Author Topic: Community story  (Read 14430 times)

PeeterMcG

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Community story
« on: Dec 17, 2009; 01:18 AM »
ONE
While he was exhausted, Josh was simultaneously buoyed by his excitement.  Only a month ago he had finally completed a sufficient level of training to finally receive the call to accompany a FIST into battle for the first time.  Just a few weeks later, here he was in the locker room after a 4 hour training session with one of the greatest swordsmen the Templars had ever produced: Crowder.  He couldn’t help but surreptitiously glance every so often at his hero, thrilled to not only be training with him but to have actually accompanied him into combat.

Crowder recognized the hero-worship – very little escaped his notice: in battle or elsewhere.  He gave no outward indication.  His job, his calling, was with melee weapons.  While he appreciated what pistols, launchers and rifles could do in skilled hands, they were not for him.  True, the Templars employed them and they provided something that swords could not, Crowder simply felt a kinship with swords.  It wasn’t pride that made him practice and hone the skills he had. He didn’t care about the comparisons people made about him and the greats from the past. Frankly, he didn’t care for it.  He truly wished people would simply spend that time and mental effort working on their own skills and contributions to the cause.  Shaking his head, he went back to cleaning his armor.

Crowder had just plugged in the power cord to recharge his suit and was putting his helmet on the shelf when Josh approached.

“What’s it like?”
Without looking at the boy, he replied, “What’s that?”
Josh was embarrassed.  He didn’t really know what he was asking.  He waved his arms a little bit and replied, “To be able to do what you can.”
Crowder paused in his armor maintenance routine and turned his head slightly to look at Josh.  “I suppose no differently than anyone else when they do something they are trained and expected to do.”

Josh stared at the ground.  Here was his hero.  He had engaged him in conversation and now he had nothing to offer in the way of conversation.  

Crowder felt a tinge of sympathy.  He knew the kid was looking for validation – to hear some word of encouragement from him.  He couldn’t do it.  Not that he didn’t want the boy to be comforted, but it just wasn’t in his nature.  In his mind, he was not the one deserving of the respect and awe the kid offered.

He sat down and looked at the kid and spoke, “Josh, is it?”
“Yes, sir.”
‘I am gonna tell you something that should be common knowledge, but isn’t.  The greatest swordsman among all the Templars is in this FIST.”
Josh looked at him.
 “It is not me.”
Josh chuckled, until he saw the expression on Crowder’s face.
“In combat, Gideon would beat me every time we fought.”
Josh couldn’t stop himself from glancing across the locker room to the large, but middle-aged man who was wearily stripping off his own powered armor and plugging it in.  Sweat streaming down Gideon’s face and torso, Josh couldn’t help but think that Crowder was really playing with him now.

Josh, smiling broadly now that he got the joke, nodded and said, “Yeah, that old man’s giant shield would really cut you in half.”
Crowder looked down and shook his head slowly.  “How long did this training sessions run?”
“About 4 hours or so.  Six hours if you include the calisthenics at the start and the run at the end.”
Crowder nodded, looking at the ground.  In the periphery, he saw Gideon pulling on a shirt as he left the locker room.
“Josh, go over and look at the remaining power level on Gideon’s suit.”

Tentatively, Josh walked over toward Gideon’s armored suit, glancing back at Crowder a couple times to see if he was serious.  When Crowder gave no further word or sign, Josh flipped the cover on the readout.  Then his blood went cold.  He looked again at the readout, then over at Crowder who had turned back to attend to his equipment.

Josh came back over to Crowder’s locker.
“How is that possible?”
Josh saw that Crowder paused in his activity before replying, “In practice and during workouts, I don’t think he has ever turned the power up over 50% except on a few occasions.”

Josh was stunned.  He had sparred and trained with/against Gideon many times over the last month.  On several occasions, he had nearly scored hits, but that shield of his was always one damnable inch beyond where Josh expected it to be.  His sword always clanged off, quite often leaving him vulnerable to a simple riposte that would gut him.  He had always thought that he was getting close to besting the old man.

“Do not judge someone’s ability, skill, power or talent on appearances.  I have a skill that can readily be seen.  People see me in combat or practice and can see what my speed and skill level are.  However, to look at Gideon, is to only see the tip of the iceberg.  I have sparred with him enough to know that his skill level with a sword is only minimally below mine.  Yes, if we both equipped dual swords, I could take him better than 50% of the time.  With his shield and his suit at full power, I would have an empty tank before he got winded -- then I would be finished.  I kill demons rapidly and efficiently, but that man is a wall.  He is a natural protector, strategist and still a deadly fighter.  Have you ever noticed where he is with respect to you in our combat forays?  Next time we are out, have a look.  Better yet, playback any of the battle records and watch his position with respect to you.  While I can engage multiple opponents in combat, he is able to engage in combat and simultaneously keep tabs on everyone’s position and the threats they are facing -- positioning himself to lend aid before things become too dangerous.  Our FIST has had one of the best casualty and injury rates because of that man.
Josh, I just gave you a lesson.  Probably one of the most important you will ever receive.  The samurai of feudal Japan did not go into battle thinking of victory or death.  They knew that thinking of such things diminished one’s ability to respond with the speed necessary.  You will always have incomplete information in battle, so to make assumptions is to create further danger for yourself.  If you judge a demon type you have never before encountered based upon its appearance, you may not live to fight another day.”
« Last Edit: Jan 22, 2010; 02:48 AM by PeeterMcG »
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hukhuk

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Re: Community story
« Reply #1 on: Dec 17, 2009; 02:47 AM »
tl;dr (adding this to my post list, so i remember to read it when i have the time to)

Warmark

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Re: Community story
« Reply #2 on: Dec 18, 2009; 03:43 AM »
That was an enjoyable read PeeterMcG, my only disappointment was when I went to turn the page :) ...move over Mel Odom.

