charged their rifles. Salvos were let loose into the outskirts of town that covered the area in a deadly white fog. Small arms fire erupted unto the incoming ships and were answered with more rockets and minigun fire.

Bomb bay doors near the rear of the dropships had opened and barrel bombs filled with cluster munitions were deployed as they came over the buildings and through the fog. Nerys could feel her transport shake at every impact though she couldn't see the result. RtaC's insurgent tactics were always met with such heavy-handedness. There was simply no time to pick them out from crowds, and Nerys knew there were still civilians in the city, and some where those bombs had just been dropped.

As the dropships left the screen of smoke, Nerys looked back to stare at the low mushroom clouds rising from the fog. ''Drop-zone in thirty seconds!'' came the call and a timer was displayed on their HUD. They all twisted to face each other and once the timer hit zero they simply let go of the handles. Nerys watched as the bird didn't even slow before letting them out and continued to race onward.

It was a hundred meter fall to the street below and the first moment of sheer silence and almost peacefulness the now Captain felt as she fell. The booster on her EVO was automated and as she neared the ground it kicked on and slowed her and her team to the ground. Very quickly they were met with incoming fire from fortified positions in surrounding buildings.

''210, second storey!'' - ''Got it!'' - ''Truck moving at 270'' - ''Cover, cover, cover!''

Back and forth the team quickly communicated as they sought shelter and returned fire. The rocketeer of Nerys' unit, Specialist Amanda Finkle had already set up and launched a round down range that burrowed into the closest structure where they were receiving shots. A man went flying from the window as the entire storey collapsed to one side and sent chunks of the structure into the street beside it.

Two of the privates in the unit, Corey and Sech had been separated by the engagement and found themselves huddled behind a low wall. They were unable to move as an armoured vehicle quickly approached. ''I need covering fire!'' Nerys shouted to the rest as she tapped on Amanda's shoulder and pointed out the truck. A stream of bullets quickly flew just over their heads and sent them ducking.

''I can't get a shot off at that thing!'' the specialist yelled back. Nerys kicked dirt at her sergeant, Nicholas, who was hunkering down on the other side of the two. ''Nick! The Captain!'' Finkle said as she shook him but he merely slumped over. A round had burrowed through his visor and face and taken part of his jaw with it. ''Jesus fuck...''

''Finkle, take his place, I'll give them a distraction,'' Nerys ordered. The specialist quickly pushed their dead sergeant aside and crawled to where he was sitting while Nerys leapt over their cover. The gun of the truck quickly opened up on her while she deployed her gauntlet's shield. Rounds struck the barrier as Nerys tried to cross the street to Corey and Sech. The barrage kept sending her to her knees with the force of the rounds. Halfway across and one barely missed her leg but it had given Finkle the opportunity she needed.

A rocket drilled into the front armour of the truck and then exploded inside. Flames leapt through the small window slits of the vehicle and the gun atop it fell silent. Nerys made it to the two stranded marines finally and grabbed Sech by the collar. He had been trying to work on Corey who had taken several hits to the chest. ''No! No! Let me help him! Please!''

''He's dead private, get the fuck up, unfuck yourself and move!'' Nerys shouted and dragged him from Corey's body. An alert flashed on Nerys' HUD from something Finkle had pinged. A desert camouflaged tachikoma with a mounted turret down the street had appeared and was quickly making its way to them. A large shell from its main gun slammed into a building near the two crossing the street and covered the area in dust.

The blast had thrown Nerys and Sech, who the Captain still had a hold of, into the ground. Nerys called for the remainder of her unit to remain down but Sech had seized on the opportunity to try and run. A series of minigun rounds cut through the smoke like a buzz-saw and cleaved the private's body in half. The tank could easily see through the cloud and was tracking movement, which Nerys knew.

She stayed eerily still on her back while looking over at Finkle's position who was still behind cover but peaking the corner. ''It's coming in,'' the specialist said over their cybercomms. The ground began to shake as the spider-tank drew closer. The dust had started to settle and a faint outline of the vehicle could be seen with Nerys' HUD now.

She could tell the turret was scanning while vehicle took note of her position and started to adjust its course to investigate. ''Just a few more meters,'' Finkle noted. Two large metal legs buried themselves into ground as the mechanical monstrosity stopped next to Nerys. It used one of its minigun arms to try and move the Captain in perhaps the most ungentle manner possible.

''Hey! Fat fuck! Over here!'' Finkle's voice cut through the air, the tank jerked up and unloaded its minigun on the specialist's position. Nerys quickly slid under the chassis and used a magnetic mine that began to cut into the armour before sliding out from under it. The vehicle switched targets to the Captain but it was already too late.

It had locked onto Nerys who was standing just feet from it with her weapon raised and spooled up its guns. There was a loud pop in those few seconds before certain death as the mine cut through the chassis and detonated a charge inside that destroyed the internals. The vehicle froze in place with smoke pouring from its turret.

