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Lay of the Land

Posted on Fri Mar 15th, 2019 @ 5:55am by Lieutenant Colonel Storr Garlake & Lieutenant Commander BaoJun Qiao

Mission: S1E3: Barbarians at the Gates
Location: Memory Theta, Overwatch Station, Deck 8
Timeline: MD 1: 1630

Storr wasn't sitting behind his desk but in front of it, feet up on the coffee table idly scrolling through the thirteenth "Strategic Intelligence Report" on the Lagash system that had been delivered to his account in the last two hours. Mrazak obviously thought that the senior staff had nothing better to do than wade through tomes of overly-classified papers on a place that none of them had been to and was at best vague and worst likely hazardous to mission execution. He guffawed as he flipped the PADD in his hand onto the desk beside him; the two hundred and twenty-eighth time the phrase "accuracy and veracity: unknown" finally breaking the Marine's intellectual back. His boots clicked against the encased rugby ball as he reached for a cigar, cutter and lighter. While Ferrofax was no fan of Garlake "purposefully setting himself on fire," the AI at least had agreed to increase the oxygen scrubber's throughput in the office in exchange for increasing the pain upper-threshold in the holodeck and firing ranges when the Marines trained. Sick bliksem.

The chime rang as Storr slid the ashtray closer to him, a good, first thick pall of smoke escaping from his lips. "Come."

Bao slipped into the door to the commandant's office. He knew the man wanted a more, useful, briefing on the Lagashi, but he'd only agreed to give one 'off the record' so to speak, as trying to do one on record at the moment would probably not be a wise career move. He absentmindedly adjusted the white scarf around his neck before he addressed the Colonel. "Good afternoon, Colonel. I believe you asked to see me? It seems that only seems to happen in the most unfortunate of circumstances."

Garlake smiled, stood, and shook the large Lagashi's hand. The men were nearly identical in size and it felt good to have another who appreciated physical size and strength. At least he hoped Bao did...such a potential wasted if he didn't, Storr thought as he took a long drag of his cigar.

"Can I get you something to drink?" the Commandant offered, motioning to the cut glass whiskey decanter and 4 glasses on a silver set. "Scotch? Seltzer? A cigar?"

Bao considered for a moment before he dipped his head. "I would not turn down scotch, if you are offering," he said carefully. Normally he would never consider drinking on shift, but he had a feeling the commandant would be overlooking it this time.

"I appreciate you coming by," Storr casually remarked, standing and preparing the drinks. "I really don't know much about Lagash and those reports made things even worse. As you can imagine, being the senior officer on this mission has me filled with questions." Handing the glass to Bao, he raised it in a toast, taking a sip and thoroughly enjoying the golden fire that coated his throat as it slowly traveled downward.

"This is off record, colonel?" Bao asked, waiting for confirmation before continuing. "I would not expect much accuracy out of the reports that Commander Mrazak distributed. I cannot be certain, but I am relatively certain my government was not consulted in preparing them. For all the supposed commitment to pluralism or 'infinite diversity in infinite combinations' as the Vulcans would say, Starfleet and the Federation has a difficult understanding and respecting societies that do not embrace their form of techno-socialistic cultural Marxism, and often minimize the ways in which we agree as they focus on our differences." He paused for a moment. "As an example, I believe you asked about our attitudes to weaponry earlier. Lagash has a robust right of private self-defense that extends to weaponry, and a citizen militia. Our history is defined by conflict, both civil war that established our current society, and in the 6 wars we have fought with the Breen. Even those amongst our society, such as myself, who are not traditional combatants possess a level of training and familiarity that the average Federation citizen finds appalling."

Storr nodded initially to Bao's question as to the official-ness of their conversation and periodically throughout. After the Lagashi finished, Garlake took a long drag off his cigar and thumped it against the side of the ivory ashtray, a chunk of gray and white ashes falling into the white dish. Taking a quick sip from his scotch, he smiled and met Bao's gaze.

"As you're here and we're having this discussion, I'm sure you realize I'm not an average Federation citizen. I'm all too familiar with the necessity of one's people to take up arms against a common threat, even...daresay especially if that threat is your neighbor." The Station Commandant's eyes unfocused for a moment as he thought back to his family's history and that of the Afrikaners in the dark days of the mid 21st century and the Eugenics Wars. There was a reason South Africa was again more sparsely populated and filled with its original Dutch settler's lineage.

Focusing again back on the tall Lagashi, Storr leaned forward and laced his hands, the smoldering cigar rising between them. "While I too have...apprehensions as to the technocratic materialism of the Federation, that and a bar of gold-pressed latinum will buy me a cup of coffee at Deep Space 9. What are your people's views of Starfleet when it comes to authority, the use of force, and Just War? Will they see us as rational actors? How..." he stopped for a moment and sighed. Taking the scotch bottle, he uninvitedly refilled Bao's glass. "How will they see us so soon after an attack that left so many dead?"