PeeterMcG

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Re: Community story
« Reply #3 on: Dec 18, 2009; 04:10 AM »
Quote from: "Warmark"
That was an enjoyable read PeeterMcG, my only disappointment was when I went to turn the page :) ...move over Mel Odom.
Thanks.
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i have absolutely no idea what i'm talking about,
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PeeterMcG

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Re: Community story
« Reply #4 on: Jan 07, 2010; 03:48 PM »
TWO
Weeks passed.  Josh was part of a team that rescued a few survivors out in the Lower Thames area.  That was a hornet’s nest….  In fact, he had experienced a few moments of claustrophobic anxiety out there on that one.  Everywhere he looked, they were surrounded by the demons: blade troopers in front, gremlins on all sides and those damned, half-invisible, flying things.  He couldn’t see the exit through which they had come, and could see no end to the hordes around them.  Several times, he would have been overwhelmed, but other Templars would turn a blade or slice through a demon about to impale him.  Sandra, the team leader repeatedly yelled, “Stay with us!”  Now what in blazes did that mean – he wasn’t running off anywhere.  He was breathing heavy, arm-weary, surrounded and losing all hope of getting back to the base.  He suddenly realized that Gideon was there.  He and that damned shield that seemed to taunt him while sparring.  He heard Gideon’s boots anchor to the ground as he let out a howl that seemed to enrage the demons.  In a flash, Gideon could no longer be seen, swarmed by a shrieking and howling mass.  Yet, in the center of it, Josh realized that dead demons were being flung in every direction – every one of them crushed or horribly battered.  Gideon’s voice, almost conversational, came over his comm., “One at a time, Josh.  One at a time.”  

     Gideon’s taunt had, for the moment, thinned the mob attacking Josh.  Nearly overcome with despair, Josh resignedly decided, “Fine.  One at a time.  Don’t know how many I will get, but THIS one will go before I do.  And THIS one….”  Peripherally, Josh was aware that Gideon was back up fully, a gap separating him from a circular mass of demons that were either stunned or dead.  Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the smooth as silk movements of Crowder and the demons that seemed to simply impale themselves on his swords.  Sandra was leaping over an imp’s attack and rolling to slice the leg off a vortex goliath all that while maintaining verbal contact with the survivors.  As Josh fought, he became aware of the other Templars: Jason, Claudia, Stephen, Brandon and Eric.  Each one seemed to be engaged with multiple demons.  He could hear tension in some voices over his comm., but it didn’t seem to affect their battle skills.  He settled in for the fight.  He might die in the next minute, but he wasn’t alone in this and he was gonna make sure he took out a few more before he went down.  It was only later that he realized that he was “in the zone.”  He was not even thinking about the demon he just ran through with his sword, he wasn’t even trying to calculate the proper angle of deflection to take against the blade slayer swinging at him.  The physical aspect of the battle took care of itself.  Instead, he was thinking about his path to regroup with the rest of the team – there was a gap in the group, he could occupy that spot and fill the near complete ring that they had formed.  

     After he had rejoined the group, he realized that the team was moving as a group in a general direction.  And so it went.  The team moved like a large, terrible scythe of death destroying any of the demonic aberrations that got close.  He remembered the screams and cries of the terrified survivors as the team made its way back to the base.  Seven more people had been saved from the hordes that day, including an electrical engineer who would in less than a month help redesign the power system in Templar Station.

     After that mission, it was Sandra who approached him in the locker room and congratulated him on “pulling himself together and getting back into it.”  Josh merely nodded his head, acknowledging the simultaneous rebuke and compliment.  She gripped his chin with a steely hand, looked him in the eye and said, “Look at me!.  It is a moment that nearly everyone of us has experienced.  All of us, whether we speak about it or not has felt the dread.  Not knowing if we would see another day, wondering how we could possibly make a difference in the face of the demons’ seemingly infinite numbers.  It is now something that we seek out for all new Templars.  The individual needs to confront it.  The Order needs to know as well.  Will the new member have the mental fortitude to stand in the face of such things.  Bravery is NOT the absence of fear.  Bravery is doing what must be done IN SPITE of overwhelming fear and despair.  If you didn’t know it before today, you know now that you have heart.”  She dropped her hand, stared at him a moment longer, gave a curt nod and strode off out the door.

     Josh sank down onto the bench.  Only now did he realize how wiped out he was.  He took his time stripping off his gear and attending to it.  Crowder had finished with his gear, had showered and was on his way out.  As he passed Josh, he patted him on the shoulder and without looking back simply said, “Nice.”  Each of the others also clapped him on the back or shoulder as they left – Claudia giving him a sisterly squeeze of the shoulder.

     Josh turned as he closed his locker and Gideon was across the room looking at him, an amused twinkle in his eye.  “Nice to see you made it, kid.”

Nodding, Josh said, “Thank you, although I am somewhat confused by it all.”
“If I might offer a suggestion?’
“Please do, sir.”
Waving dismissively, Gideon chuckled, “First, drop the ‘sir’.  Second, when time permits, try to find some of the writing of Morihei Ueshiba.  It might take you a while, but I think you will find it interesting what he had to say about relaxation and performance.”
“Ok, I will.”

Gideon turned and walked out.
« Last Edit: Jan 22, 2010; 02:49 AM by PeeterMcG »
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i have absolutely no idea what i'm talking about,
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Warmark

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Re: Community story
« Reply #5 on: Jan 13, 2010; 03:06 AM »
Again well done PeeterMcG.

I read your first post and this one to my wife who enjoyed Mel Odom's HG:L books, and she really thought this was as good.

Well if you publish a Hellgate novel I'll be buying it thats for sure.

