Jungle Work

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Praetonia
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Re: Jungle Work

Postby Praetonia » Sat Jun 15, 2019 2:58 am

Epilogue: The End of the Beginning, 2014

Dear mother,

Today I had the privilege to see the Protector and the generals, and the association bands and flags, and all of that. It was the long-promised victory parade, and no-one had very high hopes. It was cursed from the start, since all anyone would talk about was Smyth and the Protector and the Questerians, all of whom we are told loathed each other. The fighting men do not care for that and see it as a distraction and an embarrassment, and the sense in the regiment was that it would be better to go home quietly than make a lot of noise about what terrible boors we all are.

The Estates had invited the Sultan to parade with them in Jesselton, and the Sultan had accepted on condition that the Estates would parade with him in Kuala Pahang. But the Sultan insisted on Smyth as grand master of this parade, and so the Estates refused. The Questerians, then, withdrew their own delegation from Jesselton. You'd think that would be that, and we'd parade separately or not at all, and maybe in a few years the associational associations would get together and do something of their own.

But politicians are clever and they cooked up a solution that would rile everyone up even more: the Questerians would be allowed a delegation of three, whom they could choose as they pleased, but they would march last, not be accompanied by the association bands, and classed officially as "observers". Any fool could see this was a face-saving rejection but the Sultan accepted and proposed his delegation of three, naturally, himself, Smyth and a colonel fellow called Singh.

So they turned up, and marched along in silence down a street lined with seated Estatesmen, towards the podium where the Protector was sat, flanked by all the politicals and paymasters who hated Smyth so much and didn't think much more of the Questerians. And I thought how sad it was that it had come to this, as they walked so pathetically. And then one began to hear it, from the far podium, what was left of the band of the Life Guard of Horse of the Commitee for Parks' Maintenance, playing at first just a mumble, and then, as everyone strained silence to hear, it became suddenly recognisable on the cold air: Now Thank We All Our God.

And so to the call of a dozen men, mostly battered from the fighting, the remnants of a famous regiment playing a schoolyard hymn, the Marshal of the Frontier took the salute of this officer. God knows I was no man for the mutiny, but in that moment it all melted away. Who could think of such trivial things, standing there in that place, in that country, on that day. And as the Life Guards finished their music, oblivious that the Rajmen hadn't made it even half the way they set out to march, my mind and vision returned to the world once again, and saw that every man was standing, and every flag was bowed.

Your loving son,

Harry
<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: Jungle Work

Postby Questers » Sun Jun 16, 2019 11:22 am

Adam waited inside the Range Rover. When Abdul came to Jesselton, he used the same driver, and the same specially-designed, armoured Range Rover. In the home country he had fleets of executive four wheel drives, and in Haversham or North Point, he used a Wentworth, but here in Jesselton, there was always the Range Rover.

Abdul walked out the front entrance, the security team parting around him. Adam could not make out his features in the night, but he was moving quickly. He stormed over to the car and Adam leaned over to open the door. Abdul slammed it as he got in. He was silent, and Adam nodded the driver, Fazal, to drive to the military airport.

'What did he say?'

Abdul began swearing in Malay, almost too quick for the words to be caught. 'I'm going to kill him. The moment we're finished with the business in Heian, we're going to come here, and we're going to kill all these assholes.'

'Slow down,' Adam said. I am going to have to fix this, he thought. He sniffed for the alcohol, but the smell was absent. Something had gone really wrong, then.

'These straits people - they're arrogant people, you know. Arrogant people. I said to them - if you went to the Rayana river, you would find that the whole fucking Commonwealth is down there!' Abdul hit his fist into the window. Adam always cringed when he did that, waiting for it to smash, but remembered it was rated against bullets. 'And they said to me - "respectfully, Field Marshal," ' Abdul mimed the booming New Sennish accent, ' "the whole Commonwealth is more concerned about Prekovy". That's when I lost it. Words were said. I am afraid I can never go back there, and we can never come to a conclusion.'

Adam said nothing. The car sped past the Jesselton Extraordinary Court's main building, and Abdul started shouting again. 'It's those assholes. Stop the car, Fazal. Fazal, stop the car. I'm going to get out and piss on their door.' Streetlamps illuminated the marble columns. A column of flags lay silent on the building's dome. Adam thought it was magnificent. 'Those assholes are trying to stop me too. Stop the car.'

Fazal pulled over, but Adam put his hand on the driver's shoulder. 'Keep going please, Fazal.' Abdul accepted this defeat and leaned back into his chair. He adjusted the air conditioning facing his seat, as if the sticky Jesselton heat was making him angry, and not any other thing.

'They always call me Field Marshal, these straits people. Bastards!'

'That is your rank, Majesty.'

'They don't respect me. I know you think this is petty and immaterial, Adam.' Abdul fished around in the rear glovebox for cigarettes. He found an empty pack and tossed it on the floor of the car. 'But respect is important. Respect makes people predictable.' Adam put a cigarette in Abdul's mouth and lit it. He leaned back. 'In the same way, if someone doesn't respect you, you have no idea how they're going to act. At the end of the war, I thought, they will come round and treat us as equals. Smyth knew the score. We are going to have to come up here and deal with them. There's no other way.'

'Be that as it may, Majesty, right now we need their troops. I'll go to the Settler Club and sort this matter out. You go back to KP. I'll meet you there.'

'Okay, but be careful with that fat prick. I don't trust him at all,' Abdul said. Then he added, thoughtfully: 'Come back to KP with an Army. I know you can do it.'

