Condition Green!

Back to index

Part 16: Budget Balancing

High Earth Orbit The Funky Horror: Speculation Epsilon

The Dragon scrutinised Roscoe's results with an inquisitive eye and a thoroughly avaricious outlook. Biographical data wasn't exactly new, given they could have gotten it from any newspaper archive. There seemed a lot of information on her children, which was enough to make her wonder why, but she was slightly amused to see the Board had classed her ex-husband as a class-one waste of oxygen. She'd been amused by the Board a lot lately. Might have to watch that.

As to the asset report...well, they'd gotten everything, which hadn't surprised her. It did, indeed, appear to be remarkably similar to her accountants' monthly balance sheets, albiet with annotation she didn't recognise. Most of her projects, concerns, and rackets seemed to be present and correct, and she noted the Board had even marked out a subsection as "embezzlement".

"My my, what a lovely dossier. I see when it comes to the military-industrial complex there's no stopping you."

"We were thinking of buying it out, once."

The Dragon's voice dropped a good three degrees at ElObs' remark. "Oh really?"

"Yes, really." Okay, I say "buy", I mean "Remember Independence Day? Think that with tractor beams. So, not buying at all. "And then Reatheran...he's your champion up here, by the way, suggested we tender Nemo out to you, and the rest is history."

Oh yes, Reatheran. That odd little man who hates cats. I was right to tell Thaddeus not to shoot him as he walked up the drive that morning. "Enough. Can you generate one on our mutual enemies with this detail?" Of course they can, but flattery never hurts. I shall play clueless n00b until they give me all the keys...

"Already exists. Jap, archives..."

"On my way..." "And then can we sterilise them?"

"Hey now, careful there..." The Dragon picked up decidedly unpleasant warning undertones in ElObs' voice. " don't want to get into that. Yeah, we could do it, but it would leave a mess...and the Director and her..."boss"...people don't encourage it. We'll investigate the old-fashioned way."

"I can't have them killing my staff randomly! I need this stopped!"

"Heh." said Flax, as he grinned in a mirthless fashion. "I suggest you stop paying for it, then."

* * *

Deck 28: Conference/Briefing Hall

The upper reaches of the Funky Horror are filled with presentation centres, discussion areas, and suchlike, and mostly concern themselves with day-to-day operations and administration — while the Board famously hate paperwork, they do need records, and among other things the station keeps it's archive servers up here. As a result the decks between the bridge and the spec threads tend to be packed with the equipment, personnel, and other paraphernalia of information.

Ahayweh checked the little plaque screwed to the bulkhead above the door, checked the arrows were indeed pointing to this spot, and waved her POST at the panel in the universal Board door-opening fashion. Relays clicked, datasquirts were received, and the door whooshed open with the usual faint blast of air to reveal the large boxy room where Omega and Shen were throwing together the Board's plan of action now that Waldo and Steve seemed to have upgraded from idiots to full-scale villains.

The room was slightly darkened to allow the usual Board information aids, i.e. huge projections, but there was enough light for her to slip in and navigate to one of the few tables that hadn't been pushed out of the way to make an open circle for the debate.

"Hi. Ah, this is private, er..."

"Oh, hi NSD..." The acronym slid into place in the greeting instead of the horrible linguistic mess of the Boardie's full name. "I'm, er, here on Higher Authority."

"Oooh, lucky you." It never occurred to NSD to question Ahayweh's authority, but then again if it had then he would have known something was off-kilter. Divinity is handy like that, and an advantage to have your deity on call is that it works. "Just settle down and watch the fireworks, they've only just finished discussing the budget."

"We don't HAVE budgets!"

"They thought one up specially, oh and mind Tangent...Patryn used him as a lecturn for half an hour before noticing."

"Heehee...he's gonna have to face her one day, y'know."

"He says after the poking's ov..."

"Shades!" Omega called, loudly, signalling the end of one phase of the discussion.

"...ooop, here we go."

"Yo?" said an armoured figure from the other end of the room who'd spent most of the discussion reading complaints from his crew about Archer stealing their spare parts.

"Show us the lame...what we dealing with?"

Ignoring Ahayweh's fits of giggles at "show us the lame.", the Fleet's most gothic member stood up in a whirr of servo-motors and sidled his way through to the screen controls.

"Ooookay, based on what deals we can trace..." The space marine scrolled down a list of reports, including one in the angular, spiky handwriting of a very distinguished person indeed who'd been perfectly willing to do a little covert ops work in exchange for one of Hayasaka's bigger, shinier numbers. "...they're still kicking around at the hundreds mark. Mostly street thugs, rent-a-mobs, and survivor militia types, recruited with big wads of cash and in it for the looting."

"They ain't script kiddies." Shen frowned at the numbers for what sounded more like a private army, and he had enough of those on his side.

