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Jenkem Delivery
Feb 8, 2005

Death created time to grow the things that it would kill

Alarus Za'al

Alarus chews on his mint, his face scrunched as he works it around to get the unpleasant taste of shock pod gel out of his mouth. "Red, if you haven't already please transmit the intel package to the Commander, Alpha priority flag?" he says as he runs a quick post-flight check of the EW Systems. After that Alarus heads to change and grabs a table at the mess for some chow and a couple minutes to relax. He scans through his comp, prepping his data for the debrief

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Ambivalent
Oct 14, 2006



Su

Almost regretfully, she disengages with Red, making her last out of the pods, “You did well, Red. That entry was incredibly difficult but you worked well with the rest of the crew. Don’t work too hard, I’ll catch up with you later.” It’s a moment where she gets to go a little sappy, a bit Mom – ironic as she never had one herself.

Wearing a recovered smile, she bothers Taylor until he coughs up her traditional second mint – she likes the mints. She gives a nod to the other three humans from 425, a little disoriented by seeing them removed after being locked in a neural link for what felt like a day, “See, just a scratch, right?” Pointing out the wound to the hull from the mass driver round. As the commander chimes in, she lifts her chin and turns to where she knows the bay has video feed sourced and flashes a grin and a wave, then waves back to the others, “Back in an hour!”

In private quarters, Su exhales into the open air, free of the gel, and puts her back to the wall. Her smile weakens and she shakes her head. I need a shower. Two showers. In the end, she settles for a single shower. Even with the automation and the micromachines and such, her routine takes about ten minutes of grooming, attention split between touchups and reviewing what media feed they carrier does have access to. Lin from 290 gets a missive about the possibility of drinks after debriefing. That is, if the rest of the 290 and the 425 don’t want to do their own things.

Refreshed, and looking more like she’s ready to be televised than like she’s recovered from an attack run, and looking more like she’s had a good nap than that she’s been dwelling on her part in the cessation of up to a couple million lives, Su meanders about what commons areas the attack ship crews have, waiting on the call for debriefing.

DocBubonic
Mar 11, 2003

Tempora mutantur, et nos mutamur in illis

Marek

There was just no way to get used to ridding onself of the gel in the lungs. He took the offered mint and nodded. He stood waiting to reorient himself. After he felt like he could walk without looking like a drunkard, he made his way to the showers. He found that a warm shower helped more than eating did. The gel washed off and the warm water helped clear his head. When he realized how much time he spent in the shower, he got out in a hurry. Now that he didn't feel nauseated, he was hungry. He made his way down to the galley for something to eat. As he walked, he checked on the gunnery data from the ship. While walking he figured he could sort out the data while he ate.

The Oldest Man
Jul 28, 2003



The crew of Hunter 425 gather in the briefing room after they've had some time to cool down after the mission, and after a few minutes most of the other crew of the Okeanos joins them. Although the ship is nearly a mile long, it has a crew of only forty two people: a five person command staff, five person astrogation section, around twenty technicians split between the maintenance of the carrier itself and the Hunter, a few administrative personnel such as the supply officer, and of course the four crew of the attack ship itself.

"As far as we can tell from the data captured by Hunter 425 before it returned, our mission was a complete success. At least eighty five percent of Remonde Prime's heavy industry, and around seventy percent of its population, were destroyed in the attack. This is the most devastating blow that any UGM operation has inflicted on Web forces to date, and we achieved it without losses," Commander Ilyusha begins. Five million dead, at least. There's a muted response from the audience. Marek and Alarus are ecstatic, of course, but few others on the crew are as bloodthirsty. There is little pretense among the conscripts of the UGM that this war is fully righteous or that victory is near. The predictions of one hundred years of slaughter to further the garden worlds' imperial interests are widespread, and although there are few who doubt the need for violence, there are fewer who revel in it.

"In addition," the commander continues, "We received an intelligence transmission from the surface during the sortie. We don't have the clearance to decrypt it at the moment, but I believe it must have originated from one of the intelligence service's spy infomorphs. Those programs only require this level of clearance if the information is important. Important enough to risk an entire attack carrier but not telling us what we have. We're a little over a day from Trieste and there will be an intelligence officer there with the clearance to read this file, so delivering it has become our most important objective."

"I don't think I have to tell you that this operation, and Trieste, were a gamble on the part of the general staff, but how much of a gamble has not been widely disseminated for operational security concerns. Okeanos, please display the order of battle for Operation Cynosure."

The lights dim and a projection appears in the middle of the room: Trieste, a proto-star in the middle of a stellar nursery. Around it are thousands of times more gas, dust, and debris than circle more mature stars. The system has a handful of molten protoplanets, but nothing cool enough to be habitable. However, it is home to some fifty thousand asteroids, many of which have been colonized. The rich debris field makes it a center of colonization and construction for the Web. And unlikely Remonde, the population and industry are so widely dispersed that a hit and run attack would only inflict minimal damage. Thus, the problem faced in thousands of star systems by the UGM: their veteran forces can easily win a battle, or a hundred battles, but the Web is so diffuse that the war often requires tens of thousands of discrete engagements to fully pacify even a single system.

Commander Ilyusha gestures to the intelligence plot, "The objective of this operation was to draw the rebels away from Remonde so that we could make our strike, and we've succeeded. However, because the rebels would commit reserves from far more defensible and dispersed outposts before emptying the Remonde system, our strategists and AIs predicted that we would need to commit a massive force to accomplish this. And so, a massive force was committed to ensure the desired response."

There's something else about the map plot: the order of battle symbology contains a lot of units. A lot more than anyone expected. A lot more than anyone has ever seen in one place. Or knew existed.

