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The Universe, 3029

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D.C.S. Takashima
Black Eclipse discovery site
Great Banded Desert, Nirasaki
February 7, 3029


"...Rebus to Sabre team - request permission to link up with you. I'm here to help."

I glanced quizzically at Sergeant Miles.

"Who?" I asked. Miles shook his head.

"Rebus, your ident is not recognized. Please ad - "

"It's Nathan Schmidt, Captain Maxwell," Marcus Donovan's voice interjected in my headset. "I don't know why he's down there with you, but I can confirm that the Mendacius did observe his disembarkation from the Republic with an asset locating beacon on his person. We have not been able to raise the Republic to obtain the particulars, but what I can tell you is that only the command crew of that ship could have tagged him and outfit him with the equipment he used to get to the planet."

"Look, I know it appears suspect," Nathan's voice replied, "but I'm actually here to resolve the issue with the communications blackout. Major Hayes sent me. The signal is coming from the wreck on a carrier that can't be broken from the Republic. And I'm pretty sure I can locate it. I volunteered to do this, sirs. If this were an attempt at subterfuge, I wouldn't be calling you now. Private Jenkins is also here with me."

I raised an eyebrow. "Jenkins? What's he got to do with any of this? You know what - never mind. Where is 'here?'"

"Well, I"m not exactly sure," Schmidt answered. "I'm outside the hull - somewhere. The radio direction finder is pointing me to a spot 243 meters dead ahead from my current location, so I'm going to go in that direction. I'll read off the coordinates when I get there."

"Alright, we're going to continue on our our current trajectory - to the secondary computer core. I presume you know why we're here. Once we've retrieved the asset, we'll figure out how to rendezvous with you to look into the matter of this signal. And - Nathan - don't try anything cheeky," I acknowledged. "Steve, if you can hear me, keep an eye on him."

"Aye aye, Cap'n Crunch!" Steve responded, gleefully. I shook my head.

Looking toward our prisoner, I tossed a pair of restraint cuffs to Corporal Clemmons. "Here, put these on him."

Sergeant Miles narrowed his eyes at the salvager. "Hey partner, if you wanna run, he enjoys fast food," he growled, pointing at Bishop.

"Alright," I chuckled, "let's move out."


As luck would have it, the intel about the location of the navigation computer had been dead on. Whoever the mysterious benefactor of the encrypted maps had been, they clearly wanted us to find it. Just off the corridor from the site where we'd exited the elevator stood another set of clamshell doors, partially ajar, allowing visibility down into the room beyond. And what a place it was - brimming from wall to wall with banks and banks of computer equipment, bisected by two long rows of server racks. It was obviously intended as a nexus of processing power.

"Bingo, gentlemen. I believe this is what we were looking for," I observed. "Now, the question is, just how full of traps and ambushes is this place gonna be?"

Suddenly, I felt a large form brush past me. It was Bishop's Nighthawk power armor, in which the Lieutenant headed straight to the clamshell doors, grabbing them between two powerful fists, and forcing them apart.

"There's no prey present," Bishop deadpanned.

"I guess that's one way to clear a room," I mused.

"Is your friend alright?" the salvager called out from his position at the rear of the group.

"It'll come back to him," Sergeant Miles quipped.

"Now, to the matter of getting down there without stepping on anything that's going to break," I added, observing that chamber was now oriented downward in such a way that the far wall was the 'floor,' and the floor itself had become a wall, "I don't know exactly what it is that we're looking for, so - "

I was suddenly interrupted by a deafening crash; the sound of an extremely heavy metal object descending into the chamber and crashing into a bank of computers reverberating in my ears. A tremendous amount of dust and smoke rose from the impact site; as it cleared, I saw a black-suited figure in the midst of the wreckage, attempting to stand up. The rev of actuators drew my attention away from the carnage and toward Bishop, who, in an astonishing display of physical agility that very nearly defied physics, had pushed his Nighthawk power armor into a full run, leaping from the clamshell doors and landing precariously on the millimeters-thin frame of one of the server racks that ran the length of the room. With total abandon, Bishop charged toward the intruder, a laser sight trained with deadly precision on their center of mass...

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Black Eclipse Discovery Site
Great Banded Desert, Nirasaki
February 7, 3029


In a millisecond machine and human mind reacted without thought or hesitation. A massive injection of combat stimulates smashed into Bishop’s bloodstream giving his already highly trained body an incredible boost of speed and strength, pushing it beyond all natural limits. 

The suit’s combat computer and already calculated his trajectory and speed before he had jumped. While in flight Bishop had already knew where and with how much force he would land with. All his primitive mind cared about was the kill and the rending of flesh. The  nearly thousand pounds of man and machine landed on the server rack with the agility and softness of a bird. As the monster landed, the suit responded immediately by activating the Active Camouflage cause him to appear as a distortion in the dark air. 

The HUD sent tactical information scrolling past Bishop’s predatory silver eyes. Size, weight, vital signs, weapon’s and equipment. The Skinwalker’s mouth watered....easy kill a machine like voice whispered in the darkness of his mind....protect the pack came another whisper. 