Like Odom's books this gets me pumped to play...maybe I should roll a guardian, Gideon style  :)

PeeterMcG

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Re: Community story
« Reply #6 on: Jan 13, 2010; 05:52 AM »
Happy to hear you liked it.

It's just one of those things where a few ideas bounce around inside the head for a little while.  When some of them coalesce, I type for about 15 or 20 minutes and then stop.  

I have a few amorphous ideas for another few segments and a couple other characters to introduce, but no definitive direction....

I have only read the first of Odom's books, so this could be entirely outside the HG:L "canon" so to speak.  Are they good enough that I should expend the effort to track them down?
"Don't argue with idiots -- they will drag you down to their level and beat you with experience."
Quote from: RoanK
i have absolutely no idea what i'm talking about,
Save your breath...You'll need it to blow up your date.

Warmark

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Re: Community story
« Reply #7 on: Jan 13, 2010; 07:21 AM »
Quote from: "PeeterMcG"
Happy to hear you liked it.
I have only read the first of Odom's books, so this could be entirely outside the HG:L "canon" so to speak.  Are they good enough that I should expend the effort to track them down?

I think they are definitely a good read especially if you are already a fan due to the game, I was sorry when the trilogy came to an end.

As far a keeping true to the canon of the books I think there is a lot of room to develop other stories within the HG:L "world" especially from the perspective of inside the Templar forces, much like the story you have already started to tell.

PeeterMcG

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Re: Community story
« Reply #8 on: Jan 15, 2010; 05:40 PM »
THREE
As Josh walked into the cafeteria, he couldn’t help but grin.  He hadn’t seen Jeff in nearly a week.  The two had met years before and became nearly inseparable.  Collectively, people referred to the pair as “JJ”.  Sports, beer, women – they shared similar interests and ribbed each other mercilessly when they disagreed.  Josh threaded his way across to the table.  As he got there, he caught the tail end of what Martin was saying.  “...so Walter turned to Ann, gently touched her arm and said ‘Gold medal all purpose, right?’  And that’s when Walter's life of celibacy began.”  The table dissolved in peels of laughter.  After a moment, Jeff, still laughing, caught sight of Josh and stood up to shake his hand and cuff him on the shoulder.

“What you been up to?” Jeff asked.
“Trying to stay in one piece” Josh answered as he shook hands and nodded hello to the others at the table.  He recognized all but one.  He was pretty certain he had never met the guy.
“Josh, you ever meet Reno? Logan asked.
“No, I don’t think so.  Reno?” he asked as he reached out.
“Meh, a nickname some of your fellow Brits from the Regiment hung on me while I was training with them.  Piers is too French sounding for their taste.  I’m from Truckee, California.  They had no idea where that was, but learned that it is near Reno, Nevada so…”

While his hand was thickly calloused, he didn’t try to crush Josh’s hand.  When he had stood, Josh had estimated the guy to be around 5’8”.  Jeez, the guy was fit.  His t-shirt was tucked into his slacks and even from the front a distinct v-shape from shoulders to waist was clear.  The guy had a strong torso with arms that stretched the sleeves on the t-shirt, but the waist and legs seemed small in comparison.  Josh figured this was a guy who could climb a 100 foot rope effortlessly and yet have the speed of a gazelle when on the ground.  The close-cropped hair was not unusual, but it was his eyes that somewhat unnerved Josh.  He spoke quietly and with an easy-going tone, but his eyes held no warmth.  Not aggression or hostility, just a blue-grey color that was devoid of emotion.  Josh knew he was looking at someone who had seen combat and killed.  A lot.

The next half hour passed with Josh listening to some of the Templars telling stories about their experiences with Reno.  Josh had met a few of the ex-military guys with whom the Templars had begun to work.  They wore some light armor including Kevlar and ceramic plates, but they had nothing like the Templars’ powered suits.  These guys, while often well-trained in hand-to-hand combat against another human, were not equipped to stand against demons.  With their training and tactics, though, some were quite skilled with ranged weapons.  Based on what Josh was hearing, this guy was good.

Josh asked, “So, have the Americans joined in the fight?  Are they here?”
“I don’t know.  It is just by luck that my partner and I were here cross-training with the Regiment when it happened.”
“The Regiment…you mentioned them before.  Sorry, I’m not familiar…”
“The SAS” Jeff clarified for Josh.
"Training with the SAS?"
Reno gave a little smile as he explained.  “A lot of cross-training between high-speed teams of the various NATO forces goes on.  While the US – and Canada for that matter – have some excellent shooters, you Brits might have the best sniper training program in the world.  Just as the Navy SEALS have cross-trained and worked with the German GSG9, some of the American sniper teams cross-train with the British sniper schools.  I was here by dumb luck, trying to learn something, and the demons interrupted my education.” With a laugh he said, “I can’t abide that.  After all, my father always said that education is important.”

That earned a round of chuckles from the table.
Martin was shaking his head while grinning.  “Reno, I’ve seen you at the range and what you do in the field.  I dare say that there is little you could learn about shooting.”
“There’s always something I can learn.” Reno said.

The conversation drifted to matters related to demon incursions, Templar responses, areas of action, subway stations that might be next up for reclamation and so on.  Reno found his mind wandering a bit.  Six months and he was still learning a lot.  Only now did he feel that he could really contribute something.  Almost 2 months ago, his partner Brody had developed a round that seemed to work against the demons.  Traditional munitions were next to useless.  Working with the Templars, Brody had started working on developing new rounds that they could use.  Reno marveled at Brody.  The guy had forgotten more about shooting than he thought he could ever learn.  Brody was about 12 years older and due to his experience he was the designated spotter for the team.  It made a lot of sense to Reno.  The theory was that the more experienced team member could more readily and reliably observe condition changes make the necessary allowances for changes in conditions.  The spotter would then impart the instructions to the man on the rifle: angle, temperature, range, wind, target speed, humidity and all the other factors that would alter a shot’s trajectory.  Reno had long ago realized that Brody was a walking trajectory calculator.  Not only that, but the man had been a competitive bench-rest shooter as well, so he had long ago started loading his own ammunition.  A useful and handy skill when one considered their present circumstances.  

