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9 mos ago
Current Amy Winehouse has been sober for six years. Just wanted to remind folks of this.
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9 mos ago
Apologies to my collaborators, I've been having a rough weekend and didn't get anywhere near what I wanted to get done in posting.
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10 mos ago
Found a bolt in my front left tire today. It must be tire week on the Guild, because others had the same stuff.
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10 mos ago
Hot dogs are already cooked. Might as well just sear them to add flavor.
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10 mos ago
I love it when I catch up on my posting.
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"Using the minutes of this meeting, we can ensure that AJ has all the options on the table," reviewing reports drafted by staff was part of his function, "but I also think the address is the best forum for this and will indicate that there is consensus on this. We need to coordinate the press strategy after the announcement." Part of the Chief of Staff's job was to filter up to the president and then back down, but Mike wasn't absolutely controlling, because iron-fist tactics were off-putting and closed down avenues of consideration.

...and AJ was a guy that liked to consider all angles. He'd have been there for that meeting, but he had other meetings that were important too, things even a president couldn't wriggle out of.

"Madam Vice President, I would advise, if your schedule allows for it, to consider going on some Sunday shows; if we schedule them ahead of time before the presidential address, we will be driving up engagement for the address itself. Charlotte," he indicated one of his staffers, female, one of the president's speechwriters for national security matters, "can coordinate with your prep staff with the remarks that we're already preparing for the president when he decides on forum and based on what sort of followup foreign negotiation strategy we're going to pursue. Bill, if you wish, I think we need to sit down and work out a schedule of who we need to set up calls with for AJ."

The President was going to be working as hard as any of them the rest of the week, especially as he started to sound out the EU powers. Bill and Mike had State experience and could assist with the setups, as Mike's Russian was fluent, but these delicate conversations would be between the heads of state.

Mike had the feeling that he'd be running this well into the night and envisioned enough coffee and sandwiches to get his staff through.

"Unless there is something further to add regarding the selection of venues for press engagement and forums for foreign policy, we need to turn to the military preparations, as this touches both. Secretary Farran, General Edwards, we will need to communicate to the public and other world governments what or military preparations are going to look like. This includes negotiating with signatories, the primary parties anyway, to the Outer Space Treaty to provide for a military presence in space as a defensive measure against extra-solar potential threats. It may be necessary for the president to communicate a clear vision of what we are going to do as a government to address the potential threats that we now know exist."

His tone was somber, but his delivery flat, Mike didn't do a lot of camera style performance when there wasn't a camera on or he wasn't trying to persuade someone, this was his 'all business' persona, especially in an environment where emotions were sampled carefully. This was a new White House in crisis management and he knew that leaks happened. Florid language, raised voices, impassioned tones would be noted and relayed to the press no matter how much leakproofing you tried to do.

"The President would like your best proposals on how to structure our military, including radical options, in order to address this threat. What assets will be needed, including those that can be converted over from existing organizations." The hope was that there were proposals already being considered in preparation for the meeting.
"The EU is also a large chunk of the research capability of this planet," Mike agreed, "and we will probably need research agreements sooner than later anyway. Having a proposal for coalition and cooperation will go better on the Hill." They would need emergency spending to supplement the budget they inherited from the previous administration, but that was another conversation for a different meeting. Here, they were concerned with optics.

Mike's job, of course, as Chief of Staff was to take point on the Hill, territory he knew from serving on there. His hand, almost of its own accord, was jotting notes that would come in handy there, "JOBS" "TECHNOLOGY TRAINING," and, to perhaps assuage conservatives, "WE NEED ENV. ENGINEERS NOT PHILOSOPHERS."

Mike was quietly grateful that Bill brought up cooperation and hammered home the point. As the Democrat in the room, he wanted to make sure to step lightly on his beliefs and save it for when he needed it. His job was to help the president manage his white house and push the agenda of the United States and, by extension, all of humanity forward at a critical juncture in their collective history. Mistakes would potentially mean species annihilation.
Mike nodded as he jotted notes into a leather-bound notebook; mnemonic trick. If you wrote it down, it was easier to recall, "Let's assume that we are going to roll it out, and plan for if we need to do it fast, and if we have time to plan it more meticulously. If we do a NATO summit after the announcement, we are leaving the Russians and Chinese out in the cold. Security Council is an option, G10 is another option."

But he was in a roomful of Republicans, and he could practically detect the temperature dropping at the mention of the UN.

He glanced toward one of the staffers, an international law guy, "What's the consensus on international law governing first contact protocol?"