Within seconds the Skinwalker had ran with acrobatic precision down the server rack towards his new prey. Through thermal imaging the large predator vector in on the prey standing in the room. In a surprising turn, something in the prey, training, experience maybe a sixth sense warned the prey of its impending doom...it reacted to the looming monsters approach. Now, just mere yards away from the beast, with a swift and  well rehearsed reaction the prey unholstered a laser pistol and began firing in the direction of Skinwalker. Most of the shots went wide, two hit the Bishop in the chest by chance. The machines armor protected it’s wearer by absorbing the hits and dissipating the energy. 

With a blood freezing howl, the Skinwalker jumped again, this time like a massive gorilla , it grabbed the onto the server rack with one clawed hand and swung down on top of it prey. With it free clawed hand it snatched the prey up the by it tactical vest and shook it violently in mid air causing it to drop the pistol. The beast then brought it up to the it’s wolf like head that was now showing with his active camouflage disabled. He wanted to see the terror in the man’s eyes before he butchered him. 

“Stop!!!” Yelled a commanding voice. 

On pure instinct the Skinwalkers froze, hold it’s struggling, and terrified kill in mid air.  In the deep recesses of Bishop’s mind he recognized the sound of the pack leader.... Captain Maxwell. 

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Moments before...

Steve and I trudged down the Takashima's hull, following the track of the radio direction finder. The sunlight blasted down on us, casting blinding glints of sunlight off the wreckage that made it difficult to see. The temperature was sweltering, and neither of us was wearing a cooling suit. We were sweating profusely - Steve in particular, who also looked like he hadn't slept in days. I knew that if we didn't get inside soon, we'd be at risk of injury from exposure, or even worse.

"How did you get here, anyway? Weren't you up on the Republic?" I asked, trying to make small talk to pass the time and distract myself from the discomfort of the elements. Steve grinned maniacally at me.

"Master Honda slapped me out of my medication to help you!" Steve exclaimed gleefully.

"Uh, your medication? I...don't understand. You were in the CIC messing around with your computer that was on fire, or something." I said, looking over at Steve with a mixture of worry and confusion. "The ship started taking off while you were there. You were screaming."

Steve nodded enthusiastically. "And then I blacked out! I don't remember anything after that until I was in my zen, and then I saw Sensei Ronald, and then there was a pair of barbells, and..."

The radio direction finder started emitting a solid tone. I stopped Steve, mid-sentence.

"This is supposed to be it." I said. I looked around. "I don't see anything...unless it's...underneath us." I added, looking down, kicking a pile of sand out of the way. Below, a large, circular door valve control appeared.

"OH MY GOD!" Steve screamed.

"Oh my god indeed." I agreed. I kneeled down and swept more sand away, revealing a big, square door. "I think this is the X that marks the spot. Come on, let's see if we can get this open."

Steve wandered over and looked at the wheel as I tugged forcefully on it. It wouldn't turn.

"Come on, Steve, I need your help!" I yelled.

"I AM HELPING!!!" Steve screamed. "I'm trying to use my mind powers but it's not working! WHY DOESN'T ANYTHING WORK RIGHT EVER?"

"Um, thanks, I, uh, don't think we probably don't need superpowers for this one. Can you just use your hands?" I asked, pushing sweat off my brow.

"Oh, sure." Steve said, walking over. Bending down, he grabbed hold of the wheel, letting out a guttural yell as he strained with all of his might as I also fought to turn the wheel.

"Come on, Steve, it's starting to move!"

"AAAAAAAAAAAAGGHHH! I AM!" A giant vein bulged out of Steve's forehead, and his face turned beet red. "I MUST SUMMON MY ANCIENT - "

Before I could hear whatever it was that Steve was going to summon, the hatch, without warning, gave way...with me on top of it. The next thing I knew, I was tumbling through the darkness, landing with a colossal crash on top of the now-destroyed hatch door. As I lay there, dazed, I looked up and saw the outline of Steve's figure staring down at me.

"Nate, are you okay?" Steve asked.


A thunderous pounding noise broke my focus. It sounded like there was a huge machine running toward me at an impossible speed. I dragged myself to my feet in time to see a nightmarish sight - a blurry, faintly-glowing outline, distorting the air around it as it moved toward me with extreme speed, while a line of men, all training their flashlights on me, stood off on the distance. 

Thinking fast, I whipped out the low-powered laser pistol that Major Hayes had entrusted to me. Setting it on the maximum output it could achieve, I fired randomly at the distortion, hoping I would hit something important. Two of the shots seemed to hit, sending ripples of red out from their impact sites, but it didn't stop the thing's approach. Then, I heard a blood-curdling howl, and the distortion came down at me, grabbing me by the vest and hoisting me up in the air, shaking me like a rag doll, so hard that I lost my grip on the laser pistol as I tottered on the edge of unconsciousness. The shaking stopped, and I was thrust forward again, face to face with a sight I couldn't believe I was seeing...the head of a wolf, eyes aglow. Instinctively, I let out a yell of terror, pushing back against the monster, as it drew its claw back to strike, when all of a sudden....


The monster froze, as the sound of a crisp, Canadian-accented voice with a military bearing echoed through the chamber, a deafening silence following in its wake. I turned my head to see a man in a full MechWarrior combat suit, with a large assault rifle, descending into the server room.