Along with all of that, Brody was an excellent teacher.  Reno knew he couldn’t teach.  He had been shooting since he was a kid.  Growing up in the mountains where he did, his days had been filled with hunting, fishing and just wandering up and down the area.  From the start, he had been able to shoot.  It was meant to be.  He had never struggled to learn breath control, natural point of aim, trigger squeeze, sight alignment, shooting positions or any of the minutiae that people spend countless hours training themselves to do properly.  However, when he was first given a scoped rifle to shoot in the military, he entered a new world.  At a thousand yards, things became quite different.  A 20 degree temperature difference would mean a 4 inches change in vertical impact location with that .308.  A 5 mph wind that he could ignore when shooting a deer at 150 yards became a giant hand that seemed to simply push his bullets off the paper.  He became fascinated, but felt overwhelmed.  The instructors assured him that most everyone felt the same way, to be patient and that in time he too would learn.  He still wasn’t so sure.  What he DID know was if he dialed in the adjustments that Brody called and he made a clean shot, it would be a hit.  He was happy to have Brody with him.  Even with the help of the Templars in developing a round that would be effectively, it still required Brody’s magic with the loading press to consistently produce rounds that he could rely upon.  And with those rounds chambered for his .408, those devils could be put down at a distance.

Reno had nothing but respect for the Templars.  Powered armor notwithstanding, to stand toe to toe with those visions of hell and fight them hand to hand screamed mental imbalance.  Yet there was no denying their ability and effectiveness.  He appreciated their discipline and unit cohesion.  This was not a group of gung-ho individuals.  When they were out in the field, they stuck together and worked together.  Their camaraderie was self-evident.  Sure, he could whittle away a few here and there, but the Templars were really the ones taking the fight to the demons.

Later on, Martin was talking to Jeff and Josh.  “That man is uncanny with a rifle.  More than 2,000 yards and he was putting rounds into a man-sized target.  Repeatedly.  There is a lot of talk about trying to incorporate a couple of those guys into various teams.”
“Really?  I mean, have any of them ever handled a sword or anything?” Josh asked.
“No no.  The scuttlebutt is that they could provide effective cover fire and call warnings in case they observe something.” Martin said.
Josh considered that a moment.  “I’m not so sure.  To go out without armor is simply nuts.  The guys get points from me, they definitely have balls, but if they are firing from a distance, they won’t be with us.”
“That is the whole point.  Cover fire.” Jeff said sarcastically.
Slapping his friend, Josh finished his thought, “Right, but if they are firing from a distance, we can’t cover them if they get attacked or overrun.”
“Ewww.  Yeah.  I guess I was only looking at it from what they could provide us…” Jeff trailed off.  
With a shrug, Martin said, “Well, they are volunteers.  And for now, if it happens, it is experimentation only.  These guys are hard-types who have seen action and they have been in the field with us a few times, so I imagine they have a pretty good idea what they would be exposing themselves to.”
« Last Edit: Jan 22, 2010; 02:50 AM by PeeterMcG »
"Don't argue with idiots -- they will drag you down to their level and beat you with experience."
Quote from: RoanK
i have absolutely no idea what i'm talking about,
Save your breath...You'll need it to blow up your date.

Tirex

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Re: Community story
« Reply #9 on: Jan 15, 2010; 10:53 PM »
Great story, I've became a fan. Can't wait for more.

PeeterMcG

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Re: Community story
« Reply #10 on: Jan 18, 2010; 07:13 AM »
FOUR
Crowder had gone for a run.  He hated running, but the physical exertion often gave him relief when he was troubled, but it wasn’t working for him right now.  He could run a 7 minute mile all day long, but the last 3 miles had passed in 18 minutes.  He was thresholding right now.  Right at that maximal performance level.  Any harder and it would put him in an aerobic deficit, but he still couldn’t get his mind clear.

He realized he wasn’t alone.  He had heard the faint crunch of rocks behind him a minute ago.  A few moments passed and he realized there were two of them closing on him.  He did some quick thinking.  He was still two miles from Charing Cross.  He thought:  No sword.  No armor.  Not good.  He gave no indication that he knew they were there.  After another minute, he realized that they were human.  He relaxed, but only a little.

As they got closer, he realized that despite the pace they were running, they were carrying on a conversation.  The Americans.  He’d have to tell Miles that he found some guys who could run with him.

As they pulled even with him, he looked over and nodded to them.  The older one, Brody asked, “You mind if we run with you?”
“No.”  As if I could stop them, Crowder thought.

Brody liked this guy.  He had seen the guy tense slightly when he realized he wasn’t alone.  No reflective surfaces, so he had no way to see what was behind him, but he had deduced that it was people – Brody had seen the shoulders relax just a touch when they got within a hundred yards of him.  Couldn't have heard our voices Brody thought, either way, the guy gave no other indication.  Cool customer.

Crowder listened to their conversation.  Shop talk.  The younger one was asking about how the “new” rounds compared to the old ones as far as drop tables and windage adjustments.  Brody’s response involved ballistic coefficients, muzzle velocity, standard deviations, time to stabilize and other archaic terms.  They were stopping.  For a moment, he was tempted to keep going and then he realized that it was pure ego that was prompting him to go on.  He too stopped.

