and Gentlemen’s Bar and Grill
I followed Forbes through the blackout curtain and into the dimly lit structure. The furniture was probably best described as liberated, and some it had likely been liberated several times over, the lighting was improvised, half a dozen different shades and intensities casting shadow here, sepia there, but the atmosphere was one I knew instantly.
Wherever there are reporters there are reporters’ bars, wherever there are soldiers there are soldiers’ bars, but wherever the two come together and the war correspondents gather, there are bars that go down in myth and legend….
Mahoney’s Permanent Floating Mobile Press Centre and Gentlemen’s Bar and Grill is the jokingly unofficial name applied to the New African Defence Force’s media relations centre. While the NADF had planned for a thoroughly modern Press Liaison Unit to accompany it into the field, very little of the unit’s hardware or personnel made it out of New Middlesex when the Kafers landed. The NADF’s press officer had to make do with what she could find, and what she could find was a publican without a bar. That gave rise to a press facility which is more than a little unorthodox, but one the war correspondents find very congenial.
The Kafer assault on New Africa disrupted many units; one that suffered particularly badly was the NADF’s Press Liaison Unit, many of its personnel either disappearing outright or attaching themselves to frontline units during what seemed like a fight to the finish. Ultimately only the unit commander, Captain Rebecca Scott, managed to make contact with the NADF Field HQ. Unfortunately rather more journalists had either been already embedded with frontline units or had congregated in the vicinity of the HQ, demanding the opportunity to tell their stories and go wherever they wanted. Not only was Captain Scott meant to manage them and keep them out of the way, but she was also expected to review all of their stories for operational security issues. It was more than any one soldier could hope to manage and, while the more experienced war correspondents were of some help, when Captain Scott stumbled across an acquaintance of hers amongst the refugees she immediately drafted him and his family to try and bring some order to her charges.
That acquaintance was Padraig Mahoney, formerly the proprietor of a high-end restaurant in New Middlesex. An ex-Marine and a publican, Mahoney brought both his skillsets to bear on the problem. A derelict farmhouse was soon turned into a makeshift media centre and the need to cater for both his family, the troops of the unit and the war correspondents soon had his publican and restaurateur skills as much in play as those of the ex-Colour Sergeant.
When the first foraging mission turned up rather more alcohol than solid food the tone of the establishment was set forever. The unofficial name emerged after a long night spent by Captain Scott, Padraig Mahoney and the core of the war correspondents rendering proper respect to a newly liberated crate of 25 year old Laphroaig. The finger of blame is usually pointed at Ffion Mooney, but memories of the night are hazy and no one who was there is quite certain of that. Ffion is blamed largely because it is just the kind of thing everyone is sure that she would say.
Mahoney’s is theoretically a media centre, but in 2300 that actually requires very little hardware, files being tossed back and forward over both the TISS and civilian networks with equal ease. A pair of ruggedized civilian servers have been liberated to provide a database of declassified information for the journalists to access and to allow them to submit their stories for Opsec review, but those can sit on or under any desk or table or in the back of a Hover Rover. Once a story has been cleared for release it goes either directly into the surviving New African news networks or onwards to the NADF HQ’s intelligence cell for distribution offworld by undisclosed means.
What the journalists need most is somewhere to work in a congenial atmosphere, whether they be writing some piece of deathless prose or editing raw footage from the front. Wherever it is, Mahoney’s provides that with an eclectic collection of liberated furniture. The inner man is provided for by Liam Mahoney, usually working behind the scenes, but sometimes in full view of everyone, labouring over an array of camping stoves and military ovens to put out a better range of meals than anything seen recently in New Africa. Liam’s skills are even called upon by NADF HQ proper whenever a visiting civilian needs to be suitably wined and dined.
An inevitable part of the congenial atmosphere is alcohol and Padraig runs an impressive bar, mostly serving bottled spirits liberated or traded-for through a whole range of unofficial networks. Occasionally a shipment of beer turns up, mostly New African Pale Ale from one of the intermittently functioning breweries supplying to the forces, but sometimes homebrew of varying quality. Spirits are generally considered the safer bet. Prices for food are very reasonable, better than from most of the impromptu sources that have followed the colours throughout the campaign; those for alcohol are rather higher, but not excessively so. The high prices simply reflect those being demanded by Padraig’s suppliers. They would be higher still but for the fact that Padraig lets his wife Maria Elena do the negotiating, and his supply base has rapidly learned that she is not a woman to be crossed lightly.
