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Orlex Jaeger

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  1. Looter Warehouse, Haven Twycross - Lyran Commonwealth December 12, 3029 _______________________________________________ Resistance from the warehouse had been much stronger than expected, while they weren't exactly skilled they did have numbers on their side, not to mention considerable firepower given this was supposed to be a sleepy shanty town. But if you've built a life fighting against, or potentially working with, frontier pirates you've likely "acquired" a sizeable arsenal one way or another. We briefly considered cutting our losses and coming back later with reinforcements but then additional gang reinforcements from somewhere within the warehouse cut our thoughts short as we were forced into direct combat once again, thankfully Captain Maxwell's well trained firepower combined with my own was still sufficient to keep enemy numbers manageable. A quick assessment of the warehouse's internal layout revealed several potentially fortified positions with a number of them manned and others unclear if anyone was currently holed up there or not, our best bet was to divide and conquer so that the enemy couldn't pin us down and concentrate fire on us. Inside the warehouse the open areas limited the usefulness of my KTS shotgun, even when using slug rounds, and its extended reload time, due to inserting each shell individually, lead me to switch over to the GA King Slayer Gyroslug Carbine I had slung across my shoulders, another bull-pup design the compact form allowed me to retain most of my mobility and maneuverability while still providing the power of a full size rifle. As an added bonus the gyroslug rounds were tipped with an impact activated explosive warhead, nothing close to a grenade or anything but enough to ensure lethal damage and armour penetration at nearly any range. As Captain Maxwell moved swiftly to get into a flanking position through the interior of the warehouse I opened fire with my rifle to draw fire away from him, several self-propelled, explosive-tipped, rocket-like rounds ripped through the air in virtual silence leaving a telltale conical plume of white exhaust hanging in the air before the impact and subsequent detonation of the gyroslug rounds echoed throughout the enclosed warehouse with seemingly reckless abandon. Many of the rounds exploded harmlessly against the fortified cover scattered across the warehouse, although "harmless" was subjective as it still blew out chunks of the walls and sheered through the heavy slats of metal with repeated impacts. A few rounds found their targets though and the effectiveness of the explosive rounds was clearly evident, even a glancing blow was enough to remove a combatant from the fight, even if not permanently. It didn't take long before return fire found me and forced me to take cover myself, a few rounds glancing off the limited protection provided by my flak vest and leather duster. I ventured out for another burst of fire but was immediately driven back by sniper fire, my current armour provided virtually no protection against that caliber of weapon and so I was forced to blind fire my semi-auto carbine with very little success. "All right, Jaeger. What's my next move?" inquired Charles, assumedly having made it into position in the office. "I'm tangling with the sniper out here and his friend. See if you can't get the attention of the other one," I replied, firing off another series of blind shots. Pulling one of the four Class 'B' "mini" grenades from my vest I popped the activation lever and lobbed the smoke grenade out into the open floor, in mere seconds the central portion of the warehouse was filled with a thick grey smoke winding its way up towards the ceiling, the natural convection of the air on the hot day pulling it out beyond the grenade's normal 6m radius. The breeze also meant that the smoke wouldn't last as long either, probably only had a couple minutes at best where the smoke would remain thick enough to be effective. Taking full advantage I slipped out low on the opposite side of my cover, cautiously at first to make sure I indeed had the sniper's line of sight blocked, no enemy fire meant I was probably in the clear. I crouched ran to another piece of cover on the edge of the smoke where I could just see the sniper's position, of course that also meant he'd be able to see me so I only had one shot. Lining up the gyroslug carbine I waited for the wind to blow the smoke clear a little more before smoothly squeezing the trigger and sending the micro-rocket round blitzing through the air, a small crack of the round actually breaking the sound barrier the only sound audible across the battlefield. Before the round reached its target, or perhaps right at the same time, a massive explosion ripped through the warehouse followed by the distinctive whine of a hover vehicle's engine as what appeared to be a Heavy Hover APC literally pushed its way into the now damaged warehouse after unleashing a blaze of fire to weaken the structure. I silently prayed that the new arrival was on our side, and judging from the reckless way they burst into the building I assumed they must be, and had my answer almost immediately as two additional enemy commandos came charging out from amongst the rubble and debris before stopping and staring wide-eyed at the unexpected arrival of the armoured combat vehicle. To their credit they opened fire rather than running, although the latter may have been the wiser choice given the situation, and while their weapons were effectively useless against the hover vehicle the same could not be said about the vehicle's own weapons. Two short, precise, bursts of heavy weapons fire later and nothing remained of the enemy commandos. "Thanks for the assist!" called Maxwell as he exited through the now destroyed wall of the office he had been flanking from. "Don't mention it," replied the familiar, heavy voice of Bishop, "I'm supposed to keep you safe. Wouldn't look good if I had to tell the General I failed at something so simple." As the final words echoed off the walls of the warehouse, Bishop Weyland popped into view. "Now, how long do we have to grab and go before the next wave of baddies hits us?" the hulking man asked, dropping to the dirt floor of the expansive facility, "If history's any indication, we're probably good for about ten more minutes before this place is swarming with looters, cops, or both." "If that," I interjected, moving to meet up with the other two men, "Thanks for the rescue by the way, the rate reinforcements kept showing up I'm guessing this warehouse has an entrance to the underground somewhere nearby, only place I can figure they were hiding that many men." "All the more reason to get a move on, and quickly," replied the Captain, "Bishop, give me a hand checking these crates, the ones NOT on fire at least. Jaeger you get started on the ones over there. Anything marked Irian we take, the rest we'll decide as time permits." Bishop grunted at the slight rebuke, even though it was clearly in jest, and nodded to the Captain before immediately setting to work clearing off the nearest crate and cracking it open to check its contents. A few minutes passed quickly as we proceeded to load up everything we could into the APC's personnel bay, it wasn't exactly designed for cargo but the spacious bay had plenty of room for our current needs. Bishop's enhanced strength was instrumental in moving many of the heavier crates, some of which even he struggled with, and both the Captain and I watched in awe more than once as Bishop easily picked up and moved cargo that the two of us would have struggled with together. Even with his enhanced strength though there were a couple Irian marked containers that were just too heavy and we would have had to leave them behind except for a lucky find tucked away in the back of the warehouse. While Bishop was loading the last of the crates we could move I had decided to quickly sweep the warehouse for any additional cargo but also to keep any eye out for enemy reinforcements which we fully expected at any minute. Instead, half buried behind a collapsed scaffolding, I found a GM HeavyHauler, a purpose built exoskeleton used for moving cargo, that the looters must have been using to move their stolen goods. As I was checking it over, and surprisingly found it operational with a half charge on its power cell, Bishop suddenly yelled at me from across the warehouse in a tone that I instantly knew meant I was in danger. I spun around to face towards an open corridor leading away from the main part of the warehouse and came face to face with an enemy soldier holding a shotgun, he was several feet away but still close enough that it might as well been point blank and yet he never fired his weapon and instead just stood there with a blank look on his face. A moment later, which seemed like an eternity as I instinctively reached for my sidearm in what felt like slow motion, the soldier collapsed forward, falling to the floor motionless, a large red smear marring the back of his head and explaining the odd blank stare. Standing behind him, casually tossing a brick in her hand, was a lithe raven-haired woman dressed in black desert garb with a scarf obscuring most of her face and looking all too comfortable given the situation. "You're welcome," she said, in a not-quite sultry, young sounding voice. "Thanks," I replied, still not sure what to make of the newcomer, "And you are?" "We've already met," the young woman shot, the almost sultry tone gone and replaced by an accent I couldn't quite place off hand. Recognition dawned on me as I realized this was the same woman that captured Octavia and had ambushed Nick only a short time earlier, I immediately backed up and finished drawing my sidearm, levelling the pistol at her head with my finger on the trigger. "Whoaa!! Easy there big fella," said the unidentified woman as she raised her hands, though still holding a brick in one of them, "Remember I'm on your side right now." Without taking my eyes off the woman, and keeping her at a distance I was confident she couldn't rush me from before I could fire, I called back over my shoulder, "Captain!, seems our little hostage taker has decided to show her face." I heard what sounded like Bishop starting to break into a run before the Captain reigned him in and then two sets of footsteps approached together, "Hold on Lieutenant, she is technically on our side still." "Thank you Captain, glad to see you're reasonable," replied the unknown woman as she lowered her hands and began walking towards him. "Hold it right there!" I called out, thankful that she did indeed stop in her tracks. Ignoring me, save for a perturbed sidelong glance towards me when I called her out and didn't lower my weapon, "Captain, are we not on the same side here?" "We are, but you'll have to forgive the Lieutenant, you're track record isn't exactly the cleanest," responded Maxwell with a slight smile. "Fair enough I suppose, though I did return Blondie to you, relatively, unharmed. Plus I just saved your man here from getting his guts shoved out the back of his spine, I didn't have to do that, I could have waited a few seconds and watched the fireworks. PLUS I jammed the door shut leading underground that Shotgun Eddie there came out of." "I understand, and trust me when I say we are both very appreciative of that, however you still are holding a member of our team hostage and to be frank we still don't know who you are," stated Maxwell, coming up alongside me but still careful to keep a distance between himself and the raven-haired lady. "True. Name's Claire, and I'm true to my word, I'll deliver the Baroness to you as soon as we finish discussing my passage off this Blake-forsaken world," answered Claire with what I guessed was a smile, her scarf still obscured most of her face. "Alright Claire, maybe we can start by dropping that brick?" inquired Maxwell. "As soon as you get Lieutenant Jarhead over here to lower his weapon, I'll consider dropping mine," snapped Claire sharply. "Lieutenant," said Charles with a nod when I briefly glanced his way. I lowered my sidearm but did not stow it until after Claire dropped her brick, then I looked at her and said, "Jarhead? Really?" "I could have went for Tin Man," she smiled gesturing towards my prosthetic arm, "but it I liked the sound of Lieutenant Jarhead better." "Now Miss Claire, about returning the Baroness," began the Captain, "full disclosure first, should you try anything untoward, the Lieutenant to my left here could veritably tear you limb from limb without breaking a sweat." "Really?" said Claire, her eyes going wide and a tone of excitement entering her voice, before returning to a more business like tone, "He is a big one, I wouldn't mind going a round or two with him. But later, we have business to discuss first."