“Sorry ‘bout the conversation.  Probably not of interest to you,” Brody said.
“Don’t mind me.  Mind is elsewhere right now.”
The younger one nodded slowly, looking at the subway tube’s scarred and chipped walls.  “Yeah.”
Brody asked, “We were still a distance off when you realized that it was people behind you.  How’d you know we weren't demons?”
Crowder paused.  He hadn’t changed his pace.  He hadn’t looked back.  What gave him away?  “The sound of your steps.  I heard the crunch of the rocks.  Unless the demons hire some cobblers, their talons scratch a bit on the rocks.”
“Ahh.  That is good to know.”
“No problem.”  

Brody’s question had been a subtle I saw your reaction, but the question also indicated that ego would not get in the way of learning something that could keep him alive.  
In a like fashion, Crowder asked, “What gave me away?”
“You had tensed.  I saw your shoulders drop a bit, even before our voices could have reached you.”  If a human had observed this, then a demon could observe it as well.  Had there been demons shadowing him instead of people and they had made the same observation, his whole “playing ignorant” act would not have given him any advantage.

The younger one asked, “We heading back?”
Crowder considered a moment.  The guys had been running and carrying on a conversation yet didn’t seem to be breathing hard at all.  Christ, they were running in combat boots.  Yeah, they could definitely run with Miles.  
He nodded and said, “Yeah.”
Brody gave a nod as well.  “Yeah.”

After they got back to the station, the two men gave Crowder a nod and then headed in the direction of the gym.  At least he figured they were going to the gym, because at one point on the return, Brody had said, “Back, arms and abs when we get back.”  To which Reno had said, “Ok.”
 
The run had given Crowder a temporary outlet for his stress, but it had not cleared his mind.  He realized he would have to talk to someone.
« Last Edit: Jan 22, 2010; 02:51 AM by PeeterMcG »
"Don't argue with idiots -- they will drag you down to their level and beat you with experience."
Quote from: RoanK
i have absolutely no idea what i'm talking about,
Save your breath...You'll need it to blow up your date.

PeeterMcG

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Re: Community story
« Reply #11 on: Jan 18, 2010; 10:44 PM »
FIVE
When Crowder was done talking, Sandra was quiet for several minutes before she spoke.  It was something he appreciated about her.  She was quick and decisive when circumstances called for it, but otherwise, she gave things due consideration.

“When Justin was promoted and I was given command of this team, he and I had a brief conversation.  He said, ‘Guide and lead, but don’t bother commanding.’  At first, I was offended, but I held my tongue.  I figured, ‘Fine, I will just watch the videos of the team’s engagements and get a feel for his battle orders, commands and such.’  Within a couple hours, I realized that his advice was not rooted in sexism.  He wasn’t telling the woman to cool it or tone it down.  It was based on the unique composition of this team.”

Crowder cocked his head, but said nothing.

“You realize, of course, that you or Gideon need only put your name in for it and you would be given a team of your own.  After all this time, I wonder why you haven’t.  To this day, I still feel that either of you are more qualified than I am to be leading this team.”

Crowder was shaking his head.   “No.  I know what my abilities are.  Tracking opponents and friendlies in combat is one thing, but trying to lead a group, coordinate with other teams, plan alternate routes, communicate with and guide non-Templars in the heat of battle, all of that….I’d be out of my depth.  Leave me a pair of swords and tell me what baddy to intercept or what flank I should cover.”

“Ok, what about Gideon?” Sandra asked.
Crowder now paused.  “I’m not sure.  I mean, I have no doubt he would be good at it, but as to why he doesn’t, I don't know.”

“Those videos I told you I watched – I realized something while watching them.  You and Gideon.  Both of you are ‘free lancers’ of a sort.  At this point, when we set up a ‘watch-face’ formation you don’t even have a particular spot.  Instead, the rest of the team leaves a slightly larger gap than most teams do.  You can float in and out of the circle.  It drove me nuts at first, but I soon realized that you are not a glory hound.  You are simply doing your thing.  What you are so tremendous at doing.  You have an exceptional set of skills and as such, you should NOT be deployed as just another Templar.  You never run off on your own, you have never forced us as a team to bail you out of trouble.  You always seem to be right where the most pressing attack is coming from and at the moment when that attack is beaten back, you are back in the ring.  Gideon does the same thing, except his fighting style is not as kinetic as yours.  He might be at our 6, but I’ll be damned if I haven’t found him right beside me when I was about to be overrun and before I know it, he is back at his spot fending off a group that was trying to over-run us while he was keeping my ass out of the fire.”

“Anyone in our team who says that he or she has not been kept alive by Gideon is a liar.”  Crowder said.
“Precisely my point.” Sandra said.  “Like you, he routinely violates some of our basic tenants of battle formations.  His solo act out there on the Thames is merely the latest example.  He knows when someone is about to collapse, fall apart or be over run.  When he called that horde of demons on himself, he should have been finished.  Instead he calmly reassured the kid while dealing with 14 of the horned beasts.”
“You went back and counted, didn’t you?”
“Yeah, I did.” She said.
“Hmm.  Me too.”
“So, we have established that both of you do things that few others in the Order can do.  In the process, you violate standard battle orders and flout convention.  As the leader of those two individuals, I am left to wonder if I am leading anyone or merely along for the ride.”
She held up a hand as Crowder was about to talk.
“No, don’t respond to that.  It was not an indictment.  Neither of you have ever been insubordinate in any way at all.  On the contrary, both of you are always deferential and that goes a LONG way with the rest of the team.  If either of you challenged me, the team would fracture in a flash.  I have no illusions about what sort of divided loyalties would result.  But, we are off the subject now.  You came to me to tell me that something must be done to safe guard Gideon from himself.  I was merely trying to point out that from the start, I have long accepted that both of you operate outside the normal parameters.  I dare say that people hold the same opinion of you and your behavior in combat.  ‘He is going to get himself killed.  He doesn’t follow the standard procedures and it will kill him or his team.  He tries to do too much.’ Blah blah blah.  The truth is, I fear for both of you, but I have the utmost confidence in your abilities AND your judgment.”