The man, of an age with Mike, answered promptly, "Nothing but some guidelines created by non-governmental organizations. 1960's vintage suggestions to the UN, non-binding."

He glanced back over to the table, "So we're in the clear on handling contact unilaterally," he said as he leaned forward.

"However, an additional option is to negotiate with relevant powers to create a structure for cooperation in space for mutual defense and the interests of Earth. Take the lead, sure, but then create a consensus that gives us legitimacy to continue in that role." Mike, who had been a staffer for a Secretary of State, knew that this was easier said than done, that's why he flicked his pen as if to acknowledge that, sure, this was a huge undertaking and it would take an awful lot of time they might or might not have.

That, of course, was the downside.


TL;DR

- Modern-ish setting. Jan-Feb 2021 is the start of the new administration and it is walking into a crisis.
- Help Wanted: Secretary of State and Vice President, among others, in a cabinet formed to address this crisis.
- The OOC is here and the Discord Chat is here
- First contact; alien civilizations are starting to talk to Earth.
- The RP starts around the time that the military, intelligence agencies and NASA are able to feed coherent information and analysis to the White House.
- The characters are the American government - vital roles include the President of the United States, the National Security Advisor, the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense, the Press Secretary, other cabinet members, the Speaker of the House, the Senate Majority Leader, the minorities in both chambers...and others as people make a consistent argument.
- The intent of the plot is how the organs of American government grapple with the facets of the potential crisis. Aliens, multiple types, are communicating with Earth.
- We are keeping this down to the American government, with other governments effectively NPC'ed as a matter of perspective. Characters are the organs of a government, grappling with the immense consequences of first contact with extraterrestrials.
- Inspirations; Arthur C. Clarke, David Brin, the Cuban Missile Crisis and so many others. Ironically, we talked about "West Wing" in the brainstorm between co-GM's, but also referred to "The Best and the Brightest."


In Character

For most people, first contact is something seen on TV, or argued about on the internet. And while society has a huge argument and speculates, there are people who have greater access to information on the inside, but are still fallible, mortal, and capable of making mistakes. Nonetheless, on their shoulders ride the decisions, though not always the consequences.

Multiple alien civilizations have reached out to the governments of Earth, at first, and while a lid is on the information, it's starting to leak out. The clock is ticking, and decisions have to be made. Unilateral negotiation with the ET factions, or consult with allies? Bring in the Russians? The Chinese? Put it to the Security Council? What about the General Assembly? How much information gets released? What are the aliens doing? What are their intentions? Do we brief the press, stonewall or go fully public?

These are only some of the questions. The decisions shape the events, though they do not fully control them. The unexpected happens. Decisions matter, but consequences aren't always apparent. You inhabit the world as it is.


Out of Character

Hoo dangy, it's a big RP idea, which is why I brought in two Co-GM's, guys that I brainstormed with. The idea is to create an RP that is more about sweating bullets and trying to get it right, the sort of cabal/factional infighting that can occur within a government and how dicey these pressure situations can get.

When thinking of this RP, we talked about the Cuban Missile Crisis, Desert One, the Manhattan Project and other major decision points that had a huge influence on events to follow. The RP isn't about tanks and bullets, but it is about strategic position, trying to glean out the intention of multiple alien factions and other human ones in the delicate business of figuring out how Humanity enters into the wider interstellar civilization and on what terms.

If you have a yen for playing this sort of situation room/political thriller/sci-fi juxtaposition of an RP, come and get us! We'll be in the Discord for the RP and we're looking for creative partners!
Ooooh I'm interested.


I put the first post up, but we're still very much recruiting. Secstate and VP are needed.

Edit: As a note, bear in mind that there are international consequences to the choice of venue, as well as the press reaction. The press, of course, tends to complain no matter what is done, but it's also true that the message can be controlled and that certain voices are more important than others in that sphere.

Also, though this is the chief of staff's role more than anything, congressional/senate leadership typically is advised of this in order for them to start spearheading it as well.

It's a lot of communications. It's good to get this started, because it was a fun idea being brainstormed by three friends where we were kind of looking at a presidential admin RP and we thought it'd be more interesting to have a crisis. Then we went way afield for a crisis that would allow all kinds of shit to happen.
Since the transition, Mike Gerard's days started at 5am sharp, in order to allow him to start the day with a run. That involved a protection detail from the Secret Service. Gerard was known in the WH as a fitness nut, a guy that pulled himself back from injury during his days in the Army and put himself back together. He wasn't the only man in DC that was up at this hour jogging in the vicinity of DuPont Circle. Exercise was one of the coping mechanisms for White House Staffers.