  2. Somewhere between the Desert Rose and a "warehouse" district, Haven Twycross - Lyran Commonwealth December 12, 3029 _______________________________________________[/i] I stood at the entranceway to an alley roughly 2 blocks from the Desert Rose, a bar that was likely Octavia's intended destination before her current predicament, and also happened to run alongside the back of a warehouse that potentially matched what we knew of the looters that stole our shipment. An unwelcome coincidence and one we couldn't just ignore, the likelihood of this new aggressor being somehow tied to group that lifted our now three times stolen LosTech shipment was much higher than I was comfortable with. I was once more glad I had decided to go a little heavy on the weaponry for what was supposed to have been a quick retrieval from out in the desert. Leaning up against the sandstone wall, one of several brick structures in this area of town, I waited non-chalantly for Maxwell to indicate he was in position on the far end of the alley and likely not blending in as much as I thought I was. Two short beeps on the comms, the signal from Captain Maxwell that he was ready, I reached up calmly and adjusted the collar on my duster with both hands as though shaking dust from the long jacket while discreetly activating the military comm unit on my left ear. "Bastion here, in position Eden," I said almost sub-vocally, the vibration based mic easily and clearly picking up the words, while using a separate encrypted channel on the comms due to the Baroness's assailant having easy access to our normal one. Based on Alyssa's intel we had decided to split into three for our approach to the alley and warehouse, Maxwell and I would each go to an end of the alleyway and enter from the East and West, respectively, while Schuster was going to find a way up onto the rooftop of the buildings along the south side of the alley in order to get a view from above. The plan was to encroach upon their last known position from every direction we could to minimize any chance of escaping and hopefully overwhelm the assailant before they could spring a trap or get reinforcements. It was a good plan, but even the best laid plans rarely survived enemy contact and this one was very hastily put together. "Rebus here, also in position," came Schuster's response immediately afterwards. "Copy that, Eden in position," answered Maxwell, "Move in." With a pointless but habitual nod I slid fluidly into the alleyway, the open duster blowing out behind me as the gentle breeze caught the large leather jacket for a moment. Using the wind to my advantage I reached in to my back and unholstered the KTS bull-pup shotgun that had been stored on the small of my back and brought it up to a ready position. The plan was to move quickly, using our element of surprise to its greatest advantage, as such the compact design of the pump-action shotgun, combined with the close quarters of the alleyway, made it the ideal weapon for such an engagement. The alleyway itself was vacant but far from empty, the dusty path was littered with debris, a mixture of regular trash, discarded building materials, and miscellaneous rubble, and the noonday sun gave the whole scene a bit of an ancient Terran Wild West feel, being on a desert planet just compounded the feeling. I half expected to see a tumbleweed roll across the alley and hear a twangy guitar belt out an iconic tune but there was nothing but a bit of blowing sand and a rusty dumpster. Halfway down my side of the alley I came across another set of dumpsters, these ones still in usable condition, and had to jog around them as I continued my way deeper, clearing the small corners quickly before proceeding in case someone was lying in wait. After rounding this set of dumpsters and its associated pile of debris and trash I could make out the shape of a person leaning against the wall of the alley some distance ahead, they appeared to be near an opening in the alleyway itself, most likely leading into the warehouse compound to the north judging from my limited knowledge of the layout. From this distance, and with the assorted desert-wear the person was wearing there was no way to know if this person was the one we had been speaking with about Octavia or just some random person, or worse a guard for the aforementioned warehouse. They seemed to be waiting for someone or something though, so that was promising, and he was standing near an even larger assortment of dumpsters, several of which were open, and had more than a few large piles of building materials and rubble strewn about them. "Eden, Bastion, I've got something," came Nick's voice on the encrypted comms, "One contact in the alleyway, appears to be alone, but something's not right." "I see them Rebus, explain," replied Charles. "Hard to be certain from here but they appear to be male, pretty sure the Baroness's captor sounded female earlier." "True, could have been a modulator though, keep an eye out for anyone else, I'm approaching," stated the Captain before asking, "Bastion, we'll come in weapons hot but hold fire for my mark." "Roger that sir, ready when you are," I replied closing to a distance where I could engage the unknown contact if needed. As Maxwell and I closed in on the person I saw them look first towards the Captain, their posture straightening sharply before the took a step back and snapped their head in my direction. I got a good look at their eyes as he did so, their posture, body type and facial features suggesting they were male at this closer distance, and saw nothing but fear and shock in them as he staggered back against the wall. "W-w-wait!" he stuttered out as he pushed back against the wall, Maxwell and I still closing in from either side though carefully keeping our distance, "D-don't shoot!" "Who are you?" demanded Maxwell, as the man held up his hands. "Fuck this, she didn't say anything about guns or mercs. I'm out!" the unknown man nearly cried before doing his best to slip past Maxwell, who kept his rifle trained on him even as he stumbled and ran down the alleyway back the way Maxwell had come. "Well shit, I doubt he would have been useful anyways," I said as I came up beside Maxwell. "Yeah, he likely would have passed out from fear if we'd made him stay, and I wasn't about to shoot a civilian just to stop him," replied Maxwell with a shake of his head. "True, at least we're likely in the right spot, assuming the 'She' he mentioned is our captor we're looking for," I answered. With a nod Charles keyed his comm while I moved to investigate the opening in the alleyway towards the warehouse, "Rebus, contact was a bust. You got anything up there?" "Negative Eden, Bastion is checking out the only item of interest, appears to be a back entrance to that warehouse. Alleyway is full of trash but not much else," came Schuster's response. After acknowledging Nick's assessment the Captain moved to my position and we continued investigating the rear of the warehouse. There were no guards or any signs of recent activity back here but that didn't mean much as there was likely multiple entrances and the presence of exterior guards would likely draw unwanted attention from the other locals. The building itself was surprisingly solid despite its dilapidated look, there were definitely portions of the building that were abandoned to the elements for an extended period of time but this particular entrance was rather robust looking. The exterior was heavily weather worn and looked to be little more than layered sheet metal bolted and/or riveted on top of further sheet metal but closer examination revealed a solid frame inside with evidence of a brick or concrete core in some parts. The door itself appeared to be a salvaged blast door securely mounted inside a makeshift steel frame that was not rusted at all and only mildly weather worn, at least in comparison. Several narrow vertical slits in the structure provided limited views inside and were the only form of windows accessible from our location, assumedly the narrow profile was designed to help the building weather the frequent sandstorms and high winds. Through one of the slits I spotted something promising, as opposed to empty or dust covered crates and empty floorspace seen through most of the windows this one was showing the edge of a pile of much cleaner looking equipment and a few smaller crates, nothing definitive but it was the best we had so far. Calling Captain Maxwell over he examined what he could through the window as well, picking out a detail I had missed and spotting what appeared to be the gold and black emblem of Irian Technologies on one of the smaller crates. With this discovery we had at least located our missing shipment, however we still had no idea where Octavia had been taken or the location of her assailant. Time was running out as we approached the 10 minute time-limit the Baroness's captor had laid out and while we didn't suspect she would immediately kill Octavia, based on our interaction so far, there was no telling what she might do to make her point should we refuse her demands. The most likely scenario was that the captor had moved the Baroness into the warehouse for 'safe keeping' and was potentially laying in wait for us. "Alright, so we've got our missing shipment located and a likely location they could be holding the Baroness in," said Charles as we reconvened. "What's next? Bust in guns blazing or do we bring in local authorities?" I asked, not really wanting to bring in locals but not sure how the Captain wanted to play this. "About thrice-stolen goods? Probably not the best play here," chuckled Captain Maxwell. "Point taken, guns blazing it is, now how do we get in? I didn't bring THAT kind of firepower," I replied. Charles smiled knowingly before opening our encrypted comm channel, "Control, we've located the stash but still nothing solid on Exile, do you still have a read on her comm unit?" "I do Eden, it's still reading the headset in that same area. I'm showing all 4 of you in the same vicinity currently, I could get a better resolution on location if we had the drone up," replied Alyssa. "Let's hold on that for a minute Control, I have a feeling our captor isn't working alone and likely moved Exile into the warehouse. We're going to breach and clear, if we still have nothing on Exile by then we'll bring up the drone and deal with the consequences," said Maxwell over the comms. "So Bastion, think this will get us through that door?" inquired Charles as he unveiled a breaching charge from somewhere on his person, "had it for the container in the desert but we didn't end up needing it there." "Oh I think that will definitely do the trick sir," I smiled as I gestured towards the door. Charles moved quickly to the door and expertly set the charges, the breaching charge itself was a set of explosives laid out in a circular pattern on an adhesive pad designed to be attached to most any wall or door and then remote detonated to either destroy the door itself or damage the frame and/or wall enough to remove the door from the equation entirely. With the charges set Maxwell and I retreated to safe distance and took cover behind the sandstone wall on either side of the alleyway entrance towards the warehouse. As Maxwell thumbed the detonator the comm sprang to life with what sounded like a shouted warning from Nick. "Eden, wait--" came Schuster's voice but was cut off abruptly, though it didn't seem to be from the explosion itself as his voice cut off moments before the breaching charge detonated. ****************** Nick was kneeling on one knee at the raised edge of the rooftop, the sandstone building sporting a series of crenellation-like sections rising above the rest of the raised rooftop edge at the corners of the building, and used one of those structures as both support and partial cover as he continued to survey the alleyway below while Orlex and the Captain discussed breaking into the warehouse. Something was off about the nearby dumpsters but he couldn't quite put his finger on it, true there were more of them but it was close to the warehouse entrance so that was to be expected. Several of them were sitting open, their large lids flipped up against the sandstone wall and obscuring the fact that they were rather far from the wall itself, but again the open lids themselves weren't that odd. That was when he noticed the unusual pattern in the dusty dirt path making up the alleyway floor, the constant wind had nearly erased it, which explained why he hadn't noticed before, but the remnants of what appeared to be a scuffle could be seen from above, or more precisely it looked like something, or someone, had been dragged through this portion of the alleyway towards the large collection of dumpsters. There didn't appear to be much traffic through here normally, and so there was no way to tell for sure if this was where Octavia had been ambushed or if she had merely been dragged here by the assailant, but it definitely appeared that someone had stashed something worthy of note near the dumpsters. As Nick observed this and came to that conclusion he moved to radio Captain Maxwell and Orlex just as they were detonating the breaching charge, if he was quick enough he might get them before they did and they could then investigate the dumpsters without alerting anyone and everyone to their presence. Unknown and unseen to Schuster another figure was creeping up behind him, the lithe figure was wrapped in dark clothes and a heavy scarf obscuring their face, slipping from shadow to shadow along the rooftop as they got closer and closer to the unsuspecting Schuster. The man raised a hand to his ear, likely activating the comm unit he wore as he began to speak the shadow struck. She initially misjudged, or else this man was slippery than she anticipated as the initial tackle knocked Schuster against the raised wall but did not hit his head as hard as was likely expected. As Nick slipped free of the tenuous grasp, Claire quickly disengaged and slunk low into the corner of the roof, her legs coiled and ready to pounce as she reassessed the man standing before her. An explosion rocked the alleyway below, a controlled and clearly intentional detonation, but it distracted Schuster just enough and Claire took full advantage of it. She launched herself forward from the relative cover of the rooftop crenellation, striking with a fist aimed at the man's temple, he tried to duck but still took a glancing blow off his skull and he staggered slightly. Claire pivoted quickly, using the momentum from the glancing blow to redirect herself and launch a knee into Schuster's floating rib, the blow driving the air from him. To his credit the young man stayed standing, a fierce defiance in his eyes, he quickly backed off again and began to draw his sidearm, too slow though as Claire closed the gap immediately and jammed his hand, momentarily keeping the pistol in its holster. Schuster tried to punch the young woman, her scarf having moved enough to expose her face now, but she deftly parried his fist and then reversed it with an arm lock as she swept his leg out from under him. He abandoned the sidearm in its holster in order to use his hand to negate the arm lock as he lost his balance and the two of them tumbled to the rooftop, the impact again knocking the wind from Nick but at least the pressure on his arm was gone. Scrambling to get up Claire aggressively came at him again throwing a flurry of punches which Nick managed to mostly block or at least lessen the blows enough to have little effect, every time Nick would try to deliver a strike of his own Claire would close the gap again and either try to grapple whichever limb he was using or throw a knee or elbow aimed at any weak point she could find. A blow to the inside of the knee, a kidney strike, back of the head, even the armpit, Nick felt clearly outmatched and it was only a matter time before he buckled under the intense attacks. His sidearm went skidding across the rooftop suddenly, seemingly of its own accord as he had not attempted to draw it again, mostly due to not having a chance