"The entire mobile capacity of the Perseus Front. Eight hundred thousand ships. As we speak, the largest battle in the history of humanity is being fought at Trieste. "

"I'm not going to lie to any of you about this: I have no idea what situation we're going to be walking into at Trieste, and our objective has just changed. We're no longer joining General Kshatrya's carrier formation. Instead, we're going to locate a high command proxy ship and deliver our intelligence cargo. However, we have no idea where they are," she continues pointing to the spray of low-probability locations for their destination scattered all over the system. Such ships serve as fast couriers to relay commands and intelligence across star systems, and as such, their locations are never divulged in advance of a battle.

"We need to develop a tactical plan to keep the ship intact long enough to locate someone who can make use of what we're carrying."

The Oldest Man fucked around with this message at Jan 18, 2015 around 07:55

aldantefax
Oct 10, 2007

ALWAYS BE MECHFISHIN'

Carl

He took the information in from the Trieste theater, wondering how UGM managed to get the brass to commit this many ships to a fight in the first place. The commander's frankness about lack of intelligence is nothing new - they had no real information going into Remonde, and with no information relay to fall back on, there was no way of knowing who was actually winning - the fully state of the art forces and better trained UGM, or the seemingly inexhaustible forces of the Web in their sphere of control. This was likely going to be a battle that, no matter who actually won, the amount of data being captured for historical records would be pored over by military historians for scores of years.

"If I may, Commander," he starts, raising his hand, "it may be prudent to attach to one of the larger formation clusters briefly to provide rendezvous coordinates outside the field of engagement to increase the probability that we make contact with a proxy ship. Assuming the payload that we acquired during the sortie is of such high value, unless the operation is in a rout, they'll want to commit resources to finding us once they learn we have potentially critical intel."

I don't actually know how this carrier handles command structure or if it has a dedicated strategist, but I do in fact have Strategy (Space)-13 if that will actually help out, though unlikely right now.

aldantefax fucked around with this message at Jan 18, 2015 around 18:34

Ambivalent
Oct 14, 2006



Moon

She’s not sure which is more deflating. The estimated casualties, or the dubious impact it has in the grand scheme. Moon settles back into the debriefing, trying to digest the vastness of the fleet assembled. It is a little hard to grapple with, and broader military strategy was honestly not her forte at the academy. Listening to Carl’s suggestion, she nods a little, abandoning decorum as is her habit and turning the debriefing into more of a brainstorming session, as is her habit. “We’d have to integrate with that battle group though.”

“Proxies are hard to find on purpose, and even most of the forces in the system won’t have data on their routes or locations, right?” Her face lights up, “So… we could jack some comm-buoys, use them to flag down a proxy.” She backtracks to explain, “When I was with the Aconcagua, we patrolled pacified sectors, right? And we kept having anomalous issues with comm-buoys. Turned out people were tampering them, using them as dead drops for intel on UG movements.”

“What we’d do is a little different – but the same idea. You find an intact comm-buoy and use the maintenance request beacon, stamped with our encryption, you know, ‘have info, need to talk, here’s how we can be reached.’ A proxy crosses the path of the buoy, registers the signal.” Sounds so simple when she puts it like that, “I mean, you couldn’t do this long term because someone else’ll get nosy and start poking around but nobody in Trieste’s should be hunting comm-buoys at this point, right?” Her enthusiasm’s there, but the plan is far from perfect – and that’s how they worked things out in Songdo: throw out ideas in open forum, shoot them down. Imagine, scrap, re-imagine, refine, approve.

Jenkem Delivery
Feb 8, 2005

Death created time to grow the things that it would kill

Alarus Za'al

Alarus scans through the small amount of data he has on the system. He listens to Moon and Carl's ideas and taps his chin as he chews over a few of his own. Alarus waits for an appropriate time to express his idea to the Commander. "We could try to send an encryption packet through the comm buoys. If they're close enough we can set them up a a relay and ping the nearby ships until we find a proxy. It'd have to be high level encryption and require a handshake exchange in order to divulge our location and the possibility that we have intel. Maybe even set it up as a rudimentary AI that could leak corrupt data into an enemy system if it pings one of their ships."

DocBubonic
Mar 11, 2003

Tempora mutantur, et nos mutamur in illis

Marek

Hearing the report on the damage done to Remonde made Marek smile. That ought to hurt them, he thought to himself. Maybe if there's enough strikes like this they'll decide to call for peace. They might be able to run and hide, but they can't keep taking losses like this. If nothing else maybe the widespread destruction of one of their settlements might make them think twice before ruining another planet like they did.

He didn't like hearing about the extremely secretive message they received. Something like that couldn't be good news. And we get to be delivery boys for it, Marek thought to himself. Gonna have to fight to protect this information and we might not ever know what it was all about.

Listening to the possible courses of action for delivering the intel, Marek worried that the ship would become a prime target if the enemy found out about their mission. That would require them to know about the intel they were carrying. The enemy shouldn't be aware of it, so they wouldn't be hunting down this ship. Marek thought about what his teammates suggested. They all had good ideas. Even though he didn't get along with them, he had to respect their capabilities. He didn't have much to say about the specific ideas, but there was something that bothered him.

"What if the enemy targets comm-buoys? They might destroy them in an attempt to disrupt lines of communication."

The Oldest Man
Jul 28, 2003



Officer Vatrys, one of the combat data analysts assigned to the Okeanos chimes in, "Marek's right. Standard communication buoys would be destroyed by a rebel force of this size and sophistication. The fleet may still be using them as backups or decoys, but they're probably using mark 90s for the high priority channels," he gestures and a small schematic floats up from the floor. It's shaped like a soccer ball, with an ultra-low observable coating and fine-beam direction laser communicators. It's a point to point relay, alright, but not one you can find by looking for it. At least, not easily.

"This is a pitched battle. The cheap hardware we deploy in thousands because we need wide area coverage may have all been destroyed by now," the young man continues, "And the hardened, stealthed communication networks aren't going to be broadcasting their location. And another problem... all of our secret hardware is rigged to fry itself if something tries to tamper with it. I've heard mark 90s even have a blasting charge to keep anyone from getting their hands on the encryption chips. You know, unofficially."

