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The Universe, 3028

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Elsewhere...

Lorenzopolis, Triasha
Kimball II, Lyran Commonwealth
November 19, 3028
_________________________

With the Assassin soundly dispatched, I turned my weapons on the trifecta of tanks which were advancing on Dutch McKenzie and Alexander Blackwood. The former was holding his own quite well in spite of the numbers; the latter had taken quite a few hits and was attempting a slow backwards retreat toward the PhoodCo tower, which glistened in the morning dawn less than half a kilometer away to the south. The two Bulldogs and the Sturmfeur hammered away at the pair, blasting away critical chunks of armor and leaving internal components exposed as I stomped toward the engagement.

Locking my weapons squarely on the SturmfeurI opened fire, loosing twin PPC bolts and twin beams of medium laser fire into the rear of the tank. Superheated armor slagged off the stern of the tracked unit as my BattleMech's heat indicator rose into the red and temperature warnings wailed. A wave of heat rolled through the cockpit as the Sturmfeur swung its turret 180 degrees to face me, loosing eight short-range missiles and a hail of machine gun fire at point-blank range. My Marauder was buffeted severely as the rounds exploded across its torso, but I was able to keep the machine on its feet. I responded with a retort from my large laser, quickly venting a liberal amount of coolant to bring the 'Mech's operating temperature to a safer threshold and prevent it from automatically shutting down under the load I was imposing on it. The laser round flew wide, striking the Sturmfeur's right tread, blowing it off its tracks and effectively immobilizing the armored unit. The tank fired again, its missiles having little effect at such close range and its machine guns too weak to punch through the armor my 75-ton avatar carried.

As I leveled my scope on the tank to deliver another blast of PPC fire into its turret, a frantic transmission crackled across my headset.

"Mothership-1 to Hammer and Sabre detachments - we've had a crash over here. When we broke through the defense line, we overshot the pavement and ended up in some trees just outside the PhoodCo courtyard. The staging area is clear over here, but the truck is out of commission. We need Mothership-2 over here before we can complete the extraction."

"Copy that, Mothership-2," Charles' voice replied. "Hammer-3, can you run point for Mothership-2?"

After a brief pause, the voice of Steve Jenkins cut across the comms, the screech of an ancient cassette tape playing 'We Are The Champions' in the background nearly drowning out his words.

"You got it! I'll see what I can do!"

Almost immediately after the transmission ended, the Sturmfeur was consumed in a hellish conflagration as Maxwell's King Crab stomped into view, followed by Steve Jenkins's Dragon and Mothership-2.

"There ya go, kid - I cleared a path for you!" Charles exclaimed, breaking away from the loose formation and allowing the Dragon and APC to pass by. "Now, let's put down those Bulldogs and buy our extraction team some time."

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Posted (edited)

Meanwhile...

C.S.V. Mendacius
In transit to Galatea jump point
November 22, 3028

____________________________

"Observations," I clarified, picking up my glass and chasing the smokey flavor of the tenderloin with a tart splash of wine. I held the flavor of the grapes' tannin on my tongue for several seconds, savoring the earthy, euphoric bouquet before swallowing it down. Bishop raised an inquisitive eyebrow. I was developing a true respect for the man's boldness and resilience. Other men would have avoided me after the bad foot we'd gotten off to. Not so with Weyland. The man was persistent.

"You are a man of principles. Your folio suggests a loyalty to your employers to almost a fanatic degree. You understand who is paying your salary and who is going to have your back when a situation turns ugly," I continued, pointedly.

"That's almost correct," my guest replied. "I understand who is paying my salary and I stick to the terms of the contract in the hope that my client will have my back when shit hits the fan. But I also know when to cut my losses."

"A fair and balanced approach," I replied. I speared a carrot on my fork, studying the vegetable overtly before eating it. After a few thoughtful seconds, I continued.

"Exactly how far does that loyalty extend? At what point does it intersect with your ethical compass, assuming, of course, that you have one?"

Weyland furrowed his brow, picking up one of the beer steins he'd brought with him, and taking a copious swig. "I suppose that's a call that needs to be made on a case-by-case basis. If you're talking about murdering babies or some depraved shit like that..."

"No, no, no, nothing so callous," I replied. "I'm speaking in hypotheticals, of course. We deal in gray areas frequently."

"You mean like running courier for both sides of a conflict?" Bishop asked.

"That's one example. But you haven't joined a courier company. The Crayven Corporation is involved in much more than simple logistics," I answered. 

