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[Main Thread] International Talenore-Niijima Friendship Cruise

Posted: Sat Apr 06, 2019 3:55 pm
by Continuator
TL;DR An international armada assembled off the coast, to the south-south-east, of the island of Talenore; the coalition was formed out of the disparate elements of the international community who disapproved of the efforts of the New Zimian War League to blockade the Hoennese island of Niijima.
The attempted blockade of the Hoennese island of Niijima by forces of the New Zimian War League was, it was agreed by most observers, triggered by a comparatively trivial spat over perceived violations of Hoennese etiquette by Bassarid emissaries which then resulted in Bassairds being excluded from a Hoennese controlled communication network popular amongst those discussing pan-Micrasian affairs – and football, predominantly. The fury of the nexus of Bassaird sovereignties and corporations towards the Hoennese Realm on account of this went on to colour their perception of, and reaction to, the decision of the Hoennese Forces to support to an international humanitarian mission in and around Zalae. The severity of the ensuing overreaction, the interception of Hoennese aid flights, and the attempt to enforce a close blockade against Hoenn's forward base on Micras – the island of Niijima, produced a welter of condemnation directed against the amorphous Bassarid federacy by the wider international community. This criticism however was something that the Bassarids, bolstered by their membership of the USSO, felt largely free to disdain.

The Hoennese meanwhile, tethered to the island of Nagashima on the planet Terra by a little understood quantum tunnelling effect buried in a network of caves deep beneath Niijima city, remained self-sufficient throughout the duration of the blockade owing to the stable gateway between the two worlds. The fixed dimensions of the portal had however restricted the flow of traffic, as well as the size of what could be brought through, much of which – airframes and patrol vessels for instance – would have to be reassembled in-situ upon arrival in Niijima.

In spite of these limitations, the Hoennese Forces, bolstered by purchases of military equipment from the Imperial Republic of Shireroth in the years antecedent to the blockade, had built up a sizeable defensive air force and coastal defence force, supplemented by a fearsome menagerie of powerful creatures, seemingly indigenous to Terra, known as collectively as majuu, which had been used to good effect during the early days of the blockade.

Because the survival of Niijima island had not been imperilled by the blockade the Hoennese response had been comparatively muted, beyond a few sorties launched in the early days to burn any New Zimian War League gunboats which ventured too close to the island's exclusive economic zone. Subsequently, beyond maintaining a posture of vigilance and regular patrolling over their own air space, Hoennese forays into international waters had mostly been for the purpose of laying down pyrotechnic displays to cover the irregular sorties of a small force of deniable blockade runners being operated in the region by a consortium of interested parties.

While the survival of the island had not been put in doubt, its economic fortunes had been significantly jepoardised. The Shirerithian-Hoennese Interplanetary Postal, Trade, and Transportation Company, the monopoly trader overseeing the export of the produce of Terra to Micras and vice versa, had seen its profit margins substantially impacted by the delays, complications, and risks, imposed by the blockade. Certainly it did not enjoy witnessing its privileged position being challenged by the emergence of smaller, nimbler, and less-risk adverse, competitors, as epitomised by the so-called 'Jolly Froyalaner' syndicates, who had been drawn to the opportunities presented by the situation.

After 1664, the major shareholders of the SHIP-TTC had been bought out by the Shirerithian Imperial Government in an effort to streamline business relations with the company whose remaining 50% stake was controlled by the Hoennese government. It was then the desire of the Imperial Government to protect its investment which resulted in the deployment of the Noor Banner Group of the Imperial Navy to the island of Talenore, a Shirerithian protectorate and the closest port to Niijima.

Talenore itself had bitter memories of Bassarid aggression, having endured a siege of its own throughout the latter stages of the War of Lost Brothers. Although protected by an Imperial garrison, the ruling National Development Party was determined to practice self-reliance in matters of defence and, leveraging wealth gained from the Hoennese trade and Sadrist economic development policies, had built up powerful defence forces including a formidable air arm and a capable fleet based around the Musican task force sent to relieve the island at the end of the last war.

Events occurring on the island of Talenore and around the Captive Sea did not escape the attention of those in Eura. In the Imperial State of Constancia, shattered by the events of the Second Euran War, and slowly picking up the pieces as its forces gathered around the national redoubt established in the Gulf of Aqaba, a new mercantile and maritime school of though coalesced – upholding the principle that the key to long-term national survival laid not in hunkering down in the remaining habitable portions of the radioactive husk of Eura as the Raspur Khanate had done but rather in reaching out to establish trading relations with the island and city states which had cropped up in the Norfolk and Skerry Isles in the aftermath of the War of Lost Brothers and the White Plague.

The ESB Group, banished to the Euran continent by the ramifications of the Modanese Migration, and thoroughly embedded into the fabric of the Constancian state by this juncture, was also keenly looking to re-establish its global presence, particularly in re-establishing contact with those of Keltian assets which had survived evacuation to Normark or the subsequent round of Bassarid repressions which had swept through Haifa during the civil war the ensued from the fall of Caputia.

It was under the guise therefore of escorting a trade fleet that a Constancian naval task force arrived on the island of Talenore and swiftly established contact with the Governor-General of that island. Talenore was, for the Constancians, a revelation of what could be achieved by a small, yet well organised and prosperous, polity if led by a man of ability. For the Governor-General himself his new Constancian guests were not without merit. Although impoverished, the Constancians had succeeded in preserving and building upon a technical knowledge base, and were in the process of salvaging and reconstructing their lost industrial capacity. The Talenore Defence Force Navy sought to divest itself of the old and expensive to maintain Shirerithian aircraft carrier it had inherited along with the Musican Fleet in favour of developing a more potent and agile littoral defence force, while the Constancian Navy harboured ambitions to develop a fully functional “blue water” navy in spite of having more corvettes and patrol boats than it knew what to do with.

A trade recommended itself and in due course, after a series of negotiations, the Constancians received the aircraft carrier “Drums-in-the-Deep” known affectionately as “Old Boomer” and its attached air wing, in return for four logistic support vessels, two missile corvettes, twenty-fast attack craft, and one hundred anti-ship/anti-air missiles.

The Constancians were to discover however that to acquire an aircraft carrier was an all together different proposition than to make an aircraft carrier fully operational and its ship's company and aircrew fully conversant in carrier operations.

[Scene 1] Petros Athanásios - Life aboard Constancia's "new" aircraft carrier
KP Týmpana-se-vathiá (CV001), Fleet Assembly Area, S-S-E of Talenore Island
10.III.1671 AN

“Alright, let us begin”, the Army kentarchos¹ declared to the winds with an ill-disguised glee, as the slovenly and dishevilled gaggle of uniformed malefactors formed up into the vague approximation of parade order on the flight deck of the Týmpana-se-Vathiá, Constancia's new third-hand flattop and the pride, by default, of the entire Constancian Navy. Around them, flight crew and deckhands alike had paused momentarily to watch as the masters-at-arms had cudgelled the collection of convicts and reprobates out of a side hatch on the carrier's central “island”, the looming metal superstructure housing the (check), and onto open expanse of the flight deck whence, moments previously, the ominous double-delta sillouettes of a trio of F-9 Ashavans had been catapulted into the dawn sky. The cudgel-carrying naval police, trained in the Babkhi traditon, had formed a perimeter around the kentarchos and his dozen or so wayward charges. “I’ve seen crab-bait with more backbone”, the kentarchos muttered under his breath before bellowing his first stern order of command:

“Parade! Parade, aah-ten-SHUN!”

A restive ripple passed along the detachment, formed of two rows of six, as the men on punishment parade shuffled and adjusted themselves into a more nominally upright posture. The kentarchos, whilst affecting a scowl of disgust, silently blessed the highest divinity for bestowing the gift of such a collection of defective beings, arrayed in the stained and threadbare grey overalls of the Penal Detachment, to torment.

“Don't you fucking dare to smirk, Petros!”, the kentarchos bawled. “The lads on Shore Patrol told me how they found you. Merciful gods in heaven! A Natopian caught in a boys’ school with a vat of butter and a book of the Jing positions would have less cause to feel shame than you!”

Nai, Kentarche!”², the now-blanching Petros shouted scratchily, the smirk wiped off his face.

Time passed, and after the usual round of drill, alternated with abuse, alternated with yet more drill, interspersed with bouts of impromptu press-ups accompanied with every shrieked obscenity conceivable in three languages, the gaggle of reprobates were finally exhorted to consider the merits of immediate suicide before being instructed to fallout.