-

The Settler Club was a hell of a place. The bottom half of the floors were normal hotels and conference rooms, and a pretty ordinary restaurant, but the top half was where the Settler-descended elite socialised. There were reading rooms, conference rooms, several restaurants and cafes, bars, and places to sleep. Great secrets were swapped, and kept, here. Without his position as Abdul’s Adjutant (none of the residents of the Settler Club would ever refer to him as the Chief of Household Troops), entrance for Adam would have been impossible, even though he was now wealthy beyond his wildest dreams. The Settler Club was for the Praetonian-descended old money only.

It was rumoured that even some of the most esteemed members of the [i]old[/] Sennish plutocracy could not enter, but this was likely not true. Still, as Adam handed over his service pistol, wallet, and mobile telephone to the guards, and they patted him down to check for bugs, he reflected that very few Malayans had ever come inside this building. To his knowledge, Abdul had never been. And they used Sikhs for the staff.

Could he be the first?

‘Mr Ainsley is waiting for you, Sir. If you would be so kind as to follow me,’ the guard said.

The guard was very tall – much taller than Adam, and the difference between them felt like a gulf. They stood silently in the marble elevator. ‘Entrance to the Hamilton Room is forbidden without a dinner jacket, Sir. You may take mine.’

‘That’s very generous,’ Adam said, but the guard had already removed his jacket and placed it on Adam. It was a little bit too big. ‘It’s too large, Sir. I will have one brought to you before you enter.’ He took it back. Adam tried to make out a pained expression on his face, but it was absent.

They got to the top and a man was already waiting with a jacket, a bowtie, and a cummerbund. He took Adam into a side room and fitted him up. ‘Mr Ainsley is waiting for you Sir,’ he said.

The Hamilton Room was a very large restaurant and bar, with a huge balcony that looked out over all of the western bank of Jesselton; it was placed so that in the very far distance was the Nampataland, and if you walked around to the other side of the balcony it faced towards the New Senland coast. But now, skyscrapers covered that approach, so most people gathered on the Nampata facing side.

Mr Ainsley sat alone on a table, a giant cigar protruding from his mouth. ‘Will you have a drink, Mr Johan?’

‘Cognac,’ Adam said, sitting down. Ainsley extended a hand and Adam took it. ‘Thank you for the invitation. This is a beautiful club.’

‘The building itself is unfortunately quite new. It dates back to the capture of this city by the Company. That piano inside, though – that’s from the old country. Would you care to eat?’

‘I can eat,’ Adam said, and a plate of masala prawns were brought over. Ainsley raised an eyebrow, and another one was quickly brought. Ainsley pushed prawns into his mouth without taking the cigar out.

‘His Majesty is concerned that your meeting today at the House got off on the wrong foot, so to speak. He is concerned that the main thrust of the meeting was set aside and that minor details were allowed to dominate the conversation.’

‘I understand why you want to meet with me,’ Ainsley said, blowing a giant cloud of blue smoke across the table. ‘And I understand why Field Marshal Afiz wanted to meet with me, also. This type of communication betrays a fundamental misunderstanding that you southerners have with the north. I am not a powerful person,’ Ainsley said.

‘You are being modest,’ Adam said, directly. ‘We know you are highly influential in the Landing Chambers of Commerce. You have held the title of President of the Chambers for decades. Before that, your father held the position. The rest of the members passed it to you out of respect for your judgment, not for hereditary reasons.’

‘None of those things are wrong. However, the President of the Chambers merely advises the other members. And Landing is but one city in New Senland, and one city in the northern federation. And my position is advisory, not executive.’

‘Abdul is bullish, but he knows when he is being rejected.’

‘Obviously not.’ For the first time, Ainsley put the cigar down and wiped his mouth. A little piece of prawn had dripped from his mouth, bounced off the napkin, and landed on his white shirt. This he addressed with energy. ‘Damn. I’m going to have to throw this shirt away. This native food never comes out of white shirts. It’s new, as well. Damn.’

Adam just listened. Abdul had the skill of talking, which Adam did not have. But Adam had the skill of listening, which is much more important. As he listened, he became confident.

‘You see,’ Ainsley finally said. ‘At no point did I tell the Field Marshal that his request to mobilise our Straits Yeomanry was rejected. I did not say that because it would not be true. He commands the House, and he commands our Yeomanry, if he requests it. All I did was suggest that he was making a mistake. But he wasn’t listening. He wanted us to speak according to a script, and all I did was tell him that we are not happy with his intentions.’

Adam reflected. Ainsley was obviously very intelligent. The burghers of Landing had not elected him for his ability to eat prawns. ‘Then we will mobilise your Yeomanry, and we will bring it southwards.’

‘Yes, you will.’

‘But if we meet with disaster, you shall not be there to comfort us.’

‘You are listening, Mr Johan. If Field Marshal Afiz is successful, then it will be because Providence has shone upon him. Not even the burghers of New Senland can resist providence, not even collected. But if he is not successful, we will need to consider again quite how much Providence approves of Marshal Afiz’s station.’

For the sake of peace in the occident, I will not relay this to Abdul, Adam thought.

‘Now, Mr Johan, you may stay here as long as you like. You are my guest. Your bill is on the house. I put it to you that you will likely never step foot in this establishment again, so you should enjoy the moment. Excuse me if I choose not to shake your hand.’

Ainsley stood up.

‘May Providence be with you,’ Adam said.

‘We all live on Her largesse,’ Ainsley replied, walking off.

It would be a lie to say Adam did not have a few more drinks on the house. He smoked a cigar while standing on the balcony, amidst a sea of Wallasean faces and clinking cutlery, and considered. Working for Abdullah was both the greatest privilege, and the greatest pain, in his life. Looking out at the city, he tried to spot the places they had spent their time while at the College. They were too dark, and too far away.

