Chapter 27: Planning Phase

With one disaster after another, the crew of the Edward Deming are stretched thin after another incident places their friends and family in danger...Some will go to great lengths to achieve their goals, though others may not be so eager to make a Faustian bargain.
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Chapter 27: Planning Phase

Post by uso »

IAS Edward Deming
Briefing Room

The briefing room of the Edward Deming was a decently large auditory with seating for about 30 people. It looked a lot like a classroom with stadium seating and some desks built into the rows of chairs. Up front was a single large display as well as a small mobile podium.

“Briefing will start in five minutes,” Came the announcement over the PA system, just in case anyone had forgotten.

Somnya was already there, the elf (Or Second Children as they preferred in their own tongue) had her arms crossed in front of her, blue uniform clinging to her body as she watched everyone file in from her position behind the podium. If anything,she regretted getting here a few minutes too early and it showed in the intensity behind her eyes.

Heram would be the next to arrive, black slacks, green T-shirt, brown belt with matching shoes. Certainly dressed well enough but clearly not military attire, his shoes were a bit scuffed, his belt just slightly out of place. He was presentable enough for a civilian but lacked the attention to those specific details that the soldiers had. His attention was focused entirely on the Datapad he had in hand. He would end up standing near Somnya at the front of the room.

Green-Squad would start filing in next, the rather Amazonian [url=character:green_thumb]Green-Thumb[/url] taking a seat in the back, setting out a pen and notepad for analog note taking without saying too much

“OH, Are we starting?!” Green-Screen asked, the blonde looked to be barely in her 20s, one of the newest recruits for the Marine squad onboard the Edward Deming, quickly moving up the stairs towards the back of the room where Green-Thumb had taken a seat. Just like her superior officer she was wearing the same grey sweater-like outfit, polished black shoes, a perfect black belt-buckle, not a thing out of place just as one would expect from a professional soldier.

“Not yet but we will be starting soon. Move like you have a purpose people.” Somnya said, her stern tone immediately interrupted by the ship’s biologist / medical officer-

“HI EVERYONE!” Soffy Oo’Tut shouted as she entered the room. The I’ee was a wasp-like creature, wings six legs, two of which were supporting the I’ee’s weight while the other four held things like a datapad and a pen. The I’ee had big compound eyes on her head, and a small LED light board work on her face almost like a mask that was displaying “^_^”. This sort of adaptation was common for I’ee, as most humans had a very hard time telling what emotion the chitinous creatures were displaying. She would then move to one of the front chairs, climbing up onto the chair, and then climbing up onto the desk-part, sitting down on top of the desk and holding up her datapad just a bit so she could have it record things from her perspective.

Enid Halliday floated into the room silently like a restless spirit. Crust gripped the sides of her eyes and her short dark hair carried the dampness of a fresh shower. Dark circles provided more color to her face than the minimalist make-up she had chosen to adorn. A shirt in an icy pale blue with darker blue text read a faded phrase, 'Best Girl', across the chest and black pair of shorts stretch and drape over her but leave the cheap, busted prosthetics exposed. She was too physically energetic for them and pushed them beyond limits more than a few times. The ever present large brown aviator jacket she wore on board weighed on her shoulders as though it carried the responsibility of royalty, and the status too considering it nearly dwarfed her in size with the winter button-in faux fur lining she added. Eerily drifting into a front desk close to Heram and Somnya as if to compensate for her inattentive appearance. The pained and miserable expression decorating her face was also painted with the regret of her evident all nighter like a self-loathing masterpiece in an art gallery of bad decisions. A cyclone of misplaced thoughts dance chaotically in her mind as she pieces together her lie. Geiben. She will say he made her review the pilot program courses back to back as punishment for reckless behavior. Perfect lies never came this easy. Slumping against the backrest her eyes stared through the walls and straight into space. She was as unmoving as a stone statue. Still.

A gathering of ten men, dressing in full-uniform, arrives at the auditory, taking their seats in the back. On their side-shoulders, an arm-badge shows the Sheffeldan Freehold’s flag. The 1st Motor-Rifle Division was printed into the arm-bandage under the flag along with their sub-command. All of the ten-men belongs to a different brigade or battalion of their division, either a lieutenant colonel, or colonel, or a major. Anti-Air, artillery, etc. All of them have brought tape-recorders, clipboards, and an array of pens and pencils. The ten-men sit quietly as they talk among each other, looking at some of the other members in the auditory.

