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A note from DeimosRobertson

Chapter two continues with the late night meeting in the city building with the five families and the city council. Sam Woodhouse is giving his secret briefing to the group of 28.

Rules of Order ~ [2.5]


 

He’s ready to finish up the presentation. Yuni watched Sam Woodhouse take the last shot of his e/n-fluid from the shelf in the podium. She could tell he wasn’t looking forward to the rest of the proceedings. She knew he felt guilty for maintaining the facade of impartiality. He was doing a good job of it. She felt a deep affection for him, now after the other night of course, but from a deeper place. Like noticing something that’s been there for a while—maybe forever— a feeling, a new understanding for oneself. It’s invisible on the outside but swirling within her.

Sam continued on, “Our tunnels are fortified with gear, rations, and weapons. They do not know about our committee of water families, they don’t know about our artillery and defense capabilities, and they don’t know about the seven wells. You’ve all done amazing work at pooling these resources and stocking these reserves and supplies.

“I think everyone here would agree, this should not be done out of vengeance, nor revenge. The only reason to conduct this operation would be for a tertiary and strategic objective. So, what is it?”

Some hands went up, but he continued.

“Let’s discuss pros and cons, in two categories. Let’s think in terms of an immediate timeline, and a future timeline two or three years out. Then we’ll compare and cross reference with the best and worst case outcomes. The first list assumes a 90%+ success rate on the mission.

“Yuni, can you help me diagram this with a holoscreen?” She wasn’t expecting to be invoked into the effort.

Without a word or much movement at all, she threw a blank holographic screen up behind Sam. It looked like an old whiteboard, except it was translucent and you could make out the wall and things behind it. You can ‘write’ on it with a finger. Thumbs work as an ‘eraser.’

He went on to outline the pros and cons of the decision to run the special operation raid on the gunkwick camp. He started by listing an initial pair of bullet points in a table with two columns.

 

Pros: Cons:
  • Revenge, retaliation   • Revenge, retaliation

 

“I sympathize with how angry we all are about the gunkwick. So let’s put this up here and recognize where we all agree. And recognize how these cancel out.” Sam crossed out these first two items. The room offered more ideas as Woodhouse mediated and updated the list.

 

Pros:     Cons:
  • Revenge, retaliation   • Revenge, retaliation
  • Negotiation   • Protracted response
  • Retreat, loosen restrictions   • Loose some local support
  • Buy us time to organize   • They retaliate with the regional guard

 

It was more a constructive conversation than moderated debate. The meeting’s progress was going well. “I don’t know how to explain this but I think it will go a long way in sending a message,” Lorenzo Singana tried to reiterate. “The message that we know what they did, we know they’re responsible for the destruction of our town, and to know we won’t put up with their subversive shit,” he pointed at nobody all over the room. Sam wrote two more bullet items.

“I think this is important.” Sam continued Lorenzo’s point. “If we show them a forceful response, they’ll be much more likely to engage in future negotiations. It may send a message to the commissioners in Denver. That their contractors are going to end up starting a war if they keep ruining lives and destroying towns like ours.”

“What if that’s the point?” said Daeja. “What if they want to start a war?”

“Then it’s moot and we should prepare to fight sooner than later,” Lorenzo had a rapid and passionate retort.

“Hang on,” Noah Ashurst wanted a turn. “Am I the only one here who thinks they didn’t intend for the fires to get so bad? They just stuck to the withholding rules and covered up their operation to burn out the central distribution center, if that’s even true. Maybe the whole thing was planned, but possibly not. And either way, I would bet the commissioners in Denver have no idea what these contractors are up to around here. Despite what they were or weren’t trying to do.”

“So what would you do? Go report something and raise issue with the regional commissioners office,” Lorenzo scoffs, “tip them off to the families and the organization?”