‘Stick with me,’ Abdullah had once said to him, drunkenly, on the top floor of the Pahang Club, ‘and we will conquer the world.’ Adam had replied that he hadn’t wanted to conquer the world. Abdullah asked what he wanted, then: Money? Money was good. Women? Women were better, maybe. Fame? Power?

Adam said: ‘I want to wake up every morning and be happy,’ to which Abdul recoiled. But for some reason, Adam had stuck with him, through the turbulent nineties, in the first big war, and then through the second big war, and until now. As he left the club, returning his dinner jacket and cummerbund, he wondered why at all he had stuck by the man’s side. He was impossible.

As he took the lift down to the ground floor, he realised why. The money, the women, the power – those were all good. But the reason he had stayed with Abdul was Abdul. He was, quite frankly, inescapable.
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[Tue 22:53:29] <colo> holy shit you are the fucking worst guy

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Re: Jungle Work

Postby Questers » Sun Jun 16, 2019 7:49 pm

On the plane over, Jack Harper remembered the rail yard for some reason. It passed into his memory and then passed out again, like a fly in a kitchen. All he knew was that he was going to meet the Big Man for a debrief on Smyth's opinion, as he had done for the past two years. This time the Big Man was encamped on the banks of the Rayana river.

He found the Big Man in an undercover bunker in Hollandia, planning his latest escapade.

'Colonel Harper, welcome,' he said, patting the man on the back. The rest of his staff didn't recognise Harper, and merely glared through thinned eyes. 'What are you lot looking at?' the Big Man shouted. 'This chap was in Kuala Pahang for the main event. You wish you were him.'

They looked away. Harper felt shy, suddenly. 'What do you need me for, Majesty?'

'These past six years you have given me loyal service. As a survivor of my favourite regiment, I looked to you for stalwart service, and you have done so. I will reward you now. You have had a good salary, of course, but your reward has not been one of honour. I will give you honour,' Abdul said, chewing on a cigar. 'Do you want honour, Colonel Harper?'

Harper remembered the railway yard. They had gone in there with seven hundred men and emerged with three hundred. The Syndicalists had battered them, every single day, for six weeks. Somehow they had survived. Harper had blocked out the terror of the memories with work and drink, but occasionally they returned. The worst was the twenty third day they had been there. The rebels had shelled the railyard for six hours straight and the troops hid under brickwork and every shell had made it feel like the world was falling in. And then they had got out of their hiding places and held the rebels back and the fighting had been hand to hand.

'Of course, Majesty.'

'What you need, Colonel, is a woman. Let me tell you. A woman clothed, but that you own, is worth more than thirty women unclothed that you don't.'

'Of course, Majesty.'

'You already have much honour. We will give you more. The main show is about to come. The real showdown. Upon this match rests everything. The Commander of the Kota Kuala Rifles has been promoted to Brigade Commander. You will fill his shoes.'

'But Majesty - when I last saw action I was a platoon commander.'

'Yes, and now you are a Colonel. Anyway, that's what your adjutants are for. You have to make decisions. And I trust you, completely, to make decisions. Good luck.'

-

When Harper arrived at the Regiment, it had been six years since had served in the Kota Kuala Rifles. He had led a platoon of that Regiment into Naugarh. He had flushed out the rebel remnants in the trenches of that city. He found that the Sergeants of his Company were still there, but now they were Company or Regimental Sergeant Majors. The privates who remained had become Corporals or even Sergeants. He arrived to a greeting of all the soldiers who had stayed in the Regiment. They had roasted a pig in his honour. He drank beer and talked about the old days. Do you remember when we were stuck in the sewers for three days? A Sergeant, who was once a mild private in his Platoon, asked. Of course, Harper said. Nothing has ever been forgotten.

At the end of the night, the emotion, and the army rum, got to him. He broke down in tears. It's good to be back. It is like the years never passed. This is where I belong. It is the greatest thing of my whole life to be reunited with my comrades.

And his comrades picked him up and tossed him up and down, and gave three cheers for their Regimental Commander, who had been with them in Kuala Pahang during the siege, when they had crossed the great Pahang river and chased the rebels back to their capital, and when they'd flushed the rebel leaders out with grenades and flamethrowers in their own capital. And he had paraded with them on the greatest day of days.

He woke up in a bunk which he didn't recognise. A voice pulled him awake. He recognised it.

'Wake up. I didn't come here from Jackonsville for you to sleep.'

It was Gosling, the man he had fought the war with.

'My God.'

'Yes, yes. You miss me. You meant to call, but you were too busy. You meant to come, but Jacksonville was too far. I know, comrade.' Gosling sat on the bed and lit a cigarette. 'I know.'

'Is this real?'

'It's real. I am your executive officer, apparently.'

'But you have a wife. Not that good looking, I know, but still. And children. Two?'

'Three now. Yes, but I am still a reservist of the Regiment. I couldn't miss this for the world. This is going to be the final show. The end of the series. After this, we can all rest together. I wouldn't do it with anyone else.'

Harper sat up and massaged his brow. 'We have a lot of work to do. We've got to put the boys in order.'

'Yes,' Gosling said, in his old, cheery voice. 'But first, a beer.' He held out a bottle of Anchor.

'Why not,' Harper said to himself.
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[Tue 22:53:29] <colo> holy shit you are the fucking worst guy

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Re: Jungle Work

Postby Praetonia » Mon Jun 17, 2019 2:31 am

"What do you think of this one?" Summer held up a picture of some sort of octopus or a squid, squirting ink all over the frowning face of the globe. "Not bad, I say. Can you read it?"

Enfield leaned in close and mouthed the words. He was only seventeen, but three years' in the Political School, the past two intensively learning Subcontinental languages. This wasn't one of the bigger ones, not even big enough to have been formally taught, but Summer guessed a truly first rate man would know it. Enfield hesitated just a second.

