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  2. Eleos - 16th moon of Epsilon Eridani VI Epsilon Eridani System - Tikonov Free Republic February 1, 3031 (Tuesday) ______________________________________________ The Staryacht eased to the ground, its engines quieting as the landing gear extended and absorbed the weight of the vessel with a gentle crunch. With a sigh, I gazed out the forward canopy at the forested world we'd come to learn had been christened "Eleos" by the early settlers as a tounge-in-cheek reference to the Greek goddess of pity. By all appearances, we'd managed to evade the Gambit's sensors and make a covert landing just outside Mosbyville. However, the real challenge was still ahead of us: gaining the trust of the insular locals and gathering information about our targets. "Shuttle 2 to Home Plate," Orlex radioed, his words traveling over the comms system and up to the orbiting Tachi. "Planetfall successful. All systems green." "Copy that, Shuttle 2," Alyssa's voice responded from the Tachi's Combat Information Center. "No indications that you've been spotted by the Gambit or the locals. Good luck down there." I unbuckled my seat belt and stood up, stretching my arms as I surveyed the shuttle's interior. "Nice flying," I quipped, making eye contact with Commander Jaeger. "Reassuring to know you and Idris are both good on the stick if things get tight and we've got to fly a 200-ton aerodyne with no crew." Orlex chuckled and nodded in agreement. "Always good to have options, sir." I clambered back into the passenger compartment where Steve, Levi, Nick, Idris, and our medic on loan, Nicole Franklin, were busy gathering their gear. I took a moment to review our plan with them as we suited up. "Alright folks, listen up," I announced. "We've on the ground a kilometer outside Mosbyville. Our objective is to gather intel from the locals about anything they've seen or heard from the Gambit since it ditched into the woods out there. And because they know the lay of the land and the problems the forests around here can cause, we need to get their take on approaching and boarding the Gambit. Remember, this is a small, insular community, and they're not used to outsiders. So be respectful, don't cause any trouble, and don't draw any unwanted attention." The group nodded, understanding the importance and delicacy of our approach. We made our way to the shuttle's exit ramp and prepared to disembark. As I opened the hatch, the smell of earth and greenery hit me like a wave. I took a deep breath and stepped out into the open air. Just then, Steve spoke up. "What's the approach, Captain? Are we going in as a single group or splitting up?" I thought about it for a moment. "Let's start as a single group and see how receptive they are to outsiders. If they're hesitant, we'll split up and approach them separately. But for now, let's stick together." With that, we stepped out of the shuttle and into the lush greenery of Eleos. As we walked out of the clearing where we'd hidden our landing craft, we found ourselves following a dirt road that led toward Mosbyville. The forest was alive with the sounds of wildlife chirping, buzzing, and scurrying, a stark contrast to the cacophony of guns and engine noises we were used to on our mercenary missions. As we approached Mosbyville, we could see the town's ramshackle buildings in the distance. They looked as though they had been put together by someone with little knowledge of architecture; a strange amalgamation of timber beams and salvaged parts from the colony ship that brought these people here. However, it was clear that the materials had withstood the test of time. The town was bustling with activity, and as we drew near, we were passed on either side by carts being drawn by horses, cattle, and other beasts. The people we saw were equally as rustic as their town, with simple clothing made of wool and animal hides. As we entered the settlement, the mishmash of modern and ancient became even more apparent. Vid screens shared space with kerosene lamps, and an arms merchant had a modern laser pistol displayed alongside a conventional hunting rifle. Off in the distance, a portable music player blared a modern synthrock song, while, on the curb to our left, a group of children played with old-fashioned wooden toys. It was clear that the people of this abandoned colony had managed to carve out their own way of life, far removed from the tech and culture of the core worlds. Walking underneath a metal sign onto which laser-cut letters spelling out "Welcome to Mosbyville" had been haphazardly welded, we entered the center of the settlement, where a signboard illustrated the layout of the town, showing a small marketplace, a general store, a bar, and several other buildings with various purposes. I could already sense that people were looking at us with suspicion and unease, unaccustomed to outsiders - especially ones that looked like they came from a military background. "Alright, I think we're here," I began, studying the map and acting as casually as possible. "Does anyone see a Customs and Excise office? That seems like the best way to break the ice with these folks." As I scanned the map, a group of rough-looking men approached us from the side, eyeing us closely and sizing us up. One of them, who looked like the leader of this ragtag group, spoke up. "What brings y'all here?" he asked, his tone not exactly welcoming. The hairs on the back of my neck stood up as I turned my gaze toward him. "We're just passing through," I replied, trying to keep my voice level. "Looking for the Customs and Excise office. Our transport is up in orbit; we thought we'd come down here and see if any of you fine folk are looking to trade. Care to point us in the right direction?" The man seemed to consider my request for a moment before nodding his head toward a small building at the edge of the marketplace. "That'd be where you'd find it," he began, his words punctuated by the unmistakable sound of a firearm safety being released, "but I don't think y'all are gonna be doing much trading today." My heart leaped into my throat as I suddenly found myself staring down the barrel of a very large, very intimidating gun. I raised my right hand defensively while my left hand tightened on the strap of my bag. "No such thing as an unscheduled visit to Mosbyville," the man continued, a malicious glint in his eyes. "The next freighter don't pass through here for another month, and since you ain't on it, I reckon you're either lost or up to no good." Wángbā dàn, I swore under my breath, taking a slow step back. The rest of the crew did the same, their expressions a mix of fear and anger. This was not the warm welcome we had hoped for.
  3. Last week
  4. MCRN Tachi, approaching high orbit of Epsilon Eridani VII's 16th moon Epsilon Eridani VII Epsilon Eridani System - Tikonov Free Republic February 1, 3031 (Tuesday) ______________________________________________ "Reservations, commander?" Captain Maxwell asked quietly, reading the concern on my face, "We've been in tougher situations before." I replied with a tense smile, "Just one. When we do make our move, we're going to need to forego using anything big or metallic enough to register on that ship's sensors..." "That's just as well," offered Alyssa from a nearby console as she read through some additional files pulled from the electronic atlas Dunlap had used, "from the limited information we have on the moon it seems that the forests are unusually dense in most places, something to do with the rich atmosphere, even something as small and nimble as a Bayamo Hoverbike would have difficulty maneuvering in there." "Well the locals must have some means of getting around right?" I suggested, before Dunlap turned to me with her hands on her hips. "You're not suggesting we steal whatever limited transportation these isolated settlers might have are you?" asked Dunlap incredulously. "Not at all," I said quickly, "You mentioned that the Capellans established trade with them, I'd propose we try to trade for their transportation, if it turns out to be worthwhile. We have more than enough general supplies aboard, we could bring some down to the surface with us. Even a tech level zero settlement would have use for food, ammunition, and spare parts or steel." "I said some trade, but yes, providing they are actually welcoming and not up in arms about a group of outsiders with guns showing up unannounced on their doorstep," reiterated Dunlap, but she wasn't being smug, just clarifying facts. "Well then I guess we'll have to make a good first impression," stated Charles with a slight smile. ### Roughly an hour later the port side small craft bay on the Trojan-class dropship opened on what some might erroneously call the dark side of the moon. The Staryacht small craft slipped its moorings silently and drifted towards the surface of the large moon in a controlled descent, the pair of craft separating slowly as the larger vessel remained in a geosynchronous orbit on the opposite side of the moon from the Epsilon Eridani star. We had installed 4 of the 5 removable quarters into the cargo variant of the Staryacht LC-150 in order to transport the delegates once rescued, leaving 17 tons for the general supplies we loaded up to use for trading with the locals on the moon below. Sitting in the pilot seat of the vessel I manipulated the controls to bring the aerodyne craft into proper alignment for an unpowered entry into the planet's atmosphere, although Idris had displayed remarkable skill piloting the other Staryacht in combat earlier I rarely had the chance to pilot such vessels anymore and had decided to exercise my ability to pull rank and take the controls myself. Instead Idris sat at the weapons control station, although we didn't expect any aerospace combat it was always good to have a steady hand at the ready. Behind me sat Captain Maxwell in the command chair, its array of controls and touch panels allowing him to take control of any of the ship's systems at a moment's notice if needed. While most of the other crew were settled elsewhere in the ship, mainly in the infantry bay, for the reentry trip. The ship began vibrating as it reached the moon's upper atmosphere, its underbelly beginning to warm as it breached the Kármán line, and I gripped the controls solidly as I maintained our angle of descent to use the moon's thick atmosphere to slow us down until we were low enough we could be certain that firing the engines wouldn't attract undue attention from an overly watchful sensor operator on the Gambit. It was an overly cautious move, seeing as we were outside the Fury's sensor range and on the opposite side of the large planetoid, but we didn't want to give them any chance to see us coming. The bow wake of atmospheric reentry flared brightly over the vessel's leading edges and the viewscreens auto-dimmed, the canopy itself having its shutters closed shortly after launch, the rumbling of the upper atmosphere settled into a steady rhythmn as we entered the lower atmosphere and the turbulence of reentry began to fade. Firing up the main engine a different rumble settled through the Staryacht's frame as we leveled out and began to hold altitude, banking slightly to starboard to adjust our flight path we made our way towards the settlement marked as 'Mosbyville' on the 3D HUD projected ahead of my station.
  5. MRCN Tachi Epsilon Eridani VII Epsilon Eridani System - Tikonov Free Republic February 1, 3031 (Tuesday) ______________________________________________ I watched the main screen pensively as the Staryacht piloted by Idris, comparatively tiny when contrasted against the Gambit's beefy hull, made its return to the Tachi's landing bay. Although he'd bought us valuable time, we'd only managed to force the fleeing vessel to match our speed rather than stopping it entirely, which meant that we couldn't overtake the ship. We could only keep up with it. "Suggestions?" I asked. "Can we attempt another shooting solution on the engine manifolds?" "I wouldn't recommend it," sensor officer Barrett responded. "While we could probably pull it off under normal circumstances, we don't know where on board they're keeping the hostages. If we blow out the engines and a cascade back into their engine room occurs, we might inadvertently do collateral damage to the section of the ship they're being held in." I sighed, running a hand through my hair. "And even if we could knock their engines offline, our docking collar and stationkeeping systems are far from being repaired enough for us to attempt a boarding maneuver without risking more lives." Commander Dunlap stepped alongside me, her hand on her chin as she thought. "Their present vector indicates an emergency landing. What if we allow them to set down?" I raised an eyebrow, considering her proposal. "And then what? We wait for them to make a move?" "Perhaps not," she replied. "Why not track their landing trajectory and send a team down to intercept them on the moon's surface?" As the commander spoke, an infographic with a detailed map of the moon's surface appeared on the main screen, overlaid with a wireframe showing the current trajectory of the Gambit and its projected landing site, deep within a thick forest on the northern continent. I leaned in closer, studying the information. "An extraction raid on a grounded DropShip? That's risky. We don't know what kind of resistance they'll put up. And those trees don't look like they'd be particularly friendly terrain for BattleMechs," I remarked, my mind considering possible scenarios. "I'm not suggesting you use BattleMechs," Dunlap clarified. "I'm proposing an infantry team specialized in boarding operations. They'll land near the Gambit, infiltrate the ship, and recover the diplomats." Just then, Commander Jaeger entered the bridge, having returned from a survey of the Tachi's repair progress. "What's the plan?" he asked, eyeing the map on the main screen while wiping grease from his hands. "We're considering a extraction raid on the Gambit," I explained, summarizing the situation for him. "The ship's engines are damaged and they're attempting an emergency landing on the moon. We can't perform a boarding action up here, and we don't want to risk casualties with another direct assault. Commander Dunlap has therefore suggested an infantry team board them after they've landed." Jaeger's eyes widened. "That's pretty brazen, Captain, but it might just work. We've got a few people with experience in boarding operations, yourself included. Only thing is, even grounded, there's no way that the Gambit's sensors wouldn't pick up our Staryachts coming down to the surface. They'd have plenty of time to prepare for us." "Good point," I acknowledged, gazing at the topographic overview. "What's this small settlement here?" Reaching over to the display controls inset into the armrest of my command chair, I zoomed in on the area highlighted by my finger. A small group of buildings condensed together in a clearing near the projected landing site, marked "Mosbyville." "It's a frontier town, Captain," helmsman Davis spoke up. "Mining and lumber industry mostly. Population of maybe a few hundred." "Interesting," I mused. "Town looks like it's outside of the Gambit's sensor range. If we were to perform our insertion at Mosbyville and approach from there, we could avoid detection until we're close enough to board." "That's a risky move, Captain," Dunlap warned. I turned to see her consulting an electronic atlas, a frown creasing her brow. "According to what I'm reading, Mosbyville, and most of the other settlements on this moon, are tech level zero. The original colonists were part of the Magellan Program's slowboat operation. They landed here after the Terran Alliance beat them to Epsilon Eridani itself. They eked out a living on this moon with what they brought with them, cut off from any outside support. To add insult to injury, the Terran Hegemony overlooked them during its later 'quest for the lost colonies.' They were eventually found by the Capellan Confederation, who established some contact and trade, but they're still pretty insular. We don't know how they'll react to heavily armed outsiders showing up unannounced." I nodded, taking in Dunlap's words. It was a valid concern. But we didn't have a lot of options. If we wanted to rescue the hostages, we had to act quickly. "Understood, Commander," I responded, clenching my jaw. "However...we don't have much of a choice. We have to take the risk. Put us on a parallel course to the Gambit until we reach orbit. And then keep us hidden until we're ready to make our move." Looking toward Orlex, I noticed concern etched on his face. "Reservations, commander?" I asked quietly. "We've been in tougher situations before." Jaeger replied with a tense smile. "Just one. When we do make our move, we're going to need to forego using anything big or metallic enough to register on that ship's sensors..."
  6. Earlier
  7. MRCN Tachi Epsilon Eridani VII Epsilon Eridani System - Tikonov Free Republic February 1, 3031 (Tuesday) ______________________________________________ Tachi shook and staggered as she fought Gambit. Each round of fire took place at almost clock-like intervals. Combined with the strange fluctuations in gravity I felt on the Tachi's deck, I assumed we were in some sort of orbit around the enemy ship as both dropships fell into the void, exchanging blows. Tasks to eliminate the consequences of damage were transmitted at a feverish pace via the Tachi communication system. My tablet beeped with notifications from Levi and Riggs as they tasked me with repairing a pipeline near the engine room. I took a deep breath, grabbed my tool kit and ran to the engine room. The corridor was dimly lit with red emergency lights, adding to the chaos of the ship's current state. As I walked through the corridors, I heard the muffled sounds of explosions reflecting off the hull. With every step the gravity fluctuations became stronger and I sometimes had to hold on to the walls to keep from falling. Eventually I reached the engine room and found plasma duct emitting smoke and sparks. The room was abuzz with activity as half a dozen crew members tried to contain the damage. As I got closer, Levi came out of the smoke and motioned for me to come over. “Idris! We need your help to stabilize the main flow from the deuterium tanks into the fusion reactor,” he said urgently. “If we don’t get this problem under control quickly, we will start to lose thrust.” I squinted at the leak, assessing its extent. This was no minor correction; It was a task for the entire team. But by the time Tachi was in the middle of the fight, all of the capable technicians were already busy. “We’re already in trouble,” I said, looking around the room to assess the extent of the damage. “It will take too long to fix the problem without losing ground. We need a way to slow Gambit down.” Levi looked at me completely confused and Chief Engineer Riggs aggressively walked towards me. “Speak quickly,” Riggs growled, his face contorted with anger. “We don’t have all day, Nasir.” “I was dual-classed as aerospace pilot at FWLM for a while,” I said, trying to keep my voice under pressure. "I can take one of the Staryachts and provide fire support to the Gambit. If I can disrupt them long enough, that could give the crew enough time to repair the pipeline so the Tachi don't lose ground." Riggs hesitated for a moment, then laughed and turned to Levi. “Prepare the star yacht for Nasir. We have no other options at this time.” Levi nodded and quickly led me to the starboard hangar on deck seven, where a large Staryacht lay in its berth. The silver hull of the wedge-shaped, chunky but aerodynamic ship gleamed in the artificial light of the bay and Levi looked at me with wide eyes as we approached. “You know this thing is usually run by three to five people, right?” he asked in a concerned voice as we walked up the ramp and into the cabin. “Are you sure you can do this on your own?” “I know,” I replied, determination coursing through my veins. “But we don’t have time for a full team. I will make it work." “Okay,” Levi sighed, pointing to the pilot’s seat. “Be safe there, Idris.” I nodded, buckled in and began my pre-flight checks when the cockpit door closed with a loud bang and hiss. As the engines began to spool with increasing pitch, the navigation and targeting displays came to life, showing me the layout of the environment and Gambit's proximity. After the preflight checks were completed, I transferred the stick and gun controls to my station. Since I had to do the work of at least two people, I consolidated all eight lasers scattered throughout the ship onto one trigger button and the missile launcher on another. It wasn't an elegant solution, but I had no intention of defeating Gambit. I just had to be able to hit him as hard as I could for as long as possible. Then I took a deep breath, activated the engines and lifted the Staryacht off the deck and out of the Tachi's hangar. As the acceleration increased, I felt the ship's massive girth pushing me back into my seat, and I gripped the controls tightly as I set off towards Gambit. The next thing I knew, I was in the middle of the battle: wild and disorganized volleys of autocannons, PPCs, lasers and missiles lit up the space between the two fighting giants. My vision was a blur of ships and weapons fire, my hands moving quickly over the Staryacht's controls as I tried to evade and get through the chaos. I steered the Staryacht sharply to the left, narrowly avoiding a stray beam of coherent energy fired from one of the Tachi's guns. The shuttle's maneuverability was its greatest advantage, and I had wanted to use it to my advantage to close the distance to the rear manifolds of the Gambit's engine. After bringing the Staryacht to maximum safe thrust, I attempted to match the enemy ship's maneuvers in the hope of getting a clear shot. The Gambit was fast and maneuverable for a ship her size, but I was determined to get closer. The moment I entered missile range, I pressed the Staryacht's LRM-15 launcher and unleashed a barrage of missiles on the Gambit's engines. The warheads raced toward the target, each leaving a smoky trail as they neared the mark. The missiles exploded on impact, causing the large cluster of bell-shaped engines to flare and sputter erratically for a moment before settling and stabilizing. The Gambit was far from defeated. It began to turn to the left, its stern and port guns returning fire at me with reckless abandon. It was a frightening sight to see the fire from Gambit's naval guns rush past the Staryacht in a stream of glowing energy, superheated projectiles, and electrified particles. I pulled the shuttle sharply to the right as another volley of laser fire and missiles flashed across my field of vision. A crescendo of explosions ripped through the Staryacht's hull and I felt my body convulse as the ship's armor took the brunt of the blow. For a moment I was disoriented. The Staryacht shook violently, sparks flying from the console as I tried to regain control. My fingers mentally moved over the controls, making tiny adjustments to the engines and firing volleys of cluster lasers at the Gambit. They shot across the enemy ship's armored hull, creating a dazzling display of sparks and molten metal. The ship was too heavily fortified for my weapons to do any real damage, and I had to remember that my goal was distraction, not destruction. I steered the Staryacht through a hail of autocannon fire, keeping my hands firmly pressed on the control yoke as I raced downward, pulling the shuttle into an S-turn and altering its flight. I wanted to crawl under the Gambit and fly along its belly back to the engine manifolds. A few quick glances at my radar showed that my diversionary attacks had indeed diverted the enemy ship from its retreat course and it was now on a trajectory that would allow the wounded Tachi to approach it. But I had to at least damage the Gambit's engines to give the Tachi a better chance of getting into range. I plunged deep, dodging the barrage of projectiles, and slid across the beast's belly. As the hull passed, I saw that the Tachi had actually done quite a bit of damage - several holes in the hull, smoldering holes where some of the weapon batteries had been, and a large portion of the armor had collapsed inwards. But Gambit still fought, still tried to dodge, still tried to escape. Flying behind the Gambit, I jerked the Staryacht's rudder sharply back and performed an aggressive Immelmann maneuver: the heavy shuttle dove up and turned in one smooth motion. Now I looked at the Gambit's engines and grinned as I fired a barrage of missiles and powerful laser fire. The missiles exploded in a heavy shower of shrapnel, hitting one of the Gambit's engines and causing it to stall and go silent. My laser fire burned through the other engine, causing it to burst into flames and spew flames. The Gambit shuddered and tilted as it tried to compensate for the sudden loss of thrust. With a grim smile, I put the shuttle into a turn and moved away from the stricken ship, knowing that I was still a very easy target for Gambit's weapons. Flying toward the Tachi I switched on communications and contacted Commander Dunlap. “Home plate, this is Junaid. I disabled one of Gambit's engines and severely damaged the other. He won't be able to outrun us anymore. What is the repair status of your fusion reactor?” Commander Dunlap's voice crackled in my ears as I waited for his answer. “Good shooting, Junaid. You bought us time to repair the leak. We'll take it from here. Come on home". I breathed a sigh of relief and felt the adrenaline still coursing through my veins as I led the Staryacht into a rapid descent to the Tachi's open landing bay. As I flew into the transport, I couldn't help but take one last look at the Gambit limping through space, smoke and flames billowing from its damaged engine as it turned to face the inky darkness ahead of us to run away from space. There was a sense of satisfaction in knowing that I had helped defeat such a formidable opponent, even if it was only a small role, and I couldn't help but feel a deep sense of gratitude for these crazy adventures that were our life.
