All roads lead to Jesselton

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Questers
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All roads lead to Jesselton

Postby Questers » Sun Oct 09, 2016 3:59 pm

On returning to Kuala Pahang, Harper was summoned before his commanding officer, who ordered him to go to the Yehud by the 30th. Having received a little allowance for hotels and a flight, Harper spent it on wining and dining in KP, living for a week in friends houses, and then booked third-class train tickets. On the train up from KP to Jesselton he told the white conductor that he had lost his ticket and he was upgraded there to first-class.

The train was, he reflected, something like the old days; just that now the men in khaki uniforms were usually Estates troops, the porters were still Indians but now wore the uniforms of a famous Debtors Company and not the flash two-piece of the Eastern Line, and that the Malays on the train were now businessmen and not people on the long pilgrimage.

Other than that, whisky sodas were still fifty cents, there was still all-day tiffin, and people still closed the curtains on the car so that they couldn't see some of the blighted countryside. When the train pulled into Jesselton there was a big sign that read:

HERE IN JESSELTON LAST FRIDAY FIFTEEN MEN WERE HANGED
BY THE KING'S MEN
FOR MURDERS AND OUTRAGEOUS VIOLATIONS OF WOMEN

This was normal now, he thought, in the places that had undergone the great transformation -- to syndicalism and then back to the law -- all order had been lost and reconstituting it was proving troublesome. Harper began to think about what it meant for his mission in the Yehud: it was even worse there, with roving gangs of bandits and terrorists. Jesselton would return to normal, although it might take a generation. The Yehud could be in its state for the rest of time.

He had intended to take a train to the Yehud via Jesselton the next day, but suddenly orders changed. He was promoted two ranks to Colonel, and made Chief of the King's Military Forces Liaison in Jesselton (naturally, he selected Gosling as his aide-de-camp). The MFL had set up shop on the top three floors of the Hotel Gazebo. He arrived in uniform to a little fanfare -- apparently the previous chief had been widely disliked -- and to his Chief Intelligence Officer, a burly Malay man called Faisal, shaking him vigorously by the hand and presenting an invitation:

"Well then, Colonel, are you ready to conquer Jesselton?"
[Tue 22:53:29] <colo> holy shit you are the fucking worst guy

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Re: All roads lead to Jesselton

Postby Praetonia » Sun Oct 09, 2016 6:59 pm

The Estates' man's riding boots clacked crisply on the marble floor, his back as straight as the path he carved through the swirling mass of natives. This had been the largest post office in the Subcontinent. Now it was the headquarters of the Nampataland Expeditionary Company.

A native porter bowed deeply, took his hat and cane, and led him through a maze of corridors. More native clerks filled the whole building with busy confusion, most of them carrying papers and boxes. They came to a particular office, the porter rapped on a door, and opened it.

"Hendricks, Ports League," the Estates' man made as if to salute, then offered his hand. Somerville took it. Hendricks looked around the room, his eyes falling on a large portrait of Field Marshal Smyth. "You know that's not quite proper?"

I don't see that that's your business. Somerville frowned, "It has a calming effect on the natives.".

"I suppose it might," Hendricks murmured, positioning his chair so that the portrait was just out of view.

"Drink?" Somerville made to open one of his desk drawers.

"Best not."

"All right. Well, to come straight to the point the Company has decided to set up its own heavy mob. We don't necessarily forsee reduced cooperation with the Army of Observation, but..."

"But?"

"Sikhs are much cheaper," Somerville smiled apologetically. "And besides, this was always the plan. The associations won't fund the Army of Observation forever."

"That is not at all clear."

"Be that as it may, Sikhs are much cheaper. And as I was saying, we would still appreciate your cooperation if a situation really kicks off."

Hendricks couldn't help looking over at the portrait of Smyth. "I have no doubt that you would."
<leis2> Otoh i am also an antiquarian so im legitimately interested in how purple dye was made in sidon
<leis2> (using mollusks)

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Questers
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Re: All roads lead to Jesselton

Postby Questers » Mon Oct 10, 2016 7:29 pm

"Bhattacharyya, V."

