Chapter 30: Rescue

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 30: Rescue

Post by uso »

Kiwomian Homeworld,
Central City

Something had gone wrong in the city already.

Major relief operations hadn’t even started, but somehow Wazu, Enid, and Bao had managed to get themselves into serious trouble.There was a Riot brewing in the city, and right in the middle of it they had 40+ people that needed to be withdrawn from the area.

The three already in the city were down one shuttle, and it would fall to Geiben to put together the rescue operation with what was available.

Six of eight of the Simonds APCs had been lined up in the mudfields of the operating base. Green squad, the [url=nations:interstellar_alliance:legion:interstellar_alliance_foreign_legion]Foreign Legion Marines[/url] that had come down to the planet, had already loaded G8 launchers with stun rounds to the APCs and were getting ready to head out.

Some heavy construction equipment had finished a stretch of runway for Stephen’s airwing to use, though the entirety of the support infrastructure for their aircraft had not been setup yet. Similarly there were only two Heavy Lifters available, not enough to move all 6 APCs at the same time.

Geiben injected a cocktail of drugs into himself as he stammered up from his desk. Everything felt heavy; they literally were. The simple act of scratching his beard under the 2g weight was a light workout in of itself. It only complicated the deteriorating situation that him and the rest of the Edward Deming found themselves him. How did Wazu and Enid get themselves trapped? It was supposed to just be an in-and-out job with Wazu talking to some of the locals, something only worth lightly simulating.

Oh right… Bao. The gravity of both the situation and the planet kept the commander’s emotions in check, but not enough to prevent him from putting an indentation the size of his fist into his datapad. One thing at a time, Geiben. He threw a distorting projection of a map onto the wall, complete with the planned routes of the rescue mission. Based on the Edward Deming’s scans of the local terrain, he did his best to draw out the paths of least resistance, but there was no way around the muddy terrain, and the APC’s still have to cut through the shrubberies they call trees here. What a pain, too, their trunks being much thicker than those growing in 1-g.

There was no time to waste. Geiben grabbed his cracked data pad, then did his best to walk out his makeshift tent like an Alliance officer, rather than the biological mass suffering under conditions it wasn’t designed for, that he actually was. He approached Green Thumb. “Once you’re ready, go ahead and move out. I’ve uploaded route information and the timeline to your computers.” He then opened comms with Mr. Wazu. “Green Squad is en route now. What’s your status?”

Corgan was walking back to the base when he noticed the commotion. He was wearing a black anti-gravity suit with a Marshal’s insignia emblazoned on the chest. A bandolier was wrapped around his right shoulder which held a handful of magazines pre-loaded with .50 AE rounds and his sidearm hung at his hip. His badge had been attached with a bit of high strength tape. He had his helmet comms off because he didn’t want to listen to the chatter. The walk back to the base gave him time to think. Seeing the APCs loaded up and ready to head out, he switched on his comms to listen to what was happening. He picked up the pace and ran back to the base, headed for the command tent.

He was about to ask Geiben what was happening but he seemed busy. Instead, he walked up to Green Thumb. “What’s going on Lieutenant?” Corgan asked. “Looks like the shit hit the fan while I was gathering information.”

“Good timing, Marshall.” Geiben turned to him as he waited for Wazu to reply, taking a second to scan the O.G.R.E. He’s already met Frank, so Corgan was no stranger. Second one of the ship now that he knew at least; that’s amusing. “We’ve got friendlies trapped in the city, more than forty of them. You’re familiar with Alliance protocol, right? I want you to ride with us and do crowd control, the non-violent kind.” Would’ve asked Ecur squad for this if they didn’t have the stink eye by command. He continued on. “Our goal is to extract all personnel with minimal casualties to the civilians.

Corgan turned to Geiben, looking down to make eye contact. He nodded in response. “I’ve seen enough good people die thanks to the Taianese. It’s partially why I joined the Marshals.” He said. “I’ve been talking with the hunter squads, and I think we might be able to do this without any civvies dying. There’s a way out of the city that bypasses the checkpoints, a service tunnel. I don’t know the exact location but it’s supposed to be on the southernmost bridge.”

It will be good to travel in a vehicle after the other shit they told me, he thought. Fighting off a horde of football-sized spiders or getting eaten by a damn tree isn’t how I’d like to spend my time.

“These tunnels probably aren’t big enough to get an APC through, not to mention how inconspicuous they are. We might want to go into the city with one or two APCs full of soldiers to deter any violence and have the rest meet us outside of the tunnel later. They could transport the civilians back here. Drones could scout the tunnel for us.” Corgan suggested.

A rotobic female voice patches into the radios or headphones, or whatever you’re using to commit verbal communication, out of nowhere.

<:: Low socio-stability detected within your city block. Authorization for stabilisation team .GRID. BETA. SWORD. Awaiting. ::>

Wazu would finally respond after a minute or two of nothing, “The situation is developing… we’re inside of a clothing store right now and it looks like more people are joining the riot outside. Going to look for a safer spot to hide. Will keep my position updated on the tactical map,” Their local communications network would remain updated with Wazu, Bao, and Enid’s position. The Edward Deming was still above them, positioned to try and remain away from the Taianese ships while still having line of sight down to the surface with its extensive geological survey equipment. Though the situation was deteriorating, at least their communications quality would be excellent.

