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Part 5: Command & Control

Funky Horror Deck F, Central Core

The container went from a stable horizontal to a controlled oblique angle under the firm guidance of an oldbie...and himi swallowed as he finished his coffee, mug obediently tapping into the nearby perculator to refil with a slightly disturbing shlluuuuwp! noise.

"Ahhh....Kay, you probably wield more power in that little niche of yours than the most crazed dictator could ever hope for."

Kay Qui, the Board's answer to the Hart family, blushed. Strictly speaking her role was down in the Memberslist as "Chief of Staff, Supplies Commissariat"...but everyone on the Boards tended to refer to her as their Black-Ops Chef. It wasn't as if she actually did much cooking, it was the way anyone non-Board who ate or drank something she personally produced was strictly speaking completely under her control for the next two or three hours. High Command tend to stare blankly into space and drool when they remember someone of this level of insidious power is on hand for Board ops.

As every Boardie knows, F Deck is where Boardies eat. There are other things on this deck, and small kiosks-cum-vending machines stationwide, but F actually produces what a nutritionalist would class as food. The eateries and cantinas take up most of the deck because...well, look at any random batch of Boardies and their hangers-on. What, exactly, does a CLAW eat? Do High Command have canapés served at their meetings? Where do you think Flax gets his sandwiches from?

" if only all our problems would agree to meeting for lunch." There was a decided twinkle in the oldbie's eyes as he dumped his used cutlery into a recycling bin, which flashed and demonstrated that the Funky Horror didn't believe in hanging around over such matters. By the time a Boardie had hung around and bent reality for as long as one like himi, their attitude to life tends to mollify. It's hard to summon up the icy reserve or towering rages in which Boardies affect the world when, as far as you're concerned, the world's pretty much only an advanced lego set anyway.


A rather put-upon expression crossed himi's eyes as he realised the warble was his POST. Of course, the world still occasionally throws a brick your way. He flipped it open (having never really seen the need to disguise or reform the thing much, it was still in it's default configuration as a hybrid between a cellphone and a motion tracker), read the message therein, and shrugged.

"Kay, some advice...never get known as a diplomat. One silly contract and they think I'm Machievelli. Have one of your ever-handy minions send a packed lunch to the Black Star."


"And include a thermos, I don't trust Dag with anything liquid." The oldbie grinned and...wasn't there. Then he was there again to retrieve his mug, and...wasn't. And then Kay blinked, and burst out laughing. himi had drained and refilled his mug twice during the discussion.

At no point had he changed it's angle.

* * *

Command Deck:

Tales had filtered to Wingnut of the Board's incredible command centre, and there was a decided air of Tourist about him as he stepped out of the lift, air hissing slightly as he moved from the slightly high-pressure lift shaft to the hallway. There was about five meters of corridor and a flight of steps between the lifts and the bridge itself, and Wing's spirit-enhanced senses could feel the echoes of all the activity this place had seen. The overwhelming atmosphere was one of industriousness...and a faint hint of tension, which is what one would expect from the place where the minions of Maritza co-ordinated their battles against...the other bunch. He smiled wryly at the pair of wall sections that made his senses twitch slightly. Of course there were ways of ensuring no-one got here without invitation. The doors drew back...and there it was, a starlit haven of empty calm with the station quiet, lit by the standby modes of dozens of displays and given a faint hubbub of sound by the hum of computers and the melodies of system check tones.

There was the update clock, there was the plotting table that had planned the invasion of Hell, there was the famous globe, Board bases and ships highlighted in yellow and pink...and all around the immense bay windows, ringed by a balcony Mari was said to haunt during updates. And, of course, there was the famous Command Chair, currently looking a little out of place with the addition of a plush throw rug. The Director was not in residence...

"Impressive, isn't it?"

...other people were, instead.

"Wingnut!" The "impressive" comment had come from one of the pair of heavily-ornamented officer types Wingnut had missed in his glance mostly because they were black-and-gold on black, but the friendly greeting came from Starlock. "Been too long. Haven't had one of you since Aziraphale. This is Jordanis, he's the fighter nut."


"That's Loweko, he's...everything that isn't fighters."

Loweko nodded. Wingnut got the impression that was all he was getting.

"Come. Tell us what to do with a cult of crackers...we'd be joined by a few more people but Mari's busy and, ah, hehehe, Dagda and himi are sending the invitation to the other one...."

* * *

Somewhere in the Pacific Ocean A depth of 1,760 fathoms, or approximately two miles

Silver Adept pondered a little on the immense pressures the window-pane in front of him, made from the same transparent armour composites as similar windows on the Funky Horror, must be holding back. Enough to turn him and the entire fledgling base operations centre, right now little more than three computers with jury-rigged data feeds leading into the decking, into very small splinters

There seemed even less point to a window down here than there was on the Funky Horror, for at least up there one could see the world below and the stars above. Here...the only light came from the base's navigation lights and the helmet-lamps of the construction crews, meaning Silver's view reminded him of excursions onto lightless planes or ghost-haunted ruins as the glows picked their way around the nearly-invisible base structures in the gloom.