The whole establishment is mobile; the Press Liaison Unit has a Hover Rover that can carry all of its personnel and equipment and the Mahoneys and their small staff have two civilian lorries which can take all of the furniture, kitchen equipment and supplies with room to spare. Padraig plans on being on the road within a couple of hours of notice to move, although in a worst case situation they could abandon everything but the clothes on their backs and be moving in less than five minutes. Setting up at a new location will usually take rather longer, but Padraig is quite capable of serving his clientele from the back of one of the trucks if needs must.
Like any bar, Mahoney’s has its regulars, and like any bar those regulars divide themselves into cliques.
Despite Mahoney’s being essentially one and the same as the NADF Press Liaison Unit, military presence is fairly minimal. Captain Rebecca Scott commands the unit, but is often away shepherding journalists to the front lines or running interference between them and HQ. The rest of the unit comprises one reservist corporal with a computer background who runs the unit’s electronics and packages stories for onwards transit and two recently drafted privates who act as general gophers as well as providing a preliminary Opsec screening of all stories. Either Captain Scott or, in her absence, an officer from the intelligence cell at HQ are required to provide final Opsec sign-off on all pieces, though on occasion Padraig Mahoney has taken a turn at this, operating as unofficial second in command of the unit.
The war correspondents are the core of Mahoney’s clientele. They roughly split into two groups: the ‘professionals’, full-time war correspondents who have covered wars in other places and other times and the more numerous ‘amateurs’, professional journalists in the main, sometimes with vast experience, but new to operating as war correspondents. The professionals are noticeably cliquey, often having known each other for years, and are more than a little contemptuous of the amateurs who are feeling their way into the role. It is a rare mark of approval for one of the amateurs to be invited to join the professionals at their table.
The death and injury rate is noticeably worse amongst the amateurs, the professionals have already survived at least one war and have a better idea of what they should be doing when the bullets start flying.
John Chambers sits at the head of the war correspondent hierarchy, but more in the sense of an aging king whose court are simply waiting him out rather than through any true sense of respect.
The photo-journalists are a parallel hierarchy to the war correspondents. Occasionally snubbed by the more self-important of the amateurs as little more than glorified technicians, mostly the photo-journalists are recognised as both journalists in their own right and a breed apart, the slightly mad fringe of the profession, ready to put themselves right in the front line to get that one shot. Photo-journalists are usually freelances, though often with established links to specific markets. Ffion Mooney is the undoubted queen of the photo-journalists.
The producers are left on the margins in Mahoney’s, not really recognised as real journalists like the war correspondents and cameramen. They are the back-room staff who are a necessary evil in getting the story out to the public. Producers like Sukey Meyer are quite happy to let the so-called real journalists keep on deluding themselves.
There are many ways of going about the reporting process, but one of the fundamental divisions is between the team-players and the solo-operators. The team-players are primarily corporate sponsored, although freelance teams are not unknown. The presence of multiple personnel means that team members are able to specialise. Typical roles within a team include producer, reporter, cameraman and potentially security, usually with the producer calling the shots. The roles may be spread across several people or one person may combine several of them; producers may also be reporters or cameramen, cameramen may also pull security duty. The core feature of the team-players is that they have more resources than any one man can bring to the task at hand.
Solos lack the resources of team-players, but gain in flexibility. Possibly the greatest gain in flexibility is that the solo reporter only has their own safety to be responsible for. The most extreme stories are brought in by solo players, but more solos come back in a body-bag than team-players. Solos are generally freelancers and solo by choice, but some are employees of larger organisations who either lack the resources to deploy a full newsgathering team or who were unable to deploy a complete team before the Invasion cut off Beta Canum from direct outside contact.