"The Estates-General is the parasite of the nations."

"Who taught you that? They don't have a word for 'parasite'. They simply say 'mosquito', always. Never forget what is actually there. That is how their mind works."

"Don't you mean, how their minds work?"

"No. No I do not. Men are individuals. Nations are animals."

"What?"

"They don't have a word for 'nation'. They have a word meaning 'man animal'."

"Are we an animal, then?"

"Most certainly."

"A parasite?"

He laughed. "Not much of one. We are in hock to our conquests which pull us to and fro and we are left dazed and confused and can only act as if we are really commanding everything and deciding everything. But it is always so, with empires."

"Are we an empire?"

"Of course not."

"But truly?"

"It's only called an empire when it's dead. We are not an empire. We are very much alive."

"But you said - "

"Empires always die of their conquests. If we wish to live, we must shake them off and put terror and awe in them, so that they never mean to be conquered by us again."

"What are you talking about?"

Summer laughed. An association officer would never have said that. Nor would a second rate Political. Now he knew he had a good man.

"Senland is not part of our empire, because Senland is us. And so is Douneray. But it was not always so. And then there are the wild places in the Heartland where men do not follow Providence and whittle little statues of the Emperors to line their mantelpieces. Or so we are told. We never actually go there and check, because it does not matter what happens there.

"That is not an empire, but simply a country. Abdul Afiz makes this place dangerously imperial. And Abdul Afiz is only slightly better than the Straits Confederation which we must pretend has an independent policy because we made it to have an independent policy and it must be seen to do what we tell it."

Enfield blinked.

"The simpler peoples here admire us because we were bloody and terrifying for a few months in 2012 and 2013 when we thought we would die, and they admire the "butcher Smyth" - their words not mine - because he was bloody and terrifying, and they think we are weak and foolish for replacing him. And so, they no longer respect us as much as they once did. That is one reason for the Extraordinary Department, by the way. Not the only one. But maybe the only one it still exists.

"Meanwhile the Straits' Confederation admires us, firstly because we made it, and have had a great deal of influence over its personnel, and simply promoted more or less good men who agreed with us over more or less good men who didn't. But mostly because we stand for peace and order - truly, of course, we do - and have delivered it. And so they genuinely love us, in their way, which is always somewhat contemptuous.

"Abdul Afiz, though, is something else. We saved him, you see. And there is nothing less forgivable than that. To some men, anyway. If Abdul Afiz saves you, and you are properly respectful, you can depend on him for your life ever after. But if you save Abdul Afiz, you'd better have a damned good explanation.

"Unfortunately, we didn't. We just thought we would die, so we did not do diplomacy, we simply fought with all our strength and all our ruthlessness, and we never really thought much of Abdul Afiz until close to the end. Smyth had a handle on him, probably because he is the same sort of fellow. And we lost them both."

Enfield didn't know what he was supposed to say.

"Go through these," Summer said, handing him the flip book of anti-Estates' propaganda. "Do not hate these people; understand them. They are difficult adversaries. It will be your job to overcome them, but certainly not only them. They are the least of them, really. Once you are done with those, I will introduce you to some fellows from the Straits Confederation. And if you are really good, you might meet Afiz."
<leis2> Otoh i am also an antiquarian so im legitimately interested in how purple dye was made in sidon
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Re: Jungle Work

Postby Questers » Mon Jun 17, 2019 10:13 pm

Abdul never wore uniform when he traveled; simple trousers and a linen shirt was enough, but the underground bunker was very well air conditioned, so he had brought a thin sweater as well. It had the name of a polo company on it and a random year, selected to look good on a sweater.

In contrast, the man in front of him was in uniform, but his uniform consisted only of a khaki linen suit and a white shirt, despite being a military man attached to the highest levels of the Planning Bureau. On top of this so-called uniform, he wore a giant dressing gown, at least as thick as a winter coat, with dozens of small pockets containing pencils and other utensils, the use of which was not at all obvious.

He had a very small head, with a receding hairline. It was possible that his head was normal sized, and the presence of an enormous, and very long corn cob pipe, packed with obscene smelling tobacco and perhaps other things, made the head look smaller, but if you saw him talk, you could not focus on this.

Adam introduced him only as Deighton, and had referred to him as ‘the spoff’ on the way in. The spoff was a full Brigadier-General, so this was hardly an appropriate diminutive. Even if it had been, he was important enough to brief the two men directly.

‘Ah, Majesty! You join us. Wonderful. Quite, quite wonderful.’

‘Is this man sane?’ Abdul asked Adam.

‘He directed our logistics effort in the last war. So if he’s not, the Commonwealth owes its survival to madness.’

‘Majesty,’ Deighton shouted. He raised his arms, and the dressing gown’s sleeve fell down to reveal several watches. ‘In your esteemed opinion, what are wars fought by?’

Some of the men attending computers or pouring over maps stopped to listen to what Abdullah had to say.

‘By monsters, I think is the correct answer, General.’

Those men went back to their work, happy with their anecdote.

‘Mmm, Majesty, you are not wrong, no, but – you are not completely correct. Great men are often incorrect about the details, so that is not a big problem. The answer, yes – of course – the answer is by machines. And, are we right in saying, Majesty, that a computer is a machine? Yes, it is. All people know that. But man is also a machine. Hmm, yes. And man has created computer.’

The man turned to walk, and Abdul followed him. Adam gazed at the maps and computers, and then followed too.

‘The situation presents us with a choice, Majesty, a choice irrefutable and undeniable, because it follows strict, physical law. Our machines help us understand this physical law. Also, our machines’ – he patted the head of a cathode ray monitor – ‘can decide for us.’ They came to a huge map. ‘You see, Majesty, we have the supply situation very much in hand. Every day, more and more supplies arrive. Soon we will reach our physical limit to the supplies we can store. However, the arrival of fresh troops is retarding our efforts.’