“And I want to reiterate one thing,” Sarra broke into Noah’s thought, “they don’t know about our special council or any of us,” Sarra Bennet surprised Sam with her measured tone. It was a brilliant mitigation of Noah’s point. “Dr. Woodhouse explained how our privilege right now lies in our autonomy and the anonymity of our clandestine plans. They won't know who did this or what happened. If the plan is a success, the rest of the local gunks will just find a bunch of their own soldiers, dead and gone by the time they get there. They'll launch an investigation. But what could they ever find?”

“They won’t know what hit ‘em.” Lorenzo can’t stop.

“Okay. Okay. Those are all fair points. But I want to add one last thing. It might be the most important consideration. I’ve been waiting to explain it. We are guaranteed to retrieve valuable information if the operation goes according to plan. And that’s something we can talk more about.” Sam added to the list.

 

Pros: Cons:
  • Revenge, retaliation   • Revenge, retaliation
  • Negotiation   • Protracted response
  • Retreat, loosen restrictions   • Loose some local support
  • Buy us time to organize   • They retaliate with the regional guard
  • Message of dominance  
  • Gather information

 

“Here’s something,” Abineau jumped in as Sam was writing, “the regional guard won’t deploy or retaliate. That’s almost guaranteed. It could set off a wave of protests and domestic friction around the entire Trident. It would be a last resort. The gunkwick commissioners will more likely petition to be warranted for arrest and search instead. There was talk last year about pushing to get contractors deputized through the regional police. But that’s a lot of legal muck for them to dredge through. So, I would put that last item with the first bullet point ‘protracted response.’ They’re at least eighteen months out from that happening, if ever. And then they’ll still have to go through a warrant and search process. Investigations, et cetera, et cetera.”

“Well either way, what if this leads to them expanding the contractors’ authority and scope?” Pat Cline from city council looks to Daeja for confirmation.

Abineau responded with humble authority, “I think the commissioners and regional government will be more inclined to take a hard look at what their contractors are doing before going that route.”

Mike Schiento spoke up for the first time since the beginning, “Dr. Woodhouse, tell us more about our potential to gather information.”

“Yes. Well, at the very least we would gather more answers about the Moon Fire and how it started. We flew a HAIED unit last Thursday at 3:30am. What we saw was a good sized camp with some gear and supplies which were undoubtedly removed before they evacuated the barracks at the water station. Probably the night before the fire started. I believe they might still be running their mine server from the vacated astronomy compound up there. I think they’re trying to run the data analysis on station usage, or who knows what? But if we capture their data mine, we would find out if they are looking for—put it this way. We’d find out if they’re onto us. We’ll be able to reverse-compress the mirror drive and see their entire regional data set, plans, contracts, and everything else on their western regional network, up to the point we power it down and retrieve it, whatever night the operation would occur.”

“If the operation occurs,” Noah Ashurst shows his hand.

“And if they even have their data mine up there!” Pat said in quick solidarity with Noah.

The room was quiet once again. This should’ve sealed the deal, Sam thought. Except for Noah and Pat’s bookend on the point he was trying to make.

Most people would know about MetaWebCapture devices. These are used to hack into a network in a way that’s like taking a picture at a given point in time. You can access web servers, sites, and hidden data sets as they were the day you ‘took the picture.’ Some MWC devices can be hooked up to data mine servers and functional readout equipment. The gunkwick contractors use basic encryption methods. This isn’t surprising to Sam.

“We’d find out if they know anything about the households.” Geoff Ashurst resubmits.

“And then they’ll know that we know about their intell.” Daeja furthers her point from a different angle.

“I think that would still yield an opportunity for us, added leverage,” said Trevor Ashurst, the eldest Ashurst brother gave his take with a deep and resonant voice.

Daeja scoffs with a quick head movement.

Sam finished the list.

 

Pros: Cons:
  • Revenge, retaliation   • Revenge, retaliation
  • Negotiation   • Protracted response
  • Retreat, loosen restrictions   • Loose some local support
  • Buy us time to organize   • They retaliate with the regional guard
  • Message of dominance     • Unknowns per their intel and strategy
  • Gather information
  • Leverage

 

They’re getting through the tedious meeting agenda. The next topic to review is the general raid strategy plan. This would be an important and non-contentious part of the conversation. They won’t be debating the actual plan for the raid. Just reviewing before the vote.