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"STOP!" I cried out, taking hold of the edge of one of the computer racks within reach and using it to perform a controlled fall into the closest row of server cabinets. Training my MP-20s flashlight on the figure that Bishop held aloft, I advanced forward, recognizing the general facial characteristics and physical appearance of his captive from a briefing photo I'd seen during our initial mission debrief several days ago. It was Nathan Schmidt.

As I drew nearer to Bishop, I could hear the Lieutenant's heavy, enraged breathing hissing from within the wolf helmet, his shoulders rising and falling as he stared, frozen, at Schmidt, an occasional snarl escaping his lips. The tension radiating from the armored man was palpable. It was as though an avalanche was being held back by a single stone, behind which was an orgy of violence and carnage waiting to be unleashed at the slightest provocation. There was something deeply unsettled about the condition in which Bishop Weyland had been returned to us. 

What happened to you? I wondered to myself as I, cautiously, drew alongside the Lieutenant.

"Thank you, Bishop. You can set him down. That's Nathan Schmidt. As I understand it, you two have some...passing familiarity...with one another. He's here to help us, or so I'm told."

Bishop looked toward me, the wolf's eyes alight with an infrared glow. Then, he turned back toward Nathan, who hung helplessly in the air. As I waited pensively to see if my words would break through the Lieutenant's primal fury, I heard a distant voice wafting from far above.

"Hi, Captain Maxwell! Everyone looks like ants from up here!"

It was Steve Jenkins, apparently unharmed.

"That's...very good, Steve."

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It had took place in an instant. First I was up on the roof with Nate, and him and me were trying to crack open the locked door on the TAKASHIMA, and the next thing I knew, Nate had went screaming down into the dark cold ship and almost got killed. I felt so much Dishonor, as his lawyer it was my Pact to keep him safe and I had failed. No Book, no Nate, everything was such a failure. 

But then I saw Nate was trying to get up, which Held off my feeling of sickness from the dishonor. I really fast yelled to Nate. 


"YES I'M FINE STEVE, I, AAAAAAAAAAGGGHH!" Nate screamed as a huge monster carried him off. "OH NO" I screamed and got out my shruikens. I never carried guns, but I always had a martial art tool on me. I threw the ninja stars at the monster. No effect. I threw my nunchucks at the monster. Still no effect. Then the monster went all blurry and acted like it wAs going maim Nate! 

'NOOOOOOOOIIIIIII"I Screamed, at the same time I heard somebody say "STOP!"

I looked around, and there was Captain Maxwell. To get his attention, I yelled "Hi, Captain Maxwell! Everyone looks like ants from up here!"

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Aboard Black OPs DMI DroST IVc-class Dropship Gorgon
Enroute to GJ 3634c dwarf planet
Pokhara System, Kurita space near Davion border
February 8, 3029

It had been 3 days since the Lithe Fox, a DMI Scout-class jumpship, had folded itself, and us along with it, back into normal space at the Nadir jump point of a long forgotten star system. At the time I wasn't even aware of what system we had even jumped into, or from for that matter, I wasn't exactly very high up on the need-to-know list on this vessel, not that I particularly cared. I did know that at one point in the past 2 months we had been on Errai where we collected some dubious information regarding a lost Star League ship that some, less than reputable, traders supposedly saw somewhere near the edge of Kuritan space. There were alot of those rumours going around lately, ever since the Helm Memory Core was discovered last year there had been a massive boom in both the interest in and the rumours about lost Star League tech. I'd heard everything from rumours of a fully intact Star League era warship patrolling the space around Terra to whisperings of a fully functional Star League manufacturing plant existing on Hall or Outreach, I'd even heard the outlandish claim that the Star League had created a fully automated AI controlled warship that was now lying derelict somewhere in Kurita space. A few years ago I wouldn't have paid any attention to the rumours of long lost Star League tech, it was a dream with no chance of becoming real I had thought, just a sinkhole for people with more money than brains or so desperate it didn't make a difference. But between my recent work with Interstellar Expeditions and the now public discovery of the Helm Memory Core I had to consider that it was indeed possible to come out ahead in the search for lost Star League tech. My new opinion aside, I wasn't exactly thrilled about my current situation however, yes we were on our way to possibly find and recover an artifact that could be considered the pinnacle of Star League technology, a Warship, I didn't actually choose to join this mission, nor did I have a choice. For all intents and purposes I was essentially a prisoner to the DMI, Davion Intelligence, in all but name. A prisoner granted access to cutting edge technology, one of a kind prototypes, and not a shackle or bar in sight, but a prisoner all the same. Back in November of 3028 the mercenary unit I was part of took part in a potential salvage operation for Interstellar Expeditions where we were tasked with recovering anything related to the Star League that we could find on the planet Myrvoll, instead of getting anything useful we found a bunch of old documents on rations and TO&E of long gone equipment in a long abandonned base. The one interesting thing we did find was a secret ComStar listening post, which lead directly to my current predicament. See, ComStar didn't take too kindly to us finding their secret base and so they decided to send their spooks after us to kill us, and they nearly succeeded. As a result we had to get help from the last place I wanted to, we needed someone with enough power to openly, and covertly, challenge ComStar if it came down to it and it just so happened that I had a brother working relatively high up within the Federated Suns' Department of Military Intelligence, and the fact that we had a bad falling out a few years back had to be put aside since our lives were literally on the line. After narrowly escaping our first of what would surely be many encounters with ComStar ROM agents, provided we lived that is, we quickly made our way to Aldebaran in the newly conquered Davion space in order to reach out to my estranged brother for help. Somewhat eerily and both surprisingly and unsurprisingly, Johnathan responded immediately and quickly met up with us and was quick to provide us with the protection we needed, for a price of course. I had to agree to work with him as "specialist" DMI agent, no questions asked and no choice in the matter, in addition to our mercenary unit BeoWulf's Knights being disbanded and absorbed as a "House unit" for 2 years. No one was happy about it, least of all Mikhala and Jess after all the work they had done to get the unit established and sustainable, but we didn't have much of a choice, it was either that or risk being killed by ComStar spooks at any time, in any place, in the end we all wanted to live.