‘Go on, General.’

‘The more troops you bring into this theatre, the more supplies we must stock. Yes? It is obvious. It is undeniable. It is a strict physical law. And the more troops that we bring in, the fewer trains we have to transport supplies for those troops. They are inversely related. That is obvious! You know this detail, of course. It means that the longer we wait until we attack, the slower the process to prepare the attack.’

‘And that the more troops we have in theatre, the shorter our operational tempo,’ Adam said. Deighton actually did not comment on this, but skipped to his next point, huge clouds of smoke wafting from his pipe.

‘The problem is not the trucks, or the traffic jams, as our computers have that well under control. The problem, Majesty, is the trains. The computer says that the right time to attack is here.’ Deighton jabbed his finger against a date on the calendar. ‘This is a strict physical law…’

‘What if we attack, say, ten days later?’ Abdul asked.

‘Majesty, that is not the question.’ Deighton furrowed his brow. ‘Not the question at all. Come. Let me introduce you to the details.' Deighton jumped to a huge screen mounted on the wall, running and pointing towards tables, three dimension charts, and small, stylised maps. 'The question is this. What advantage in immediate forces do we gain offset by the reduction in present supplies modified by the time we expect to fight for modified by the future ratio of supplies with respect to the influx of reinforcements coalesced into one coefficient and calculated to find the optimal date of attack.’ Deighton breathed out, satisfied that he had simplified the problem.

‘That’s not a question, Deighton,’ Adam said. Deighton did not comment on this either, but merely leaned forwards, eyes bulging, expecting an answer from Abdul.

When no answer came, Deighton puffed his cheeks out and turned the great screen into a graph. ‘It is not near perfect. But it is more perfect than my equivalent in Heian will have, as I am fundamentally an ultra-genius, and my equivalent in Heian is likely only a lesser genius.’

The graph was very clear. It came to a very clear conclusion. Neither Adam nor Abdul could ignore it. ‘You mean to tell me this, Deighton,’ Abdul began. ‘The more troops we bring in, the longer we have to wait to fight with the maximum efficiency. The key date is here. Not before, not afterwards.’

‘Majesty,’ Deighton beamed. ‘You are a genius. Not a lesser genius – perhaps somewhere in the order of a genius minor, or a genius minor plus…’

‘Then that date is the date we shall attack.’

‘Will six hundred thousand be enough?’ Adam asked.

Before Deighton could intervene, Abdul put his hand on Adam’s shoulder. ‘That is the kind of question a lower order genius would ask.’

‘You are getting the hang of this, Majesty,’ Deighton said, smoke drifting from his pipe.
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[Tue 22:53:29] <colo> holy shit you are the fucking worst guy

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Re: Jungle Work

Postby North Point » Wed Jun 19, 2019 3:34 pm

HOLLANDIA, QUESTERS

Edwards awoke briefly as the seat belt sign chimed on. The overhead crackled as the pilot came over the intercom. "Folks, from the flight deck, we are startin' our initial descent into Hollandia... expectin' a little bit of weather up ahead so make sure to stay in those seats and keep those seat belts fastened. Weather on the ground at Hollandia about 81 degrees with wind at 11 mile an hour from the southwest... we hope you've enjoyed flyin' with us here at Continental Airlines and hope you'll come back and see us soon..." It was the usual drawl he had come to expect from the ex-military commercial pilots from North Point. Edwards never understood why pilots told the civilian passengers the wind speed and direction. The accent was typical, though. This guy could easily have been bombing Syndicalists in the last war.

He handed his unfinished whiskey to the flight attendant and put the tray table up. His mouth was stale and dry from a long day of travelling; first the five hour leg from Shepard to Eulalia, then a three hour layover at the airport (which had an excellent bar open 24 hours near his gate), and now the relatively short hop from Eulalia to Hollandia aboard a brand-new Blackwell 676. The Company had at least booked him on Continental, considered the best of the North Point-based airlines. Last month he had traveled to Praetonia on Air Embrea, crammed into a tiny seat and surrounded by fat tourists wearing sandals and stinking of tacos. An obese man from Jacksonville had had to be extracted from the rear lavatory by two flight attendants. He had formally complained to the private travel agency that booked flights for Company officials not to repeat the same mistake.

The sharp touchdown jolted him out of the daydreaming. He collected his briefcase as the pilots taxied far too quickly towards the jet bridge, looking out the window to see a burned husk of a Freeholder aircraft still sitting at the end of the runway. He had forgotten that, unless a white man did it for them, these people did not clean up after themselves. The aircraft stopped at the gate and passengers began to deplane. Edwards was met at the gate by a sharply-dressed Sikh driver with a handwritten sign. They walked briskly through the airport, making their way to a parked Range Rover in the VIP section of the outdoor parking lot. Edwards got in the back seat, politely greeted the armed Gurkha in the front passenger seat, and they sped off to their destination.

---

Three days ago...

JACKSONVILLE, NORTH POINT

The Company convened a meeting of the Board of Directors that night. The communique from Cockaygne, describing a strange situation at the Prekovar border, and now from Abdul, requesting reinforcement by several divisions' worth of specialized troops, had the Company in fire fighting mode. George Sale, the chairman of the association, called the Board in at 11pm. The Company headquarters were in the center of downtown Jacksonville, in a 105-storey skyscraper built in the latest architectural style, with floor-to-ceiling windows and soaring views of all of Jacksonville and the nearby coast. At night the view was tremendous.