Caxia also decided they needed to make an appearance. Living quarters for everyone were being unloaded by the lifters, the cargo-container sized apartments were small but were equipped with all of the luxuries one would need while on this planet including anti-gravity tech to make the 2g more bearable… but it would still be a few days until enough for everyone had been brought to the surface. Caxia’s body had also been changed up, their normal cylindrical form had a toroidal anti-gravity drive installed around it now, allowing them to float over to where Corgan and Geiben were standing. Their three legs extending outward and allowing Caxia to touch down on the surface, clear plastic coverings keeping the landing legs from getting muddy. “Mr. Geiben, if you feel that the drugs are insufficient to prepare your body for two G, and want your body to be better suited for this environment, I could suggest a number of cybernetic augmentations that will improve the quality of life for you.” Caxia stated.

This was followed by a fast moving, bodysuited, Echoni racing through the mud and effortlessly jumping up onto the rear of one of the APC’s, scurrying along the top on all fours before diving in through one of the hatches on the top. In a few moments the green-hair’ed creature would pop its head back up out of the top, “TAKE ME TO THE CITY!” She excitedly demanded, eager for new and exciting things to smash.

“... I would also like to send one of the Echoni with you. Its bodysuit has a built-in disable function if they become too much to handle and they are easy enough to handle. I have promised this one many juice-boxes if she helps you with your mission…also I will be gathering data on its activities in 2g.” Caxia stated.

Corgan watched the bioweapon race by and jump into the vehicle. As a regular human with training and augmentation he was disturbed by these Echoni. He could imagine what he would have been like with that kind of power without training or a proper upbringing. It wasn’t a pretty picture. At least it can be disabled if it gets rowdy, he thought. He didn’t know what to think about Caixa. That one was too clinical for his liking, like it wasn’t really human though it claimed to be. He didn’t know much about SEER either and he suspected he would rather not know.

So Ecur squad can’t come on this mission, but barely mentally stable bioweapons CAN? Geiben put his hand up to the doctor. “Perhaps, later, once this is all over. I’ll bring her along, but let me make the responsibilities clear: she’s not going to see action unless it’s come to the Triarii, so to speak.” He then turned back to Corgan to respond to his proposal. “We’ll send drones to scout the tunnels, but we’re not sending two APC’s full of soldiers in first, no matter our intent.” Geiben paused for a moment to think. “No, scratch that, we’ll follow your recommendation.” He then addressed the entirety of Green squad. “Though I want open-carry armor and firearms to a minimum. We’re not police force, we’re just trying to get our guys out of there peacefully. Understood?”

The robotic female voice speaks again.

<:: Copy. Air-support is available within your city block. Requests are open. ::>

“Roger that,” The commander replied, “I need identification of mob concentrations within the area and escort for heavy lifters.”

<:: Air-elements inroute. Please stand by. ::>

Meanwhile in an airstrip named Site-1…

Site-1, belonging to the Freehold Legion, had just gotten its aircraft shipment. Now, it was time to use those aircraft, the Atmospheric-Unit-3. First was the scouting mission, AU-3s, which were sent out to the Kiwomian Central City. Their mission was to find out dense gatherings of people for onground elements. It would not be too long before said jet-planes could be seen flying overhead high in the sky, taking screenshots of whatever it needed with its camera - that is dense crowds of rioting people. While not a sky-plane, the AU-3 did its job. After-all, it’s not hard to simply take pictures and then send that data down to ground units. That info is then sent back to the Overmind, an AI managing the whole Freehold Legion, to authorize to be sent to people like Geiben. After that, a pair of AU-3s would be tasked with protecting the heavy lifters.

Dr. Knowledgebot slowly walked towards the group, scanning the faces of everyone here. He had heard of the danger from frantic officers as they passed by, and felt it was a good a time as any to come out of his room. It wasn’t hard to find those considered necessary personnel on this mission, standing at rheit makeshift crisis suite of people. He walked up to them and made himself known. “I have heard of the commotion in the city limits, and wish to accompany you to find the source of the unrest. Primary objective is of course to secure our assets. I will be of use to you, and i am not defenseless. May I also help?”

Geiben raised an eyebrow at the robot, then nodded. “Of course, doctor. We’ll likely need your counsel.” He then came to a thought. “In fact, I need a favor from you right now. I have a message for the Central City governor, and I need you to make it sound more… diplomatic, if need be.” The commander straightened himself in under the 2g environment as best he could, and began firmly. “This is Geiben Folami, Commander of the IAS Edward Deming. Currently, our allies are trapped in your city due to a rather trivial misunderstanding, but as you see now, the situation is deteriorated beyond that magnitude. We do not wish harm upon your citizens, but we must extract our personnel. Beyond that, I have a request: acknowledge the delivery of this message, and don’t impede our mission. Whatever else is up to you. Commander Folami out.”