Gravity returned, as did the noise of the fusion engines firing, and put an end to my reminiscing as the comfortable pressure of 1G of acceleration settled me into my jump seat. The specialty DroST IVc dropship had just completed its transition from accelerating towards our destination to decelerating for the last half of the journey. Being strapped into the jump seat was by no means necessary for the transition as there was only a few moments of weightlessness as the ship spun around 180° and fired up its transit engines again to slow down safely at our target. I was well accustomed to working in zero-G environments but I was tired today and just couldn't be bothered so I strapped in instead. With the risk of floating off to the ceiling before crashing down to floor removed I got up and started making my way down towards one the ship's two large cargo bays, I was due for yet another round of training in my new equipment this afternoon and you did not want to be late on Leftenant Isla, or Sergeant Major Emma for that matter. The DMI agents I was working with were thorough with their training if nothing else.

I reached the upper cargo bay in less than 5 mins, with what I thought was plenty of time, only to find both Leftenant Isla Cricton and Sergenat Major Emma Godaschke waiting pointendly near the entrance. Before I could even start raising my hand in greeting they checked their time pieces and then sighed in unison at me.

"You're late again Guardian," stated Emma, using my rank to keep things formal and to demean me by reminding me that she not only outranked me but that I was an outsider too, "you were told 13:00 sharp this morning."

"It's only 12:58, I still have two minutes," I said without thinking while checking my own watch. Fuck, I'm going to pay for that I thought.

"Deal with him," sighed Leftenant Isla, not even bothering to acknowledge my presence before walking past me and deeper into the ship.

"Yes Ma'am," replied Emma before turning to me, "You heard her. Suit up, you've got cargo to move and if you don't get it and your training done in time you'll be on latrine duty, again."

This time I managed to bite my tongue and just nodded a curt, "Yes ma'am." I'd find out what redundant cargo moving they had for me this time once I was in the exoskeleton suit.

Speaking of, that was the one thing about this mission that actually had my interest, in a somewhat bizarre and very unusual twist of fate this particular DMI unit was assigned as testers for a new prototype combat exoskeleton suit that I was somehow "uniquely qualified" for, doubly strange was that not a single member of the actual DMI unit wanted anything to do with the suit but they were perfectly happy with strapping me in it anytime. I know I was officially introduced and listed as being a "specialist" with the sole purpose of performing combat and other tests on the exoskeleton suit's capabilities, both on and off the battlefield, but it still struck me as odd with how comfortable they seemed about an outsider getting essentially unfettered access to prototype gear the NAIS boys dreamed up. They definitely took it upon themselves to remind me how much I was an outsider every opportunity they could. The suit itself almost completely made up for all the slights and mistreatment though, and if it meant getting to pilot it some more I could put up with the disdain and outright dislike.

The exoskeleton itself was built around a fairly standard frame, it was a typical industrial based framework designed from the start for hostile environments, and therefore offering better innate coverage than a regular exoskeleton, but it was built with military grade materials and with military grade precision. The integral extended life support system fully encapsulates the exoskeleton in a pressurized shell that allows 24 hour operation in any environment, and then 125kg of heavily modified BattleMech grade armour is fitted over top everything else. The suit looks bulky as can be, and it's no surprise that the Covert Ops guys want nothing to do with this very clearly NOT covert suit. The shoulders are overly large and pronounced and house a spotlight and a large Support PPC power pack encased in the left and right shoulder armour respectively. The power pack is modified to properly fit and allows either connection to the suit itself or a support weapon with the main external power cable or else three standard devices could be powered from the retractable standard power cables stored in the side of the power pack, the other 3 standard cables normally used are inaccessible due to the shoulder pauldron design and the mounting location. The spotlight appears integrated directly into the armour itself and allows for only small adjustments to either side, roughly 90° total centered on directly ahead. The left arm has large cutting torch on an articulated mount attached to the forearm while the right arm houses a universal Anit-Personnel/Squad Support weapon mount allowing the suit's main weaponry to be changed out between missions. The legs of the exoskeleton are also fully armoured and contain magnetic soles in the boots to ensure stability if used on the exterior of a ship or in other zero-G or low-G environments. On the back of the suit, above the cylinderical housing which contains the extended life support system, sits an armoured compartment reminiscent of a backpack used for mission specific equipment that can be stored internally or externally on universal mounting points. The entire suit had the look and feel of a military prototype, there were no soft curves, no smooth surfaces that weren't needed, everything was sharp angles and hard edges and it was beautiful in its simplicity.