  8. Tour/Deck Description: Reference image "Trojan (Aegis) - Deck Layout.png" for visual Deck 1 - Main Bridge (clockwise from top) - Bridge - Captain's chair in middle, 4 gunner stations (split into pairs) on either edge of the bridge beside the main viewscreens (each station can control all weapons), Pilot, Navigator, Communications/Computer Officer, Docking Officer, and Security Officer stations around Captain's chair, fold-down jump seats for passengers/visitors on bridge - Astrometrics/Navigation room - center console with multiple screens surrounding room, center console can pull up holomap of star system and plot jump routes through Inner Sphere (even though ship cannot jump, it just shows the route to be taken) - Server room - racks of computer servers, acts as the main brain of the ship, many components are distributed throughout the dropship but this is the main network hub - Controlled entrance - stairs leading to rest of the ship, all doors in this corridor/room can be locked and secured from the bridge, all doors are reinforced blast doors - Service shaft - service/maintenance shaft with ladder and large enough for emergency travel between decks if stairs are inaccessible or craft is in Zero-G environment (not accelerating or deccelerating), can be sealed off between decks in case of a hull breach, bulkheads can be manually opened/overridden - Bathroom for bridge personnel - Captain's ready room - large display on outside wall (can display outside view or any picture/scene the Captain chooses), desk with a set of chairs - Center Room - secured access to the bridge, provides an additional layer of security before accessing the bridge, room and doors are reinforced and can be sealed, two 6-man escape pods are present - Weapon Bays (clockwise from top/front) - Large Laser bay, LRM-20 bay, 2x Medium Laser bay, LRM-20 bay - Access panels around perimeter to get into ship structure/equipment/outer hull Deck 2 - Medical/Operations/Armoury (clockwise from top) - Stairs leading down to rest of ship - Small storage closet behind/underneath auditorium/operations seating - Operations room/Briefing room/Auditorium - tiered seating for full crew of 42 (includes 8 passengers and all bay personnel), podium with presentation equipment, multiple large monitors spanning entire wall - Main armoury/Master of Arms office - entryway provides secure access to the Master of Arms/Requisition office for personnel equipment, next room provides equipment lockers for 24 sets of gear (armour locker and weapons locker), access to this locker room and beyond restricted to Captain/designate and Master of Arms (others allowed but require permission) - Armoury Storage - secured storage room for personnel weapons, armour, and equipment, hidden panel access (secured) to service shaft room - Stairs leading up to the bridge - Service shaft - same as on Deck 1 - Medbay - 4 standard sickbay beds (at top) for regular patients, 2 isolation wards (circular rooms on left) with external diagnostic control panels, consulation room (circular room in middle), research/diagnostics room (rectangular room with central computer station), washroom/decon room w/showers, surgery ward - Tubes for escape pods on Deck 3 around perimeter Deck 3 - Crew Quarters (top down, left to right) - Officer lounge with small bar/drink station and external viewports/windows - Standard crew quarters, 1st officer quarters, stairs leading up to Deck 2, Captain's quarters, 1 of 3 escape pods, standard crew quarters - Gunner crew quarters x2 and shared washroom, 12x steerage quarters for bay personnel - Shared washroom and 2x gunner crew quarters, Service shaft (same as above), communal washroom, stairs leading to Deck 4, larger communal washroom, 5x steerage quarters for bay personnel - Supply room, 2 of 3 escape pods, 5x steerage quarters for bay personnel, communal washroom, 4x steerage quarters for bay personnel, 3 of 3 escape pods - Crew lounge with bar/drink station and external viewports/windows Deck 4 - Galley/Recreation (clockwise from top) - 200m (660ft) running track around circumference of deck - Storage room for various recreational activities - Large playing field marked out for various sports/activities (digital markings can be changed at will, typically setup for tennis/badminton and floor hockey) - Locker Room 1 - right side locker room with showers - Access corridor to right side locker room and running track - Captain's mess - Main crew mess - seating for entire crew of 42 (44 seats available) - Main Stairs leading up/down to other decks - Service Shaft (same as above) - Main Galley - industrial sized cooking appliances and prep spaces, walk in cooler for storage - Access corridor to left side locker room and running track - Locker Room 2 - left side locker room w/washroom facilities and more lockers - Weight/Exercise room - various equipment (treadmills, stationary bikes, weight lifting bench, free weights, etc.) - Weapon Bays (clockwise from top) - Large Laser bay, LRM-20 bay, 2x Medium Laser bay, Large Laser bay, LRM-20 bay, 2x Medium Laser bay Deck 5 - Passenger Quarters (top down, left to right) - Observation room 1 - small seating areas with external viewports/windows - Storage room and small galley, 2x Passenger quarters, small galley and storage room - Observation room 2 - large seating areas with multiple external viewports/windows - 2x Passenger quarters, 1 of 2 escape pods (horizontal) - Passenger quarters, Service shaft (same as above), Main stairs to other decks, Passenger quarters - Observation room 3 - large seating areas with multiple external viewports/windows - 2 of 2 escape pods (horizontal), docking collar airlock, storage room and small galley, 2x Passenger quarters, small galley and storage room - Observation room 4 - small seating areas with external viewports/windows Deck 6 - Water Storage/Machine Shop (clockwise from top) - Stairs leading down to Deck 7/Small Craft bay - Clean water storage - 3 subdecks with stairs, multiple capsule style tanks for holding clean water (multi-tank design to avoid contamination and catastrophic failure of all water) - Storage/Utility room - Machine shop(s) - multiple large cubicles for various trades and jobs (dropship crew, mech bays, aerospace/small craft, Millwrights, Pipefitters, Electricians, etc.), cargo elevator down to Main Cargo Bay and subdecks, Service shaft to lower levels (same as above) - Main stairs leading up to Deck 5 - Service shaft to upper levels (same as above) - Water treatment - 3 cylindrical tanks (horizontal) for collecting used water on ship, system seperates water into "black water" (untreatable and stored for later disposal) and "grey water" (treatable and semi-reusable), large capsule type tank for storing "black water" for disposal, horizontal oval type tank for storing "grey water" for limited re-use, 2x cylindrical tanks (vertical) for treating "grey water" Deck 7 - Cargo/Small Craft Bay/Mech Bays (top down, left to right) - Stairs leading up/down to other decks - 2x Small craft bays with "sleeping" quarters and washrooms (each bay as its own external door, and can house an aerospace fighter or small craft up to 200 tons) - Mech bay (with "sleeping" quarters, washroom, and small storage room), Access Hatch for moving equipment/parts to/from the Engineering deck/reactor room, Mech bay (same as above) - 4x Mech bay (same as above) - Main cargo bay with 3x sublevels (cargo elevator and service shaft to each sublevel and Deck 6), 2x Mech bays (same as above) - left side external door is for direct access to Cargo bay (not designed for mech use due to sublevels), right side external door is for mech use Deck 8 - Engineering/Reactors (clockwise from top) - Main stairs to upper levels - Stairs to engineering sublevels - 1 of 2 Main Hydrogen fuel tanks - Main Power Plant fusion reactor (mainly self-sufficient but can draw from main H2 tanks) - 2 of 2 Main Hydrogen fuel tanks - Stairs to engineering sublevels - Main Engine fusion reactor (center, pulls from main H2 tanks and feeds plasma to surrounding 4x main thrusters to provide primary thrust for dropship), 4x main thrusters surrounding the central engine - Engineering sublevels - 3x subdecks that provide access to various other components and equipment required for the ships operation, including landing gear, loading ramp for the cargo bay, reinforced loading ramp for 'mech bay, cooling systems, etc. - Weapon Bays - Outer ring is left/right side aft weapons (upper level of Deck 8), inner ring is central aft weapons (bottom level of Deck 8 beneath fuel tanks, in line with thrusters) - all 6 bays are Medium Laser bays
  9. Trojan (Aegis - Blockade Runner) Type: Civilian Spheriod Mass: 3,200 tons Technology Base: Inner Sphere (Standard) Introduced: 3030 Mass: 3,200 Battle Value: 2,803 Tech Rating/Availability: D/X-E-D-D Cost: 158,284,000 C-bills Fuel: 250 tons (7,500) - Strategic Fuel Use 2.82T/day/G Burn Days @1G: 88.65 Burn Days @Max(2.5G): 35.46 Safe Thrust: 3 (1.5G) Maximum Thrust: 5 (2.5G) Heat Sinks: 96 (31 weight free) Structural Integrity: 7 Length: 81.5m Width: 81.5m Height: 78m Armor Nose: 110 Sides: 110/110 Aft: 98 Cargo Bay 1: Small Craft (2 - 400 tons) 2 Doors (1 Left Side, 1 Right Side) Bay 2: Mech (8 - 1,200 tons) 1 Door (Right Side) Bay 3: Cargo (304.0 tons) 1 Door (Left Side) Ammunition: 72 salvos (1,440 missiles) of LRM 20 ammunition (12 tons) Escape Pods: 7 Life Boats: 0 Crew: 2 officers, 2 enlisted/non-rated, 4 gunners, 26 bay personnel, 8 passengers - 42 total Quarters: 2x First Class/Officer, 2x Crew Quarters, 4x Steerage, 8x Second Class Passenger (Bay personnel have quarters in their appropriate bay) Notes: Mounts 25 tons of standard aerospace armor. Weapons: Capital Attack Values (Standard) Arc (Heat) Heat SRV MRV LRV ERV Class Nose (26 Heat) 1 Large Laser 8 1(8) 1(8) 0(0) 0(0) Laser 2 LRM 20 12 2(24) 2(24) 2(24) 0(0) LRM LRM 20 Ammo (24 shots) 2 Medium Laser 6 1(10) 0(0) 0(0) 0(0) Laser RS Fwd (26 Heat) 1 Large Laser 8 1(8) 1(8) 0(0) 0(0) Laser 2 LRM 20 12 2(24) 2(24) 2(24) 0(0) LRM LRM 20 Ammo (24 shots) 2 Medium Laser 6 1(10) 0(0) 0(0) 0(0) Laser LS Fwd (26 Heat) 1 Large Laser 8 1(8) 1(8) 0(0) 0(0) Laser 2 LRM 20 12 2(24) 2(24) 2(24) 0(0) LRM LRM 20 Ammo (24 shots) 2 Medium Laser 6 1(10) 0(0) 0(0) 0(0) Laser RS Aft (6 Heat) 2 Medium Laser 6 1(10) 0(0) 0(0) 0(0) Laser LS Aft (6 Heat) 2 Medium Laser 6 1(10) 0(0) 0(0) 0(0) Laser Aft (6 Heat) 2 Medium Laser 6 1(10) 0(0) 0(0) 0(0) Laser Details: The MCRN Tachi was a pirate vessel that was heavily modified for raiding along the Davion-Kurita border until it crashed on Quentin IV and was abandoned until Aegis Division discovered it and salvaged the vessel, returning it to operational status and keeping most of the raiding modifications. The main cargo bay was modified to include 8 'mech bays while still retaining room for 304 tons of regular cargo, the 'mech bay was located primarly on the right side of the vessel, with the original cargo door on that side converted for regular 'mech use, the cargo door on the left side, cannot be used by 'mechs due to added subdecks in main cargo bay. With most of the 'mech bays located on the right side of the vessel there are 2 bays to the left and 2 bays to the right of the cargo door along the outside edge of the vessel/cargo bay. An additional 2 'mech cubicles are located directly ahead facing towards the bay door and occupying the central area of the original cargo bay, with the final 2 'mech bays installed on the top left side of the original cargo bay. A central corridor runs around the center 2 'mech bays and join into the open floor plan, 304 ton capacity, cargo bay on the vessel's port side which connects directly to the port side cargo door. This considerably smaller cargo bay has been refit with 3 semi-removable subdecks to provide more storage for smaller items, at the cost of being unable to use the port side cargo bay door for 'mech use. The small craft bay is located centrally between the left and right "sides" of the vessel towards the outer edge (if coming in the right cargo door the small bay vessel is towards the right, halfway to the other side). It has two doors for launching small craft and/or fighters one on each "side" of the vessel and subsequently each side of the single small craft bay. The bay itself is large enough to house 2 small craft or 2 fighters (or combination of both) with each one having its own door. The small craft bay and the 2 cargo bay doors are roughly equidistance from each other around the outside of the vessel with the 2 small craft doors bracketing the small craft bay. Deck Layout: The Trojan has a total of 8 decks laid out such that the "floor" is facing towards the main drive of the craft, nominally called the Aft, so that gravity (whether caused by a planet or acceleration) will always point down for normal human operation. Deck 1 - Bridge Deck 2 - Operations / Medical Bay / Armoury Deck 3 - Crew Quarters Deck 4 - Galley / Recreation areas Deck 5 - Passenger Quarters Deck 6 - Water Storage / Machine Shop Deck 7 - Cargo / Mech Bay / Small Craft Bay Deck 8 - Fuel Storage / Engineering (Fusion Power Plant and Main Engine)
  10. A few minutes before Steve's post... MCRN Tachi, somewhere ... Epsilon Eridani System - Tikonov Free Republic January 29, 3031 (Saturday) ______________________________________________ The total mayhem playing out on board the Tachi was really unsettling. We'd come out of the jump and almost immediately gone into a state of emergency. The entire ship had gotten an initial alert about a misjump, but after that, the next update we got came in the form of blaring alarm klaxons and automated prerecorded computer dialog telling the crew to report to shelter stations. This wasn't the same as battlestations. Shelter stations meant that someone up on the bridge thought that near or total catastrophe was imminent. Since I wasn't a senior officer anymore, I didn't have the inside scoop about what was going down, but I could tell it wasn't good. The Tachi's gravity was fluctuating up and down, which meant that our speed was going all over the place. Not good. On top of that, I kept feeling aggressive lateral maneuvers, which you wouldn't normally feel in space except under the most severe ship handling. Also not good. And to top it all off, all of this shit was happening while we were supposedly still strapped to the JumpShip, which no pilot in their right mind would fly in the manner we were feeling. Really not good. If I had to guess, our misjump had put us somewhere terrible, and the JumpShip's crew was trying to avoid a firey death for all of us. Sure, I could have hacked one of literally dozens of the onboard terminals to take a peek at what was happening up there, but if we survived whatever fresh hell we were currently dealing with, I'd rather not face the consequences of getting caught. So, instead, I did what any level-headed person would do in this situation...I went to the nearest shelter station and strapped myself in. A few minutes went by, and then from out of the blue, a trauma team and emergency repair crew went running past me, heading towards the docking bay. About 30 seconds later there was a terrible noise of straining, failing metal coming from the direction of the docking bay followed by a sudden lurch that almost threw me out of my seat. From what I could gather, we'd just experienced a docking collar failure and now we were floating free of the JumpShip. "Fuck this noise." I thought to myself. "I don't want to die ignorant. I'm gonna find Levi for the inside scoop and then see what I can do to help hold this bucket of bolts together." *** I burst into the engineering bay to find Levi and the Tachi's chief engineer, a burly guy with a nametag that said "Riggs" frantically trying to stabilize the ship. Sparks were spouting out of a junction box, and I could smell a fire burning somewhere. "What the hell is going on?" I shouted over the chaos. Levi turned to me with a grim face and wild panic in his eyes. But to his credit, his tone stayed level and controlled, which was equal measures impressive and a little worrying under the circumstances, since I was used to being the one not to freak out in situations like this. "We misjumped, the JumpShip got caught in a gravity well that it couldn't recover out of, we evacuated its crew onto our ship, but during the evacuation, the JumpShip's KF boom overloaded and fried our avionics. Helm switched to manual steering to try to get the evacuation complete, which we did, but we couldn't get the backup avionics to connect to the network and eventually the strain of manual course corrections caused the docking collar to rip off the JumpShip, caught in ours. Now, we're pushing away from the planet to go find the kidnappers and me and Riggs are stuck trying to figure out how to start backup avionics that sat exposed to Quentin IV's environment for years." I nodded slowly, trying to process all the information. "OK, so, what can I do to help?" Levi looked at me with a surprised expression. "Since when do you know your way around a ship?" I shrugged. "I don't know the first thing about avionics. But I do know about computer programs and networks. A lot." "Too much." Riggs interrupted. "I'm still scraping pieces of your last hack out of our systems." I rolled my eyes. "Right now I'm the best shot at getting those backup avionics online." Levi nodded in agreement. "Nick's right. Riggs, you should log him into the system and let him work his magic. We need to catch those kidnappers before they get away with those politicians." I flashed a flirtatious smile at Levi. "I knew there was a reason you kept me around." Levi smirked back before turning back to the console. "Just get us back online so we can catch those bastards." Riggs grumbled but reluctantly gave me access to the backup avionics systems. As I dove into the system, I wasn't prepared for what I saw. Program modules, applications, and code snippets that looked like they were straight out of the early days of space travel. "Alright." I sighed to myself. "So let's figure out what the procedure is to bring backup avionics online for the space shuttle." The command prompt greeted me: chiefEngineer@tachi: ~$ The lime green cursor blinking impatiently on my screen was a constant reminder of the ticking clock that was running out for the kidnapped politicians. But the first step before I could do anything was to access the primary system and disable it temporarily to avoid any conflicts with the backup. Since it wasn't doing squat for the helm right now, it wasn't a huge risk. With a few keystrokes, I navigated to the directory containing the primary navigation system's configuration files. Bracing myself, I typed in the command to disconnect the primary avionics: chiefEngineer@tachi:~$ cd /etc/navigation chiefEngineer@tachi:/etc/navigation$ sudo systemctl stop primary_nav The screen flickered and went black for a moment before the backup systems lit up with a flurry of code and warnings. Eventually it will displayed a confirmation message, indicating that the primary navigation system was now offline. "OK, Levi!" I shouted "Mains are down!" "OK. I'll let the bridge know. I hope it doesn't end in firey death." Levi said skeptically. "You have such a flair for the dramatic." I shot back dryly. "There's nothing more dramatic than being reduced to superheated plasma and component parts streaking overhead at someone's bar mitzvah while everyone cheers for the new mentsh." Levi answered. "That was weirdly specific." I laughed as I turned my attention to the backup navigation system, stored in a different directory. I accessed the configuration files, which were thankfully untouched and up-to-date. chiefEngineer@tachi:/etc/navigation$ cd /etc/backup_navigation chiefEngineer@tachi:/etc/backup_navigation$ ls config.cfg backup_nav I confirmed that the backup navigation software was present and ready for activation. Then I issued a command to list the network interfaces: chiefEngineer@tachi:/etc/backup_navigation$ ifconfig -a The output displayed a list of network interfaces, including our primary LAN adapter, eth0, and our backup LAN adapter, eth1. The connections