It wasn’t clear to Corgan what had caused this situation to begin with. Depending on the cause of the riot a peaceful resolution might be next to impossible, and with what he knew of the recent history it was likely not a riot without clear cause and direction. The robot Doctor seemed to echo his thoughts when he mentioned finding the source of the unrest. He decided to see if the Commander had any guesses. “You’ve been with Mr. Wazu a while. I believe he’s been involved with the Kiwomians for a while now.” Corgan said to Geiben after his speech to the governor was relayed to Dr. Knowledgebot. “Do you have any clue what this riot is about?”

The commander shook his head. “A child was caught up in Mr. Wazu’s operation and she got mistaken for a Taianese. Needless to say the civilians aren’t too keen on her among their ranks, Taianese or not.” Do not ask how.

Thinking back to the briefing, Corgan recalled the little Jongwu in the conference room. “I see. Poor girl, she can’t help how she was born.” He said with a sigh. “It could be worse.. But that does complicate the situation. They are highly aggravated about someone that resembles one of their enemies strolling through the city. I’m not expecting them to be open to a peaceful resolution. We have to try though.”


~30 minutes later,
Just south of the Central City,
Transport Convoy


Six APCs had nearly finished their travel through the forest and had formed up in a line just outside of the city. Each APC had a small remote-controlled turret with EMP weapon, machine gun, and stun-drone launchers. There were hatches on the sides and rear, along with two hatches on the top for drivers. The boxy 8 wheeled transports were weightly enough to push through the short trees of the Kiwomian homeworld, and had enough sensors mounted all around that anyone could get a good view of the surroundings by using the cameras on the local network.

The front APC was being driven entirely by remote, while the Green-Squad marine unit occupied the APC that was in the second position. This left Geiben and the others in the third APC with the remaining three left entirely empty for the upcoming rescue mission.

Ahead of them was the southern-most bridge into the main city. It was quite wide, nearly 8 lanes across with a road along the top of the suspension bridge, and numerous heavy pipes and the like below the road sections, making the bridge look quick thick and weighty. The pipes were used for various things, like bringing fresh water into the city, but not all of the pipes were in use. Corgan was able to guide the convoy to a section of open pipe just outside of the city. At some point it was intended for use but at the moment it appeared to be entirely empty and it was hard to tell exactly where the pipe would come out at.

On the bridge itself there were numerous checkpoints as well… one run by the city police near the main entrance, and another run by Taipan on the bridge itself. If the convoy decided to cross there it would certainly have to deal with both.

“What are we waiting for? LETS GOOOOOooo…” 444 called out. The Echoni popping her head out of the top of one of the hatches just enough for her eyes to be able to see over the edge. Of course, at the moment they were waiting for Geiben to evaluate the situation and choose a route to take.

“Corgan, take two drones and scout the pipes. Green squad, get a load-bearing model; see if they can handle the full weight of our convoy with good factor of safety.” Geiben ordered as he stepped out of the APC. “Operator of Site 1, continue monitoring the riot and give me key updates.” He then opened comms with Mr. Wazu. “This is Geiben, we’re outside the city now, across the bridge.” The commander squinted his eyes, searching for the building they were trapped in. “I’m going to talk to the checkpoints, see if they’ll let us in. If not… then we’ll be coming in through the tunnels.”

He gave a hefty sigh, partially due to the weight of an additional person on him. “
,” Geiben cursed in German. “An entire planet to explore with all its wonders, and they chose to squeeze themselves on an island in the middle of an estuary. And now said majority of the Kiwomian population is about to swallow itself in a single bite. You’d think we’d learn from our mistakes and get along by now.”

Corgan ducked as he climbed out of the back of the APC holding two drones the size of soda cans. Moving in the gravity suit was awkward but not terrible. It was certainly better than the alternative. He stretched before kneeling and setting down one of the drones. The other he activated and set to float beside him as he walked, recording everything he saw and broadcasting it to the team. Its little engines activated. It floated beside his head lazily. He worked on the first drone’s settings and set it to scout ahead when activated.

Done with preparing the drones, he stood and walked to the mouth of the huge pipe. “Going into the pipe, Commander.” Corgan said. He wasn’t expecting to run into anything hostile on the way into the city. Maybe some local wildlife but he really hoped not. He sighed and stepped into the tunnel, silently praying to God that he wouldn’t run into giant spiders. The drone floating beside his head switched to night vision and Corgan’s cybernetic eyes followed suit. He activated the other drone, tossing it gently forward. It switched on in midair and started floating down the pipe at speed. Corgan followed slowly, taking more detailed video of the interior.

<:: OP-Spy, report status. Awaiting for image up-link ::>

“High socio-stable threats within the central city. Potential armed dysfunctionals. No signs of active hostile military force in the area. Image link-up in progress.” A lone AU-3 pilot says as he flies over the central-city. It been a two-hour flight from Site-1 to the central city. The pilot job was simple - take pictures of hot-spots and dense-gatherings of people, riots or likewise. Assuming that there’s nothing to shoot down the flying AU-3, the pilot has nothing to be afraid of.. yet. For now, he’s doing this job. Meanwhile, the commanding AI, Overmind, Overwatch, and many other names called, processes the data sent by the AU-3 pilot, which took a few seconds to do.