Ironically, back at the bar the team-players may be more stand-offish than the solos, the team provides a readymade clique, while the bar provides the solos with the companionship they lack while working.
The bar attracts a floating population of hangers-on, ranging from starstruck groupies of Jake Warner, to grifters, to people trying to get attention for their particular story. Padraig Mahoney is fairly relaxed about letting these people hang around, just so long as they don’t cause trouble. Anyone who does cause trouble will soon find that Padraig is every bit as tough as he ever was.
Padraig tried to re-enlist when the Invasion began, but was
rejected as too old. When the Kafer landings actually began he got his
family out of New Middlesex ahead of the bombardment, eventually
finding himself caught up in the retreat up the
Padraig is a genial, somewhat thickset Irishman in his early 60s. He has a liking for his produce, but rarely seems affected by it.
Captain Rebecca Scott
Rebecca Scott was a parliamentary lobbyist and ex-political journalist when the Invasion erupted, she was also a reserve captain in the New African Defence Force, running the Press Liaison Unit out of Defence Force HQ. In the turmoil of the retreat up the Chill Valley she found herself working almost alone to try and keep the NADF Field HQ insulated from the demands of the journalists who had attached themselves to the forces, in some cases officially, in many cases not. Realising that she needed help and that in the current situation she wasn’t going to get it from within the NADF, Rebecca seized on the Mahoneys when she chanced on them within the refugees.
What has developed since is looked on somewhat askance by her superiors, but they recognise that she is managing the press with more success than they can rightly expect and are willing to let her run things her way for as long as her success continues.
Rebecca Scott is a stocky redhead in her late 30s, she is unmarried.
Maria Elena Mahoney
Padraig’s wife, Maria Elena is an Australian from New Canberra who married him early in his career. As the wife of an ex-Red Marine she is very widely travelled on the French Arm and can turn her hand to most things, a facility which has served the Mahoneys well in recent days. Before the Invasion, Maria Elena ran the Brassierie kitchens, a role which resulted in frequent friction with her son, the lead chef, and led to some legendary slanging matches, snatches of which could occasionally be heard by the paying clientele. Fortunately the Brassierie’s cooking never suffered for it.
Maria Elena’s temper means that she is a woman who does not suffer fools gladly and she has a noted ability to nurse a grudge for years. A woman in her late fifties, her jet black hair is now silver-shot, but she has retained a figure most woman would envy in someone half her age.
Padraig and Maria Elena’s son Liam is an award-winning chef reduced to cooking with the most basic of materials and equipment, a task he rises to, if not without much cursing. He is as much his mother’s son as his father’s and has her temper, although not her tendency to nurse a grudge. His wife and young son are with the family, but are rarely seen in the public areas of the Bar and Grill.
Liam has inherited dark colouring from both his parents, his temper is solely his mother’s. He is a tall, powerfully built man in his mid-30s, his father has seen to it that he knows how to look after himself, but he is no soldier.
John Chambers was the war
correspondent’s war correspondent, a solo operator renowned for
covering every clash since the 2nd Rio Plata War with award
winning stories, but the Kafer War is his bridge too far. He is burnt
out and has not been on the front line since the opening days of the
Kafer Landings and the start of the retreat into the
Chambers is in his mid-60s and aging rapidly and badly.
Generally referred to as ‘Looney’ Mooney, Ffion is a second generation war correspondent/photo journalist. Her father attained legendary status with his photo coverage of the Central Asian and 3rd Rio Plata Wars and Ffion appears to be driven to out-do him, having covered the War of German Reunification on Earth and being on Aurore during the initial Kafer attacks in 2298, before relocating to Beta Canum shortly before the Invasion. There is no doubt that she is an artist behind a lens, but she has a reputation for taking insane risks in pursuit of a particular image and is often nursing an injury of some kind. Most seriously, she lost her right arm on Aurore and now flaunts a camera-equipped cyberarm. To the best knowledge of the regulars she has never revealed the actual circumstances of her injury, nor repeated the same story about it twice. The drunker she gets, the wilder are her claims of what happened, and, some suspect, the closer she approaches to the truth.