"Like what? Knowing exactly what I've actually gotten myself into might help me define a better answer to your question." Weyland stabbed at his prime rib, engrossing himself in the vitctuals like a man who hadn't eaten properly in ages. I watched the carnage play out momentarily before replying.

"Gene editing. Technological recovery and re-purposing. A healthy amount of espionage. Small, medium, and heavy arms development. WMD research - "

"WMDs?" Weyland interjected. "That might be one of my 'ethical dilemmas.'"

"It's research only," I replied. "A virus isn't nearly as profitable as its cure. We can't defend against the bomb if we don't understand how it works."

"Yeah, well, as long as your subjects are consenting adults..." Bishop quipped.

"We're also seeking to add a dedicated security detail for our Interstellar Operations foray, which I understand you've been briefed on. We haven't found the right mercenary outfit to purchase yet, but we're looking."

"Purchase?" Weyland asked. "Why not just roll your own?"

"General Kauffman doesn't want to deal with the complexities of starting one in-house. A unit that's already been established, has a favorable MRB rating, and a competent, experienced staff is a preferable acquisition," I answered.

"Huh. Okay. I'll keep my ear out for one," Bishop chuckled, returning his attention to his food again. I took the opportunity to finish my glass of wine, setting the stemware down with a flourish and leaning back in my chair.

"So. Back to the matter at hand. To what extent does your allegiance hold?" I pressed.

"I put my name on that contract. That's my promise to you until the situation gets untenable." Weyland deadpanned, taking another swig of beer.

"I appreciate your frankness," I nodded. "I would honestly have been less convinced of your reliability if you said you were loyal to the ends of the earth."

"And I'd think you were blowing smoke if you told me that the Crayven Corporation was going to take up for me no matter what," the burly man laughed.

"Good. We understand each other well. Which is important, because I've just learned that we have a mole in our midst - one that has compromised the intelligence of the exact assignment we've hired you for. And that individual would seem to be aboard the Half Moon."

Edited by Marcus Donovan

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Posted (edited)

Meanwhile...

C.S.V. Mendacius Mess Hall

In transit to Galatea jump point
November 22, 3028
____________________________

Bishop’s head spun at what the Captain was telling him, the high end beer didn’t help the matter.  The information given was both a sign of trust and a test of his loyalty. Neither one he was willing to forsake. The thought of WMDs and genetic tampering, as he thought of as, sent a cold chill down his spine. Irian had learned an important lesson long ago about those subjects. The body count had been staggering and the clean up had cost the Company billions in C-Bills....and a deal with the devil.  The Company had also learned he hard way why having an “in house” Merc unit was vital to the organization. The catastrophic domino effect was still being felt by Irian’s Board of Directors multiple bad errors. That  was not his immediate concern anymore, he had left them. 

He wasn’t thrilled of the idea that Crayven Corps had been comprised before a mission had even started. Now he had to deal with a spy and the whatever the battlefield tossed at him.  His blood boiled at the thought that he may have to work with a sellout. He hated spies. The fact of the matter was... that the  ship...this ship in particular, had already sailed. There would be no turning back now. Donovan was dead right in his calculated analysis, if shit went south, like bad, Bishop would bounce out. Bishop had an ace in boot.... Mother, she would  come for her pup, for he bore the Skinwalker’s mark, and all of hell would fallow with her. He prayed that he didn’t have to make that call. He knew, and feared the toll she would ask, the payment.... would be what was left of is soul. 

“ I have operational concerns with this new development” Bishop said, “this mole, as you call him or her, may jeopardize the operation, depending on who they work for. If they work for a major house, that can be fixed with smooth politicking.  Now, if it’s a rival Corporation... I hope the General has deep pockets, if it’s ComStar... then Kauffman better have a fuck ton of ammo and mechs squirreled away some place” cautioned Bishop. 

Captain Donovan stared distantly into his now empty wine glass. The words he spoke next were as cold as ice,  “Well,  we now know they exist......we also have time to plan my friend”. 