to, his arm was wrenched behind himself as Claire slipped to his backside and locked him up with a deep hammerlock and he was forced to one knee as Claire kicked out his leg violently. Something cold and sharp pressed against the side of his neck as heavy breathing washed over him as she leaned in close to his ear, but not close enough where he could try to headbutt her or anything. "Now then, let's see if your friends are willing to bargain for you." ****************** "Rebus, what have you got?" asked Charles, the sudden silence after the breaching charge's explosion faded was disconcerting. Nothing but silence, I thought I heard some scuffling sounds but when I looked towards the rooftop I couldn't see anything. "Rebus come in, what's your situation?" inquired Charles again, looking towards me. I shook my head, "This doesn't bode well." "Agreed, see if you can find..." began Charles before he was cut off by a voice on our standard comm channel, the one compromised by Octavia's assailant. "Hello again, time's up by the way. Also it looks like I've got another of your men. If you're supposed to be bodyguards or something I gotta say you're rather pathetic at it," said the unknown voice, the same one as before. Fuck mouthed Charles, before nodding to me and gesturing towards the roof then keying his comm, "We meet again, these are less than favourable circumstances I must admit." "Not my problem," replied the young sounding female voice, "About our deal. My terms just went up, and tell your man to stay where he is unless you want the young blond fellow to die. I'm assuming you're the one in charge and the fellow heading for the roof here is under your command." As the unknown woman was talking I had moved down the alley, planning to get to the next set of dumpsters and use them to get up on the roof of the adjacent building then make my way back to where Schuster had been, however I stopped dead when she issued her threat and looked back towards Captain Maxwell, he held up a hand and then gestured me back. "Good, at least you can follow directions. Maybe we can all come away from this unharmed," continued the woman. "Best way for that to happen is to release the blond one and return the Baroness to us unharmed," replied Charles. "I'm not stupid," came the quick reply, "You're going to lower your weapons and raise your hands up so I can see them, I'll come out so you can see I'm not bluffing about blondie here, and then we'll discuss my new terms." Again I looked over at Charles and he shrugged, we couldn't risk Schuster's life, even if we suspected the secret robot army in his bloodstream could revive him or heal him through whatever this crazy woman was threatening to do, it was too big of a risk. Both Charles and I lowered our weapons and then raised our hands slightly, a moment later a figure stepped out from cover on the rooftop. Initially I could only see Schuster, the glare of the sun obscuring whoever was behind him, but as they moved they came into focus and I could see a young, strong looking dark haired woman wrapped in a scarf and dark clothing. She appeared to have Nick in a hammerlock or similar hold and was currently holding a wicked looked straight blade up against the side of Nick's neck, I couldn't tell from the distance but Nick's expression made it pretty clear the blade was already cutting into his skin some. "Alright, what are your demands?" inquired Charles, still using the comms although we were close enough we could likely hear each other if we spoke loudly enough. Before the young woman could respond though shouting and sudden gunfire drew our attention back towards the warehouse we had just blown the door in on. Instinctively Charles and I ducked further into our cover against the alleyway wall and reached for our weapons again, a series of rounds exploded off the sandstone bricks and several more ripped through the air towards the rooftop. I heard Nick yell and then saw the woman diving back into the cover she had just left, leaving Nick still out in the open as his suddenly free hand reached towards the opposite shoulder and he too moved for cover on the other side of the roof. I peeked around the corner towards the warehouse and saw four thugs striding out of the blasted in door, crude looking slug-throwing weapons in hand as the makeshift guns spat out rounds with what appeared to be little accuracy. I fired off a pair of shotgun blasts from cover with my recovered KTS, the selector switch on the buckshot tube magazine and sending two tightly packed clouds of large pellets blasting towards the warehouse, downing one of the unarmoured goons. Charles added his own blind fire from his rifle, the spray dropping another of the thugs while an additional four men charged out of the warehouse. "Having your gang attack us from behind isn't exactly doing well for your credibility here, I should also mention you don't have nearly enough firepower to take our ship if that's your plan," called Charles over the open comm to Octavia's captor. "These guys aren't mine, and need I remind you that it was YOU that blasted open that damned door," replied the unidentified woman, "You're the one who woke these pricks up." "Fair, but we can't exactly take your word for it, how do we know these guys aren't working with you?" asked Charles as he continued to return fire against the new threat. "They are shooting at ME TOO!" yelled the young woman, "Not sure what else you're expecting. Tell you what, if you survive this I'll return Blondie to you with no harm from me." "Uh Captain, just to be clear I'm already free, and while she's damn fast I don't think she wants to run across an open rooftop while getting shot at just to try and grab me again," interjected Schuster. "Rebus, good to hear from you, what's your status?" asked Maxwell. "I'm good sir, minor gunshot wound, couple cuts and bruises, nothing I can't handle. Need to recover my gun though, lost it in the scuffle earlier but it should be up here somewhere," stated Nick. "Copy that, keep an eye on our bogey there, don't let her get the drop on you again, Bastion and I can handle down here," replied Charles as we both gunned down another warehouse thug. A much larger, and heavier set, goon came lumbering out of the warehouse now, this one was armoured with what looked like makeshift iron plating hanging off him with leather straps and a welding helmet reinforced with plates of iron or steel on his head. He carried a large, heavy barreled machinegun looking weapon with a large belt of ammunition slung into an open box beneath the weapon and a tank on his back with hoses running into a shroud around the barrel. The heavily armoured thug let out a psychotic sounding laugh that was somehow clearly heard above the gunshots and then proceeded to unload a blistering hail of fire from the machinegun that tore through the sandstone like butter, the heavy rounds sending clouds of dust billowing into the air as the ripped fist sized chunks from the bricks. The machinegun toting goon raked his fire across the rooftop, blowing out close to half of the crenellations before fighting to bring the weapon to bear on my cover, the barrel glowing with the heat of continuous fire and steam pouring off the barrel shroud as his backpack, which appeared to be some sort of liquid cooling device, struggled to keep the gun operational. I was forced to move back further from the corner as the brick was eroded away under the unrelenting assault, unable to even attempt blind firing as what appeared to tracers mixed into the belt of ammo send streaks of iridescent metal ripping through air where I had been taking cover only moments before. "So new terms there Captain fellow," began the young woman again, presumably still trying to take cover behind the partially destroyed crenellations. "Not really the best time miss," answered Maxwell through gritted teeth as he poured fire onto the heavy gunner, nearly everything was deflecting off the heavy plate armour and whatever drugs was keeping the thug going also meant he didn't care about any superficial wounds he might have received. "Here me out," she continued, unabated, "You get me out of this alive, providing you survive as well, and I'll return the Baroness to you unharmed. No ransom needed. We can discuss passage on your ship then." "There's no free ride here, I'm all for a truce right now but you're going to need to help out if you expect us to try and keep you alive," answered Charles. "Fine," was the only response, a moment later a rock came flying from the rooftop smashing into a shoulder of one of the unarmoured goons. Shortly after the heavy gunner's deluge of fire finally ceased, smoke and steam pouring off the glowing barrel and shroud leading me to believe the gun malfunctioned from overuse as opposed to any intentional cessation of firing. Taking the opportunity both Maxwell and I unloaded into the large man with our guns, myself having switched to solid slugs to have the best chance at punching through a weak spot in his makeshift armour. The solid slugs cratered massive holes into the armour plating but nothing seemed to be punching through yet while the full auto fire from Captain Maxwell's rifle began finding unarmoured spots to punch through. First dropping the man to a knee, though he continued beating on the machinegun and pulling at the charging handle in an attempt to clear the jammed weapon, then taking a sizable chunk out of his shoulder and completely disabling his left arm, but the weapon's sling/harness kept it in place well enough he still continued working to unjam it. Another couple rounds found purchase on the welding helmet and spun it sideways on his head before one of my slugs removed most of his lower jaw, somehow this jacked up beast was still working to clear his gun and even managed to cycle the charging handle fully, ejecting the problematic round, before the Captain's next burst found his now unarmoured neck and nearly decapitated the heavy gunner to finally stop him.
  3. Pirate Stash, Spindrift Desert Several hours from Haven/"the middle of nowhere" Twycross - Lyran Commonwealth December 12, 3029 _______________________________________________ The explosion desecrated the still, early morning, desert air, a plume of fire reaching up into the sky and sending the ambient temperature rocketing upwards, if only for a few seconds, well beyond the normal oppressive heat of the Spindrift Desert. Moments before we had been standing all too close to what was supposed to be our LosTech cache, or at least a portion of it, but instead ended up being an extremely oversized booby-trapped pipebomb. When the second light had come on at the far end of container I knew something was wrong, well we all knew before that since the container had been empty instead of packed full of priceless LosTech, but that second light, even though it was too far away to see any details, rang just about every alarm bell there was in my head. I spotted the haphazard wires running along the one side of the container back towards the door and took a wild guess that whoever had cleared this place out also took measures to make sure anyone else coming looking for it wouldn't continue looking. I couldn't be sure though as the few remaining items in the container didn't offer any clear indication that they contained explosives, however before I had a chance to voice my concern Schuster had apparently come to a more conclusive decision and ran back towards us while shouting, Maxwell and I both started to turn before Nick plowed into us at full speed, catching us mid-stride and sending all three of us tumbling down into the sandy desert. Dust, debris, and a whole lot of sand came raining down on us seconds later just as the ringing the in my ears finally became audible. "Are you guys OK? I just saw a huge explosion from up here!!" came Alyssa's more than slightly worried voice on the comms, her drone feed likely picking up the explosion easily even if it couldn't make out details of individuals yet. "We're fine, Control.......I think. Captain Maxwell? Lieutenant Jaeger? You alright? Sorry for the rough landing," replied Schuster shakily as he attempted to regain his feet. "I'm good," I replied, working my way out from under Nick as he slowly stood on the shifting sands. "We're all good Control," answered Charles on the comms as he did the same, "just knocking the sand out of our hair." "With high explosives? Great idea Eden, maybe we can use a vehicle Flamer to dry out our clothes next time they get wet, while we're wearing them," admonished Alyssa in a less than jovial tone. "It was surprisingly effective," I offered, "at least momentarily, though it definitely wasn't the plan." "No it was not," replied Charles seriously, though shaking his head in a silent chuckle, "Control, someone got here before us, cleaned it out and tried to make sure no one could follow us." "Shit," said Alyssa over the comms, "Alright, drone's in range now and I can see you all appear to be in one piece, minus the cargo container of course. I'm going to sweep the perimeter again and see if I can't find ... something, the storm likely erased any tracks we might have found though." "Agreed," answered Maxwell, "we'll check out the wreckage here and see if we can turn anything up." As Charles and Alyssa discussed our immediate next steps I had already moved towards the still smoking remnants of the cargo container, curious as to how we managed to survive such a blast. An explosion powerful enough to rip the container apart the way it did should have been easily enough to take us out too, especially since the container itself, by its very nature, would try and funnel most of the blast out the path of least resistance, in this case the open door. Unless the blast itself was strong enough to just punch straight through the container regardless of the open door, but in that case an explosion that strong still should have gotten us since it would have had a larger blast radius in all directions. Only thing I could come up with was if it had been a shaped charge, and it had been pointing in the wrong direction, basically anywhere but towards the door, that would have directed most of the blast away from us while still provided enough energy to destroy the container itself with relative ease. "Find anything Jaeger?" called Maxwell as he made his way into the smoking crater, followed closely by Nick. "Not really, a whole bunch of scrap metal," I replied with a sigh, nothing was left that could be identified. As Charles and Nick got closer I shared my theory on the explosion with them, Charles nodding in agreement before Nick confirmed my suspicions, "Yeah it was a pair of SRMs, didn't get a good look, you know imminent death and explosion and all, but they were dismantled and jury rigged to the homing device it looked like." "Great, so not only did they try and blow us up, or whoever found this thing next, but there's a chance they might be aware that their little booby trap went off," I replied grimly, "This day just keeps getting better." "It's not all bad," answered Charles, "if they bothered to rig it up to the beacon, assuming they had the intention of knowing when the trap was sprung, that means that whoever did this is likely planetside, or at the very least somewhere in system. That beacon was putting out a local signal only, no HPG link and no way of transmitting over large distances. We practically had to be in orbit before we could pick it up properly." "True, at least that gives us something," I said nodding, "maybe the locals could provide us a lead? Hell the locals might be the ones that swiped it in the first place." "You've got a point there," replied Charles. "Somehow I don't think the locals are going to just point us in the right direction though," added Nick, "they didn't strike me as the welcoming, or helpful, type." "They aren't," grumbled Charles, "but there are ways to persuade them." "Let's get back to the transports and decide our next move there," continued Charles, somewhat abruptly changing tones, "at the very least we can get out of the sun while Alyssa runs her sweep."