It was his chance to clear his head and prepare for the morning. There was a phone, and then a tablet and then other means of communication, but he ignored the incoming mail, the flood of info that came in over the course of any given night that was routine info, keeping track of so much political news as well as specific departmental warnings.

That assumed he didn't get a call in the night. He knew the cycle well, he worked for John Kerry as SecState and was prepared for it when he took AJ's job offer.

He had a couple of podcasts that he ran with, not necessarily political, but interesting, to help get his brain moving along with his body in the early hours, when the deep blue flushed pink and threatened a sunrise. He'd long since gotten used to the feeling of the prosthetic leg hitting concrete. He still wore long pants to try and keep the thing from becoming an object of notice, though he once had a guy say, "You should pin up the pant leg and use it for all it's worth." Campaign guy, but Mike was notoriously humorous about it, so he asked, "You mean like put a bumper sticker on it?"

The sun was about to start the ascent, but you could still see the stars. There were a lot of threats the administration would have to deal with. They inherited an America and a world at unrest. But all that seemed to pale in comparison to what was out there.

--

The Chief of Staff of the White House had a tremendous job, and in this White House, it was even more tremendous. They were a presidency already in crisis and got to select the staff for it, similar to how Churchill was able to bring in his people in 1940. AJ Shepard bucked party loyalty and went for the people who could get the job done, retaining some staff from the Biden/Booker presidency and bringing in Republicans.

There was fury on FOX, fury in the Freedom Caucus and fury among the Democratic party, because they hadn't been briefed. The Speaker and other leadership had been briefed and were, for the moment, staying very tight lipped. There were threats made to the effect, by the former federal prosecutor president, that leaks would be pursued relentlessly on this issue and so far the pax held.

But Mike knew, as he was whisked to the White House in a dark limo, already going through his tablet and all the things stacked up on it, that this would not hold long. Everyone knew it, and the first thing on the agenda was a bright and early morning meeting between the principals and several others to decide the best course of action on how to broach it to the American public.

To wit, there was an automated probe nearby in the Solar System, and it reached out to several world governments simultaneously -- the ones that had dishes pointed at space. This meant that the EU states knew, but so did Russia and the People's Republic of China. Putting aside for the moment that none of these states announced first contact, there was a thorny issue of how to do it, who to confer with and how much to say.

The probe was not AI, but it was able to conduct the basics of contact; the first message was a sort of code for first contact, an artificial pattern that was picked up by signals people, who then sent their own signals.

Once they sent back a standard first contact broadcast provided by SETI, the thing analyzed it and then was able to communicate back, in English, with a basic query for more info.

By the time they were feeding it raw text of great works of humanity alongside reality TV, the Probe was able to communicate more extensively and then told them, "Successful contact. Initiating Survey Report Protocol. Standby for further contact." It left a piece of itself there as a network node, to translate, and the bigger bulk of the thing disappeared.

The information that came from it from there on out was minimal.

But it was enough.

A Chief of Staff was an errand boy, an enforcer and a facilitator. The White House staff, all appointed, were drawn from a number of different sources, but there was a pattern. They went with younger people who had the stamina and energy in many of the roles because stamina would be a thing, including the press secretary who was a holdover, but otherwise staffed the Assistant roles with older heads, preferring people with an experience of just how complicated policy could be.

Mike was on the young side, but he felt like they had a team in place that could handle the day to day execution of the agenda. Selection on the basis of resume had a downfall -- it had the press sniffing for the story. They were wondering what was going on. For the most part, they'd gotten it wrong. They were speculating on Earthly matters, wondering if it was some sort of war with Russia or some sort of other nuclear crisis.

The White House, even at the early 6:30am arrival of the Chief of Staff, was already humming and moving right along; it never really stopped, but overnight staff had briefings and data prepared as the daytime staff came on. There was a lot going on, but he insisted on keeping himself neatly trimmed and carefully starched. The appearance of calm was important, looking frazzled was not an option. He'd moved out of the workout gear with a quick shower and into a navy suit and a crisp white shirt and a muted but textured burgundy tie - patterns were frowned upon in government. He was stretching it by keeping his beard, but the beard was there in Afghanistan and it was part of the image these days. Otherwise, he kept his hair down to a neat, but not high and tight, combed style that would pass as militarily acceptable, parted from the right.

It was a source of gentle ribbing from friends, including AJ, that there was a GQ magazine article on how he had to be lying about buying off the rack.