Edited by Joker 4-1

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IE Armoured Transport
Carosasha, Menkalinan
Menkalinan System, Marik/Liao border
November 28, 3028
____________________________________

The armoured transport trundled out of the spaceport and onto a main thoroughfare heading deeper into the city proper, despite the vehicle's appearance of being a strictly military it had a surprisingly smooth ride and IE spent a pretty penny upgrading the interior as well. While no luxury sedan by any stretch of the imagination the seats were surprisingly well padded and several vidscreens had been installed strategically around the cabin to provide live footage from external cameras to allow passengers a view outside despite the lack of actual windows. George kept Mikhala busy talking about one thing or another throughout most of the ride but the rest of us mostly sat quietly and either watched the view or just mulled over our own thoughts. We all thought it was a bit odd that everyone had been requested to attend the debrief with IE but it wasn't unheard of, nor was it even the first time, though it was usually when an OP went south really badly. During the ride we could hear the muffled sound of distant combat, even through the armoured exterior of the transport, a couple different times and even once saw smoke rising up from behind buildings a few blocks away but never close enough to feel a threat.

Without anything eventful happening during the ride the transport pulled up in front of our destination and the 10 of us disembarked and followed George into the lobby of the local IE offices. While the building was clearly meant to impress anyone entering with the large foyer, atrium styled glass paneling, and artistic waterfall/fountain that dominated the lobby my attention was immediately drawn to the impressive security presence. As our group filed into the building there were four large, and well armed guards flanking a set of full body metal detectors that it was apparent all guests had to go through. The guards were wearing full ballistic plate armour suits, including helmets, and were armed with Imperator 2894A1 SMGs which they made no attempt to hide. A room off to the side with blacked out windows and "SECURITY" emblazoned on the lower portion of the glass appeared large enough to have at least a full squad inside.

"I apologize for heightened security but again due to recent events and some repeated escalations in the neighbourhood we've had to take some extra precautions," said George as he waved his hand to broadly encompass the guards and metal detectors before continuing, "As I mentioned at the spaceport you will need to surrender your weapons before proceeding."

"Don't worry, they are properly logged and stored safely in our secure lockup until you leave. Everyone gets a chit to identify whatever gear they surrender and no one else can take your stuff without that chit," added George as a few members, namely Joel, Kevin and myself, tensed ever so slightly at the thought of giving up our gear.

In short order everyone had surrendered the weapons we had carried with us, although we were allowed to retain our armour if we so chose. Since most of us did keep our armour, partly out of want and partly because some of us didn't have much of anything on under the armour, we were exempt from going through the full body metal detectors, since they would prove useless. Instead the guards patted us all down and checked us over with a hand held wand style metal detector instead, and after some minor issues regarding the power cells I still had stowed on my armour we were all cleared for entry.

"Well my friends, this is where we part ways. Shiela or Tiffany at reception will direct you where to go from here and, depending on how long your debrief is, either Mark or myself will see you back here later to take you home."

"Thank you George, we'll hopefully see you later," replied Mikhala as George pointed us towards the large reception desk at the other end of the lobby.

Our group crossed the expansive lobby area as one and Jess and Mikhala approached the reception desk while the rest of the group stayed back a respectable distance, no need for everyone to crowd the counter unnecessarily.

"Hi, I'm Mikhala, commander of the BeoWulf's Knights, we were directed here by George. We're supposed to be getting debriefed," stated Mikhala after catching the apparently busy receptionist's attention.

"Ah, you must be here to see The Baron," she replied distractedly.

"The Baron?" asked Jess in an incredulous tone, a look from Mikhala stopped her from continuing.

Something in Jess's voice caused the receptionist to look up, and in so doing revealed her name tag stating her name was Shiela, "Yes, The Baron. Baron Fredrick von Reich III, is that not who you're looking for?"

"Sorry, Shiela," responded Mikhala before Jess could say anything, pausing to read her name tag, "we were not aware we would be meeting royalty."

"Oh he's not a real Baron, just likes the title and he's very nice, Very generous and VERY rich. So we humour him, but don't tell him I told you," replied Shiela, apparently deciding she liked Mikhala and Jess after all.

"Oh, ok. Well don't worry we won't say anything. Could you direct us to where we're supposed to be meet him?"

"Sure, take the double doors on your right there, down the hall, on the left will be some stairs, go up them turn left and then take the next left again. Go down that hall and conference room 213-B will be on your right, grab a seat in there and The Baron, or a member of his entourage will be with you shortly," Shiela said with smile.

"Thank you, have a nice day."

"You too!"