Nerys lowered her weapon finally and for a brief moment had finally taken account of what had just happened. She then remembered Finkle and rushed to where the specialist. The wall they had been hiding behind had been torn to shreds with masonry littering the street. ''Finkle!'' the captain shouted as she slid to the woman's side.

Amanda was struggling to breath. Her visor had been shattered like glass and exposed the pale skin of her face and the stream of blood flowing from her mouth. ''I c-can't feel my feet, C-Cap...'' the specialist gagged out as Nerys took her hand. Truth was, she no longer had any feet. ''I don't want to d-die...'' the specialist said softly.

Nerys flipped open her visor and chose to make no reaction to the grotesque scene. She lightly smiled and let her rifle dangle from its strap as she sat beside the woman. ''I know, I know,'' the Captain said soothingly. She carefully pulled the remainder of Amanda's helmet off and sat it aside. The specialist's face had taken a lot of shrapnel from the visor shattering and so Nerys had used a part of her sleeve to carefully dab away bits of blood and dirt from it.

She finally slid her jacket off and put it over Amanda as the specialist shivered. ''Help is coming, Amanda. Just need to hang in there for a bit and we'll get you back home,'' Nerys softly reassured her as she continued to pet the specialist and hold her hand. Finkle looked up at her CO and told her not to lie to her. It was the last thing the specialist said as the shivering stopped and she exhaled her last breath. Finkle's grip loosened and her hand became heavy in Nerys'.

''Finkle? Come on, wake up. Don't do this,'' Nerys gave her a shake but there was nothing. Only that empty gaze still fixated on the Captain's face as Nerys tightened her grip on the hand she was still holding. Tears rolled down Nerys' cheeks as she leaned back against the rubble and hid her face. She tried to muffle her sobs with her free hand.

''Holy shit. Captain?'' a familiar voice came at the sound of boots. It was Fuller. The MEU's convoys had started to arrive and he was travelling ahead of a group of trucks and armour. He hurried to her side as his own unit quickly fanned out to scan the small plaza or assist Fuller in getting the Captain up. They had to practically pry her hand off the dead specialist's.

One truck pulled off to the side as the vehicles passed through. Corpsmen jumped out the back to tend to the team and two took Nerys from Fuller and loaded her into another truck that had pulled away from the advancing convoy.



New Salamis, A Month Later


The marines had assembled in an old theatre and were being served beer and food. New Salamis had been 'liberated' by the MCN just weeks prior and was now well within the MCN's frontline into the Martian Delta. Systems were falling faster and faster with each passing day. There was music and several of the troops were dancing or chatting up some of the locals who had joined them.

The theatre was mostly gutted and the floor hastily repaired after taking a direct hit from a bomb weeks back. Tables lined the floor and one large table was set up on the side with all of the top brass. The 'Greys' as they were called in reference to their grey uniforms, were discussing a variety of topics from politics to their war stories.

Nerys was among them though she sat at the very far end of the table and was playing with and continued sipping from a now empty glass that had contained some form of brandy. She was on medical leave shortly after the Battle of New Salamis as they were now calling it and had just gotten back. No-one had taken notice of her sitting alone as the room remained vibrant and exciting around her.

Finally, the ceremony had begun and Admiral Garrow had taken to the stage. A podium had been set up and a large Martian flag was draped behind him as he tapped on his glass with a spoon to get their attention. The room fell quiet and names were called as the brass awarded different marines medals. Nerys tuned it out as she continued to absently play with her glass.

A slim, tall figure soon joined her though. An old but familiar one who carefully slid a brown case towards her. She looked at it and the hand that was resting over the container and followed it to its owner. ''I decided to give this to you in person, Nerry,'' Dewitz spoke with a faint smile. He opened the container and revealed a velvet cloth inside that held unto a small silver leaf; the mark of a Lt. Colonel. Alongside it sat a medallion with Aesculapius. It had been custom made with the names of Nerys' and her team set around the god.

She gently rubbed her hand over the medallion and nimbly took it from the container. Aesculapius was holding a snake where the names were etched onto its back. ''I can't accept this,'' Nerys said as she sat it back down in the container. Dewitz' expression didn't change. ''I did everything right. We never got out of our LZ. Everything about this fucking war... is just,'' she sighed bitterly.

''I've almost forgotten just how long we've fought this war,'' Dewitz explained, ''I was a younger man all those years ago. Bitterness is the finest tasting drink to a soldier alongside questions he can't answer and the loss that he weathers. There's nothing you could have done differently, Nerry. We were going to lose entire units regardless, I wish it hadn't been yours but you can be angry with the war all you want. Do not be angry with them,'' he said while tapping on the medallion.

''I'm not angry with them,'' Nerys responded.