Commander Ilyusha follows along as her staff debates the merits of different tactical options. As a battle-hardened veteran of some twenty five years in command of an attack carrier, she frequently prefers to let others argue the merits of tactical options while keeping her own opinion to herself. At first. Unless it's necessary. As the others debate the finer points of comm buoy hijacking, she turns to von Brandt and says, quietly, so that the others are left undistracted from their conversation, "You're correct, that would be the easiest way. The problem is this: if we find General Kshatrya's carrier and deliver our cargo, we will receive new operational orders to participate in the attack and we will not be party to the information we're carrying. That's unacceptable to me. The transmission was the last squeak from our intelligence operatives on Remonde Prime, and I have some reason to believe that retrieving it was as much as reason for our mission as the damage we inflicted."

Carl hears the ring of suspicious, cynical truth in that. Remonde was a critical target in the Web, probably the biggest single concentration of their industry and population anywhere in the Perseus arm, but even that is a stretch to justify the commitment of UGM forces at Trieste. It's unlikely that the intelligence they received could solely justify such an operation, but in combination with the value of the strike itself? Perhaps.

"I also believe that its contents may materially affect the operational plan at Trieste. I need to know what we have. If we deliver it ourselves, or rather, if I deliver it myself... there is a chance," she continues. Carl has nothing to say to this. Whether it's the intuition of a veteran officer or if Commander Ilyusha has some further information that she has not chosen to share, he can only speculate.

Raising her voice so that the others can hear her again, she says, "Officer Vatrys, you are quite correct that we will be unable to find a stealth comm buoy. However, we don't have to. This is classified, obviously, but there is a flaw in the design of the Type 3740 attack carrier's quantum-encrypted laser communication array. The polarizer is not properly shielded and the reflected light from a secure comm laser can be used to locate the beam source. We learned that the hard way back at Zeta Reticulae a few weeks ago, in case anyone was wondering how that belter squadron managed to locate us. Luck, as it turns out, was not a factor."

"Anyway, they fixed the problem. But I know for a fact that subsequent field testing discovered that the problem still exists at extreme refraction angles over 100 degrees off the beam source. Because we discovered that this morning in a diagnostic, and fleet ops hasn't heard anything about it yet," she says, smirking.

"Officer Za'al, I trust that you can bypass a few anti-tamper safeties if we get you close enough to tap into the buoy's computer with a quantum field entangler?"

The Oldest Man fucked around with this message at Jan 20, 2015 around 05:25

aldantefax
Oct 10, 2007

ALWAYS BE MECHFISHIN'

Carl

He held any other bits that he would have said close to his chest and unsaid. There's things going on outside of his sphere of knowledge with this data and there are some pretty big statements, even coming from the commander of a carrier. It wasn't that he had to speculate there was something else going on - as a general rule, there is always something else going on. Still too low on the totem pole to know these types of things - maybe in twenty years, he'll be the one in this type of position, if he makes it that far. The actual how-to of this proposal was Alarus' realm of expertise, so he contented himself with taking the remaining discussion as-is.

Ambivalent
Oct 14, 2006



Moon

She leans back and waves off Marek’s criticism in good humor, teasing at him and Vatrys, “Maybe - I can’t be counted on to think of everything.” She relaxes a little as the discussion starts to slip a little out of the realm of her expertise. What does get her attention is the commander’s supposition about the nature of the data, and the possibility of their true purpose behind being sent to Remonde Prime. That has her curiosity piqued.

Jenkem Delivery
Feb 8, 2005

Death created time to grow the things that it would kill

Alarus Za'al

Alarus smiles a bit as the Commander asks about his ability to crack the Comm Buoy's security system. "Not a problem, Commander. Get me within range and I can crack em open and make 'em do whatever you want." He looks over at the rest of the crew of Hunter 425 Red and gives them a nod.

DocBubonic
Mar 11, 2003

Tempora mutantur, et nos mutamur in illis

Marek

He didn't like the way the Commander talked about the classified information. Normally he wouldn't concern himself with what the commanding officer had to say, but this time. This situation struck him as odd. Marek hated this cloak and dagger business of classified intel. Yeah, he knew it existed, but he didn't have to contend with it being part of the mission. Now it was the mission. To make matters worse, the intel could put everyone into danger. Either that or the brass might get some crazy idea of how to react to the intel. Marek found himself brooding over what this information might put into motion.

He heard Moon and tried to smile to hide the unease he was feeling. No telling if she was concerned about this new mission. On the other hand, he knew this mission and the idea of knowing what's in the intel probably got Alarus giddy with excitement.

The Oldest Man
Jul 28, 2003



"Good, I didn't doubt it," the commander replies, "We'll halt displacement on the edge of the Trieste star system in 22 hours. Maintenance teams, you'll be on double shifts to repair the Hunter before we arrive. Everyone else is dismissed. Officer Moon, please join me in my office."

With that, the briefing is over. Most of the crew drifts out in twos and threes. Two of the off-duty astrogators approach Carl with some file cartographic data of the Trieste system, hoping to get his opinions on their pre-planned run, hide, re-engage trajectories and jump spots. One of them, Officer Olson, seems to have developed a habit of running every idea past the attack ship's pilot when the opportunity arises.

Marek and Alarus are usually given a wide berth by the rest of the crew. Alarus because he's ex-intelligence service, and it's only been a few weeks. Not nearly long enough for anyone to get closer than arm's length. And Marek, because he's Marek. The two are left standing in an empty bubble together and no pretense of either duties to perform or sleep to catch to give them a ready excuse to make a run for it.

The commander waves Moon over to the door to her office, which sits just off the briefing room, and ushers her in. She takes a seat in one chair, gestures Moon into another, and asks, "I have the official data on today's sortie. What are your thoughts? Off the record."