A few minutes later I was fully enclosed within the armoured exoskeleton, which I could now do without help after having trained daily with the suit over the past couple months, and ran through what was now a routine startup procedure involving voice authentication and testing limb movement before fully releasing the safeties and gaining full control. Once in complete control I spent the next 2 hours using the 400kg exoskeleton to needlessly move cargo from one side of the bay to the other in "punishment" for my earlier "outburst", after that I moved on to my regular training routine running through maneuvers and practice drills testing the limits of the machine under the artificial gravity afforded by our deceleration. The exoskeleton was surprisingly agile for being a prototype, even with its military origins, and offered virtually full range of motion for the user, greatly improved over the industrial counterpart it was modelled on. Several hours later I had managed to run through my mandatory training regime, and by working through any breaks I might have normally taken I managed to get finished in time to avoid latrine duty this time.

Two days later I was finally briefed on what our current mission was, at least as far as my role in it. The intel we had gathered up to this point indicated that there was a high possibility of a derelict Star League era warship, believed to be a Pinto-class corvette, floating forgotten in a system that was apparently rediscovered only recently by smugglers and traders using old jump points just before the 4th Succession War started. The system was just within the edges of Kuritan space and apparently the DMI had decided it was worth checking out just in case there was some truth to the rumours, and they couldn't allow that kind of technology to fall into the Draconis Combine's hands. The system, I was told, is the Pokhara system and it was abandonned sometime between the 2nd and 3rd Succession Wars and subsequently fell off the map, it contains 4 major planetary bodies and we were currently enroute to what appeared to be the outermost planet system which actually consisted of a dwarf planet tidally locked to a large moon with a second small moon orbiting around the larger pair. Initial scans showed nothing of promise but we had reason to believe that the wreckage could be hidden within this planetary body or the nearby asteroids, combined with some unusual anomolies in the scans gave some hope to the mission not being a complete bust. Our job would be to find any sizeable wreckage or derelict and assess its salvage potential, if there was any chance of retrieval we were to secure the derelict and commence salvage operations while a full salvage team waited in a nearby system if needed. Why a full DMI special forces squad was required for this particular job was never explained to me, though I assumed it had to do with being in Kuritan space and the potential to run into pirates or even Kuritan forces that likely had also heard to same rumours.

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D.C.S. Takashima
Black Eclipse discovery site
Great Banded Desert, Nirasaki
February 7, 3029

As I hung frozen in the air, still in the clutches of the monster's grasp, my eyes widened at the situation I was now faced with. Holding me in his powerful grip was evidently Bishop Weyland, dressed head to toe in the most terrifying power armor rig I'd ever seen. Though we'd never met face to face before, I knew from intelligence that I'd lifted from the Half Moon's computer that he was a new hire to the Crayven Corporation, and that he'd been aboard the vessel when I'd betrayed its passengers and crew. The other individual, standing at Bishop's side and trying to talk him down or something, was Charles Maxwell, whose mercenary unit I had also betrayed on the battlefield just days prior. Not an enviable situation. I wasn't sure how to navigate it. Finally, I just decided to talk. 

"Bishop? Is that you? I didn't recognize you under all that gear." But the Sergeant did not seem impressed.

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Oberon Confederation, 3015

King Hendrik Grimm III floated in the near-weightless environment of the drop shuttle as it slowly and deliberately made a final approach toward the labyrinthine scaffold in geosynchronous orbit of Oberon IV's night side. I watched over the shoulder of my decadently-dressed host, squinting to make out what, exactly, it was that the regent wanted to show me - he'd been outlandishly evasive about the subject, while simultaneously barely able to contain his enthusiasm about whatever it was. 

"I must say, Your Majesty," I began attempting small talk, "'secret space stations were not on my shortlist of possible scenarios I anticipated encountering on this trip. What is all of this for?" 

Hendrik hesitated with anticipation, as though he were waiting for just the right moment to speak. At length, he gestured toward a large, ominous silhouette within the scaffold, which began to resolve into a cohesive form as we drew nearer.

"That," the king announced dramatically, "is what."

"Blake's blood..." I whispered as I beheld the scene. There, before us, growing larger as we approached, was the unmistakable form of a Samarkand Block I-class WarShip, its looming, battered hull showing the scars of multiple engagements and several centuries worth of neglect. Though in a significant state of disrepair, I knew from my history books that this type of vessel made for a formidable aerospace carrier, troop transport, orbit-to-surface fire support platform, and escort ship, and it was now in the hands of a bandit kingdom.

"You like the art, right?" Hendrik chuckled, elbowing me in the ribs and cackling as he produced a can of tobacco chew.

"Like what art, Your Highness?" I asked, barely masking the total confusion in my voice.