''Your name is there as well. War isn't fair and it's terrible. It uproots everything we take for granted, all that we love and care for, it doesn't matter if its the person in the field or those back home. Everyone feels war's effects. I'm not going to sell you the bullshit about patriotism or doing this or that for 'King and Country'. You must go on for their sake, they were loyal to you and trusted you enough to have you lead them. Don't fail them now,'' Dewitz spoke before finally standing up.

''Truth is, Lieutenant Colonel. We all die in war, even those of us that get to come home when its over. Those that are left to wake up another morning fight for those that didn't, because if we lay down and give up, then their sacrifice dies with us.'' Dewitz gave a bow and left Nerys as she sat there and stared at the small box.

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Lady Scylla
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Founded: Nov 22, 2015
New York Times Democracy

Postby Lady Scylla » Wed Nov 13, 2019 1:27 am

New Salamis
10 years ago, 2167


In 2165, RtaC renews an offensive as the Nicean Federation joins the conflict in the Beta Quadrant. With the Beta front open again, MCN forces must divert their attention to the new threat. A force of two hundred warships backed by Nicean and Nalari allies breaks MCN lines at the battle of Reaper's Call. This opens up a chance to retake New Salamis and force the Martians out of Delta once again. The Fifth Fleet is all that stands in their way...

Nerys had taken a shuttle up to the MCN Mars, she watched as the planet that had been her home for the last several years slowly drifted away. Her efforts as Lt. Col over the MCNMC had been recognised by the Admiralty, and the past two years she had undergone training to transfer into the Navy's chain of command. For the first time she had been given command of a ship directly under Grand Admiral Garrow.

Others had accompanied her on the flight up, and many were discussing their new post as some tried to get a glimpse of the famed vessel from the windows. Nerys wouldn't lie, she too had also tried to tender a glance. The Mars had served as the new flagship of the Fifth Fleet since the MCN Alexander the Great had been disabled at Reaper's Call. Yet, despite all their efforts, the large battlecruiser was practically invisible against the background of space.

''You're our new Commander?'' a man spoke up as he plopped down in the seat directly in front of Nerys. He was a scrawny fellow with brown hair and wearing the Navy's grey uniform though he had no rank markings. Nerys affirmed as much to which the gentlemen extended a hand which she shook.

''I'm sorry to bother you, Commander. I'm Lieutenant Sanders,'' he smiled.

''You're not wearing your rank, Lieutenant,'' she responded, to which he pulled a small box from his satchel that he had draped on the seat when he sat down. He showed it to her.

''I, uh, I just got the bars from Admiral Kessik before the Sixth pulled out. I was reassigned to your command, Ma'am. I was wondering if you could help me actually,'' he said apologetically as he pulled on the lapel of his uniform. Nerys sat her bag aside and leaned forward to help put the officer's rank on. She wondered how he hadn't been trained to do so already, but then again there were a lot of new faces now who didn't look past 25 running around in officer clothing.

Truth was, the war had gone on for so long now, many of the older brass had died or retired and recruitment had dropped significantly in recent years. The Senate was forced to enact selective service policies in its place to keep manpower replenished. Even Dewitz had stepped down from Grand Admiral to allow Garrow to succeed him so he could tend to training of forces back home.

''There ya go. Just remember this -- they sit on the centre line and perpendicular to the edge,'' she said, carefully showing him. He nodded and thanked her. ''Themistocles?'' she asked finally.

Sanders shook his head, ''No, Ma'am. Didn't you hear? Themistocles was hit by an RtaC task force a few months ago. Colonel Stone and the Academy's security forces put up a fight but they got overrun. Niceans had showed up with reinforcements and overwhelmed the Third Fleet.''

Nerys slouched her shoulders and rested her hands on her knees, ''Oh... I see.''

''I heard about your team, Commander,'' Sanders spoke up, ''News called you a hero, the Lone Survivor'' He smiled, almost as if she was a celebrity, but her face soured in return.

''Don't call me that. I'm no fucking hero,'' she grimaced at the very thought. She'd been unaware that there was any press on her to begin with and tightened a fist. She could feel her stomach churning and Sanders seemingly hadn't caught on.

''Well of course you are, a lot of us look up to you. I mean, I know losing your team must've been pretty rough but that got your name out. You lead an MEU into battle at Giant's Fjord and held off an RtaC siege of your headquarters in the Palisade System. News has been covering you ever since, saying you're the Iron Commander and that you've got nine lives.''

''Please, shut up...''

''Ma'am?'' Sanders looked at her confused, and what she may have thought was quiet was actually quite loud and gathered the attention of the others in the craft. She stood up abruptly and headed to the back where the bathroom was. The door slammed behind her and the rest exchanged glances with Sanders shrugging, ''Did I say something wrong?''

One of the other officers leaned over, ''Sanders, you're a moron.''




Nerys rested her hands on the sink and took a few deep breaths. She could feel her heart racing in her chest and the blood pumping just as fast through her arms and head as she tried to get a handle of herself. The shuttle announced they would be docking with the Mars in just a few minutes. The Commander turned the water on and held her hands under it for a second before using it to wash her face. She looked up into the mirror and almost couldn't recognise the person staring back at her.

