Hong Kong, People's Republic of China 23:08 local time
"One observes, madame..." Thaddeus's formulaic speech patterns produced a glimmering of an amused smile (as opposed to the usual knowing or confident one) from his mistress. "...that perhaps we learned more about their response patterns from that than we expected." Or wanted to know.
The amusement behind the smile stems from the fact that, really, Mrs Green was quite fond of her butler. For a start there was his willingness to take the Court Jester role and tactfully imply she was in over her head, something most of her interchangeable underlings would have cut their own heads off to avoid saying in her presence. As a self-acknowledged criminal mastermind, the Dragon appreciated this.
"So they killed them all. In a remarkably spectacular manner. The characteristically extreme message is clearly 'mess with us and die'." A rather expensive way of gauging their willingness to intervene, but at least I can be sure none of those smash-the-state types will hassle any of MY operations. The laptop clicked shut and was tucked under one arm. "Our question becomes if it was a calculated gesture or if someone just choked and pushed the button."
"Hardly justifies their insidious reputation."
"Oh, the Board can be as devious as any other secret society when it wishes, but they still haven't quite gotten over their knee-jerk reactions..." The Dragon pushed herself out of her chair and gestured for Thaddeus to follow as she prowled her "summer house". If anything, it was actually larger than her estate...although sadly lacking in anywhere near the amenities and the Green who'd furnished it had had somewhat one-track-minded tastes. Wall to wall looted weapons, armour, and archiac firearms from everywhere from Korea to Japan and back, all arrayed in eye-clashing hunting and shooting poses. "If anything, Thaddeus, it ought to be a polite reminder to their more conservative elements that we offer them a better way."
"I wasn't aware the Board had conservatives, Madame."
"Oh, it does. Otherwise they'd have just blown us away like this." The Dragon tapped her laptop and mentally noted the prospect of orbital artillery-related death made even her faithful retainer flinch. "No, we're too interesting."
Thaddeus neglected to mention to his mistress that those had been her exact words the first time she'd come across archive material on those two she'd dredged out of her son's university. If the Board got similar ideas... "Madame, if this is what happens when they lose interest...."
"Oh, it's doubtlessly ingrained in their procedures, Thaddeus. Their past displays indicate a powerful or confident enough leadership that just allocates weapons to whomever calls. I can't just waltz in and teach them subtlety - they've got strategists and tacticians of all kinds but either they don't use them or their response time is too low."
It hadn't looked low to Thaddeus...and his expression said so in volumes.
"Thaddeus, I am well aware of what I'm getting into. If the worst comes to the worst I play off their warped honour and cash in the goodwill we're getting with Nemo..." And if anything, the fact that someone took the time to show off their knowledge of literature there should assure me that I have no need to worry. "...take my paycheck and run." The Dragon sighed at his obvious lack of confidence. It chimed her need to assure everyone of her genius. "I've already done everything, Thaddeus. Therefore I am going to do what all good hunters do when their trap is set..." And thank you, great-grandfather-mine, for giving me the decor for such a wonderful metaphor.
Thaddeus's stance practically radiated curiosity. "Madame...?"
"Go home and eat what I caught yesterday. Tell the kitchen to arrange a midnight snack."
* * *
Funky Horror Hangar Bay 19 Arrivals Area
Paradoxon, a Boardie whose role was best described as "hangs out and does stuff", had only one question for the scout team as they disembarked.
"Really Steve." muttered Joshua as he pushed past to hunt for a workshop he could bluster into giving him a better targeting system. Paradoxon raised his eyebrows and waved Hayasaka aside, before tapping out a series of commands on his ever-present POST. After a second Spamotron paused, sent an acknowledge signal, and proceeded to Speculation Alpha for a download of all pertinent data.
"So...W&S have suddenly gotten competent. Talk."
"Ugh. Three feet! We missed him by three feet and then he's out of range by the time we get airborne!"
"With Roger driving?" Hayasaka's main objective right now was a cup of the Board's heart-stopping coffee and a war thread, the better to work off her frustration.
"It has been a personal nightmare of mine that one day those two would develop a backbone. I'd worry about Roger but he's tough. We'll have a chat." Para made a note on his POST and dropped a request into Operations for a ship to buzz ComicSide in the next few hours. "Well, crap. Guess you'll be spending the rest of the morning chatting to M Division, when Silver can drag himself away from Nemo...and Fleet, who'd better be told someone thinks they wanna impersonate SKID. It'll probably take another hour or so to scrounge up Toxic or Omega..." He waved his POST at a bulkhead door, which rolled back with a satisfying clang!. "You've probably got time for food or something."