Despite his role, his office was a cramped space with a small desk dominated by two monitors, pictures of his wife and kids and a coffee mug that said, "I survived another meeting that should have been an email." Painted off white, with a low ceiling and packed with desks, he had a space to himself, but it was small. The furniture was surprisingly functional and not all that fancy -- he knew from direct experience that senators had nicer offices. The cabinet secretaries had offices in their respective buildings. The Eisenhower executive building had better offices. But when you worked in the White House, you were at the mercy of old architecture, shoehorned into a symbol.

But with that symbol came the realization that you were in the White House.

The phones were already ringing as the staff arrived, sucking down the coffee they got on the way to work, a mix of Starbucks, fancier stuff for those who cared, and cafeteria coffee from a kiosk set up for staffers. Keyboards were already clattering, in some cases, because this was It. Some of the most intense jobs on the planet, at a time when the planet was about to slip into an existential danger and opportunity.

--

The situation room was a long table with seats. Seats against the walls. Flatscreens against the walls. Mostly set to the news, because there was always monitoring of the political discourse in America. As a concession to modernity, the recent renovation involved a lot of extra plugs being put in so people could charge phones, laptops, watches and whatever else they needed. Mike occasionally wondered if they should have set up hooks for IV's so they could run lines of coffee, and Xanax, down to the people at the table. He carried a binder, a notebook, a laptop and a tablet along with him, and he had staffers carrying more. Others would be arriving in the same condition, loaded down with the data. So much of the job was sifting through to get to the most important bits. That was the exhaustion of this sort of job, the amount of actual, hardcore studying, reading of reports, that happened. Focus was everything here.

Once other filed in, with the principals at the table and the back-benchers, the staff and lesser positions sitting along the wall, it was Mike that started off the meeting, but it wasn't as if this particular meeting's topic was unknown.

Once the room was secured, they had the go ahead to start, "Good morning. The President has decided that we can no longer hold this information from the public much longer, it is not viable. We've done a good job until now of preventing leaks and keeping it quiet while gathering info. However, today's agenda is to lay out the options for rolling out Contact to the press and the world at large," he began somberly in that no-confusion-this-is-Massachusetts accent, standing at first, but settling into his chair as he opened the proceedings. There would be pictures of this for official release, so he stayed in his jacket.

There was tension around the room. How the information came out and the reactions among, for example, religious nuts, conspiracy theorists and cultists, could lead to a lot of chaos and confusion in this country and others. Beyond that, there would be a reaction in the UN, and then the politics of first contact as an international relations exercise, would begin as well. Haves, have nots, economic and strategic interests. The people in the room would lay out the various options for action and submit that to the president. As Chief of Staff, he'd be the one responsible for what landed on the President's desk. Theoretically the gatekeeper, Mike already knew that the best way to control the White House Staff was to have a mechanism for adverse advice to be heard up the line if necessary if someone lobbied hard enough. There were other White Houses where the alternatives were squelched. That wasn't on his watch, especially in a mixed 'Crisis' administration with a wider than usual spectrum of views.

The whole ball of wax. This was the team.

It was a huge decision with profound consequences. And the president wanted advice from the people he brought on to manage this chaos.

"Benton, this may be something we need to do at a press brief where we bring AJ in, if we do it fast," his expression and tone indicated he wasn't thinking in that direction but left it out there to consider and discard, "Otherwise, we need to look at the optics of scheduling an address and what forum to do it in."

And figuring out that part was where the fun started.
We are still looking for a Vice President and Secretary of State here. These are two vital positions in the RP.
At this juncture, Secretary of State is far and away the most important role here. Their outlook will influence a lot of things as one of the principals, and the primus inter pares among the principals, in this scenario. VP will also be vital.

Name: Michael Gerard
Position: White House Chief of Staff
Age: 43
Sex: Male
Physical Description:
The first thing one notices, especially in a clean cut crew like a Republican administration, is that Mike Gerard, AJ Shepard's Chief of Staff, wears a beard, and it's a shade lighter and slightly redder than his hair. He has a flair for navy suits with soft shoulders, fitted slim, over the typical gray and black of the WH, and they're paired with a burgundy, usually, foulard tie. His smartwatch is worn, idiosyncratically, on the underside of his wrist. He swears he buys off the rack, and he might, the motherfucker.


Brief Bio:
Born in Woburn, Mass, Gerard came from a family of striving (lace-curtain) types that pushed their kid forward. His parents paid for the Malden Catholic tuition; mom, a social worker, and dad, an electrician, made the necessary arrangements for Mike and his two sisters, Liz and Pat, to attend without really complaining about it. But Dad loved that Mike played hockey for Malden.