After parade came the time to report to the duty officer for punishment duties. These were dispensed by a bored Shirerithian tribune who hadn't even bothered to learn the Constancian name for his equivalent rank much less the language of the nation in whose navy he was now ostensibly serving. Luckily, anyone condemned to a life at sea will pick up enough Istvanistani or its mangled cousins “the Common Tongue” and “Inglizi”, to have a conversation with any other fellow trapped in their international brotherhood. In this particular instance the common bond of mutual understanding was sufficient for the tribune to call Petros a worthless imbecile, a disgrace to his mother, and the ugliest cretin he had ever had the misfortune to lay eyes upon. After which he gave him his assignment for the day. Cleaning. Lots and lots of cleaning. With dire penalties attached if everything, literally everything, wasn't gleaming by the end of the day.

And so Petros and another of the Penal Detachment's foremost malingerers were set to various tasks with mops, and buckets, and brass-cleaner, and lint-free rags. In such a manner the greater portion of the day went by.

'I still don't know how those damned things fly', Zavi mused as the Whridlebirb hovered awkwardly over the flight deck of the aircraft carrier once known as “Drums-in-the-Deep”.

'How do you mean?' Answered Petros, not bothering to look up from the spot on the gangway he was mopping for second time in as many hours. If the Penal Detachment was going to solely consist of cleaning, polishing, and buffing, grey painted steel on an oversized rust-bucket the navy couldn't even afford, then Petros felt that he could be forgiven for feeling that being caught out in his little indiscretion might actually count as a boon. Of course it meant that he would be stuck with a discommendation on his permanent record and never rise beyond his present grade for the remainder of his term of service, but career advancement was never really much of a prospect for such as Petros – as the Kentarchos took plain delight in frequently reminding him.

'Well, just look at it.' Zavi replied, and Petros briefly glanced over his shoulder towards where the rotorcraft was wobbling precariously in its descent towards the marked off landing zone, around which a dozen deckhands, grasping neon signalling batons, were gesticulating frantically. The R-1, like so many designs that were Babkhan in origin, had the look of being haphazardly assembled from parts found in a scrapyard.

'I guess we're just lucky that the sea is calm today.' Petros remarked nonchalantly before returning to his mopping. An ugly aircraft is an ugly aircraft, the world was full of them as slides shown of USSO models for the aircraft recognition lesson yesterday had attested. Petros still felt a dull resentment at being herded into the theatre room to be shown those on the projector instead of the dodgy Raspurid exploitation flick he had been quietly hoping for.

'Lucky? I think we would have been treated to quite a show if this bucket had pitched and that... that thing... had been there to meet the deck as it rose up.' Zavi replied, amused with himself for conjuring the image.

'And if you hadn't been cut in half by a sheared rotorblade when it crashed, you'd be out there cleaning up the blood and entrails as soon as they'd put the fires out.' Petros replied, with the faintest hint of malice hidden in the levity of his voice.

'Oh no doubt.' Zavi answered back, 'But just look at it! What kind of dunder-headed ignoramus puts a pusher propeller onto the back of a helicopter, or those wings for that matter, and then, when he realises that he's made the damned thing so rear-heavy that it'll slide backwards into the ground as soon as it attempts to take off, he decides to balance it out by sticking a fucking great-big autocannon on the front that protrudes out so far forward that the thing has to be pointed upwards for landing lest the whole contraption be turned into a giant fucking plough?'

'I don't know, but if you don't want us both to be yelled at, you'll mop and look downwards while yapping.' Petros replied, before adding, 'I think that it's the poor bastard they put in the rear gunner's spot that I feel sorry for. The sod must have to lay on his belly to reach that gun.'

'Right underneath the driveshaft for syncing the rear prop to the top-rotor, I don't wonder' Zavi agreed. 'The fucker will have been deaf if he spent more an hour under the engine gears. Fucking thing is giving me earache even from hovering all the way over there.'

'Focus on yer mopping mate.' Petros answered. 'I dunno why one of those gunbuckets has waddled out all the way over to us, but whoever comes aboard will be walking past us to get to Ops... if they walk away from that landing, by the heavens...' Petros forgot his admonition to focus on the floor and instead grimaced as the whirdlebirb took another sudden lateral slant towards the flight deck – sending the ground crew scattering in all directions. Just in time, the bird righted itself and assumed a more even keel.'

'Heard the high and mighties want to buy helicopters from the Talenore mob.' Zavi said, having been looking down at that moment and oblivious to the near miss he had almost prophesied. 'Tried to get them from the Kalgachi but got rebuffed. They're still worried we'll sell anything good we get straight onto the mangoes.'

'They're not wrong there.' Petros answered, as the extended wheels of the Whridlebirb finally made agonising and tentative contact with the flightdeck of the carrier. 'Exactly the shitty sort of thing we'd do. Buy it, cannibalise it, sell it, make knock-offs of our own – it's what made the Raspur Pact great.'

Footnotes and translations

① “Centurion.” A Constancian army rank equivalent to a sergeant.
② “Yes, Centurion (vocative)!” («Ναι, Κένταρχε!»)

Shortages of trained naval personnel obliged the Constancian Navy to draft Home Guard volunteers for overseas service, who in turn required training up to an acceptable standard if they were to be entrusted with complex and mission critical operating systems. Even when on active service salaries and subject to naval discipline, the Home Guardsmen were frequently prone to mishaps and indiscretions, particularly when ashore, meaning that the penal detachments of the Task-Force were never undermanned and always available for the worst jobs, whether aboard or ashore.

Funding and staffing the expanded Task-Force, even with the reassignment of personnel from boats surrendered to the Talenore Defence Force Navy, and the drafting of Home Guardsmen, would have proven beyond the means of the Constancian Navy had not the Security Directorate of the ESB Group stepped in to plug the gaps as necessary. The ESB Group's stake in the venture revolved around a mammoth construction project being undertaken at the heart of the island of Talenore, in cooperation with Sadri Industries, the dominant economic concern on the island following the collapse of TalCorp.

Behind the involvement of the ESB Group however was the growing power of the General Service Corps (GSC), an establishment of the allied continental theatre-level command, originally as an operational reserve for officers and units being posted into or out of theatre but increasingly an independent organisation acting in its own interests and on its own behalf. Into its structure were fused the various strands of military and industrial power exercised upon the Euran continent by various national, international, and transnational forces. The GSC, by various power-plays and through its support of the rise of the Permanent Standing Committee of the Constancian Imperial Senate from a mere rubber stamp legislature to the authoritative voice of the country's ruling oligarchy, had secured for itself control of the Task-Force, its choice of candidate for the position of Consul-General in Talenore, and the right to determine what would pass for Constancian policy in the Skerry Isles.

[Scene 2] Aurens Xenophon - The commander sets out for sea
KP Abathur (F037), Metro Talenore, Island of Talenore

By the time the corvette had cleared the harbour breakwater of the eponymous “Harbour” district of western Metro Talenore, those crew members and passengers not engaged in crucial duties were assembled on deck to witness a time honoured ceremony dating back to the Willith of Euran antiquity. All the men and women on deck fell silent as the Arteshbod, Aurens Xenophon, the present commander and restorer of the General Service Corps, raised his arms to the heavens to begin the usual ritual at the start of a sea voyage. The tropical waters were calm here at the threshold of the sea, where the sheltered waters of Talenore Bay met the waters of the Captive Sea. Overhead seagulls circled inquisitively, borne aloft by invisible eddies of rising warm air, their aspect putting at least some the Raspurids among the crew in mind of the majestic padishah vultures of their Euran homeland. In the pure and rarefied Veyellinikí of a true eupatrid, one born to the families of good breeding, Xenophon began to intone the ancient words:

'The emanations of the Highest Divinity roll over us and through us, they extend as hands, reaching down to this mortal existence of ours from the realms of the perfected forms, to gather this ship in their protective grasp and hold it fast, carrying with care the lives of all who sail aboard it. May the Spirit of the Divine, who enters, binds, and animates all things, indwell and animate the spirit of this fine ship, dedicated to Righteousness against the machinations Lie, and thereby hold her hands over us in this voyage and all other voyages to come, in this world and the next.'

As he finished speaking those words he took a large, finely worked golden bowl from an attendant and, with due care and reverence, poured a libation of wine into the sea, before raising the bowl to his lips to take a deep draught of the ruby red liquid, and then finally he turned towards the audience gathered atop deck and bowed slightly towards them, and finally upended the golden bowl, spilling its contents onto the deck. All those present dutifully responded with the ancestral paean of the Constancian ruling house. As the cheering to the echo subsided, an air of expectation settled upon the ship. All eyes were focused upon the Arteshbod who, standing upright and nonchalant, made a powerful flcik of the wrist, sending the glittering bowl spinning through the air before splashing in the water and disappearing forever to be added to the treasury of Neptune's kingdom below.

