Battle of Haibi Chapter 17
Previous: Battle of Haibi Chapter 16: Willow Branch
Chapter 17: Training
Samurai stands in the middle of the training centre above the Haibane Renmei auditorium, surrounded by other Defenders sitting in front of red screens. His shoulders are slumped. He raises his head, pulls his shoulders back, and quietly, but firmly orders, "Simulation operators, reset the program ... same enemy order of battle, randomize the deployments again."
One of the others turns from his console and gasps, "Sir, this is doing us no good. If you want us to improve our performance that much, you should set up a scenario that is at least barely survivable."
"He's right, boss," another says, "There's no way the enemy could bring a force this large against us. That's most of the reason the Praeleanthor deployed here in the middle of nowhere, Siberia."
"I don't know for sure," Samurai weeps, "that this is the force we face, but we do have intel that says they enemy is so thickly deployed that a bird can't land for thirty kilometres in every direction."
"I suppose they told you that," somebody says sarcastically, "It would help if we had Roku on every turret, but right now we don't have even one Roku 'cus she was dumb enough to watch a Day of Flight through binoculars."
"Now," Samurai says quietly, "We don't need comments like that."
"The intel is real, you guys," the Sector Four commander says from his chair. "Sir," Kabocha turns to Samurai. "We know enough about their positions to do a defensive bombardment using the turrets in Mode B."
"Good idea," Samurai says with a wave of his arm, "Set it up for the next run. Also, pre-deploy the mortars. We're going to start this fight with the mortars in position."
"Sir, that is not realistic," the Sector Five commander says.
"Then make it realistic," Samurai orders, "Call your duty commanders and have it done."
The six Defenders and their tiny staffs turn quietly back to their consoles. Everyone has a look that says, "This is rediculous."
Amid the tapping keys, Samurai's voice says, "I'm not hearing any phones."
Kabocha begins to speak quietly, "Shito? Hi, it's Kabocha calling from Central Tower. Scramble the mortars. Yes, you heard me right, scramble and crew the mortars right now."
"That's what I mean, folks," Samurai says quietly, "Call your real-life duty commanders and get your real-life mortars deployed."
The crimson tension of surreal comedy suddenly yields to a carbon-black tension of surreal dread. The Sector commanders start making their calls.
Locked into the dim third floor control room are Hagane, who is picking around at a console he is unfamiliar with, and Roku, who leans against a console she can't read, twirling a chopstick around with her fingers, and absently spinning her halo around with the primaries of her right wing, twisted around at an awkward, but manageable angle. Roku is a simmering pot of tension and boredom, with an impatiently rattling lid.
"We'd do better if the Guardians had a random delay before opening their portals after they lost their Seekers," Hagane suggests.
"In my experience," Roku drawls, "and it goes back a ways, Guardians have always been eager to get their sight back when they lose their Seekers." She pats her perpetually moist eyes with a cloth and says, "Can't say as I blame them. Leave it as is, and hope the real enemy doesn't know any better."
<How're you guys doing up there?> Samurai asks.
"Too damn well," Roku snorts, "I guess the one thing that's worse than losing as the opposing force in a war game is winning."
<How much did we get last time?>
Hagane sighs, "Trust me, you don't want to know."
< I'll take that to mean not nearly enough,> Samurai says with a thin veneer of humor.
"You're not actually taking this seriously?" the Sector Two commander asks one of his white winged staffers.
The lady turns from her nearly frantic console programming to say, "Two days ago, the Saviour shipped out every young feather in the entire city. There's gotta be a good reason for that." Before her boss has even digested the remark, she is back to work.
<Daphne's calling me about real-life mortar deployments,> Hagane says in Samurai's ear.
"Traitor," Samurai chuckles, "Daphne just called Hagane to ask about the mortars," he announces to his simulated control centre before putting his phone on speaker.
That gets some nervous laughter out of several people.
A news reporter tipped off his opposing force commander to an item of rather great importance. Good thing the real enemy can't tune into her channel. "Tell her the truth," Samurai answers Hagane, "We're doing it as a precaution based on the simulation results were getting with the latest intelligence on enemy forces," he sighs, "Don't let on just how bad those results are. I'm pretty sure the worst hyperbole she could possibly imagine is conservative compared to what we're actually dealing with."
Daphne is a human news reporter about thirty years old, and one of the most skeptical people in Haibi about the Haibane Renmei's competence.
"Oh, and Hagane," Samurai says, "Pretend you didn't hear about the mortars."
<Hey, boss, just one question,> Roku asks, <Uh ... what's a mortar?>
That gets quite a few chuckles.
The simulation commences. After a few minutes, Kabocha observes the firing pattern of the turrets, and the mortars, and the balance of remaining enemy ground and air forces. The flying red arrows representing batwings are over the wall and bombarding his tower.
He turns to his assistant and orders, "Have all the wall turrets fall back to their air defense positions and concentrate on the batwings."
"We're keeping the Seeker rule, right?" the assistant asks.
"Oh, yes, definitely." Every gunner has been trained with Roku's pioneering tactic of killing the Seekers just as the mortars are firing, thus making the Guardians vulnerable at precisely the worst moment for them.
"I think I might be the physically youngest haibane in the city," the early teenaged assistant says. He extends his hand to Kabocha, "Whatever happens, it's a privilege to defend Haibi with you, sir."
Kabocha shakes it, but briefly before they return to the busy job of defending their simulated Haibi.
<Now that was better,> Hagane reports after the battle.
"Yeah, but we still got slagged," Samurai groans from his seat. Standing he says, "Alright folks, let's call it a night. Please put in a little overtime to brief your duty commanders on the lessons learned, and then get as much sleep as you can. We'll be at it again bright and early at eight."
Next: Battle of Haibi Chapter 18: Feather Conspiracy