Geiben Folami already sat at the front in a corner, not far from Mr. Wazu and Enid. The commander wore a naval officer jacket, his cap on his right, exposing his dark-brown, curly hair. Like Enid, he beared worn out eyes, along with a beard that needed a shave. He took a swig at a metal bottle of coffee. His eyes went widened at a fear that the artificial gravity would suddenly go out, leaving brown droplets scattering in the air. In a split second, he realized how stupid the notion was, giving a light sigh at his fatigue as the commander went back to looking through the documents on his datapad. However, another drifting thought wandered into his loosened mind: was he supposed to be up there with the captain? He knew enough of the mission to present. Then again, this whole Kiwomian thing was partly Mr. Wazu’s project, so perhaps he was sufficient. Geiben stared blankly at his datapad, words and numbers dissolving into meaningless symbols. Frustrated, he turned off the device and audibly yawned, rubbing his now closed eyes, hoping for the caffeine to kick in before the meeting started

Frank Sterling
Frank filed into the room ducking under the doorframe and dressed in his grey uniform tucked nicely into his boots. And a pot of coffee in his hand as he sips from it with a straw. Finding a seat with the rest of green squad Frank pulls out a notepad and writing implement and starts to take notes leaning towards greenthumb he passed her a receipt for a kiwomian vice suit “since you wanted one i ordered one for you.” he said waiting for the briefing to begin.

The leader of Green squad would smile a bit, and give him a nod as she took the receipt. “You’re not going to be the only well-suited one next time.”

Frank was followed close behind by ecurs power armor squad lead. A 6’3” 220 lb solid muscle human female with brown eyes and red hair wearing a body glove under her ecur uniform as she sat down next to geiben Cpl Elizabeth Angelas was stiched to her uniform breast pocket
In her hand a whiskey bottle filled with herbal tea.

Corgan Garret
A tan OGRE man with chiseled features and close-cropped green hair wearing an Interstellar Alliance Marshal Duster with his badge displayed walked in, ducking the door frame with the ease of a man accustomed to being taller than everyone around him. He surveyed the room, seeing exactly what kind of outfit he was dealing with. The Marshal didn’t take a seat, rather he walked to the back right corner and leaned against the wall.

Dr. Knowledgebot walks into this auditorium of sorts, the briefing room, and elects to stand in the corner. Bring tall, it had always been met with disdain when it sat in the front of the class at university, and it didn’t wish to relive that here with new people it’d have to spend possibly years with in the Expanse Above. It stood in the back, looking down at the crowd with an intensity of intelligence, as if it tried to stare into the souls of those before it. Now all it had to do was wait to be briefed.

“I will start the briefing now,” Somnya said, prefering to jump right into the briefing itself rather than waiting to see if everyone was ready or even on the same page. With a soft ‘click’ a projection of the Kiwomian homeworld would appear, mostly tropical, frozen poles, just about everything that you would expect from a habitable world. “Taipan has invaded and occupied the Kiwomian homeworld. The Kiwomian monarch is dead, and the next in line for the throne is being kept at our base on Hawking. Hoshiko is currently running the occupation forces, and is using it as a training exercise for Taipan.”

“Hoshiko instigated the series of events that lead to the invasion, and also has a history of indiscriminate bombing and war crimes against occupied peoples. Bombing of the only major city on the planet has led to infrastructure issues for the population. The death of the Monarch and following power vacuum is leading to an internal civil war between loyalists, capitalists, and rural hunter groups. Furthermore the planet’s own hostile wildlife are making things difficult for everyone involved.” Somnya added, giving everyone a moment to digest what she had just said, placing her arms on the podium as she leaned forward a bit.

“We are not here to liberate the Kiwomians from Taipan. Heram Wazu is here to run a relief operation for the Kiwomian population and to support their government. The Interstellar Alliance and other military forces here are strictly for providing security for the relief mission. We are not here to get into a fight with Tai Pan, and we are not here to fight a civil war on behalf of any of the Kiwomians.”