With that our group made our way through the double doors out of the lobby, which appeared to be soundproof based on how suddenly the ambient noise of the lobby itself was cut off when the doors closed, and proceeded to make our way through a rather opulent series of hallways and corridors following the receptionist's directions until we arrived at room 213B, the placard read "Debrief Room 13" with an older worn out engraving below saying "Conference Room". Pushing open the double doors which opened inwards our group entered into a surprisingly sparse large room, while it was still fairly lavishly decorated it wasn't nearly as opulent and over the top luxurious as some of the other rooms we had passed by. The walls were still paneled in what appeared to be solid oak, there were numerous display cases housing various items that looked like they belonged in a museum but there was plenty of open space and the flooring was a simple but elegant ceramic tile instead of the lush carpeting found elsewhere. The seating was more reasonable than what we had seen in some other rooms as well, instead of the leather plush couches and chairs the seats here were mass produced steel framed benches with steel backs and extensive padding denoting each individual seat. They were arranged in rows like you see in a hospital or airport waiting areas, although these particular seats were immeasurably more comfortable than you would find typically. We barely had a chance to get ourselves situated though before a young man dressed in deep burgundy fatigues trimmed with royal blue entered the room from a hallway on the wall adjacent to the only door and sounded and actual trumpet. Apparently this "Baron" Fredrick fellow we were about to meet went all out with the Baron thing, although the barely discernible sidearm holstered under the young man's arm indicated he was more than just a bugle boy.

"Presenting, Baron Fredrick von Reich III," announced the young man before snapping to attention and holding a salute as two similarly dressed men entered the room, also with semi-concealed sidearms, and stood guard on either side of the hallway as the "Baron" himself entered the room with another pair of guards behind him.

The man who was clearly the "Baron" was unsurprisingly a relatively short and round man who wore an almost comical outfit consisting of royal blue pants with a burgandy overcoat and boots combined with an actual cape in the same colours and trim as the guards. There was gold piping along the man's collar and some kind of gold icon or sigil affixed to the lapel but I couldn't make out the details from this distance. He carried himself with an air of arrogance that was blatantly present but he didn't come across as condescending and he crossed the room with long, purposeful strides despite his shorter stature.

As the man approached with his retinue of guards Mikhala stood and greeted him, "Baron von Reich, I am commander Mikhala Kravets of BeoWulf's Knights, it is a pleasure to meet you."

"Miss Kravets, the pleasure is mine. I have heard many tales of you and the BeoWulf's Knights, I look forward to discussing your most recent exploits in detail with you all. And you may call me Fredrick," replied the Baron, his voice thick with an unusual accent that I couldn't place.

"Thank you, Fredrick, just Mikhala is fine. I'm surprised you've heard of us, I didn't think we had that big of a reputation within Interstellar Expeditions."

"Ah nonsense, your name is known Mikhala and that is enough. Besides, what kind of host would I be if I didn't know about my guests and their endeavors to assist our wonderful corporation."

"Well we appreciate the recognition, but I do have to ask Fredrick, it seems a little unusual to ask an entire mercenary company to be present for what typically amounts to a high level corporate debrief. Traditionally IE has only requested our after action reports and a brief face to face with myself and sometimes our intelligence officer Jess. Is there a particular reason for this request?"

"Ah, straight to business, I like that. Mikhala, despite my obvious appearance, I am not one for holding onto traditions. In this particular matter, I simply prefer to be able to interact with our clients directly and to be perfectly honest I was bored this week and thought that getting to talk one on one with a group of reliable and friendly mercenaries would be interesting. Plus there is a certain level of detail you can acquire when talking with individuals personally that simply can't be achieved through reports and second-hand accounts."

"Fair enough, I can't argue with that. So how do you want to do this, just interview us one at a time somewhere or all at once here, what's the plan?"

"While I would love to sit and chat with everyone here at once, sadly our facilities are not setup for that. I do still need to provide full reports to superiors within the corporation so we will be using the debrief rooms down this hallway," answered Fredrick while motioning back towards the hallway he entered from, "Unfortunately we do not have a single debrief room large enough for everyone at once, so I would like to break you up into the units you were in during the mission on Myrvoll. Namely, the dropship crew, the MechWarriors, the Vehicle crews, and any Infantry that accompanied our own research team, we can have up to four individuals in a debrief room at once so we'll mix and match as needed. Also, full disclosure, we will be recording everything once in the debrief rooms as part of our report. Since I will be interviewing everyone myself we'll only be able to do one group at a time..."

As the Baron was talking another man dressed in the same burgundy and royal blue fatigues, this time with an officer's emblem on his lapel, came rushing into the waiting room holding a datapad and clearly looking for someone, upon spotting the Baron he rushed over quickly and cleared his throat before interrupting, "Um, excuse me sir, Baron Fredrick, I'm sorry for the interruption but there's an issue requiring your immediate attention that cannot wait."

Exchanging a look with the man Fredrick turned back to us and said, "Apologies, I will just be a moment."