  4. Hi everyone, so I have an upcoming unit outage at my work, this means for most of September and October I'll be working a lot of overtime and long 13+ hour days. Unfortunately that is bound to impact the amount of time I can devote to writing on here. While it won't be a true absence, as I plan to keep up on reading posts and contributing where I can, it does mean I likely won't have as many posts (or at least not as long) as I usually do. I'll still be around on the Discord I just won't have as much free time to go all crazy with my posts, lol. The dates are subject to change as things progress but currently they are Sep 17 to Oct 14.
  5. C.V. Hurry Up Bessie, Mule-class Dropship Plutus Docks, Haven Twycross - Lyran Commonwealth December 10, 3029 - 23:15 hours _______________________________________________ When I returned to ship I began tracking down the others, which didn't take very long, Nick was already inside the Goblin working on getting its Nav system to integrate with the homebrewed tracker we had cobbled together to trace the pirate's unorthodox homing beacon. The beacon itself we had expected to be able to pick up and track easily enough with the Bessie's sensors once we got within range of the planet, especially given we now had the encryption key courtesy of Malice, but while we could detect the signal we still couldn't triangulate it's location even after decrypting it. Some clever brainstorming and cannibalization of a noteputer resulted in an effective, if crude, method of tracking the unconventional, encrypted, helically randomized, beacon signal. Bishop on the other hand already had his gear bag in hand and was making his way towards the Goblin as I headed into the ship to track down Levi and Octavia. Bishop nodded as we past each other and I climbed into the open main cargo hold of the massive Mule-class dropship, as I entered I noted James from Captain Harlowe's original crew was settling in with a well worn executive style chair and semi-sturdy looking fold-up table in the middle of the cargo hold. On the table he had placed a couple decks of cards, a selection of old looking print magazines as well as a tablet style noteputer, a music player and portable tri-vid set with headphones and the aforementioned laser rifle that Nikki had instructed him to guard the ship with. At least he'll be able to guard against boredom, I thought as I passed by with a wave. Tracking down Levi required a fair bit more hunting around but I finally found him puttering away in one of the 'Mech Bays hastily installed in the cargo hold, conveniently out of sight from the main doors, his pace slowed by his continued use of crutches, on the Doctor's orders, and a crawler for a little added mobility. It looked like he had been welding away on the internals of autocannon which had a small collection of new and old/broken parts strewn about it and he was still wearing one of the mechanic jumpsuits he had taken to wearing while working with the other Techs. I called out to him as I approached and he almost seemed to recoil at the sound of his name, or perhaps it was just unexpected as the rest of the area was empty and likely had been for a while given the current time. "Hey Levi! Are you ready to go? We need to get to the Goblin ASAP," I asked as Levi seemed to freeze like a deer in headlights. "Umm, yeah, about that," he began, almost too soft spoken to hear given our distance apart, "Are you sure I'm supposed to be coming?" "Yes, you were at the briefing with the rest of us, you know you're coming with us," I replied. "Yeah, I guess," came the self-doubting response from Levi, he seemed unusually nervous about leaving the ship. "Remember this isn't Oberon, nobody here knows you and none of the gangs you might have been mixed up in have any kind of presence here. Hell, half the people here probably couldn't even tell you where Oberon is," I joked as I came up alongside Levi. "True," he replied slowly, seeming a bit more confident. "Besides," I said as I wrapped an arm over his shoulder and gently redirected him away from the 'mech cubicle, "you're on Team Jaeger for this OP, what could possibly go wrong." "Didn't you guys run into a platoon of Irian commandos last time? I'm pretty sure you ended up taking a .50 cal to the chest and only managed to survive with broken ribs through sheer stubbornness," quipped Levi with a half-smile. "It wasn't a .50 cal, but touché," I chuckled, removing my arm as I sensed it was hindering the use of his crutches, "Do you have your gear?" "Yeah, in the bag over there," replied Levi, indicating a gear bag back near the entrance of the 'mech bay we had just left. "I'll grab it," I said while trotting back to retrieve Levi's stuff, "you got everything?" "I think so, bolt cutters, laser torch, cutting disk, assorted other tools, some desert survival gear, Thermoman stuff," Levi replied as I caught back up to him, listing things off with his fingers while trying to juggle using the crutches too. "What about your gun?" I asked, adjusting the shoulder strap of the gear back as I transitioned to a walking pace. "Oh yeah, that too," he answered almost reluctantly, we had spent some time over the last few weeks teaching Levi the basics of firearm use, primarily just pistols, and while he was a long way from proficient he could at least semi-reliably hit a man-sized target at 10m (33') now. I still wasn't sure if he was just inexperienced with firearms, despite where he seemed to come from, or if he was in some way opposed to their use, but he seemed overly reluctant to wield a gun even at the firing range, though less so there. Before any further discussion of the topic could be made Octavia's voice echoed across the chamber as she approached and dominated the conversation, "There you are Mr. Jaeger! Finally, I was instructed to meet up with you before we departed and I've spent the last 10 minutes needlessly searching the ship top to bottom looking for you." "Baroness," I replied, the title seeming to come out of its own accord as though Octavia was dictating what should be said, "I was just on my way to find you next." "No need," she said dismissively before unceremoniously dumping her gear bag onto my free shoulder as she continued, "Ah good, I see you've made yourself useful." "I'm not..." I began before she essentially shushed me with her hand in the air. "Captain Maxwell requires me on the Goblin in 5 minutes, we shouldn't keep him waiting," stated Octavia matter-of-fact, as though I hadn't even spoken. "We are ALL required on the Goblin in 5 minutes, Baroness," I said, with no small amount of disdain on her title, "it would be faster if we all pulled our own weight, I should think." Octavia glanced back at me with a quick once over, "You seem to be doing fine, I'll see you on the transport." "Blake-damned Capellan," I mumbled under my breath, deciding it wasn't worth the fight currently, though still considering leaving her gear on the cargo hold's floor. Levi glanced over at me with a sympathetic look before we continued on, reaching the tank only a few paces behind Octavia herself, probably exactly as she had planned. The Goblin tank stood before us, presumably with Charles, Nick, and Bishop already inside, it's back facing us with the rear-mounted infantry bay's main door open and small ramp extended. The squat nature of the tank meant the entrance, and the infantry bay itself, had a rather low ceiling and actually required me to duck every so slightly to fit inside. Once inside the smell of oil and grease, mixed with an unidentifiable musty odour, assaulted my senses and brought back many memories of my time in the Alliance military. The infantry bay was reasonably spacious given it was designed to carry a full support weapon squad in a typical platoon consisting of 7 men in full ballistic plate armour with multiple medium and heavy support weapons, by comparison our 6 man group with no heavy weapons had plenty of space, especially considering at least one of those 6 would be up front driving the tank, and likely 2 or 3 of the 6. At the far end of the infantry bay, facing the front side of the vehicle, there was an even smaller bulkhead door that was currently open and lead into the main cabin of the tank. Up there you could actually stand upright, at least where the turret was, and the turret also provided regular access to the tank's operations via the turret hatch. Through that door in the infantry bay I could make out Bishop, his unmistakable form immediately identifying him, as well as Captain Maxwell and who I assumed was Schuster, though I couldn't see his face from my current position. The Goblin had a somewhat irregular design overall since the infantry bay was installed where the typical engine of conventional tanks would be located, instead the combat vehicle had a pair of gas turbine engines located along the sides of the tank, one to either side of the infantry bay itself. Located above the bay, and the reason the ceiling was so low, were the armoured fuel tanks capable of accepting a variety of fuels to run the turbines with whatever is most readily available. The twin engines could propel the tank at speeds of up to 65km/h (40mph) and its tracked mobility system meant the combat vehicle had little trouble with terrain short of heavy woods or steep mountains. I promptly dropped Octavia's bag on the nearest seat while intentionally waiting for Levi to pick a seat before offering him his bag, Octavia glanced back at the noise but merely shrugged ever so slightly before returning her attention to what was going on in the main cab. I moved to the seat I had selected earlier, with my gear bag already stashed on it, and pulled out my two long guns that I was bringing on the mission, the KTS bull-pup shotgun and GA King Slayer gyroslug carbine. They quickly were mounted in the modular weapon racks, designed to hold both standard infantry and support weapons with a variety of attachment points, and the rest of my gear I stored inside the locker built into the back of the seat itself. Levi was trying to follow suit, struggling a bit to fit his gear bag into the locker before pulling out some of the larger items to store them separately. "Captain Maxwell," I called up front, not particularly caring if I had interrupted any conversation Octavia might have been having, "everyone is accounted for. We're ready to go when you are Sir." "Excellent Lieutenant," the Captain called back, bending over slightly to get a clear view into the rear compartment, "we'll be underway shortly, just waiting for confirmation from the APC." Nearly 2 hours later... - December 11, 3029 - 01:13 hours The Goblin's twin turbine engines roared as the tank powered its way over a shifting sand dune, the engine's fury greatly stifled by the considerable sound-proofing and insulation surrounding both the main cabin and the infantry bay. The storm had come up suddenly, even more so than anticipated and we had known what we were facing as Alyssa fed us constant updates, the initial blast of the storm, and it was indeed a blast, had sent the hover APC careening off course, though their driver was able to regain control quickly and returned to our tank's side. The sky lit up with an unworldly violet hue, streaks of ochre-tinted lightning splayed across the ghostly sky while the planet's solitary moon illuminated the night sky. Clouds, or at least what appeared to be clouds but could very well have just been large amounts of dust in the air, quickly filled the sky with ethereal arms reaching and waving wildly with the ever changing and strong winds. The hover APC, somewhat ironically referred to as a 'Heavy' APC despite its mere 20 ton mass, swayed visibly in the storm as the shifting sands blew out from the craft's skirt with increasing irregularity. Eventually the craft fell back behind us, our tracks and weight enough to compact the sand long enough to provide a more stable surface for the hovercraft to fly over, leaving their driver to only have to battle the wind instead of the ground itself too. Scattered bits of terse radio traffic could be heard filtering back into the infantry bay occasionally washed out by the storm itself outside, an impressive feat given how quiet the ride had been before the storm rolled in. A few minutes later, the storm had fully engulfed us, the tank was surrounded in a literal wall of dust and sand, the engine still running thanks only to the specialized filters installed on the air intakes designed specifically for this type of situation. We had slowed to crawl as visibility was reduced to virtually nothing and from my limited view in the infantry bay it looked like Bishop was driving on instinct, and the occasional flickering sensor readout, rather than anything visual. Eventually the 45 ton tank rolled to a stop, semi-sheltered in the shadow of a dune and some rocks, the hover APC pulling up short behind us as well. Captain Maxwell got out of his chair and conferred with Nick and Bishop for a moment, too low to hear above the howling winds, before turning and making his way back to the bulkhead separating the main cabin and the infantry bay. "Looks like the storm finally took out what was left of our sensors, seismic and EM sensors just crapped out. Bishop thinks they should come back after the storm has passed but for now we're basically blind, even Bishop's IR vision is of limited use because of how much sand and shit is in the air," called Charles, nearly shouting to be easily heard above the howling wind, "Which brings me to you Levi. I hope you brought your Thermoman helmet." "I did," gulped Levi, not sure what exactly was being asked of him and nervous to be put on the spot, "I have it in the locker here." "Great," nodded Charles, "grab it and come join me up front please."