<:: Copy, keep watch. Monitor socio-situation. ::> the AI says back. From there, Overmind comms-in Geiben. <:: GEIBEN, photographs of dysfunctionals sent. Use at your discretion. ::>
A series of images are then sent to Geiben, whatever the AU-3 pilot managed to take is now in the view of Geiben.


The city was large enough that Geiben couldn't see the structure that Wazu, Enid, and Bao were hiding out in. When Wazu responded over the communicator, Griben could easily hear the sounds of rocks hitting against the windows of the structure they had taken shelter in. "Enid is keeping the crowd distracted with the shuttle, but if they get serious the front windows of the shop aren't going to hold long. I'm going to look for a way upstairs to hide out with the Kiwomian Loyalists."

Geiben didn't have to go far to get within sight of the first checkpoint. There was electrified barb'd wire around the entire area which included several animals that had been caught and fried within the wire itself. These ranged from rather hefty snakes to spiders that looked to be the size of small dogs. There was a nearby tower that overlooked the area where the road exited the bridge and spread out into the forest, but it looked like it was made with stacks of wood and dirt. It too had electrified wire around it to help ward off the local animals, and there were a pair of Kiwomians standing guard in the tower, they didn't appear to be armed. Instead they just had binoculars to watch the surrounding area. There did seem to be the remains of a structure and what might have once been a tower nearby but it appeared to have been melted. Even the area around those two former structures was still a dark black char.

While Geiben explored the checkpoint, Green-Squad and Corgan would start investigating the tunnel. Green-Thumb would end up dismounting from the APC as well, wearing the usual heavy space-suit that was common for the marine group. The anti-gravity systems helping her move as she set out her own drones to check the tunnel's load bearing capabilities. The pair's drones would start feeding information back to the squad's local network. It showed that the tunnel could easily support the weight of all the APCs and then some. It would head deep into the city before exiting out into a water-treatment facility. The construction appeared to be incomplete, so the tunnel merely exited out into an open yard. There were a number of Kiwomian workers here, wearing hard hats and construction gear though they appeared to not be working too hard and appeared to be unarmed.

Added to these images were those taken from the overflight of the AU-3 aircraft. There were make-shift road blocks setup throughout the city made from building rubble and vehicles. They were scattered about in response to Taipan's patrols, and it would not take long to find a clear path to the structure that the rest of the group was hiding out in. There was also the shuttle itself that was stuck in the middle of a crowd, with heavy-gauge cables tossed over it in order to keep it in place. A rather large crowd had gathered around it, filled with Kiwomians dressed in the usual slacks and combat webbing. They didn't appear to have much equipment with them either, or at least these ones. There were a few others starting to trickle in, Kiwomians dressed in rather loud suits with either flower print or bright neon colors. They had rather large brick-sized devices that they were using to communicate, and they seemed to be moving building to building. A set of large cargo-trucks were also heading toward the area the crowd had gathered. All of this information was streaming right to Dr. Knowledge bot along with the satellite images of the city showing where many of the manufacturing, military, and other heavy facilities had already been destroyed, the black scorch marks indicating they might have been targeted from orbit by Taipan.

The Group's Echoni was watching as people started getting out of the vehicles to walk around. Her attention would shift from Corgan, to Green-Thumb, then to Geiben, "WHERE IS EVERYONE GOING?!" She ended up shouting, jumping up out of the top of the APC and bounding over to where Geiben was. The high gravity didn't seem to be slowing her down. Even as she moved, she was updating the images on the network with her own notes. Red highlighting appearing around some of the Kiwomians, marking things she wanted to take including a bright-orange suit and one of the grappling hooks that the crowd was using on the shuttle.

Geiben strolled, or rather, trudged towards the first checkpoint, eyeing the Kiwomian guards while tapping through his data pad, briefly examining each image sent over. The mob seemed like any other in the history textbooks, but the addition of the brightly dressed faction was new. If only there was a leader that they could quietly take down to disperse the crowd---

The commander’s thoughts were interrupted by the sound of the Echoni leaping towards him. He gave a groan, partially due to the rather annoying nature of these bioweapons, but also due to jealousy at the easy of which they’re able to operate in this environment. Geiben himself opted out of a large space suit to support his weight in 2g, instead relying on a mobile but still heavy jacket with an anti-gravity mesh lining its interior. It cost a fortune to make, was less powerful, but it didn’t threaten to cook him from the inside with all the waste heat. With the thought of the planet’s pull, Geiben drew another syringe from his pocket and injected himself with the drugs, wincing in the process. Feeling easier after a few seconds, he messaged Dr. KnowledgeBot. “There’s a clear path towards our friends, but there’s the mobs in the way, and we can’t guarantee we can get our APC’s into the city. How do you propose to solve this problem?”