appeared stable and ready for use. Now came the critical moment – connecting the backup navigation system to the ship's LAN. I assigned the IP address and subnet mask to the eth1 interface: chiefEngineer@tachi:/etc/backup_navigation$ sudo ifconfig eth1 netmask up The terminal confirmed that the interface was up and running. I double-checked the connection by issuing a ping command to our LAN gateway: chiefEngineer@tachi:/etc/backup_navigation$ ping A series of ICMP echo replies indicated that the connection was solid. With the backup navigation system now online and connected to the LAN, it was time to perform a series of tests to verify its functionality. I initiated a self-diagnostic routine: chiefEngineer@tachi:/etc/backup_navigation$ sudo ./backup_nav diagnostic The program began running a battery of tests, including sensor checks, star tracker alignment, and GPS synchronization. The terminal displayed a stream of data as the system meticulously analyzed every component. Once the diagnostic tests passed without errors, it was time to simulate various navigation scenarios. I initiated a test scenario to mimic a sudden loss of the ship's position: chiefEngineer@tachi:/etc/backup_navigation$ sudo ./backup_nav simulate_failure The backup navigation system sprang into action, recalculating our position using onboard sensors and star trackers. The terminal displayed real-time telemetry data, showing how the system compensated for the simulated failure. After a series of successful tests and simulations, I was confident that the backup navigation system was ready for prime time. I gracefully shut down the backup system, brought the primary navigation system back online, and ensured that all connections were restored: chiefEngineer@tachi:/etc/backup_navigation$ sudo systemctl stop backup_nav chiefEngineer@tachi:/etc/navigation$ sudo systemctl start primary_nav "OK, I think we're ready!" I announced. Levi and Riggs ran over to my station, where Riggs starred at me dubiously. "You think we're ready?" he asked. "It's the best I can give you." I replied with a frustrated frown. "Unless you want to slam into something at sublight speeds when the navigator who's flying by hand inevitably has to sneeze or something, I suggest you take it." "Good enough for me." said Levi as he punched a comm button on the wall. "Wright to the bridge!" "Go ahead, Levi." Captain Maxwell's familiar voice responded. "You should have basic navigation back up now. Can you give it a shot?" "Well, that's some of the better news we've had today. We'll try it now. Nice work." answered Maxwell. "Actually, it was Nick who got it working. His special brand of techno-mancy wizardry." Levi clarified as he looked at me with a smile. I grinned back at him. "Good job, Schuster." the Captain added. "Not a moment too soon, either. We're catching up on the Fury. The plan is to disable it once we've overtaken and then carry out a boarding action right here in the spacelanes to get our diplomats back. No muss, no fuss, no 'Mech battles or anything complicated. Clean and efficient." I felt a cold chill and a feeling of impending doom overwhelm me. I wasn't thrilled about the bad news I was going to have to deliver. "Captain, I think that's a great plan, but it has a fatal flaw at the moment." I began. There was a long pause during which I could clearly see Captain Maxwell's confused, irritated expression in my mind. It was an expression I'd been on the receiving end of more times than I wanted to remember, and here I was poking the bear yet again. "Go on." he finally answered. "Captain, the backup cutover is at the software level only. That means that whatever connected nodes still work, it'll try to use. But precision autothrottle, RCS, and position holding are still offline, because the entire subsystem's blade is fried. We can fly and land without any issue, but docking with a moving target and performing the kind of stationkeeping a docking action requires isn't available, and, with all due respect to the help team, trying it manually would probably result in a repeat of what happened at the JumpShip at best and a horrible interstellar collision between ships at worst." Despite the loud equipment running around us, my words resonated in the noisy bay as an uncomfortable silence followed. "Alright, I appreciate your candor, Schuster. Go ahead and get things buttoned up down below and then report to your battlestation. We'll try to wear down the Gambit as much as we can and then weigh our options from there."
  11. MEANWHILE... I screamed and fell down against the seat/toilet thing in my room as a HUGE explosion of spaghetti/meat chunks/vodka marinara cheese beer sauce/bread barf Flew out of my mouth, unfortunately I had not got out of my Bunk fast enough to make it all the way to the seat and a bunch of barf and engredients went everywhere, I had got real sick on account of my TDS when we had came out of hyperspace and so I was laying down trying not to barf up my food I had ate before we left but then something broke on the jump shup and it was flying all weird and the gravity kept Turning on and off, then the gravity upgraded to 2x of Earth and all of my Indigestions got pulled everywhere. I stared inside the bowel and looked at all the Things that were inside the bowel, also the Things that were on the wall and the side of the bowel and the floor. I was completely Sundered, I rested against the rim of the bowel and closed my eyes as I tried to get my Zen centered. The smell of Barf and light turd was distracting. I was about to climb up and try to get back into bed when all of the sudden there was another HUGE explosion except this time it wasnt from my Sickness, this time it was from outside of the Ship and I screamed in surprise as the gravity cut out and my Spaghetti sandwich explosion came up and Blasted at me, I Yelled in horror on account of a bunch of wet noodles and sauce and chunks hit me, a meat ball went by me and I heard a loud CRASH when the meat ball hit a Spacesuit on the wall and I flew up at the ceiling in the no gravity. "Holy shit I'm a sitting duck if I can't" I started to say but it was too late, the gravity came back on and I CRASHED back down onto the floo, on the way I bashed my face on the top Bunk bed and then busted my lower spine/Pelvic Floor butt area on the space helmet, the wind shield glass busted and Punctured into my butt cheek, I yelled and I rolled over the helmet was stuck to my Butt, I tried to disconnect It but then I felt the worst pain I had ever felt, it was like there was space helmet glass stuck in my butt, I didn't know what I was going to do. I Ran over to the toilet and I sat down, I had to be really careful to put the whole helmet inside it which I did, then I Sealed my leggs up against the rim and I reached to push the Flush button, there was 2 buttons, 1 said HYDRO FLUSH and the other said VACCU FLUSH, I Needed the 2nd button on account of it would blow the Helmet out into space but the 1st button would just give me a Water/barf filled space ass helmet and that would be even worse. But right as I was going to push the 2nd button everything got worse, I heard someone come on the speakers and say "RED ALERT RED ALERT WE HAVE RIPPED OFF THE AIRLOCK OH WAIT THAT'S AN OLD ANNOUNCEMENT" then there was a bunch of speaker noise and some other stuff, just then Bishop came busting in. "WHAT THE FUCK??" He said, then he said "WHY IS THERE BARF ON THE CEILING" Then I said "HEY Bishop I thought you went away to Crayven WAIT NEVER MIND THAT!!!. I NEED PRIVACY!!" THEN Bishop said "OK jesus take it easy ill come back later" Then he closed the door and the Ship shook and banged, I really fast bared down and hit the VACCU FLUSH button, there was a gumungous BABOOM and I felt so much cold and pain as the helmet ripped out and outer space froze my butts, I thought I was good but then..... WOOP WOOP WOOP RED ALERT RED ALERT WE ARE INGAGING IN BATTLE WITH AN ENEMY SHIP MAN YOUR BATTLE STATIONS Oh shit we were under attack?? I knew I had to get off the Toilet and get to my battle station, which was in the Mech Bay and it was basically sitting in the Locker Room in case we had to mech for the battle which had never happened in outer space but you had to be Ready, I went to get up but I couldn't move, it felt like the time my cousin Powmein had super glued my butts to the Toilet seat and my dad had to take me to the Hospital with no pants on and a toilet seat stuck to my butts so they could use Power Tools to get it off except no one had did a glue parnk on me this time, then I remembered that I had used VACCU FLUSH and now my butts were Sealed on the seat on account of the Toilet was open to Outer Space, I laughed for a minute because I wondered if the Enemy could see my butt. Then I hit the HYDRO FLUSH button and I heard a huge SLURP and I tried to get up, but I was still stuck!! "OH NO!!" I Sobbed, I was going to get in an an assload of trouble if I didnt get to my station and help my Battle Buddies, I cried thinking about how they all night die on account of my TDS, then I started to not be able to feel my butts, I was probably getting frost bite and I Sobbed even more because I didnt want to have to rrtire from Meching and go on Disability, I rocked back and forth a lot but I was still stuck, then I remembered something I had did on accident from way back in the day when we had did the Rescue Op. I reached over and I Grabbed both of the sides of the panel that said FLUSH CONTROLS, then I got up as much Zen as I could and I did a HUGE battle scream and RIPPED the cover off, the VACCU FLUSH and the HYDRO FLUSH buttons got tore straight out of the wall with all kinds of sparks, then inside the hole where the buttons were there was another button and it said CONTRABAND PURGE. I threw the Panel away right as the TACHI made lots of Explosion noises and then I hit the button HARD. "WARNING. WARNING. INITIATING CONTRABAND PURGE. STAND BACK" Came the deep Toilet computer voice, then I heard a HUGE gooshing noise and the next thing I knew a ENORMOUS water spray BLASTED me in the butts, it hurt so much, like I had put my ass on a open fire hydrant and got hit in the butt by a Mack Truck all at the same time. I FLEW off the toilet and got flung into the door of my Bunk Room with a really loud CLANG. "OWWWWW!!" I Screamed, then "AAAAAAAAAAA GROSS" on account of everything I had flushed down the toilet today was raining off the ceiling, I was covered in Filth water and my butt was bleeding onto the floor and my mouth smelled like barf and spaghetti sandwich but I wasnt stuck on the Toilet anymore, I really fast stood up and I pulled up my pants and I drank some Whiskey to fix my Breath, then I RAN as hard as I could to the Mech Bay, on my way I saw Bishop again. "Hey Jenkins where the hell have you been, we're getting attacked!!!" He roared "I STILL DONT KNKW WHY YOURE HERE!!!" I Yelled back, I didnt have time for that right now, I had to get to my battle station. After running for like 5 minutes I got to the Mech Bay and I ran inside the locker room where the other Mech Warriors were already, they were doing push ups and pumping iron waiting to go into Battle. It was really quiet, I just heard the weights going clank and some dudes grunting. I took a deep breath and then I sounded off, "SGT STEVE JENKINS REPORTING FOR BATTLESTATION DUTY!!" The weights banged down real hard and I heard some dude scream, I hope someone wasnt mad I was Late.....
  12. Epsilon Eridani VII Epsilon Eridani System - Tikonov Free Republic February 1, 3031 (Tuesday) ______________________________________________ Epsilon Eridani VII sits prominently in its orbit, the smoky, blue-green gas giant seemingly keeping a watchful eye on its domain, a turbulent orange streak from the remnants of one of its regular storms marring the otherwise marble-like surface of its gaseous outer layers. A heavy ring of planetary and cometary debris, comprised mainly of small rocks, dust, and ice, fits snuggly around the gas giant like cinched in belt or girdle; while a veritable field of moons meandered around the gas giant with diverse orbital planes. One particularly large moon was a lush, verdant green world with heavy cloud cover and what appeared to be a thick atmosphere, potentially sufficient to support life despite the distance to the K2IV class star, Epsilon Eridani. The planet/moons system was almost like a mini-clone of the Epsilon Eridani system itself, albeit with a larger number of orbital bodies, 17 individual moons at last count, and they travelled around their star at leisurely pace that took just over 22 standard Terran years to complete. There were no visible man-made satellites amongst the moons, though trace debris indicated their may have once been human presence, and if it wasn't for the continuous radio traffic from several of the planets closer to the Epsilon Eridani star, and the fairly regular emergence signals from both the Nadir and Zenith jump points, one could almost imagine it was a pristine, untouched star system floating out in the void. A bright flare steadily growing closer to the Epsilon Eridani VII gas giant shattered that illusion as its giant moon continued on its circuitous path, the nearly 60 standard hour journey looping the verdant planetoid around its planet almost twice before the brilliant flare finally came into focus enough to recognize it as a spacecraft. The triangular vessel had its ventral side (bottom) facing towards the gas giant with a massive fusion powered flame bursting from beneath it and slowing the spaceship down, to an experienced eye the engine exhaust was of sufficient size to suggest the vessel was pushing close to 3g during its deceleration. The Fury-class aerodyne dropship continued to slow heavily as it breached the outer reaches of the planetary system, this particular area of various moons and rings appearing to be its intended destination as the blazing fire of its fusion engine slowly began to die down to a more tolerable level. The vessel began to fire maneuvering thrusters, the small chemical rockets a much tamer exhaust plume than the fusion powered main transit drive, and it looked like the crew may be attempting an orbital insertion around one of the outer moons in the system. Unseen to the crew of the Fury, partially because of the massive size of its exhaust plume and the implied interference that would cause, and partially due to the presence of the larger, potentially habitable moon, another vessel suddenly appeared in the void. The slightly larger vessel was of a clearly different design, its nearly cylindrical, spheroid shape lending it towards having a more efficient volume to weight ratio than the aerodyne style Fury, so much so that despite having over 3x the volume of the smaller craft the spheroid vessel was less than 2x the weight of the Fury. The spheroid vessel, which could easily have been mistaken for a number of common civilian or military designs, was actually a Trojan-class military vessel that hid its armaments behind a series of blowout panels meant to disguise it against cursory inspections, an unnecessary feint in this encounter as the Fury still failed to detect the Trojan as it deftly drifted directly 'beneath' the vessel and in line with its apparent deceleration path. The aforementioned blowout panels on the Trojan silently detonated in clouds of chemical propellant as the non-structural components, little more than heat-resistant metal sheets, drifted away and exposed a series of weapons bays spread about the vessel's circumference with additional bays exposed along the nose and aft facings as well. The crew of the Fury finally seemed to take notice as the transit drive flared brightly again and maneuvering thrusters kicked into overdrive as they tried to turn the Fury to face the sudden threat. Brilliant azure lances of collimated energy speared out through the void to strike at the smaller Fury, its armour glowing angrily as a full 5% of its total armour was instantly vapourized by the three large laser beams leaving distinct hot spots on the vessel as the excess heat slowly radiated away into the blackness of space. Space suddenly came alive as a multitude of LRM-20 launchers all fired their payloads at once, a swarm of 120 individuals missiles buzzes angrily like a swarm of bees as the missiles streaked through the intervening space, contrails of chemical propulsion dispersing in their wake. While only around half of the missiles found their mark the cascade of silent explosions across the entirety of the vessels hull was still awe inspiring as a further 12% of the Fury's total armour was cracked, dented, or torn asunder. With the brutal opening salvo clearly in favour of the Trojan the two vessels began to drift apart as the Fury finally found its legs and began putting distance between them while still trying to pivot enough to bring their own weapons to bare, the spheroid meanwhile did their best to stay beneath the aerodyne vessel; both in its blind spot for return fire and also having easier targeting of its main drive. Despite their efforts the crew of the Trojan were unable to maintain their advantageous position and soon the Fury was able to unleash its own salvo of lethal weaponry against their adversary. The nose mounted PPC crackled with energy as the man-made lightning jumped from the barrel and streaked across the black, the charged particles impacting heavily on the Trojan followed by a shower of missiles, though the Fury could only fire a mere third of what the Trojan put out. The slightly lighter armoured Trojan lost just over 10% of its total armour in the exchange but another salvo of large lasers shaved another 5% from the wounded Fury, the Trojan had the definitive upper hand in terms of sheer firepower but it appeared as though the crew were trying to disable or at least not outright destroy the Fury judging from the methodical and controlled application of its arsenal. The Fury on the other hand was erratically trying to loose the Trojan, but didn't seem to want to leave the vicinity of Epsilon Eridani VII and take full advantage of its higher speed and heavier armour. Several more exchanges of fire ensued as the Trojan drifted in a helical orbit of the Fury, crossing within 100km of each other and prompting a flurry of medium laser fire from each vessel. Emerald beams lanced out in blazing discharges of energy as the Fury fired all 6 of their medium lasers in pairs as the Trojan passed any given firing arc, the spheroid vessel meanwhile had imparted a moderate spin to its helical orbit allowing it to fire continuously from the laser bays mounted around its circumference; the vessel's 12 medium lasers, also mounted in pairs, each taking a turn while the spin also provided fresh armour plating to face towards the Fury for each return salvo. Another storm of missiles from the Trojan shattered something inside the Fury as cowling and pieces of a nozzle drifted away from the aerodyne vessel's planetary drive, the one on its rear, and the main transit drive on its ventral facing began to sputter and change colour, the plasma notably cooling. The Fury meanwhile still managed to land a few more sporadic PPC and missile salvos against the Trojan, blackening and scarring the vessel's armour plating on all facings now and causing some kind of system damage as the spheroid's flight became more erratic and less precise. It was clear both vessels were getting worn down, each bearing new scars and signs of considerable damage, but neither vessel had a hull breach yet, whether through skill and luck or intention was unknown. The ships continued in their helical spiral, the Fury now embracing the same tactic despite not gaining the full advantage from it that the spheroid vessel did, their general path had them intercepting the large, verdant, terrestrial moon in short order if they continued on. The Fury-class dropship pulling ever so slightly ahead as its larger engine and lighter weight continued to play in their favour, but by its natural design there was nowhere the Fury could go that the Trojan wouldn't have some weapon system capable of firing on it.