  6. C.V. Hurry Up Bessie, Mule-class Dropship On approach to Haven Twycross - Lyran Commonwealth December 10, 3029 _______________________________________________ I had left the bridge shortly after the exchange between Captain Harlow and the Plutus Docks, in which she expertly talked us into getting approval for an unscheduled landing, and made my way down to the main cargo bay to collect the rest of my gear before we landed. A spheroid dropship more or less falling through the skies was generally not something one would want to walk around in but I wanted to be ready to go the moment we landed and Nikki and her crew were doing a commendable job piloting what amounted to a flying rock, especially given that half of our reaction thrusters were "offline" and they were playing the part fully. As if on cue the Bessie lurched sideways as the ship attempted to adjust for sudden changes in atmospheric wind with a thruster that was currently non-functional, the tilt sent me careening into a wall in the corridor despite my best efforts but I kept my feet even as the ship righted itself with a different thruster. On the plus side the two Captains had come up with their plan and cover stories BEFORE we entered atmosphere so the crew had had time to secure everything big enough to cause a problem in the cargo bays. Upon reaching the entrance to the main bay I hit the door open controls and the hydraulic door slid open with only the slightest of pauses in the middle, a far cry from the jittering and seizing it was doing prior to some of Schuster's tender ministrations. Nikki was surely going to miss him, assuming Captain Maxwell decided to take him up on his offer, I was still a bit surprised that Charles had asked my opinion on the matter, often mercenary Captain's would make those decisions themselves or leave it with their HR department if they were big enough for something like that. Nevertheless I had given the Captain my honest opinion, I couldn't judge the man on his past since I wasn't there to experience it myself, but everything I had seen meant Schuster would make a valuable and capable member of the team. Another shudder ran through the ship's deck, with no wall to catch me this time I stumbled sideways in the open cargo bay until the shudder stopped and I was able to catch my footing, all thoughts of Nick's request to join Aegis had left my mind and I moved as quickly as I could to retrieve my gear from one of the secured lockers near the main cargo door. As I retrieved my weapons and a heavy looking leather duster I recalled a few days prior when I had been selecting my gear in the armoury and been accosted by both Bishop and Alyssa. Previously... I was standing before one of the worktables in the middle of the armoury with a large selection of weapons laid out before me, everything from a pistol-grip "sawed-off" pump-action shotgun to a M&G fletchette rifle (or needler) and a man-portable flamer to a Thor Light Support Machine Gun with a sprinkling of various sidearms mixed in for good measure. Several of the choices were easy to make, the Flamer for instance was of limited value in the open desert and its encumbering nature ruled it out for a mission where speed was of utmost importance. The new KTS shotgun on the other hand was an intriguing and rather impressive dual magazine bull-pup design that offered the benefits of a full sized shotgun but in a compact package that rivalled a "sawed-off" for size but I had never seen actual combat with it yet. The fletchette rifle was another promising option but its limited range and almost non-existent armour penetration were worrisome even on this backwater planet. The sidearms at least were straight forward, my Serrek 7875D Auto-Pistol would accompany me as usual, along with spare mags including 1 clip of incendiary rounds, and as a trial run/backup to my backup I would be bringing a Wolf M30T pistol borrowed from Bishop's extensive armoury. The Wolf M30T was a reliable and common sidearm from the Free Worlds League, and one which Bishop had personally vouched for, chambered in a standard 0.45 ACP round the pistol packed a punch that was lacking in my Serrek's 9mm round. As I stood there debating in my head about the pros and cons of the various long guns I had laid out before me Bishop entered the armoury and immediately took an interest in the assortment of weapons I'd laid out. "Quite the selection there Jaeger, hope you aren't planning to carry them all into combat, not sure if the planet could survive," joked Bishop as he looked over the display. "Well I was curious just how many I could fit inside here," I laughed, indicating the large leather duster that I was currently wearing, having selected it as part of my attire for our upcoming dash and grab on the desert planet. "I'm pretty sure those harness points are meant for grenades and ammo, maybe a sidearm, not a complete arsenal," chuckled Bishop, referring to the built in harness hidden within the leather overcoat with relatively universal attachment points. "Only one way to find out," I quipped and started connecting various weapons to the internal harness. The bull-pup KTS shotgun was shortly joined by the M&G fletchette rifle, which stuck out past the bottom of the duster, two different SMGs, a pair of Magnum auto-pistols, and I was just picking up the Thor Light Machine Gun when Alyssa happened to walk into the armoury herself. "What the hell guys, do I need to supervise you as well now?" asked Alyssa with her hands on her hips, not really upset but not entirely joking either. "Oh hi Alyssa," I said looking over my shoulder at her, the LMG frozen in my hand with the duster hanging heavily from me, "What brings you here?" "Orlex what are you doing? If I didn't know any better it looks like you're trying to hide a Blake-damned support machine gun inside your trenchcoat," scolded Chase, the light in her eyes a better indication she was more amused than upset over her voice. I slowly turned towards her attempting, and failing, to shrug as the now heavy duster moved clunkily and the sound of multiple weapons clinking against each other rang out across the confines of the armoury, the look of a kid with their hand in a cookie jar playing across my face. Chase's eyes went wide as she saw what I had inside the duster before the fletchette rifle's attachment point failed and the weapon fell noisily to the ground. "Holy Blake! Orlex," gasped Alyssa before she shook her head and face palmed, "I work with a bunch of children, full grown, adult children." I sheepishly put the LMG back on the table and reached down to pick up the M&G rifle, narrowly managing to catch one of the SMGs as it slid from its holster when I crouched down, "We were just curious." "Hey now, this was all you buddy, don't go dragging me into it," replied Bishop with his hands up and backing away. "Ok, so I was curious," I responded, jokingly giving Bishop an evil eye as if he'd thrown me under the bus. "Right," laughed Chase, "and what did you learn? That you can't carry the entire armoury with you?" "Well that, and that the harness in this duster is meant for accessories and gear, not full size weapons," I answered. "I could have told you that Jaeger," said Alyssa with a shake of her head, before waving her hand across the assortment of weapons still scattered across the table, "Please tell me you're not planning on trying to bring all of this, it's a dash and grab guys." "Blake no," I answered shaking my head and continuing to unload weapons from the duster, "these were just options, to help me decide what I would actually bring." "Good, you legit had me worried there for a second. I've got my hands full enough trying to deal with Charles, I don't need to babysit another gun nut," said Alyssa with a laugh. "It can't be that bad can it?" I joked, finally finishing unloading all the guns from the leather overcoat. Chase shot me a knowing look before answering, "You have no idea, have you heard him mention his lost Hawk Eagle? I have, more times than I care to count." "So you came here, to the armoury, to escape from your fiancée who talks too much about guns?" I asked incredulously, "Just making sure I'm following the same logic here." "No you idiot," chided Alyssa jovially, "I didn't come here to escape from him, if I was trying to do that I'd have gone to see Nikki or Octavia, not you two knuckleheads. I came here to get my own weapons for the mission, I may be staying onboard the ship and coordinating you dum-dums from the air but I'll be damned if I'm not armed while we're planetside." "Ok, that makes more sense," I replied with a nod. "So, Bishop, seeing as how Orlex is busy arming himself to take over a small country and is clearly in the same line of thinking as my future husband," began Alyssa, playfully turning away from me to address Bishop instead, "any suggestions for me as to what I should consider for armaments?" "Certainly," answered Bishop, jokingly giving me a dismissive turn as well as they moved deeper into the armoury, "provided the Lieutenant here hasn't emptied these shelves as well there should be something sleek and elegant yet still effective right this way." As Bishop and Alyssa moved away I continued to sort through the assorted weapons, discounting several more as I actually started to consider them seriously, by the time Alyssa and Bishop had returned I had sorted the weapons into two distinct groups, one of which was considerably smaller. The KTS shotgun was in the smaller group, along with my two sidearms and a Gunther MP-20 SMG, as well as a series of grenades and associated spare ammo clips. Alyssa left, having found a gun suitable for what she was looking for, and Bishop went an opened a locked cabinet containing some of his personal weapons that were currently stored in the armoury, one of which instantly stood out and caught my attention. "Hey Bishop, is that a Star King?" I asked, the Star King was a relatively rare bull-pup gyroslug carbine widely considered one of the best on the market. "This?" asked Bishop, indicating the weapon I meant, "Not quite, its an Andurien knock-off made by Grumman Amalgamated, called the GA King Slayer." "King Slayer huh? Sounds like they're pretty confident," I chuckled. "In this case, it's warranted. The King Slayer is a little heavier than the Star King but it maintains the same firepower, range, and accuracy while having a lighter magazine which means the overall weight is actually slightly less. The weapon is easily switched from right side ejection to left so it is truly ambidextrous as all controls are replicated on both sides. Like any gyrojet weapon it is silent in operation, compared to traditional firearms, and has virtually no recoil as well as having no damage fall off thanks to the self propelled ammunition and explosive tipped rounds." Present Day... With all my gear collected and now worn I looked, and felt, like a strange cross between Ancient Terra's Wild West, the Inner Sphere's Terran Exoduses era, and a modern day marine prepped for desert combat. At the base layer I had on a heat suit, an all black, full-body, skin-tight suit with built in coolant and moisture retention systems that were powered by my own physical movements. The filter mask and googles were currently removed and stored in a pouch on my hip since they were primarily in case we encountered an actual sandstorm, of which the likelihood was considerably higher than I would like. On top of that I wore a pair desert camo pattern cargo fatigues, a lightweight, breathable set of pants that afforded additional pockets for storage without adding much weight or bulk themselves. On the upper body I had just a standard flak vest on, the olive drab coloured flexible bulletproof vest had lightweight ferrosteel plates built into it and provided excellent protection against ballistics and moderate protection from explosions, while its inherent weakness to energy weapons was less of a concern on a backwater world covered in dust and storms. On top of all that I wore a deceptively heavy looking synthleather duster, an oversized jacket that hung down past my knees and had an additional layer of leather across the shoulders, the surprisingly comfortable overcoat was loose fitting and designed to protect the rest of my gear from the worst of the dust and sand. The duster was a mottled slate gray and had the equivalent of a load bearing vest built into the interior of the jacket providing mounting points for various lightweight gear and equipment. My advanced combat helmet hung at my side while a humidifier mask was slung loosely around my neck ready to slide into place should I desire it. Finally on my head sat a wide-brimmed leather hat reminiscent of an Akubra traveller hat, once a popular style in Ancient Terra's Australian Outback. The weapons I had finally decided on included a variety of class 'B' mini grenades and a few class 'C' standard grenades, attached and stored at various points on the flak vest and inside the duster itself, along with my regular Serrek 7875D auto-pistol stored in my standard hip holster. In an underarm holster I had the Wolf M30T 0.45cal pistol, with 5 spare clips of ammunition for both sidearms, each with a single magazine of incendiary ammunition. For my primary weapon I had managed to talk Bishop into letting me borrow the GA King Slayer gyroslug carbine, a feat I believe I only accomplished because he was "stuck" driving our tank. The bull-pup rifle, was hanging from its sling across my shoulders and was able to be easily carried at my side, protected by the duster, or in front with quick and easy access should we run into trouble. It's large, heavy magazines containing 20 self-propelled, explosive rounds were secured to my belt as that was the only feasible place to carry them. As an added precaution, and in no small part due to my desire to test it out, I also carried the KTS bull-pup shotgun on my person, it's compact design allowing it to be stored with relative ease on the small of my back, underneath the duster, hanging from the back of the flak vest itself. It's location and attachment didn't provide quick access but I could still withdraw it reasonably well even if it took a bit longer. The weapon itself had a rather unique magazine system, instead of the traditional single tube magazine located underneath the shotgun's barrel the KTS had two 6 round tube magazines side by side underneath the barrel, giving the weapon a triangular appearance, with a selector switch to pick which magazine is used at any given moment. This design allowed me to load the weapon with both standard 00 buckshot and saboted slug rounds at the same time and enabled me to choose which shell to use at any given moment. An ammo holder on the stock and a bandolier across my body held multiple spare rounds of ammunition for both the buckshot and slug shells, each identified by the shell casing colour, red and black respectively. Finally, even though I had no intention of using it, the laser in my prosthetic arm was charged and ready with a spare set of high capacity micro power packs available should I need them. The heat suit prevented opening my prosthetic arm to allow rapid fire use of the internal laser, while also preventing access to the hidden storage compartment in my right leg, but the extra cooling provided by the heat suit meant I should be able to use the integral laser close to normal should I need to. To round out my kit, and help cover us in the semi-unlikely event we get caught out in the elements for an extended period, I had a rucksack containing my basic field kit, electronic compass, flares, and emergency rations as well as a fully stocked advanced medkit that I was going to bring in the Goblin, along with a solar recharger, rangefinder binoculars, noteputer, medipack and military comm stored elsewhere in the duster and my gear. Was it all overkill, most likely, but I had a tendency to be overprepared and it had served me well enough in the past to continue doing so now. As the dropship began it's final approach to the Plutus Docks I hunkered down in one of the cargo bay's jump seats, the rear slit in the duster allowing me to sit comfortably enough despite the extra gear I was currently carrying. A few minutes later I felt the sudden thump of the ship touching down, as gracefully as an 11,200 ton cargo ship with "bad" thrusters could, and then heard the powerful fusion drive engines begin their slow wind-down as the Hurry Up Bessie settled into her new berth.