Crowder was looking down and slowly shaking his head.  “How do I explain this?  I understand your predicament.  With both of us, you are already off the page, so to speak.  You allow us free rein because you believe in our abilities and in our estimates of what we can and will undertake.”

Sandra knew he was pausing while he thought of how he wished to express his thoughts.

He looked up.  “Ok, let me try it this way.  By taking responsibility for the well-being of everyone else out there, he endangers himself.  When I take steps away from the unit, it is because I see an opening -- an opportunity.  When it is gone, I fall back into the formation.  When he steps out of line, it is not because of opportunity, but rather, because he feels circumstances dictate it.  Be it to defend a team mate or one of those survivors we are frequently tasked with recovering.  When I take a step out of line, it is not to place myself in danger, but because the demons have put themselves in danger and I mean to take advantage.  When he steps out of line, he is putting HIMSELF in danger.  Every time.”

“Crowder, what prompted you to talk to me about this now?”
“It has been building a long time.  Mostly, it has to do with those ex-military guys.  The word is out that they are going to be assigned to teams.  I fear that those unarmored boys are going to make tasty targets for the demons and ‘Mother Hen’ himself is gonna take it upon himself to keep everyone alive, even if he dies in the process.”

Sandra leaned back and exhaled.  “I’ve heard the same thing and your concern about him is valid.  Ok.  First things first.  I will not change my handling of either of you two.  I agree that the inclusion of such personnel could create additional stress and dangers to a team, but that man is far too experienced for me to pre-emptively second-guess him.”

“Fair enough.  Mostly, I just wanted to put a bug in your ear.  To make sure you had in your mind what dangers it might pose to particular members of our team.”  Crowder said.

“Second, I have been thinking about volunteering our team to take on a pair of those military types.  I don’t know how helpful they would be, if any, but if this might be part of our future team constitution, I would rather be on the front end and help determine how it would be used.  I would like to see for myself what benefits and risks it would entail.  The opinion of a team with two of the most respected Templars in the Order might be taken into consideration.”

“I could see that,” he said.
“So, with that in mind, you have any opinions or preferences on who is assigned to our team?” she asked.

“I’ve only met about a dozen of them.  I haven’t spent any time with them though.  Based strictly on first impressions, though, I’d have to say the American pair.  Word is, they can shoot and I get the impression that the older one has some serious field experience.”

“Ok.  Irrespective of whom it winds up being, any other thoughts about it?” she asked.

“Get Gideon’s input.  He’d probably have some insights.”
« Last Edit: Jan 22, 2010; 02:53 AM by PeeterMcG »
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PeeterMcG

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Re: Community story
« Reply #12 on: Jan 20, 2010; 02:24 AM »
SIX
Sandra had solicited Gideon’s input.  While he had a few names to avoid, he didn’t have any suggestions on whom to select.  When asked for his other thoughts, he thought it would be a good idea to check on the physical and mental make-up of the prospects.  He also suggested going to the range to see what they were capable of performing under static, moving and artificially stressed conditions.  He also suggested reviewing several videos collectively as a team with the shooters – let them see how the team worked and listen to their thoughts on coordination, movements and so forth.  Sandra had already considered the first two, but the video review was a stroke of genius.  Gideon was right.  Let them tell us what they think they can do, and we can always decide yes or no on its practicality.

Sandra had gathered the other members of the team and told them what she had told Crowder: she was seriously considering volunteering to take on a pair of the military guys to be part of the experiment.  The team agreed that being on the front end of this would, ultimately, be for the good.  Like she did with Crowder, she asked them for input on choices.  “No formal responses here, just a free for all.  Air your thoughts and impressions.”  Tentatively at first, people started talking.
“That guy Mason is a heckuva shot.”
“Mason’s a jackass.  He doesn’t get along with anyone.”
“Geordi shoots as well as Mason.”
“Yeah, but Geordi is a smoker.  You heard his hack?  He’d alert every mob within 3 klicks.”
“Yeah, that’s a good point.”
As though he hadn’t been asked the question before, Crowder said, “The Americans seem like a possibility.”
This elicited a few comments about their conditioning and comments that had been heard about their shooting.
Sandra noticed Josh staring at the ground and shaking his head slightly.  “What is it Josh?”
Like a school boy caught doodling in class, Josh snapped his head up, “I’m sorry.  What was that?”
“I asked if you had any thoughts on the Americans.”
Josh realized that all eyes were on him.  “No.”
“Josh, you’re lying.  I asked for thought and impressions.  You have one.  We are sharing facts, thoughts opinions and impressions.  Each person here will heed or disregard as he or she sees fit, but to withhold your impressions from the rest does no one any good right now.”
“Sorry.”  He squirmed a little as he sat up straight.  “Ok, I feel like an idiot for saying it, but Reno makes me nervous.  I haven’t met the other guy.”
Crowder and Gideon made eye contact.  Gideon nodded ever so slightly.
A few more names were discussed, before Sandra wrapped it up.  “Ok, let’s do it this way.  Everyone take a piece of paper and write down your selection.  You may also write down simply that you have no preference.  There are nine of us.  If a name is listed 5 times or more, he will be selected, otherwise, the decision is mine.  Either way it works out, I am not going to tell you the results of the vote.  Any issues with that?”
No one voiced an objection.

Sandra had gone to the council to volunteer her team.  She made her pitch and then made her request that it be the Americans attached to her team.  She was told that she would be advised after the council had made its decisions.
______________________________
It had been a busy ten days.  The team had been out six times and Sandra had been told that the Americans were assigned to her team.  She knew her team needed a break, but the changed circumstances precluded any real down time.  The day before yesterday, she had given the team the day off.  Yesterday, the whole team gathered and met with the Americans.  For several hours, there was talk about previous experience, training, the nature of the demons and more.