  13. MCRN Tachi, somewhere ... Epsilon Eridani System - Tikonov Free Republic January 29, 3031 (Saturday) ______________________________________________ Commander Jaeger and I bounded onto the bridge, our eyes immediately being drawn to the triple camera feeds on the main screen. One of the feeds showed the JumpShip Sagittarius slowly drifting towards the planet's gravity well as we drew away from it, while another displayed the wreckage of the conjoined docking collars, small pieces of debris floating aimlessly away from the carnage. But it was the third screen that made our hearts sink: the bridge of the Sagittarius, with its four command crew still onboard. "How much time do we have?" I quietly asked Commander Dunlap, my voice barely above a whisper. "Less than three minutes before that ship is beyond all hope," she replied solemnly. "Captain Paris has floated a rather audacious escape plan, but I'm not sure what the odds are it's going to work." I nodded, turning my gaze toward the bridge display. "Captain Paris," I began, "we've got your crew safely aboard, including your chief medical officer." Paris looked up from his navigation panel, his expression one of relief mixed with apprehension. "Thank you, Captain Maxwell," he replied. "Look after Nurse Franklin, will you? She's a real firecracker. I guess anyone would be after having to look after a crew of octogenarians like us for half the pay of a private practice." I couldn't help but chuckle at the joke, though the gravity of the situation weighed heavily on me. "Of course, Tom," I replied, my voice low. "But what about you and your crew? What's your plan?" Tom's face was grave as he replied. "We're going to try some old-fashioned orbital maneuvers. I've calculated that we might be able to use what little power we have left to create a slingshot effect around the planet's gravity well. It's risky, but if it works, we might just be able to limp back to a stable Lagrange point." I raised an eyebrow in surprise. "That's quite a gamble, Captain. Are you sure about this?" Paris replied with a small nod. "Either we try, or we incinerate. Epsilon Eridani VII's moon is massive. It's nearly 79% the mass and diameter of Terra and diameter. Since we've got the luxury of a long, slow descent to our deaths, we'll wait for the moon to swing by on the near side of the planet. When it does, we'll attempt to use its extra gravity to slingshot ourselves into the L1 Lagrange point." I nodded, understanding the plan but also the risks involved. "We'll be rooting for you. The Tachi is going to need to withdraw to a safe distance, but we'll keep a close eye on your progress." Captain Paris gave me a tight smile. "Appreciated, Captain Maxwell. Get our crews to safety. You've already done more than enough for us. We'll see you on the other side." With that, he turned to his crew and began barking orders as the feed disconnected. I watched as, with Epsilon Eridani VII looming far in the distance, the Sagittarius drew away from the Tachi's view, its engines flaring as it made its final desperate preparations to cheat death. As the vessel disappeared from view, I looked back toward Commander Dunlap. Elizabeth had been staring intently at the screens, her expression taut with worry. I could tell that she, too, was deeply invested in the fate of the Sagittarius and its crew. "We've done what we could," I remarked softly. "Now, it's time to look after our own. What's our status?" Elizabeth took a deep breath before responding. "Well, the docking bridge is mangled. The emergency repair crews think there's enough material in place for us to repair it once we can get the Sagittarius' end dislodged from the actuators. Our avionics are mostly offline, so we're flying manually; that AI your team integrated into the system has helped offset some of the operational load in that regard. We're currently working on finding berths for the uninjured rescued crew while those with medical needs are being moved to the infirmary." Orlex raised an eyebrow. "How are they flying without any avionics?" Commander Dunlap shifted her gaze toward him, a hint of annoyance in her voice. "Well, the ship is functional. Without our input, it just doesn't know where it's facing or how fast it's going. We ended up paying the price for the Sagittarius' lack of maintenance, and now we have to make do with what we have." I nodded, taking in the information. It wasn't a comfortable situation, but we could manage it. I turned to Jaeger with a grim smile. "Alright, let's get to work. We'll take it one step at a time. Let's start by determi if we can pick up the Gambit's trail again."
  14. MCRN Tachi, somewhere ... Epsilon Eridani System - Tikonov Free Republic January 29, 3031 (Saturday) ______________________________________________ I grabbed the safety rail encircling the Tachi's navigation and command stations as the vessel suddenly lurched violently, warning alarms wailing. "Ops, what the hell was that?" Commander Dunlap barked, looking frantically toward Ensign Chen's station as I steeled myself against the shaking. Ensign Chen's hands flew over the navigator's console, her eyes flicking between the various readouts and displays. "Collar pre-failure," she replied, her voice tense. "What we felt was the autothrottle compensating for a sudden structural shear. We don't have much time left. Either the collar will fail, or we're going to go down with the Tachi." I cursed under my breath, looking toward the view screen, which was currently divided between a live feed of the Sagittarius' bridge and a wireframe showing the structural integrity of the docking collar in real-time. "How many left in the evac queue, Paris?" I asked the man on the screen, my heart pounding with urgency. "Seven more to go, Captain," Paris replied, his face grim as he shook his head. "We're doing everything we can, but we're going to have to cut you loose soon." "Understood. We'll hold onto you until the last possible moment," I replied, my mind racing with potential solutions. "Maxwell to Jaeger: any chance we can speed up this process?" There was a brief delay before Orlex replied, the din of the evacuation he was overseeing evident in the background. "We're pushing as fast as we can, Captain. But I don't think - " A sudden blast of electrical noise interrupted his transmission, causing me to wince and cover my ears. Ensign Chen's console sparked and sizzled, smoke rising from the circuitry. "We just lost avionics and guidance systems!" she yelled, her eyes wide with panic. "Switch to manual!" Dunlap shouted as she ran toward the master systems panel. "We're going to have to keep that tunnel aligned by sight!" A camera feed of the docking collar flickered to life on the screen, showing the tearing metal and sparking wires as the two ships struggled to maintain their tenuous connection. A moment later, the feed switched again, this time to a docking target that slowly stabilized as Chen realigned the tunnel by hand. "The Blake-damned K-F boom on that ancient barge back-fed through the docking collar and blew out systems across the ship," Captain Dunlap reported, her voice tight with tension as she worked through the sea of alerts that bathed the master systems panel in red. "Backups are not responding. We're blind, but Chen can still hold our position and keep this thing steady as long as necessary." I nodded grimly. "Maxwell to Jaeger," I called. There was no response. "Maxwell to Jaeger, do you copy?" Only a hiss of static met my reply. "Are comms out, too?" I asked, feeling a surge of panic rising within me. "Not to my knowledge," Elizabeth replied, glancing concerned in my direction. "I'm going down below," I advised, my mind racing with the possibilities of what could be happening in the docking bay. "Keep trying to contact Jaeger, and for Blake's sake, make sure we don't lose that connection." With that, I sprinted out of the bridge and into the lift. As I descended toward the docking bay, I couldn't shake the feeling that something was terribly wrong. My hand instinctively went to the sidearm at my hip, ready for anything that might come my way. When the lift doors opened, I was hit with the acrid smell of ozone and melting plastic. The din of straining metal and panicked voices filled the air, making it difficult to hear anything else. I quickly made my way to the docking collar, where I found Jaeger inside, guiding an evacuee to safety. "What's going on here, Commander?" I shouted, trying to be heard over the noise. "My headset fell down the shaft, and I couldn't reply," Orlex answered, his voice laced with frustration. "I could ask you the same thing! What in the world caused the blowout just now?" Jaeger gestured to the panel beside him, displaying a chaotic jumble of red flashing lights. "Reversed polarity in the K-F boom! We're flying by hand!" I answered, helping the commander shepherd a knot of evacuees through the wildly flexing tunnel. The docking collar groaned under the strain of the two ships pulling away from each other, the sound of its frame groaning and twisting filling the air. "How many more?" I shouted to a blonde woman with close-cropped hair and a medical coat who was hurrying through the tunnel with an injured crew member in tow. "It's just us, Captain!" she yelled back, sweat beading on her forehead. "We have everyone accounted for!" I nodded, throwing my arm under the injured crew member's shoulder and helping the medic guide them onto the Tachi. "Jaeger, as soon as you're out of that tunnel, seal the hatches and vent the airlock!" I ordered. "Already on it, Captain!" Orlex called back, his voice tense with effort. A moment later, the commander appeared at the entrance to the docking tunnel and hurried toward me, his face damp with sweat and his eyes wide. He had a look about him that told me everything I needed to know. "Captain," he said, his voice low and urgent as he approached. "I've got the airlocks sealed and vented, but the docking clamps are refusing to cycle. I can't pre-stage the explosive bolts, either. The system's totally fried." "Qīngwā tuóbèi wángbā dàn!" I swore, grabbing my comm unit from my belt. "Maxwell to bridge!" There was a brief pause before the response came back, the voice strained and slightly distorted in the handset. "Bridge here, Captain." "We've got the evacuees aboard, but we can't release the docking collar. We need a manual release from the bridge." There was a moment of silence before the bridge officer responded. "Stand by, Captain. We're working on it." I cursed again, the possibilities of what could happen if we weren't able to release the docking collar in time flashing before my eyes. A sudden jolt rocked the Tachi, throwing me and Orlex off balance and sending the injured crew member stumbling backward into the medic's arms. I regained my footing and grabbed my comm unit. "Bridge, what was that?" I demanded. "Captain, the docking collar on the Sagittarius' side just failed," the bridge officer replied grimly. "We're free, but we've got their hardware still attached to us." I sighed and wiped the sweat from my brow. "That's better than getting dragged down with them. Have the techs begin working on releasing their hardware while the rest of us focus on getting the Tachi out of this gravity well." "Aye, Captain." I turned to Orlex. "Nice work. You saved a lot of lives today. Come on, let's get topside. Have Mallory come down and look after these people." The commander nodded, his expression tense with worry. "Sir, Mal's not aboard." I froze as the weight of Jaeger's words sank in. "What do you mean he's not aboard?" I asked, trying to keep my voice steady. "We have wounded." "He's still at Site 187, sir. Apparently, we had a fair share of casualties there as well. I thought you'd been notified. We do have the Alpha shift medics with us." I looked toward the woman in the lab coat, attempting as best I could to suppress my frustration at the breakdown in communications caused by our hurried launch. "Are you a doctor?" I asked. "Nicole Franklin," she replied. "Registered nurse and Chief Medical Officer aboard the Sagittarius." I nodded. "Good. Captain Charles Maxwell. As of now, you're acting CMO of Tachi. I need you to look after the injured crewmembers that need your attention. Orlex, you're with me. Let's get to the bridge and figure out our next move." "I'll do my best, Captain," Franklin responded in confusion, surprise evident in her tone as the commander and I rushed out of the bay.
  15. MCRN Tachi, Approaching Nadir Jump Point Sheratan System - Tikonov Free Republic January 29, 3031 (Saturday) ______________________________________________ We had made good time getting everything and everyone aboard the Tachi in near record time after the vessel arrived at Berth 17 in the Gellen's Heights Spaceport, this wasn't the shakedown cruise we had anticipated for the ship, we hadn't even officially christened (or rechristened as the case may be) the vessel after its extensive repairs and rebuild required from salvaging the vessel back on Quentin. But while the Tana was technically faster than the Trojan-class dropship it was similarly armed, though with notably less missiles, and it simply didn't have the facilities, let alone the space, to facilitate the type of mission we now found ourselves deployed on. Initially we had been gaining ground on the abductors and their Fury-class dropship, the M.V. Gambit, as they were still tailing the Monarch-class vessel at a standard 1g acceleration while we pushed the Tachi to an uncomfortable 2g acceleration in a bid to make up the nearly 4 hour head start the enemy had on us. Unfortunately, they were paying attention and took note of our vessel burning hard in their general direction and decided to not let us do that as they then pushed their own vessel to its blistering maximum thrust of 3g acceleration. At those speeds anyone onboard would be forced to remain in their acceleration chairs/couches and would still be incredibly uncomfortable, and potentially dangerous for extended periods, but the abductors likely didn't care about comfort and figured it was worth the risk to try and get away. We considered increasing our own speed to the Trojan-class vessel's maximum thrust of 2.5g but the risk just wasn't worth it, we couldn't risk damaging the engines or ship when we still wouldn't be able to catch them, and since we knew where they were heading anyways it wasn't likely they would completely get away from us even with their ever expanding lead on us. The Gambit managed to make it to the Nadir jump point of the Sheratan system nearly 17 hours ahead of us, their heavy burn shaving 40 hours off the regular transit time, and managed to get a jumpship to take them aboard and jump them out of the system. Normally it would be extremely difficult to track just where the jumpship went but we had a few things working in our favour, one we knew where the enemy's intended destination was, corroborated from multiple sources we knew they were heading to Epsilon Eridani, and two the Gambit had apparently threatened the Merchant-class dropship with their imminent destruction if they didn't take them where they wanted immediately. Threatening a jumpship was nearly unheard of in this day and age, the vessels themselves were literal LosTech and no power in the Inner Sphere currently had the ability to build a new Kearny-Fuchida drive should one be destroyed or damaged beyond repair, even the Great Houses with their fleets of jumpships abided by the unwritten rule that jumpships were off limits, even during the viciousness of the 3rd and 4th Succession Wars. That being said it wasn't completely unheard of, but it did mean the crew of that Fury-class dropship were desperate to get away. However, the Merchant-class jumpship, while being unable to defend itself directly, did opt to broadcast what was happening and where they were going moments before they jumped, meaning we now had positive confirmation that the enemy was indeed heading to Epsilon Eridani. The government back on Sheratan also received the same message, a few minutes after us due to the travel time of sub-light communications, but had since been hard at work trying to procure for us a dedicated jumpship that could get us to Epsilon Eridani, and more importantly back within a limited time. They'd had limited success thus far but Commander Elizabeth Dunlap, the current Captain of the Tachi, was on a private line with the either the military or government offices back on Sheratan again. Typically Tribune Montgomery, or his equivalent, would be the one dealing with high command in such a situation but Elizabeth seemed to take a certain pleasure in being able to overrule the Tribune and force command to deal with her instead, though to be perfectly honest I felt we were getting better results, or at least a lot less run around, because of it. "Captain Maxwell, please come join me, you're going to want to hear this," called out Commander Dunlap from across the bridge. Charles made his way over to her chair with mild difficulty as the 2g acceleration made everyone's movements slower and more deliberate, not to mention more difficult and taxing as you effectively felt like you weighed twice as much. I could see him nod and talking with the Tachi's Captain as she shared to comm link with him but their voices were low enough they couldn't be heard over the din of the bridge itself and the vessel's notably loud operational noises as the engines were pushed beyond their safe thrust rating and to 80% of their maximum power. A minute or so later and Charles made his way back over towards me and the semi-comfortable jump seats that were located along the rear perimeter of the bridge. "We've got a ride," shared Charles, a look in his eyes like there was some caveat about to come, "It doesn't sound like the best, but it should be sufficient." "Alright," I said, giving him a wary look, "I feel like there's a rather large But... that should be accompanying that." "Oh there is," replied Maxwell with a slight chuckle and shake of his head, "shouldn't be surprising, but apparently the only ship the Sheratan government/military could 'commandeer' for us was an old Scout-class jumpship. Not really an issue until they also informed us that this particular vessel was apparently scheduled to be mothballed next month, they claim it's still jump-worthy but its not fully provisioned and most of the crew are near retirement age, though I'm not entirely sure why they thought that last bit was important to share." "Well as long as they aren't geriatric or something I'd actually prefer an experienced crew over some greenhorns that don't know the first thing about orbital mechanics. At least if they 'commandeered' it for us we should have a dedicated ride there and back for a change, and from what I recall Scout-class vessels have a pretty small emergence signature and faster than normal charging rate which may give us an advantage," I offered. A short time later, as the Tachi finished the last of its deceleration burn and final adjustments to approach the Scout-class jumpship, the Sagittarius, we welcomed the feeling of zero-g while awaiting the crew of the Tachi to dock us to the small jumpship. The dull thud of the docking collars mating and clamping together resounded through the ship and immediately the first warning klaxon of an impending jump rang throughout the ship's PA system. We had less than 10 minutes until we jumped, barely enough time to stretch our legs and get resituated for the jump to the Epsilon Eridani system. Several minutes later ... MCRN Tachi, somewhere ... Epsilon Eridani System - Tikonov Free Republic January 29, 3031 (Saturday) ______________________________________________ As we rematerialized at our destination, or rather as our consciousness caught back up to our sudden 22.5 light-year jump in position or whatever it was that caused things to get all screwy during a jump, we instantly knew something was wrong. The sound of a warning klaxon was the first thing we heard, and not the kind that signaled we had completed the jump and to please standby until we're cleared for departure, no this was the kind that screamed either battlestations or oh god we're all gonna die and we didn't know which it was yet. That sound was followed almost immediately by the sound of straining metal, something nobody wanted to hear on a spaceship that was supposed to be stationary, in regards to relative velocities in a system, and free-floating in space. "Report!" order Maxwell and Dunlap almost simultaneously as they both stood from their chairs, Elizabeth deftly deferring to Charles as he approached the center of the bridge. "Jump is complete sir, but we're not where we should be," reported Anissa Chen, one of the Tachi's three pilots. "Can you clarify ensign?" asked Commander Elizabeth, before turning to another crew member and ordering, "And silence that damn horn!" "I'm not sure, our avionics seem to be acting up, I can confirm we're in the Epsilon Eridani system but I can't pinpoint where. We definitely aren't at the Nadir or Zenith jump points and according to these readings we're inside a gravity well of some kind, not severe, I don't think, but definitely not good," answered Ensign Chen, her voice going cold as more of her readouts came in. "Sagittarius to Tachi, this is Captain Paris, we've had a misjump and are in the gravity well of Epsilon Eridani VII. Your vessel is not at immediate