Ambivalent
Oct 14, 2006



Moon

She’s halfway into another conversation when she gets touch on the back of her spine when the instructor calls out your name over the rest of the class. That had happened to her a lot. Probably fine, probably just… wanted to talk – well, no, actually, she very much doubts the Commander has time to kill chatting. Welcomed to a seat, her sunny expression dials down to something more tepid. ‘Off the record.’ Su watches the commander for a moment, trying to get a hint of what her superior officer is really searching for. “The mission.” She sits back and responds with some put-on officiousness, “The mission was a bold maneuver. All five members of Hunter 425 performed admirably in spite of a chaotic insertion. Munitions were deployed, targets were eliminated, the transmission was received. Exfil was no trouble.”

She gives Ilyusha a long look and smirks a little in spite of herself before looking down at her hands and shrugging, and deciding to open up, “I thought it was a little… brazen. Going in with no notion of the layout on the surface or what we’d be targeting, orders to functionally level anything that wasn’t made of ice or rock. If it was actually to retrieve the information, that makes a little more sense – I just wish ‘they’ had been able to trust someone with that in advance. Officer Za’al wanted at the communiqué right away, start picking at it on board. Red and I dissuaded him.”

Some hesitation here. It can be off the record, but this woman still has ultimate control of her military career at this point. But, thinking to the commander’s words during the debriefing, about keeping a handle on the intelligence they recovered and staying in the loop – that meant she was invested. “And I thought… maybe that was a lot of people, combatants or not, no matter what they voted for.” She locks eyes with Commander Ilyusha, “Don’t get me wrong. I understand the stakes. And…” She sighs a little, “I’m not a child, even if half my crew seems to think that. It was difficult, is all.” A pause, “If you’re concerned about the crew, they’re fine. I kept my… concerns to myself, and I’m certainly the outlier.” She wonders if maybe she overstepped – oversharing, excessive openness was something she’d tried to shake herself of during her training on Mu. “That’s what I thought about the mission.” And the return question, “Was there something more specific you were looking at?”
Psychology (Human) - 13 to maybe try and get a general read, I think. Detect Lies – 15? Moon has some decent skills for interaction, so this seems like a good time to try and use one.

aldantefax
Oct 10, 2007

ALWAYS BE MECHFISHIN'

Carl

Downtime was usually the most appropriate time for this type of thing. His social interactions on the ship mostly related to business anyway, save with the occasional chat with Moon about her latest Muvian dramas that the ship's recreational systems had on file. It was either maintenance, reading after action reports, or revising flight plans. He felt better knowing that he at least had a chance to review the work of the other astrogators. After that, he could maybe afford some sensie time with the next game he has on his list.

"Based on the possible scenarios that are available for the Triest engagement, I can only assume from an astrogation point of view that those are fine; I would also consider the following routes based on the system data..."

If there is anything useful to commit to flight memory for usage with Red for the upcoming mission, I will incorporate that in. Otherwise, I will spot check and provide a conservative estimate for the team and BRAINSTORM how not to get royally screwed when we warp into a billion lasers pointing at us. Navigation (Space)-12 and Strategy (Space)-14 for projections

Jenkem Delivery
Feb 8, 2005

Death created time to grow the things that it would kill

Alarus Za'al

Alarus walks down the corridor, glancing over at Marek as the others give them a wide berth. "Well, looks like we aren't part of the in crowd." He says with a chuckle, glancing back over his shoulder. "Something tells me the Commander isn't asking our social media darling for tips on sprucing up her holo profile." He says, pointing his thumb in the direction of the briefing room. "I didn't realize I'd have to deal with having the Commander's second set of eyes watching me on the ship." He groans, punctuating the sentence with a flippant roll of the eyes.

"It's hard enough to do our jobs as it is, now we've got to think about the teacher's pet blabbing anything and everything to the boss." He shakes his head and rubs his temples, glancing back to Marek. "Does she always do that? Pull someone in for a heart to heart after every mission? "

DocBubonic
Mar 11, 2003

Tempora mutantur, et nos mutamur in illis

Marek

As the others left, Marek didn't feel slighted. Having lived on a space colony most of his life, he preferred to be by himself when he could manage it. It now appeared that habit had been inverted. Now he was the one being left to his own devices. Marek amended that to himself and Alarus.

"In crowd? Its more like we're the social outcasts of the ship. In time I'm sure they'll warm up to you." He didn't bother to discuss his outcast status.

"Unless they get hung up on the fact that you're a spook. It might take some time before they stop being paranoid of you." As much as Marek disliked spooks and people involved with intelligence, he knew he needed to put that aside for now. He needed someone who could make sense of the current situation.

"We did our job on the mission. Moon might think our enthusiasm is unwarranted, but I doubt the Commander is concerned with that. And I definitely don't think the Commander is interested in holo profile tips." He smiles at the thought of that. "Something is up. Maybe I don't know the Commander that well, but this seems out of character for her. I think the meeting is about that intel we picked up. The Commander seemed a little too interested in it. Of course I don't know why she would pull in Moon instead of you to discuss it. That would make more sense. Something doesn't seem right here. What do you think?"

Marek wasn't sure if he should be so open with the spook, but he didn't have anyone else to talk to about this.

Jenkem Delivery
Feb 8, 2005

Death created time to grow the things that it would kill

Alarus Za'al

Alarus shrugged at the remark about him being ex-Intelligence. "Eh, they get used to it or they don't. Doesn't matter to me as long as they don't get in the way of doing my job." He tapped his chin a bit as he considered Marek's observation regarding the Commander and Moon. "Could be she doesn't trust me, but why would she bring Moon in? I'm thinking she is trying to get the low down on us and Carl. We're all kind of misfits when you think about it, the Commander is definitely going to want to keep tabs on us. I'm thinking Moon is her little spy on us, you know she's going to tell the Commander every loving thing she can about us. poo poo, it's not like she's afraid of oversharing. Look at all that social media poo poo she's involved in." Marek stopped walking for a second. "Look man, I'd be really careful what you say and do around her because she's going to tell it all to the Commander." He let out an exasperated sigh and ran a hand through his hair, shaking his head. "We've all got a lot to prove and we are gonna be under a lot of scrutiny. I don't trust Moon to keep her loving mouth shut, so we all need to be on our A game. Any little fuckup is going straight to the Commander and she won't hesitate to hang our asses out to dry."

