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CHAPTER NINETEEN – IT’S ‘TAE’, NOT ‘TEA’!
“Yes there is some opposition to this project.” The Commander answered honestly, casting a glance at Kevin as if to say “How much did you tell them?” “But you have to understand that the proposition of enlisting the help of civilians in an operation such as this is very unorthodox to say the least.”
The Commander sat down and settled himself for what he knew was going to be a crucial discussion.
“But almost everything about this whole thing is very new and thus very unorthodox.” He continued. “And of course dealing with all the different federations, governments and powers is like dealing with a committee. Political biases, military leanings, personal preferences, flawed personalities, differing opinions, cultural tendencies, even elevated egos all play a part in it.” The Commander seemed to stop mid flow, needing to take a momentary side step.
“Seal room Veles.” He instructed.
Immediately the doors slid shut and locked and the lights took on the now familiar amber hue.
“In truth, my role dictates that I am as much a politician as I am a military commander.” The Commander told them. “And yes, I am not without my own – let’s just say opponents – within the people I have to deal with.” He admitted candidly. “And likewise, as well as there being some disagreement, even some opposition, to my decision to develop this project in general, there is also – the British Ambassador being the most vocal of them – some opposition to the Celts – The Fighting Irish – being one of the three clans chosen.”
It was, without doubt, an uncharacteristically open admission. One which Kevin and even Sully and Liam wondered if the Commander should have made. But the more Liam and Sully thought about it, however, the more they both couldn’t help wondering if the mention of the British Ambassador’s opposition to their involvement hadn’t, perhaps, deliberately been shared just in order to lead them in to a decision to get involved simply to spite the British Ambassador.
“But the decision to go ahead with this project is mine to make and I have made it.” The Commander continued. “And likewise, the decision as to who we enlist within this project is also mine to make. And I have made that too. Which means that all it requires now is for you to make your decision in response to my having made those decisions.”
Looking at Liam and Sully he sat back in his chair and simply waited for them to process his statement and hopefully to respond accordingly.
“What I don’t know. What bothers me personally, and I am sure that it will bother Sully as well, is if we do agree to help,” Liam admitted. “are we then also committing our clan members to help, and having to do so without their actually knowing it?”
“Let me reassure you of one thing in that respect.” The Commander told him. Sitting forward in his chair as he spoke. “The decision as to who are, or who will be, chosen to participate in linked battled is up to myself and my team, and to us alone. Your decision – whichever way you choose to go – will not influence that at all. But yes your clan – the Celts – and thus some of your clan members will be a part of that. Their being part of it, however, is not dependant on your decision.”
“So why involve us?” Sully asked. “And why tell us? After all, we aren’t bad players but we are by no means the best that there is.”
“Unfortunately, before I am able to fully explain all that.” The Commander told them plainly. “I do need to have your decision and, of course, your agreement.
“Because there is stuff that you just can’t risk telling us?” Sully asked. “Even with the option of wiping our memories of our time here?”
“Partly.” The Commander admitted honestly. “The less you know the less risk there is, that is true. But more than that,” he continued, “if you are not willing to be a part of it and thus are not going to be aware of your participation, you simply don’t need to know.”
“And there is also another consideration. One which the Commander and I discussed before bringing you here.” Kevin told the lads. “And that is the time frame involved. The longer you are here, the more risky the process of wiping your memory of your time here becomes.”
“He is right.” The Commander confirmed. “And whilst we both agreed that bringing you here really was important enough to take some risk, Kevin insisted – and I agreed with him – that that risk be very carefully controlled.”
Liam and Sully looked at each other and both remained silent for a moment or too.
“OK here is how I see it.” Liam was the first to respond. “Going on what you have told us so far, and also on what we have seen. I can see how this whole thing must be a big deal and also very important. And the fact is that I I do sort of understand – if it is as big and as important as it seems to be – why you have done what you have done.
Obviously there is a very real threat out there and as it stand neither I, nor Sully, actually know just what that threat is. Which means that we also don’t actually know what risk our involvement, and again I am speaking for myself here, so what risk my involvement is going to bring to myself or to Nicola or Leon.”
Immediately the Commander leaned forward and seemed to want to respond to Liam’ statement so far.
“Let me finish before you respond Commander. Please.” Liam told him. “Which leads me to thinking that whilst I would never want to put Nicola or Leon’s safety at risk, or anyone else’s for that matter. I have a feeling that somewhere down the line, their safety – all of our safety – is going to be effected. And, if I don’t agree to help, then one day I will be looking at them and hating myself for not having helped when you asked.”
“Aye I get the same feeling.” Sully agreed. “This seems to big, too important – and I have no idea just how or why – but it does feel so big that I don’t think we can simply say no and walk away.”
“So your answer is, ‘Yes. You will help?'” The Commander asked, needing absolute clarification.
Again Liam and Sully looked at each other. And then both said, “Yes.”
“Aye. Sign us up.” Sully added.
Standing up, his face smiling and looking very relieved, the Commander walked over to one of the sideboards. Once there, he opened a drawer and pulled out two folders which he then took back to the table. He then opened each of the folders, took out two documents and placed them side by side on the table in front of Liam and Sully. He then took a pen out of his shirt pocket and placed it on the table by the documents.