Fredrick and the newly arrived officer walked a few steps away towards the hallway, just far enough to be out of easy earshot, and began looking intently at the datapad and discussing something that caused the Baron to get more and more animated. A couple of words managed to drift our way whenever one of the men looked up from the datapad but we couldn't hear enough to know any detail about what was happening, the words "Davion", "Succession", "Free Worlds", and "Planet" were all we could pick up but that was enough to have an idea. As the men's discussion seemed to come to a conclusion Fredrick returned to us with a disappointed look on his face.

"I'm terribly sorry Mikhala, and the rest of the BeoWulf's Knights, I was looking forward to speaking with each of you but fate seems to have other ideas today. Apparently First Prince Hanse Davion's ambitions aren't finished ruining my plans yet, but that's none of your concern. Sadly I will not be able to partake in the debrief while I go and deal with this new mess with the Free World's League, courtesy of Hanse Davion, but you will still be debriefed today. I will send a couple officers momentarily who will debrief you in full as originally planned, I will just have to settle with watching the recordings later."

"I understand," replied Mikhala, "we will miss the opportunity of being debriefed by you directly but I'm sure your men will be just as thorough."

"Thank you Mikhala, I appreciate that, perhaps we will get an opportunity to work together in future again."

With that the Baron, and his full retinue, headed back down the hallway he arrived from and left us alone in the waiting room again. True to his word, within a few minutes two of the Baron's men arrived to begin the debriefing, these men did not wear fatigues but instead had office uniforms on, though they were still in the burgundy and royal blue colour scheme, and carried sidearms like the Baron's guards. The men introduced themselves, quickly went over the remaining details of the debriefing and divided us into the previously mentioned groups before taking two groups into the debriefing rooms down the hallway. The rooms were unusually spartan with a single bookcase on one wall while a set of four comfortable office chairs, a large metal desk, and an oversized executive office chair dominated the center of the room. A set of rotating metal looking vertical blinds covered the windows and the heavyset door, obviously soundproof, was about as plain as could be and did not appear to have a lock. The floor was the same ceramic tile as the waiting room while the ceiling was a simple suspended tile ceiling lacking any defining details, all in all the rooms were unimpressive and mundane in comparison to almost everywhere else we had seen in the IE offices. The first two groups taken were the dropship members, Jess and Mikhala, into the back right room of the four debriefing rooms, while the MechWarriors, Irene, Luke, Joe and myself were all taken into the front left room. Once everyone was settled into their chairs they closed the doors to the debriefing rooms and the officers pointed out the cameras used for recording the debrief before closing the blinds themselves and explaining that the room was essentially soundproof to aid in the recordings. We then started at the beginning of the Myrvoll OP and went through in rather excruciating detail everything that happened, paying especially close attention to details about the abandoned base where the research team had found various files. Meanwhile Jim, Kayla, Joel, and Kevin awaited their turn to be debriefed out in the waiting room.

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MEANWHILE... 

KIMBALL BATTLEGROUNDS 

I went Meching through the Enemy Lines, trying to give the APC escort to the corporate building. Tons of weapons fire blasted past my cockpit and I flinched and ducked even though I had thousands of tons of armor wrapped around me. The sound of We Are the Champions continued to blast on my stereo as I sprayed lasers and missiles at the tanks and followed Captain Maxwell through the city and into the PHOODCO company parking lot. I smashed a bunch of cars and kicked a bus out of the way to let the APC go through. It went screaming up to the building and slammed its brakes on. All kinds of flaming tire treads came out of it when it skidded onto the curb and stopped to allow hundreds of army guys to pour out like ants and swarm into the building. I saw Captain Maxwell go down over the hill. I stood around on guard duty waiting for the commandos to do their job. All of the sudden I heard the most horrible sound:

"WE ARE THHHHHEEEEE CHHHHHHHAMMMMMNMPPPPPOOOOEEEEEAANNNNNNNS MUH FRENnnnnbnnnwearethechampionswearerhechampionswredeletletelsletdeledeDLEEEEWE ARE THHHHHEEEE CHAMMMmmmpppp..." 

The song was getting really slow and then really fast and then really slow over and over again! I looked at the CD player and the tape was spooling out into the cockpit and going all over the dashboard!!! 