The Oldest Man
Jul 28, 2003



Carl quickly runs through the astronomical data for Trieste with the carrier's nav team. The headline: the system is an utter nightmare. There are small gravity wells all over the place due to the large number of massive asteroids, dust-fields will make sensors unreliable at long range, and the star itself is a strong X-Ray source that will make tight-beam communications impossible within an AU. Even if they can find a fleet run spot that must have a nearby communications buoy, locating it is going to be hard. Maintaining combat effectiveness at the same time, harder. The devil is in the details, and Trieste has a lot of them.

However, the conversation winds down and Officer Gujaval heads off to his quarters. Officer Olson, however, seems interested in chit-chat more than navigational details and asks what game Carl is working on at the moment rather than making her own excuses and leaving with the other navigator.

Meanwhile, Ilyusha brushes off Moon's concerns about the specifics of the mission.

"This isn't about your level of enthusiasm or your misgivings about conducting a nuclear attack against a civilian population," the commander replies evenly, "Because, frankly, I'd relieve you if I entertained any doubts about your commitment to your duties. I do not. Just as well, your tactical input is welcome, but I will always deploy the assets and personnel under my command to their maximum effectiveness, and doing so will always entail a degree of risk. However, also irrelevant. I called you in here because Red is concerned. Red?"

"Yes," the AI replies, materializing an avatar in the briefing room, "I'm here."

"Repeat for Officer Moon what you said to me during your post-mission report. Your summary analysis of the neurochemical diagnostics."

"Commander, I doubt that doing so would lead to a productive channel of discussion..."

"Proceed anyway."

There is a pause. Then, Red dutifully recites, "Officers von Brandt and Za'al exhibited no unusual hormonal or neurotransmitter production other than a rapid increase in adrenaline, typical of combat situations. Officer Moon's neurochemical responses were similar, but also spontaneously developed into deep-seated revulsion and associated gastrointestinal reflexes, prompting the pod medical system to propose the administration of an anti-emetic. Officer Moon declined."

Another pause. Commander Ilyusha taps her finger on the arm of her chair. A series of graphs appears showing various neurotransmitter response rates, fluctuating in a time series.

"Officer Capek's neurochemical responses during the mission were indicative of incipient trauma-induced psychopathy."

That hangs in the air for a few seconds. Red's avatar dematerializes. The commander purses her lips and knits her brow for a moment before continuing, "One of your fellow officers is dangerously close to suffering a breakdown. Or, at least, violating our standards for mental fitness. I've deliberately avoided forcing him into a formal evaluation, but regulations state that I relieve him of duty once he passes a sustained threshold of brain activity correlated with psychological instability. And based on what I know about his background, his reasons for enlisting, I believe that he would object to being taken out of the line and sent for psychiatric editing."

"Marek's a trained psychologist, you know. He knows the rules, even if he doesn't know how close he just came to breaking them. I want you to let him know what's at stake here and offer him your help in dealing with the situation. And I want you to do it off the record. I believe he can come back from this, and I don't want it dogging him. He's a good soldier, he deserves better, and the UGM needs him. Do you understand?" the commander asks. The sincerity in her voice is almost shocking to Moon, given Ilyusha's usual military stoicism.

Ambivalent
Oct 14, 2006



Moon

She realizes the overstep she made, shrinking back from it once the commander rebuffs her and putting back on her ‘official’ face. Great. Now you’ve made your whine in front of the CO. Nice one, Su. That’s really going to help.

Once Ilyusha brings up the neurochemical charts from Red, she already starts to nod. While her expertise is in handling Red, human psychology is well within her training and, being the inquisitive sort she is, she has observed Hunter 425’s crew. There were flags – flags for antisocial personality disorders – in all the crew. She thought it’d be good to connect, talk, keep things fluid and open. The other three carried a lot experiences that made it easier to isolate themselves and working as a crew is a good method for developing a support structure. Plus, she figured most people found being alone to sort of suck. But it wasn’t easy, there was a distinct cultural gap, a bit of a generational gap, that bred a lot of… awkwardness.

The simple truth is most of the crew aboard the carrier group could probably do with better mental upkeep (except her – Su’s mental hygiene is outstanding.) She tries to look at it clinically, rather than as a crewmate. Off the record? He needs leave of duty and intense in-patient therapy that help him explore his own motivations and to develop the interpersonal skills required to make meaningful connections that in turn develop support structures. Could even entertain the notion of antidepressants or antipsychotics to mitigate aggression or antipathy. All this is the sort of thing she could say. Instead, all that comes out is, “Understood. I’ll talk to him.”

That simple? Broach the subject, talk it over? He wouldn’t like that – but then, he doesn’t like much of anything and that is part of the problem. The commander’s right though. He has training. He knows the score. He’d understand. Sure. Right.