For a Constancian commander, setting out to sea was by custom an expensive affair, for such reason those of sufficient rank always made sure to keep a not inconsiderable treasury of gold and silver to hand, just in case the occasion called for an emergency votive offering or two.

Joachim Grobba, the age-worn and nowadays cantankerous, high representative of the Constancian state in Talenore and much else beside, scoffed gently and reached into his pocket for his hip-flask. Too much time had been wasted upon fripperies and trivialities already. Ahead of them, away to the south east, the largest multi-national armada assembled since the War of Lost Brothers was laying at anchor, awaiting the arrival of the last of the flag officers, and the order to raise anchors and shift engines to ahead full. The east, and destiny, awaited them.

With the commander of the GSC taking personal charge of the operation, the objectives, determined ashore during the series of interminable staff conferences, which had taken the form of luxuriant dinners hosted at a variety of luxury hotels in Metro Talenore, now began to shift towards interests amicable to the GSC itself.

[Scene 3] Thais Locusta - How consensus is attained in the fleet
KP Týmpana-se-vathiá (CV001), Fleet Assembly Area, S-S-E of Talenore Island

Locusta tensed for a moment as she felt him withdraw, then, upon hearing him let out a long contented sigh as he shuddered and then flopped down beside her, she rolled over on her side and reached across to pick up her wrist watch from the bedside table. Four and a half minutes. The kettle would have finished boiling, but she did not, on this occasion, wish to draw his attention to his comparable span of endurance, so instead she turned over onto her right shoulder and lent in to kiss him atop his forehead, ruffling his mop of whitening blond hair with her left hand as she did so.

“Well done, darling,” she whispered nonchalantly to him in accented Istvanistani, “could you pass me a cigarette, please.” The wine, combined with the heat and the surreptitious inhalation of alkyl nitrites, had given her olive skin a faint blush of crimson and lent itself to the necessary lie of her satisfaction. Herr Grobba, not knowing any better, or not caring even if he did, smiled up at her and then lent over the bed to find the jacket holding his cigarette case, wherever it had landed. As the old man began rummaging about on the floor Locusta sank back down into the bedding and stared up at the steel grey ceiling of the cabin and began making a mental checklist of what needed to be done next. Clean bedding, it occurred to her almost at once, but these would have to be obtained without 'stained sheets' becoming the common gossip of every bored sailor on the overcrowded vessel. Those, the sheets not the sailors, would have to be disposed of – perhaps out of the cabin's porthole during the night. She hoped that the ESB men aboard, whose discretion at least could be relied upon where the indiscretions of their own boss were concerned, would not feel too insulted at being sent down to stores to fetch a new pack of sheets and covers. She was, at least, not so proud that she had forgotten how to remake the bed. It struck her that the same could probably not be said of the kyrios 'Herr Grobba'.

Her reverie was interrupted by the quiet muttering of triumph, made in a peevish voice, the click of a case being opened and the flicking of an old-style lighter's flint. She gently rolled her head towards his looming corpulent form, affecting a smile of contentment as he proffered her a lit cigarette, and, with a gratitude that was almost genuine, accepted what was offered and placed it daintily against her crimson lips before taking a deep, contented, drag. The flavour was sweet and smooth, with a hint of cherry even, redolent of some high-end Caputian brand, now forever lost. She held the smoke and savoured it for a long moment before exhaling. Noticing the excited look in his eyes, Locusta realised that Herr Grobba was another of those tiresome men who considered a woman smoking to be alluring. Well, once was enough, for that particular day, and it was time to head off the crisis before it, ahem, arose.

“Coffee?” she asked brightly, not waiting for his disappointed reply before rising up from the bed, with the cotton sheet draped about her midriff, and sashaying gently over towards the small partition cubicle in the corner of the room, with its kitchenette, the kettle, and the lifesaving caffeine fix she now required. Allowing the bed-sheet to fall as she walked, she could almost feel the old lecher's gaze settling upon the small of her back as she went.

The time spent heaping ground coffee into the cafetière, pouring in the boiling water, allowing the concoction to rest before pressing down upon the plunger, and then decanting into two small white enamel cups on a silvery-green serving tray, allowed Locusta to spend the time taking stock. True to her instructions, given to her as liaison of the Political Directorate of the GSC to the military-civil command, she had established direct lines of communication with the senior-most naval officer and corporate official attached to the General Service Corps for the duration of the present enterprise. She would accept no reproach for the manner in which she had approached her task. 'The naked man has few secrets, the spent man has none.' had become her own private little mantra and justification. Once the coffee was ready she flicked the still smouldering cigarette into the sink and watched the dying puff of smoke elicited upon contact with the water with a certain contentment.

As she returned from the kitchenette cubicle she was relieved to see that the old man had, perhaps remembering that he would soon be required elsewhere, shrugged on a dressing gown of white towelling, tied loosely at the waist, which covered most of his hideous nakedness even if straining bulge of his immoderately vast gut still protruded, reminding Locusta – unhappily – of nothing so much as one of the vile offal and suet puddings she had been forced to consume whilst stranded on the wrong side of the Nova English quarantine line, passing for a local with the aid of bleaching creams and peroxide for the entirety of three months before extraction. It had taken her lustrous black hair weeks to recover from the chemical warfare required to enable her to pass as a mousy brunette typist on the OIEC's local payroll.

Rather than contemplate the ill-covered folds of saggy flesh of the target, as she approached him with a tray, two cups of strong coffee, and the full effect of her natural condition, she practised her trademark of the open and engaging smile combined with terrifyingly intense eye-contact. GSC training school had originally tried to convince her to cultivate more naturalistic modes of expression, and had almost declared here unsuited for political work on account or her idiosyncrasies, but it had been gradually discovered that the confusion elicited by mixed messages broadcast at megawatt strength was so profound and all encompassing as to allow her to get away with murder. Literal murder on at least a couple of occasions.

Transfixed, Herr Grobba looked up at her as she loomed over him as though he were an adoring, if oversized, infant. As she lowered the tray to him for him to take a cup he murmured his gratitude with an intensity that approached the fervency of a thanksgiving. He eventually remembered himself, and who he was meant to be, sufficiently, to mutter, “I suppose, we'd best get ready. Today is the day after all. We had best be quick. The briefing will be soon.”

”We have an hour and twenty-three minutes.” Locusta noted having wandered over to where she had laid her wrist watch. “Time enough. But remember, we must arrive separately. I'll need time to work the room on your behalf. Give it a quarter of an hour before you appear. Everything should be ready by then.”

“The Admiral will not like that.” He answered happily.

“The Admiral, will accept it, as he has no choice in the matter.” She replied, remembering the advice she had imparted to Joachim's rival under similarly informal circumstances barely three hours prior. Herr Grobba was right in one regard, the Admiral did indeed deeply resent being kept waiting at briefings on account of a 'conceited fleshbag in an expensive suit'.

As she sat the tray down on the bed and drank from her dainty enamelled demitasse cup, Locusta nodded to herself. There was much to do. The ESB man – 'Herr Grobba' would have to be made ready and sent on his way to confer with his own coterie of lackeys so that he could convince himself that the proposals were all own his ideas, evidence of the assignation would have to be cleaned away, and she would need to have a shower.

A long shower.


The command conference, held in the wardroom in flagrant disregard for maritime traditions, was exactly the stormy affair that Locusta had been hoping for. The simmering resentments and jealousies between the Navy and the ESB, reinforced by the tardiness and inexplicable smugness of the latter, had set them against each other from the get-go, putting the General Service Corps, and its commander Aurens Xenophon in the natural role of mediators and voices of reason. The representatives of the Talenore Defence Force, the Imperial Navy of Shireroth, and certain discrete foreign gentlemen, had been slightly nonplussed by the internecine bouts of arguing which punctuated the conference.