The Board consisted of twenty men and women; most were military flag officers, but some were civilians. They were promoted based on merit, in most cases. The civilian members were universally wealthy business owners and professionals. The Board represented the interests of the subscribers, providing for the common defense of the land and its peaceful control under "The Law". These two things were paramount.

The meeting convened in a board room on the top floor of the building. A short powerpoint had been prepared. One of the junior men stood up and walked to the front of the room, grabbing a pointer from the table. "Ladies and gentlemen," he began, before clicking through to the first slide. It showed a map of the Questarian border. He continued:

"The situation, as we see it, is as bad or worse than in late two-thousand-twelve. Taihei troops have reoccupied the demilitarized zone -- this has been double confirmed by our satellites, and also by the Office of Naval Intelligence on the ground. This is in addition to their offensive action in Hakara, which we covered last week and have been monitoring since. The Questarians are beginning to move troops and supplies southeast. We know this from reporting by our own subscriber, the Union Providence Line, who are being paid in gold bullion to favor the movement of troops over coal and iron ore shipments to the coast. And now, the memo from Cockaygne received two days ago is worrisome at best. That said, it does seem that the E-G will not support any kind of offensive action against the Prekovars by the Kirk."

The briefer stopped for a moment, before changing slides. A map of Questers appeared, showing troop concentrations along the Taihei border. He continued. "As you can see, the Questarians are massing about 50 brigades along the border. This is in addition to the Tairendian Army, which we understand to be controlled by Smyth, who are stationed in a line extending Carolina-Maganyaung-Bagan. We estimate their strength at 20 regimental combat teams, of unknown readiness. Our own 1st Armored Brigade and 2d Aviation Brigade are here", he aimed a laser pointer at the map, "at Bagan, between the Tairendians and the Questarian Eleventh Army." He paused for effect.

"Further, today we received a request from Abdul's staff. You all have seen the email, which was routed by our Foreign Liaison Office. To summarize, he is requesting reinforcement by at least a Marine division, and several more brigades of Army troops -- mechanized infantry, armored, and aviation assets. This would be in addition to the two brigades already in-theater..."

Sale posed a question. "What's the status of our carriers?"

"Mr. Chairman, Endurance is working up with the battlegroup off the west coast. Providence is at Makapu'u Bay, and Association is at CBQ Reach North, with full airwing and escorts. Kuala Pahang is nearing completion at Todd-Masterson, but project estimates don't have the ship online before Jan 1."

"Alright, thanks Andy. OK," he paused, "who can meet with Abdul on short notice?"

---

HOLLANDIA

That job now fell to Edwards, now speeding along a highway in the Range Rover towards Hollandia Fortress. Edwards had been a captain in the North Point Sea Command before his "promotion" into the Company, becoming what amounted to a military diplomat. He had fought the Taiheis in 1997 aboard the cruiser Valparaiso. The idea of getting back into it with them did not sit well, but from the intelligence reports, the slant- eyed devils to the south had crossed a line in the sand when they invaded Hakara.

The Sikh driver was friendly enough, chatting with Edwards about the condition of Hollandia after the war in '97. The Gurkha said nothing, watching carefully, one hand on a short-barreled Roland carbine in the front seat. Edwards wore no uniform, preferring to travel in a civilian suit. He had a small NPSC lapel pin, but no other distinguishing identification.

The Range Rover rounded a corner on the wide avenue, approaching the gate to Hollandia Fortress. The meeting was scheduled for this afternoon. Edwards had met Abdul one time before, during the Mutiny, when Flying Corps heavy bombers had been used for close air support outside Kuala Pahang. He had authorized the strikes at Abdul's request. That, along with naval gunfire from the ships offshore, had broken the Syndicalist advance. He doubted Abdul would remember him.

"Here we are, sahib," the Sikh commented as he parked the Range Rover. Edwards opened his own door - he felt uncomfortable having it opened for him - and jumped out, briefcase in tow. The sentries did not present arms as he strode through the open door, likely because he wasn't in uniform. But he noticed one glance at his lapel pin. He thought back to the instructions from Sale: don't commit to anything just yet, but don't shut him down entirely. He steeled himself before entering the conference room.

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Re: Jungle Work

Postby Questers » Mon Jun 24, 2019 3:47 pm

Abdul did not even notice Edwards come in. He had entered and sat at the back and waited, quite patiently, for the briefing to finish. It must have been boring for a Company man, Abdul thought. Even he could hardly stay awake. He was familiar with the terms, but in the sense of scale, they meant nothing to him.

Each battery will be allocated three units of fire for the initial two days, climbing down by half a unit every day until every battery is allocated a single fire unit. The high intensity of fire allocations will cause the enemy to commit to a battle of artillery attrition, especially concerning his high-power artillery units. With this high intensity of fire, we mean to impose on the enemy a volume of fires that his logistical chain will not be able to match. This is our aim, but the fire missions will appear to him as an ordinary 'battle of fires', disguising its real aim as a 'battle of pallets'.

Yawn.

The planning algorithms for aviation attack units have been fully randomised. Intentionally targeting specific areas of the enemy's logistics chain, although ffective when confined to the parameters of the mission, would allow the enemy to predict and observe our intentions and movements. A chaotic strike pattern, while not as efficient at destroying physical infrastructure or causing bottlenecks, has two effects; firstly, it completely disguises our operational plan, keeping us on the initiative and the enemy responding to our movements - and secondly, it does not allow him to make concerted and structured efforts to redirect his lines of communication to anticipate or deter future strikes. If bottlenecks appear, however, we will not be deterred from striking them in detail.'

Officers came in and out to give reports about the status of their respective units and the planning process. By the time they had finished, Edwards had been sitting at the back, quite quietly. After all the officers had cleared out, Abdul went up to offer his hand. 'I'm terribly sorry to have kept you waiting. Let's have a drink.' An aide-de-camp poured out two big whiskies and Abdul guided Edwards to the large oak table, a friendly hand around the back. 'Do you play poker, Mr Edwards?'