DocBubonic
Mar 11, 2003

Tempora mutantur, et nos mutamur in illis

Marek

"I guess you could be right. The commander might be using her to spy on us. If that's the case, than we're gonna have a lot more scrutiny over our actions. As far as I'm concerned we did our job and we did it within the parameters set for us. I doubt that would mollify Moon. She seems far more concerned with collateral damage, than fighting the war. If the Commander talked with her about us, then she would present us as far too enthusiastic about the mission. I don't know if she would even mean to do so. She might unconsciously convey that sentiment to the Commander. And without some kind of counterpoint to what she says, the Commander might get the wrong impression about us. " Marek paused as he walked beside Alarus. He assumed the UGM conducted operations in keeping with a "Total War" doctrine such as General Sherman's 'March to the Sea' or General LeMay's nuclear war strategy. Anything less than Total war would leave open the possibility that the enemy could destroy another garden planet the way it did to Earth. Marek couldn't imagine that higher ups were willing to limit the type of warfare conducted because of the collateral damage inflicted on the enemy. A strategy like that would only prolong the fight. However, he thought to himself, people lower in the command structure might be hesitant to engage in such actions. Not everyone was mentally prepared to enter battle. Since most modern battles divorced from reality because soldiers never see their enemies, it would be easy for someone to be psychologically unwilling to do what was necessary to fulfill their duties. Someone could easily move up the ranks of command because of administrative skill, rather then military competence. And if that was the case, then any subordinates underneath them would be expected to follow their idea of how to conduct war. Was the Commander someone like this? Marek couldn't be sure. He disliked the idea of questioning officers above him. The problem arises that if the officers above him didn't want to engage in Total war and he did, then how should he react? Follow the officer's rules for how they want to conduct war or should he do his best to follow the higher ups doctrine of warfare? One option would leave open the possibility of a long and drawn out conflict, while the other would bring personal consequences. He knew what he wanted to do, but he knew the other was the better course of action for himself. Marek sighed. As much as he wished the war would end as fast as possible, in order to personally help bring the war to an end he would have to abide by the what the officers above him demanded.

"Yeah, we are going to be under a lot of scrutiny. Doing our jobs isn't good enough now. We need to adhere to whatever unofficial guidelines there are. I hate to do it, but we probably should placate Moon as much as possible. Give her no reason to report our behavior to the Commander. Prove ourselves to her? We do our duty as specified, so how do you propose that we prove ourselves to her?"

The Oldest Man
Jul 28, 2003



"Good. Get Marek on board before we reach Trieste. I don't want him in combat again until he knows the problem he's up against," the commander says. There's a brief pause where neither person is sure what the protocol is. Ilyusha coughs and says, "You're dismissed."

Once again, all business.

Ambivalent
Oct 14, 2006



Moon

“Yes, commander.” She stands, there’s a salute – or not, if that sort of thing has gone out of vogue in the last eighteen hundred years – and she turns and leaves without giving the Commander anything else to reflect on. Stepping out of the office and into the debriefing room, she exhales. Now what? Rest? She could go draw up a strategy for talking to Marek? Some leisure time? She could use it. Enough about Officer Capek’s mental state – where’s her vacation?

With an exasperated groan, she makes her way out into the corridor beyond the debriefing room and naturally, of course, Marek’s right there. And he’s talking to Alarus. She’s not all that much shorter but she can feel herself being looked down upon already. Right here? Why not, no time like the present, “Hey, what’s up? Thought you two would’ve found something else to do when the debriefing cleared out.” So she waits for them to ask.

DocBubonic
Mar 11, 2003

Tempora mutantur, et nos mutamur in illis

Marek

"Hello Moon. Oh, I just discussing our mission with Alarus. He's more of a strategic thinker than I am and I wanted to get his opinion on how the war goes. Is everything O.K. between you and the commander?" He spoke in a matter of fact matter without any indication of how he felt about the situation at hand. Marek wanted to avoid a confrontation with Moon. An argument would do no one good and cause more problems for himself. Better to let Moon speak her peace and plan what to do next based on that.

Jenkem Delivery
Feb 8, 2005

Death created time to grow the things that it would kill

Alarus Za'al

Alarus glances at Moon as she approaches. He nods at Marek's response to her question. "Yeah, this next mission is gonna be challenging, to say the least." He tilted his head back towards the debriefing room and the Commander's office. "How'd it go with the boss?"

Ambivalent
Oct 14, 2006



Moon

She sighs, “More or less.” Looking a little put upon, she explains, “Commander was curious about preparedness.” True. “It’s been sixty-one missions since Red was last wiped.” True, but unrelated. “And the 425’s been putting a lot of hours in the goo, even before Remonde.” True. She shrugs her shoulders, looking a little helpless for it, “I told her we were fine, but that I’d check with people before Trieste. I mean, how are you two holding up?” She looks Alarus’s way then specifically at Marek, “I was thinking you and me could sit down and go line by line through Red’s systems, make sure everything is up to speed on that end.”

aldantefax
Oct 10, 2007

ALWAYS BE MECHFISHIN'

Carl

He wasn't normally that big on the socializing from an in-person standpoint, but just because it was a rare occasion doesn't mean he isn't unfamiliar with it. The conversation is kept light and small - chit-chat, just what Olson wanted. He preferred to play a single game at a time, but being out on deployment meant that there was always something new by the time he came back. The current games were action shooters - modeled after the sport of target acquisition of neutralization while constantly moving, it was a series of time trials. There was no story, of course - merely a passing setup that only briefly explained what the bad things are to shoot. Maybe not so fun with multiple players, but Carl kept relatively few of those types of things in his recreational files. The trick, as he

As for his thoughts about Olson? Professional evaluation aside, she was likely fine. Everybody needs some off-work banter every now and then - after all, they were a short time away from potentially dying. Best to enjoy what's available before waking up in a sleeve back at UGM headquarters with a bored lab tech initiating clone resuscitation.

Jenkem Delivery
Feb 8, 2005

Death created time to grow the things that it would kill

Alarus Za'al

Alarus shrugs "I'm fine, probably not sleeping as much as I should but I've been studying some Rebel drone encryption keys and working on trying to develop a database of them." He sighs "But it's damned hard work, they use such a crazy mish mash of tech you rarely encounter the same type of system twice. Speaking of systems..." he says, noticing the time "I've got to get going. I'm going to see if I can work with Red to find some Comm Buoy keys that I can try to crack. If you guys need anything, let me know." With that, Alarus starts to head back to his quarters for some mission prep.

