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SD241804.27 - PLOT LOG - "Shake the Roof"

Posted on Fri Apr 27th, 2018 @ 9:31pm by Brigadier General Jonathan Grey

3,073 words; about a 15 minute read

Mission: Tremor Trouble
Location: YaDalla Colony
Timeline: Current

=^= Capital City, Yadalla =^=

The sun blazed down on another impossibly hot day for the people of YaDalla. Holo-screens bore graphs and the talking heads of meteorologists, all claiming that this was the biggest heat wave since '02. Naturally the old folks were all disputing this, even though no two could agree on when the hottest year had actually been. It could have been that time in '04 with the mosquitoes, or in '00 with the soup-thick humidity. If your thermometer was in your head, everything was subjective.

Mandy's thermometer wasn't in her head. It was a colourful bar along the minute hand on her golden wristwatch, and it was beetroot red. As quietly and daintily as she could, the blonde secretary tugged a handkerchief from her inside pocket and dabbed at the sweat beading on her forehead. Even the white suit she wore, thin as paper, wasn't enough to keep her cool.

Behind her, the monolithic tower block called YaDalla Plaza shone brilliantly in the sun that snuck past the surrounding towers; blazing pure, white heat down onto the people gathered below. A red carpet led from the glass reception down the white stone steps and all the way to a roped-off circle. Twin lines of security led from the circle to the tower, spaced at carefully-measured intervals along the red carpet. Mandy felt quite sorry for these men, as they were forced by custom to wear body armour and black suits; causing these towers of muscle to sweat profusely in the unforgiving heat.

The only others here were the press, who were slumped over the white steps with their cameras. A few prestigious faces could be found among the melange, typically marked by a fold-out seat, an umbrella, and a portable air-cooler held by an underling. After all, named talent was too valuable to let wither in this torturous blaze, and it would harm their "piece" no end if their premier star were to be seen on camera looking like a fat kid on the beach.

The searing monotony was suddenly interrupted by the sound of an engine, and those among the press still with their wits about them turned to look, and immediately shot to their feet. This was the moment they had been waiting for, and they weren't going to let a little warm weather slow them down.

Overhead, a small white craft with golden trim glided into position above the roped circle. Camera-men locked and loaded as the named talent endured the ministrations of the wardrobe department, before rushing to take up the good spots. Fortunately, Mandy saw, there was no shoving and minimal arguing as the press readied themselves. She'd worried about having to use her outside-voice on them in front of her new boss, and fortunately it looked like she wouldn't have to. Taking a breath, she adjusted the tablet computer in her arms and assumed her default on-duty expression: polite smile with kind warmth (tm).

The expensive-looking vessel lowered itself down into the roped circle and killed the engines instantly. A moment later, the gilded doors in the centre of the side of the craft moved slightly outwards and slid aside, revealing the craft's contents.

If the light were not already blinding, the sudden surge of flashes certainly did the trick to the craft's occupant, who strode out into the visual melee as if stepping from cool darkness into a supernova were just another tuesday. Her eyes were likely shielded from the worst of the glare, Mandy assumed, but it still meant that she was near-blind for the first few moments, and carrying off that confidence while being unable to see was a remarkable feat.

"I'm standing here before YaDalla Plaza to welcome our new Governor: Dame Claire Erstina Freemont." boomed the voice of the loudest presenter, drowning out the nearby competition (who were *not* happy). "Elected in a landslide vote nearly one week ago today, this newcomer to the field of politics has quickly earned a reputation for fairness in a field otherwise held in low repute. Will our fair Lady be able to hold her own against her detractors? Only time will tell. For now though, the sun has risen on a new dawn here on YaDalla, and all signs point to this being one glorious day."

As the overy loud presenter enjoyed the sound of his own voice, Governor Freemont ("Lady" on all her flyers) finally started to recover her sight as she marched up the steps towards her aide. Their suits were nearly matched in their whiteness, a sensible choice given today's heat, but the Governor's hair was raven black and chin-length; contrasting heavily with Mandy's longer blonde hair that went straight down her back.

Fortunately the speeches had already taken place at the swearing-in at the old town hall (a manor-esque building a few miles away), so all that remained here was to pause at the top of the steps and give the crowd a big wave for the sake of the cameras. The Governor's cut-glass cheekbones made her teeth quite alarming, so she settled instead for a gentle close-lipped smile as the flashes continued for a few moments.

Sadly, time would wait for no woman, so she eventually called time on her big entrance and gave a nod to her aide. They both turned and walked into the main reception for the Plaze, the doors sliding soundlessly to either side as she walked in.

Inside was a circular desk in the middle of a wide, open space. The glass ceiling above them showed the main body of the building rising up into the sky; with a groove running up the front edge of the oval-shaped skyscraper. Expecting her presence, the men and women on reception simply waved her through with welcoming smiles. Even security seemed happy to see her arrive at the back of the main reception, and take up position between two of the burliest suits atop a wide, ten-meter circle on the floor.