Another pause, more time for the assembled crowd to digest what was just said, since the next part was going to include some specifics. “We do not have much information on the ground situation right now. We have some canned surveillance information from above the surface, and we will be picking a landing site outside of the city to begin putting together the facilities for the relief mission once we arrive. Also, this planet is roughly 2g, 2atm of pressure, and a high oxygen content. This can cause breathing problems for some of the species in our crew, and 2g will put a lot of stress on your circulatory system. This means you will be issued breathing devices as well as anti-gravity belts to reduce the strain on your bodies.

In terms of combat force, we will be avoiding combat as much as possible. Green-Squad will be responsible for deploying drones along our travel routes and landing area to provide the primary layer of security. Their drones will also be conducting patrols around our area of operations, constructing roads, blockades and forming the base of our COunter-INsurgency OPerations.” She would turn her attention right to the Sheffeldans for this next part, “I will be referring to that as COIN OPs going forward. Green-Squad is a small unit of combat engineers, so this fits their speciality. A successful COIN OP also requires Sapient Intelligence be gathered… The humans, in their desire to name everything after themselves, call this Human Intelligence or HUINT.” Somnya would then point out the Marshal in the group, “The Alliance has provided one of the Marshalls to aid in this. A good security posture is going to require we make contact with the locals and understand their concerns.

Are there any questions so far as to the defense concerns of this operation?” Somnya asked.

Just as the elvish captain said this however, a little girl with fluffy ears quietly walked up and down the briefing room’s isles, her hands carrying a tray festooned with red and white striped paper cups filled with goodies. Chocolate coated pretzels, fresh popcorn of the sweet and salty as well as the classic buttery type, peanuts and trail-mix and even miniature hotdogs wrapped in foil. As though to offset their burden on one’s thirst, the tray had several cartons of juice and bottles of water as well, its weight offset by the strap that went over her neck, allowing the little girl to walk about hands free. Though Bǎo did not say it, she might as well have cried out ‘Popcorn! Get your popcorn here!’ or some other classic balltime phrase as she walked about, offering snacks with an innocent smile to anyone who was wanting.

A Sheffeldan Legion soldier raises his hand. “What will be the area of operations for the 1st Company?”

“Once we setup an operating base planetside, we will be expecting your group to provide air support for our operations. We do not imagine our operations will take place any further out than 500km from our landing area. We can format a landing area to your aircraft’s specifications when we arrive.” Somnya said.

Geiben bit the inside of his lip as he hid a dark expression with his hands in front of his mouth. In truth, a portion of the sleepless hours he endured before the briefing was running simulations in secret, away from the prying eyes of his captain. In particular, he sought the potential consequences of arresting Hoshiko, or simply sending Ecur squad to beat the life out of her. Of course, as expected, all these direct assaults on the worst of the Taianese resulted in a predicted Armageddon down the road. Anyone with half a brain could’ve known that, but after Hoshiko’s intrusion upon the Edward Deming’s functions, and admittedly his own ego, he needed to see the numbers to be sure.

Geiben almost didn’t hear Somnya’s question as he too raised his hand after the foreign mercenary, “What’s Ecur squad’s role in the mission?” Afterwards, he silently gestured to Bǎo for a bottle of water, who promptly handed him one of the ice-cold beverages.

“Ecur heading out on their own have created a number of additional problems for us. We would like them to provide additional security during operations inside of the city as well as assist with making contact with the various players planetside.” Somnya replied.

Enid's eyes weighed beyond measure and pulled her entire face down as she slumped forward in her desk. Puppeted by invisible strings ger hand clonked onto the table and propped lazily up by the elbow. Underneath her hair one eye broke the seal and dared to open, and it did open wide, her pupil narrowed only to gaze lasers into the young catgirl's soul from across the room. Her hunger screamed by no more than a look. Those pretzels seemed tasty and the water quenching, the quenchiest. With a dramatized flourish of the head Enid whipped her bangs back to reveal her other eye and lay it upon the child. Twice the intensity of the stare struck Bao and her tray of sweets, twice a cold aura wavered in the air about her intention. 'She promised me food on the beach. She owes me those cups. I deserve at least two cups of snacks.' Enid's thoughts swirled with great sins of gluttony and envy. Her hand rose from the desk to stand erect in the sky not unlike a flag pole. The fingers folded to become a peace sign or perhaps the number two? "Firstly my assignment, secondly my expected performance in 2 g with busted legs?" As her fingers ticked down with both statements, her words seemed practiced but they were not. It was automatic in nature and completely improved.