From the ranks came forwards a swarthy and short Indian, perhaps just half an inch over the regulations. He ran with his back bent forwards then launched himself straight and then lifted his hand from the side of his leg to his forehead in a half-millisecond salute.

The white sergeant leaned on one leg, clipboard in one arm and parade stick under the other. He barely glanced at the recruit. "Muster passed. Go to the right column."

V. Bhattacharyya summoned some more enthusiasm from some deep reserve and ran to the next column. The Sergeant looked back up at the rank and file. "Next! Ghosh, P."

One more Indian ran forwards.

Fifty yards away, Harper sat at a table, an electric fan blowing strands of hair here and there. He lifted his chin from his hand as his old friend and aide-de-camp, a short ginger man named Gosling, sat down. 'Isn't it fun to be raising a Regiment. A Regiment all our own!"

Harper put his chin back on his hand. "It's the King's Regiment, not ours. That's why it's called the King's Own Jesselton Fusiliers. Unless, of course, you want to pay for it."

"I couldn't even raise a Platoon."

"Me neither.

"I wish I was a King," Gosling sighed.

"No, you don't. First, he has to hide his drinking. Second, he has to hide all of his girlfriends. Not that that would be a problem for you. Anyway, stop distracting me. How's it going with the Officers?"

"All accounted for. Majority veterans. Mostly been bumming it since the war. A minority of North Pointers."

"Oh, good. See to it that those chaps get put into the line companies. If we have to crack some skulls they'll care less about the proprieties and they will be harsher with the discipline. Our lot can be a bit soft, sometimes. I think we're about wrapped up here." On the parade ground the remaining Indians judged unfit to serve trounced away in disgrace. The white sergeant started to bellow at those remaining. Toooo the left!

"OK." Gosling stood up. "I do have a girlfriend, by the way."

Harper looked up. "No you don't, you little fucking liar. You bloody well do not."

"I do."

"Come and bring her over to Hotel Gazebo then. That would be grand. She better not be a southerner."

"I will. I will."
[Tue 22:53:29] <colo> holy shit you are the fucking worst guy

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Re: All roads lead to Jesselton

Postby North Point » Mon Oct 10, 2016 7:48 pm

"It stinks in here, you know," the man's companion said. The two pilots were alone in a dimly lit bar in the Mainwaring city center. It was 2pm and they had both already had four beers each. "Best be getting back," the other stated over a thinly-disguised burp.

"Right."

They both kicked their chairs back. The first man, who was called Sims, retrieved a pack of Lucky Strikes from his flight suit pocket. "Cigarette?" he asked, before clapping his navy blue cap onto his head. It was stained with sweat.

"Jesus, how many of those have you smoked today?"

"Not enough." Williams, the second aviator, left a few dollars sitting on the table next to their empty beer bottles. On standing he realized he had become slightly drunk. They exited the bar, shoving past the natives as they walked the mile and a half back to the base. This had become a disturbingly regular habit; ambling into the town early in the morning, finding some worn out hole-in-the-wall, and drinking the cheap local beer over lunch. They had not flown their aircraft for nearly a month. Sims smoked four cigarettes on the walk back. Williams did not smoke and the constant aroma annoyed him.

"You're going to have a fucking heart attack, you know," he mentioned, as usual, knowing the outburst this would prompt. For some reason Sims said nothing in response. They walked past the Malay sentry at the gate who threw a hasty salute. He had grown accustomed to the two North Point officers taking their usual afternoon stroll into town each day. They didn't look very drunk today.

The barracks was empty. A note had been left on both of their bunks. The Courier font had always irritated Sims.

"52 SQDN NPFC TO REPORT TO HAVINGAR 2200Z OCTOBER 15"

Williams looked at his friend before crumpling the note.

"Those beers weren't half bad, you know," he ventured, "shall we head back?"

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Re: All roads lead to Jesselton

Postby Praetonia » Mon Oct 10, 2016 8:19 pm

"Welcome to the new Questaria," he was dressed like an officer, but had the jolly, booming voice of a street-corner salesman. "What you are about to see is the birth of a new world. From the devastation of war, this subcontinent is being rebuilt, greater that it has ever been. What I will show you today is just a small slice of what has already been achieved, and - with your help - the tiniest crumb of what we will one day achieve together. So follow me, and let us glimpse into the future!"