risk, please standby," the surprisingly level sounding man said over the intership comm, a plethora of alarms wailing audibly in the background of the transmission. With a slight gesture Elizabeth motioned towards Charles as though to say by all means, you take this one. "Copy that Sagittarius, can we assist?" offered Maxwell. "Not yet, just hold on a moment," replied the same steely-voiced Captain, a certain edge of strain entering his voice. A sudden lurch and the ship felt like it began to spin ever so slowly before a new bevy of alarms rang over the still open comm channel, in the background voices could barely be made out, mainly the Captain's. "Jim what the hell was that?" Paris's voice asked. "Starboard maneuvering thrusters just died Tom, we're drifting. Computer tried to compensate but its pushing us towards 0.2g that docking collar can't handle those forces," answered the man named Jim faintly. "Damn, we're gonna have to cut them loose," the Captain said quietly, almost defeated sounded. "Tom, you know we're with you but that doesn't improve our odds much," said a new voice, sounding distant in the background. "I know, but we can't bring them down with us," replied Captain Paris, his voice suddenly getting louder and stronger as he clearly must have turned back to the open comm, "Tachi, this is Paris again. We're going to have to disconnect you. We've taken some damage in the misjump and our engines are at risk of damaging the docking collar." Captain Maxwell and Commander Dunlap shared a look and Elizabeth nodded before turning towards Anissa, ensuring the comm would only pick up Charles, and ordered "Ensign, lock down those docking collar controls. Don't let them disconnect us without my order." "Aye, sir," nodded Anissa as her hands flew over the controls in front of her. "We can't let you do that Captain," replied Charles as he spoke to the Captain of the Sagittarius, "We know we're in a gravity well, if it's bad enough you need to cut us loose, it's bad enough your ship may not make it, especially if you've got engine damage. We can match your movement, give your crew time to evacuate if necessary." "While I appreciate the offer Captain I'm not giving up on this old girl yet. If you detach we can maneuver freely, we're close enough to the L1 Lagrange point we might be able to salvage things," replied Tom, his voice not having the confidence he likely hoped to project. In the background the same new voice from before spoke up again, "Tom..." "Damn it Dylan, I know," answered Captain Paris, not even bothering to turn away from the open comm this time, a long moment of silence passed before he finally spoke again, "Tachi, I'm making the call. Please try to hold it together until my crew gets to you. There's 18 of us, counting our 4 man bridge crew, ... so you should be getting 14 warm bodies before you detach. Look after them will ya." "Understood Captain, we'll hold," replied Charles solemnly before Paris closed the channel. Another alert klaxon rang throughout the ship's PA before Captain Paris' voice came across in a general broadcast, "This is the Captain, we've experienced a misjump and are caught in a gravity well. Engines have been damaged and we are unable to maintain position. The Tachi is holding position as long as possible but the docking collars won't last under this strain. All hands abandon ship! I repeat All hands abandon ship!" Turning to Commander Dunlap Charles spoke, speaking loud enough to address everyone on the bridge, "I need options people? What can we do?" "Evac is about the only thing available. The gravity well isn't strong but it doesn't take much to overwhelm a jumpship. The Scout-class has some of the strongest station-keeping drives ever made but even they still have limits," replied Elizabeth with a shake of her head. "What about using our drive to supplement theirs? I know we're much smaller but it's got to be better than nothing," I offered. "You're right, but we have no way to transfer what little thrust we could give them. The docking collar wouldn't take the strain and they are magnitudes heavier than we are, at best we might be able to give them less than 0.1g of thrust even if we could somehow transfer the force of a full burn over to them," answering Captain Dunlap sadly. A few more suggestions were offered in quick succession but met the same response, either it couldn't be done or it would have such little impact that it wasn't worth the added risk at this point. The jumpship likely had several hours before it was actually at risk of being destroyed or severely damaged, likely longer if its station-keeping drive stayed functional, but the window to its point of no return was quickly approaching and the docking collar would succumb long before then, and any hope of escape along with it. As if on cue the sound of straining metal grew louder as the jumpship continued to roll and drift while the Tachi's pilots tried desperately to keep the dropship in line with finer maneuvers than the vessel was ever designed to make. "Commander Jaeger, go oversee the Sagittarius' evacuation. We'll keep going over any and all options here. Maintain an open link until their crew is accounted for," ordered Charles. "On it Captain," I replied as turned and rushed from the bridge, grabbing an earpiece comm unit on the way. I ran, or as close to it as you could in zero-g, down through the ship heading towards Deck 5 and the docking collar airlock located within, arriving within minutes and just as the first of the evacuees were arriving. I quickly took stock of the situation, several of our own crew were already present and in pressure suits, operating the airlock from our side to transfer the first 4 members of the Sagittarius' crew over to the Tachi. The airlock, while not actually overtly slow, felt like it was taking forever to cycle and through the portholes I could see more members of the jumpship's crew starting to arrive on their side of the docking collar. The sound of straining metal was almost obscene this close to the single connection point between the two ships and the fear in people's eyes was writ clear as day on both our own crew as well as the Sagittarius' as they finally cleared the airlock. "Private Keelan," I said, reading the one crewmembers nametag, as I worked to pull an emergency pressure suit from the nearby locker, "That airlock is taking too long to cycle, we don't know how much longer this docking collar will hold. I want you and Baker there to go seal the emergency bulkheads in these corridors. I'm going to override the airlock and leave both sides open until we get the crew through. Make sure to strap yourselves and the Sagittarius' crew down when you get back, don't need anyone going for ride if this collar breaks free while the airlock is open." A look of abject horror crossed over the private's face for a moment, but he nodded and he and his partner took off down the two corridors to seal the bulkheads manually, before we had an unplanned depressurization that would activate the bulkheads automatically. Turning back to the airlock I checked that the collar was still intact enough to register a positive seal before punching in a command override that would allow me to force both sides of the airlock to open at the same time. Anchoring myself with my prosthetic arm and leg in the now completely open airlock I waved the next set of crew through, a group of 6 this time, as the remaining members of the Sagittarius cycled their larger airlock for their own escape. A sudden lurch between the vessels and my prosthetics fought to keep me in place, the emergency pressure suit preventing me from simply digging my metallic foot or hand into something that wasn't going to let go, and the tell-tale hiss of escaping atmosphere suddenly joined the groaning and sheering metal noises as I visibly watched pieces of the docking collar begin to deform. Gesturing frantically I could only hope that their airlock would cycle quick enough for them to cross the roughly 3m (10') gap before the collar failed completely.
  16. Gellen's Heights Spaceport Gellen's Heights, Sheratan III Sheratan System - Tikonov Free Republic January 26, 3031 (Wednesday) ______________________________________________ The raindrops were large and cold, soaking us to the bone as Orlex, Idris, and I dashed through the spaceport back to Berth 17. My heart raced, the adrenaline coursing through my veins, and the weight of responsibility pressed down on me. Nick's voice crackled through the comm headset in my ear, his usually irreverent tone tinged with urgency. "Captain, I've managed to get into the spaceport's camera system," he said. "I've got good news and bad news. The good news is, we've got brief footage of the crew and their vessel while it was on the ground, probably enough to infer some stuff about them." "And the bad news?" I asked, Orlex looking toward me inquisitively. "The bad news," Schuster continued, "is that most of their activities weren't captured due to a suspiciously well-timed power outage." I clenched my jaw. It felt like these guys had been two steps ahead of us at every turn. I couldn't dwell on that now. "Alright. What were you able to figure out?" Nick's voice held a hint of frustration. "Not much, I'm afraid. For the most part, what we already know. A bunch of well-armed individuals disembarking the Gambit. What is relevant is that they started that disembarkation less than 20 minutes before the explosion at the capitol." I nodded. "Alright, so between the eyewitness account and your footage, we can safely say this is the ship we're looking for." "It would seem so, sir," Nick confirmed. "Nice work. Get back to Berth 17 on the double," I answered. "Eden out." As we reached the Pandora, the gangway lowered. Alyssa was standing in the hatchway, waiting for us. She focused, her eyes sharp and determined. "We need to move fast if we're gonna catch that transport ship." "As Schuster would agree," I remarked, climbing aboard and looking back toward Orlex. "He's got enough of a smoking gun to verify that we're after the right vessel." The commander hefted himself through the doorway, glancing warily at the chronometer mounted against the rear bulkhead of the driver's cab. "We're going to lose a lot of time rounding up our gear from the staging area and schlepping it back to Site 187," he observed. "Even with the 'Mechs already on hand, in this weather, it's going to be a slow roll." "I couldn't agree more," I replied. "How fast do you think the relief crew can get the Tachi here?" A look of surprise crossed Jaeger's face. "Here? As in...?" "As in 'here,' here," I replied, toweling off the rivulets of water that ran down my forehead from my soaked hair. "Berth 17. While they load the 'Mechs and vehicles aboard, we can grab what we need from the staging area and get airborne." Retrieving his own towel, Orlex paused thoughtfully. "I don't see why they couldn't bring the Tachi here. It wouldn't be my first choice in this weather, with its unpredictable handling characteristics not sorted out, but she'd be a way better ride than the Tana once it's out of the world. Yeah, it should be feasible." I nodded my approval. "Alright, make the call. Meanwhile - " Before I could finish, the Pandora's hatch banged open, and Steve stumbled in, bloodied and bruised, grinning like a madman. "Captain, you won't believe it! I had a little disagreement with a cargo handler, but I won the fight, AND we found out where the Gambit's going!" I raised an eyebrow, more concerned about the Sergeant's well-being than his victory in a brawl. "Are you...okay?" Jenkins waved off my concern. "I've had worse, Captain. And we found out they're headed for... "Epsilon Eridani," Levi interjected, stepping through the hatch behind Steve. "And, uh, we might want to start heading that way ourselves if the cargo guys decide to press charges. I tried to text you to give you an advance warning." "Is that what 'REDALRT STV IN TRBULE STREET FGHT UDRWY' was supposed to mean?" I asked, squinting at my comm unit's screen. "I thought you were having a stroke." Levi rolled his eyes, clearly exasperated. "It was supposed to say 'Red Alert, Steve in trouble, street fight underway.' But apparently, my thumbs are too big for a wet comm screen." I shook my head, quickly assessing Steve's injuries, relieved to see they were mostly superficial. "Alright, get yourself patched up and rest up for a bit. We'll need you at 100% for the mission ahead." Jenkins nodded, his grin unwavering, and disappeared into the rear of the bay. A moment later, Nick boarded the recovery vehicle, flashing a thumbs-up to indicate that he was the last of the crew we were waiting for. I turned to Levi. "Alright, let's get this show on the road. We're heading for Epsilon Eridani. The Tachi's coming to us. We need you and the escort vehicle to take us back to the staging area for our gear. Time is of the essence." Levi nodded, his expression grave. "I'll get the marshal back over here now." I watched the quartermaster hurry off, his steps purposeful and swift. It was times like these that made me grateful to have him on my team. He was reliable and level-headed, qualities that were essential in our line of work. I sighed, feeling the magnitude of the mission ahead settling on my shoulders. Intercepting the Gambit before it reached Epsilon Eridani was going to be like threading a needle, but we had no choice. The cargo on that ship was far too precious to let it fall into the wrong hands.
  17. MEWHILE..... "He'll be good!" Levi said. "It's, uh, hard to fit back into the holder, is all." Now all three of the dock workers were definitely looking suspicous at us. "I could hold it, if you don't trust Steve?" "Ugh, fine," the guy with chrome legs said and stopped stepping on My Bushido Blade. "But if you two come back here, I'm calling security." I looked at Chrome Legs with Anger, he was putting his foot on my Ancient Bushido Blade, which made a kind of Dishonor that demanded Ritual Combat, the ancient Kuzuu word for it was Kombat, we called the ritual Mortal Kombat. My eyes got Narrow and I said "You have committed a Grevious technical fault that casts Dishonor on the house of Jhzuizui which is now Jenkins on account of when I went to Archimedes. I demand Mortal Kombat reparations to be made Whole." But then Levi said "WHOA WOAH WOWAH Steve we just got the Name of the place where the ship had went, we dont need to pick a fight with these Guys, we need to go save the Diplomats." Then Chrome Legs took his foot off my Sword and he said "Yeah run along Tiny, you dont want to mess with This." Then I looked at Levi and I said "I'm Sorry Levi, this Dishonor must be fixed and the only way is Mortal Kombat. It is my duty as a Belt Holder to uphold the Code of Bushido." Levi sighed, he knew I wasn't letting it go. Chrome Legs rolled his eyes and said, "OK Fine But let's make it quick, my break is over in 5 minutes." Then he took his foot off my Bushido blade and I picked it up and put it off on the side, I couldnt put it away until it had drew blood and been de-pavemented. I Nodded at Chrome Legs and I stepped forward, taking a stance to prepare myself for the Mortal Kombat. The other Guys stepped back and watched us start circling each other, one guy started recording on his phone, I kept my eyes on Chrome Legs for weakness. Suddenly, he lunged at me swinging his fists, I kicked him REALLY hard in the Balls and he howled with a Roar like a bear, he bent over making a Pain face and I thought I had won, But instead of falling down, he grabbed A pipe and swung it at me and it hit and it Sundered my shoulder, I screamed Bloody murder and all kinds of blood/vomit/chunks/spaghetti sandwich blew all over the Pavement, then I fell down, I couldn't move. But I knew I had to get up for the Honor of my house and me, so I pushed myself up, ignoring the pain as my Sundered shoulder made all kinds of grinding noises. Chrome Legs grinned at me and his Rotten crooked yellow teeth made smell lines in the air, He chuckled and said "You're a tough one Tiny" He swung the pipe again, but I dodged it this time and got out my Gaiden Sais, they were basically like regular Sais but they had little chains on them attached to Yo Yo reels so I could throw them and pull them back, Chrome Legs Swung the pipe at me, but I did anopther dodge and threw one of my sais at him HARD, it stabbed him in the arm and he dropped the pipe which I grabbed, unfortunately when I did that the little chain on the Sai broke and so it stayed stuck in his arm as he screamed in Agony. I held the pipe up high and walked towards him, ready to end the Mortal Kombat and restore my honor. "FINISH HIM!!!!" I Heard the voices of my Ancestors bellow in my head, meanwhile Chrome Legs stumbled backwards, trying to pull the Sai out of his arm and blood going everywhere. Then I pushed Chrome Legs into the blood and vomit and he slipped and fell on the ground. I raised the pipe above my head and prepared to strike. But then..........something....stopped me. As I looked down at Chrome Legs, I saw the fear in his eyes...................the fear of death. I let go of the pipe and it banged onto the pavement with a loud clang. Then, I grabbed the bloody shirt Chrome Legs was wearing and ripped it off him. He stared at me in disbelief as I walked away and picked up my Bushido Blade and then I wiped it with his bloody shirt. Then I put the Bushido Blade it away and I turned around. Chrome Legs was still lying there all vomity and bleeding and defeated. I dont know where the other Cargo Guys had went, but I knew what I had to do...... ..... ..... ..... I walked over to the Pay Phone and I called an ambulance. Then I looked at Levi and said, "OK, my Honor has been avenged, lets go tell CPT Maxwell about Epsilon Eridani, Levi nodded with a face that looked like Amazement and shock. "You're something else." He said as we started walking back toward BERTH 17, then he said "I don't think I could have had that much restraint." "WELL" I said "There's a difference between justice and revenge, and I chose the Justice."
  18. Capitol Complex Gellen's Heights, Sheratan III Sheratan System - Tikonov Free Republic January 26, 3031 (Wednesday) ______________________________________________ Steve introduced himself and tried to question the intimidating looking dock workers, but they weren't answering with anything that helped and seemed kind of Annoyed, and Steve seemed Really Annoyed, and in frustration said "I think these Guys are messing with us." "STEVE, do you Want to get crushed by a vending machine?!" "AY, layoff, willya?" the bald guy who didn't open his eyes all the way said. "Yeah, that was One Time and it was YOUR fault for getting mad at Bob while he was forklifting a whole vending machine," the guy with the chrome prosthetic legs said and pointed at Steve. "You can't just yell at a forklift driver who has anxiety!" "Hey, I've never seen you guys before in my life!" Steve said. "You were drunk then, too, so you probably don't remember," the bearded guy said. "Argh, we don't have time for this, you need to tell us about the spaceship!" "I told you, there are spaceships everywhere, this is a space port!" the guy with the chrome legs shouted. "It's just one specific spaceship, the last one that left from berth 17," I said. "Aye, th' Gambit," the squinty dock worker said. "Whaddaboutit?" "Do you know where they're going? Maybe there was an itinerary, or they said something about their plans?" "Technically, that's all confidential." The bearded man took a step back. "HE'S IN ON IT!" Steve shouted and drew his Bushido Blade, but before he could do anything with it the guy with chrome legs tackled him and yelled "LEAVE BOBBERT ALONE YOU CRAZY DURNK!" and while I was watching Steve get tackled I didn't see the squinty guy charging at me and he punched me so hard I fell on the floor. "Wait, we're just trying to find the hostages who got kindapped!" I yelled right before the squinty guy was about to punch me again, and so he didn't. "Eeh?" he grunted. I glanced over, and chrome guy had Steve in some kind of wrestlilng hold, so I had to talk fast. "Wewereguardingthe diplomatic thing and the diplomats got kindapped and we think the ship at Berth 17 took them, so we really really really need to know anything you know about where the ship went so we can save them!" "You're not very good guards, are you?" said the chrome guy. He let go of Steve's neck and Steve gasped for air, and then said, "You're standing on my sword!" "That's the point." "Epsilon Eridani," the bearded guy said. "They said they were meeting someone there. Didn't catch the rest. You could have started with the kidnapping thing, you know." "Thanks," I said, getting up off the ground. The squinty guy was still looking all suspicous at me, but then maybe that was just his face. "So uh, can we go? We've got to go tell our captain where the hostages are headed." "That depends," the guy with chrome legs said. "Is he going to put that sword away and stop trying to slice people up?" "WELL, it's a bushido blade and it can't be put back away until-" "He'll be good!" I said. "It's, uh, hard to fit back into the holder, is all." Now all three of the dock workers were definitely looking suspicous at us. "I could hold it, if you don't trust Steve?" "Ugh, fine," the guy with chrome legs said and stopped stepping on Steve's Bushido Blade. "But if you two come back here, I'm calling security."