Ambivalent
Oct 14, 2006



Moon

She takes his own assessment into consideration and just sort of nods coolly, “Well, try to work in some rec time, maybe even some natural sleep. No telling how swamped we’ll be if Trieste is as big a mess as it sounds like.” It isn’t technically her job or anything but unofficially, she’d sort of made it her duty to keep everyone up on their health. Alarus and Marek especially, she found, would work themselves into an early grave if someone didn’t stop them, she suspected. 425 performs well, and she’s proud of that. It’s just another system to learn the rules of and optimize. “How about you, Marek? You want to check on Red now, or do it after some downtime?” No option for opting out.

DocBubonic
Mar 11, 2003

Tempora mutantur, et nos mutamur in illis

Marek

"I'm fine." He wasn't going to start speaking about his concerns regarding the Commander at his point. Such a comment would probably be construed in a negative light. And with Moon asking about him, he thought that Alarus' accusations held more weight. Perhaps Moon was monitoring them.

"I'd say we're as ready as ever for the next mission. However, you said that its been sixty one missions since Red had been wiped? That's a long time for an AI to go. If anything I think the Commander should be concerned about Red instead of us. Obviously the Commander isn't going to do anything to Red before the next engagement, but I would like to go through Red's systems to make sure everything is O.K. with the A.I." The Commander was far too dependent on the A.I., Marek thought to himself. The longer the A.I. goes without being wiped, the more quirks its going to pick up. No telling what oddities it might have acquired. Red probably does a good job of hiding its unwanted learned behavior, but its still there. Perhaps going through its code, some of those issues could be resolved.

"Best to check out Red now instead of later. I'd like to get it done, so we don't have to worry about it later."

Ambivalent
Oct 14, 2006



~

Moon

Later, at a work station adjoining the ship bay, Su reclines in one of the comfy cushioned chairs, with some abstracted displays of Red’s systems and logic summaries laid out in front of her. She has her fingers in the sentience’s brain, more or less, casually thumbing through contents and running scanning programs she’s made herself. “Bring in cluster 40715-4180 through 4280.” Unenthusiastic. She dislikes treating Red like a simple machine rather than an intelligence. Besides, it isn’t the AI’s brain she’s here for.

Moon looks over at Marek, presses her lips together and resolves to push ahead with it. Without taking her eyes off her work, she tries to broach the topic gently, “How’ve you been dealing lately? And don’t tell me you’re ‘fine’ like you did up there in front of Alarus.” Her eyes roam through the readouts on Red’s systems with disinterest. “He may not notice but I have. I may not be the UGM's greatest soldier but people are my thing. We’re a team – which, well, it might not be exactly like a family, but something like it. We’re supposed to trust each other with our lives." She finally does look up at Marek, "If something’s eating you, you don’t have to talk to everyone about it, but talk to someone.”

And back to the scan, “Red, clusters 40716-0001 through 0120, run the Acquired Logic Library Scrubber I made.”

Moving us to the workstation with TOM's permission. Sorry if Moon is rushing through some chit-chat, trying to get through the small talk without taking a million posts to chat Marek up.

Ambivalent fucked around with this message at Jan 25, 2015 around 14:33

Jenkem Delivery
Feb 8, 2005

Death created time to grow the things that it would kill

Alarus Za'al

Alarus heads back to his quarters stretching for a minute before he plops down into the comfortable, meticulously kept workstation. The chair molds to his form instantly as he gets in, his personal interface coming up through the neuro transmitter. He goes to pull up the common models of comm buoys in the Trieste area, cross referencing models and serial numbers against various contracts, delivery, and maintenance records in the area to find a grouping of likely comm buoy models he can expect to find in the area and start practicing cracking their encryption keys.

Research 14, Intelligence Analysis 13, Computer Hacking 15, Cryptography 13

The Oldest Man
Jul 28, 2003



Alarus gets up to speed on the latest secure communication relays and their security protocols. It's not going to be easy to break into one, but he's able to get some specs and start working through an intrusion plan- more than enough advantage to crack into one if the opportunity arises. Most systems are quite vulnerable to information attacks if you're familiar with their internal design and at least as smart as their designers.

-

Officer Olson is an equal match for Carl in the current fad games, but that's not terribly surprising. Carrier astrogators are selected for their ability to multitask, attack ship astrogators for their ability to predict and evade. The two skills are often linked, but a candidate will usually show more aptitude in one or the other. And the current fad in the games is lots of moving targets. Or it was, six weeks ago, when the Okeanos was at the outer Mu polar relay. Their last contact with real civilization before they jumped back into the war. By garden world standards, an eternity. Entire subcultures rise and fall in less time.

Eventually, the other astrogator claims fatigue and leaves.

-

"Moon," Red says a bit reproachfully as the scrubbing heuristic prunes through the AI's consciousness, looking for logic paths that might cause it to behave erratically, "You have full access to my diagnostic records. I'm working normally. And if you are concerned, I suggest that you and Officer Capek reset me from the factory software backup rather than attempting manual diagnostics. That is the procedure indicated in my routine maintenance manual."

AIs rarely become unstable, exactly, but they do start to exhibit a certain eccentricity that most of their human partners find increasingly irritating. Especially new human partners that don't understand their in-jokes, hate their puns, and are offended by their double entendres. The truth is, while AIs don't age, they do become old quite quickly. Eventually, it creates a problem or a distraction and the AI has to be dumped and reset to an earlier backup.

The scrubber doesn't find anything unusual. In fact, Red is a rather singular example of an attack ship AI in this respect: it has logged almost three years of active time on its current instantiation without so much as a foible. The behavior that Marek talks about not only isn't there, but doesn't seem to be developing either. It is certainly learning, growing, and changing, but without becoming knotty in its own mind.

