Chapter 13:


From Nowhere to Sender

The communications department of any given Crusader station ranked amongst the most hectic work environments according to a recent survey conducted by the Council of Public Interests. These offices, located in the left wing of every station's bottom floor, remain in a constant state of flux during hours of operation. Station Belveer was no exception.

Anyone visiting this department for the first time would find the left wing mysteriously devoid of chairs. This was because every station's comms division inevitably removed them due to lack of need. Rather than complain about being forced to stand, workers often heralded the decision as it gave them one less obstacle to traverse when moving about the department. The more fastidious would also point out that time spent transitioning from sitting to standing and vice versa amounted to time wasted. Not unlike the dissolution of chair use, the number of people working in the department at a given time had undergone optimization, as having too many people on hand consistently contributed to disarray and clutter.

While none would argue that speed and efficiency were the hallmarks of a quality department member, they'd unanimously agree that the most important quality a stationed communications officer needed was the ability to separate credible information from the hot air. Making this distinction was a crucial prerequisite to transmitting updates to a convoy's Head Communications Officer. At the same time it was necessary to make timely use of any information supplied from the convoys themselves, as the observations from officers in the field were more time sensitive and could aid in distinguishing between the information received and confirming the veracity of sources.

With time veteran officers would develop enough expertise to extrapolate motives behind the information they received. There was no such thing as a free lunch, this held especially true in information warfare. So whenever a third party provided their perspective on an unfolding situation without requesting anything in return, it was left up to the officer managing the negotiation to figure out why. Failure to discern motive brought the validity of the information into question, making it ill-advisable to pass onto the convoy. Fortunately there came times when sources didn't need to be scrutinized, only condensed.

"We just got word back from the outfit sent by the Council of Mitigation, the underground headquarters of the first anti-faith faction came up empty. As for the second..." The weary middle aged man presented his chief a pair of vanilla folders, before further loosening the already limp tie around his neck. "They turned up documentation indicating the purchase of arms from a mercenary group based outside the Commonwealth."

"Collins, I'm sure we've discussed this before but there isn't a dress code in place requiring you to wear a tie. To say nothing of the fact you're never wearing it properly."

"Ah, well that would be because I never learned to tie one." [Collins Rockwell, 35, Communications Division]

Such a revelation should come as a surprise in light of his subordinates age, and yet the chief found that nothing the man in front of him ever said could really be categorized as a surprise. If he were to guess it had something to do with the matter-of-factness way in which Collins delivered all of his statements. It was a fact that he'd never learned to tie a tie, it'd never crossed his mind to withhold such information, even if it could be interpreted as improper. If anything the chief felt somewhat responsible for not addressing the man's dressing habits before now.

"I could teach you."

"I'm afraid I'll have to refuse. The contents of the folder if you will."

"Why? It would take no time at all." The chief opened the folders and began to skim the documentation. He shouldn't say skim, it sounded like a lackadaisical way of digesting the information on the page. But years of experience reading reports from the Council of Mitigation taught him that they always conveyed their findings in a particular format and so his eyes knew just where to look for the most prudent information.

"I'd much prefer to have my tie adjusted by a cute girl concerned about my appearance in passing."

"I'd hate to tell you this but each day you grow older the likelihood of such a sublime occurrence dwindles."

"Precisely, only a true angel would go to the trouble of helping an older man with his appearance. Even more so factoring in that most young people believe men my age shouldn't try so hard to begin with."

"You're more self-aware than I was led to believe." The chief responded, having finished sorting through the report. "This is trouble."

"That's an understatement. All signs point to the purchase of a shoulder-fire RED. Assuming that this second anti-faith faction plans to pull the trigger both figuratively and literally, casualties and a considerable loss of cargo are unavoidable."

"Review the manifest, the convoy has two bonafide sharpshooters present. And according to the recent visit report neither were injured in the first attack. Once they have this information they'll plan around keeping both safe to ensure they're capable of countering the threat. As expected of the higher ups, specifically requesting multiple sharpshooters knowing that the destruction of the convoy might take precedent over the raiding of its cargo."

"You're operating under the assumption that the sharpshooters will be working under routine raid conditions, however the most recent transmission also revealed the stingy use of a potential vocal paralyzing agent. Coordination and timing are crucial factors in intercepting rocket fire, and an inability to communicate adversely effects both. If that agent is used in tandem with standard concealment methods such as smoke canisters and long distance cover fire, it could be down right impossible to stop them."

Collins preceded to remove his glasses and began cleaning them with a kitten printed handkerchief produced from his pocket.

"You always do you best work when I'm actively trying to distract you Collins. Cute print by the way, another one of your attempts at attracting a cute girl's attention?"

Collins glanced down at the handkerchief in his hand before folding it neatly and returning it to his pocket. "A gift from my daughter. She's informed me that my appearance was too bland and saw this addition as a fitting solution."

The chief laughed as he approved and passed off the information to a runner who would then deliver it to the active operator maintaining contact with the convoy. "Sounds to me like you've already got a little angel fussing over your appearance. Who'd have known you'd be the greedy type Rockwell."

It turns out his subordinate was capable of surprises, and that perhaps the communications department of Station Belveer wasn't quite as hectic as some were made to believe.