Be that as it may, the purpose of the expedition was briefly restated, to show solidarity with the people of Niijima, and the Hoennese government, on the part of the international community, and to defend the rights of all nations to navigate freely upon the seas. The most simple and direct expedient for achieving these twin objectives would be for the armada, comprising of a Constancian task force, a Shirerithian banner group, and an assortment of Talenorian and foreign ships, to sail the comparatively short distance from Talenore to Niijima. And to face down any attempt to impede their progress. Discussion soon sank down into squabbles over the minutiae. Two schools of thought began to emerge, with the ESB men favouring a northern route, sailing past the Bassarid fortress island of Voorpost and cocking a snook to the New Zimian War League. The naval representatives, aghast at the prospect of maximising their exposure to Bassarid shore based aviation, whilst reducing the protection afforded to their ships by the shore based aviation of Talenore and Niijima. Advocates of the southern route were in turn accused of timidity in the face of an outrage against the international order. The matter threatened to unravel until the smart suggestion of a certain foreign gentleman whom Locusta had hitherto overlooked, merely thinking him some insouciant hanger-on of the Iron Company. Xenophon certainly appeared to be taken by the proposal, even declaring it to be in line with his own thinking. There were objections made about 'mission creep' and the increase in resource required to secure and hold an additional objective, but nonetheless a consensus was formed, with both the navy and the ESB finding merit and potential in the proposal. How the Euranist lobby back home would react would be another matter, but the Permanent Standing Committee would have to content with such matters as they arose.

The representatives of Shireroth seemed non-committal but those of Talenore were indeed quite enthusiastic.

Word was sent, and arrangements were swiftly set in motion.
The result of these charming machinations would become known thereafter as 'Operation Tropic Badger'

Re: [Main Thread] International Talenore-Niijima Friendship Cruise

Posted: Sun Apr 07, 2019 7:40 am
by Malliki
[Scene 4] Operation Tropic Badger - The Assignment of Colonel Mehbani
The clock on the wall hit 1315 hours. Colonel Abbas Mehbani sighed. He didn't often get summoned to the office of the Chief of Staff of the Talenore Air Force, but he had heard things about its Sani occupant. General Taki Tesho was known for requiring strict punctionality from his officers, while at the same time not being the most punctual person in the world. He was also known for never praising his officers. If you underperformed you would know immediately, if you did your job, you wouldn't. The reason for this was that his baseline was not much short of perfection.

”The general will see you now Colonel,” said the female officer behind the desk. Mehbani rose and stepped through the door into the general's office. For someone in such an elevated and important position, he had a very spartan office. The first adjective that sprung to Mehbani's mind was ”functionality”, followed by ”brownish”. This was said to reflect his ethnicity, Sanis being known for not valuing lavish decorations. On one of the walls was a large photograph of Talenore Air Base, while the other wall carried two portraits. The larger one was of the Kaiser of Shireroth, the head of state of Talenore, the other one was of Governor General Sadri Maleki, the head of government and de facto ruler of the island. Mehbani stopped in the middle of the room and came to attention.

”Please do sit down, Colonel,” the general said without looking up from his papers. Mehbani took his seat across the desk from the general. Even the desk was spartan. It contained a computer, a stack of papers, and a framed photo of what Mehbani assumed was the general's family. General Tesho looked up and met the Colonel's eyes. ”I trust you know why I have asked you to come here, given the current build-up at sea to the south?” he asked. Mehbani gave a small shrug and a nod. ”We are partnering with the Constancians and Kalgachians to establish a prescence on Zylenia to counter Bassarid aggression,” the general continued. ”Our part in the matter is to take control of an old derelict airstrip and restore it to workable condition. For this I need a commander on site.” The general's stare took on a measuring quality. ”Given your record, I have decided to ask you to assume the position”, he finished.

Mehbani had conflicted feelings. He wasn't an idiot and knew enough about Sanis in general and the general in particular to know that his ”request” was an order. If he turned it down, he could pretty much kiss his career goodbye. He also knew that Zylenia was lousy with cannibals. However, he did recognize the biggest opportunity of his career. Fighting with Green pirates was nothing compared to going up against the Bassarids. He looked at the general and nodded. ”Of course, Sir, I accept the position.” If the general had a facial expression for pleased, this was probably it. ”Good,” the general said. ”Since this is the most important operation for the Air Force in at least ten years,” the general continued, ”you will get free reign to pull together whatever TDF resources you require. I expect there to be at least a squadron of Banshees on Zylenia within a month.” The general leaned back in his seat and folded his hands on his desk. Mehbani knew that this was his cue to leave. He stood up, saluted, and left the office.
[Scene 5] Operation Tropic Badger - The Insertion
(By Krasniy)
On a windswept tropical beach in the dead of night, only a thin strip of white sand reflected the feeble starlight, joined upon its lower fringe by the spume of crashing waves and overlooked by a thousand silhouetted palm trees, swaying erratically as the wind howled all the way up the hills of inland jungle. Above those peaks, the stars were periodically blocked by racing lumps of cloud. In no direction could there be seen a single light of civilisation, only the wild and uncaring hand of nature - and this only barely perceptible in the dark.

Hovering low over the sea some distance away, though nobody ashore would know it, was a helicopter. The craft showed no lights and kept station far enough from the coast to be concealed from the ear by the incessant hiss of the sea and the agitated jungle. Aboard the helicopter - a UH-101 Puma of the Talenore Defense Force - a team of heavily-camouflaged soldiers waited in silence. Two of their number wore themal imaging headsets, zoomed in to the distant beach in search of people. There were none; hardly surprising as it was two hours after midnight.

The island of Zylenia had not been administered by a sovereign government since the fall of Gerenia some years previously, but it was by no means uninhabited. The feared Dromosker, a tribe of cannibals who routinely terrorised civilisation's precious anchorages along the Skerry Isles, had a strong enough presence on Zylenia that even the Bassarid Empire, a polity not known for territorial restraint or lack of weaponry, had been unusually slow to assert a claim upon the place let alone attempt to enforce it. At this dark hour, however, the island looked deceptively desolate.

Across a special radio channel, whose millisecond-range frequency agility served a cryptographic as well as anti-jamming function, the brief utterances of those waiting offshore were exchanged:

"Burger Shack open. Command decision."

"Command affirmative. Burger Shack go."

From further out to sea nine more helicopters came roaring toward the beach, as low as the violently-cresting wavetops would permit. Aboard one of them was Captain Aksil San of the Kalgachi Defence Force. Such distance from the KDF's home in faraway Benacia might have unnerved the majority of his countrymen-at-arms, but San was leading one hundred men from the Airborne Company of the KDF's Special Purpose Regiment; an élite unit who were no strangers to unusual taskings in far-off climes. Even by the SPR's standards, however, this was an unusual mission. The distance from Kalgachia paled into insignificance against the fact that San's men were part of a considerably larger multinational force, the bulk of which belonged to the Raspur Pact which had spent most of its existence as Kalgachia's ideological enemy. As if the fact alone were not enough, the diplomatic niceties of transiting the territory of Batavia on the way here - a power not involved in the action which held a resolute policy of neutrality - had necessitated that San and his comrades leave their weapons at home and acquire new equipment in theatre. This meant Raspur Pact aircraft with Raspur Pact crews, Raspur Pact weapons and thanks to the essential services of Natopian reconnaissance satellites, Raspur Pact intelligence.

On the last measure at least, Kalgachia had provided as much to the coalition as it had obtained. Through a selection of dubious corporate intermedaries and sympathetic governments which had given it the necessary assets, Kalgachia had spent considerable time and effort mapping the radio and radar emissions fingerprints of every military unit regularly operating in the Captive Sea region. Added to the historical data gleaned by Nova England-based Oobakeep spy planes operating at distance from the northern Strait of Haifa during the War of the Harpy, this bonanza of signals intelligence had been shared with the Raspur Pact whose space-based reconnaissance assets and computing capacity were more capable of making use of it. The resulting choice for any hostile unit in the Captive Sea and Skerries region was clear; keep their active systems running and have their position, rough identity and operating mode immediately fed into the allied command picture, or go silent to survive and cripple their own sensors and communications with higher command. Thanks in some part to Kalgachi diligence in the preceding months and years, every Raspur Pact Panopticon suite in the region now had an up-to-date electronic profile on potential enemy units for identifying, tracking or jamming.

The decision to share this jewel in the crown of Kalgachi military capability with its erstwhile foes had not been taken lightly, but it was broadly agreed among the KDF general staff and their government that history had forced their hand. A greater enemy had arisen in these faraway waters, one which claimed exclusive dominion not only of its home continents but of reality itself. To the avowedly anti-imperialist Kalgachi, the blockade of Hoenn was a crime against the dignity of Micran civilisation so abhorrent and dangerous in its predecent that it had to be eradicated in this distant place before it struck nearer to home - even if it meant consorting with lesser shades of imperialist who competed aspirationally with the rising evil and were similarly aghast at its effrontery. For this striking yet nebulous cause Captain San was beating down the crashing waves with rotor wash in the middle of a tropical night. Still, he had never signed up for dull routine and neither had his men. All of them shared an eagerness to get on with the job, tempered by professional caution and the inevitable dose of nerves as the coast loomed up ahead.