  19. Gellen's Heights Spaceport Gellen's Heights, Sheratan III Sheratan System - Tikonov Free Republic January 26, 3031 (Wednesday) ______________________________________________ I sat in a jump seat at one of the workbenches in the back of the Pandora, plugged a network cable into my noteputer, set it on the tabletop, and listened to its quiet whir mixing with the sound of falling rain from outdoors as it powered up. My assignment was pretty straightforward: breach the spaceport's mainframe and find the security footage that might hold important details of the abduction of four diplomats. As soon as the noteputer finished booting to a command prompt, I started typing furiously on its the clunky keyboard, each keystroke echoing through the empty bay. The first step was to establish a connection to the spaceport's mainframe. I had observed a microwave received on a nearby conning tower, so, very carefully, I pivoted the Pandora's dish toward it and tried to initiate a shell session. shell ssh -l admin The terminal blinked back at me, prompting for the administrator password. I entered it with a bead of sweat trickling down my temple. ACCESS DENIED "Damnit!" I shouted. The screen continued to taunt me with the grim, blinking "Access Denied" message. With my heart pounding, I launched a brute force attack to try to crack the password, unleashing a relentless storm of possibilities at the system. shell hydra -l admin -P forkyou.txt ssh:// Minutes passed like hours as the script ground away at the task. Finally, the system yielded. Password found: Ne0N_Thr1LL I smirked in triumph. The door to the mainframe was now open. My heart raced as I dug deep into the spaceport's digital labyrinth, navigating through directories and deciphering their cryptic names. The security footage had to be here somewhere. I began with a directory listing. shell ls -l /var/security/cctv/ The terminal spat out a list of directories, each named with a string of alphanumeric characters. I took a shot in the dark, selecting a directory at random. shell cd /var/security/cameras/R3l1qu4ryP1X/ Inside, a maze of video files awaited me. The terminal scrolled through a flurry of timestamps, and there it was...a video file from just before the time of the attack on the capitol, named "sect3bay17cam01_210923.vid." My pulse quickened as I copied it to my local machine. shell scp admin@ ~/Downloads/ The file transfer progress bar inched forward. "Come on, come on!!" I shouted, and eventually the video was in my hands. But I wasn't out of the woods yet. I still had to crack the file, which was protected by a strong encryption algorithm. shell openssl aes-256-cbc -d -in ~/Downloads/sect3bay17cam01_210923.mp4 -out ~/Downloads/sect3bay17cam01_210923_decrypted.mp4 -k Ne0N_Thr1LL My noteputer whirred with activity as the decryption process unfolded, and a sense of relief washed over me as the decrypted video file finally appeared in my downloads folder. I watched the footage, but my excitement was short-lived. As I was contemplating my next steps, a blaring warning message erupted on my terminal: INTRUSION DETECTED - Unauthorized access detected from IP: My heart pounded like a drum, and cold beads of sweat formed on my brow. Someone had caught wind of my incursion and they were hunting me in this digital labyrinth. I realized that I needed to act fast. shell ifconfig eth0 down ifconfig eth0 hw ether 00:11:22:33:44:55 ifconfig eth0 up dhclient eth0 My IP address changed, but I knew this would only buy me some time. The counter-hacker would adapt. So I patched any vulnerabilities I could find, fortified my firewall, and created a bunch of decoy connections. shell ufw enable ufw default deny incoming ufw default allow outgoing ufw allow 22/tcp ufw allow 80/tcp ufw allow 443/tcp ufw deny from The terminal lit up with a barrage of output, but not in time. My trace tracker shrieked and displayed the last message I wanted to see. TRACE ATTEMPT DETECTED "Fuck!" I shouted in frustration. This was a dangerous game of cat and mouse, and the stakes were higher than ever. I couldn't leave any evidence behind that I had ever been in the mainframe. So I spammed a web of proxy servers and decoy connections to try to throw my pursuer. shell proxychains scp ~/Downloads/sect3bay17cam01_210923_decrypted.mp4 admin@ This kept the counter-hacker chasing ghosts long enough for me to completely wipe the connection logs from my final hops. As soon as I did that, the warnings in the terminal ceased, and a tense silence filled my cockpit. With a grim smile, I returned to the decrypted security footage. As I played it, the video revealed the aft cargo bay door opening less than 20 minutes before the explosion at the capitol happened. I tensed up. If I was right, this was the smoking gun we needed: a video showing how many insurgents had stormed the conference, their gear, and maybe even their identities. Perched on the edge of my seat, I was consumed with the playback when it abruptly cut to black. It was as if the world had swallowed the spaceship and all of its secrets whole. I rewound the video, hoping it was a glitch or a loss of signal, but the result was the same. The footage ended at the same spot every time. They'd cut the power and all of the failovers exactly when and where they'd needed to. A sense of frustration gnawed at me, but I knew I couldn't dwell on it. I had the decrypted video in my possession, and despite its enigmatic ending, it held valuable clues. I fell back in my chair and let out a frustrated sigh. Then, I opened a comm channel to Captain Maxwell and Commander Jaeger. "Rebus to Eden and Bastion." "Go ahead, Rebus." came Maxwell's reply. "I've got good news and bad news....."
  20. Capitol Complex Gellen's Heights, Sheratan III Sheratan System - Tikonov Free Republic January 26, 3031 (Wednesday) ______________________________________________ "Not a lot to go on," Maxwell sighed, "Possibly Capellans; possibly a destination with 'Epsilon' in the name. How do you want to play this?" Slipping my sidearm back into its holster I shrugged, the armoured duster bunching around my neck before falling loose, rivulets of rain pouring down its slick leather surface. I was careful to remember to grab it this time before exiting my 'mech into the wonderful Sheratan weather we were having, the cold biting rain at least partially checked by the sturdy outerwear. "Well, we've got confirmation on which dropship the abductors used, so that's a plus," I said thoughtfully, "I think there are two star systems within jump distance that have Epsilon in their names, so if they were talking about a destination that does help narrow things down. Of course they could have just as easily been talking about a nav point, a unit, or just about anything else for that matter. This does strike me as a Capellan job though, given the trouble they've been trying to cause on Sheratan already, and how they like to hold a grudge, this summit was the perfect target for them. What I don't get though is why kidnap them? They'd cause just as much trouble if they simply assassinated the political delegates and to be fair, their track record with that sort of thing is a little better than abductions." "True enough, but if they're trying to strengthen their own position instead of only cause chaos and disruption the kidnapping makes more sense. If they just assassinated them, yes it still weakens the Republic but if it ever was found out they were behind it, that could lead to all out war which the Capellans simply can't afford right now, especially with the Republic in talks with the Davions. By kidnapping them they weaken the Republic but even if it comes out they were behind it they still are in the stronger position because they could now bargain to return the delegates for a ransom or some political favour," offered Maxwell, his mind working over the scenario carefully. "What about Marik? Think they could have orchestrated this and tried to frame the Capellans?" I asked, it was a random thought that just sprung to mind but one that was worth following through on. "Possibly, but despite their animosity towards the Republic after Supreme Lord Ridzik's attack on the Free World's League a year and half ago, I don't see Janos Marik doing something like this in retaliation, and the Republic really isn't a threat militarily, politically, or economically to the League. Besides, that mess with the Anduriens seems to have them a bit preoccupied," replied Charles with a nod. "So, we're back to it being the Capellans, they've escaped with 4 delegates and possibly some their staff aboard a Fury-class dropship named the M.V. Gambit heading to an unknown destination, potentially with the name Epsilon in it," I summed up with another shrug, "Unless we can get a definitive way to track that vessel I guess the only thing we can do is try and get spaceborne ourselves as quickly as possible and maybe catch them before they reach a jump point? With the head start they have though it'd be a hell of a ride to try and catch them and neither of our dropships are technically any faster than the Fury itself if they tried to run." "Agreed, maybe we should check in with Marius and see if he's had any luck tracking down that dropship for us then," stated Charles as he flipped out his comm unit, he activated it on broadcast with the volume just loud enough for the two of us to hear over the storm and background noise of the spaceport. "Eden to Mantis, come in Mantis." "Mantis here, good timing Eden I was about to call you," came Marius' immediate reply, his tone implying he might be calling with good news for a change today. "Alright Mantis, you go first. What have you got?" Charles asked. "So the Tribute actually came through in a respectable amount of time for once, we've been patched in with limited low level access to the planetary defense grid. We're able to piggyback off their sensor grid to track anything over 1,500 tons anywhere in system, more or less. Unsurprisingly the M.V. Gambit is not transmitting so positively ID'ing them would be fairly difficult, however we were able to pull the last 3 hours on any given sensor track as well so we managed to triangulate where that missing Fury should be and low and behold, I think we found it," reported Marius, more than a little pride in his voice. "Excellent work Mantis, we've confirmed it is the Fury that the missing delegates were loaded onto and are working on figuring out their destination. How confident are you that you can keep track of our wayward dropship until they leave the system?" inquired Maxwell. "Oh very confident Eden," replied Marius with a grin you could hear in his voice, "There's more, the Gambit appears to be tailing that Monarch that left slightly before them, trying to hide in their shadow or something, but roughly 20 minutes ago an oddly repeating signal was detected coming from that direction, allegedly. I only just managed to, acquire, this information from the government office; the Tribune claimed to be unaware of it at the time. But that signal apparently matches a known private distress signal that the Nanking Senator, Elara Venstrom, always keeps on her person. It's not strong enough to pinpoint its location, at least not from this distance, but it does give us a solid direction to look in. That signal appears to match perfectly with the current trajectory of the Gambit and while the room for error will increase as they get further away I'd be confident saying we could track them with ease for the next 4 hours if we did nothing but sit around and twiddle our thumbs." "Well we aren't exactly known for sitting on our hands are we?" said Maxwell with a knowing smile, "Mantis get the ship ready, as soon as we're wrapped up at the spaceport here we'll be on our way back. I want us up in orbit before we loose that signal." "Already on it sir," replied Marius before closing the link. "Well that about settles it then," said Charles as he slipped his comm unit back into its pocket and turned towards me, "Let's go see how the others are making out and share the good news." With a nod we turned back out into the storm, hiked up our jackets, and headed out into the maelstrom to reunite with the rest of the team, new purpose in our steps as we finally started getting somewhere.
  21. MEANWHILE........ Me and Levi walked outside our Mechs in the rain, it had let up some but it was still really Wet and Cold, I had brang my Bushido Blade and it had an umbrella inside the handle but I couldn't use it on account of once I Drew my Bushido blade it had to spill blood before it could get put away, since we were at the Spaceport I didnt think I was going to go into combat with bad guys so I just got Wet. "SO we have to go find and Interrogate some spaceport workers, I wish I had brung the nureal interrogation helmet" I said, then Levi looked at me in Confusion. "The WHAT??" Then I remembered that was when Levi was Thermo Man and he was busy stealing my Mech during that Op, so I told him "O yeah I forgot you missed that Part, it didnt really work right anyway." Then Levi looked back at me and said "WELL, I DON'T think we're going to have to interrorgate anyone on account of these are the good guys, we just need to find them and ask them where the GAMBIT had went after it kidnapped all those people." I frowned and looked around, I saw some cagro guys up ahead, 1 had a gumongous beard that I couldnt see his face behind, another guy had an all scrunched up face like I had saw in an ancient thing I saw one time called a "Popeye Cartoon" and the 3rd guy had Cyber Legs that looked all metal and glowy in the rain, "I dont know" I said "At LEAST one of those guys looks like he will drop a Vending Machine on you if he made you mad" Then we walked by some Spaceships were there was a dog barking and another one had a lady outside hanging up sone Laundry, then the next one had a Banjo Guy who was playing the banjo in the rain which was weird "A Vending machine, where would he even get that outside on the Runway???" Asked Levi. Then I nodded in Seriousness. "Youre right, if he DIDNT have a vending machine he would just do an uppercut so hard your Skeleton would fly up out of your body." Levi made a terror face and said "You need to tell me Which one that is since I dont want to stand next to him." I made another serious face and I said in a low voice "I will" and then I slapped my Bushido blad to make my point. We walked up on the Cargo guys and they stopped what they were doing and stared at us, a Tumbleweed blew by and the guy with the HUGE beard spit some tobacco and put his hands on his belt, The Robo Legs guy cracked his knuckles and stomped his feet like he wanted to do a Death Race, Popeye guy just stood there making a Popeye Face and chewing even though I dont think he was actually Eating anything, then the Beard Guy started talking, he said "Just what in the FUCK do you want??" Then I looked at him with my serious eye and I said "I am Steven Tychomidos Jenkins, son of Bob and Marlene Jenkins, Celebrity Attorney, Holder of the Dust Up Dome Belt, SGT for Aegis Division Mercenaries, and I am looking for a Spaceship." Then everyone stared at me with crazy faces like I had said something Dumb, I got mad and I said "WHAT are you staring at??" Then the lips in the middle of the Beard said "Are you DRUNK or something?" TheN I looked at him and said "Probably but WAIT never mind that,what does that do with my question???" Then Robo Legs said "LOok around you, theres an Assload of spaceshops everywhere, if youre not that drunk you must be blind!!" Then Popeye said something that sounded like "Mhermrehrmehrmehr" and He cheewed. I looked at Levi and I said "I think these Guys are messing with us." Then Levi's lips moved like he was about to say some words so I waited for him to say them.,
  22. Gellen's Heights Spaceport Gellen’s Heights, Sheratan III Sheratan System - Tikonov Free Republic January 26, 3031 ______________________________________________ Our convoy of BattleMechs thunked slowly through the driving rain, crossing Commerce Boulevard in a single-file line, the glow of neon signs and streetlights reflected in the slick pavement as we neared the spaceport. Alyssa led the way, her Raven's advanced sensors piercing the mist and gloom, and I followed closely in my Catapult. Behind me trailed Levi in the Pandora, safely nestled in the center of the formation with Steve Jenkins' Dragon and Orlex Jaeger's Merlin guarding their flanks. The sweeping eastern landing quad of the spaceport loomed ahead, the silhouettes of dozens of vessels visible in the distance, casting eerie shadows in the twilight. As the storm relentlessly pounded against Tyche's hull, I drew the 'Mech up to the security checkpoint and keyed my comm unit. "Charles Maxwell, Commanding Officer, Aegis Division," I began. "Requesting permission to enter the restricted area." A crackling voice responded after a moment of silence. "Copy that, Maxwell. I assume you're returning to your staging area." "Ultimately," I replied. "First, we need full access to landing zone C3, berths 12, 17, and 23. We're investigating the recent abduction of five diplomats from the political summit under provisions of the Sheratan Crisis Act." There was a brief pause before the voice spoke up again. "That's a live spacecraft operating area, Captain Maxwell. Having a lance of BattleMechs stomping around is a potential safety hazard. We're going to need to get you escorted in by a marshal." I nodded, understanding the security measures. "Understood. Just get us in there as soon as possible. Lives are at stake." As we waited for the escort, I couldn't help but feel a sense of unease. The storm, the darkness, and the abandoned buildings surrounding us seemed to underscore the gravity of the situation. I knew that the clock was ticking and we had to move fast. When the revolving lights of the escort car drew into view, my tension only heightened. The marshal led us down several winding lanes between towering hangars and warehouses, her car's headlights illuminating our path as we pushed forward onto the taxiways crisscrossing the immense, sprawling facility. The hustle and bustle of the spaceport, even in the tumultuous weather, was overwhelming, with ships of all shapes and sizes flying overhead, taking off and landing, their engines roaring, and their lights piercing through the storm. I had seen many spaceports in my years of service, but this one was larger, more chaotic, and more densely populated than most. The perfect environment for an abductor to disappear into with their hostages. At length, the headlights of the escort car caught the number 12, painted on the ferrocrete of an empty berth in peeling yellow paint. In short order, berths 17 and 23 came into view, their rectangular landing pads open and barren. The lack of activity in such a busy spaceport was eerie, and I couldn't shake the feeling that we were being watched. As our BattleMechs drew to a halt, the marshal hailed me on the radio. "We've arrived at the designated berths, Captain. For safety reasons, we'll need you to park your 'Mechs and recovery vehicle in the loading zone for berth 17 and disembark. Once you've done that, you can poke around for as long as you need. We'll be on standby to escort you back to the Aegis Division FOB when you're ready." "Understood, Marshal," I replied. "Thanks for the assist. We'll be commencing our investigation now. Eden to all units - form up and shut 'em down." With acknowledgments from the lance trickling in, I maneuvered Tyche into the designated staging area, feeling the familiar sensation of the 'Mech's joints lowering into a crouch and locking into place as I put the war machine in a parking configuration. Flipping a series of toggles, the sound of the fusion reactor winding down filled the cockpit. Unbuckling my harness, I extricated myself from the pilot's couch and took a moment to pull a high-necked shirt, pants, and an overcoat from the rear storage locker, slipping them on over my shorts and t-shirt. A few moments later, I'd popped the Catapult's hatch and descended the escape ladder, my boots thunking onto the wet ferrocrete below. The wind whipped through my hair as I made my way toward Orlex, who was already speaking to Corporal Schuster by the entrance to berth 17. As I approached, I caught the tail end of their conversation. "...might have something to do with the power outage," Schuster was saying as I drew nearer. I raised an eyebrow. "What power outage?" Orlex turned to face me, a deep furrow carved into his forehead. "Nick was pointing out that the berth's chronometer is blinking and showing that it's 0248, which is way off. That seems to indicate that, a few hours ago, the power in this section of the spaceport shut down. Highly irregular. Spaceport have lots of redundancy. Given the timing, it's possible that it's related to the abduction." "Good catch," I nodded thoughtfully, rubbing my chin as Steve, Alyssa, Idris, and Levi joined us. "The Fury-class DropShip that was claiming catastrophic system failures but left a day later was berthed here." "That's an interesting coincidence," Alyssa remarked, her eyes scanning the surroundings. Steve then spoke up. "Yeah. They might have caused the power outage to cover their tracks." "Seems likely," I agreed before turning to Nick. "We need to find the security footage for this berth and see if we can identify anyone leaving around the time of the outage." "Security here is run by a private company," Schuster advised. "Better that you not ask me how I know. But what that means is that we're probably looking at miles of red tape before we can get our hands on that footage." I scowled. "Just great. We don't have the time to go through proper channels. Think you can help us out?" Schuster nodded. "I was hoping you'd ask," he replied with a small grin. "I've got my kit up in the Rifleman." "Good man," I answered, clapping him on the shoulder. "I'll let you get to it." I looked toward Levi and Steve. "Meanwhile, I need you two to ask around about the Gambit's itinerary. We need to know where it's headed. Work the angle with the cargo handlers; see if they'll volunteer any information." "That feels like a LOT of work when we could just go ask someone in charge and tell them if they don't help us, they're gonna go to the planetary gulag," Steve complained. "Or get turned into highway hamburger!" I nodded. "I get it. But the fewer times we have to pull rank, the less attention we'll draw to ourselves. There's no way to know if the spaceport management has also been compromised. We don't need the abductors getting tipped off." Levi nodded, already pulling out his notepad to jot down some notes. "On it, Cap." "Alyssa, Idris, and Orlex, let's have a look around the berths and see if we can turn anything else up," I concluded, gesturing for the three of them to follow me. "Maybe some little thing that was missed the first time around." The four of us fell in together, walking in silence, each lost in our own thoughts and observations. As we threaded our way between two hulking, run-down cargo ships, I noticed something odd out of the corner of my eye - a figure quickly ducking