"The nose art, William! I designed it myself," the king enthused, gesturing along the length of the vessel as it came into view. It was only then that I realized that the entire flank of the cruiser had been painted to resemble a giant phallus.

"Oh god," I whispered.

"Fuckin' the enemy, man! That's how we roll!" Hendrik exclaimed.

"Can you please give me some context for what all of this is about?" I implored, as the regent engaged in a series of mocking pelvic thrusts.

"Yeah, yeah, yeah," Hendrik acknowledged. "So we found this ship adrift near the Kuritan border during a raid last month. We were able to tow it back here and board it. The crew had been dead for eons. Apparently, their life support system failed, and their lives were soon to do the same thing. There's fighters in the bays, munitions on board, and likely much lost information locked within its computers that could make anyone rich."

"And you'd like to salvage as much as you can from the ship, correct?" I inquired. 

"SALVAGE it?" Hendrik responded with disbelief. "NO - I want you to help us get this vessel back online so that we can begin to use it to assert and defend ourselves! This ship is a veritable Swiss Army knife of tactical options, and I intend to use it. Your expertise in these matters is why you are here."

"All right," I responded, at length. "Let's start with a basic survey."

And I hope to Blake that this work is done and behind me before you go and start terrorizing your neighbors... I thought to myself.

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D.C.S. Takashima
Black Eclipse discovery site
Great Banded Desert, Nirasaki
February 7, 3029

I glanced back and forth between Nathan and Bishop. Though the Lieutenant hadn't made any more menacing moves to suggest that he intended to kill the Lyran, he also hadn't set him down yet. Instead, Bishop stood, frozen, holding the young man aloft, presumably glaring at him deeply, though I couldn't be sure what was actually transpiring behind his mask.

"Is my client okay?" a distant voice asked. I glanced toward the 'ceiling,' noting that Steve Jenkins was again peering down toward us.

"Your what?" I asked, baffled.

"My client. I'm his Legal Representation," Steve responded, proudly. I cast Jenkins a confused expression.

"You're a MechWarrior - how - and why - are you...you know what, we can talk about this later. See if you can find a way to get down here; you're gonna die of exposure out there," I replied, looking back at Weyland. The towering, power-armored man gave no indication that he was even cognizant of my presence. Slowly, I reached out, and placed my hand on his raised forearm, gently pressing down. Bishop's head turned toward me, his grip on Nathan relaxing slightly and lowering the Lyran to the ground. As the man's feet touched the deck, the Lieutenant snapped his gaze back toward Schmidt again, holding him firmly for another fleeting moment before depositing him unceremoniously on the ground. Nathan stumbled momentarily, regaining his balance and looking toward me.

"Thank you, uh, Captain - Maxwell?" he asked, reading the name tape on my combat suit.

"That's correct, Mister Schmidt. Welcome to the Takashima," I answered.

I cast Bishop another glance. "I get the sense you and this guy know each other."

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Posted (edited)

Aboard Black OPs DMI DroST IVc-class Dropship Gorgon
In orbit around GJ 3634c dwarf planet
Pokhara System, Kurita space near Davion border
February 11, 3029
The retro thrusters fired sporadically and the cold blue glow of the idling planetary transit drives reflected off nearby debris as the dropship made its slow circle around the outer edges of a prominent debris field. Time had not been kind to whatever had been left after a fight in this system a couple hundred years ago, between solar radiation and gravity itself there wasn't much left that was identifiable, let alone salvageable. Had I been able to see outside I might have been able to appreciate the somewhat surreal beauty of the massive cloud of debris floating in space almost suspended between the dwarf planet and its tidally locked binary partner, a moon that was nearly 20% the mass of the dwarf planet itself. From our current position I would have been able to see the planet's second moon in orbit at twice the distance away reflecting the dull red glow of the Pokhara system's class M2V red dwarf star, as we searched seemingly futilely for something worthwhile to salvage. As we once again passed over the debris cloud, the dropship's thrusters adjusting our orbit with finely tuned precision, the bridge crew assumedly were performing various scans to see if there was anything of note amongst the twisted remains of what was once most likely a powerful warship of a bygone era. I was currently strapped into a jumpseat in one of the Gorgon's cargo holds, along with the rest of the DMI special forces platoon, as per the order by the captain roughly an hour ago. We had arrived at the planetary system some time before that but had been ordered to get strapped in as they moved the dropship into the outer edges of the debris field, now operating in zero-g with the main transit drive only idling it could be disasterous if sudden evasive maneouvers were required and someone wasn't properly anchored in the zero-g environment. A sudden shift in momentum within the cargo bay indicated one of those maneouvers was likely happening now, although the steady acceleration that followed indicated we might just be moving to a new location instead. Again if I could have seen outside, or known what was going on on the bridge, I would have been aware that they had detected a much larger piece of debris in a synchronous orbit with the moon on its far side and we were now on our way to investigate what was currently our best lead.

As the Gorgon rounded the moon a large almost spherical silhouette emerged from behind the moon, currently cast in complete shadow by the planet, the dropship crew had to stop the ship short though as the density of the debris cloud surrounding what was potentially an intact vessel was too high to safely navigate with a large vessel. Instead they settled into a similar orbit in order to remain at the same location, relative to the wreck, while smaller craft was taken in to investigate the vessel closer.