"No, now Archer and I get whinged at by Shen the treehugging elf for killing people."
"You sure? I know he sarcastically suggested Joshua put in some time on the firing range, but I doubt even would object much to Archer calling for fire support. For all we knew they could have been Possessed to a man." A little white lie there, since despite the Board's fears their Archenemy only very rarely possessed someone. It was one of the few things on which the Board's Very High Indeed Command held Views.
"SOMEONE will whinge. And then I'll feed them their eyes."
"Oh, stop bottling up trouble. High Command's all closeted off juggling Nemo's budget and the Dragon's sudden transformation to Cuddly anyway."
Hayasaka pulled a face and steered down a corridor towards a lift to the living areas — and food. "Shouldn't they be up in arms and swarming off so we can scrag those guys?"
"Nope. They'll wait until they have expert advice."
"Yeah. We've had him for a fortnight now. It's been a while since we had one, but at last the Board has someone to defer to on such matters."
* * *
Just because it's the Command Deck doesn't mean it's the station's bridge, which tends to be empty most of the time anyway. The upper levels of the command dome included operations centres, computer cores, and traffic/hangar control centres where the upper superstructure overlapped with the immense internal bays. Board aside, the Funky Horror is still a working space station, and that means places for the crew to work.
And so from the Orbital Operations Centre, a room that's mostly computers and attached Boardieborg aside from the occasional "staff officer", i.e. Technically-inclined Boardie to keep an eye on things, Wingnut's head quietly emerged from his hands, where he'd dropped it on hearing the news.
"You just blew them up? Haven't you people heard of redemption?"
"Oh, quit panicking." Talix, Chief Engineer and Boardieborg spokesperson, was quite thoroughly sick of the inevitable angst cycle the Board tended to go through after regrettably having to reduce something to it's component atoms. He thought it the height of hypocrisy given their usual glee at Crushing Evil With Extreme Prejudice, personal feelings about Waldo and Steve aside. "We'll drop in a guest strip and get them all last-minute escapes or something as soon as the BIP's warmed up. Existential fallout, lost time, and a dose of the good old Mind Trick oughta put the fear of Mari into 'em. Give them a whole new outlook on life."
Now THERE's a sign of the changes in outlook on the Boards these days, even if the Boardieborg neglected to mention the fact that the BIP had been charged and ready to FRA-ZAP for the last 20 minutes now. Matters had been delayed somewhat by the Director's tendency to take delight in pulling increasingly obscure practical jokes on Tchernobyl every time she saw him, and since he was the only Boardie who completely understood how the huge great device worked Talix was hoping whatever she'd done this time wasn't permanent and left him enough of a hand to press buttons.
Wingnut just sighed and watched the bridge status lights. Still off having their conference with Mari. Oh no, just ignore the guy with credentials from the Powers that Be, despite dragging him up here at high speed.
After a while the light blinked and shifted from the flashing yellow of "Security Lockdown", indicating the conference was over. Instead...heh. Condition Green. He boldly stepped into the lift...and almost walked into a tentacle.
"Whoa, careful!" CG danced out of the pilot's way and out into the control areas. "It's a small door."
"Sorry!" Wingnut ducked out of the way as he realised the lift had brought half the upper echelons of the Board with it, chatting as they went and looking like an archaic ship under sail as they cruised out.
"YOU tell her."
"Whid ye expect anytin' else, elf-boy?"
"Not in front of the newbie, Jack Daniels-breath. Save it for a duelling thread." Wing caught CG's mouthed "They're always like this" as she hustled Shen and Dagda out of his way. "Go find himi. Dag, get on with it."
"Gud. 'ten I'll be takin te Black Star out." The Good God strode towards the traffic control computers to have the Boardieborg add his ship to the departure stack. "You te' new Angel doon here we ben hearin' aboot?"
"Ehh...not really." Wing would have been the last person to describe himself like that.
"Well te' Admirals and Star are waitin' updeck, laddie, so get movin. I'd join ye..." Dagda adjusted his cloak about his shoulders, the weave and fastening brooches shifting patterns at his touch. "But I've gotta be in the Pacific in te mornin', and there's a whole stack'o'Boardies who take one look at a depa'tyre and jump te get ter errands don..."