Bao appreciated the warmth of the liquor as he sipped more slowly this type. "How familiar are you with mid-20th to 21st-century theories of classical liberalism? Our entire political structure is built around three precepts: economic and personal freedoms are inseparable and inure to all sapient life, the purpose of government is to act as an arbiter of disputes and in the collective defense, and the greatest threat to those freedoms is governmental or communal power. Our political system is based on the idea that governmental power is to be viewed with the utmost suspicion," he said. With less tact than normal, he continued, "Your average Lagashi considers 'just war theory' as it is usually posited as dog shit. Unless a massive cultural shift has occurred, the populace will view any attack on the home systems as a sufficient reason, and moral imperative, to wage total war against the perpetrator. This is an instance where governing power will be viewed as favorably as it ever will be. As for us, I cannot say for certain. It will likely depend on the political climate and the rest of the Federation's response. We are isolated here, so I do not know how the Federation has responded so far. If they are talking about trials and negotiations and concessions, then I expect the Lagashi independence types will be waxing in power and we will be resisted at every turn with calls for our secession from a corrupt and decadent power. So, you tell me, Colonel, will the Federation go to war over an attack on a member it has never fully accepted? That is what my people will want: blood and fire for our blood."

Storr simply listened, periodic puffs of smoke escaping from the corner of his mouth. As Bao finished, he took a long drag on the cigar and looked up at the ceiling, the thread of smoke slowly coalescing as it floated towards the ceiling. tilting his head back down, he looked at Qiao and set the cigar in the ashtray.

"I don't know what the Federation has done so far and neither do you, so I don't want to speculate too much. I find it hard to believe that they are playing hardball here, though anything's possible. As to war...well," he said, taking the cut crystal glass and draining it in a very satisfying gulp, "I'd say 'No' but the Federation is just stupid enough to screw it up. I say that with all love for the UFP but I share your same outlook concerning power, man, and his lust for it corrupting him and his institutions."

Looking into the glass longingly, he felt that it was too early in the day to pour another and settled on popping a smaller ice cube in his mouth. The slick scotch-soaked cube melted delightfully as he thought for a moment.

"Trust me, I really do enjoy the higher-minded conversation but bringing it down to our current situation, how should we appear and act? High-profile with armor, rifles, the works? Low profile with sidearms or covert with concealed weaponry? Ready to fight or approachable? As 'hired muscle' for this mission, should I stay in the background or be very prominent?"

Bao considered for a moment. "I would suggest trying for normalcy. My people are likely to be angry and upset, but armor and rifles are likely to fuel the panic. but trying to hide gives the impression we have something to hide. I would suggest the best type of force is to use legal pressure. For all our individualistic government structure, we are still Confucian, and usually will follow the law. I would suggest, however, that you specifically neither hide nor enhance your presence. Marines help underscore that we consider the threat real and the presence of command officers will lend an appearance that the Federation is taking Lagashi security seriously, but we do not want to overplay until we have something concrete. At the moment, we have rumors and conjecture. Carry your normal weapons on your normal uniform, and be polite but I would try to avoid committing to any position unless it is unavoidable."

Lt Col Garlake nodded slowly at Bao's explanation. "Seems reasonable enough and it's something that we can do, no problem." Sitting back and placing the empty glass on the desk and snubbing out the cigar in the ashtray, he continued. "Anything else?"

Bao quirked his head and thought. He wouldn't say he necessarily liked Garlake, or considered him a friend, but the Marine had always been polite, reasonable, and acted with integrity, and seemed trustworthy. "Internal politics is the biggest variable I can see. There is a strong separatist movement, a minority, but they are very vocal in wanting the Republic to leave the Federation, and they have some powerful friends, in enough places to count as a political movement that must be accounted for. I fear that if we are forced to deal with them, nothing we do will be right, regardless, rendering this entire discussion pointless."

The Marine stood and shook the Lagashi's hand firmly. "I really appreciate your time, Lieutenant. I'll do everything I can to make this mission go well and I pray it does so."

"Thank you, Colonel. And please accept my apologies. I know who the enemy is right now, and you nor the Federation are it even if I have difficulty acting as if I remember that at the moment."

Storr nodded. "Thank you and none needed...I can only imagine the place you and your people are in right now. I'm glad you're here with us."

Watching the large Asian man departed his office, Garlake turned and looked at the three game skulls on the wall. While he could indeed only imagine, he knew what he would do and what many had done before. Nothing like stepping into a powder keg with handfuls of matches...


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