Dr. Knowledgebot was already assessing the situation, processing various scenarios and paths forward. There was the option to slowly drive forward, trusting that the mob
would part to further their own survival, but there was a chance that someone would get run over, or trampled. Since this riot was a result of the Interstellar Alliance’s interference, with the child being seen as an enemy, the Doctor was certain that their options were even more limited. If they acquired a voice enhancer, even an ancient megaphone, there was no guarantee that the crowd would heed their commands. As no local law enforcement was allowed to survive, their police stations and military installations blasted from space, it fell to them to quell the crowd. He messaged back, “We will receive no help from the locals. I suggest moving the APCs forward, slowly, and keep personnel in the safety of the APCs. They will move, either gently pushed along, or out of personal concern for safety. If we are attacked, we didn’t start the hostilities, and they know we can end hostilities swiftly. Perhaps they will be wise. This is of course, subject to your discretion Commander.”

“Good advice. I’ll have a few special ops take down troublemakers that try anything on our vehicles. Probably want a face as well...” Geiben made a frustrated face at no one in particular. If we can get the APCs in there in the first place. He looked towards the guards, straightened his suffering back, and marched towards them.

“Geiben Folami, Commander of the IAS Edward Deming.” He stated flatly at the two Kiwomian guards as he walked up to him, taking out a metal insignia that verified his identity. “We have friendlies trapped in your city and we need to cross this bridge with our APCs.” Geiben pointed at the vehicles. “You can go inspect them; we’re carrying no lethal-weapons, just some things to bat off the mob.”

With his current job done, Corgan headed back to the APCs. One of the drones hovered at the opposite end of the tunnel as instructed. He grabbed the one that was following him out of the air and switched it off. Not sure what to do next, he caught up to the Echoni.
“Couldn’t wait to jump out of the vehicle. Almost like a bored kid. And you look human enough, attractive even.” He observed, looking at her curiously. “We’re similar in some ways. Only difference is I volunteered to become a weapon and you didn’t have a choice. Maybe you’ll get to choose some day.”

"Did you volunteer to have that stupid face?" 444 replied automatically, she didn't need to think about what Corgan had said to know she didn't like the tone he took. She didn't know just what HE was, but that didn't really matter to her. She would cross her arms and lean forward, getting up on her tip-toes so she could get her face right up in his face as much as she could.

Not too far away Geiben would get to see one of the Kiwomians looking down at him from the makeshift watch tower. He had what looked to be military clothing on, cammo pants, webbing, though there weren't any insignias on his outfit. "Thank you for identifying yourself." He said, trying to sound as official as possible, "Taipan runs the checkpoint up ahead. Anything military of ours got destroyed and we're just trying to keep the electric fences up so the spiders don't get into the city. Last guys that tried to enforce this checkpoint got blown up so you can go on ahead."

"Good luck then, we'll be on our way." Geiben began walking past the tower. "Marshal, I require escort. Green Thumb continue analysis on the pipes. Site 1, what's the status of the heavy lifters? I also need info on the Taianese checkpoint asap."

“We have two lifters in the air. They can each lift one of the APCs, just let us know where you need them,” Green Screen replied over the comms before forwarding the data they had on the Taipan checkpoint ahead. The area at the other end of the bridge had been cleared of other structures for a decent distance around, it looked like someone had just bulldozed them to make some flat land. The area right next to the bridge was occupied by a prefabricated bunker that looked like it had been dropped into place from orbit. Some basic tank-traps and a gate had been put in place at the end of the bridge as well to prevent people from just driving across. Taipan also had soldiers stationed by the gate as well as in the bunker itself.

Great. Hopefully this is all just to deter belligerents. Doubt it though. It was certainly a long trek across the bridge, but Geiben made it a point to cross the distance on foot with every atom in his body weighing twice as much. He looked behind him. Where was Corgan? Standing in the middle of No Man’s Land, with Kiwomian guards behind him and the Taianese in front of him, having nothing to defend himself except a taser, his stamina cut in half no less, the commander couldn’t help but feel vulnerable. In a moment of weakness, he messaged Green Screen.

“Drop rods if you have to.”

Nonetheless, Geiben walked forward to confront the Taianese. He gave the usual greeting: his insignia to verify his identity, showing up both hands to show peace, and alas, the purpose of his presence here. “... We need access across this bridge to evacuate our personnel from the city.” He stated plainly, with a poker face. Behind it though, the commander ran through a dozen scenarios. How well the Taianese reacted here could be a sign of things to come. Were they really allies, or was all this farce just delaying a war in the coming years? So many conflicts in the past were sparked by seemingly minor events. If the Kiwomians kept their tribalism, who is to say the Taianese, or the Alliance, fully escaped from it?

… What an awful place to wax philosophically, Geiben thought to himself as he stood in front of the armed, Taianese bunker alone.

Corgan was unsure how to react to her question. He backed away and held up his hands, palms forward. “Sorry. This is the face I was born with. I’ve never met an Echoni, just heard stories.” He said. “I’m just trying to understand you.” With 444 seemingly agitated he was a little nervous to turn his back to her. Thankfully Geiben removed him from the awkward situation with a request for him to provide an escort.

Moving as quickly as he could in the gravity suit, he hurried to catch up with the Commander. “Here, Commander.” He said as he walked up beside Geiben. Turning to the Taianese guard he said, “Hěn gāoxìng jiàn dào nǐ, shìbīng. Wǒmen xūyàoguò qiáo lái shūsàn wǒmen de rénmín. Nǐ néng gàosù wǒmen tōngguò ma?” Nice to meet you soldier. We need to cross the bridge to evacuate our people. Can you let us pass?