“Shuttle Pilot and Remote Landing Operator. We will need you to ferry people around as needed, as well as handle operations for the [url=nations:interstellar_alliance:shuttles:bramah_class_lander]Bramah[/url] landers. While we can automate landings inside of our landing zone, we will need your talents to handle careful placement of cargo containers inside of the city from the lander.” Somnya would then look over at the I’ee in the front row who’s antenna had perked up at the mention of snack cups. “Soffy, please get with Enid after this and make sure she gets new legs.”

Frank would raise his hand "I have two questions, one involving the hunter group you mentioned if I remember correctly the diplomat or last of the royal family in this case used the hunters as her royal guard and besides that those hunters were cast out of the city beforehand, what's to happen to them? Second what would. Be the proper procedure if innocents are in the line of fire by any party"

“We will need to interview members of this group and assess if they can be offered political asylum. Perhaps Dr. Knowledgebot can assist with this, as data collection appears to be its specialty…” Somnya looked over at the black robot, “Speak of, do you have a preferred pronoun?.. “ Somnya then turned her attention back to Frank before giving the robot a chance to respond. “The usual rules of engagement apply. Do not fire unless fired upon. Do not fire when non-combatants are in the line of fire. Priority is to be given to withdrawing from a dangerous situation rather than exchanging fire.”

“Heram will handle further briefing on the specifics of the relief operation.” Somnya then added.

Heram Wazu looked a bit surprised hearing his name called out, he had been looking at Bao, waiting to catch her eye so he could get some snacks, only for the briefing to continue without him. “Right.” He said, watching as Somnya stepped to the side so that he could take her place at the Podium. “The Relief operation is fairly straightforward. We will be using the containerized starship components and just installing them in the city. We have cargo containers that double as power generators, waste treatment, even food production. We set them up in the right places and the city will be able to take care of itself. We will also need to interface with the locals and get a sense for how to do this… we also will want to check their water treatment and other infrastructure that has been damaged by orbital bombardment. The Hunter groups outside of the city are also working on patching together some old starships, if we can we will be assisting there as well. We will do our best to ensure that anyone wanting to leave the planet will be able to by the end of our mission.”

Bǎo, to her credit, promptly made sure that the previously deprived pilot was properly fed this time, even so far as to hand her one of the mini-hotdogs on their mini buns, as well as giving her a few packets of ketchup, mustard, mayo, and relish to use at her own discretion. Soon enough though, she made her way to her master’s side as well, offering up some snacks to Heram in the process. Whatever their deliberations against Tai Pan, the little girl didn’t seem perturbed in the slightest - her sole focus appeared to be making sure everyone was happy with snacks on hand.

Geiben simply took a swig from his coffee bottle in response to Somnya’s reply and Bǎo’s lack thereof. Oh well, the kid shouldn’t be here being a waiter to everyone anyways, but she’s Taianese and Mr. Wazu’s responsibility, so why should he care? Slightly disgruntled, the commander focused on his datapad, going through the speech-to-text that has been generating, reading the newly created notes and comparing them to his own knowledge. So far, everything looks to be by the book: keeping the civilians calm, setting up key infrastructure, delivering supplies, applying force only when necessary, standard relief mission. It’s a shame that the Taianese are getting away with all this, however, and leaving the Alliance to fix everything while having to tiptoe around the schwein. Why were they allies again?

The commander raised his head and looked at his captain, or rather, searched his captain’s thoughts. Dammit, that’s elves for you, may be a dying race, but they sure know how to put up a poker face. For once, Geiben wished Somnya did something utterly contradictory to all sensibility. Bring the Taianese down a notch, both you and I want it. He did the best he could to relay all his thoughts to the captain just through his facial expression. Instead, he probably ended up looking constipated instead. Didn’t help that much of his blood composition was caffeine at this point.