The landing on the beach was performed to be as brief as possible; the helicopters all came down in a line simultaneously, disgorging heavily-laden troops the moment they descended to jumping distance; weapons, personal kit, mission equipment, all were hauled off in haste as the lead fireteams advanced to secure the beach's weed-encrusted tideline. The process was around halfway complete when a call from the overseeing helicopter sounded through a hundred headsets:

"Two foot mobiles in the treeline. Thirty metres, two o'clock. Closing."

"Copy, on it."

Two Dromosker scouts, armed with automatic weapons purloined from who-knew-where, had the presence of mind to halt while still concealed by the beach-head foliage but their thermal signatures, glowing through the leaves, made them easy prey for a muted volley from half a dozen suppressed carbines which felled both of them simultaneously before the war cry could be given.

"Two hostiles down." Then, a moment later, "insertion complete."

As the helicopters peeled off into the night sky, the crouched black figures of the Kalgachi operatives filed up the beach and began picking their way into the island's thick jungle interior. Even if other Dromosker had not been alerted by the landing, they would eventually come looking for their two missing brethren and it would not help the visitors to loiter. By the time the helicopters had disappeared into the roaring night, so had the Kalgachi.

Re: [Main Thread] International Talenore-Niijima Friendship Cruise

Posted: Sun Apr 07, 2019 7:53 am
by Yastreb
[Scene 6] Operation Tropic Badger - The Objectives
The following three days held very little in the way of action. After the first hour's march inland, taking care not to betray their position by speaking or cutting foliage, Captain San's hundred split into two groups: thirty men, bearing most of the 'mission equipment' in oversized rucksacks and rugged cases, proceeded toward the eastern coast of the island and their objective. The remaining seventy, led by San, headed north toward the ruined Gerenian settlement of Mirran. From the point of parting, both objectives lay some thirty-five kilometres away through varying densities of jungle.

As a scholar of Benacian ethnography might have deduced from his name, San was of Nezeni heritage and had been picked to lead the mission for that reason. Growing up in the dense Tee-al-ridden forests of Lithead, he had learned since childhood to respect the biome, to keep a sharp eye and a light foot among innumerable harmful life forms. Aside from the Dromosker in this jungle there were enough snakes, spiders, predatory felines, dubious plants and tropical diseases to quickly decimate an unwary body of men; much of the long journey down here, aboard an Iron Company passenger ship, had been spent surveying the literature on the Skerry Isles wildlife and learning to identify it. The choice of critters was different from those of San's Kalgachi homeland but the principles of dealing with them were broadly the same. San had ensured - nay insisted - that all of his men familiarised themselves with Zylenia's wild delights before they landed. He had also ensured that the leaders of every fireteam were Nezeni like himself, able to keep the mission going if something terminal ever happened to San himself. One of the Kasterburger passengers on the Iron Company ship had taken vocal exception to sharing a dining room with men of San's green-skinned ethnicity who were somewhat despised in his homeland. The stewards' refusal to change the seating plan had led the red-faced Kasterburger, fired up with 'Batavian courage' by a day's drinking, to confront San's men directly in a move which proved somewhat unwise - he was still confined to the ship's sick bay when they disembarked at Talenore.

San's two groups moved by night, lying up in thick jungle during the day. Dromosker settlements were encountered, some that had been revealed by satellite imagery and some in thicker jungle which had not - all were avoided by the Kalgachi who, with their thermal imagers, had the advantage of visibility at night. Established tracks in the jungle, with their risk of booby traps, were also avoided. Among the Dromosker locals, news of the affair of night-time noise and the two bullet-ridden corpses was spread over the following days; almost instinctively it was blamed on Zylenia's nearest neighbours the Bassarids, who persistent attempts to convert everything they laid eyes on to the worship of Dionysus had earned the Dromosker's seething annoyance.

The smaller group of Kalgachi operatives reached their objective - a forested cliff overlooking the sea - in the pre-dawn light of the third morning. They waited until the following night to set up their equipment - a bewildering array of spectrum analysers, rangefinders, signal parsers and other such contraptions located in covered dugout positions. Snaking up through the trees above were their antennae: multi-band, low gain, high-gain, direction-finding, horizontally-polarised, vertically polarised, parabolic... all fastidiously camouflaged by local foliage. All of the equipment was passive except for the sparsely-used burst transmitter which kept contact with command - that was established a kilometre away further inland. In the space between these sites, their operators slept in shifts in scattered camouflaged tents. Along with ponchos covering the perimeter guard posts, these were lined with a lightweight foil-like material to mask whatever portion of the occupants' radiated thermal signature was not obscured by the tree canopy above. Movement outside these protective veils was kept to a strict minimum.

San and his larger group made a point of avoiding the ruined core of Mirran itself; aerial and space reconnaissance had indicated substantial Dromosker activity in the area. The main objective, the airstrip some distance outside the town, was found to be completely abandoned; the cursory asphalt runway laid by the Geranians was pitted and potholed, half-consumed by weeds and the occasional shrub. The shrubs would eventually have to be removed and the very thought assailed San with a particular kind of anguish, but thankfully it would not be his unit's job.

Along one side of the runway stood the concrete remains of a control tower which appeared to have been burned out and shot at multiple times; it was empty of anything. Beside it were the vertical steel girders which once supported hangars; the corrugated iron roof and their connecting struts had long since been dismantled by the Dromosker for use on their own abodes, leaving nought but a ghostly parade of upright beams which were too large and deep-piled to dig out. If there was anything else, it had been consumed by the jungle.

After establishing a security perimeter, San beckoned over his signaller who turned to present a back-mounted radio unit. San put on its headset and spoke:

"Fat keg, fat keg, fat keg."

"Fat keg bursting," came a voice from the airwaves. "Pass message."

"Bouncer is on the door. Rope is open. Repeat, rope is open".

"Copy. Stand by for VIPs. ETA three-five minutes."

"VIPs in thirty-five all received. Out."

By this point the first light of dawn was appearing on the eastern horizon. By the time San's friendly visitors arrived it would be almost sunrise, but the ensuing noise would have made the cover of night useless anyway. There would be many more arriving from where the Kalgachi had come - first the Talenoreans, then an ever greater number of Constancians.

As had been expected, San's men were engaged in sporadic firefights with curious Domosker scouts by the time the first Talenorean helicopters came screaming in above the jungle. Two sides of a runway was a lot of perimeter to defend for seventy men and Captain San was relieved at the sight of Talenorean infantry dismounting from the helicopters, his contentment growing to outright jollity upon seeing they had brought a mortar team to the party. From other helicopters emerged engineers to survey the state of the runway and organise its reinstatement.

From somewhere among this hasty rabble, ducking under stray Dromosker bullets, emerged two men who appeared comically out of place in these conditions. One of them, resplendent in a wide-brimmed hat and braces, was recognised by San from his earlier briefing - Dr. Stavros Etnedes, a Constancian anthropologist and one of the first fruits borne by that country's recently-accelerated academic programme. He was a specialist in the Dromosker and he was accompanied by a man San did not recognise, nor had been briefed about - an obese, blonde man whose sweat had already saturated his thin shirt and who struggled to keep up as Dr. Etnedes led him into the control tower ruins which served as a command post.

"Doctor Etnedes!" San called him over from the gaggle of Talenorean officers stood with him over a map. "Glad you could make it."

"In the name of the highest divinity are you all quite insane?" grumbled Etnedes without any attempt at a greeting. "I was told I'd be assisting in negotiations, and I come here to find you all shooting!"

"We did try speaking to them," said San, "But we don't know the tongue. I was thinking you could work your magic this afternoon, and-"

"Wait that long and you'll have a bloodbath on your hands!" said Etnedes. "They're coming at you in ones and twos out there, yes?"

"Yes, we've got the situation under-"

"They're only testing you now, Captain! Seeing what you can throw at them before they put a warband together. The call will be going out around the island as we speak! If I'm to be of any value to you, Captain, I have to act now. Otherwise this whole situation will blow out of control. Even if you hold this place you'll be fighting a guerrilla war forever."

"Well... what did you have in mind?"