Scenes of Finkle and Corey, of others she had known since; they grappled her mind in chains and pulled it into an abyss that made her feel cold and alone. Who was the person staring back in the mirror? She couldn't see Nerys anymore, just a uniform and rank. A Commander. Like Dewitz said, everyone died in war, and Nerys had since passed.

She tightened her grip on the sink and then, like someone else was playing puppeteer with her limbs, she watched her hand come up punch the mirror. It shattered and dropped some of the broken glass into the sink along with fresh blood as the Commander stared at a reflection of who she was. The shuttle jerked a bit as it docked to the Mars and the Commander emerged from the back. The others stared at her bloody hand but not even Sanders said anything as she quickly boarded her ship.




Preparations had to be made. The latest report had shown a large force of RtaC and Nicean ships moving to New Salamis and would likely arrive within the hour. Nerys was on the bridge now with a bandaged hand. Sanders was also present, having taken position at a communications station. Garrow was busy looking over the holotable of the system and the MCN's ships.

''Do I need to ask?'' Garrow glanced at Nerys' hand like a stern parent.

''We'll just say that I had a fight with a mirror and I lost,'' she noted apathetically and shrugged Garrow's glance off. He sighed but didn't inquire further. He called over Sanders and explained to him where some of the MCN ships needed to be and to relay that to the fleet. Nerys was taking care of the onboard issues of the Mars. She had pulled up a hologram of the vessel and was delegating crew placements.

Supply ships were still making their rounds up from New Salamis and also out-of-system from a nearby logistical hub. Some of the cruisers were tethered to these ships as their large robotic arms moved cargo between them, setting up magazines for their railguns and replenishing their drone stores. A refueler had also joined the formation and was providing vital H3 supplies to the larger vessels like the Fifth's two carriers.

The MCN Argos and MCN Hammurabi were not meant for fleet-to-fleet engagements. They were armed with mostly dropships and other orbit-to-surface craft. The Fifth's only drone carrier, the MCN Nebuchadnezzar, had been reassigned to the Sixth Fleet when it left for Beta. The MCN Mars was also the only battlecruiser with the MCN Banshee still being repaired in a different system and the MCN Titan having been crippled at Reaper's Call alongside the Alexander the Great.

Garrow's face told Nerys all she needed to know as he coordinated the fleet. They had about forty cruisers, and several dozen smaller destroyers and corvettes. Their firepower was severely lacking against the emergency intel. They were suppose to have a week to prepare. But Reaper's Call had been a disaster in strategy and logistics and the Nicean were a political one on top of it.

''A hundred and fifty warships,'' Garrow scoffed as he shook his head. ''If we lose New Salamis, Commander...''

''I know,'' Nerys said, ''I've gotten into contact with New Salamis' ground. We've managed to recover some of RtaC's facilities planetside, no idea how much use they'll be but it's a little extra firepower.''

''Commander,'' Sanders spoke up behind them.

''What is it, Lieutenant?'' Garrow spoke up.

''Scouts report that the Rtai are crossing the heliopause.''

Garrow took a deep breath and exchanged a glance with Nerys before instructing Sanders to send out an order of battlestations to the fleet. There was a wild rush across the fleet as teams tried to disconnect logistic frigates with the warships. Cities on New Salamis had started shutting down their lights with entire pockets of gold just disappearing into the darkness below.

The Mars fired its engines and started to leave the planet's grip with its escort of cruisers. Other ships had begun forming defensive lines and deploying their drone craft. LIDAR picked up the first 'blip' of the enemy vessels as they neared their position, relatively speaking. The two fleets had begun to converge at a Lagrange point.

As both forces slowed to their staging points a quiet stand-off ensued. ''Sanders, I'm going to need you to get into contact with a Captain Fuller on the ground,'' Nerys ordered. The Lieutenant started working on the task while Garrow pulled up a hologram that was reading LIDAR data from the fleet's surveillance. It provided an almost interactive map of the battlespace.

Nerys looked at her CO, ''What now?''

''We wait, the more time they give us, the more we get prepared,'' he said confidently. Nerys wasn't feeling the suicidal optimism and looked over the hologram. Something didn't seem right.

''You said there were a hundred and fifty warships,'' Nerys stated. Garrow nodded and she pointed at the hologram, ''There's only a few dozen here. Where are the rest?'' He looked at her almost dumbfoundedly. The answer came with a sudden explosion and comms chatter in the fleet. The refueller had been struck by a spinal and the Martian ships had begun to spin around.

''We've got contacts coming in from L3. It's the Niceans!'' Sanders shouted. The Nicean force had come around from a different entry point of the system using New Salamis' extremely bright star to shield themselves from the Martian LIDAR. It was a risky move on their part, meaning they were burning more fuel on their trajectory but it had paid off.