The open-topped bus turned a corner onto a grand boulevard, filled mostly with real cars. At short notice the rickshaw drivers had received more lucrative employment in other parts of the city, while the broken streets from the airport had been avoided by a brief "sight-seeing" helicopter ride directly to an Estates' property close to the centre. The men in their linen suits crowding the sides of the coach looked down on their surroundings.

"This street was taken building-by-building," the officer boasted, sticking out his chest on which was pinned the Jesselton Medal, "but today, it is already the hub of commercial Questers."

He pointed to one building. "Look there! The Merchant Venturers' Association building. Some of the first to arrive. Far-sighted men.

"And there!" He pointed directly ahead of the vehicle, where a huge neoclassical edifice loomed in the distance, "The Nampataland Expeditionary Company." The magic words. The Company had bought property in Questers on a vast scale in the first months of the mutiny, when the smart money thought Questers was doomed. Today, it bestrode the subcontinent, and its founder was reputedly the richest man in the world.

The coach turned off the main boulevard and down a four lane street reduced to two by columns of Covenanter tanks lining both sides.

"Some say Jesselton is the most orderly city in the world," the officer continued, his guests peering in amazement at the tanks over the rails. "The Estates-General takes a particular interest in the good conduct of its inhabitants." A group of men pointed to a huge poster of Marshal Smyth, hung eight stories from the side of a building. The officer laughed. "That is not one of ours. Many of our generals and officers are beloved by the loyal natives of this country."

The column of tanks gave way to formations of troops, armoured cars, and paddy wagons. At the end of this street another neoclassical building, more restrained this time, and flying a Red Ensign.

"The highest court in the subcontinent," the officer said proudly, but added, almost apologetically, "our troops do not set foot inside.

"But they do enforce its rulings. Enforce them most rigorously indeed."

The street was a dead end, and the coach came to a halt.

"In a few minutes you will meet with representatives of the Metropolitan Court of Jesselton, and then with general officers of the Army of Observation. They will show you that we are behind the Law, that we are behind you, that we are behind the future of Questaria, to the hilt. You will make your fortunes here, and you will make fortunes for those you represent.

"And you will also make this a fortunate and prosperous land, her cities the world's envy, and her people content. Never forget that!" Suddenly his voice turned solemn. "The work we do here - and the work you soon will be doing - is God's own."
<leis2> Otoh i am also an antiquarian so im legitimately interested in how purple dye was made in sidon
<leis2> (using mollusks)

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Re: All roads lead to Jesselton

Postby Questers » Tue Oct 11, 2016 4:33 pm

The top floor of the Hotel Gazebo led out onto a rooftop terrace, from which the whole of Jesselton could be seen, almost. Signal Hill occupied a commanding position -- during the war, the Hotel had been taken over by Syndicalist artillery spotters, but had escaped beingg shelled by Praetonian batteries by virtue of having switched sides at the last minute. The former Syndicalist spotters proved their loyalty (and possibly saved their necks) by turning on their former comrades and directing instead the howitzers and rocket launchers of the Estates-General.

Tonight the Hotel Gazebo was hosting a different party. No expense had been spared -- the King's Cousin was coming to visit, a courtesy call, but really a checkup on the Military Liaison's new commanding officer; and perhaps the transmission of orders not safe to give in any other manner than hushed speech.

Already, Harper had had to send two officers down to their rooms because they were intoxicated; the King's Cousin was two hours late. And where was Gosling?

There he was. Harper had always thought he looked funny in his full dress uniform, but when he saw the woman he was with, he had to take a double look -- so did many of their brother officers, apparently. Harper pretended not to notice him approach, but turned around when he did. 'Where have you been?'

'We were held up.'

'We?'

'This is Olivia.'

'How do you do,' Harper said.

'How do you do,' Olivia replied. 'Daniel has told me so much about you. You were in the war together, weren't you?'

