A camera flickers to life in a large room, probably a mess hall in a military building, as far as interior and decoration can tell.
Chairs are assorted in rows upon rows and there’s a makeshift podium.
The murmuring chatter in the room falls silent and a small swarm of camera drones buzz through the air like a swarm of hungry birds looking for the best feeding spots right before the feeding frenzy.
A tall ork with tan skin enters from the right. The man in his early 50s looks like most of tonight’s sleep had been denied from him, as he takes his place behind the podium and rubs his temples before addressing the crowd of drones their inquisitive handlers.
‘Tonight, an unannounced security exercise has been conducted and, as I can judge by your illustrious presence here, has caused quite a ruckus.’, he starts, leaves room for an awkward pause when his joke falls flat. He seems utterly unconvinced by his own words, but for protocol’s sake, he continues. ‘Contrary to what unreliable sources want to make you believe, there are no casualties, civilians or personnel harmed, or collateral damage beyond the parameters of the exercise. Apart from, also within the exercise’s parameters, minor simulated host and grid disturbances, Fort Lewis’ matrix capabilities are stable and untampered. Any detailed information concerning the security exercise, is, of course subject to classification. I will now answer any of your questions as far as non-disclosure allows.’
His last words carry the heavy implication of an unspoken ‘I fucking dare you…’ and the faint hope that the military man could leave now, having spoken his piece.
No such luck tonight, sadly.
He knows the elf well from former press conferences and though her voice is smooth, yet clear, to him it has a grating, sandpapery quality.
‘Colonel Maeburn, to paraphrase your own words: when you talk of exercise parameters, just how much of the damage is included in that? Is the rogue humvee accounted for, or the concerning amount of spent armor piercing ammunition outside of designated training grounds?’
The stakkato of follow up questions all across the room dies down rapidly.
The colonel seems satisfied with his commanding voice.
‘And to cite myself, this information is classified. Next question.’
‘Is it true that the data storage near the training ground has been severely damaged? Was this an accident? Are your training routines compromised or faulty? And if so, who takes responsibility?’, another reporter chimes in from one of the back rows.
‘At the moment, we are still looking into the incident, but I can assure you that nobody’s been injured.’, the ork replies in a monotone routine.
‘Is this another cover-up of gross incompetence?’
‘If this was a security exercise, how can you justify taking it outside of designated training zones?’
‘Will there be legal consequences?’
‘Was this in agreement with Knight Errant?’
Colonel Maeburn rubs his temples again and takes a deep breath before slamming his fist onto the podium, hard enough to actually crack the solid wood.
‘Alright, listen up, vultures! There’s no carcass to pick clean here. This was an exercise. Now, while you look up ‘classified’ in a dictionary of your choice, I’m gonna leave. ‘Cause I’VE got a fuckin’ country to defend, you ungrateful parasites, and ain’t got time for this bullshit.’
He deactivates his microphone and stomps off to the right, murmuring something about ‘Fuckin’ PR bullshit’ and ‘…not even my fuckin’ job…’
‘Alright, now that we’re done with the whole show and people are hopefully more concerned with what an asshole I am, let’s break it down.’
The colonel sits in a chair, it looks pretty comfortable. In front of him waits a glass of brown liquid, probably some of the bourbon from the bottle nearby.
‘We got… three injured, not counting the damn dog. Plenty of fritzed tech. Warrant Officer Akela wasn’t on site during the incident and I’m positive she has nothing to do with it, but we’ll see about that. What’s missing?’
A female voice opposite of him cuts in, raspy from a night of talking, smoking and cheap soycaff.
‘Tech division is still working on that one. We don’t know why anyone would go down there in the first place. Anything really valuable is accounted for, no personnel has been abducted. Three isolation servers from ‘64 are bricked. The project is marked classified in the archives and we’re waiting for clearance. Seems to be some isolated tech from the old matrix days, something R&D discarded, I guess.’
The ork grumbles. ‘Captain, guesses ain’t gonna get us far, see that you get results, preferably ASAP. What about the goddamn host?’
‘Uhm… Tech division is on it, Sir, but this is an odd one. Far as reports tell, SOMETHING went in there and seriously had its way with the host and all connected systems. The word ‘impossible’ has been dropped quite a few times.They were close to Shutting the host down, but they handled things, apparently.’
‘Great..anything noteworthy I should know… and I can technically comprehend?’
‘Exactly one file of each type has been copied or flat out stolen, base-wide, like from every person. Also, there’s this…’
An AR picture snaps into existence above the wooden desk, showing Japanese letters on fine, polished wood.
‘What the hell is that?, the colonel asks.
‘It’s… it’s a haiku, Sir. We found it in one of the main storage units of the host. It says:
A home defended
No fear or venom slips in
Weak walls call red moons’
At this point, the colonel has emptied the glass and takes a swing straight out of the bottle.
‘Send it to decryption and let them have fun with it, I can’t deal with this right now. What about the squad on site? Have they been debriefed?’
‘Yes, Sir, uploading now…’