'From time to time, Sir.'

'Quick. Call, raise, or fold?'

'Check, Sir.'

Abdul laughed and punched him on the shoulder. 'Definitely a political.' A few aides laughed as well.

'Actually, Sir, I'm a Navy man. I was on the cruiser Valparaiso in ninety-seven.'

'Very well. Get this man a rum instead,' Abdul said, and laughed again, and poured Edwards whisky into his own. It very nearly overfilled the glass. 'They told me that, but I forgot. To be honest, I didn't read any of the reports about you. I never read reports about people. I believe you can judge a man's character from many things, but not from reports. However, it occurs to me that you come here in order to gauge how mad I am. If I'm very mad, you won't give me any more troops, and if I'm not mad at all, you will send me some. But I don't mean to categorise myself in that way. I never play the label game, Mr Edwards.'

'Sir. With respect, if you are mad, I believe the Company will likely withdraw its forces from this theatre.'

Abdul ignored this and tapped a spot on the huge, three dimensional relief map that crossed the table. 'Now look here. Your boys are up here, by Bagan. I won't give you our whole plan - you can meet with some of my staff later - but, here. We have the initiative, and we can attack where we like. What we have to do is interpose between the enemy's main body and his lines of communication. If we control the geography of this country, we can dictate the battle. Your airborne boys and some of these New Sennish commandos have to seize the major bridges at Yuji and Suifi, here. Then, your armoured brigade will cross into Buman and drive to Kamokuji. This single stroke will seal two and a half of the enemy's route armies from his supply headquarters in Hoten. At the same time, we will dissect the other two and a half, separating them from their comrades and also from their lines of communication. Then we can simply destroy half of the dushman's mechanised strength in detail and in one swoop.'

Edwards didn't say anything. The relief map was excellent at providing a sense of scale and a sense of what would be possible. It gave a direct visual aid to an abstract concept. As Abdul had been speaking, an aide had been pushing model tanks and infantry across a board. 'You have asked for more than a brigade's worth of marines to support this operation. Why?'

'Mr Edwards, my army is run by nerds. And my nerds are telling me that I have precious little space left in this army before I run out of roads and railways. I have enough space for one more brigade. You must see here how critical the operation outlined is to our success. We need your marines, who are the finest naval infantry in the world, to get across this river and capture the main brigade at Buman intact, or at least quickly disperse the enemy there so our engineers can repair the damage. Without that, the enemy will line up behind this tributary and prevent us from cutting him from his supply base in Hoten. With this plan in motion, we will be able to seal nearly half the enemy's tank strength against the northern mountains, where they will be helpless to effect the outcome of the battle.'

'I hope that your staff will be able to provide me with the details. I would also like to meet with the staffs of the Company's troops presently stationed here.'

'Of course. They're your soldiers. I have to go,' Abdul said, finishing his whisky. 'You were in the last war against these people. Your ship was in a battle, I believe. If my history does not fail me, your ships sister ship was sunk with all hands by a Taihei submarine. How many Jacksonville mother's sons didn't come? Remember the Taiheis have stopped paying their compensation. Money that's supposed to go to those mothers.' Abdul, perhaps a little bit drunk, went back to the table, a good ten feet away from Edwards, and pointed at the river on the map. 'The Tais are supposed to stay fifty miles away from the Rayana. They agreed that we when we thrashed them nearly twenty years ago. Before you go back to North Point, if you like, your driver will take you to a high position so that you can see the Taihei troops flying their flags. The tank drivers of their crack units dip their feet in the river.' Abdul looked now at Edwards, and pointed a finger at him, almost accusingly - 'That. Can. Not. Stand.'
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Re: Jungle Work

Postby satilisu » Mon Jun 24, 2019 10:02 pm

"I regret that we must discuss this heavy topic in such an unfortunate time." The monk laid a white stone on top of the go board, and turned it around. The sunset gleamed off the golden trim of the tea-room and off the monk's forehead. "Our late master was a great teacher--and I one of his worst pupils."

"Your wisdom is surely boundless, Your Holiness." The monk snorted.

"It is just the two of us in here, honorable Marshal. There is no need for that yojin register here." The monk placed a black stone and turned the board around again. "They exhaust me, and when I was one I was also exhausted. It is, perhaps, easier to just sit here and ponder things all day. Yet here we are." The monk took a sip of tea. Some of the powder remained on the side as he placed the bowl back down. "So how menacing is the Makou this week?"

"Great Master, by the numbers they outnumber the Northern General Army two to one. By relative quality, it is an effective four to one. Their most capable units," he produced a relief map (a sheet of plastic stamped into the shape of the Nekka watershed), "are positioned against the 5th and 6th Route Armies, which are--"

"--only middling, I presume. I have read what you have told my lieutenants. Not great, not terrible. So they intend to attack."

"And soon, Great Master."

"I see. Consider the position of white on this board, right around here," The marshal looked at the go board. There were some white stones, and some black stones. "Do you see anything?"

"White has control of the area and Black has only a few stragglers."

"Anything more?"

"White is playing stiffly." The monk took a sip of tea and raised his brows. The Marshal's eyes widened in realization. "In...six moves White will lose the entire mass."

"Correct. I am sure you can figure out the analogy from this." The monk swept the stones off the table, his silken sleeve sending white and black rattling into the same wooden jar. "Now here is another trivial analogy. Consider this bowl here. Where would an ant want to be in this bowl?"

"I'm afraid I don't follow."

"If you were an ant, where would you want to be?"

"At the bottom, where all the food is."