It was always circles here, Mandy mused as she joined her Lady atop the circle. A moment later and the edge of the circle lit up with a curved force-field, specifically designed to remain silent and clear. Somewhat sensitive to white noise, Mandy was relieved that the typical tell-tale humm was absent here.

That relief dropped with her stomach as the lift, without warning, shot up the side of the Plaza building. Inertial dampeners had defeated any hint of motion, but still the aide's eyes insisted she was being shot out of a cannon into the sky.

The Governor wasn't enjoying the spectacular view of her city either, torn between worrying over her new job, and maintaining a cool facade. First day nerves had struck her on the ride over here, and she was embarrassed to recall that one of her in-car security had even had to hold her hand to help steady the shaking. That was before the door opened, of course. There was friendliness, and then there was impropriety, and she was pleased to see her staff was well familiarised with the line between the two.

Eventually, the moving observation platform reached the top of the Plaza, and the forcefield flashed off behind them. As the bodyguards, the Governor and the aide turned, they were met by a glorious sight.

The top of the building stretched away from them, covered in green fields that stretched further than a football pitch. Trees grew here and there, offering relief from the untempered glow from their mother star. While a white path parked a line directly down the middle to a small building at the far end, the vast majority of this space was a public park, free for use by the many hundreds of citizens that ate lunch and threw frisbees here every day.

This was why they called this building the YaDalla Plaza.

Though the sight of greenery amidst the urban jungle was worth a moment to soak in, the Governor knew that she had indulged herself in too many "moments" already. She knew her aide's padd held many, many items for her immediate attention, and she had to get to them if she didn't want her critics to have a field day.

At a rapid pace, the group power-walked down the path, arriving at the small building in short order. The two guards outside nodded as the group entered through the automatic doors which, though as silent as the doors many stories below them, were a great deal thicker. Three meters of corridor were marked by grooves, indicating heavy-duty blast doors that would roll into place and seal the building should an attack occur. Beyond that, there was a small reception area; unmanned since the aide had left her desk to meet the Governor.

The desk was on the left of the room, and a small curved pod was on the right, along with a staff-only bathroom, but straight ahead were another pair of imposing glass doors; frosted for privacy. These scanned for and recognised the Governor's biometric signature and obediently separated before them, revealing the Lady's office. Right now it was a simple affair; one large, curved window looking out on the city-scape below, with an oversized walnut desk parked in front of it.

"Mandy," said the Governor, "is there a faster route to my office? I feel that journey took forever." she quipped, keeping up the mask of the ever-fearsome iron lady. She'd spent much of the day gawping at wonderful sights, and felt a little undignified in hindsight.

"Yes ma'am. There is a private pod-lift in the reception area we just passed. Access restricted to yourself and your staff." Mandy replied, quickly. Her game face looked much like her default epression, but the mind behind that face was practically buzzing with readiness.

"Good, now..." the Governor began.


"Er-hem. What was that?" she asked, wrong-footed. That noise had come up right through her feet, and she was certain buildings weren't meant to make that noise.

"I...I'm not sure, Governor. I will find out." the aide assured her mistress, pulling up some standard monitoring metrics on her tablet and firing them over to the big screen on the wall. A map blinked into existance, quickly followed by a series of bar charts, percentage wheels, and structural integrity read-outs. Their building was in the centre of the map, with the major roads leading away from Yadalla Plaza and threading through the city's zones before escaping the urban sprawl and entering the agrarian jungle beyond the city.

To the south of the city lay the Marshes, populated mainly by isolated homesteads. To the west was the Great Sea, where thousands upon thousands people worked in large, enclosed industrial facilities (both above and below the waves) clustered together around starports. To the east were the Trees; large, hundred-meter-plus affairs of wildly varying species, often supporting clustered treehouse-based communities. Finally, to the north lay the Iron Range; an impressively large cluster of mountains, dense in valuable metals and gemstones, and home to a number of mining consortiums and their dependant workers.

However, the Governor had been to all of these places while rallying with her supporters, and she knew first-hand that these places were grossly over-simplified by the map with all its helpful diagrams. She knew that all of those areas were rich with variety, with the Trees region dotted by mountains, the Great Range dotted by lakes, and somehow the marsh even had a respectable desert in it. She wasn't sure how that last one was possible, but then she wasn't a geographer.

Another rumble snapped her out of her musings and back to the here and now, where one of the diagrams on the chart was starting to move. With a squint she could read the text under the twitching bar graph.



This time the rumbling didn't stop, and even started to grow louder. The bar chart was getting bigger now, with some of the bars starting to turn from green to yellow. The vibrations came up through the floor and caused their legs to shake in sympathy with the architecture. Looking carefully at the map, the Governor was heartened by the fact that the capital city's buildings appeared to be reporting no damage. It was just a little harmless grumbling from YaDalla, she told herself.