  7. Wolf M30T Pistol ---A Time of War (ATOW) Stats--- Armour Piercing/Damage: 4B/5 Range: 7/30/60/110 meters Shots: 17 Mass/Reload: 0.95kg/0.025kg Notes: +1 attack modifier in low light; range modifiers: +2/+1/0/-1 Wolf M30T Pistol From Shrapnel Issue #3, pg 112 Common FWL sidearm Powerful, solid weapon Assuming 0.45cal pistol (roughly equivalent to 0.45 ACP [M1911]) Excerpt from Shrapnel Magazine The M30 is a common sidearm in Free World League Military units, and has been for a few hundred years. The current version, the M30T, varies little from older models, being only a few grams lighter, and square-notched rear sights allows accurate shooting in poor light. It is not uncommon for FWLM officers to carry the same M30 their grandparent did.
  8. GA King Slayer Gyroslug Carbine ---A Time of War (ATOW) Stats--- Armor Piercing/Damage: 4B/5 Range: 23/65/130/285 meters Shots: 20 Mass/Reload : 5.5kg/2.0kg Notes: Gyrojet - no damage falloff, "silent", no recoil, leaves visible "cone" exhaust trail GA King Slayer Gyroslug Carbine (Free Worlds League Bull-pup Gyrojet rifle) Based on Star King Gyroslug Carbine Bull-pup design, manufactured by Grumman Amalgamated on Shiro III (Duchy of Andurien) Slightly heavier weapon weight (5.5kg vs 5.2kg) but lighter mag weight (2.0kg vs 2.3kg) compared to Star King Other stats are the same
  9. KTS Pump-Action Shotgun ---A Time of War (ATOW) Stats--- Armor Piercing/Damage: 3B/5S for buckshot, 5B/5 for slug Range: 5/12/24/50 meters for buckshot, 7/18/28/62 meters for slug Shots: 6 + 6 (twin tube mags) + 1 (in chamber) Mass/Reload : 4.5kg/20g (per shell), 120g/mag Buckshot is standard 00 buck (normal large game hunting round) Saboted Slug is a shaped 1oz slug using a sabot to provide rifling and increased velocity, resulting in greater range and armor piercing but no splash damage (under ATOW rules) KTS (Kuritan Tactical Shotgun) Pump-Action Shotgun Based loosely on KSG shotgun (base model) Bull-pup design, 26" overall length, 12 gauge 3" shells Twin underbarrel tubular magazine (6 round capacity each), manually loaded, selector to switch between mags Pump-action, accessory rails, pistol grip Can list ammo as individual shells or as "mags" (though that is just to make it easier, there are no mags or speed loaders for the gun) Generally use Red shells for buckshot, Black shells for slug Use standard Combat Shotgun (sarna.net) stats for buckshot ammo Based on Avenger CCW shotgun the slug round has increased armour pen (using +2 instead of the CCW's +3)
  10. This will be a collection of detailed information regarding any custom infantry weapons that I design or create throughout our MercNet RPG missions. All weapons will be using the "A Time of War" system for stats and I intend to make them as balanced and canonical as I can. I'll include any special information as well as links to canonical weapons I base them off of and any links to real-world weapons I used for inspiration as needed. Everyone is welcome to add their own stuff in here as well if desired, but by no means is required. (I'm just doing this to help me stay organized, lol)
  11. C.V. Hurry Up Bessie, Mule-class Dropship Enroute to Twycross III Twycross - Lyran Commonwealth December 8, 3029 _______________________________________________ Bishop passed through the halls like a shadow, a very large, potentially menacing shadow, but smooth and fluid like a shadow all the same, he appeared to have a set destination and was not wandering aimlessly but it would have been difficult to tell where it was in the large ship that he was working his way towards. As it happened he came across Octavia by chance somewhere near the living quarters, though not near any particular room of note, and he nodded to her in greeting as they passed. He turned up his nose every so slightly as they passed and he half glanced back towards her, something was off with her scent, it wasn't fear per say, maybe nervousness or agitation, he didn't know her well enough to be sure. Unknown to anyone else, deep within the recesses of his mind the beast within growled in a low challenge but Bishop ignored it and kept the mental shackles in place. The beast did not like Octavia, not only was she not part of his pack but there was something about her that seemed almost dangerous, not to Bishop himself but possibly to his pack. However, Captain Maxwell had accepted her, at least temporarily, and Bishop would abide by his ruling until circumstance dictated otherwise. And so he continued on without a pause in his step, making his way through the ship towards one of he lower cargo holds and a small area that had been set aside as an armoury and secured as such for the duration of our voyage to and from the Oberon Confederation. As he approached he noted the door in the ferro-steel cage that had been erected to segregate this section of the hold off was sitting unlocked and ajar, he also knew that Lieutenant Jager was inside before he could actually see him. Aside from the fact that Orlex had requested to meet Bishop here, he also recognized his scent when he came into the cargo hold itself. "I'm pretty sure I told you we need to keep this door locked Lieutenant, even when we're inside," grinned Bishop as he entered the ad-hoc armoury. "You know I was thinking about that," I said as I looked up from the workbench, returning Bishop's grin, "why do we need to lock up the weapons anyways? Why don't we just hand them out to the crew, civilians and all?" "Ohhh, you don't want to go down THAT particular road with me," Bishop retorted with a smile as he came around to my side of the workbench. "No you're right," I replied stepping away from my work and holding up my open left hand as Bishop approached. He cocked an eyebrow at me while looking at my open hand before his grin spread further and he also brought his left hand up, grasping each other's hand as though we were arm wrestling we each clapped the other on the shoulder with our free hand before we started wrestling with our left arms to pull the other off balance. Bishop's full body myomer implants gave him the edge over my cybernetic arm and he started to pull me away from the workbench so I cheated and hooked my right leg, which was also a cybernetic implant/prosthetic, around the lower support of the workbench which was welded to the floor. The increased leverage allowed me to recover and actually momentarily shift Bishop towards my side before he shifted his weight slightly in a single smooth motion pulled me completely off balance and away from the workbench despite my efforts. I stumbled to my left, my right foot being hooked causing me to take longer to catch my balance and I nearly ran into a large cabinet full of carbines and laser rifles. Righting myself I looked over at Bishop who wore a giant grin on his face along with a look that said "did you expect anything different". Bastard, I thought with a smile. "Good to see you Bishop, and thanks for coming to meet me," I replied after a moment, allowing Bishop to relish in his victory, even though he won every time. "Same Orlex, maybe one day you'll figure out how to beat me," laughed Bishop, a deep, hearty sound, "but I doubt it." "What are you working on?" Bishop inquired as the two of us moved back to the workbench I had been at initially. "Nothing special, just some regular tune up on my Blazer," I replied as I picked up the tools again and resumed cleaning the weapon, "The focusing lens keeps getting residual built up on it and I'm not sure why." "Lasers will do that, most people think lasers are maintenance free but they still require just as much care as any ballistic rifle out there," stated Bishop, more for continuing the conversation than because he thought I didn't know that. "Yes but this is more than usual, I think one of the laser cores is starting go but I don't see any other signs of that and the weapon's output is still consistent," I said in return as I continued using a special multi-tool laser to remove the microscopic film from the first focusing lens. "Could be, should check the individual core temps when you're in the range next, could be your heat sinks," suggested Bishop thoughtfully, "if one of the cores isn't getting proper cooling it could be slowly ablating the insulation or thermal paste and depositing some of it on the lens." "Good point, hadn't considered that yet," I answered with a nod. "So what did you want to see me about Jager?" asked Bishop, changing the subject. "Ah yes, as you know we're headed to Twycross to retrieve our missing LosTech nest egg we stole from Irian," I began, finishing up with cleaning the lens and starting to reassemble the weapon. "I'd heard, Captain Maxwell also got an 'anonymous' tip about how to find it, not hard to guess who that came from," said Bishop. "Yeah, so we know where our lost shipment is, or at least we should once we reach orbit and can properly scan for the encrypted signal, provided of course that Malice provided us reliable information," I continued as Bishop grunted, "but here's the kicker, we have to do this on foot. Our 'mechs are still pretty much scrap metal at this point, we didn't and still don't have the parts to fix most of them currently, let alone the lack of facilities to replace those parts. We didn't expect to have to rebuild those machines from the ground up on this OP. Regardless though, even if they were functional they would likely be of limited use considering the shit storm of a planet we are about to land on." "So I've heard, Twycross sounds like a lovely vacation spot if you're into deserts, storms, heat, unpredictable weather and getting sand Blake-damned everywhere. I mean they fucking have a permanent storm named Diabolis that covers Blake knows how much of the damn planet, I mean that literally, the size of the storm varies all the time and can change without any apparent warning. So yeah shit storm." "Exactly, so we need a team to be inserted to secure our errant LosTech and then ideally we bring in the Bessie herself to load it up, barring that we're going to need some heavy transport equipment to load everything up and bring it back to the Bessie. Captain Maxwell charged me with drawing up the landing party and I was hoping to get your input." "Really? Captain Maxwell laid that on your lap?" inquired Bishop with a raised eyebrow. "Ok, so I volunteered and he went with it," I retorted jovially. "That sounds more like it, still chasing his approval or do you just like making work for yourself?" poked Weyland with a chuckle. "Yeah yeah," I chided before continuing, "Anyways, I could use your help getting things lined up. We've got a fairly small team so it shouldn't take long." "I'll do what I can, though as far as the transport equipment goes you'd probably be better asking Levi or one of the other Techs, that's a little outside my wheelhouse." "Ok, but you are our resident Master of Arms so I could use your opinion on loadouts at least. Also I was wondering where things were at with you and Schuster and your Nighthawk?" I asked a little gingerly, the Nighthawk could be a touchy subject sometimes. "Ah," replied Bishop, a note of forlorn longing entering his voice, "I've been told it's not ready yet. You'll have to check with Schuster on the details." "No problem, any suggestions in regards to our loadouts?" I inquired, eager to change the subject. "Ballistics," replied Bishop flatly before elaborating, "we're going to a desert planet with constant wind storms, that means dust and particulates in the air constantly, that shit will mess with laser weapons to no end. Depending on just how dusty it gets that could mean anything from reduced range and/or damage as the dust refracts and scatters the laser to rendering it completely useless if there's enough shit in the air. Granted ballistics will have their own issues to deal with, sand jamming up mechanisms, increased erosion, yadda yadda, but at least it'll still go boom when you pull the trigger. Lower tech is actually better as the simpler it is, and that typically means less moving parts, the less likely it is to jam. Some of the higher tech stuff is alright too if it's built to be rugged and has lenient enough clearances." "Gotcha, ballistics it is then, I'll be sure to relay that to the team," I replied. "Speaking of, who do you have in mind?" asked Bishop. "Obviously Captain Maxwell, he wouldn't stay back even if we tried to make him, myself, Schuster, and Octavia," I answered, Bishop having a fleeting look of disappointment cross his face at the mention of Octavia, "Is there a problem with the Octavia?" "No, not exactly. I don't trust the woman though, does she need to be part of the team?" "Not really, but I doubt the Baroness would let us sideline her. She has a somewhat personal interest in recovering the shipment, seeing as how she's negotiated with the Captain to receive a small share of it as 'compensation'. Plus it might be easier to keep an eye on her, if necessary, when she's with us." "Of course she has, who else have you got? What of Alyssa or Jenkins?" inquired Bishop, moving on. "I believe Steve might have a prior engagement, something about a martial arts tournament and a black belt I think, we'll hold him a spot though if he becomes available. As for Warrant Officer Chase, I'll leave that one up to Charles. As far as I know she's recovered from her ordeal on Oberon but I don't know if Charles' opinion on her seeing active duty has changed given their new relationship and I'm not about to ask him or make that call. I figured you would be in Bishop, provided you're feeling up to it, and we'd hold a spot for Levi as well. Not sure on the state of his recovery but we could possibly use his lockpicking skills and an extra gun doesn't hurt either." "As long as