"Of course not, the name's just for shock factor. Copycat militia." Patryn ran his hands through his hair and squinted at his screen. "This bombing means someone in there's gotta know his stuff with explosives..."

"Probably our purple friend. Wouldn't be surprised if we found it training the mobs and seeing the leaders for private discussions every day..." The planeswalker's fists twitched in anticipation of a little demonslaying. Behind the debate, Ahayweh leaned over in her seat and whispered to NSD.


"That thing Toxic's fighter wing ran into when they went looking for trouble the other morning. Hayasaka called it a demon, and Omega agrees. So we're going with that."


"They've probably armed 'em, or at least some of 'em. Guns are cheap if you can throw around the kind of money they're using for recruiting." Shades coughed, embarrassed at being able to offer so little on small-arms, but that was all he could find, dammit, and wherever they'd gotten the stuff Spamotron's visual logs had noticed back at that club meeting, it wasn't somewhere his sensors could go.

Actually it was, he was just being melodramatic, and a nasty side-effect of the Board's Cause is a tendency to just chalk up any enemy action to the other side, write big reports on this, and go home for lunch.

"That's good. Means they're less likely to stand and fight if they're in it for kicks. " Omega glanced at Shen. "A few pre-action fireworks and we see if they break and run?"

"Don't underestimate mercenaries, Omega, but agreed. If it comes to an attack. What else, Shades?"

"Why don't we just freeze their accounts and watch the troops desert?" Omega thoughtfully called up a little banking data, and made a frustrated sound at the number of UNKNOWN markings. Still, it was an idea. "No-one said we had to mix it up with them. Y'know, at this rate we could just tip off the US AT&F service and let them deal with it...W&S aren't gonna be much trouble in a prison."

"They'd bust out. Or disappear mysteriously. Can we let Shades finish?"

"Well, they're buying lots of 9mm ammo and gas..."

"...oh, please tell me they're not trying flamethrowers..."

"And one...and you're not going to believe this...Rooivalk attack helicopter, straight from the South African..."

"Okay, scratch that idea. We don't want them using that thing ComicSide if we can help it."

"Where the hell did they get THAT from?" Shenalia practically exploded on the spot. "And we LET them ship it?!"

"Hey, hey, calm!" Omega stepped between Shades and Shen, the better to break eye contact before matters got ugly, and looked back and forth between them as he spoke. "Shades, how do we know they've got it?"

"TomS raided a warehouse and took a discreet peek at one of the crates before it was flown out to their camp." Shades snickered and began to make crowbar motions with one hand - an entertaining sight, when you're in powered armour. "We checked the serial numbers."

"Right. So in other words they might just have parts, or a few swiped hardpoints, or maybe just a bunch of empty crates with funny numbers and an arms dealer's hollow laughter."

"...or they might actually have managed to buy an attack helicopter."

"Uhm, guys...?"

Ahayweh wished she hadn't said that within three seconds of saying it, as it meant a horrible moment of realisation that yes, yes, she HAD just interrupted a major debate on serious levels of action, and everyone present WAS now turning to her and expected her to come up with something...hehe...ooopise.

"...if Omega wants to swipe their money, surely we just get the Dragon in, since we've, y'know, got her now...and that means their helo can just sit there..."

"We need to sort out this summoned thing of theirs, Ahayweh." For all his bluster, Omega actually quite friendly with younger Boardies...a good thing, too, since Shen and Patryn weren't exactly known for being approachable. "And that'll mean getting to it."

"But if they're shooting back with all this..."

Shenalia gave Ahayweh a sidelong and faintly amused glance. "Any of that attacking us will have a short and eventful life."

"Aside from the purple thing..."

"We're going to keep coming back to that, aren't we?"

"Stop panicking, it'll be vastly outnumbered and this time we know to bring Holy Hardware." Patryn snickered at his own joke, a somewhat irritating trait but in this case just a sign of his gung-ho nature. "What do we do with it?"

"Well, JJ's issued standing orders to his people to just blast it, but CG's said she wants it run past crazyfurries if possible...assuming it survived that hit from Psuedo's gunners, of course."

"It'll have lived. If you can call it living."

* * *

Back in Spec-E...

"...paying for it?"


"They...yes, they received money from me." He wants a confession, I'll give him one... "As far as I was concerned they were just another paramilitary startup. I've done it dozens of times. You pay them, point them in the direction of arms dealers and black market contacts...and then either laugh as they rush out and get clobbered, or quietly eliminate them and steal their work."

"Really. A paramilitary startup that just happened to include two people on our proscribed list." Flax's eyebrow-flick was, in fact, a coded message to Jappus to quietly ensure the door was locked and interior defences armed. Not that the Dragon would be that dumb, but it always paid to check.