Heh, her religious critics would probably have a field day with this, she told herself with grim humour.

The smile quickly faded when the rumbling intensified, a burst of motion actually causing her to stumble across the floor, to be quickly caught by her sure-footed bodyguards. Now a little closer to the window, she could see some tiny figures moving around far below her. Steadying herself against the glass, she could see that not everyone was taking this with a cool head. Some were running, a few were standing still as if to wonder what would happen next, and one of them was even...

"Oh for pity's sake!" the Governor complained to her aide. "Come and take a look at this. Things get shaken up for a few seconds and we've already got looting." she complained, gesturing to the ant-sized cretin in the streets far below them, who was clearly throwing a garbage can through a shop window and engaging in a little pillaging.

"I'll have security pick him or her up." the aide assured her, poking at parts of her tablet slowly, having difficulty using the display while everything was still moving about.

*beep-beep, beep-beep!*

The wall monitor began to complain as the rumbling noise continued to grow, one of the bars reaching all the way into the red. Similar bar charts in the various regions, she noticed, were also starting to show red bars. A few of the monitored facilities in the various regions were even beginning to turn yellow, a sign that the cheaply-built structures were suffering the effects far more than the expensive ones here in the city.

"Correct me if I am wrong, but YaDalla's earthquakes are normally mild and regional, correct?" the Governor asked.

"Yes ma'am. They shouldn't be everywhere like this. Not all at once. I'll see what the seismology team say." she tried to say, her voice trembling as hard as the room was.

A crashing noise from outside the window drew the Governor's attension, and she saw that people were suddenly running away from one of the nearby high-rises. It looked like it was one of the first buildings, likely some historical treasure mentioned in history class and swiftly forgotten. a great deal of dust was swirling around the base of the building, and she was sure that one of the eaves just fell...

Abruptly, a hard shake threw the governor against the window, smacking her nose against it. She cried out as blood came spurting from her damaged nose, flowing into a cupped hand while the other tried gingerly to stem the bleeding. When she refocused on the world outside, she saw that the old building had fared worse than she had, dropping eaves by the dozen, creating a pitter-patter of deadly stone on the ground below. A stream of people were beginning to charge out of the building's exits, as the occupants fled for their lives.

A shrill alarm shrieked over the speakers as the old building's counterpart on the map turned red, indicating a serious infrastructure problem.

"Emergency transport protocol. Get those people away from that building!" the Governor snapped, leaning towards her desk and placing a palm on the emergency control system terminal, which was already rising from its concealed location inside the desk. It shone a brilliant green as the various emergency systems around the city were unlocked and slaved to the control core in YaDalla Plaza. It only took a moment for the core to lock onto the people in the ancient building and allocate one of the city's super-capacitors to power the massive overuse of all the city's transporter systems.

In a flash the building was empty, just in time for another shake to rip it clear from its foundations and send it to the ground in a giant cloud of dust. The Governor watched with horror as some of the people on the ground were unable to run away in time, and were swiftly consumed by the falling rubble.

"I want emergency response teams out there now!" she commanded, asserting control over the situation.

"They are already en-route, ma'am. To this building, and the four others. The core was able to evacuate all of them in time, so the casualties were minimal, but we have drained the last capacitor. We'll need a full day to recharge even one of them. The next building to fall....will not be empty, ma'am." the aide nearly whispered, shocked at how fast her home appeared to be falling to ruins.

As the shaking finally started to subside, the Governor looked at the wall map in disbelief. There were red dots across all five regions of the colony, with a continuously scrolling section listing all the damages.

"Ma'am, I have reports coming in from your specialist teams." Mandy reported, touching her ear-piece. "The seismology team report that the likelihood of another earthquake soon is high, and they will likely get stronger. The emergency response teams report that they need more manpower to shift the rubble and help treat the injured. The police are reporting a surge in violent crimes; at least three mobs have already formed, and two of them have begun looting. They have it contained for now, but they have asked for reinforcements. The analytics team have crunched the numbers on the real-time population-tracking data, and they estimate that the surge of people arriving at the star ports to try and leave the colony will only grow. We might have been able to handle a localised event, but they say we cannot handle the number of people likely to try and evacuate in such a short period of time." Mandy rattled off, trying to pace herself as the reports stampeded in.

"Tell people to do what they can, and I'll release a press statement soon telling people not to panic."

"Yes ma'am."

"In the meantime, we need help, and soon. Open up a comm channel."

"To who, Governor?"

"To Versailles."

=^= End of Log =^=

Governor Claire Freemont (NPC Grey)
Governor of YaDalla


Mandy (NPC Grey)
Aide to the Governor of YaDalla


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