The Niceans opened up with their dreadnoughts and cruisers and the Martians quickly found themselves surrounded. Garrow and Nerys both had started barking out orders, Garrow about fleet position and Nerys over the Mars' defence itself. The bridge had suddenly gone chaotic as incoming fire from two sides slammed into the MCN.

The Mars swung around and fired its spinal at a dreadnought. The vessel's railguns had begun swivelling and were lobbing rounds at different targets as drones moved between the Martian ships to intercept incoming projectiles. Movement was difficult as logistic ships were still embedded in the formation and panicking to get out but were finding themselves in the cross fire and ramming into other Martian vessels.

''Brace! Brace! Brace!'' Nerys yelled out as a Nicean dreadnought showed its flank and fired deck guns in a volley towards the flagship. The Mars' shields held up against most of the onslaught though a few shells made it through and the whole vessel jolted at the impact. The slugs had burred themselves into some of the lower decks and sent crews into damage management.

The Mars answered with a hard bank and a broadside of its own flinging c-frac 18 inch shells at the approaching dreadnought. A missile barrage followed by the Niceans and warheads detonated off the Mars' shields and other less fortunate smaller ships nearby. The battlespace had also turned into a rave of death with lasers and other energy weapons now engaging as the distances shrank between the fleets.

An explosion ripped through the aft of the Mars from one of the EM hits, sending the bridge crew to the floor and forcing the vessel to switch to emergency lighting. ''Do we still have power!?'' They did and the vessel fired up its thrusters and began to move forward to get into another arrangement with its cruiser escort. A Nicean carrier appeared and began dropping corvettes into the fray which were much faster than the rest of the ships.

This added a whole new element to the already hectic exchange as PDCs and secondary guns on the Mars and other ships tried to engage both projectiles and these gunboats that were making their rounds into the Martian formation. One took a direct hit sending it into a spin at the Mars. ''Incoming!'' Sanders called out. PDCs aboard the flagship focused on the corvette to try and slow it down but it was moving two fast.

The arrowhead shaped craft slammed into the starboard side of the Mars and ripped into its hull as the two glanced off each other. Unwittingly, like Murphy was deciding to put his law to the test, the vessel had drifted at an angle that was prime for one of the enemy dreadnoughts. A salvo was quickly launched and Nerys yelled for another brace.

The rounds tore through the shields which were quickly overwhelmed by the corvette impact and incoming EM fire. Large slugs flew through compartments sending crewmen inside the Mars flying. Explosions ripped through lower decks and one of the rear magazines for the missile pods in the aft section had detonated. The explosion climbed through vents and corridors ripping the rear of the vessel into pieces.

There was a large flash and then darkness as the bridge crew were thrown around inside their secured room and Nerys found herself under a pipe. Panels were hanging from the ceiling, the walls had bulged out or completely been torn away by the blast. Sanders thankfully had survived the ordeal and rushed to the Commander's aid. He and another officer pulled the hot pipe off the Commander and helped her up.

Bodies were strewn across the bridge including that of Garrow's who had been impaled by a girder. ''We need to get to the secondary bridge and quick, I don't give a shit who you have to suddenly promote but find me someone from the departments we lost,'' Nerys said. Sanders had her wrap an arm around him while she held her side and they limped out of the destroyed bridge.

The secondary bridge wasn't terribly far from the first, given they were a part of the same superstructure in the centre of the vessel. Sanders sat the Commander down in a chair and checked her side which was bleeding quite badly. A piece of rebar could be seen sticking out part way, he tried to pull it out at first but she stopped him. ''It's better to leave it in,'' she panted. ''Sanders, find me some officers. I'm getting us out of here.''

Sparks could be seen flying around in the hallway as Sanders left to find some crewmen. The vessel would violently shake as more impacts could be felt through the floor. Some personnel had begun to enter the bridge, none of them very ''officer material'' but it was going to have to do. Nerys limped around quickly assigning them to stations and explaining their tasks in perhaps one of the fastest crash courses on how to run a ship known to man.

Sanders had re-emerged as well and was quickly grabbed by the Commander and pulled aside. ''Lieutenant, if you want to survive this you're going to need to stay on top of them. Got it? They need your help,'' she growled before falling back into her chair. Sanders nodded and started moving between stations. Beads of sweat were building on his face along with the rest as the heat inside the vessel was quickly rising.

Nerys pulled up a screen at her station showing the radiators on the Mars. In short, they had none now. ''I need transient shields on the bow of the ship. Navigation, you're going to need to fly-by-wire it but I need you to direct us towards the planet. Sanders!,'' Nerys motioned to the guy at the Navigation seat. ''Order the fleet to close ranks, we're punching our way through.''

The Mars began to turn towards its target trajectory as MCN ships had started to disengage from their counterparts and move themselves. Nerys' plan by all accounts was insane. The Mars' remaining thrusters opened to full and the vessel began a very energy-heavy push towards the planet. They were going to bleed orbital velocity as much as they could in the most inefficient way possible.