"Yes, really. I imagine you've done the same."

"No comment."

"If you want me to admit it was designed to be a possible way to hurt you without getting my hands burnt, then take it as you will." And that will do as an explanation for the time being. Those keen Green eyes watched Flax's silent black hole of an expression for the slightest hint of a reaction, and when one came she knew she'd won that little skirmish.

I really must have more faith in my improvisational skills.

"How untrustworthy of you."

"Yes, I'll ignore that from a representative of the organisation that started looking for ways to bankrupt me three days ago."

"It's not paranoia when you know they're out to get you." Flax smiled, and the moment passed. "Anything other than money?"

"Small arms. Probably whatever explosives the ingrates used on my aircraft, too."

"They'd have to be stunningly stupid to turn around and bite the hand that fed them..." From his gantry Jappus narrowed his eyes at the reports around him and the comments made by past Boardies on Green activity. "...did it slap them first? Or maybe pass them a target...?"

"I'm not a total idiot...who were you again?"


"I wouldn't be equipping someone to blow me up. They might succeed. Now...I suppose they're trying to punish their treacherous benefactor." Louie is going to have some explaining to do letting them off half-cocked so early. And ample opportunity to explain, at length.

"Hrm." Flax paused, his more paranoid demonic half clashing against his decidedly devious human aspects as he took the Dragon's words and tried to see how much face value they might have, even with an accepted level of blank-filling. The Board have a lot of respect for the concept of the declared vendetta, and whenever an oldbie makes smart remarks about this the modern Boardies politely remind him/her that they inherited the idea from someone. Formalised duelling had fallen out of favour lately, and naturally taking a Cast member into a duelling thread would be the height of bad form, but the cultural undercurrent remained.

That, and having someone from the Cast finally put the nails in Waldo & Steve's coffin would get around all those irritating moral codes.

"...let me make sure they learn not to cross me again. We all value revenge up here, do we not?"

"Oh yeah, I can just see High Command assigning a battle squadron to the Dragon..." ElObs's sarcasm was biting, and made Roscoe wince.

"Almost as good as them assigning one to the fanficcers, isn't it?" shot back the reply.

"I built my own."

"Now there's an idea..."

"Enough, you two."

"Flax, future events aside, I need to contact my organisation, and they'll need to contact me." If anything, the Dragon's sudden switch to candidacy gained her brief respect in the Boardies' eyes. "Rapidly. Now, I've seen you people communicate, I need to use that. Before they panic or start retaliating against everyone in sight." Not that Thaddeus would, but Michael might...

"Well, there's the Hotline..." Roscoe completely missed the eyesight daggers shooting forth from Jappus and ElObs' eyes as he spoke in the proud tones of a schoolboy announcing what his father does for a living. "...that'll talk to any communications device in the world." Including smoke signals, forest trailsign, and there's a tale Tchernobyl tells about a time he sent a message encoded in a packet of pretzels.

* * *

Green Family Mansion, See Archives for location reference "Decerto" — Board Classification

Be Advised! This area is still classed as Hostile to Board agents. Ensure any operations in and around the mansion and grounds are supported by at least two Poohbah-level agents if possible.

If the occupant of the car that draws up outside the mansion's front door long enough for her to emerge, sling her bag over one shoulder, and run up the portico stairs is a Poobah, then the Board need to check their rosters. Even Reatheran would hold that one Green is quite enough.

In reality, of course, Blue cares little for the Board right now and more about the imminent prospect of getting out of this godawful school uniform (Any minute now, she thought for the 10,428th time, I'm going to yell "Sailor Senshi Blue!" and unveil incredible powers...), but as she raced up yet more of her home's stairs with the energy of any teenager with the day's maturity over and done with, she had time to be thankful her mother was off doing whatever she was doing, even despite her cameras, and thank God Louie wasn't around lest she get Byzantine on his ass.

In the "distance" there was the ring of one of those 1920s replica telephones. Blue ignored it, untidily dropped her satchel into one corner, and flopped onto a battered sofa in one of the living rooms that had seen a lot of activity over the years. Thaddeus's measured footsteps filtered through the empty hallways, and Blue rolled her eyes and mentally tuned in lest it prove important. She'd missed the greeting but could tell it was her mother by the way Thaddeus's shoulders defensively raised as he spoke.

"...cause for concern?"

The usual pause of a half-conversation followed.

"But surely the mansion's defences...?"

A longer pause, this time.

"Understood. Shall I...very well."

Pause again.

"A chocolate orange, madame? Should I send laundered clothes? Ah...understood. We will expect you then."

Then her mother evidently hung up, and Thaddeus gave the receiver a very odd look as he replaced it in it's cradle. Noting that the conversation had nothing to do with either herself or Dave, Blue went back to her anime DVDs and forgot about it.

Back to list