“In that case, I will need you to read these carefully and to then sign them.” The Commander told them, before sitting back down.
Picking up the documents Liam and Sully looked at them. They were copies of the Official Secrets Act and already had their full names typed in at the relevant places. Sully and Liam looked at each other and then settled down to reading them.
Liam was the first to finish reading but sat patiently waiting for Sully to finish reading before he himself did anything.
Once Sully had finished reading, the two lads looked at each other and then Liam quietly picked up the pen, removed it’s cap and then signed his copy of the document before handing the pen to Sully. Who in turn signed his copy.
As soon as the two copies were signed, both the Commander and Kevin congratulated the lads and shook their hands.
“Now can we finally find out how all this works?” Liam asked.
“Yes. I think you can.” The Commander answered him happily. “Well, at least the parts that are relevant to you.” He added.
Inviting the lads to sit down – their having stood up to have their hand shaken – the Commander explained how things had evolved and also how he wanted them to progress.
“As I mentioned before,” the Commander told them, “what with national conflicts, domestic and international disputes and the escalating problems with terrorism and with Isis in particular/ Plus with countries are having their focus, their finances and their resources stretched to the max. And what with the demand already placed on UN forces in respect of relief and peacekeeping missions, we needed to come up with another way of addressing this issue without given too much control or involvement to any one nation.” He looked at the two lads. “Like I said, the world of international politics is not an easy nor a peaceful one.” He added.
“Up until more recently these threats – and despite the fact that they are not currently coming with a combative approach we still very much see them as threats – have been handled by military personnel within my staff. But the fact is that they are on the increase and so we had to find a way of meeting that increased threat without placing too big a strain on our – or on anyone else’s – finances or resources.”
“Which is where the idea of using civilians came in?” Sully asked.
“Yes.” The Commander answered him. “Just as the tanks in your online gaming battles are operated remotely and at no actual risk to the player, so too are our drone tanks operated remotely and since there is no direct threat to the operator why can’t they be operated by selected civilian players? All that is actually needed is for us to link the drone tank with the selected player ‘s control pad. And to do that we have a special designated link-up protocol.”
“And by doing so without the selected player’s knowledge,” Kevin added, “there are no security risks and ultimately we retain control and containment of each battle scenario.”
“Yes. My duty operational command team can control the link-ups between players and our drone tanks and if needs be can sever or reroute those links accordingly.” The Commander explained.
“But we only ever play on standard maps.” Sully pointed out. “No more than a dozen or so. How does that work?”
“That is slightly more complicated.” The Commander told him. “And perhaps for you to understand that I would need to give you a practical demonstration.”
“OK. So I can just about get my head around all that.” Liam told them. “But that still doesn’t explain why us? As we said, there are plenty of better players out there. Why not use them? Why not even use the seasoned vets who have retired and now seem to play the game?
“The answer to why you is because of what you and your team have built with the Celts.” The Commander told him. “Yes there are better players out there but your clan has some excellent players and even you average or slightly above average players are prone to moments of absolute brilliance when it comes to both their game skills and also to employing unorthodox tactics at times.”
It was an observation which both Liam and Sully had to agree with and one they very much appreciated the Commander having made.
“The fact is that there are certain common characteristics which currently feature in over 97% percent of all online battles within the game.” Kevin told them. “The fact that teams very, very seldom work as an actual team being amongst the main one.”
Again it was an observation which neither Liam, nor Sully (nor any other game player for that matter) could argue with really.
“But we can reduce that – or at least it’s impact – through the deployment of platoons. And the Celts do have a high percentage of platoon forming amongst its members.” Kevin explained. “And by utilising these platoons we can increase our success potential.”
“But what we also need is a resource of reliable players who we can select and who not only have the skills, the techniques and the experience but who also have those platoon links and thus who also have potential sustainability in respect of their involvement with the game.” The Commander added. “And that is something else that the Celts – The Fighting Irish – as a clan absolutely excel at. You and your team are really keen on demonstrating to your members that they are valued and important and that in your clan camaraderie is just as important as game skills.
“Yes, clan camaraderie is something that we are very keen on.” Liam agreed.
“And that sense of belonging and of loyalty to the clan is so very important.” The Commander observed.
“And on top of all that,” Kevin added, “you do have regular team training events within the clan which in turn builds on that loyalty and belonging and also improves players game skills.”
“We do have.” Liam corrected him. “It’s ‘we do have’. You said ‘you do have’ but you’re still very much part of the clan.”
“I didn’t want to presume.” Kevin admitted. “What with not being able to have been honest with you about all this until now.”
“Not at all.” Sully told him. “Liam’s right you are still very much a part of the clan and we kind of do understand about not your not being able to be honest with us.”
“How about another cup of tea?” The Commander asked them.
Liam and Sully both looked at each other and smiled. Having just agreed to help the Commander and having now gotten to know him a little better , surely it was time he got to know their humour a little better. They both turned and looked at the Commander.
“It’s ‘tae’, not ‘tea’.” They told him, in unison and with over exaggerated Belfast accents. “When you come from where we are from and speak with our accent, you drink tae, not tea.”
The lads – including Kevin – laughed.
“Vere I am from.” the Commander told them, putting on an over exaggerated Russian accent and sounding like a villain from a very poor ‘B’ movie, in return. “Ve drink strong black Russian coffee.”