There was much that the Americans still felt obligated to remain quiet about.  Even with the threat the world currently faced, they still felt uncomfortable talking about classified work they had done.  While they wouldn’t go into specifics, a general picture came into focus.  Sandra could read between the lines, somewhat.  They had routinely worked without back-up, just the two of them infiltrating, performing their assigned tasks and then exfiltrating.  Their questions revealed a lot as well.  Do the different demon types work well together?  Are there factions within the demon ranks’?  Has there been any coordinated efforts observed or are the demons simply rushing as hordes?  Are some more intelligent than others?  Are some cautious?  If so, is it out of self preservation or a thinking approach?  How is their vision at night, during the day?  What about the fliers: day or night?  Is it true that some explode when they die?  How do the demon types speeds compare?  And more.

The Americans had many of these questions already written down in their notebooks.  Yeah, they had brought notebooks to the meeting.  Throughout, they flipped back and forth, sometimes leaning over and comparing notes.  When they heard something from the team that was at odds with what they had been told previously, they stated as much.  Not a challenge, but seeking clarification.  They asked about videos.  Sandra told them that tomorrow would be dedicated to videos.  They nodded at that.


The next day, the team began watching videos of previous outings.  Sandra had indicated that she wished for each video to play through entirely. The replay could be paused and questions asked or opinions rendered.  She wanted to know what they felt they could contribute, where they would have to be to contribute most effectively, what sort of cover they would need and the like.

Before the first video was queued up, the Americans produced yet another notebook and asked for a bit of help.  Opened, the notebook contained detailed pencil and charcoal drawings of various demons.  Brody said, “For common reference, it would be helpful if we knew what to call these various bastards.  Could you put names to these uglies?”  
Jason let out a whistle.
Claudia drew a sharp breath.  “Wow.  Those are fantastic.  Great detail.”
Josh was trying to figure out which of the Templars had provided the drawings when Sandra asked that very question.  “Where’d you get these?”
Brody hooked a thumb at Reno.  “He drew ‘em.”
Sandra looked at several pages and said, “But, the after action reports for the ops you guys have been on never mentioned contact with even half of these.”
Body said, “Well, yeah.  We didn’t encounter all of them on those excursions.”  He shrugged as he went on, “We weren’t gonna ask a team to nursemaid us everytime we wanted to test the effectiveness of a new bullet.  We’d just pack up and go hunting.  After each run, we’d compare notes about point of impact and effect.  That’s what the circles and circles with x’s and the sequences of numbers for each refer to.  Hits, hits that dropped the demon and the ammunition type that was used.”

Sandra, smiling, slowly shook her head.  "A regular pair of hunters, just going out to shoot some stuff, huh?"
Gideon was leaning back in his chair and started laughing quietly.  He rocked forward, stood, walked over to the two puzzled Americans and held out his hand.  “Welcome aboard, gentlemen.”
The rest of the team was smiling, quietly laughing or nodding.  Any lingering concerns about how serious these guys were taking this had been dispelled.  The experiment might not work, but it sure as heck wouldn’t be because these guys were not putting in their fair effort.

It was late afternoon when Eric asked about getting something to eat.  Everyone had lost track of time, lunch completely forgotten.  The shooters wanted information.  Brody writing furiously and Reno scribbled and doodled: from new demons they hadn’t seen to various static and dynamic formations that the team employed.  They asked questions about coordinated movement.  They noted the similarities and differences with the other three teams with whom they had gone out.

With Eric’s question, Sandra realized they had run longer than she wanted to for one day.  She indicated that they would meet again in the morning and do the same thing.  Before the group broke, Brody stood and addressed the team.
“Ma’am, this is your team.  We accept you are the one giving orders.  The videos speak for themselves – your team works.  We will do what we can to minimize the disruption that our presence will cause.  If the trouble we bring outweighs any benefits we offer, we won’t be offended if you say as much.”  

Sandra caught Josh’s arm as he was going past.  When everyone was gone, she asked, “Reno still make you nervous?”
Josh said, “Yeah, but I guess it is just his intensity.”
“Crowder has that effect on people too, sometimes,” she said.
Josh brightened at that.  With a laugh he said, “Yeah, I guess he does.”
“See ya tomorrow, Josh.”
« Last Edit: Jan 22, 2010; 02:53 AM by PeeterMcG »
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Aircroth

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Re: Community story
« Reply #13 on: Jan 21, 2010; 02:25 PM »
Ugh it ended, I need to find out what happens next!

PeeterMcG

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Re: Community story
« Reply #14 on: Jan 21, 2010; 05:28 PM »
SEVEN
The team had its choice of assignments for its first foray with the shooters.  Sandra wanted to minimize the dangers and risks, so she chose to help bolster the defense of the Green Park Station.  The shooters might offer a lot against airborne threats in an open environment, but for a first outing, she wished to minimize the directions from which attacks might come.

Work at the range had been eye-popping.  The rumors were true.  To say that these guys could shoot was an understatement.  If they could see it, they could put a hole in it.  Whether the target was stationary or moving and whether they were stationary of moving didn’t seem to affect them much at anything inside 150 yards.  Beyond 200 yards required a little more attention from them.  At 400 yards, they really needed to be stationary.  600 yards seemed to be about the max range at which they felt comfortable shooting from a standing position, what they referred to as “off-hand.”  800 yards out to more than 2,000 yards were shot with a scoped rifle.  Geez that thing was large, loud and ugly, but there was no denying what they could do.  While Brody did some shooting with it, it was clear that the team performed best with Reno on the rifle while Brody called for adjustments.