it's pointing the right way," chuckled Bishop. "True, though I think he's been getting better, saw him at the range with Jenkins last week," I replied. "That's a scary thought." "He's not that bad," I laughed. "I meant Jenkins training him, Steve is competent but I'm not sure he knows how to transfer those skills in a coherent manner," quipped Bishop jokingly. "Fair enough," I chuckled, "so I think we've got two teams so far, Maxwell, Incendio, you, Schuster, and myself as definitely going and then a provisional team of our various specialists including Alyssa, Levi, Jenkins, and possibly one or two of the Bessie's crew." "Sounds like you've got things under wraps," said Bishop as he opened up a cabinet containing various rifle caliber ballistic weapons, "I'm going to get started on prepping the armoury, we've got a fairly large stock of ballistic weapons ranging from pistols through SMGs to rifles and shotguns, I'd rather have the full selection available to the team so everyone can have their weapons of choice." "Alright, thanks Bishop, appreciate the help," I said with a smile, having finished reassembling my laser rifle during the conversation I slung it over my shoulder and moved towards the exit, "I'll catch you later buddy." "See ya," called Weyland, waving a hand in the air as he began pulling weapons from the locker and laying them out on the now empty workbench. ..... A few hours later ... "I see, so the suit won't be ready for on Twycross then?" I asked looking for confirmation, I had tracked down Schuster after my conversation with Bishop and was checking on the status and progress of Nick's ongoing project of trying to hack the modded Nighthawk suit that Bishop had returned with after his near death on Nirasaki. "Unfortunately no, I mean the suit is physically ready, there's nothing stopping its use in that regard, the problem is the programming or whatever it is in the software. If Bishop, or anyone for that matter, attempt to use the suit in its current condition it could very well kill them. We've made some good progress but I still can't access the suit's programming itself. I can get access all the data on the suit's status and capabilities, I can get into the suit's subroutines and see what they do but I can't alter them, or even execute them, and the core program is still locked away. I swear the thing is intelligent or something the way it counters every probe or hack," replied Schuster, getting a little louder as both frustration and excitement coloured his words. "Damn, that could have made this recovery a cakewalk, that's alright though we can make do without, it's not worth risking Bishop's or anyone else's health for," I replied. "You don't have to tell me, I know how valuable that thing is. Hacking troubles aside though we've had to go slow for Bishop's own sake too, he yearns for that thing on an unnatural level. Like a bad drug addict at times, and like a young child's favourite toy at others. He is getting better though, his adjustment to his new augments actually seems to be helping control those urges and he spends more and more time going over the suit with me before excusing himself," explained Nick. "Well that's good, at least its progress. I'm going to go finish up my report for the Captain on the landing party, you're sure Captain Harlow will be good with us stealing you away again?" "I don't see why not, provided nothing major explodes on our way to the surface the Bessie is in pretty decent shape right now, knock on wood," replied Schuster, enacting an ancient Terran apotropaic custom meant to ward off bad luck and still in use throughout the Sphere today. "Agreed," I said, before turning to leave, "I'll see you later Nick." Returning to my quarters I finished drawing up the prospective landing party before sending the report off to Captain Maxwell for review. ____________________________ - Incoming Coded Message -- Officer Report Follows - - Decode Alpha Protocol - Delta17emerald: 006 - - For internal use only - ____________________________ Working Codename : Browncoat Planet: Twycross (Lyran Commonwealth) Terrain: Desert Time: Undetermined Mission Type: Extraction Raid/Retrieval Payment: N/A Command Rights: Integrated Transport Rights: N/A Support Rights: N/A Salvage Rights: 30% Captain Maxwell, below is the tentative landing party list for our retrieval operation on Twycross. I have a split the party into teams according to capabilities and included provisional positions for team members that are not yet confirmed. I've also laid out a contingency should the initial plan turn out to be unfeasible. Operation codename, Team IDs, and unit composition are all subject to your approval and can be changed. I will leave the official briefing to you sir. Team 1 Captain Maxwell - Eden Warrant Officer Chase - Radar Sergeant Schuster - Rebus Baroness Incendio - Exile Team 2 Lieutenant Jager - Bastion Lieutenant Weyland - Predator Levi Wright - Thermo Man Sergeant Jenkins - Dionysus *provisional depending on availability Support Members of the Hurry Up Bessie's crew Available Assets Raven RVN-1XL-DC [35 tons] - only space for 2, it's a mech Goblin Medium Tank (Standard) [45 tons] - has infantry bay large enough to transport both teams, relatively slow, ok for desert, little concern in severe wind storms Hover APC (Standard) [10 tons] - capacity to transport entire landing party, very fast, good for desert but may suffer in severe wind storms 2x BFFL Buffalo [100 tons] - 40 ton cargo capacity (divided into 4x 10 ton containers), good for desert, shouldn't suffer in severe wind storms due to weight Once the pirate stash is located from orbit I see three possible scenarios that could occur; Scenario 1 (Ideal) Shipment/Treasure cache located and suitable landing area is nearby with no threats, able to land directly at cache and retrieve equipment without issues Scenario 2 (Most likely/Primary) Shipment/Cache located, suitable landing area nearby but threats or potential for threats exist, unable to land directly at cache. Need to find a safe landing zone, ideally as close as possible, once grounded landing party will deploy and move to secure cache Hover APC provides fastest method of transport and can easily accommodate the entire team, severe storms could pose a hazard due to how light the transport is and its hover propulsion Goblin Medium Tank provides adequate transport for entire team, though cramped, as well as providing additional firepower to assist in securing cache location, weight and tracks mean wind should be a non-issue Once cache is secure we can move the dropship to a closer landing area and load cache directly onto it Scenario 3 (Contingency) Same as Scenario 2 but with no landing area suitably close to the cache location Once the cache is secure we can deploy the two BFFL Buffalo Hover Support vehicles to the cache and load the shipment onto them, then transport the goods back to the Bessie, multiple trips can be made as needed In all three situations the Raven RVN-1XL-DC can be deployed for added security as desired.
  12. ********************** Elsewhere... Twycross System, Lyran Commonwealth Nov 30, 3029 _______________________________________ "Heil Kommandant," called one of the junior officers, snapping to attention as the ship's Commander entered the bridge. "At Ease," responded the Commander with a nod and quick salute as the various members of the bridge stood at attention. The Commander was old school, strict and formal and expected everyone under his command to be just as disciplined, but he was also well liked and over the years had groomed his crew to have the best officers available that fit his command style and meshed well together. The crew of the Oldenburg, an Avenger-class assault dropship, were a well oiled machine and worked extremely well under the direct ministrations of their traditional Captain, or Commander/Kommandant as his actual rank stated. Unlike many within the Lyran Navy the Kommandant had earned his rank through actual hard work and dedication, unlike many of the so called 'Social Generals' that littered the Commonwealth's military ranks, much to their detriment. The ship was part of a Lyran patrol, sometimes jokingly referred to as the Warriors Three by the junior officers, though never within earshot of the Kommandant, and was paired with two other dropships, a Leopard CV-class aerodyne and a Seeker-class spheroid, as part of an anti-piracy task force within the Lyran Commonwealth. The three ships had arrived in the Twycross system a couple days prior tracking down a small but somewhat infamous band of pirates that operated in the area and were believed to have a base somewhere on Twycross. They had received word of the pirates latest attack while recharging in the nearby Butler star system and had made the jump to Twycross as soon as possible. Now the three dropships were enroute towards the planet at a harsh 2G burn in an attempt to cut off the pirates before they could make the nearly 22 day trip out to one of the standard jump points. Unfortunately for them the pirates had other ideas and were instead heading to a jumpship that was located at the L4 LaGrange point in the star-planet system, a distance of a mere 2.2 days and possibly one of the craziest jump points the Lyrans had ever seen pirates use, there was absolutely zero room for error in any of their jump calculations with a point that close, not to mention the exponential increase to the fuel consumes by station-keeping on the jumpship while it recharged. About a day and a half into their hard burn the three Captains, along with their jumpship's support staff, were able to confirm that the suspected pirate vessel leaving Twycross was heading to a jumpship, hiding in plain sight due to the unlikely location, at the L4 LaGrange and there was no way that they could arrive in time to intercept them. As such they made the difficult choice to reverse course and head back to their jumpships so they could attempt to follow the pirates and hopefully catch them in the next system. At the same time a new arrival to the system drew the Lyran patrol's attention, a Scout-class jumpship with a Mule-class dropship in tow on its single hardpoint, they too had arrived using a pirate jump point, a colloquial term used for any non-standard jump point, and the Mule was now heading towards the planet at an unusual 1.5G burn. Not entirely suspicious on its own, since more than a few merchants were known to push their vessels when on a tight shipping schedule, but the timing of their arrival seemed more than a mere coincidence. The Kommandant of the Oldenburg, also happening to be the tactical leader of the task force, decided to send the Leopard CV and Seeker vessels back to their jumpship to pursue the pirates while he himself continued on to investigate the new arrival, the aerospace fighter squadron aboard the Leopard CV being more use against the known pirates while his own Avenger was more than enough should these new arrivals also be pirates. "What's the situation First Leutnant?" asked the Kommandant after assuming command of the bridge, he had been called to the bridge, as asked, whenever a new development with the unknown Mule-class dropship arose. "We've reached transponder range sir, the vessel is identified as the 'C.V. Hurry Up Bessie'. We cross-referenced our records and it appears they are a private merchant vessel currently in the employ of a 'Stormvanger Heavy Industries', our sources say they were last in port on Oberon VI in the Oberon Confederation and are registered as returning to the Tikonov Free Republic." "I see, excellent work First Leutnant, are we within communication range yet?" "Not exactly sir, we can attempt to contact them but the distance means a roughly 12 hour round trip for any non-HPG communications." "Alright, how long until we reach standard communication range?" asked the Kommandant, now turning to his communications officer. "At our current speed sir they will reach the planet before we can hail them in real time." "Understood," replied the ship's captain thoughtfully, "Leutnant, I want you to record their transponder signal so we can find them again once they are on the planet. We likely won't be able to scan for them due to the storms but we should still be able to pick up that transponder and hail them." Now turning to his navigation officer the Kommandant continued, "Helm, how long will they be on planet before we reach orbit?" "Assuming they maintain their current course with a 1.5G burn they will be on planet for nearly 7 days before we reach orbit sir," replied the sharply dressed officer at the navigation console. "Very well, Leutnant," said the Kommandant, turning back to his communications officer, "record the following message and transmit it to the Hurry Up Bessie when we're within a 4 hour delay, one way." "Sir?" questioned the relatively young officer in charge of the comms for this shift. "If they're pirates, we don't want to spook them too early, though I'm sure they are already aware of our presence we aren't on a direct intercept course currently, other than us both arriving at the planet eventually. If we wait to communicate our intentions they may assume we aren't here for them. If they are civilians, then it makes no difference if we contact them now, in 5 days, or once they are planet side. Also if we wait to contact them it will make it more obvious should they make a course correction upon receiving our message. Ready to record?" explained the Kommandant, he had no problem with his officers questioning his choices in this kind of situation, in fact he encouraged it as he felt it provided valuable learning opportunities for his crew. He also knew that they weren't questioning his command, merely