“Your subordinate’s accent is horrible, Mister Foulani,” a woman’s voice remarked regarding Corgan, her location out of sight. Despite remaining unseen, she sounded familiar to Geiben as possibly evidenced by her knowing of his name as well. “Regardless, what is this about - ” she paused for a moment. “ - sacrificing a small goat?”

Right, the Taianese can be a lot of things, allies, frenemies, anthropomorphic weirdos… but most of all, they’re all Arschlöcher (assholes). “I could say the same about your hearing.” Geiben put up a fake chuckle. “Afterall, I did introduce myself as Commander Folami mere seconds ago, yet now you address me as Mister Foulani. Mister instead of Commander? No matter, I’ve been addressed as such far too often from both my superiors and your commanders alike. Foulani though? Absolutely unforgivable from the depths of the cold, harsh void.” He joked, then continued with a more natural, serious tone. “But I’ll jest and bother you no more. We are, contrary to common belief of Alliance personnel, not here to sacrifice small goats, or any xeno-analog of the species. Once again as I’ve mentioned earlier, we’re here to rescue our crew from an unfortunate misunderstanding: civilians in the city have mistaken a Jongwu, an innocent child no less, for your kind. How the Kiwomian population thinks of the Taianese is beyond my control, but I do have a responsibility for my friends.” I’ll be responsible for tearing a new one out of Wazu once I get my hands on him as well.

<:: Requesting status. All and any requests can be filled out now. ::> A female robotic speaks in via the comms of the ground teams.

“It’s not my fault your subordinate’s outrageousness overshadows you Geiben,” came the reply. Though he could hear her just fine, it was slightly disconcerting to speak to a featureless bunker, one without any clear shooting ports or the like. “Regardless, I’ll let you in, unless you merely wish to pass through?” A doorway slid open into the bunker’s darkened interior, the opening shielded from view of those outside by a wide armored panel placed expressly for that purpose. “I remind you that we are far more familiar with the city’s streets, and have some surveillance assets available,” the woman’s voice remarked. The more he looked at the imposing bunker and the interior though, the more he felt like his eyes wanted to reject what he was seeing. There was something not quite right about it. Something uncanny. “The sensation you’re feeling is worse for us, by the way,” the unseen Taianese soldier added.

The bunker looked like a bunker, and yet, the image felt...slippery, now that he was so close to it.

Corgan bristled at being referred to as Geiben’s subordinate. He was sure he had used the right words, though his Taianese was admittedly rusty, and he was much better at reading the language. “I don’t mean to correct you, Miss, but I am not his subordinate. I’m an Alliance Marshal, the Commander has no real authority over me. I’m here in an advisory capacity and as a representative of the Alliance legal system.” He said, trying not to sound too annoyed. It most likely wouldn’t have bothered him normally but he was feeling a little useless on this assignment.

“Yes, and I’m the Lady of the Bunker who will give you the sacred gyro-jet rifle that will mark you as God Emperor of Humankind,” the unseen woman replied, her voice completely deadpan. “Are you getting inside, or are you going to just drive by?” the Taianese soldier’s voice asked again.

Geiben raised an eyebrow at the Taianese’ riddled-laced response. “We’re going to go into the city and escort them out. Is there a problem with that?”

444 also seemed quite intrigued at the idea of a sacred-authority-granting-rifle.

“No. But you might want to come in,” the bunker flatly replied. “Or, you can just go on your way. I don’t care.” As though for emphasis, the bunker door remained open, but the automated roadblocks lifted their heavy mass up and out of their way as well.

The commander exchanged a look of doubt with Corgan. Not wanting to look indecisive though, he looked back into darkness and stepped in, vanishing from sight.

The weirdness of this bunker didn’t faze Corgan until Geiben disappeared completely. His time as an OGRE soldier during the Blackout came to mind. He pushed the memories away and stepped into the black. Whatever oddity this was he couldn’t let Geiben go in alone.

“HEY! I’ll go first!” 444 said, her voice full of authority as she pushed past Corgan to get to the door. “Corgan has a stupid face and the other one probably dies really easily. Plus I should have the rifle.” Despite being rather immature in voice, she did also start sending back a copy of what she was seeing back to Dr. Knowledgebot and the rest of the group over the general network. She also included the text ‘the bunker looks weird’ with little else to follow it up.

Dr. Knowledgebot would have various tools available to check out the area around them. From the APC itself there were external cameras both optical and thermal. There were also a number of laser range-finders around the vehicle. While the thermal and optical cameras would show a rather tall bunker out in place, the laser range-finders didn’t seem to see the entire upper part of the structure.

The AU-3 in the skies does the last fly-by(s) as it engies starts to run out of gas. Around and around it goes, taking photos before returning back to Site-1. In the meanwhile, the AU-3 sends its findings back to Overmind for processing and then the last of the photos are sent to the ground teams to see. Two other AU-3s are then sent out to escort heavy lifters.