"NO YOU DON'T!" I screamed, I had to get the tape back, it was my sign of protection! I hit the eject button a million times but nothing happened, the tape must have been jaammed! The music started sounding more and more possessed and I freaked out more and more, I had to get the tape! Finally I decided to break the tape, I could always glue it back together and wind it up with a pencil later. But I didn't have any scissors!! Fortunately there was a lighter in the cockpit, I grabbed it and lit the loose end of the tape on fire. A huge fire flash happened and the next thing I knew, the CD player was on fire! 

"AGGGGGGGGGGH!!!!" I screamed, I had not trained for this! I flapped my hands at the fire and blew on it trying to put it out, but nothing happened! Then I remembered I had a flask in my waistband, I ripped the cap off and threw all the drink on the fire, but I had forgot that the flask had Wood Alcohol and it did nothing except make more fire! All of a sudden I heard demon voices on the radio and burly laughing, at first I didn't know what it was but then I realized that there was so much fire coming out of the dashboard that the CD player was playing the fire and I was hearing the voices of hell! 

"AAAAAAAAAGH!!" I screamed and I thrashed around in my harness. Then I saw a bottle of Fizzy Pop in the cup holder, I could use that to put the fire out!! I grabbed the bottle and shook it up and then popped the top like you see in the movies, then I held my thumb over the end like they do at toasts where the guy sprays everyone with champagne, anyway, that's what I did and the fire went out. 

I sat there staring at the huge hole that had burnt in the dashboard. All of a sudden I heard Captain Maxwell on the radio. 

"Are you okay in there Steve?" 

I was going to answer but then the tape suddenly shot out of the stereo deck and hit me in the head injury. I screamed in pain and then gave a thumbs up to Captain Maxwell.

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Meanwhile...

C.S.V. Mendacius
In transit to Galatea jump point
November 22, 3028
____________________________

I could see the frustration mounting in Bishop's eyes. "I assure you, this sort of thing is highly irregular. Crayven Corporation employees are not given over to subterfuge. I rather doubt that it's anyone actually on the crew. The Half Moon is carrying several passengers, all of whom could have motive."

"And who would they be?" Weyland asked, the last of his food disappearing from his plate as he spoke.

"Come with me," I gestured.

###

Several minutes later, Bishop and I stood before a glowing holotank in the confines of Intelligence Lab A, one of two identically-equipped chambers aboard the Mendacius designed from the ground up for the review of compartmentalized data. I accessed the crew manifest of the Half Moon, completing a litany of authentication procedures as I did so, as the TO&E of the corporate flagship was, for obvious reasons, not intended for public consumption. Selecting an option labeled 'Passengers,' I waited as the computer rendered floating portraits of four individuals. Bishop, still clutching a beer stein, looked on impassively.

I accessed the dossier of the first passenger, a burly Lyran in his late forties.

"Simón Albrecht. A Hauptmann with the Lyran Commonwealth Armed Forces. The Crayven Corporation's liason to House Steiner. Practically a social general. Not much combat experience to speak of; his responsibilities are primarily ambassadorial. He's made a career for himself wining and dining entities of potential interest to the Lyran Commonwealth. He may or may not have ties to the L.I.C.; we're really not sure. The MRB has a file on him; he's reported to be a fair and astute employer. He's practically joined at the hip with Kauffman. Highly unlikely to be our mole; the Lyrans are bankrolling us at the moment because they value the potential long-term gains that an ongoing relationship with an organization such as ours. would bring"

Albrecht's portrait faided away and was replaced by that of a young man in his early twenties with a slight build, an extremely close-cropped haircut, and a serious, detached expression on his face.

"Agent Nathan Schmidt. Corporal, Lyran Intelligence Corps, probably a member of the Molehunters division. Seemingly an aide-de-camp to Hauptmann Albrecht. His having tagged along on this mission seems to be sheer coincidence. It's not outside the realm of plausibility that he may be our mole, even while Albrecht is holding friendly court with our CEO."

The portrait dissolved apart and was replaced by a photograph of a pale, dark-haired woman in her thirties.

"Warrant Officer Alyssa Chase. A ComStar expatriate. Currently attached to the Half Moon on extended loan from Aegis DivisionA mercenary with several invaluable skills, including unauthorized system access. Expelled from ComStar due to issues with theft. Just looking at her pictures, I would be inclined to call this one 'innocent,' but looks can be deceiving."

With another flash, the next portrait came up.

"Jackson McKenna. A contractee and someone with whom everyone on the Half Moon is familiarAn idiot savant. I don't think he could breach us if he wanted to."

"So your'e saying that it's likely Schmidt, based on what we know of the crew."

"I'm saying it's a tough call, but it could be."

"Why tell me all of this?" Bishop asked.