"May I introduce my greeting card..." Etnedes indicated his flustered companion, with whom San exchanged nods of acknowledgement. "Storish fisherman, wrecked a few months back in the Gulf of Aqaba. Doesn't speak the common tongue so I wouldn't bother with any chatter. He thinks I'm taking him home."

"Fisherman?" San's head tilted back with incredulity. "But he's such a fat bastard..."

"We've been feeding him up," said Etnedes. "The Dromosker like them big, and they consider the pale-skinned to taste better."

"Wait, you mean this guy's a-"

"Captain, the only 'hearts and minds' that interest the Dromosker are those which can be devoured steaming hot from an upturned skull. If you want any hope of de-escalating the situation out there, we have to hit them with the good stuff right now."

San looked the fat Storishman up and down, and felt a certain streak of pity for him. "Well alright," he said to Etnedes. "Do you speak the Dromosker language?"

"Well there's a lot of tribal variation, but I can make myself intelligible."

"Can you get them to leave us alone if we offer them mister porky here?"

"For a little while, yes. For as long as it takes them to fin-" Etnedes choked on his words in the presence of his nervous fat companion.

"Can you get them to help us secure the island? Perform reconnaissance?"

"That would require more offerings. Probably a lot more."

"How many of these, uh, offerings have you got?"

"I'll have to work on it. Speak to some people."

The ruins echoed to the snap and whinny of a ricocheting bullet, causing Etnedes and his companion to flinch. Outside, the Talenorean officers and NCOs were barking new orders. San tried to glance at the fat man again, but found that he could not. "Alright," he said. "Do what you can with what you've got. Pozarov!"

"Sir?" said one of the Kalgachi stood in the crumbling doorway.

"You will take Doctor Etnedes and his friend to the line. Keep them alive. Inform the men. When the Doctor tells you to cease fire you will cease fire and allow a negotiation. The Dromosker are permitted to take the big guy here but the Doctor is to be protected. Understood?"


"Alright, get on it."

San watched from a hole in the wall as Pozarov led the two emissaries in a low scuttle across the weedy runway, disappearing into the defensive line at the edge of the jungle. Soon afterwards there was an intense volley of gunfire, but this was just as quickly followed by silence. Five minutes passed. Ten minutes. San was about to head out himself when the figure of Doctor Etnedes finally emerged from the jungle, walking casually upright and giving the thumbs-up.

He was alone.
[Scene 7] Operation Tropic Badger - Zylenia International Airport
(By Malliki)
The group of helicopters came roaring over the jungle of Zylenia. They carried the Talenore boarding force headed for the Kalgachi-controlled airstrip. It carried the Talenore mission commander Colonel Mehbani together with two platoons of Air Force Rangers, one platoon of Army signalists, one platoon of Army engineers and one platoon from the Special Army Service. They also carried MANPADS for anti-air protection.

Colonel Mehbani looked over to the captain commanding the SAS platoon. ”It's Smith, isn't it?”, he asked. The captain nodded. ”Is that a codename or your actual name?”, he continued. The captain looked at him levelly. ”Both”, he replied. Fair enough thought Mehbani, so much for small-talk.

”Five minutes until dirt-side”, announced the co-pilot in Mehbani's headset. He patched into the radio system covering the various unit commanders. ”You have all been briefed about our initial objectives, but I will reiterate them now.” He increased the volume on his microphone. ”Our mission is to take control of the airstrip from the Kalgachis and restore it to workable condition. Our initial deployment is perimeter security, communications, reconnaisance, and clearing the airstrip. I want Captain Smith with me when I meet the Kalgachi commander. Everyone clear?” The ”Yes, Sir” replies came in.

The helicopters touched down on the airstrip just in front of the old command tower. The airstrip was truly derelict with tufts of vegetation poking out of the tarmac. It was also dotted with sizeable potholes and the taxiways weren't in much better condition. About halfway along the runway stood the old command tower. Once in perfect condition, it was now little more than a ruin. The glass surrounding the top was missing, the roof had partly caved in, and the walls were covered in what looked like bullet holes. The old hangars to the right were little more than a line of supporting poles. The only building that wasn't a wreck was the old administration building to the left. It even still had a door.

The troops poured out of the landing helicopters with different destinations. The Air Force Rangers established a perimeter around the airstrip and buildings, the engineers set up shop close to the administration building, while the SAS platoon secured the tower and building for the signalists. Mehbani and Smith headed for the Kalgachi command tent.

”Colonel Mehbani and Captain Smith, TDF”, he announced as he stepped inside the tent. The Kalgachi commander looked up and started towards them. ”Welcome to Zylenia International Airport, Colonel and Captain,” he said extending his hand to both of them. ”You came just in time, my boys are getting homesick.” Mehbani gave a short nod. ”We aim to please if nothing else. Is everything set up for the transfer?” The Kalgachi nodded. ”Yes, I assume your boys are relieving the perimeter security as we speak. We have regular probes by the natives, but nothing too bad.” Mehbani sucked his bottom lip and made a face. ”Yeah, we've been briefed about the dietary preferences of the local populace. Needless to say, we have a somewhat different palette and will take a pretty firm stance on that.” The Kalgachi snorted and beckoned for the pair to follow him. ”Come on, let me brief you before we leave.”
Result: TDF lands 2 platoons Air Force Rangers, 1 platoon signalists, 1 platoon Army engineers and 1 platoon Special Army Service. Control of Zylenia airstrip transferred to Talenore control. Work begun on levelling the airstrip and taxiways, establishing communications, perimeter established.

Re: [Main Thread] International Talenore-Niijima Friendship Cruise

Posted: Tue Apr 09, 2019 8:46 pm
by Continuator
[Scene 8] Operation Tropic Badger - Mirren Harbour, Zylenia Island

“And Mirren itself was evacuated not long after the resurgence of Alexandrian Flu in the Gerenian mainland. Those who remained on Zylenia after the government pulled out soon found themselves raped, killed, skinned, and eaten – in that order if they were fortunate – by the arriving Dromosker. Of the Dromosker there is not much I can relate to you that you will be able to make any reasonable use of. They are a primitive and bestial people. Their concept of property rights consists of exercising dominion over whatever their clubs can touch, and that includes your skulls, so keep your helmets on and a round chambered at all times. They are adepts at blending into the foliage, you won't have time to spot them and we don't have time to teach you to spot the warning signs, so just be sure to keep your rifles up and a finger close to the safety-catch at all times...”

Petros had listened to some dispiriting briefings during his time, but this one was a contender for the all time worst. The Penal Detachment had been amongst the first ashore from the Constancian Task Force in the harbour. Petros and his companions having been transferred from the rusting carrier to the deck of a rusting grain ship, its hull a heaving, moaning mass of humanity snatched from the Mbsana Coast by a passing navy flotilla undertaking a training cruise that just happened to take them past the island of Zylenia whilst it was being liberated. Serendipitous coincidence indeed. This second corvette force hadn't loitered for long, instead smartly executing a 160 decree turn in sequence as each lead corvette in a line astern formation fired off a celebratory cannonade into the island's interior before turning hard to starboard leaving the way clear for the following vessel to do likewise. They were now safely back on their way to Nivardom, leaving behind the effluent and misery filled grain ships such as the one Petros and his companions had spent a fretful night aboard. Amongst the other ships anchored offshore from Mirren were logistic support vessels crammed with an entire ESB expeditionary force flush with purloined Shirerithian hardware, but it had been the Penal Detachment, its numbers swelled to 129 men by the scraping together of rejects from several boats in the task force, who had been obliged to row ashore in leaky dingies marked with weird Iteran sigils as the dawn rose over the shallow cove in which the ruined settlement of Mirren nestled.

The landing itself had been uncontested, obviously no-one was going to bother telling a scumbag like Petros the reason as to why but Zavi, who affected to be 'in the know', reckoned that there had been a kerfuffle up at the airfield, and as a consequence the Ashavans based off 'Drums-in-the-Deep' were conducting low-level 'show-of-force' flypasts directed at any gathering of savages numbering larger than a half-dozen in the open. As far as Zavi had been concerned, this imparted quite the wrong lesson – which should have been taught by dropping a guided munition onto the biggest hut in the biggest village at around meal time. A bit of impromptu mana redistribution in order to make clear who the new bosses were. Petros had merely remarked that he'd not seen any smart bombs aboard ship, just plenty of dumb ones. Plenty of dumb pilots too, had been Zavi's inevitable rejoiner.