behind a large shipping container, disappearing out of sight. Without hesitation, I signaled the others to stop and pointed to where I saw the movement. "Idris," I whispered. "Can you get FLIR on that box? Something funny going on." Idris nodded and tapped a switch on his power armor's helmet, activating the thermal camera. Slowly sweeping his head from side to side, he inspected the spot where the figure had disappeared. After a few seconds of scanning, his face twisted in confusion. "Confirmed," he whispered back, a high-pitched whine underscoring his words as he zoomed the camera in. "There's definitely someone there." "Good eye, boss," Orlex commented, gripping the handle of his sidearm. I nodded in agreement, unholstering my own weapon and signaling the others to do the same. Slowly, we approached the shipping container, our weapons trained on its doors. As we got closer, Idris indicated that his camera was picking up movement again, and we heard a muffled curse. I quietly stepped forward, using my off hand to try to open the container's door, but it wouldn't budge. "Locked," I muttered under my breath, looking to Idris. "Think your power armor can breach it?" "I can try," Idris replied, stepping forward and taking hold of the box's handle with his gauntlets. "On three," I advised, raising my weapon and gesturing for the others to do the same. "One...two...three!" With a low whine, Idris' power armor activated, and he yanked on the handle with all of his strength, metal screeching as he pulled the door clean off and flung it aside. And there she was. A bedraggled-looking woman, dressed in a tattered formal gown, training a Stetta Auto-Pistol on our group with one hand while her other hand fumbled with a small radio. "Don't move," she warned, her voice shaky and hoarse. "I won't hesitate to use this." We all remained frozen, both sides pointing our guns at one another while assessing the situation. The woman looked scared out of her wits, and for a moment, I thought she might be one of the terrorists we were tasked with finding. But something about the desperation in her eyes made me pause. "Marquess Savoy?" Alyssa suddenly interjected, lowering her weapon slightly. "What happened? Are you okay?" Savoy's eyes widened in recognition at the sound of Alyssa's voice, and she lowered her own weapon slightly. "L-Lieutenant Maxwell? Thank Blake it's you. They took us...the terrorists, I mean. They took all of us. The others. I don't know where they are. Please." "Who took them?" I asked, taking a step forward. Therese's hand shook as she tried to keep the gun trained on us. "I don't know," she said, her voice barely above a whisper. "They were wearing masks; I couldn't see their faces. Spoke Mandarin and Cantonese. All dressed in black. They came in and took us all. I was with the other delegates when it happened. They overpowered our bodyguards and took us. Then...the bomb went off." The marquess' voice faltered, and her eyes welled up with tears, her weapon slowly lowering. "Mikhail? Sofia? Matteo? Are they safe? Did they..." she asked, trailing off. Alyssa drew closer to Savoy, her weapon still at the ready, but with a tenderness to her movements. "We don't know, Marquess," she explained softly. "We just got here. But we'll do everything we can to help." Therese sighed with relief and lowered her weapon entirely, her body shaking with sobs. I felt a twinge of sympathy for her; I could only imagine what she'd been through. "How did you manage to get away?" I asked, trying to keep my tone gentle. Savoy wiped away her tears with the back of her hand and took a deep breath before responding. "After they took us to the spaceport, they had difficulties loading their vehicles into their DropShip due to its steep ramp. One of the transports drove halfway off the ramp, and they had to stop everything to try and fix it. I saw my chance, and I ran. I could hear them shouting, but they didn't give chase. They probably didn't want to risk being seen. I've been hiding here since." I nodded, impressed by her quick thinking and resourcefulness. "You did well to escape." Therese nodded, regaining her composure. "Thank you, Captain. I only wish the others had been so fortunate." "They may yet be, Marquess," I said, trying to inject some hope into the situation. "We're going to find them and bring them back safely. Did this all happen at berth 17?" "Yes, that's correct," Savoy responded. "I overheard them talking about it while still deciding where to take us." My ears perked. "You wouldn't happen to know where they were planning to go next, would you?" I asked, my curiosity piqued. Therese shook her head. "No, I'm sorry. They didn't say anything specific about their destination." "Gotcha," I answered resignedly. "But I did hear them mention the name 'Epsilon'," the marquess added as if it might mean something to us. "That's helpful," I nodded. "Thank you. Now. Let's get you someplace safe." I looked toward Alyssa and Idris. "Will you two escort Marquess Savoy to the marshal's car and make sure she's taken care of?" They both nodded in agreement, Alyssa stepping forward to offer the Marquess a supportive arm. I watched them leave before turning to Orlex, catching his eye. "Not a lot to go on," I sighed. "Possibly Capellans; possibly a destination with 'Epsilon' in the name. How do you want to play this?"
  23. Capitol Complex Gellen's Heights, Sheratan III Sheratan System - Tikonov Free Republic January 26, 3031 (Wednesday) ______________________________________________ There were blast marks on the door frame leading into the conference hall where barely an hour before a team of unknown operatives had busted in and abducted several important officials before disappearing almost as quickly. I passed by a number of local police officers and militia MPs virtually unnoticed, which was not a comforting sign given we didn't know if there were still enemy operatives around. The place was in complete shambles with tables knocked over for temporary cover, bullet holes in nearly every wall and surface, and a number of scorch marks on the floor indicating that either concussive stun grenades or possible flashbangs had been used in the brief, but intense, firefight. There were still several of the less critically injured individuals being attended to by EMTs along the perimeter of the room as well as even more local law enforcement that were taking statements and checking on individuals throughout the room. I spotted my targets with ease, the delegates and diplomats cordoned off and huddled up against one wall where they looked like they were about to be ushered out of the room. The only individuals that seemed to be on high alert, and were rightfully so, were the few personal security members of the various delegates. After being informed that several of the diplomats had been abducted during the attack I had made it a top priority to check in with the remaining delegates, having witnessed the raid first hand they might have additional information to share with us beyond what the Tribune and local PD had told us. Not that anyone was suspected of holding back information or anything, but first hand witness accounts were always better to gather in person where possible. As such I approached the crowd of delegates deliberately and noted that the nearest group had the look of mercenaries about them, and even without their garments now clearly sporting the Wolf's Dragoons colours and symbol I would have pegged them as such with little effort; That was odd though, as the Dragoons had been reported as one of the missing delegates. As I approached a young man overtly stepped in my way, his hand was resting casually on his sidearm but his broad shoulders and stern look told me he wouldn't hesitate to draw, or otherwise physically restrain me if I tried to get around him. His name patched read "Wolf", though that didn't mean there was necessarily any relation or even connection with the Dragoon's leader, Jaime Wolf. A lot of mercenaries have taken on different names when they get into the business and Jaime Wolf's was one of the most recognizable names in the Inner Sphere, it wouldn't be surprising for some young, up and coming recruit to try and take that name to help give their career a jump start. This young man, who appeared to be in his early 20's if I were to guess, stepped further over and gave me a look as though to say 'Just try it' when I took a half step to get around him on my approach. His sidearm remained in its holster for the time being but he made no attempt to hide it, or where his hand was placed, and I no doubt we could probably draw the weapon very quickly if needed; but even if he was the fastest quickdraw in the Inner Sphere it wouldn't be quick enough if I used the laser hidden within my prosthetic left arm. For all the posturing though the young man did seem to have a modicum of restraint however and simply stood barring my path. "That's enough John, let him by," came the husky voice of the Outreach delegate a few steps behind him. "You must be the real guns they hired to keep this place safe?" continued the man as John Wolf begrudgingly stepped to the side, though barely enough to let me past, "You don't have the look of militia and you definitely aren't from the government." "Guess you could call us that, though I'd say we botched the job pretty good from what I'm seeing," I offered, taking the man's extended hand and shaking it, "Commander Orlex Jaeger, Aegis Division." "Andre Ward, Wolf's Dragoons," the mercenary turned diplomat returned, "Used to be a Lieutenant, until I took a bad hit to the head and can't use a neurohelmet anymore." "I wouldn't say you completely bothced it, made a good mess of things sure, but hey there's still half of us here and mostly in one piece," Andre continued, "I saw the guys executing the attack, and no offense but I don't think you could have done much to stop them even if you had been here, not in your 'mechs at least. These guys were professional, not quite Maskirova or SAFE level, but damn close. Even the Wolves, in their current state, would have struggled with that attack." "Thanks, that does bring up an interesting point though. How do you know we weren't here when the attack happened? And also it was reported that you and your team got snatched along with the others during the fighting, how are you here now if that was the case?" my tone was likely more accusatory than I had initially intended but there were some things that just didn't seem to add up. "You've got a good ear there Commander, I don't know that any of the locals would have picked up on that. I knew you and your team were gone to deal with the perimeter breach because I'm still a soldier at heart, we have a comm unit given to us freely by the local militia so we could keep tabs on security outside. I heard the call to pull Aegis away from the Capitol Complex so we were already on guard when the attack hit," replied Ward, producing the comm unit as he spoke, "Now as to why we got listed as MIA, that would likely be thanks to tall, dark, and handsome there. John can be a bit intimidating, especially when his blood is up, and when one of the local PDs came through earlier to check on things he scared the poor tyke away. We saw a few others talking with the other delegations and patiently waited our turn but no one came, seems we got lost in the confusion." After a few more minutes speaking with the Wolf's Dragoons delegates I moved on a spoke with the remaining 3 groups and learned that everyone seemed to share the same opinion, their attackers had been most likely mercenaries of some kind, no one was able to identifiy them but their actions, general look, and apparent discipline and skill under fire marked them as such. Granted it was likely a biased opinion but the most convincing evidence/testimony came from the Wolf's Dragoons delegate from Outreach so their opinion held great sway than the more traditional political delegates from the other planets. There wasn't much more to glean from the conference hall or those who had survived the attack so I let the diplomats leave with their local PD escorts and made my way back towards the main entrance. Pausing at the last doors I pulled open my personal comm unit and radioed Charles, who had already returned to his Catapult alongside Alyssa, "Come in Eden." "Eden here, what have you got Bastion?" answered Charles, his voice somber. "Looks like the locals had some trouble counting sir," I began, "The Outreach delegates are alive and well and were never missing, I confirmed it with the other remaining delegations, seems they were too intimadting and got missed in the head count." A forced chuckle broke across the comm and I could picture Maxwell shaking his head, "Well that's one form of good news I suppose, what about our five actually missing delegations any info on them or their attackers?" "Nothing concrete Eden, the other 5 were confirmed to be seen being dragged out of the conference hall with the attackers and based on the eye witness accounts I've gathered were looking at a professional mercenary outfit. These definitely weren't pirates, and they weren't run of the mill grunts either. The Wolf's Dragoons boys don't think they were intelligence operatives, they named SAFE and Maskirova as not being likely, but they're on a pretty close playing field to them," I reported. "Well that's a start Bastion, what do you feel our next move should be Commander?" inquired Charles. "Honestly sir, I think we need to head to the spaceport and see what we can find there. There's been no reports of any unauthorized vehicles leaving the city, and we know that the attackers convoy was spotted heading towards the spaceport. Thanks to Mantis we have three potential targets that left before they managed to implement their lockdown, and given what we know that Fury is the most likely candidate. If we poke around at the spaceport, maybe near the pads those ships were berthed on, it might turn up something for us," I answered, suspecting that Charles had also come to a similar conclusion already, before asking, "How are the rescue operations going?" "Better than expected actually, the rest of team has helped rescue a large number of trapped survivors that otherwise wouldn't have made it. The planetary militia has fully crewed search and rescue teams arriving now with PowerLoader and HeavyHauler exosuits to take over with the finer work. Get back to your 'mech and we'll regroup with the others before making our way to the spaceport," responded Maxwell. "Yes sir, on my way," I replied before closing the comm unit and tucking it back into its pocket. Looking outside I braced myself to charge through the torrential downpour, that somehow seemed to be getting even heavier, and pushed open the doors of the Capitol Complex, instinctively hunching my shoulders as I set off at a jog towards my awaiting Merlin its prominent silohuette backlit against the city behind it, the rain and cloud cover heavy enough now to have turned on automatic lights nearly everywhere despite the time of day.
  24. Capitol Complex Gellen’s Heights, Sheratan III Sheratan System - Tikonov Free Republic January 26, 3031 ______________________________________________ The Capitol Complex was a mess. Even though it was raining cats and dogs outside, smoke and dust choked the air as the remains of what was once a towering symbol of power lay strewn across the landscape. I took it all in from the cockpit of Avenger as my 'Mech stood amidst the wreckage, dwarfing emergency personnel scurrying around its huge feet. Captain Maxwell's orders for this mission, if you could call it that, were to assist Levi, Steve, and Idris in rescuing survivors trapped beneath the collapsed complex. But as I looked at the devastation around me, I couldn't help but wonder if this was too extreme a task for a BattleMech that was never really designed to deal with challenges on the ground, especially picking things up off of tiny human bodies. From my time as a Special Operations agent in the LCAF, I was no stranger to chaos and destruction, but this was something I hadn't attempted before. Levi's voice came on the comms. "Alright, Rebus, hold still. We're attaching the chains now." I shifted nervously in my seat, locking the controls as I squinted through my helmet at the group of brave souls who were in the process of attaching heavy chains to my Rifleman's arm-mounted gun barrels. These chains were meant to help me lift sections of fallen walls and debris, a makeshift solution for a makeshift rescue operation. It was a crazy plan, but sometimes you had to get creative when your 'Mech had no hands. The chains clanked as they were secured between the huge section of fallen wall I was going to try to lift and Avenger's wrist joints. I could feel their weight as the haptic feedback controls pushed against my hands. About two minutes later, Idris came on the channel. "Rebus, this is Junaid. The rescue team has given the green light. Start the lift. Straight up in the air." "Roger. Beginning the lift." I replied. Then, I took a deep breath, trying to calm the racing of my heart, and engaged the 'Mech's hydraulic systems. The massive arms moved, slow and deliberate, as I applied just enough pressure to the chains. I watched the debris begin to shift, the sound of grinding concrete and steel audible. It was a delicate dance, a balance between power and precision. I had to get it right. "Easy does it, Rebus." Levi urged, his voice tense. I didn't reply because I needed my entire focus to avoid overcorrecting and causing another disaster. Gradually, the section of fallen wall started to lift, revealing a small pocket of space beneath it. I held it aloft, giving the rescue teams on the ground a chance to pour into the chasm and do their jobs. And sure enough, gradually, survivors emerged from the darkness one by one, relief, shock, and gratitude on their dirty faces as I watched them being led to safety. It was a rare moment, a chance to be a hero without the need for destruction. Once the ground crews gave me the signal, I gently lowered the debris back into place. As the chains were detached, Levi called me again. "Rebus, the coordinator says thank you, and that before we celebrate, he needs us to go to the underground parking garage to the south of the CIC." Levi explained. "He says that when the west wing came down, the force of the collapse caused the garage to partially cave in on itself. He needs us to clear a path to help reach the survivors." "I'm on it. See you over there." I replied, turning Avenger around and stomping toward the scene. As my Mech strode towards the entrance of the parking garage, the sky grew darker and the rain began to fall even harder. I turned on my Rifleman's floodlights, illuminating the wreckage that lay ahead. The scene was nothing short of nightmarish, with crushed vehicles, shattered concrete, and twisted metal forming an impassable maze. It was like a steel jungle, and I was the behemoth that was about to try and navigate through it. I carefully maneuvered my Rifleman down the garage's entrance ramp. Idris forged ahead of me in his power armor, using its enhanced strength and agility to scout out the wreckage and point out the pieces that were safe to move. Over and over, I drove Avenger's arms down into the rubble with brute force, using the barrels of its autocannons to flip the debris out of the way. The awful grating noises of steel dragging against concrete and the crash of shifting debris filled my ears as I carved a path through the ruins. "Rebus, I'm seeing survivors just ahead, slightly off to the right." Levi's voice came over the comm. As on edge as I was, hearing him speak was reassuring, even if it was to tell me that I was about to need to do more harrowing recovery things. "It's that giant piece of courtyard terrace that's all smashed down into the payment lane. Can you pry it or lift it out of the way?" "I'll try." I replied, my heart racing as I steered toward the location. The idea of live people right behind the barrier I was about to smash through put me on edge. But I couldn't afford to hesitate; their lives were on the line. Quickly, I grabbed the microphone for Avenger's P.A. system and used it to broadcast a warning to get out of the way as loudly as I could. Then, I extended the 'Mech's arms, using the gun barrels now as makeshift lifter arms. I carefully positioned them beneath the massive chunk of ferrorcrete, and in a slow and deliberate movement, I began to lift, fighting to keep my Rifleman from stumbling as it bore the weight. "Easy, Rebus." Levi guided me as Idris gave me hand signals from down on the ground. "You've got this." "I really hope so." I replied with strain in my voice as I concentrated. Inch by inch, the slab rose into the air, loud scrapes audible as it slid against the parking garage's foundation. As a clearing opened, I could hear the survivors' cries of relief in the background of Idris' radio. It was a sound that made every ounce of effort worth it. With a heavy boom, the slab of ferrocrete fell backwards into the courtyard as my Rifleman pushed it above the level of the parking garage entrance. Then, rescue teams on the ground quickly moved in to attend to the victims. Meanwhile, I stood guard, ready to intervene against anything that might happen while the rescued individuals were being led to safety' "Nice work, Rebus and Junaid." Levi's voice broke through the comm. "That was amazing." "You're damn right. We're HEROES!" Steve added. I rolled my eyes at his comment. "Just happy I could help." I replied. As the last survivor was led to safety from the collapsed parking garage, the situation took a turn. The rain that had hampered the rescue efforts suddenly intensified into a torrential downpour. The raindrops pelted my Rifleman like bullets, the deafening noises echoing within the cockpit. My Mech's floodlights struggled to penetrate the deluge, and visibility became a serious concern. "Rebus, Dionysus, and Junaid, we've got to pull out of here before we end up being the people needing to be rescued from the mud." Levi ordered. "Let's regroup at the incident command area." "Understood. I'm on my way." I replied, reluctantly disengagong from the rescue site, navigating around waterlogged rescue workers on the ground who were scrambling for cover. Levi was right. It was time to withdraw. In moments, the incident command area came into view, and I pulled Avenger up alongside Commander Jaeger's Merlin. As I exited the Mech's cockpit, my hair and clothes became immediately plastered to my body, soaked through by the relentless rain. I rejoined Levi, Steve, and Idris, who were similarly drenched and seeking shelter under a makeshift canopy. I also spotted Captain Maxwell, Commander Jaeger, Lieutenant Maxwell, and Tribune Montgomery. They were huddled together, discussing the incident and the ongoing rescue efforts. Captain Maxwell, noticing our arrival, motioned for us to join them, his eyes showing a mixture of concern and determination. "Nick, Levi, Steve, Idris, glad to see you're safe. There's been some developments that have caused us to reassess our situation."