"Because," I replied,  "as new blood to this organization, you hold loyalty to no one except yourself. You are ideally positioned to be an impartial observer and help us identify who the mole is."

"To what end?" Weyland inquired.

"Observe and report. Nothing more at this time. We wouldn't want to out you to your new co-workers if it turned out to be one of them. Any questions?" 

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Meanwhile...

C.S.V. Mendacius

In transit to Galatea jump point
November 22, 3028
____________________________

 

Bishop listened intently to the information that Donovan just gave him. The Captain and General had a really good pool of possible spies. 

“Copy that sir” Bishop said coldly “I’ve spent the allot of time observing and reporting...contrary to popular belief that 90% of sniper work. 8% is the stalk or hunt if you will. The last 2% is the kill” 

Bishop paused for a moment, “If I may be so bold to suggest sir.......you know we could just execute them all, flush them into the void and the draw a fresh deck of cards..... Wouldn’t be hard to write up a an accident report, then the Company pay out the death benefits”

Donovan looked as though Bishop had just shot his favorite dog..He broke into chuckle seeing the sly smile creep across Bishop’s face.  

“You truly are a interesting man Mr Weyland” smiled the Captain. 

“So I’m to understand... I report to you or the General on this matter” Bishop asked in a serious tone. 

“For now, yes, but be prepared to adjust accordingly” 

Bishop smiled, he was now operating again, “Read you loud and clear sir, I have no further questions”. 

Edited by Joker 4-1
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Posted (edited)

Meanwhile...

C.S.V. Mendacius

In transit to Galatea jump point
November, 3028
____________________________

Bishop needed time to relax some so he went down into the ship’s cargo hold. After a couple of minutes he found what he had been searching for, his black pelican cases. They had been but into a small, hot and humid room that was in the back of this cargo hold. After a few minutes Bishop located two stainless steel tables that he dragged back into the room and arranged them end to end. 

Stripping down to just his worn green tactical pants and boots the veteran took out all his gear and organized on to the tables. Weapons, armor, suits and cleaning gear filled the tables. Bishop reached into his pocket and retrieved a small round can that contained a dark brown and ground up wet organic wet  material in it. After throwing in a wad of chew bishop hit the play button on his datapad. 

As the music played Bishop started the slow and meticulous process of weapons maintenance. 

The heavy Ceres Arms Stalker Sniper Rifle would be the first, fallowed by the combat shotgun and Gunther MP-20 SMG. Hours later he would start breaking down the M42B and M&G auto pistol. 

The music boomed in the small room. The old Terran song, Mother by Danzig played. With a slight buzz Bishops mind wondered to long forgotten places. His body on autopilot, he began his work, thoughtless as to his actions. 

Edited by Joker 4-1
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Several days prior...

Lorenzopolis, Triasha
Kimball II, Lyran Commonwealth
November 19, 3028
_________________________

"Anvil-1 to Anvil units - breach and clear! Breach and clear!"

A loud bang cut across the comms as the Gray Death Legion used an explosive charge to blow in the doors to the PhoodCo tower. I watched through my King Crab's rear camera as the soldiers poured into the building. Various shouts and the sound of projectile weapons fire soon followed. The team clearly had their hands full. I wished that I could assist. I'd cross-trained in infantry operations during my military school days in the Taurian Concordat, and I still possessed the ancient Desert Eagle firearm that I'd been gifted upon my graduation. But my place at he moment was here, at the controls of Ares, acting as the biggest, meanest thing standing between our extraction team and whatever reinforcements that the Kuritans might try to throw at them.

Ahead of me, I could still see combat raging within the city. Plumes of smoke rose from the forest of skyscrapers, and every now and then, the flash of an explosion glinted off of the glass and metal monoliths. Aegis Division was solidly pushing back the DCMS garrison, a fact that I was incredibly proud of. If we continued this winning streak, we'd have a solid MRB rating to show for it, and be on to bigger and better things. Even Jenkins seemed to have been on the upswing from his initial rough run, having attuned himself to his Dragon fairly well and escorted Mothership-2 to the extraction zone without incident.

Speaking of which, what the hell is he doing over there?

A small plume of smoke seemed to be rising from the cockpit of Private Jenkins' BattleMech. I swung my targeting reticle over his cockpit glass, and zoomed in. Behind the tinted canopy, I could just make out Steve flailing wildly, sweeping his arms back and forth as though he was using a fire extinguisher.

Switching my comm channel to Hammer-3's direct frequency, I keyed my communications microphone.