Ffion is a short, energetic blonde with shaggily cropped hair. She is in her late twenties, but generally acts like someone almost a decade younger. Ffion freelances and only ever operates solo.
Jake Warner is the leading light of the new generation of war correspondents, those with no background in war reporting prior to the Kafer War. Young, tall and handsome, Warner was working as the weatherman on the main evening news show in Bayview before the Kafer assault. Embedded with 79 Armoured Brigade and given a rapid baptism of fire, Warner’s coverage of the retreat up the Chill Valley is thought likely to win him the 2302 Pulitzer and a new series of stories from within the expatriate New African Legions is winning similar plaudits. Warner is perfectly pleasant to talk to, but surprisingly shallow for a journalist gathering the plaudits he does.
Jake is in his mid-20s, a blue-eyed blonde with media-star looks. He left his girlfriend behind in Bayview to take up his reporting role and occasionally wonders if he should have done something to help her in the aftermath of the Invasion, but only occasionally.
If Jake Warner is the rising star of New Africa’s press correspondents, then Sukey Meyer is the woman who put him there. Playing the role of both camerawoman and producer, it is Sukey rather than Warner who finds the stories and structures them for best effect, Warner is simply the pretty face she puts in front of the camera to deliver them, a point he seems unaware of. Formerly the news editor for Bayview Media’s nightly news show, Sukey has an encyclopaedic knowledge of New African personalities and history and reputedly knows where all of the skeletons of New African politics are buried. Certainly she has an ability to get access at the highest levels that has few equals. Half-German, Sukey is fluent in all three mainstream languages on Beta Canum and has cultivated excellent relationships with the exiled forces from the French and German continents.
Sukey is a forty-something media veteran. Her average looks meant that she never got to present the stories, but she was always the brain behind them and she has continued that role here. In many ways, Jake Warner is simply her latest puppet. Sukey is divorced from the former anchorman of her news show, the marriage was childless.
Sayyid Sa’id ibn Abdullah
Sa’id is a Masiran from Wellon employed by the WBC. When 2/Lion of the
An observant Ibadite, Sa’id does not drink alcohol, but is tolerant of those who do. He is a regular in the bar, but restricts his consumption to coffee or fruit juice. Although this is Sa’id’s first war, he is generally regarded as one of the professionals, rather than one of the amateurs.
Sa’id is in his late 20s and has pleasant, if unspectacular looks. He is unmarried, but is in a relationship with Corporal Jennifer Seymour, the Wellon Logistic Corps photographer assigned as his combat cameraman.
Before the Kafer assault, Marianne Beauvoir was a media magnate on the French Continent with a reputation for taking no prisoners. When the Kafers landed her empire disintegrated. Marianne managed to escape to the British continent, but her husband died in Premiere and her daughters and their families are missing. Marianne has put together a minimalist Francophone news network using refugees from the French Continent. She has been fronting this herself as well as acting as producer, but is seeking a professional anchor. Sukey Meyer has beaten off her attempts to seduce away Jake Warner (who speaks passable French) to her service, and Marianne has now turned her attention towards Jean-Francois Lesoldat, so far without success.
Beauvoir has exceptionally good contacts with the Francophone forces, both New African Legion Chasseurs and the various remnant forces from L' Armée Coloniale and has been accused by some of lacking an independent viewpoint. However, the relationship is more bi-directional than this would imply; Beauvoir has influence that extends even into the operational sphere, where she pushes continually for increased focus on Le Continent Français.
Beauvoir is a robust woman in her early sixties and still shows the considerable beauty of her youth.
Jean-Francois Lesoldat is one of the newest arrivals at
Mahoney’s. A tough ex-Foreign Legion
Marianne Beauvoir has set her sights on Lesoldat as an asset for her francophone network, but he is unimpressed by her obvious influence, seeing her as just another powerful figure who wants to exploit his reporting.
Lesoldat is in his early 40s and looks more like a legionnaire than a journalist. He is always heavily armed and works solo.
This article is written for the situation in New Africa in May 2302, after the 1st Liberation and Operation Dynamo Bear, but prior to the 2nd Liberation.
Copyright David Gillon, 2010
06 November 2010