  25. Capitol Complex Gellen’s Heights, Sheratan III Sheratan System - Tikonov Free Republic January 26, 3031 ______________________________________________ The rain pounded down on the canopy of my Catapult, drenching the world around us as she stared blankly out into the storm. I could tell that she was lost in thought, still reeling from the tragedy that had befallen the summit and torn Dexter from us. I placed a comforting hand on her shoulder, silently offering my support. After a moment, Alyssa turned to me with haunted eyes. "I need to find out who's responsible for this," she said, her voice barely above a whisper. I nodded, placing a comforting hand on her shoulder. "We will," I assured her. "I'm counting on it. If anyone can find a pattern in all of this mess, it's you." Alyssa let out a slow breath, her gaze darting around the cockpit before settling back on me. "I don't even know where to start," she admitted, her voice strained. "I don't know what Dexter was working on before he died; I don't know who the suspects are or what their motivation could be." I knelt down beside the pilot's chair, reaching over to take her hand, feeling the chill of her skin despite the warmth of the cockpit. We sat in silence for a moment longer before Alyssa spoke up again. "Do you ever think about leaving all of this behind?" she asked, gesturing to the cockpit and the outside world. I furrowed my eyebrows in confusion. "What do you mean?" "Everything. The chaos. The constant fighting. Sometimes, I feel like it's consuming me," Alyssa murmured, her voice heavy with emotion. "Sometimes, I just want to live a normal life with you, away from all of it." I squeezed her hand, understanding the weight of her words. "I know it's overwhelming," I replied, "but we can't just run away from our problems. We owe it to the people we lost to keep fighting for what's right. People like Dexter." Alyssa nodded slowly before her gaze drifted to the rain-drenched cockpit windows. "You know, he died upset at us," she began, her voice cracking. "He thought that I was trying to take over his piloting duties and that you thought he was underperforming. That the reason he was always on the intelligence desk was because he wasn't good enough to be one of the pilots." My heart clenched at her words. Dexter had been an irreplaceable member of our team. It hurt to know that he had thought otherwise. "I never thought that about him," I replied quietly. "I know," Alyssa continued, tears filling her eyes. "And I never got a chance to tell him that. I wanted to tell him how valued he was and how much we all respected him. Now, it's too late." I pulled her towards me, wrapping my arms around her as she cried. Alyssa leaned into me, her body shaking with sobs. "I already miss him, Charles," she whispered, sniffling. "I miss him so much." "I know, love," I murmured back, rubbing her back soothingly. "I do, too." Alyssa's tears subsided after a few minutes, but her arms remained wrapped tightly around my body. She didn't want to let go. "We can't let his death be in vain," I whispered. Alyssa nodded against my chest, the rain tapping against the metal exterior of the cockpit a somber backdrop to our grief. Eventually, she pulled away, taking a deep breath to compose herself. She wiped her tears and reached for a data pad on Tyche's console, passing it to me with determined eyes. "You're right," she responded firmly. "And I think I have some idea of what the motive for the abduction might be." I took the data pad from her, scanning through the notes she had compiled. A list of five of the six missing dignitaries was laid out in front of me, each name accompanied by a brief description of their background and political affiliations. Personality: Senator Elara Venstrom Representative of: Nanking, Tikonov Free Republic Profile: Elara Venstrom is a seasoned diplomat known for her shrewd negotiations and ability to navigate complex political landscapes. She's been recognized on several occasions for advocating peaceful resolutions and has been involved in several successful trade agreements. Elara's expertise in these negotiations and her reputation as a peacemaker make her a valuable asset for ironing out extended ceasefire agreements at the summit. Personality: Governor Roderick Halden Representative of: Carver V, Tikonov Free Republic Profile: Roderick Halden is a charismatic leader with a background in economics. He's helped turn Carver V into an economic powerhouse within its region and has experience as a business magnate. Although the attendance of a governor is unusual, Halden's economic prowess and knack for resource management make him an ideal candidate to navigate trade and resource distribution talks. Personality: Ambassador Li Wei Representative of: Hsien, Tikonov Free Republic Profile: Li Wei is a skilled ambassador who has successfully established diplomatic ties with neighboring systems. She's known for her dedication to maintaining peaceful relations and has a deep understanding of cultural nuances. Ambassador Wei's expertise in cultural diplomacy and her track record of fostering peaceful relationships make her a crucial asset for territorial negotiations. Personality: Councilor Kael Morgenstern Representative of: Keid, Tikonov Free Republic Profile: Kael Morgenstern is a career politician with a background in law and governance. He's respected for his strong sense of justice and commitment to upholding the rule of law. Councilor Morgenstern's legal expertise and dedication to justice make him a valuable representative for ensuring that any agreements signed align with the Tikonov Free Republic's legal framework. Personality: Marquess Therese Savoy Representative of: Procyon, Tikonov Free Republic Profile: Therese Savoy is an influential figure in Procyon's politics, known for her strategic thinking, extensive historical knowledge, and ruthless negotiating skills. A member of Procyon's ruling household, Marquess Savoy entered the political realm following the death of her husband at the Battle of Bayson Bridge, the bloodiest conflict of Colonel Pavel Ridzik's campaign to take Procyon from the Free Worlds League. With a background in interstellar economics and a deep understanding of the bloody history that led to the formation of the Tikonov Free Republic, Marquess Savoy is often considered the "ace in the hole" for winning over stakeholders that might otherwise be unwilling to compromise. I read over the details, raising an eyebrow as I reached the last name on the list. "Why is this sixth dignitary not included?" I asked, gesturing to the blank space on the page. "I pieced this data together from multiple different sources. The sixth dignitary is the representative from Outreach," Alyssa explained. "Something of a newbie. Tribune Montgomery is working to get his details for me." "You did a remarkable job in a short amount of time," I commended her, grateful for the distraction from our shared grief. "So, what's the motive then?" Alyssa's expression turned serious as she leaned forward, her gaze intense. "Looking at the proficiencies of the five dignitaries, it's clear that the strength of the Tikonov Free Republic's negotiating position was riding on their shoulders. They were all experts in various fields that were crucial to the summit's success: diplomacy, economics, culture, law, and history. If you eliminate them from the equation, the TFR's position is greatly weakened. It's possible that the abductions were a tactic to force them into a weaker negotiating position." I nodded in understanding, seeing the pieces fall into place. "So, you're thinking that the abduction was orchestrated by a rival house who wanted to gain the upper hand in negotiations?" Alyssa nodded. "It's possible. And, I think that the preemptive attack on the local militia was designed to do exactly what it accomplished: pulling the military's attention away from the real target and leaving the dignitaries vulnerable." "That's a good theory," I replied, impressed with her analytical skills. "And given what we know firsthand of House Liao's stance toward the Tikonov Free Republic and sorts of things they've attempted to do to Sheratan in the past, I think we have a fairly solid starting point for our investigation." Alyssa sighed and leaned back in her chair, exhaustion etched on her features. "Yes, but in the meantime, we have a DropShip full of six abducted diplomats hauling ass out of the system and no idea where it's headed." "I know," I answered softly, reaching out to squeeze her hand. "But we'll get there. We'll find them, and we'll bring them back home."
  26. Capitol Complex Gellen’s Heights, Sheratan III Sheratan System - Tikonov Free Republic January 26, 3031 ______________________________________________ "Okay, what's next?" Steve asked as an ambulance pulled up for some reason. I don't know where the team was, but they may be helping another rescuer. My heart was pounding as I looked at the devastation around me. The once magnificent Capitol Complex is now a smoldering graveyard of twisted steel and broken glass. War had means of turning the most magnificent buildings into ruins, today was no exception. “Steve, come on,” I spoke into the power armor’s rebreather, pointing to the place where we cut away the debris. “We have to get the survivors out. We are very close." The three of us dug with our hands, and I used the limbs of my power armor to lift and move the loose debris. It was slow and difficult work, but at the same time it was the most important work we could ever do. After several moments, we finally found the small group of survivors, a mixed group of people who looked like bureaucrats and their assistants. They were beaten, bruised and covered in dust, but alive. Some of them looked scared as they looked at my power armor. “Hello, my name is Idris Nasir. “We’re here to help you,” I said quietly, trying to calm them down. One of the survivors, a woman of about 45 with a bleeding wound on her forehead, began to cry when she saw us. Her tears seemed to inspire the others, and soon everyone was asking for help. I felt a knot form in my stomach. All I could do was apologize to them and assure them that we would get them out of here. Levi immediately began leading the survivors to the ambulance while Steve and I made sure no other survivors were trapped. We carefully searched the rubble, realizing that any sudden movement could trigger a second collapse. Eventually the medics returned and took the survivors with them. Meanwhile, Levi returned and began searching for survivors. His portable monitor showed the wreckage in front of us, and we slowly followed him, looking for signs of life. The dots on the screen resembled fireflies on a moonless night, faint but full of hope. As we continued our search, the rubble became thicker and more dangerous. We had to move slowly, navigating the wreckage, trying not to cause more damage than had already been done. The spots on the screen became brighter and I felt my heart pounding with anticipation. Of course there would be more survivors. Suddenly Levi's monitor beeped loudly and we all froze. He turned to us, excitement shining in his eyes. “I have a strong signal. We're close. Come on!" We followed the markers on the monitor until we came across an area of broken, bent steel, broken glass and a collapsed roof. "Over there!" - Steve shouted. I rushed towards the ruins, my power armor's servos whining loudly with every step. As we approached the crash site, I quickly noticed two arms waving frantically under the pile of rubble. “Even with my armor it will be more difficult,” I explained, assessing the situation. “We have to cut through much more debris. I can use my increased strength to help move the debris once it becomes detached. Levi, we need your thermal scanners to help us so that no survivors are crushed or injured. Levi nodded in agreement, and I pulled out my laser rifle and set it to continuous mode. Meanwhile, Steve took out his fusion knife again. Together, Steve and I worked to clear the wreckage, always keeping in mind the survivors trapped underneath. The melting cutter hummed, slicing through twisted metal like a hot knife through butter. As the rubble crumbled, Levi aimed his thermal imager at the spot where the survivor was and patiently led us through. Eventually the last piece of debris was cleared away and we saw him: a middle-aged man, dirty from the rubble that covered him. He was breathing heavily, his clothes were torn and bloody, but he was alive. “Thank Blake,” Steve breathed. "We have one more. What's your name?" The man looked at us with an expression of pain on his face. “My name is Alexei,” he groaned. "Thank you for saving me." I leaned over and reached out. Alexei holds out his hand. “We are from the Aegis division and are here to help. You can stand?" Alexei hesitated for a moment before nodding and taking my outstretched hand. I carefully and effortlessly lifted Alexei to his feet, my power armor making the task easier. As I began to loosen my grip, he cried out in pain. Levi quickly assessed the situation. “His leg is broken. We need to get him out of here, but he can't leave. We need a stretcher,” Levi explained. Steve responded, “Well, there was one person in the ambulance, but ambulance is gone.” “We can’t leave him here, especially in a storm like this,” I said. “But I can carry it. My power armor can do this." Levi frowns worriedly He was hesitant, but nodded. - If you are sure, Idris. I don't want your armor to become too heavy and you to end up being the next person we pull from the rubble. I reassured him with a nod before carefully lifting Alexei into my arms. As I lifted him, I felt his weight, despite the strength of the power armor, and the rubble began to crumble. Alexei groaned in pain as I moved over the uneven terrain, but I continued walking, determined to get him to safety. We clambered through the ruins until we got to the nearest safe zone, where a medical team was waiting for us. As we approached, a medical team quickly rushed to us, assessing Alexei’s condition and preparing to accept him for treatment. “Thank you,” Alexei breathed, looking at me with glazed eyes. "I didn't think I could make it." I simply nodded in response, feeling a sense of satisfaction wash over me. In the midst of the tragedy, we managed to save lives. It was a small victory, but it gave me hope. As the medical team began to take Alexei away, we stepped away from the chaos and huddled together, the pouring rain a constant background noise. "What's next for us?" I asked, looking at Levi and Steve with a feeling of uncertainty. Levi sighed heavily, his eyes taking in the destruction around us. “As long as your batteries are charged, we will continue to search for survivors,” he said, his voice heavy with gravity of situation. “There are still people who need our help.”
  27. MEANWHILE... Me and Levi walked outside the PANDORA into the rain, it was coming down Buckets, after my eyes got used to the cloudy light I couldn't believe what I was seeing, The entire CAPITOL Complex was on fire and Smoking, and everyone was dead. There wasn't 1 single person there that was still alive. Blew up cars and smashed ruins were all that was left. I fell to my knees and sobbed loudly........the Tragedy was that bad. I was horrified about what I had just saw, I felt sick to my Stomach that so many innocent people like Dexter had been murdered by those evil Terrorists. I went to barf but it came out as a loud long deep violent screaming gag since I had not had any food in Hours. But then Levi went "I think there’s somebody back there, under the concrete slab." and I Knew I HAD to do SOMETHING, but I had to Focus my Mind first. I decided to do Waking Meditation and Mixed Martial Arts the way my father taught me to clear my head and center myself. So I shat in a Lotus position on the Concrete ruins and closed my eyes and started a long Zen humming, that got louder and more deeper, as my medication got more Intense. I was almost fully Meditated when Idris started hollering at me, "YOU GONNA HELP ME WITH THIS OR WHAT??" Same time a LOUD car alarm stared going off Behind me and some guy was beating on the side of the car with an Umbrella, there was no way I was going to get Meditated in all this, I was going to have to brave it by myself. I would just have to. There was no time for Laughter. "OK fine I'm coming, what is the Problem??" I asked, then I walked over to Idris, how he was not getting electrocuted by his Power Armor in the rain I did not know, then Idris said "We have to lift this block, there is a alive person Underneath it." I stared at Idris thanking about what that Meant, all the shooting and explosions that were happening made it hard to hear my Thoughts especially with the car alarm that had went off and was still going off. But eventually I told Idris "Don't worry, I will give you a hand" I said. "Okay" Idris said. "Grab that end of the Block." So I did and Idris grabbed the other end, then he said LIFT!!!! and his Power Arms started making crazy groin grabbing noises and I was hollering on account of moving Concrete is hard. But then we got it off and threw it duwn the hill and unfortunately I think it rolled down all the Debris pile, then I heard it go out into Traffic and cause all kinds of Car Wrecks, then Levi went inside the hole and made a scan. "GUYS THERES A GUY IN HERE" Levi hollered, "Okay, pick up that torch and help me cut this piece of metal off of him. " "I can do it" I said Sternly, then I got the Fusion Torch and started to cut the metal mess away. The torch cut out a Bunch of times since it was way old. But I got the metal cut off Anyway. Then I went to work on the next part. That fell away too. Soon we had the whole Wreckage cut off. "Good job Steve" Idris said. Then Idris said "This survivor is pretty Wrecked up, we need to get him to Emergency, there's an ambulance parked over there, can you move it to here? You Might have to beat it with a wrench to Start it but it will start eventually." "Yes I can" I said back. I jumped in the Driver's seat of the Ambulance and turned the key, but it didn't start. Then I turned the key again. I heard the nuclear reactor come on and the engine made a bunch of loud clanking and Breaking sounds but finally it started. I turned on the Lights and sirens and Ambulanced right up to the wreck and I jumped out. "OK what's next??" I said.
  28. Capitol Complex Gellen’s Heights, Sheratan III Sheratan System - Tikonov Free Republic January 26, 3031 (Wednesday) ______________________________________________ “Pandora, I want you, Dionysus, Rebus, and Junaid to get up there to the Capitol Complex and provide whatever assistance you can to aid in the recovery of survivors. Use the BRV, power armor, your manipulator arms, and any other assets as necessary.” “Aye sir,” I said. “Pandora moving out.” Then I switched my headset to internal comms and said “Sasha, you mind taking over the driver’s seat?” I heard Sasha yell “sure thing!” from all the way in the other end of BRV, and half a minute later she was taking my place at the controls almost before I could get out of the way. She’d won the van-toss competition that happened last year when a van somehow got wrecked into the wall of the base, so she definitely knew her way around the BRV’s lobster arms and would be able to toss the debris where it wouldn’t land on anybody. I grabbed my Thermo Man helmet out of a locker and put it on as I went though the pass-through into the trailer section, where Idris was getting back into his armor. “What is the plan?” Idris asked, and I heard him both in real life and through the helmet’s headset, which was a little weird. “Have any of us done search and rescue stuff before?” I asked. “I saved a CEO,” Steve said. “Which is great, but that was on an intact dropship,” Nick responded. “I think we should move what we can without risking the building collapsing more than it already has.” “Alright, let’s go play Death Jenga!” Steve said. I gulped. “Idris, how about you and I handle the human-scale stuff? Your power armor should be a big help for clearing the debris, and I can try to find people with heat vision.” “Sounds good,” Idris said as he finished securing his powered exoskeleton around himself. I opened the rear hatch of the BRV and we hopped out and headed for the wreckage. It was bad. There was busted glass all over the place, twisted I beams and sections of concrete subfloor panacked down on top of each other. Idris got to work right away, moving aside a massive rooftop ventilation unit that’d been in the way of a path deeper into the jungle of warped metal just in the time it took me to catch up to him. “You see anybody?” he asked. “One sec,” I said, squinting into the dark tangle and alternating between regular and heat vision, trying to get the infrared camera to focus. “I think there’s somebody back there, under the concrete slab.”
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