Two Days and a Wakeup

Jan 02 17:11:00 <Echo> About 800 miles west of the southwest shoulder of New Zealand, DDG-109 pushes through a storm, making an easy half-ahead toward its change of bearing.
Jan 02 17:11:55 <Echo> As it chops through the waters, officers and enlisted personnel scurry about their tasks on the bridge, passing orders and pre-operations checks down through a myriad of departments elsewhere on the 509-foot-long guided missile destroyer.
Jan 02 17:12:29 * Strife (~androirc@54A3EC32:691FA8DA:39ABD90E:IP) has joined #afteraction
Jan 02 17:13:36 <Echo> A mere three years ago, such a ship would have been used to provide security for aircraft and assault carrier fleets; today, DDG-109 is tasked with recovery of civilian populations to green zones, and much less often, limited deployment of tactical nuclear strikes. Only two last year.
Jan 02 17:16:12 <Echo> On the bridge, the executive officer idly watches over a pair of petty officers working through a list of checks for the maintenance and tactical departments. On the side of their particular workstation sits a roster of troops to be deployed on the rendezvous.
Jan 02 17:17:48 <Echo> At the bow, a dozen maintenance technicians work over a CH-47 heavy assault transport helicopter. Engines and rotors are being inspected, guns mounted on the shoulder ports. A fuel line snakes forward across the flight deck to a churning diesel pump.
Jan 02 17:20:56 <Echo> Heavy steel cables secure the gigantic helicopter on the modified flight deck. The chief petty officer supervising the personnel flitting to and fro around the helicopter frowns. The USS Jason Dunham had had its pair of Seahawks replaced two years ago with a single Chinook after loss of forces and equipment had pressed them into more vital service at Norfolk.
Jan 02 17:24:03 <Echo> Shaking away the nostalgia of how his ship used be, the CPO climbs into the desert patrol vehicle sitting at the rear of the helicopter, starts it up, honks twice, and backs it up the ramp into the enormous helicopter's cargo bay. He shuts the buggy off and looks around the interior of the aircraft. Hell of a thing.
Jan 02 17:24:44 <Echo> As much as he hated having just the one, he couldn't help but admit being able to haul nearly five dozen people in its belly at once had come in handy before.
Jan 02 17:26:31 <Echo> With a sigh, he pushes himself up out of the dune buggy and starts chaining its tires to fasteners on the helo's cargo deck.
Jan 02 17:27:44 <Echo> Thirteen hundred more miles.
Jan 02 17:27:49 <Echo> Fifty four hours.
Jan 02 17:29:33 <Echo> His task complete, the chief walks out of the bay and back down the ramp as three junior enlisted personnel brush past him, hauling olive drab ammo cans under their arms.
Jan 02 17:32:31 <Echo> He looks up at a gray, rainy sky, shivers in the cold, and heads for the bow hatch leading inside to where it's warm and dry. Twenty nine days left to the end of his tour out here past the outskirts of what's left.
Jan 02 17:39:53 * Ragazzo_ is now known as Ragazzo
Jan 02 18:10:31 * Pemander has quit (Quit: http://www.mibbit.com ajax IRC Client)
Jan 02 18:17:56 <Echo> Hundreds of miles to the northeast, nearly a hundred people have gathered by an intersection north of Christchurch, brought there by the promise of evacuation from a hostile environment, hostile civilians, and hostile things that are rumored to have begun coming in from the coasts, brought by ships and aircraft from the islands that dot the surrounding ocean.
Jan 02 18:20:00 <Echo> Almost two weeks ago, a near-broken shortwave powered by near-busted generators and operated by people knowledgeable enough to get them working got a message to a passing NATO patrol, and received a message in return: coordinates for pickup, retrieval, and transfer to a green zone.
Jan 02 18:22:16 <Echo> A little better than two days separates the community from rescue. Community might be the right word. It might not be. It's as close to describing them one could get, though.
Jan 02 18:23:44 <Echo> They come from here and there, castoffs from other groups after leaving voluntarily or involuntarily, good terms or bad, people who eked it on their own until they could eke no longer, tourists who were trapped there when the world went to hell and tagged along with the first likely bunch of survivors they could find…
Jan 02 18:24:31 <Echo> …the infirm who couldn't make it on their, the people taking care of them. People who simply needed to be around others, people who wanted to lead others, and people out to get what they can before it's all over.
Jan 02 18:25:04 <Echo> Their reasons for coming together are diverse, but now they've all got a way out.
Jan 02 18:28:37 <Echo> Tents dot the small, grassy lot on the northeast corner of the intersection. Almost as many vehicles sit here and there, some lined up neatly, others jammed into what from the air would look like an impression of a junkyard on a bad day. For every one of the various colors and designs of tents in the lot are a person, or two, or three, or four.
Jan 02 18:32:56 <Echo> Some of the more restless and work-minded have started chopping the dead, drying trees lining the roads along the lot for firewood. The ones who are less so have more or less settled in for the evening, anxious for the promised rescue, and content to let the ones with guns and axes roam around the periphery.

Jan 02 20:58:48 <Echo> DDG-109 plows across the waters, the storm abated. It's created its own light show, the powerful floodlights and spotlights all running along the circumference of the ship, creating what looks like daylight for the flight deck crew and the personnel waiting by the aft section.
Jan 02 21:00:23 <Echo> As sailors remove the steel cables anchoring the destroyer's assault helo in place, several dozen Marines and Navy personnel wait in lines just off the flight deck as the engines spin up and the rotors come to life.
Jan 02 21:03:22 <Echo> The dual gas turbines warm up to operating speed, sending the rotors chopping. The troops board in sticks, the ramp raises behind them, and the enormous helicopter heaves off the flight deck, matching speed for a moment with the USS Jason Dunham, and then accelerating forward, angling east-northeast.