"Are you okay in there, Steve?" I asked.

"Aaagh!" Steve replied. Before I had a chance to answer, Steve mashed his hand up against his cockpit glass in an exaggerated thumbs-up.

"Okay. Just checking," I answered, closing the channel.

That guy is so weird...

My headset roared to life with more radio traffic from the extraction team. "Anvil-1 to Control - we're on the executive level. Reporting enemy contact. We're engaging!" 

Seconds later, a tremendous explosion erupted from the glass windows of one of the building's upper floors.

"Anvil-1, this is Hammer-1 - what the hell was that?" I exclaimed, pivoting my BattleMech around to face the tower.

"An unexpected surprise, Hammer-1," Sergeant Imran Amin replied. "They had a sentry bot in the corridor. Specialist Harmon made it go away. We're proceeding as planned."

"Copy that, Anvil-1. Good hunting." 

"Hammer-2 to Control - AO Is clear," Mara Walsh reported, her Marauder, accompanied by Dutch McKenzie's Awesome, coming into view. "We have one hostile unaccounted for. A Sturmfeur Heavy Tank. I'm not sure if they bugged out or if they're hiding."

"Control to Hammer-1; are you direct on that traffic?" Marius Lennox replied.

"Confirmed," I acknowledged. "Since Sabre-1 is now here on station with Sabre-3 , Hammer-3 and I will sweep the immediate area around the tower and see if we can make contact. Hammer-2, if you would, please make a patrol of the western end of the AO and call any targets as you see them. Sabre-2, what's your status?"

"On station in the eastern AO, Captain." Dexter Friedman's voice answered. "All systems nominal."

"Roger that," I replied. "Be prepared to supply IDF fire support for the three of us as necessary."

"Acknowledged."

"Sabre-1, as soon as the extraction team finishes their business, I want you to get Mothership-2 and the crew of Mothership-1 the hell out of here as fast as you can," I continued. "That's our priority above all else."

"Copy that, sir," McKenzie responded. "We'll see you back at the LZ."

"Alright, team - you've got your assignments. Let's get this AO cleared and head home."

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Warehouse district

New Al-Amin, Karbala

Draconis Combine

June 11, 3015

 

“02:45.”

“Security, status.”

“All clear.”

“Let’s go.”

4 shadows exit from 2 parked vehicles. They quickly and quietly approach a certain unit of a warehouse.

“Jones?”

“10 seconds.” Jones replied.

“Hayes?”

“12 minutes until next security sweep ma’am.” Replied Hayes.

“Alarms down” Jones whispers.

“Good, get us in.”

Jones opens the door with no problem and the 4 shadows enter the office.

“Hayes, Owens, sweep the warehouse, Jones go to work on the computer.”

The 3 men go to work. Adept Maria Espinosa looks around the office and wonders how the traitor could have sunk so low and…

“Hayes here, all clear.”

“Owens here, all clear.”

Maria reprimands herself. “Business first, idle thoughts, later.” “Roger, Owens, come back here, Hayes, standby.”

“On my way” Owens replies.

“Easy as pie to get past the computer security ma’am, searching.” Jones reports.

Meanwhile…..

10 klicks away in a small apartment building, my noteputer starts beeping urgently. I reach for the noteputer on the nightstand and read the information on the screen.

I smile and whisper “Welcome to Karbala, ROM, and goodbye.”

I press a button on the noteputer and put it back on nightstand and go back to sleep.

The signal from the noteputer, via several anonymous routers reaches the fire suppression system and turns on the sprinkler system.

Acolyte Hayes hears a soft click from the fire suppression system and fatally decides to ignore it.

In the office Jones reports “Looks like regular invoices but it’ll take a while to deep dive this computer.”

Adept Espinosa replies “Just copy….”

The sprinkler system actives and starts spraying the entire warehouse.

Espinosa thinks “What?” “Wait, this isn’t water.”

She looks at Jones who is looking at her for the last time.

As she realizes that the sprinkler system is spraying an accelerant, a second signal reaches 6 igniters surreptitiously placed around the warehouse. All 6 activate, sending out a 6 inch long flame from each of them.

The resulting blast levels the building, killing all 4 ROM agents instantly.

Acolyte Harrison, perched in his overwatch position across the street from the warehouse, spots the security guard coming down the street. “5 minutes early.” Harrison thinks to himself.

Harrison is just about to notify Espinosa when his world erupts in flame and fury. The energy wave throws his body into the concrete wall of the elevator shaft and his world goes black.

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