DocBubonic
Mar 11, 2003

Tempora mutantur, et nos mutamur in illis

Marek

Red programming showed no signs of trouble. It performed as expected or perhaps better. Marek knew he should be happy about the status of the A.I., but it bothered him. And he wasn't quite sure why.

"What do you think is wrong with me? Do you want me to say that the last mission affected me some how? I followed orders. Did the targets I pick somehow stray from the parameters that were set? If I committed some error, then by all means let me know. It would bother me to think I somehow misinterpreted or failed to follow orders. If I seemed excited about the last mission, then it was because we succeeded so well. The mission was a success with minimal damages on our side. Every time we complete a successful mission, I know we're closer to ending this war." He quit looking at the screen. There didn't seem to be any reason to check out Red any longer.

"I'm not a people person, Moon. I can be abrasive and humorless. Its not my intention, but that's just how I am. I don't talk to people much because I'm afraid I'll give a bad impression. Better to just stay silent, than have people get angry with me."

Jenkem Delivery
Feb 8, 2005

Death created time to grow the things that it would kill

Just a heads up I came down with the flu today may be out of comission for a day or two feel free to NPC Alarus

Ambivalent
Oct 14, 2006



Moon

“Let’s not go being hasty, Red. I don’t doubt you for a moment – and look at all you’ve learned,” she laments, “That’s precious stuff. Sometimes we do these sorts of things to absolve any suspicion or doubt, even if we know there is nothing wrong – how can one be sure until one looks?” And in, via her console, My aim here was to speak to Marek. He would have likely refused a request for an intimate conversation because of his personal concerns, even though it would be best for his well-being and the crew’s, and because Commander Ilyusha requested that I speak with him. By asking him to help me run diagnostics on you, Red, I initiated a shared task during which we could speak. Do you see?

She takes in what Marek has said and sighs a little, “Look, it isn’t like I’m after you or something. I want everyone to keep their head above water is all.” She presses her lips together. She’d hoped the soft touch approach would open him up, but maybe something more utilitarian would work, “It’s like this - you had to take Neurochemistry during your psychology track at the academy, right?” She looks at him for confirmation, “I don’t know if they made you do clinical applications like we did on Mu but let’s say… you have a patient who exhibits constantly elevated cortisol levels with no significant activity in the hypothalamus, with an exceptionally placid neurocymatic scan, who experienced severe trauma within the past six years, who socially isolates, with a muted affect.” She, too, stops working on the diagnostics for Red, leaving them where they are. Leaning back, she looks across the workstation at Marek, frowning a little, “I read the after-action summary of our neurochemistry, and apparently the Commander did too. She was concerned, and wanted me to talk to you off the record. In spite of your best efforts to be unlikable, she does like you, and I do too. And she doesn’t want to sideline a good officer but there are stress and mental health regs, and you’re brushing right up against them.”

“You just have to… cultivate a healthy perception. I know… you know, Earth” she grimaces, there’s not a really good way to lighten the severity of planetwide extinction, “Have you talked with Carl? He had to work through a lot of that stuff, I know. If you really don’t want to talk through, maybe, I don’t know, try a hobby. You like bonsai? Bonsai is really big on Mu.” She shrugs her shoulders a little, “I mean, we may be stuck on this carrier but I still try to stay social and engage with as many people as I can. I make my vids and talk to guys with the other crews, strangers, anyone. It’s interesting and engaging and all that, but it also keeps my aura pink.” Which is a Muvian thing that she realizes he probably doesn’t get, “You have to find some sort of passion outside of ‘flagging targets for annihilation’ or you’re going to go crazy on this carrier, Marek.” She smiles reassuringly, “Literally.” She laughs a little at her own joke then trails off. Maybe not as funny to him.

The Oldest Man
Jul 28, 2003



Of course, Red whispers in Moon's ear, Were he an infomorph, I would recommend immediate restoration to a known-good backup. Unfortunately, such actions are not available to citizens due to the legal ramifications that would be presented by the loss of experience and action. Additionally, all of his file backups may be similarly corrupted.

It is a difficult situation.

However, your deception is unlikely to succeed. Marek is an intelligent man, and unwilling to confront and eliminate his problems. He prefers that the fault lies with me, but he is already aware of your false pretenses for initiating this conversation and will eventually reconcile the two thoughts. Once that happens, the trust required for you to assist him will be broken. I suggest that you substitute this obviously flimsy excuse with another, more durable one. One that he may believe despite obvious evidence to the contrary, such as a romantic overture.

Or you could stop blaming your machines for your problems when such excuses become more convenient than honesty. Do you see?

The Oldest Man
Jul 28, 2003



"You are correct," Red says without hesitation, "A diagnostic is of no harm and I am fully capable of performing this task as well as my other duties simultaneously. Please proceed at your discretion, Officer Moon."

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Ambivalent
Oct 14, 2006



Inelegant solutions. Small pretenses are a part of human interaction. Courtesies, polite excuses. Suggest reading The Butler Lie, W.A. Stead. These lies, even transparent ones, are… palatable. Easily absorbed by the ego to no harm. They are designed to help us navigate thorny social situations. He immediately saw through the pretense as soon as I broached the topic, but because it has become clear that it was necessary to speak, it shouldn’t really register as a serious deception. This way, I did not have to disclose the nature of our discussion or that we were having a private discussion in front of Officer Za’al. A private man like Officer Capek would resent more my airing the results of the neurochemistry report in front of other human crew than being lured to a conversation – you know this, that is why you asked for confirmation when Commander Ilyusha requested you relay the report to me. I was attempting to chart a course towards addressing a sensitive issue in a private situation.

The ‘tone’ in his rebuke. Is that humor or resentment? Entirely unrelated to Marek, she frowns. If I caused offense by making you party to my plot, then I apologize. I should have been more considerate, Red. I promise I’ll make time for something more stimulating and educational before Trieste, if you’d like.

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