This took another 37 minutes.

Sam was nearing the final stretch.

As they approached hour four of the briefing, there had been some notable questions, and an honest debate broke out twice more but never got out of control. It's time for Samuel to boil it all down and condense the arguments. “The last thing I want to describe here before your vote—let's paint a final picture of worst case scenarios compared to the best case outcomes.”

Sam then explained how he derived his hypothetical outcomes, and how he’s thinking about this in terms of immediate results combined with a three-year projection.

“Obviously the worst case is if the mission fails. Our special ops don’t come home. One or more get captured and interrogated. And they find us out. Including the wells on your properties, your families. It’s game over in this case. Everyone in this room–maybe except for city council members–goes into hiding or you try to get access into Idatopia or the Alamex.”

“If this fails it will just expedite what’s already going to happen!” shouts Trevor Ashurst.

Woodhouse continues before another interruption. “That’s likely but not guaranteed. Listen– a best case scenario is manifold. If the operation goes perfectly, they’ll never know what happened. Or who. They will fortify the remaining depot in town and partially retreat east to Winona, or maybe all the way to Holbrook. They’ll definitely maintain use of Fort Tuthill because of the proximity to the airport and strategic position relative to town. They will then regroup and try to figure out how best to approach and reestablish. No doubt they’ll be in touch with the city council and try and figure out what you all know. I’m not worried about that. Even when it comes to those not in favor. I think there’s enough checks and balances in this group to prevent a betrayal.”

Murmuring presides during a short pause as Sam takes a step back to collect his speech.

He continues, “In a best case scenario, they renegotiate the rations up here and with the farms down in Paulden. They’ll open the central distribution again and hopefully back off. This will give us more autonomy with the residents. I mean, we all know they aren’t sanctioned to conduct military operations or retaliate in any direct way. They will realize they don’t have all the power. They barely have a lid on this thing as it is. We all know this, and Doyle has shown us how slim their margins are.”

Sam rubbed his eyes, fighting his fatigue. He’s almost done. “However, a worse case would be if they got sanctioned for ‘use of force’ protocols. Even if they can’t figure out who conducted the operation, they would come back into our town with a heavy hand. That’s for sure. But even still, they’ll have warrant restrictions. They’ll be careful not to instigate.”

Steve Robertson spoke up for the first time since the session began, “Like Daeja said, what if our operation leads to them getting the u-force protocols approved?”

The question wasn’t meant to be rhetorical, but that’s how the room took it. Including Woodhouse. To Sam, it feels like they’re going around in circles now. His response was to pan the room once from right to left. It’s not his question to answer. That’s what the vote is for. He’s left nothing back, except for the secret beneath the telescope house. As he scanned the faces, Mike was staring at him like a statue. Did he know?

He was now concluding, “I honestly think these are all fair considerations. And I’ll end with this. From my analysis, the worst downside is obviously complete failure of the operation. The result of which is unknown, yet potentially manageable. But there’s a lot of upside to even a semi-successful operation. All-in-all, we have good odds of conducting a completely successful mission. That’s the conclusion of my data.”

Beto Singana spoke with inquisition, “Can you put a number to those odds, doctor?”

Dr. Woodhouse replied without much hesitation, “I’ve calculated an 87% - 93% chance of complete success. TJ thinks it’s more.”

There was a majority of calmness percolating through a quiet room. It was mostly because everyone was so tired.

 


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A note from DeimosRobertson

The next section will be the final vote of the HDC, with some unforeseen circumstances. Chapter two will end with a dark scene at the Schiento house.


About the author

DeimosRobertson

  • Flagstaff, Arizona

Bio: I am a professional luthier... I build custom guitars. I'm an amateur writer who had something come up, brought on by a dream that had to be written. I need to share this.

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