"Yes. I see that there are ants in my bowl--and am disgusted. I go to wash it. I pour the hot tea water to cleanse it. If they are not scalded they will drown." The monk picks up the bowl and takes a deep swig of the tea and sighed in contentment. "The ant is much better served on the rim of the bowl; he would be at least be able to escape. But the ant is a simple creature; he cannot help but follow his, ah, pheromones to the scraps. He doesn't even know that in the end he will die because he is trying to live."

"I am humbled before your infinite wisdom, Great Master."

"I am only wise enough to prevent Zentokan--honored and enlightened--from expelling me from his monastery. Apparently it is enough to become Roshi, which is a surprise."

"I, along with all the realm, exult that another Master deigns to lead us towards Heaven."

"I never said that it was good, only that I was surprised. I am not wise enough to see the future, much less the old abbots and their switches. Us dunces, we can only learn by experience."

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Re: Jungle Work

Postby Questers » Tue Jun 25, 2019 7:28 am

'Mother of God,' Gosling said, as they approached in the truck. You could see it from a mile away; a giant mass of metal. Little tin soldiers danced around them. The car got closer, and the palm oil plantations that lined the two-lane road dispersed to show the camp. It was bigger than they had ever imagined.

'Mother of New Senland more like it,' Harper replied.

'What?'

'Don't you read the papers?'

'Actually, I'm a subscriber to the Jacksonville Daily Courier,' Gosling said proudly.

'Do you get that out here?'

'They deliver the Jacksonville Daily Courier anywhere,' Gosling said. 'I even got the Daily Courier when we were in KP.'

'Liar. Fuck off. You little liar. You didn't read any newspaper in KP.'

Gosling frowned. 'I remember reading it.'

'If you read a real newspaper, you would know that six weeks ago or so Abdul called up some campaign funds, to ship some troops to the old country if it kicked off over there. So last week he was able to extend that campaign funding for us brave chaps down here. I guess they're not too happy about it in New Senland, but there's nothing they can do about it.'

A car drove by on the other side; a brand new land rover in the new model, so shiny that its shadow wobbled. The flag of the Straits Federation flew from one antennae and the flag of a minor city which thought too much of itself flew from the other. The vehicle bombed past without the signatory honk of the horn.

'They're even joining us,' Gosling shrugged. 'There's North Pointers down here too, and the Tairendian Army. Maybe the Estates will join us too.'

'One can hope. Look lively, we're here.' The truck turned into the camp, papers were flashed, and the men deposited. Almost right in front of them were rows and rows and rows and rows of infantry combat vehicles, tropical green, box, menacing looking guns emplaced on the top of them. Some had openings for mortars, some were ambulances, some had cranes and plows and other things. Some were smaller than others too, and others a bit bigger, with antennae sticking out of every corner. Behind them were lines of land rovers and trucks. A couple of men from the headquarters had already arrived and were running around the vehicles making sure everything was clean, hosing them down or scraping off bits of rust. There wasn't much. Most of them were brand new.

'So this is our Kota Kuala Rifles,' Gosling said, finally. He lit a cigarette. 'It definitely wasn't like this in the last war.'

The Regimental Quartermaster Sergeant appeared and saluted sharply. He was a new face, transferred in from another regiment. Not everything would be the same. 'All equipment present and accounted for Sah.' He passed over a clipboard with more than twenty pieces of paper in it. 'For your inspection, Sah.'

'I trust you have done the right thing,' Harper said, passing the clipboard back. 'I will inspect the materiel myself. You may arrange for the Regiment to be brought to this location.'

'Very good Sah.'

'Oh - and Sergeant - you might tell the lads that we this will be our final position. Until we cross the river, of course.'

'Very good Sah.' He left.

'So we're serious then? We're really going for it?' Gosling dropped his cigarette and stubbed it out with his boot.

'Sure.'

'When?'

In the distance, there was shouting and yelling. One of the men had accidentally started a four-ton and driven it into the back of a personnel carrier. Steam and smoke were lifting off from its bonnet. Harper and Gosling ran over, but it was too late. The truck was totally unserviceable: the first casualty.
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Re: Jungle Work

Postby North Point » Wed Jun 26, 2019 1:52 am

JACKSONVILLE

"No, sir, he's not insane, whatever you may think..." Edwards continued on. Sale looked at him, a blank expression on his face. "I spent several hours with their logistics officer and it all checks out." He lit a cigarette, taking a long drag, before exhaling the smoke from the side of his mouth. He gesticulated, cigarette in hand, continuing: "Based on their estimates, we can be at Hoten in a week." He pointed the cigarette at Sale. "I make it two weeks, given the quality of their troops, since most are new. But it can be done." He took another drag.

George Sale looked unmoved, as always. "I don't know, Heywood. We have commitments in the Oryontic."

"We've heard nothing from the Estates, or don't you read your fuckin' email, George?" Sale glared at him. "We're wasting valuable time here. Each second we delay, those slant-eyed bastards reinforce. I went to the border, George, these guys aren't fucking around. This time it's serious. It's going to be '97 all over again, but this time we're calling the shots, and with any luck we can finish the job this time..."

"How many divisions are arrayed against the first armored?"

Edwards paused, taking another drag. He stubbed out the cigarette. "About three and a half. Not great, not horrifying, and besides, ONI* reports they're under strength."

"Alright. Let's get a note to Abdul. We've already put the fast carrier task force around Providence on short steaming notice. The NCTF** is still working up but available within the next three weeks. We'll hold Endurance as the backstop and be ready to commit Providence to Questers if need be. Let's make it happen..."

---

* ONI - Office of Naval Intelligence (the North Point Company's intelligence bureau)
** NCTF - Night Carrier Task Force (carrier strike group built around NPS Endurance; considered the elite formation of the NPSC)


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