“Hhm. We gonna leave, Steve. Overmind has shit for us to do. Good luck with the note-taking.” One of the Freeholder officers says as nine out of the ten-Freehold officers stands up and then quickly leaves the auditory. The only Freehold officer left nods to himself, “Right.” Steve now quietly stands by his lonesome. Steve shoots up his hand. “Yes, we know of the 5th Air Squadron’s operational zone. What we want is where will be the 1st Company ‘C’ and its accompanying support units will be stationed. Your status documents sent a few days ago did not provide us with enough detail.” Steve pulls out a water bottle from his bag on the seat beside him. He opens it but his bottle slips out of his hands. “Ah, shit.” Steve whispers to himself, wetting himself and his surroundings. “Whatever.” Steve says, ignoring the issue as he waits for a response to his question.

Somnya would speak up, “Your support units for the air wing will be remaining at our Operating base. As Heram has described it to me this is a trial-engagement for your organization. We will be utilizing only your airwing for limited operations and integration tests with our ground units.”

Enid felt pure life energy flow into her at the mention of her new legs. It was hard to contain this hope and joy as it was bothering her so intensely for so long. Never the one to make a huge fuss over her own issues Enid hadn't told anyone how difficult it had been dealing with the busted pair she had but felt it was obvious. Removing them every night and limping around noisily during the day has become such a routine burden she almost cried herself to sleep the last week over it. The offer of brand new legs was like a whole relief effort to her. That happiness was only feed as Bao feed her. Though she was hungry she took a moment to observe the packet of relish as she had never seen one before. Deep in study Enid ate the tiny hotdog without much question of its origin and continued onto the snacks. Hoping she didn't come of as gluttonous and attempting to be modest. Sitting happily and attentive she was ready to hear whatever else Somnya had to say even if she didn't understand much of it.

Dr. Knowledgebot made no movement to indicate anything other than passive interest, but this new question about it’s identity caught it off guard. It recovered quickly. “I am a machine, without genitalia or any indicator. I am neither, a simple creation of man. But if it makes it easier, you may call me “He”, after my Creator. I will be pleased to assist in any way I can, however I also have a question about the conflict itself. Was it strategically, politically, or spiritually driven? Or… was it started just for the sake of war?”

“During the diplomatic summit earlier in the year, Hoshiko and the Kiwomians did not get along. Threats were made, and the Kiwomians chose to make a pre-emptive attack. This did not go well for them, and Taipan used it as an excuse to invade. The Interstellar Alliance doesn’t have the stomach to call Taipan out on this so it is sitting on the sidelines with the other major powers.” Somnya stated.

“I think Hoshiko intends to use this as a training exercise for Taipan’s military.” Heram added, “She stated as much when we were on the Adlet homeworld. Despite setbacks… we were able to protect the Adlet from Taipan and I expect we will be able to make progress on this issue as well. Be mindful that their goal is likely conflict and make your best effort not to engage.”

Corgan listened to the briefing quietly, holding up his hand to wave politely when Somnya mentioned his presence. The mission sounded straightforward but with what he’d been told about the ship’s previous missions he wasn’t so sure. Anything that annoyed Tai Pan even a little bit was fine with him personally. Officially though he was here to try to prevent any diplomatic incidents and make sure no laws were broken, though as a Marshal he had a bit of leeway on how to apply the law.

He eyed the little Jongwu curiously as she scurried about giving out snacks. It wasn’t unheard of to have one of the Taianese “pets” around . It did seem odd, however, that one so young would be on this mission. His eyes shifted to the little wasp sitting on the table. The sight of an I’ee reminded him of his first encounter with the creatures. He had been extremely wary of them due to their appearance. Now he had several friends among the I’ee and generally looked favorably upon them, especially the Thi-Thi and Ee’Ith. He wondered what family this one was from.

It was about the same time that the I’ee noticed Corgan. Soffy almost immediately started squirming where she was sitting… eager to jump down off the desk and go introduce herself to the new person but knowing that it wasn’t proper to go about making a scene in the middle of a briefing… leaving the I’ee to awkwardly look between Corgan and Somnya repeatedly.

Corgan was amused by the robot’s question. With Tai Pan, the conflict was most likely either strategic or political, though he suspected that some of their leaders enjoyed the conflict. It wasn’t his place to say so in the middle of a briefing. He might have a conversation with the bot later about his own thoughts the motives of the Taianese.