In the instant that they stepped into the bunker, they understood why things simply did not seem right. The bunker wasn’t a bunker at all - it was an illusion. One that was transparent and ghostly so that those within could easily look out. Meanwhile, in front of them was the actual bunker itself. In comparison to what they saw earlier, a large, imposing structure, the pillbox in front of them barely protruded out of the ground, ensuring that most of the fire aimed at the fake would simply sail past. Angular and low to the ground, they could see the points where powerful retractable weapons would protrude in a fight, and where plasma mortars would rain from in a pinch.

The checkpoint was more like a stationary armored fighting vehicle than a dura-crete bunker.

“Hurry up. I do not have all day,” a stern voice reminded them. As a portion of the Taianese bunker opened, the sleek yet toned form of a black bodysuited Tigress emerged, her black, faceless helmet turning translucent to reveal her face. It was Shu, one of the Taianese personnel that had toured the Edward Deming after their previous encounter with Hoshiko. Unlike last time though, she somehow seemed more...grumpy.

Taianese hologram tech. Perfect. “That makes the two of us, soldier. What have you invited us in here for?” Geiben considered saying more, but kept laconic for now.

"Intelligence sharing and force coordination, obviously," Shu replied. "We have a fix on their location, and are interested in assisting with this effort," she explained. "Seeing as we are occupying this city, it is only natural," the Taianese woman added. "I take it that this is acceptable?" She looked at them expectantly.

444 would immediately start snooping about the area, walking around the edges of the checkpoint and taking in all the individual bits, “There isn’t even a rifle in here.” She stated, turning her attention to the Taianese woman who was standing near Geiben. Her eyes seemed to focus in on the suit, it did look somewhat similar to the black bodysuit that 444 had been outfitted with, though her hand-made poncho (Previously her blanket) was still covering up her own form. The Echoni seemingly having no problem with getting her face right up next to the Taianese.

“Stand down, 444,” Geiben waved the Echoni to make some distance, futile as it maybe, then turned his attention back to Shu. “Yes, we will cooperate.” He then shot Green Thumb a message. “Bring four APC’s to the bridge and stop at the 2nd gate. Have the rest standby as reserve. I hope that’s fine with your command, soldier.” The commander remarked back to Shu again, stating plainly rather than inquiring.

Once Corgan realized it was just a very convincing hologram he visibly relaxed. He looked at the sassy Tiger caste, trying not to let his eyes wander too much. Out of all the Taianese he’d seen, he was most attracted to the Tigers, likely due to being a fan of Ayumu Aikawa. Not that they would be interested in sex, much less with a human.

He stopped staring at Shu and finally absorbed her words. As much as he disliked working with the Taianese, it was a smart move to cooperate. “We can do that, but I want you to agree that your people won’t use lethal force unless absolutely necessary. You agree to that and we can work together on this.” Corgan said flatly.

“Very well,” the Tigress began. Though feminine, she was still taller and more muscular than Hoshiko, as was befitting someone with a standardized form. This meant that when 444 came up to her, she looked down on the Echoni stranger. “We have several non-lethal tools available, and will divert a patrol to join you at the site,” Shu continued to address Geiben and Corgan, unperturbed despite 444’s close proximity. She then glanced at the Echoni, eyes narrowed for what felt the longest time. “It was a school project, but I will send you the schematics,” she finally replied. “You may proceed with your operation.”

444 seemed unhappy about the height difference, moving to stand on her tip-toes to get a few more inches of height, trying to seem as tall as possible against the tigress. “Lame. I’m not going to build it.” She stated, waiting for the Tigress to look away before scooting back towards the doorway, her eyes still focusing on the Tigress as she inched towards the exit.

Outside, the procession of APCs had pulled up outside of the bunker. 4 were waiting just outside of the bunker while two remained back. “We’re ready to go Geiben,” Green-Thumb reported, “Though it’s going to be a tight squeeze with only four APCs for picking up people.”

“Roger.” He sent a message to the Overmind. “Escort the heavy-lifters into a circling pattern. Get them ready to land once we make contact with the friendlies inside.”

“Fine,” Shu seemed to reply to both Geiben and 444 at the same time. “We will catch up. And the gun is lame anyways,” she remarked. “The gyro-jet projectiles are the size of those two ounce 24 hour energy drinks, and it makes this dumb ‘Dakka’ sound each time it fires anyways.” Raising a hand to make a shooing motion, the Tigress urged them to leave. “Go on. Get going.”

Frank would sit in one of the seats in the apc opting to not wear heavy armor due to peaceful reasons but also do to the added weight. Opening a comline with Geiben he asks in German “Das ist ein verdammt gutes Training, oder Geiban?” finishing with a light chuckle before looking around watching the area through the apc viewports “I’m getting too old for this shit.” He added moments later.

Surprised by Frank’s voice, Geiben replied through his cracked data pad. “Yes, I suppose it was. One can only exercise so much though.”

Corgan walked out of the open “door”, returning to the APC. He opened the door to the vehicle and climbed in, ducking to avoid bumping the ceiling. “Ready to get those people to safety now?” He asked Geiben via comms.