'Yes. Kota Kuala Rifles. I was with him in KP when he won the Federal Cross.' Gosling went bright red. It almost matched his uniform.

Olivia turned on him. 'You never told me you won the Federal Cross? Why aren't you wearing it?'

Harper interrupted. 'It was at the rail station. He drove off nearly a whole company of reds on his own.'

'We have been moving around a lot, so the Cross is in my mother's house. In a box somewhere.'

'You are so brave.'

'He was the bravest man in our battalion.'

Gosling sighed. 'I'll go get us something to drink,' he said quickly, and left. There was a moment of uncomfortable silence where Harper and Olivia looked at each other.

'So, Olivia. Where are you from? You're not from Eulalia, are you?'

She laughed. 'No-oo. Actually, I'm from Southerby.'

'Is that so? I would never have guessed. And how do you like our country?'

'Too hot. But the people are lovely. Mostly.'

'So what are you doing here?'

'Oh, I work for the Expeditionary Company, actually.'

'Is that so,' Harper said. 'Is that so.'

--

After Harper had gotten a little acquainted with the King's Cousin, and after all the cameras had been put away and disposed of so that the King's Cousin could drink his gin and tonic, and a little too much of it at that, the man -- short and a little fat, but very good natured and warm -- went for a walk around the hotel roof terrace with Harper. At one point they stopped, when almost the whole city could be seen, and the Cousin, a little too drunk, with big fat cigar in stubby hand, pointed squarely at the centre and threw his arm over Harper's shoulder. The cigar was pungent.

'You see all this? Mark my words my boy, we'll have all of this.' The Cousin burped. 'We are the winners, and the winners do not give up. The King likes you. And he is watching you very carefully. We are all confident in you. I think what you said earlier was absolutely correct. We approve your strategy.'

'Then work can begin,' Harper said, trying not to cough.
[Tue 22:53:29] <colo> holy shit you are the fucking worst guy

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Re: All roads lead to Jesselton

Postby Praetonia » Tue Oct 11, 2016 6:00 pm

A young white man strolled through the park. It had been overgrown, he remembered, the first time he had visited. And the second time, well, the less said about that the better. Today it was neat and manicured, and sprinkled liberally with statues of heroes of the war, from the West and from the East. At one far corner, set on an island, marble Smyth shook hands with the Yang di-Pertuan Agong. But in the central crossroads, before the cenotaph, stood George IV, his head bowed, resting on his sword.

The most senior officer killed in action on either side.

He walked carelessly, his brown corduroy jacket sitting askew, the flap on his leather satchel unfastened. A university student, perhaps, not a veteran. A schoolboy even.

He walked on until he came to his favourite spot, the chess boards. He sat down at one, took off his glasses, and began arranging the pieces. An old native man sat opposite him.

"My name is Pradesh," he said in his native language.

"Arthur," the young man offered his hand, which Pradesh took and shook enthusiastically, grinning widely.

"Yes, yes. That is what you people do. I remember now," his stick-like body almost disintegrated with hoarse laughter. "I have lived so very long you see, so very long after I made it my business to avoid you people."

"But you want to help me now?"

"Oh yes, young man. You want to learn about this city, hmm? This country?" He recovered his composure and adjusted his jacket. "I've been here as long as anyone, and longer than most."

"And what do you know?"

"Nothing of course," Arthur sighed, "but what other people know.

"Porters, waiters, cleaners. Men you don't see, even when you see them. But they see." Suddenly Pradesh he switched to Praetannic, "Ideas. Troops. Conspiracies. What else does one want to know, in a place like this?"

Arthur raised an eyebrow, and smiled. "Perhaps you can help us."

He hesitated, and then switched into Quiberois, "Were you ever in Shiloh?"

The old man imperceptibly inclined his head.

"In Shiloh was it not like this? I can taste it in the air."

He looked thoughtful for a moment, and then his cracked lips broke into a smile, and he resumed his Praetannic. "I am afraid I know little of Oriental cuisine."

