Monday, March 5, 2018

Actual Play: Firefly "Old War Horses"

The Old 479th

The planet Ita is a desert planet and home to the Alliance 479th Mule, Gravedigging and Support Unit, the least distinguished unit in all of the Alliance military. To quote a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff “We have a gravedigging unit?” Or to better quote the chief medical officer of the Old 479th, “we’re a unit comprised of every cast–off, jerk–off, gorram idiot, malingerer, misfit or maverick that should never have been drafted into this man’s army.” As an afterthought, he says “We’re the stray puppies of the military.” After a brief pause, “Even me.”

Ita is ringed with automated defense satellites, warning incoming craft that the planet is off–limits and shooting down those who don’t listen or don’t have proper authorization. And it’s the 479th's job is to keep the satellites running and garrison the planet. The 479th is responsible for guarding the only thing worth coming to Ita to see–the Alliance and Independent Space Fleet Boneyard.

The whole planet is a desert (except for the ice–covered polar regions), so all of it is the boneyard. The arid climate makes it perfect for storing spacecraft without the issues of rust and corrosion. There are no discernible seasons or changes to the weather. It’s hot during the day and cold at night. Sometimes there’s a lightning storm, which is quite pretty unless you are caught in it, then it’s downright deadly.

For the most part, the misery is not the extreme weather, it’s the mind–crushing boredom that guarding big chunks of metal for no other reason than to prevent their theft brings about.

But it’s an easy job. Guard the planet, let no one take anything without authorization, and try to get through the next 10 years of service until retirement and pension.

And here is where the Alliance sent their chief embarrassment, General Samuel Kosciusko Zook, Hero of Serenity Valley. He’s in charge here on Ita, for the past 5 years or so, after he opened his mouth too much. And  the 479th love him as a father. Brilliant, decisive, and commanding, Zook is the reason his troops have the highest morale.

House Zook

There are two very important Zooks on Ita, General Samuel Zook and his identical twin brother, General Ramsey Zook. Like the US Civil War, many families were split over the issue of Unification. Samuel fought for the Alliance and Ramsey fought for the Independents. On many occasions, they fought in the same battle but on opposite sides, including the Battle of Serenity Valley. The war damaged their relationship in many ways, but family is still family and Ramsey refused to surrender to anyone but his brother in the last days. This caused quite a stir in the Alliance, especially when Samuel took it upon himself to insist that the Independents be brought fully into the Alliance, as full members.

So vocal was Samuel on this that it lead to the military silencing him the only way they knew–by ordering him to garrison Ita. They knew it was putative and he knew that they knew, but he followed orders. When he arrived on Ita, it had the worst discipline and the worst problems of any command. His previous troops were easy compared to the issues he faced. And Alliance Command kept sending him more, emptying out the losers and malcontents from each group to send to Ita, to keep him busy.

And Samuel kept busy. He built up the command, instilling in the (in many ways) non–conventional troopers a pride and esprit d'corps that was totally lacking before. It took some time to adjust to garrison life but he found that allowing wives and girlfriends, then family members to join the garrison lead to a more stable society. One that he could order easier. Several years went by and more people came, including his future wife, a relative of one of his sergeants.

Since they were on the fringes of the ’Verse and on the fringes of the Alliance military, they usually got not only the dregs of the service but the dregs of the equipment and supplies. Alliance Command made sure the satellites were well supported but the troops that maintained them were less important. So, with their own pay to spend, the troops needed a link to the rest of the ’Verse, a go–between to get them what they needed.

Then Ramsey and his ship and crew showed up. And everything changed.

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