So… that’s the truth of it, part of it anyways. Why would the upper echelons of the Alliance act this way? Surely they don’t intend to repeat the same mistakes of their ancestors through this… appeasement, right? RIGHT? The diplomatic powerhouse of the sector allowing one crazed Vice Admiral to get away with all this? In the name of what, training?

Geiben’s expression remained as dark as before, though he was increasingly unable to hide it. He hesitated for a while to speak, but alas, he scrounged up the right combination of words that wouldn’t get him court marshalled. “What… is Alliance command’s long term plan to resolve the issue on Kiwomia? Surely, relief operations is only the first step?” It was a probing question, one that he hoped Somnya had the answer to.

“The Alliance has no political will to heavily get into the mess of a single colony. Trust me, the media can care less.” Steve comments.

Geiben turned to look back at the foreign officer and gave a flash of discontent before reverting to the standard naval poker face. "It doesn't matter what the media says, what matters to us is doing the right thing. Besides, the Kiwomian Homeworld is no small matter. It's not just some asteroid colony; it's a completely habitable world that is the launching point to the rest of the star system. It has the potential to become a significant contributor to the Alliance's economic and strategic position. Even if you disregard moral obligations, giving it up to the Taianese would be---" Foolish, incompetent, shooting ourselves in the foot, the worst humanitarian failure in recent memory next to the Wangdiao Colony Blackout, "---unwise."

“You’re not wrong. We already have multiple units fighting against the Tai Pai under different names and banners. The 6th Air-Squadron, which is being used by you. The 20th Air-Unit currently participating in mercenary work against a Tai Pan ground army to name a few. Of course, we don’t openly say much about it as the Tai Pan also acts a limited trading partner, but it wouldn't be long before they track us back to the Freehold.” Steve notes.

Frank sighed looking to Geiben, “No offense sir but acting irrationally without knowing the full story won't help any of us. We do not know what actually was said to spark the Tai Pan and Kiwomian issue. We can speculate or play the blame game all day but in the end, we don't know one thing. What started it, regardless if Tai Pan played mind games and instigated a kiwami attack they in the end did nothing wrong but defend and quell further attacks. The Kiwomians to what ive seen don't really hold things back either acting on instinct or out of rash ideals. I'm not saying anybody’s innocent I’m just saying both parties are at fault, and in the end the first side to make the other lose their cool in a war has already won before the first shots have been fired.”

“We’re just here to provide humanitarian aid. That’s our purpose. Nothing more or less. Do we have anything else to speak of before we end our briefing?” Steve says.

Frank shook his head “Not from me sir, if nothing left needs to be said ill go…...soffy you ok over there?”

Soffy was practically squirming in place, constantly looking over at Steve, Corgan, and the other new people who had arrived. She finally looked over at Somnya and raised one of her limbs like a child desperate to answer a question.

“To answer your question Geiben, the Alliance has no further plans to interact with the Kiwomians at this point. The Alliance presence on this operation is only for providing security for Mr. Wazu’s relief operation, not to setup involvement with the Kiwomians.” Somnya said, finally turning her attention to the I’ee “Soffy?”

“Can I go say hi to the new people now?!” Soffy asked, only to receive a nod from Somnya. The I’ee would jump down off her spot on the desk and run over to Steve. The four foot high wasp like creature would hug him around the legs with four of her own, her compound eyes somewhat pointed up at him while the LED panel on her face displayed a ^_^ “HELLO I AM SOFFY!” She said, quickly hugging him and then running over to Corgan, hugging him while he leaned against the wall “HELLO!”

Geiben frowned both at the minimalist answer Somnya gave and Frank’s opinion in the matter. He remained silent as Soffy went on greeting the newcomers, seemingly without a care in the world. The commander looked at Somnya again. Nothing. He turned and back at Frank and nodded in resignation. Against all his moral principles, Geiben had to admit the O.G.R.E was right. Turning a blind eye to the Kiwomians, offering the minimal amount of humanitarian support, that was probably the best option to avoid angering the Schwein that was the Taianese, as far as he knew anyways. Were he not the commander of the Edward Deming---

Geiben stood up with his datapad and bottle with only drips of coffee left in it. “Understood. Now, captain, if you can give me my assignment, I’ll take me leave to make the preparations required.”
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