The Penal Detachment, overseen by a distinctly nervous Home Guard Lochagos, three callow naval ensigns, and their perpetually scowling Kentarchos, had spent the day hacking down vines, sweeping up bones from around the burnt out ferry terminal – best not to think about it really – and heaping up rubble to built a perimeter zone of earthwork sconces, in an arc around the last remaining intact – more or less – harbour jetty, intended to provide for mutually supporting defensive fields of fire against any advancing cannibals whilst permitting the individual eight-man squads to shelter behind the circular barriers of heaped masonry. Similar heaped structures had been established behind this outer perimeter as troop and finally squadron rallying points, with the latter forming a barricade between the walkway onto the harbour jetty and the rest of the island.

With their work done, and a fairly uninspired meal of cold iron rations, enlivened with a shared bottle of liberadosan rum, the gentleman presently briefing them had surprised their sentries by approaching from the landward side accompanied by a couple of natives sporting feathers, war-paint, and, between them, a pair of Shirley P60 rifles, each slung over the right shoulder in such a way as to facilitate firing from the hip at the least moments notice. The gentleman had introduced himself to the detachment commander as being on the political staff attached to the airport, and assured the officers that his guides, whom they were quite ready to execute on the sport, were perfectly 'house trained'.

The briefing had begun not long after, and was now continuing, about an hour and twenty-minutes later. The gentleman liked to talk, it seemed.

“I mentioned that they are primitives, and bestial ones at that. I might add that they are ignorant and credulous too, but for all that do not – for pity's sake, do not! – make the mistake of assuming that because just because your enemy wears feathers and daubs himself garishly, that he is in some way simple or foolish. They are not. Quite the contrary, I assure you. The Dromosker – although more properly we are dealing with Raskols on this island – live in a reality that is almost entirely tangential to our own but whereas we have spent two thousand years mastering philosophy, arts, science, technology, hierarchical organisation, governance, ethics, these primitives spent that time observing, studying, imitating, and refining, an in-depth knowledge of a natural world in which they were merely just another apex predator. Now ask yourselves, you who are sat here on the edge of a teeming and mysterious jungle, who is better prepared for the trials to come? Us or them?”

The gathering had fallen grimly silent at those words, only for their spirits to be lifted moments later when the gentlemen had sought to assure them that they were indeed brave volunteers for taking on this most dangerous task. If the gentleman had been surprised by the uproarious laughter which had greeted his words, he gave not a whit of showing it as he then gamely pressed on with his explanation of the plan for the unloading of the first consignment of 'Cargo-200' for transfer to the more cooperative of the local chieftains – who were called 'lugals' or something of a similar ilk. The explanation of schedules, transfers, and turn around times, had gone on for quite some time before the slightly bemused Lochagos had interjected to ask what exactly 'Cargo-200' was.

The gentleman, to his credit, was very matter of fact in his explanation. Petros, to his credit, had made it down to the beach before retching the contents of his stomach up onto a beach illuminated by starlight.

Re: [Main Thread] International Talenore-Niijima Friendship Cruise

Posted: Wed Apr 10, 2019 10:45 am
by Yastreb
[Scene 9] Aboard MV Jolly Froyalaner, central Captive Sea
At this time of year the intertropical convergence zone slid north off the equator and becalmed the central waters of the Captive Sea, subjecting all who sailed upon it to suffocating heat and humidity. In the sky above, surging black mountains of storm cloud thundered and flashed among themselves like warring archons but never seemed to release any cooling rain. Nor was there a breath of wind to agitate the sea, only flattened waves of a kilometre or more in length which gently undulated passing ships as currents from the south and west reached their feeble meeting point.

It was enough to disappoint the crew of the Jolly Froyalaner. The profile of their vessel had been lowered since the wheelhouse had been cut off and replaced with a sensor-laden periscope worked from the a control room deep within the hull, but the supplementary radar clutter of a rough sea offered a comforting veil of protection whose absence would have to be tolerated at this latitude. On the plus side, a sea this calm meant that the superstructure of most other ships would pop over the horizon long before the Froyalaner's low profile was visible to them, giving ample time for an identification of the contact followed by a burst of three turbo biodiesels to come about and keep the Froyalaner out of sight. Amid a forest of antennae atop the remains of the superstructure, a warning receiver was constantly collecting the marginal harmonic leakage of radar emissions bounced over the horizon by the dense cloud base, long before they could paint the Froyalaner hard enough to bounce a signal all the way back to the source. Every radar system in the region had its own quirks of pulse pattern, amplitude range, sweep frequency and other indentifying features which had been assiduously recorded and catalogued over the preceding years by the Froyalaner's complement of Kalgachi technicians, assisted by certain regional land-based assets. At irregular periods the vessel would summarise its contacts and fire the information off in a brief, encrypted high-gain burst transmission to an overhead Natopian satellite, from which it would be bounced back down to all manner of allied intelligence organs and panopticon feeds. But despite all the talk of a Haifan armada sweeping in from the north, nothing of interest had been recorded on this voyage except for merchant traffic and the occasional inshore gunboat.

The Froyalaner had other tasks than sensor picket, and other crew than the Kalgachi whose seamanship was of the level expected for the natives of a landlocked state. Whilst they remained below decks tending to an array of electronic widgets, the actual operation of the vessel was performed by others; mainly Liberadosan deckhands under the command of Nova English ex-naval types, the latter carefully selected for disdain toward their homeland's nominal Bassarid trading partners although this was inevitably a function of their jarring racism, which spilled over toward the "greasy fockin' dagos" they were tasked with ordering about. Still, these ale-sodden sons of the Faedertellus knew the sea and seemed unconcerned about the legal implications of their present work back home. It was rumoured among the rest of the crew that they were escaping a criminal history in Nova England anyway, laying low until that nation's quarantine against the White Plague had run its course and the will to dredge up old charges was lost. In the meantime they were bringing in money; none of that fiat shite either, but shiny reliable Kalgarrand which rivalled Nova England's own God-given Denarii in its righteous gold-backed purity.

The vessel's skipper, one Uswald Kinwhat, was one of their number. Unlike his bosun and a couple of others who had been drafted specifically to sail with him, Kinwhat was an OIEC fixer who had stayed with the corporation when its main headquarters relocated from Newcastle-upon-Eastmoor to Puerto Arcadio. His reputation as a company man, along with his seagoing experience and connections, had gotten him this posting. As well as being lucrative, it was a chance for the bearded old man to keep the salt flowing through his veins and the joke that he would do it for free had become one of his more tiresome catchphrases. Here he was back in his element, hanging off the Froyalaner's periscope with a smouldering pipe full of Bedricson & Hege clenched in his yellow teeth.

On this voyage however there were certain proprieties to be observed, as Kinwhat was reminded by the crackle of the intercom above his head.

"Control, Ops."

Kinwhat flicked a switch on the panel. "Control aye."

"Could you see me in my cabin for a moment?" said the voice on the other end.

Kinwhat grumbled. "Aye, be right there." He turned to his first mate. "Welfric, you have the ship."

"I have the ship, aye sir," said Welfric, pleased to have a moment to himself as Kinwhat departed over the threshold of a rust-spattered bulkhead door.

The cabin in question was that of Solomon Flappity, the Jolly Froyalaner's operations controller and probable agent of the Kalgachi government who was subject to Kinwhat's authority at sea but outranked him within the OIEC hierarchy, an awkward relationship which might have been smoothed over by personal amity but Flappity, despite his civility and rationality, was not the type of man with whom Kinwhat would ever choose to socialise of his own free will - they got along because they had to.

Flappity's mildly irksome presence was exemplified by the constant stream of music emanating from his open cabin door; the Minarborian style known as 'shrubwave' or 'pastel punk' to its fans and as 'elevator music' to everyone else. According to the sleeve notes provided by Melliphone, the Kalgachi state record label, the track which assaulted Kinwhat's approaching ears was named Fleurette Tours the Shrubbery, written to celebrate the carefree days before the aforenamed head of the Minarborian church was martyred on the remorseless altar of disco - somewhere in Minarboria's Kalgachi rump was a demographic that was still buying these types of records like hot cakes, even as the elder generation died off. Not that Kinwhat knew or cared about any of this as he stepped into the cabin, taking the oppurtunity to give nearby crew members a break from the easy listening melodies by closing the door. Flappity did extend him the courtesy of turning the offending cassette player down, if not entirely off, as he settled into a wonky wicker chair.

"You weren't busy, were you?" said Flappity, a bespectacled man of middle age, from the narrow book-strewn confines of his desk.