It rankled him to know that a good half of the workmen out there weren't even from his division. In his opinion, "sharing" the base with the Greens to cut construction costs and times was an idea roughly on a par with leaving lifeboats off the Titanic because they'd spoilt the line of the ship. He'd held a number of increasingly bitter arguments with Reatheran, the project's champion, over the stupidity of letting a Green get her mitts on Board equipment. And that crazy brittle-star and his plans for self-cavitating supersubs...!

Still, the entire future nuclear storage depot had been one area High Command had weighed in over, and Silver was proud to state that that entire section had been finished by his people, the old-fashioned way (i.e. By binding local spirits to the construction equipment, channelling sea-currents to push segments into place, and then sealing them with pyrokinesis). CPOK's insane arsenal of outdated boom boxes could be stuffed there as soon as possible.

Somewhere out there would be the submarine with his name on it, coming down as a ferry to carry him back topside to what was temporarily Laundreu's rig until all the safety seals and pressure locks on the surface lift shafts were ready. Teleportation from down here would be a very swift way of giving him a terminal case of the bends, even with the mighty pressure-maintaining pumps. And then there was Dagda's blasted war cruiser to dock, even if it would be a good exercise for the crews and equipment...and then trying to be polite while talking to the Lord High Backstabber herself when she came to claim her share.

The mage took a deep breath and went back to focussing on the construction work. Nemo would be a palace worthy of the Board when it was ready, but for now...Silver noted she looked more like a skeletal fish.

* * *

The Dragon had been woken in the middle of the night by many things, ranging from a team of ninja assassins to her three children when they were at "that" phase, and this wasn't the first time she'd been awoken for a printout, of all things. Embracing the 24-world of commerce is something you did or you died in her line of "work".

Board Internal Communiqué Follows...

From: Aerilon, CRFH.NET Operations To: Green001 Terminal, DRACO Hong Kong Operations Transmission Method: Standard Dataline override.

How? How had they...we...whoever...done this? Just effortlessly dropped a message into a printer? Could they do it with ANY communications line? Would SHE be able to do it with any communications line?

*<Begin> Dear Hazel Green,

As per request from <DELETED>, Board Command can approve and confirm your request to be considered an active Board field agent, effective as of March 14th. Contact will be arranged through Dagda and Clan personnel. Temporary Supreme clearance granted immediately to KEENOPS systems. Expect arrival of Deity-level Boardie himi within 5 hours.

Just in time for breakfast.

Temporary deployment to oversee Nemo construction operation approved. The Director has agreed to a personal appointment then.

See you topside! Aerilon. * <End>

Success...or at least, they were accepting her on mutually amicable terms. She grinned. High above, Dagda's ship had to realign a drive emitter.

Then she reached for a phone and speed-dialled a number in the United States. The area code was unmistakably that of a mobile number.

* * *

We are not quite done watching the skeletal innards of Nemo just yet...

Barely a few hundred meters away from where Silver is waiting for his ferry, "outside" in that special way that hitherto has only applied to the Funky Horror, an accident is waiting to happen. Said accident's name is Infidel, better known as Patrick.

Although enough of Nemo is online to allow a skeleton crew to live and work in the lower sections, a lot of the facility is still being added in prefabricated sections, each of which had to be sunk to the seabed and then sealed into place before being pressurised.

It wasn't just the indignity of being out here for another three welds, diving suit feeling sweaty and generally manky after several hours of work, that had Infidel in such a bad mood. This deep they weren't so much suits as light mecha, and from Pat's point of view they chafed like hell, but what really angered him was that he, a Boardie with a good 2 years of experience under his belt, was sitting down in the depths doing a job that could be done just as well with ANAOLA's automated S-Cavs! Except they probably had better unions...

In fact Pat had found himself handed a welding torch after one too many double entendres in front of Silver, but he was too busy bewailing fate to notice. As he bewailed, the white flare of the torch played back and forth across the weld lines — the better to seal another module to it's connecting umbilical. The modules themselves were nondescript large hexagonal blocks of steel, mass-produced in a Green cartel foundry somewhere and about three stories high. This one bore etched construction codes that announced it would eventually form part of the new M-Division "labs".

The irritable Boardie savagely slashed the torch across the last inch of weld, held it in place for a second, and then killed the "flame", in reality an intense magnesium flare. Good enough. Only two more to do.

At this kind of crush depth there's very little room for "good enough"...

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