"So it looks like we actually found something," began Johnathan "JJ" Jaegar, "Captain said there's a derelict out there for us to investigate but it's not a Warship. It appears to be an old Pentagon-class Assault dropship, it's clearly taken some major damage but we are to board it, assess the damage and see what can be salvaged. The debris field surrounding the vessel is too dense to safely navigate unnecessarily with the Gorgon itself so instead we're taking the CT(S) VTOL in for a closer look and to board it. Everyone is going on the VTOL but only Rook squad will be boarding at first, they will assess the initial area for damage and if safe to do so we'll proceed from there. Castle and Archer squads will of course be prepped and ready to go should Rook require any assistance."

"This is a derelict ship, and it's highly unlikely that anything on board will be working however we're still going to treat it as a standard boarding operation," continued Leena Sykora, Captain of the Grail Lords and in joint command with JJ on this operation, "That means Rook squad will breach the hull and establish a beachhead within the vessel before Archer squad will be deployed to secure it. Castle can deploy once a secure location is established and Rook will proceed towards engineering and any other targets of opportunity that might come up. The goal is to secure the entire vessel and begin salvage operations, if possible we want to bring the main reactors back online and restore power, that'll make it much easier to assess the overall state of the wreck and determine if we can actually recover the derelict or if we have to scrap it piece by piece. Once power, and hopefully life support, is restored we can bring in a full salvage crew and if needed the DMI has provided us access to a salvage ship waiting in a nearby system. As a side note, we are still instructed to test the 'Project Golem' combat exoskeleton in any of our missions."

A slight pause as Captain Sykora looked over everyone assembled before locking eyes with me, "Guardian Orlex, that means you get to join Rook squad and assist with the breaching of the vessel and intial salvage attempts, as well as any other testing or situations we deem necessary to complete that aspect of our mission. Let's hope your training hasn't been wasted. Alright everyone, I want you suited up and on board the CT(S) in 10."

With that the cargo hold exploded into activity as various deckhands as well as all the members of the Grail Lords moved to get ready within the zero-g environment of the hold. The CT(S), or its full title of Combat Transport (Space), was a superheavy VTOL that was environmentally sealed for operations in space, or any other hostile environment, and had somewhat uncommon fusion powered vectored thrusters as opposed to traditional rotors which allowed it to operate without an atmosphere. It carried an unusually large amount of armour for a VTOL and did not suffer the usual VTOL vulnerability, due to the lack of rotors, but was still susceptible to a critical hit taking out its engines with relative ease. The CT(S) carried 4 medium lasers mounted on the fixed portions of the left and right wings along with a large calibre machinegun on a turret under the body, it also had a 4 ton infantry bay in the back along with room for an additional 2 tons of cargo. All in all the CT(S) VTOL was a tough little transport perfect for delivering troops in any combat environment and safely extracting them once their mission was complete.

10 minutes later the Grail Lords were all suited up in various combat capable space suits and were strapped into the infantry bay of the CT(S) with all the various gear we would need securely stored. I myself was inside the combat exoskeleton suit, which everyone was starting to just refer to as The Golem, for better or worse, and strapped to the wall like cargo, with the magnetic clamps in the feet engaged as well. Nobody wanted the 400kg exoskeleton coming loose and smashing around inside the infantry bay even if it was zero-g, myself included. A few minutes later and the deckhands had finished the final checks to clear us for launch and everyone had vacated the vehicle bay to allow us to safely depressurize the hold and deploy into space. The klaxon warning sirens faded as the bay depressurized and a moment later the fusion engines of the VTOL lifted us from the deck and propelled us out into the void of space. The pilot had to be careful to not fly too fast as some of the debris surrounding the derelict was difficult to see at best and several last minute course corrections made me glad I was so securely tied down. The familiar electric hum of capacitors discharging and recharging somewhere in the hull indicated to me that the pilot was also using the lasers to clear a path when necessary even without looking into the cockpit to see it, a feat I would have trouble managing even if I wanted to due to limitations of the exoskeleton.

The CT(S) weaved its way through the worst of the debris and the final approach towards the derelict vessel was relatively smooth. As the searchlights on the VTOL played across the ship the extent of damage came into clear view and the pilot let out a long low whistle as I heard JJ saying "Damn..." not quite under his breath. The entire port side of the Pentagon was gone, and I don't mean destroyed, it was gone completely. It looked like someone had just carved a chunk right out of the vessel, clearly the ship had taken some direct fire from Capital class weaponry, that was the only thing we could think of capable of that kind of damage. That meant that at least one side in this battle had a Warship though it didn't look like we would be finding enough of one to be meaningful at this point. The gouge carved into the Pentagon's side cut deep into the internals of the ship and the skeletal remains of the several decks could be seen as the CT(S)'s lights played over them, it was clear the ship would have explosively decompressed at this point and that would explain why the vessel was still as intact as it was and not blown into pieces, there was no surviving that hit.

"How's that look over there?" asked JJ to someone in the cockpit.

"Looks as good as any place to me," responded Leena.