"No more than I usually am," grumbled Kinwhat, striking a match to relight his pipe which had gone out. "What's up then?" a cloud of thick blueish tobacco smoke filled the cabin as he spoke, to Flappity's evident discomfort.

"We've been copied into a communication from the allied command." Flappity pucked the top sheet from a bundle of paperwork and handed it over. "They've landed at Zylenia."

"Shit the bed," mumbled Kinwhat as he read the message. "They've thrown everything at it. What's gonna be left to support us?"

"Very little, I suspect. If you read to the bottom... our orders are to remain on station and stand by for replenishment-at-sea at a date to be arranged. They want our picket to be maintained."

"How's the Corporation still behind this? We've been in ballast long enough as it is. The Liberadoodle hands are greedy bastards you know, they'll piss off next port if they don't get a cargo bonus on top of their wage. And my lads won't be too happy either."

"The board have assured me that appropriate gratuities will be paid at the conclusion of the voyage. Believe me, skipper, we're entitled to substantial danger money for this job and I wouldn't have set foot aboard if I thought we weren't going to get it. I was due to go back home to Kalgachia before they called me out here. Do you know how long it's been since I last saw my wife and children?"

"Just be thankful yours are still alive," hissed Kinwhat.

Flappity never had gotten anything more than the occasional dark allusion to the fate of Kinwhat's family and was in no hurry to find out more. He decided to change the subject. "I was thinking of some missile drills this afternoon... we haven't had one for a few days now. What do you think?"

"I concur," said Kinwhat. "The Constancian Arsenal didn't exactly write a fat manual for those things in land conditions... never mind keeping four of 'em launch-ready, in a cargo container, on the bow of a pitching and rolling motor vessel. If there's gonna be a proper manual we'll have to write it ourselves. For all I know, if I let one of those things off it could blast my fo'c'sle to smithereens, most likely take this whole tub with it."

"The Constancian delivery agents gave me their most sincere assurances..."

Kinwhat exploded with laughter, propelling a new cloud of smoke directly into Flappity's face. "Haaah! You do tell some good ones sir, I'll give you that. Sincere assurances..." his mirthful wheezing continued as heaved himself up out of his chair. "Let's just run the fockin' drills, eh?"

Re: [Main Thread] International Talenore-Niijima Friendship Cruise

Posted: Thu Apr 11, 2019 8:58 am
by Malliki
Scene 10 - Top Gun, Zylenia International Airport
Ever since the runway was leveled and mobile flight controls installed there had been a steady stream of T-55's picking up and dropping off troops, equipment and vehicles. The FA-9 Banshee was known for requiring a very short runway, but it needed to be flat and made of tarmac. A stretch of stomped dirt didn't quite cut it. Next to the partly repaired air control tower stood a small village of tents, or 'Temporary Tactical Facilities' in Tali military lingo. Purchased in bulk for this purpose from a manufacturer in Constancia, they served their role well. The initial personnel had now been complemented and partly replaced with Gendarmerie, anti-air infantry, nearly a battalion of engineers and other assorted troops. The SAS platoon had spent the month in the jungle, rarely venturing back to the base. Their mission was classified, but believed to include liaison with the local population in various ways.

Lieutenant Isa Enteqair, 43. Fighter Squadron, Talenore Defense Force Air Force, looked out the canopy of his FA-9C Super Banshee. He was to make the first landing on ZIA as part of the squadron's deployment. He swallowed hard. He had made countless landings on the various airports on Talenore, but this was something else. He had heard that the airstrip passed inspection, although in his mind it was still a flattened piece of dirt. Well, it better work, the other 23 Banshees of the squadron were right behind him.

'Zylenia tower, this is Dirtbag Camel One-One, requesting clearance to land,' he announced over the radio. The radio crackled.

'Delta Camel One-One, you are clear to land on runway only,' came back over the radio.

Lt Enteqair pulled back on the throttle as the airstrip appeared between the canopies of the thick forest. This was going to be a combat landing, coming in hard and stopping fast. The plane dropped fast towards the runway, but at the last second he pulled up slightly to dampen the landing. The Banshee touched down and bounced slightly. He felt the G-force as the fighter braked hard. He immediately pulled of onto a taxiway and into one of the temporary hangars. He knew that a long line of Banshees were coming in.

- TDF deployment changes
- First fighter touches down on Zylenia
- 43. Fighter Squadron based on Zylenia International Airport
- Air operations initiated

Re: [Main Thread] International Talenore-Niijima Friendship Cruise

Posted: Mon Apr 22, 2019 1:41 pm
by Continuator
Scene 11 - Tropic Badger revisited, Zylenia International Airport
For Thais Locusta the most discernible benefit of being transferred ashore to Mirren was that it had taken her away from the tedious and demeaning chore of mollycoddling and bedding bored and restless flag officers in a multinational fleet which had, since the disembarkation of the last of the ESB and GSC contingents onto the island, become something a little less than a jumble of ships engaged in an aimless regatta. There was, it was certainly true, a certain charm to sailing around tropical islands, but that charm had worn off in the first month.

And this was the eighth month.

On the island itself there was certainly plenty to do. Thais had cancelled, with some alacrity, the further transfer of settlers to the tender mercies of the repugnant savages infesting the interior. The notion that the Constancian state, and by extension the wider Raspur Pact, had been knowingly gifting frightened captives to the cooking pots of gorged cannibal chieftains might, under any other circumstances, have resulted in a government ending and alliance breaking scandal. Fortunately, Shireroth had obligingly caught fire, and no-one was much inclined to take an interest in the goings on of one small island in the Captive Sea. Indeed, Locusta had been quietly gratified to hear tattle that the Autokrator himself had only expressed mild surprise upon discovering that his possessions included a tiny speck of land many leagues distant from the shores of Eura.

Certainly the savages – these Dromosker – had not been best pleased to discover that the continuous supply of choice cuts was now abruptly halted. There had been some disagreements with the chieftains after that – some heated exchanges, some distinctly nervous expressions on the faces of the interpreters – but things had remained relatively civil. Or at least they had until the first sentries began to be reported as 'missing'. At their next meeting Thais had the distinct feeling that she was being tested over how she would respond to this opening, still deniable, challenge to the new authority. One of the brutes had even had the audacity to start picking his teeth whilst stood there in front of her in the bullet-scarred airport terminal building which had become the de facto meeting space for these little conflabs. Biting down on the urge to have the wretched savage hauled away and shot, she had settled for fixing him with her brightest smile and most intent stare whilst complementing him on the magnificence of his plumage – and indeed many birds of paradise had evidently given their lives unwillingly so as to afford the monster the opportunity of making such a variegated display. This was possibly not the response that he or his cronies had been expecting, to judge by the momentary flicker of confusion which had fluttered over his facial features before being replaced by the supercilious grin of the habitual braggart. Thais was confident that he had been sufficiently blind-sided by the rapid fire succession of blandishments, the way she had cooed her complements over his tattooing and battle scars, that he'd made the mistake of giving an honest answer when she'd asked – agog with admiration – after the name of the village which could have sired such a magnificent specimen.

It didn't matter whether it had actually been the truth or not, what mattered was his fellows had heard him give the name. A discrete radio message to the Talenorian patrol up country in the bush swiftly came back with a confirmation that it was one of the settlements whose location had been logged.

As the chieftains began their trudge back past the lines, and back to whichever defile their henchmen were lurking in, they would have seen a pair of FA-9C Super Banshees take off and gain height rapidly before banking sharply and turning towards the north. By the time they themselves had walked the greater part of the distance home, a pillar of smoke standing stark against the azure equatorial skies would be there to guide them over the final stages of their journey. On their return they would be greeted by the sight of scorched earth, smouldering trees, and heaps of ash where their wretched hovels had once stood. Amidst this sight of desolation the unfamiliar smells of aviation fuel and acetone would assault their nostrils, along with the all too familiar stench of charred human flesh. And as they stood there, the returning warriors would have remembered the answer that their chieftain gave to the strange Ferang woman. A message would have been sent.

Obviously, even if the Dromosker made show of being cowed for the moment, they would not stay that way. Feuding and a thirst for revenge was in their blood. No doubt even now, as they bowed and scrapped and muttered their gratitude at receiving tins of processed meat in lieu of wailing women and children fresh off the boat, they would be huddled in some dark jungle conclave making their plans.

A more permanent solution would have to be found, and, if she was honest, Sarhang Thais Locusta would have much rather preferred that the decision fall to someone else and that she be somewhere else, preferably far distant, by the time it came to be made.