''Commander, you realise we're not designed for this right?'' Sanders questioned Nerys who was getting paler by the minute as she struggled to breathe properly. The Mars' escort was performing the same burn while the rest of the fleet had formed a suicide charge into the Nicean's formation. The RtaC had given chase to that group. The move was costly as ships began falling faster getting so close to enemy fleet defences.

Bright explosions as Martian cruisers and frigates were torn apart by the combined Nicean-Rtai fire would have been quite the spectacle for those on the ground. Even more so at the large battlecruiser which had began its deadly plunge into the atmosphere. The blackened ship turned into a fireball as it descended and began to violently vibrate. Faster they fell, and the hotter they got. The crew aboard the ship had taken refuge near the superstructure in the centre as the unradiated heat from reentry began to tear panels, fry electronics, and heat corridors and compartments to lethal levels.

The shaking had become so much that Nerys was struggling to stay in her seat. The whole ship began to creak and groan. LIDAR equipment, turrets, and other pieces of the vessel sheared clean off. A large panel of the vessel's armour on the starboard bow began to peal away. ''Now!''

The Mars' retroboosters fired, there was a sudden amount of Geforce applied to the crew as Nerys being crushed in her seat. The Mars began to slowly turn in atmosphere while still losing altitude. Everyone in the bridge could no longer resist the force as they were brought to the ground and struggling just to remain conscious.

At last, the Mars was flying level but the planet's gravity was wreaking havoc with its systems. Klaxons started flashing and warnings, buzzes, beeps, and sparks filled the bridge about structural and system failures across the ship. Its cruiser escort weren't fairing any better. One failed to overcome its descent and continued downward beneath the cloud cover until there was a bright flash.

Above, the MCN in their suicide charge were now flying in between Nicean ships as guns fired in all directions. At first the the defence seemed like it was going to hold, but then this led to straight chaos as Nicean ships started hitting each other among the fire. Rtai vessels in pursuit were also still firing on the Martian craft and striking their own allies.

The Mars reemerged from New Salamis as it struggled to pull away from the planet's atmosphere. The manoeuvre and distraction had pulled off as the battlecruiser made its way, limping, towards the rear of the Niceans. Crews inside the ship's spinal corridor quickly vacated the space having cleared all the debris they could before the weapon fired. A beam travelled down the corridor, shotgunning whatever was loose inside and sending it and the energy weapon down range.

One of the Nicean dreadnoughts had taken note but was struggling to turn before it took a critical blow along its stern. The vessels thrusters shut down and it was quickly left as a sitting duck. Cruiser fire from the escort began to work on the ship with their weaponry when a MAC round come up from New Salamis and split the vessel in half.

Fuller had finally come through with one of the anti-orbital guns of the Rtai. With the ground fire, the chaos in the Nicean ranks, and the Mars on their rear, panic swept over them quickly and the once tight formation of ships found themselves in a confusing quagmire of communications, friendly fire, and sheer hell. Another dreadnought was taken down by the MAC planetside as Martian PDCs and secondaries from the MCN ships within the enemy's ranks were whittling away at their defences.

One Nicean dreadnought had managed to turn though and was too deep in the formation for the MAC to fire from the ground without risking friendly-fire for the Martians as well. The Mars was in a precarious position as the enemy's spinal unleashed itself on them. An explosion ripped along the portside of the Mars as a particle beam cut through the transient shields and armour and made its way down the full length of the ship. It tore into the superstructure and a series of detonation followed.

There was simply no time to react. The secondary bridge of the MCN Mars was compromised and the last thing Nerys remembered was flying up towards the ceiling from her chair. The ship went dark after that as its reactors shutdown and its thrusters went dormant.




Nerys slowly opened her eyes to a blinding white light that seared its way into her retinas. She was in a daze and unable to make anything out with everything looking so cloudy. Worst of all, there seemed to be no sound. All Nerys felt was just tired. She tried to move but felt hands on her that kept her in place, shortly after that, her world faded once more into an abyss.




''My throat,'' she managed hoarsely. She felt something cold slip into her fingers and some sort of motion that made her stomach flip and do somersaults. There was then a straw and a gloved hand, and as her eyes adjusted she began to make out the figure of a nurse. She was a middle-aged lady with curly red hair and a pleasant smile.

Nerys took a few drinks which didn't settle her stomach at all. As more detail came in, she could make out a hospital room with some machines and a bunch of chairs gathered around her bed. People were sitting in them including Dewitz. They were all moving their lips though there was nothing coming from them. The nurse held up a sign to Nerys that told her she where she was.

''Testing''

Nerys furrowed her brows and looked at the nurse. She was using a cybercomm link to communicate. The reality then began to set in and Nerys' confusion went to panic as she tried to climb from her bed but was quickly subdued by the nurse and Dewitz. ''You're safe, Nerry. Calm down. You're safe, you're okay. You're okay,'' Dewitz said over cybercomm.