"Yes sir, ma'am, that should do nicely. There's nothing stable enough that I can see to land on, but we can get nice and close in that ... alcove let's call it, and limit the distance you'll have to traverse in open space. Also looks like I should be able to anchor this bird in the vicinity and we'll have some protection provided by the derelict's own superstructure," came the pilot's own assessment.

The sound of boots on metal and a second later both Captains floated past me back towards the VTOL's cargo doors before landing smoothly at the front of the platoon. Keying their headsets to make sure that everyone could hear them they gave us a final brief before we launched into the salvage operation.

"... but there's nothing stable enough to actually land on, so we've moved into the best position we can and we'll be deploying in complete zero-g. Orlex, since The Golem isn't exactly designed for zero-g maneouvers you'll be escorted by Bill and Vincent to assist you with reaching our entry point. You'll then be on point to breach the vessel and Rook squad will follow you in."

With the cockpit sealed, the main hatch door slowly lowered after the infantry bay was depressured and the vast blackness of space was laid out before us. The spotlights on the CT(S) provided somewhat limited and localised light highlighting the damaged deck we were using to enter the derelict, the gaping maw of what should have been the inside of the vessel filled most of my view as I disengaged the magnetic foot clamps and pushed forward to drift into the void. On either side of the me were the two engineers currently assigned to Rook squad that had been designated to assist me with the crossing, their suits had built in retrojets to allow for zero-g movement, an ability the exoskeleton was decidely lacking. There supposedly was an external maneouver pack that was being worked on at NAIS but that did very little to help me here and now, thankfully the three of us made the crossing from the VTOL to the derelict without incident and I was glad to have the magnetic clamps on the suit's feet firmly attached to ferrosteel again. In the odd silence of space I made my way slowly along the section of deck we landed on until I was far enough into the ship's exposed internals to properly orientate myself with the derelict's position, realizing we were actually upside down at the moment I reached out and grabbed onto a steel bar jutting out from the wall and in one smooth motion disengaged the mangetic clamps, swung myself 180° in the passage way and re-engaged the clamps on what was the proper floor. Behind me the rest of Rook squad also re-orientated themselves as they got close enough to the derelict to actually be considered inside now. With the squad successfully inserted the CT(S) pulled back to a safe distance to wait for us to officially breach the vessel and establish our entry point. 

About 20 feet into the exposed hallway we found a badly damaged but still sealed bulkhead that must have closed shortly after the ship was fatally wounded. We had no way of knowing if the section on the other side was still pressurized and the blast door itself wouldn't have been operable even if the power was still on. As such, Rook squad secured themselves along one side of the hallway while I used the exoskeleton's large cutting torch to gently break the seal on the door and started prying the bulkhead open. There was no blast of air or any other indication that the blast door had actually been successful all those years ago when it activated as the laser torch melted through the thick slab of steel and within minutes I managed to cut open and pry one half of the bulkhead far enough open to easily pass through with the exoskeleton, and by extension the rest of Rook squad as well. I toggled the mounted spotlight in The Golem's left shoulder on as I stepped through into the inky blackness of the derelict Pentagon's proper interior, the light flooding down the corridor and showing ancient signs of severe damage consistent with explosive decompression, apparently the blast door had failed or was too late in its activation. Sections of the corridor seemed like it tried to collapse in on itself while others appeared to have almost blown out the walls, neither of which fully occured but ended up giving the corridor a weird undulating wave punctuated by destroyed panels and the occasional ceiling strut or floor panel sticking out at odd angles. I moved further into the wreck, the echo of the exoskeleton's heavy footfalls only audible to myself as I tread carefully amongst the debris covered floor.

Toggling the comm I half joked, "Well this looks promising," to my squad.

"Well at least it's enclosed," replied Ross, one of the squad's support weapon specialists.

"What's the matter Ross, don't like the cold vacuum of space?" teased Melina, another support weapon specialist.

"I think he's afraid of the dark now Melina," said Dave in what used to be a British accent, he was the squad's third and final support weapon specialist. Between the three of them they carried a semi-portable PPC and power pack for this mission, though why we thought we would need that kind of firepower I didn't know.

"Oh F*ck off you two, for Blake's sake it's always the same with you guys," answered Ross in a somewhat jovial manner.

"Alright, cut the chatter unless you have something useful to say," came the stern voice of Leftenant Isla over the comm before she toggled open the command channel as well, "Rook-1 to Castle, we're inside the vessel. She took some serious damage in here but so far it's intact. We're moving deeper into the ship, assuming these old maps we have of a Pentagon-class dropship are accurate we should be near an emergency power station. We'll see what kind of state it's in and report in then."

"Orlex, you're on point. Take the next two lefts and then go right, let's see where we end up. Everyone, move out."

As one the squad moved further into the wreck, we took the first left but that corridor ended abruptly at a dead end where it looked like the ceiling and floor had been pinched together. After two detours and three more collapsed or otherwise impassible corridors Leftenant Isla made the call to abandon getting to that emergency power station and instead had us make our way towards a nearby engineering station that was one deck down and a few corridors towards the ship's dorsal side. If the room was still intact and sealable the plan was to setup a temporary base there from which to explore the vessel from.

Edited by Orlex Jaeger
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