“Right.” Geiben looked back at Shu. “We’ll make haste now. Surely both of us can agree that we’d rather not see our friends mauled by the locals?” He chuckled, then blurted out, “On second thought, the Vice Admiral wouldn’t have minded seeing that.” Realizing a potential lapse in judgement, the commander simply waved the solder off, and made his way out the bunker to join his team.

444 would effortlessly bound up to the top of the APC, a quick jump up to the top of the wheel, and then another to launch herself toward the top hatch. The extra gravity seemingly not slowing her down at all as she pointed towards the city, “ONWARD!”

Of course, 444 didn’t have any authority to actually command the APCs to move, and seemed to get quite annoyed when they didn’t just do what she asked. The Echoni would stick her head down into the upper hatch where Green-Squad was operating the APCs themselves. “Moving out.” Green-Thumb called out to the group, the APCs once again moving into the city. She’d only need to turn on her external suit speakers to reprimand Frank, “Keep communication in english, and get into your armor. You need to have your G8 and Riot shield ready to go.” The other members of green-squad were all wearing their rather bulky space-suit style armor with the full expectation they may have to use it.

Green-Thumb would then open up a channel to Corgan and Dr. Knowledgebot, “We’ve got plenty of short-range drones and external cameras. The system will automatically flag anything that’s obviously a threat but it only knows to attack what we tell it to. That’s where the human-intelligence comes in. If you see something suspicious let us know.”

Green-Thumb would then share the targeting data and sensor data with everyone. Each APC had a small turret ontop equipped with a directional EMP, a small automatic cannon, and G8 mini-drone launcher. Around the APC were also a number of small laser weapons for point defense. Weapons being fired at the APC and missiles in flight towards the APC would be automatically targeted but everything else would be dismissed.

As the APCs themselves started moving into the city they would find numerous make-shift barricades already in place. They appeared to be made up of trash, machinery, and burnt out vehicles. They were suitable enough to make it difficult to drive in a straight line. There were also very few Kiwomians out near the guard station, a few children at most, though once they caught sight of the APCs entering the city a few would head off running while others would start speaking into the weighty antenna-having boxes they carried.

In just a few minutes the APCs would be deep inside of the city and closing in on the people they intended to rescue, however the crowds were getting larger. By the time they closed in on their destination the crowd had completely choked off the road. Off in the distance they could see people throwing bricks at one of the store-fronts, and a single Alliance shuttle was being held in place by high-strength wire that had been tossed over it and anchored in place. While most of the Kiwominians were wearing the usual pants and minimal webbing over their chests, there were a few groups of brightly-suited men watching over the crowd. Though they didn’t move towards the APCs, they certainly took notice of them.

Geiben replaced his cap with a helmet and a pair of clear goggles that showed his eyes. Keeping his anti-grav jacket zipped tight, he also took up a pair of gloves. “Alright team,” He spoke through his helmet’s comms, addressing both the Taianese and Green Squad. “Our primary objective is to rescue friendlies in the building ahead. However, in the process, we’ll be completing our secondary objective,” He paused, then continued. “Aiding our allies to enforce the peace. Thanks to the Site 1 airfleet and Dr. Knowledgebot’s analysis, we’ve identified several concentrations of rioters, no doubt instigated by key ringleaders.” It’d be stupid to think that these people are going crazy over a child. Someone’s pulling the strings. “If they show any kind of aggression, you have permission to bring them into custody --- by force, if necessary.”

“I’m leaving Site 1 airfleet and the good doctor to confirm the identity of these instigators. Green squad is to escort our APCs through the crowd. Marshal Corgan and 444, standby for takedown upon identification. I request our allies assist us wherever necessary. As for myself---” The commander took a deep breath, then opened the top hatch of the APC, “---I will conduct diplomacy with the locals.” Translation: I’m going to try and stop people from killing each other.

Frank gives Greenthumb a sideways glance and comments “We’re in an armored personnel carrier against units that still use gunpowder based weapons and at most heavy laser muskets. I’m sure I can get that armor on when we run into trouble.” Grumbling to himself he begins putting on the armor and equipping his g8 before sheathing his custom combat knife “I do think the alliance is putting way too much faith in a sentient but unstable bio weapon, as such having us with equal skills to just sit back with our thumbs up our rear just so they can go oo lookie what these can do, in my day we still fought shoulder to shoulder with that shit as they can still die just as well as any man” frank said as he finished getting ready, he may work with them but that dosnt mean he likes it to him putting all your eggs in one basket never ends well at least not from his experience.

Green-Thumb seemed less than impressed, “Keep the conversation professional, and don’t talk back. You’re with a professional group of soldiers now so act like it.”

Corgan watched the crowd through a camera feed patched into his helmet. Frank’s words echoed his own feelings about the Echoni. He was a little concerned that 444 might interpret takedown as kill the instigators. That might just make things worse. The presence of Taianese soldiers alongside the Alliance forces could be enough to make the crowd turn violent. He really didn’t like the idea of helping the Empire steal this world from its natives in any capacity. Although he still had his gun at his hip, he had been allowed to borrow an old laser pistol from Green Squad. He wouldn’t draw his Desert Eagle unless someone needed to be put down permanently.

“Good luck, ambassador.” Corgan said to Geiben sarcastically on his way out. He expected shit to hit the fan any second.
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