Fast forward to Dartmouth College, hockey, history, qualitative social sciences, which is to say a confluence of geography, psychology, math and all sorts of complicated shit. College was busy; ROTC helped pay the tuition his parents couldn't. Instead of a study abroad, which he could ill afford, he interned for credit in Ted Kennedy's office.

Fast forward to Afghanistan, Operational Detachment Alpha (ODA) 556 operating in the Northwestern part of Afghanistan. Multiple deployments through 2007 when a grenade blast does damage to his vision and leaves him with recurring neurological damage that causes migraines. He also lost a piece of his right leg, which required a prosthesis. Purple Heart, Distinguished Service Cross. He left the service on a medical discharge at the rank of Captain. He joined Teddy Kennedy's staff, then over to John Kerry's staff when Teddy passes. As a Kerry staffer, he made the transition from staff at the Senate to staff at the State Department until 2016, when he ran for Congress in Massachusetts.

Fast Forward to the House, 5th Massachusetts when the Senate seat comes open and someone needs to take it in a special election. The guy the GOP put in there, trying to get another shot at a seat, was steamrolled, in a campaign that got the messaging right, even in a midterm where a Democratic president was not doing so well.

Fast Forward to three days after AJ becomes the president-elect. Mike gets a call and takes the meeting out of respect; they'd always had an amiable relationship in the Senate and a good vibe in collaboration across the aisle. Mike comes out of that meeting looking like a ghost grabbed his balls. Then, to the wonderment of the press, he gives a terse statement along with AJ to the effect that he has accepted the post of White House Chief of Staff, and duty to country comes first. The press freaks, but they have no idea, not yet.


Issues/Agenda:
Lots of Republican operatives are wondering what the fuck the Democratic golden boy of the senate is suddenly doing as AJ Shepard's chief of staff. He's not the only cabinet member in there that doesn't pass the litmus test. The thing is, Mike Gerard is a Massachusetts liberal. On criminal justice reform, he's soft. On education, he wants to spend too much. The NRA has a special place in hell that is reserved for veterans that speak against them.

On the environment, for example, he is a big fan of energy technology, which benefits his state, which does tech and renewable energy, especially piloting offshore wind in partnership with industry big boys -- and he was instrumental in moving legislation through to that effect in the Senate with surprising support on both sides. He had to concede things to the oil boys to get it, and so he did it. The 2020 Renewable Resources Act (RRA) balanced a lot of different concerns and he still brought the bacon through to Massachusetts; it took one and a half years of back and forth to get the support for it, and it was a coup, really stepping into Teddy's old shoes.

On foreign policy, he believes in engagement, which means that use of force has a place on his spectrum. In this regard, he is often accused of being a sellout or soft, depending on who is commenting. He has a complex criteria for use of military action, but he's been in favor of eliminating terrorists with drone strikes, though he has concerns about civilian casualties. He is, perhaps as a result of having dealt with local forces in Afghanistan and Iraq, wary of alliances with the wrong people. The Arab Spring had an impact on him too -- he felt the US position was watered down by established interests. The same interests will seek to establish position with the aliens. US thinking on policy will have to shift radically to questions they'd never considered before - interstellar tech transfers, colonization...and if the aliens decide to divide and conquer the nations of Earth.

Mike is looking at what needs to happen to protect Humanity, and thinks the way forward is through the UN. His job, as Chief of Staff, is no less than to keep this administration on task with the threat/opportunity of the aliens.

And so much of this is less important than it was, but some of it will be more important than ever, as this administration grapples with the aliens and all the consequences of first contact. His driving reason for joining this White House is to make sure that the opportunities from alien contact benefit the nation at large, and avoiding a haves/have nots scenario as much as possible. In this sense, he is informed by the Catholic values of social justice, and Teddy Kennedy rubbed off on him here. Aliens are a danger, but they're also an incredible potential for positive social change.


Notes:
Married, with two kids. His wife, Sarah, is notable for her USAID work and subsequent work on behalf of Medicins Sans Frontieres in a support and management role. She's also a feminist author and a frequent target of a certain type of televangelist. The tinfoil hat wearers also have a field day; he's Catholic, she's Jewish and all possible conspiracy angles get covered.
I am taking the role of WH chief of staff. There's a narrative involve because this guy interned (and staffed) for Senator Edward Kennedy and is himself a US Senator...probably from Massachusetts or New Hampshire.
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