Since they were going to be indoors, Sandra had indicated to the shooters that the big gun would probably be more of a hindrance than anything.  They indicated that she was probably right, but they also held the opinion, “We’d rather have it with us and not need it than to later wish we had brought it along.”  With Reno toting the big ugly, Brody would be carrying the extra ammo for it and for both of their primary rifles.  Sandra didn’t press the issue.  This was field trial time – if the extra load-out weight slowed them, it could be reevaluated later.  

Arriving at Green Park Station, Sandra quickly made contact with Lewis, the Templar responsible for coordinating efforts in the area.  The two conferred for several minutes and looked over a map. Sandra returned to the group and advised the team that they would be heading out Savile Row to help bolster the offensive that was trying to retake Oxford Circus Station.

While the tube seemed to have been cleared – scores of demon bodies bore testament to that -- the team made note of several points where its walls had been breached.  Brody and Reno wrinkled their noses in distaste.  While the forces of hell were always depicted in fiction to be accompanied by brimstone and the smell of sulfur, the foul stench that permeated the area defied description.  At that moment, Reno would have given up his extra peripheral vision for one of those helmets the Templar wore.  From past experience, however, he knew that olfactory desensitization would settle in and make it more tolerable.  The Americans walked with the rifles slung and sub-machineguns in hand.  

Reno would have to adjust to this deployment.  He and Brody were walking in the middle of the group.  In a rough diamond shaped group, Stephen had the point and was followed by Crowder, Sandra and Eric.  Reno followed Sandra with Jason on his left and Claudia to his right.  He knew that Brody was behind him flanked by Josh and Brandon.  The big man Gideon had been assigned the team’s six.  Watching the videos, Reno appreciated what he had seen of the old man, but never the less, he was concerned.  It seemed that everyone and his brother knew how important a good point man was, but few realized the importance of the man pulling drag.  The best were the guys who just seemed to have a preternatural talent for it: exceptionally observant, acute hearing, just seemed to “know” when something wasn’t right and didn’t rattle when “the balloon went up.”

Stephen’s voice came over the comm, “Contact ahead, couple hundred yards.  Sounds like engagement.”  While the Templars wore helmets that fully covered their heads and had the coms built-in, the Americans wore Kevlar helmets and used an ear-piece and throat mic for their com gear.   Reno unconsciously holstered the two sub-guns, secured them in their thigh holsters and un-slung the FAL from his shoulder.  Brody kept his sub-guns in hand for close quarters cover, but was ready to switch over should their team make ranged contact.

They were drawing closer.  The shrieking and hissing of the demons could be heard, the clang of swords on metal and scratch of talon and claw on shield and stone were also audible.  As a team leader, Sandra was on her team’s com channel, but was also on a “line of sight” channel common to all team leaders.  With a max range of less than a quarter mile, it allowed one team leader to hear everything that another team leader was saying.  The range was intentionally limited – hearing what every team leader in the Order was saying at any given time would unnecessarily fill one’s com and potentially drown-out hearing one’s team members. Approaching a corner, she started hearing some voices: Tyson, Dylan and Gordon.  She listened a moment trying to visualize what was up ahead, then spoke into the com,
“Sanrda, from direction of Green Park, sounds like we are around the corner from you.”  Tyson replied, “Well, Sandra, bring your boys in and join the fray.  Seems to be plenty to go ‘round.  Watch the overhead, gremlin snipers up there…we haven’t been able mount the stairs on the right hand side yet.  Blade minions and crested stalkers on the ground.  As you come in behind us, I’m at your 2, Gordon at 4 and Dylan at 8.  If we hold the wall breaches, can you clear the scaffolding and cat-walk?”
Sandra said, “Doubtful.  We have a pair of shucked oysters with us” – a reference to the unarmored Americans with them.”
“Copy that.  Can you move on Gordon’s spot and they move for the upper floor?”
“Affirmative.”
Sandra relayed the intention to the team, telling the Americans to keep their heads down with Brandon’s and Eric’s shields providing cover.
Reno slid to the right hand wall while Brody – unlimbering his FAL – slid to the left wall.  They rounded a corner and the battle was before them.  The team didn’t have to make any effort to join the fight, the demons eagerly moved to intercept them.

Brody and Reno slid forward along the wall, while their shield toting custodians mirrored their steps.  Reno’s first inclination was to engage the targets threatening the rest of the team, but quickly changed his focus to the Gremlins with the guns above.  Since he was along the right hand wall, his responsibility was the left hand wall and forward.  Similarly, Brody was already engaging the nearest Gremlin snipers on the right hand catwalk.
More than a dozen of the gremlin snipers had been dropped before others realized they were facing a ranged threat.  Their firing slowed as they looked for the new threat.  Very quickly, Brandon and Eric started catching exploding rounds on their shields, shrapnel spraying, as the gremlins tried to hit the Americans.  Brody and Reno kept a steady rate of fire, picking off the gremlins like ducks in a gallery.

Sandra and the advance part of the team were in the mix.  Did those crested stalkers do anything but breed?  A quick estimate: two hundred, with more pouring in.  The blade minions weren’t bothering to wait for the stalkers to get out of the way either – they were just swinging like epileptic cricket batsmen.  Without Brandon and Eric, the team’s circle was smaller than usual.  Not a problem for combat, but Sandra was concerned about those exploding rounds that the gremlins were shooting.  Sandra had almost asked the Americans to direct their fire at the gremlins, but she deduced that that was already their targets – the gremlins dropping down were already dead.  She spoke over the com to the other team leaders, “I think the oysters are taking care of the roofline, although they can’t reach the ones above, so the upper walk at our 6 will need clearing.”
« Last Edit: Jan 22, 2010; 03:01 AM by PeeterMcG »
"Don't argue with idiots -- they will drag you down to their level and beat you with experience."
Quote from: RoanK
i have absolutely no idea what i'm talking about,
Save your breath...You'll need it to blow up your date.