The group exchanged some looks and Nerys began to piece together the puzzle. She recognised Sanders, Fuller, and a few others. Sanders was now sporting some high-end prostheses, Fuller looked much older with a beard. Dewitz looked about the same, and the rest, she didn't know who they were. ''The war is over,'' Dewitz handed her a holotablet which showed a headline: 'The War Has Ended! Separatist capital destroyed in atomic explosion.' -- the date read 2170.

There was a tear that ran down the side of Nerys' face as she finally noticed her hands, which were not hers. They were instead mechanical and skinless. Fuller scooted over and took one of them in his as the rest stood and gathered around her. ''I know it's a lot to take in..'' Fuller communicated.

''I'm.. deaf?''

There were a few more exchanged expressions with Dewitz answering that question for them, ''The Mars took a direct hit from a Nicean dread. I'm not sure if you remember. The explosion.. it...''

''You needed some major cybernetic and prosthetic surgery, Nerys. You're lucky you survived. They had to replace a lot of your body. Your hearing however, there was significant nerve damage with the braincase and the surgery was considered too risky,'' Fuller stated with a squeeze of her hand. ''You've been in a medically induced coma for the last three years to let your brain recover and adapt to your new prosthetic body. I'm sorry.''

''Does this mean I'm going to be.. to be discharged?''



3 months later


''We're currently standing outside the Senatehall where Grand Admiral Nerys Harlow and members of the Admiralty are currently meeting with the Senate about the fateful battle of New Salamis. According to documents Martian Times received from the Department of the Navy, Harlow is expected to give her account to the Naval Committee of the battle and will be attending a ceremony with the Sovereign later where she will be awarded the Martian Cross and knighted into the Order of the Red Stag.

''Harlow was responsible for the miraculous victory at New Salamis where she took command of her severely damaged flagship and the battered MCN fleet and routed the Niceans and Rtai. The defeat saved the MCN's defence in the Delta quadrant from total collapse and gave over a dozen fleets from across the galaxy time to reinforce the Martian Delta. The deadly battle was said to have been impossible by members of the Fifth Fleet if it hadn't been for the then Commander. Here she is now!''

Reporters swarmed a uniformed Nerys that was walking just ahead of members of the Admiralty. Nerys stopped in between them as cameras focused on her from hovering news drones. She was dressed in a deep blue trench coat, a beret cocked to one side, and white gloves. ''Grand Admiral, I understand that you can read lips thanks to a software upgrade, is that correct?'' one reporter asked, which Nerys affirmed.

''Grand Admiral, how does it feel to be considered a national hero?''

''I'm not a hero. I've never liked that term. If you wish to see what real heroes look like, I urge you to visit the New Salamis Memorial,'' Nerys responded.

''Grand Admiral, without your hearing, how do you expect to continue to serve our armed forces?''

Nerys faintly smiled at the remark, ''My lack of hearing does not detract from my work in the Admiralty. One day when technology has improved I may change that, but I'm also okay with what has happened to me. Thank you.'' The reporters kept trying to ask questions but security helped create a path for the new admiral as she boarded a car.

Dewitz was sitting inside already waiting for her as cameras flashed before the door shut them out for good. ''Grand Admiral and celebrity of Delta,'' Dewitz said slyly.

''Shut up,'' Nerys smirked as the car began to pull away from the crowd.

''The repairs on the MCN Mars have finally been completed, should you wish to return to the helm at some point.''

''Not now. Did you have them do what I wanted?''

''Yes. Pieces taken from every ship that was lost at New Salamis and laser-etched with every name of every crew member in the Fifth fleet into its very hull like you asked,'' Dewitz answered. ''And Nerry?''

Nerys looked up from a notepad that she was reading, ''Hm?''

''I'm proud of you.''

User avatar
New Dornalia
Ambassador
 
Posts: 1747
Founded: Apr 27, 2005
Civil Rights Lovefest

Postby New Dornalia » Sat Nov 16, 2019 9:16 am

Present Day
Dornalian Embassy, Laconia
Martian Conglomerate


Ambasador Paisley was impressed.

The elderly career diplomat, with a bald head, salt and pepper hair remnants, a well worn grey suit and a genericky red and blue striped tie, could be seen walking and talking with the Military Attaché, a young otherwise human looking woman in a Marine Corps officer's uniform (a Colonel by the looks of it) with a knee length skirt, peaked cap barely obscuring a pair of wolves' ears, and a tail poking out from behind her along with a nametag--"Tusk". Paisley had his arms folded, as the Military Attaché spoke with her hands moving in an animated manner, and a Polish accent influencing her whole tone.

Paisley for his part, reacting to Colonel Tusk's assessment, said, "I mean, I can't believe it myself. I thought that Supervisory Inspector Nakamura was selling us a whole load of bullshit when she first came here." Animatedly, Paisley pointed to Tusk, adding, "And you thought so too--hell, you were railing up and down about potential OPSEC risks. I mean, using food trucks, maid cafes....it all seemed like someone called for amateur hour."