He got to his feet. "Some other time, my friend. We may see one another soon.".
<leis2> Otoh i am also an antiquarian so im legitimately interested in how purple dye was made in sidon
<leis2> (using mollusks)

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Re: All roads lead to Jesselton

Postby North Point » Tue Oct 11, 2016 7:02 pm

The white officer strode with purpose along the front of the formation of new Questarian recruits. Quite a sorry lot, he thought. He wondered if any of these fellows had been shooting at him in the last war. Probably had, he decided, and as he scanned their faces he thought he recognized a few of them. But then again all Questarians looked the same, all "yes, sahib", "doing the needful right away sahib", while bobbing their heads and just being generally useless. Exhausting.

The sergeant finished chivvying them all into some semblance of order, and the captain stood at the front of the company, both hands looped into the top of his vest. Once they had stopped moving around he finally spoke. "Good morning!" he boomed. "I am Captain James Brooke. You are now in Able Company of the King's Own Jesselton Fusiliers." The recruits looked around at each other.

"I'm sure some of you are already acquainted with Sergeant Major Hudson. He and I both come from North Point. The Sergeant and I served together in the last war, putting bullets and bayonets into your black Syndicalists." A few recruits shifted uneasily at this, as had been Brooke's intent. "But do your duty and you and I will get along quite nicely!"

He paused for effect. "Tomorrow the Regiment will issue your khaki uniforms, boots, and webbing. I will see to it that every man also receives a helmet." The recruits found this interesting. "If we are to see combat you will be issued body armor. You have my word on that." More glances around the formation. "You are dismissed."

Brooke turned on his heel and walked back to where the rest of the company commanders had gathered. A voice shouted at him from the group. "Already trying to put the fear of god into them, eh, J.B.?"

J.B. laughed before being handed a glass of whisky by one of the other officers.

"I think they'll shape up quite nicely given the chance."

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Re: All roads lead to Jesselton

Postby Questers » Fri Oct 14, 2016 12:34 pm

The tram didn't run to the end of Whittaker Street, so Harper and Gosling had to walk a few hundred yards. They took a shortcut through the Fielder Lane Market and instantly regretted it; it took another fifteen minutes just because of the crowd. Whittaker Street was one of those densely compacted streets with very tall and very old apartments and not enough space to run a car down the road, and at this time of the day it was actually quiet. There were only children in the street and Harper was sure he wasn't followed.

515 Signals Company was officially headquartered at Camp Parkinson, a hundred miles away, but its real operations were run out of a block of flats in Whittaker Street. The commanding officer of this unusual outfit was a man named Mildew, who was the type of person who looked precisely like his name -- not to his credit. He was very tall and very white, and his company was, in this building, fifty Indians who worked and slept there. From its computers, the building produced enormous heat, and even though most of it was vented out, it had to be masked in some way, so the bottom floor was a diner. As far as almost everyone knew, number fifteen flat, Whittaker Street, was just a place where you could find fresh bread at any hour. This, in itself, was a sound business proposition and it was known that Mildew profited from it.

Mildew had his office at the top floor of the building. It was a mess, with cans and food boxes piling up around the perimeters of human activity, and Mildew himself slept on a sofa covered with unusual stains. He found a chair for Harper, but Gosling had to stand; he declined to sit on an empty beer keg.

'Is it possible for you to hack a private company?' Harper crossed his legs.

'There'd be hell to pay if anyone found out.'

'Yes, but can you?'

'Yes, but what does hacking mean?' Mildew spun on his chair. 'It's a meaningless term. What I need to know is what you want me to do actually do.'

'What can you do? I'm an infantry officer, I don't know about anything that's not a company radio.'

Mildew stopped spinning back and forth and sat very still, rolling his eyes hard. 'We can do almost anything. Cyber defence operations are run out of this building, but we have a bigger network to call upon. Country's got to have a way of protecting its digital infrastructure, you know. Nowadays firms are beginning to think that being hacked by some fuck in Holy Sharf with fifty computers is a bigger threat than Songian tanks crossing the border. What I'm trying to say is -'

'You have limited resources and yada yada yada. You're under my command so you will do what I tell you,' Harper said.

Mildew shrugged. 'You don't seem to know what to tell me to do, that's all.'

'We're going to bring down the Nampata Expeditionary Company.'

'You're nuts,' Mildew said. 'Are you insane?'

'That's a common complaint,' Gosling said cheerfully. 'Anyway, orders orders. Not our idea.'

'No, I'm serious. They will have some of the best cyber defence resources in the world. Or... maybe they don't. But they probably do.'

'I want a report in seven days,' Harper said, standing up. 'At the latest.'

Mildew saluted.
[Tue 22:53:29] <colo> holy shit you are the fucking worst guy

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Re: All roads lead to Jesselton

Postby Preston » Fri Oct 21, 2016 10:32 pm

If there was one thing you never got used to in Questers, Markus thought, it was the heat. Sure, it would occasionally top thirty Celsius in Embrea, but Questarian heat was something different entirely. Like stepping into a sauna in full dress. Stand outside for five minutes, and you'd be sweating buckets, dehydrating where you stood. Worse, if you had any physical work to do. Markus supposed that was why the white Questarians preferred to hire the coloreds, Indians, Sikhs and the like, for their light work. Three hundred years on, and the Praetannic race had yet to evolve to its new, hostile homeland.

Not that indoors were much better, of course. Markus swore the Subcontinent had never invented air conditioning; while every establishment worth anything had a myriad of fans, in a land where electricity was never guaranteed, it was always a losing battle. Sighing, Markus took out a packet of cigarettes and lit one up. Across from him, his associate, a fresh-faced blond-haired young man of about twenty, looked up from his drink just in time.

"Spare one for me?," the young man queried. "Just about out of the ones from back home. Idunno how the Questarians can bear to smoke those unfiltereds, Lucky Strikes."

"Don't be such a cuck, Bastian," Markus replied with a snort, proffering a (local) cigarette from his packet. "The only people who smoke filtereds here are women and gays. Best learn to smoke like a local, or go cold-turkey." Bastian shuddered at the thought, and accepted the offering and lighter that quickly followed. Contented, he drew heavily on the smoke and turned his attention suddenly to the matter at hand.

"So what are we doing here? In the Subcontinent, I mean? The war's over."

"Upholding and defending the Law and the freedom of every man, woman and child, of course," Markus replied with a faux-sanctimonious air.

"Oh come off it," Bastian spat, dragging again on his cigarette. "You're no true-believer. I've known you long enough to know that. So what are we actally doing here?"

"Observe and report, report and observe," Markus said knowingly. "The only constant in the Subcontinent is change. Peace has broken out, for the moment, but peace cannot long endure without men to secure it. The Praetonians and the North Pointers are seeing to that. Perhaps the Committee will as well. Time will tell."

"So where do we fit in? The Nampata Company is the richest in all the world. The Committee can't compete with that, even if it wanted to."

"Perhaps. Perhaps not," Markus replied, swirling his gin and tonic for effect. "The Power and Water Commission wants to build a hydroelectric plant in Naugarh that will provide electricity to two-hundred fifty thousands. The Society for Religious Works would give ten thousand Questarians education in literacy and the Christian faith. The Blue Star Mining Corporation wishes to purchase mineral rights in the Nampataland. These are all associations that pay dues to the Committee. All require foremen, controllers, security. The Committee has never invested outside its borders before, not to this extent. For those on the ground floor, there's money to be made."

"So we shake the hands and grease the palms and hope the Committee rewards our hard work, then."

"So cynical," Markus sighed. "It really doesn't suit a man of your age, you know. And anyhow I thought you wanted some adventure. That you didn't want to be, and I quote, 'stuck in some lecture hall listening to a professor drone on about dead kings and generals.' Adventure not what you had in mind, eh?"

"Not exactly, no," Bastian admitted. "I thought defending the Law would have more to it than shaking the hands of some rich Malays and passing business cards. I expected...well, some action, I suppose. Something I can write home to the folks about."

"Well, my boy, this is the Subcontinent after all. Nothing is ever so calm as it appears here," Markus replied. "And with Marshal Smyth doing God knows what, God knows where...well, I do believe you may get your wish after all."


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