Tusk nodded, and said, with a pleasantly surprised expression, "And yet, here we are! That crazy Inspector...I don't know how she's managed to work it, but she has provided us with an intelligence goldmine. The biggest one I've seen since I got to Laconia. Real-time and nearly real-time intercepts of MCA and MCNMC communications traffic. It's provided us with updates on what is going on, and has helped us build a general map of the factions' movements. We've even been able to provide actionable reports to our allies as quickly as possible."

As the two walked from one cube farm to another, the signs of the price of due diligence could be heard and smelled. Coffee pots and hot water dispensers were working over time. Staffers in and out of uniform could be seen taking small cups of coffee, tea, or even mixing the two together as they quickly rushed back to their workstations. A line began to form at one coffee station, and at another, a small outburst of "WHAT THE FUCK!?" complete with someone slamming down an empty bottle of powdered coffee creamer. Other arguments could be heard--namely, a couple of large computer towers were being rushed into a corner of the office, with cables and other equipment being assembled by a pair of Marines. Near them was a man in a shirt and tie with shocking pink hair, sorta-Asian features, a sorta-Canadian-German-Japanese accent, and ERIS credentials marked with the name "Lawson", going, "Can't you guys work any faster?" One of the Marines went, "Look Princess, you're not my only IT job today, so shut it."

Tusk and Paisley approached the man with ERIS credentials, and the man stood and saluted Tusk and extended a hand to Paisley. "Colonel. Ambassador."

"Is there a problem, Mr. Lawson?" asked Tusk.

"Linh-Mina's contractual obligation album, do we ever," said Lawson. Gesturing to the server banks being installed in the office, Lawson continued, "We've had to deploy tons of spare server banks to keep up with demand. Whatever Nakamura's people are finding--we're barely keeping up with it. I've got Postal Inspectors, Hikki Chamber people, anyone who's everyone who knows their way around IT crap trying to keep up." Pausing as he saw Tusk's skeptical look on her face, Lawson replied, "I know what you're thinking. But trust me. The networks we have are secure and can handle a lot. But we've gotten a lot.."

Tusk nodded, and went, "But we will be able to keep up with everything so far, yes?"

"Yes, Colonel. Did you see my request to access DoD secure lines and SledgeNet mobile assets to distribute the workload?"

"Yes, and I put in the request. Carry on."

Tusk and company walked on, as Tusk then added, "There is something I did want to mention to you, Mr. Ambassador. Three things actually."

"Go on?"

"Item number one is that we haven't been able to get into every aspect of the factions' hardware. We have yet to get into the really sensitive networks. We've gotten access to ShardNet, Valkyrie, Guardian, and even basic radio communications networks. There are however other known and unknown secret and secure comms methods which we have not yet broken into."

"Has Nakamura tried getting into those?" Ambassador Paisley asked.

"Unknown. I'll see if I can't contact her. We do know that Martian Civil Defense has a robust counterintelligence capability, so there is that factor to consider in any breakthrough attempt."

Ambassador Paisley nodded, going, "And what of the second item?"

"It relates to what i just said. We've received reports that the PABLUM DONGLE teams have begun to run into attempts to counter their access to the Valkyrie network. Nakamura reports that all signs point to a sophisticated cyberdefense mechanism of some sort, which has attempted to stymie access to Valkyrie through means such as wiping out keylogger codes, changing comms frequencies, and so on. Given that this is happening on the Valkyrie network, it could be either dedicated cybersecurity personnel or even perhaps the AI running the system. Either way, Nakamura's teams are adapting to the counterintelligence gambits as we speak. I've also asked Mr. Lawson and his friends at Postal Inspectors' Cybersecurity to begin preparing our networks for potential Martian cyberwarfare efforts targeting Embassy systems, and they are working as we speak."

Ambassador Paisley nodded, as Tusk explained,

"And item three. PABLUM DONGLE intercepts indicate the potential intervention of outside powers. Namely, the Nimatojin--the Sunsetters--and the Taraskovyans. We don't know what the gameplan is, but it is worth watching."

"Understood."

As Tusk and company walked on, someone could be heard muttering over a headset, "The spaghetti is in the sauce. Repeat. The Spaghetti is in the Sauce...."
"New Dornalia, a living example of anomalous civilizations."-- Phoenix Conclave
"Your nation has always been ridiculous. But it's endearing."--Skaugra
"It's a magical place where chinese cowboys ply the star lanes to extract vast wealth from trade, where NORINCO isn't just an arms company, but an evil bond villain type conglomerate that hides in other nations. Where the apocalypse happened, and everyone went "huh, that's neat" and then got back to having catgirls and starships."-- Olimpiada
"...why am I space China, and I don't have actual magic animals, and you're space USA, and you do? This seems like a mistake." --Roania, during a discussion on wildlife.


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