requesting an explanation for a curious order or trying to follow the Kommandant's train of thought. "Sir, yes Sir," replied the junior officer as they toggled the comm system to record the Kommandant's message. "To the Captain of the C.V. Hurry Up Bessie, this is Kommandant Stein of the LCS Oldenburg. Your vessel has arrived in system under suspicious circumstances and our records do not indicate you have a stopover in this system. Please transmit you authentication details and await further instructions." A nod from Kommandant Stein indicated he was finished and the Leutnant at the comms toggled the recorder off. Satisfied with their current course of action the Kommandant returned command to the shift's Hauptmann and retired back to his previous activities. The vessel continued on its course, maintaining the blistering 2G acceleration that, while quite uncomfortable, the crew was able to handle due to extensive training. In roughly 7 days time they would transmit their message to the C.V. Hurry Up Bessie and shortly thereafter hopefully discover whether or not she was a pirate ship in disguise working with the others to retrieve the suspected loot on the planet, or just a civilian merchant vessel making an unusual and possibly unscheduled stop at Twycross. ********************** C.V. Hurry Up Bessie, Mule-class Dropship Twycross system pirate jump point Twycross - Lyran Commonwealth December 1, 3029 _______________________________________________ "Am I the only one here who thinks all of this seems like more than just a coincidence?" Captain Maxwell stood looking out a nearby porthole at the vastness of space, the scene beyond practically stationary despite our ever increasing speed as we accelerated continuously towards Twycross, the implications of what was just revealed to us racing through my mind, and likely the others' as well, as I worked to figure out what it all meant for us. Harold Jones, the supposed proprietor of our expedition into the Oberon Confederation, was in a sense a ghost. According to everything we had found, thanks to both Schuster's and Octavia's impressive skills, Harold Jones had hired us to go to Oberon and retrieve this artifact using Interstellar Expeditions, and by extension the Crayven Corporation, as a go between, likely to provide anonymity. That in itself was all good, the problem was that this particular Harold Jones had been dead for around 10 years prior to contracting out to Interstellar Expeditions, an unexpected and troublesome turn of events. "Not at all sir," I replied at length, "there definitely seems to be much more going on here than we realize. It seems someone decided to bring a relatively unknown archeologist back from the dead in order to discretely hire us to go and retrieve what amounts to little more than a curiousity from one of the most infamous pirate kingdoms in the Inner Sphere. The connection between this ghost and both the Crayven Corporation and our current cover of Stormvanger Heavy Industries is too on the nose to ignore. I don't know how much digging was required to reveal this information but it seems that our enigmatic benefactor has not been sharing all the details with us. I can't say for sure, but to me it would appear that Kauffman has used a rather elaborate cover to hire himself, or at least his own company, to retrieve an object that he clearly wanted to maintain control of but without having a direct connection to himself personally. The question is why?" "Why indeed," said Octavia, raising an eye brow to punctuate her statement, "Either this is an elaborate cash grab by the Crayven Corporation, in which case this Kauffman fellow could do to learn a few things as there are Much easier ways to accomplish that, or this artifact retrieval is a cover for something much more valuable." "Agreed," answered Charles, stepping away from the porthole and subtly fishing to see what Octavia might know, "but what is the cover for?" "Of that I am not sure, there are a few possibilities but they are all speculation at this point," said Octavia, tapping her forefingers together absent-mindedly as though in thought. "Please, enlighten us Baroness," I asked, taking a lead from Charles on his usage of her title, "I am keen to see if your theories match up with my own." "Very well," replied the Baroness, an air to her tone as though she was deigning it necessary to educate someone of a lower intellect, "The doll, or Artifact itself does not appear to be of much value on its own. Aside from its perceived value as a collectible it is nearly worthless and there aren't many collectors out there willing to outfit a mercenary company for a year long trip into hostile territory to retrieve such an item, notwithstanding its perceived value or its supposed occult connections. That being said, the doll either has some kind of hidden value that we are not yet privy to, or else the whole operation is a cover for something much more lucrative. The LosTech cache that we 'acquired' during the retrieval comes to mind." "I would concur," I added after Octavia paused for a time, "the doll does seem to have been yet another cover within this house of mirrors that we've been pulled into." "An apt description," continued Octavia, "If indeed the doll's recovery has been a deception, then the LosTech cache we are currently attempting to reacquire seems the most likely candidate for the true goal of the mission. It would also explain a few things." "How so?" inquired Charles, his brow furrowing ever so slightly. "When we were in the lab on Oberon Bishop, who is a liaison from the Crayven Corporation I might add, was very adamant that we continue 'the mission' even when things went sideways and our dear Captain here could have used some assistance. Once we had successfully diverted the large shipment of LosTech and recovered some 'secondary' items of interest, a pair of Black Boxes if memory serves, Bishop was suddenly willing to depart from our group to go and assist Captain Maxwell. Now he wasn't able to reach the Captain, whether that was truly because of the Irian reinforcements or due to a lack of effort on his part I cannot say, but he did shortly return to us and assist in the final retrieval of the artifact, our supposed Primary objective, but it seemed as more of an after thought." "Are you saying Bishop betrayed us, or was running his own personal mission within ours, possibly to our own detriment?" I asked, more defensively than I had initially intended. "Hardly, but he does work for Crayven Corporation does he not? He is not technically part of Aegis Division, except as a liaison," stated Octavia, unfazed by my slight outburst. "Bishop is loyal to a fault," I began, before Octavia interrupted. "Precisely, and where does that loyalty lie?" continued Octavia, pointing a finger at as though to accentuate her point, "Can you say for certain that he did not have an ulterior motive during your mission, potentially given to him by his employer?" I stopped and thought for a moment, as much as I hated to admit it she did have a point. There was no way to be absolutely certain about whether or not Bishop had been given a separate mission to carry out by Kauffman, or anyone within the Crayven Corporation for that matter, but in the time I had gotten to know Bishop and the stories I had heard from the others I had no doubt that Bishop would not have betrayed us or intentionally jeopardized our mission. However, this line of thinking could still prove beneficial as it may keep Octavia from digging too deeply. After a moments consideration I sighed before answering and then turning towards Maxwell, "No I cannot." "Me neither," replied Charles heavily, seemingly also coming to the same conclusion I did, "though I'd like to think my judge of character is solid enough to say otherwise." "Don't we all Charles," replied Octavia in a tone that wasn't quite condescending and laced with just enough emotion to seem personal, either she was an amazing actress or else the Baroness had been betrayed by someone she never thought would so. "So you think this shipment of LosTech that we stole from Irian, and are now attempting to recover from bandits, is the actual prize and true objective of our mission?" asked Maxwell flatly. "Do you disagree?" asked Octavia curiously. "I can't fault her logic Captain," I interjected, "as much as I hate the implications caused by it." "I see, and as much as I dislike it, I have to agree," said Charles after a moment's consideration, "Similar scenarios have crossed my mind as well, and this LosTech loot is incredibly valuable, whether it was the true objective or not. I suppose the question now is what to do with this information?" "Renegotiate contract terms," suggested Octavia a little too easily. "Worth considering, though we would have to be very careful to avoid any Breach of Contract issues with the MRB," replied Maxwell, a sly expression just touching his face momentarily. "Captain Maxwell to the bridge, ... Captain Charles Maxwell to the bridge please." paged Nikki Harlow's voice from over the ship's PA system. "I wonder what that could be about?" Charles genuinely wondered aloud, "Sorry, you'll have to excuse me, we can continue this discussion later at your convenience Baroness." Charles moved to the door of the market display room and toggled the intercom to let the bridge know he was on his way and then left the room. Octavia took that as her cue that the discussion was over and curtly nodded to be before leaving herself. I had no idea if that particular diversion worked or not but it seemed like Octavia had possibly taken the bait that the LosTech cache was the most valuable items we had recovered on our mission, and normally that would be true. It wasn't so much that we needed to keep her in the dark about the authenticator but more that it simpler to do so, were she to find out the Baroness was likely to request even further compensation for her part in it, especially knowing the potential value of such a find. Although I also wouldn't put it past her to try and swipe the device for herself should the opportunity arise. 7 days later... C.V. Hurry Up Bessie, Mule-class Dropship Enroute to Twycross III Twycross - Lyran Commonwealth December 8, 3029 _______________________________________________ The bridge was abuzz with activity, or at least as much as it could be given the relatively small crew and their generally laid back nature, with most of the activity centered around the ship's main communications station. A week ago Captain Maxwell had been called to the bridge to inform him that a jumpship which we believed to belong to the pirates had jumped from a pirate point insanely close to the planet and that one of the three Lyran dropships comprising what appeared to be a Lyran patrol had stayed in system while the others were heading back to their own jumpship. In the following days it became clear that the remaining dropship, which appeared to be an Avenger-class assault dropship, was indeed staying in system while the other two dropships redocked and then jumped out to presumably follow the pirate jumpship. The Avenger on the other hand was steadily closing on us, albeit somewhat slowly, as they made their way towards the planet on a parallel course which didn't quite intersect with our own. Provided both parties maintained their current acceleration though we would still reach the planet long before the Lyran dropship. Gretchen was concerned that the patrol ship was chasing us but Nikki and Maxwell were not convinced, though they didn't dismiss the idea either. However, Gretchen's fears were realized less than an hour ago when we received a hail from oncoming Lyran patrol ship. Today, the Captain had once again been called to the bridge, this time passing me in the hall on his way he pulled me along with him, likely suspecting what was transpiring. "Play it again," requested James. With a slight look of exasperation Nikki obliged and hit the play button on the recorded communication. "To the Captain of the C.V. Hurry Up Bessie, this is Kommandant Stein of the LCS Oldenburg. Your vessel has arrived in system under suspicious circumstances and our records do not indicate you have a stopover in this system. Please transmit you authentication details and await further instructions." "See, they're coming for us," complained James, he had apparently been the one on watch when the message came in. "They aren't 'coming for us' James, its a just a routine check, we did jump in system at a pirate jump point afterall. Captain Maxwell, what's your take on the situation?" answered Nikki, not dismissively but clearly having already had this argument. "I'd say you're both right in a sense," replied Charles tactfully, "We're definitely on their radar, which isn't exactly good, but they haven't made any change to try and catch us or intercept us in the last week. To me that means they are suspicious of us but not actually after us yet. I'd recommend playing along for now, stick to our cover story and see where that gets us." "I agree, best to play ball for now and not give them any reason to look any further into us, we'll maintain course and speed and for all intents continue to be just a normal merchant vessel," confirmed Captain Harlow. Captain Harlow moved to the comm station and picked up a directional mic to record a response to send back to the Oldenburg before shushing everyone in the room when they didn't immediately go quiet, a moment later, once all the noise died down, she keyed the mic and recorded her response. "Kommandant Stein, this is Captain Harlow of the C.V. Hurry Up Bessie. We're transmitting our authentication details along with this message and you should be receiving them now. You are correct that we don't have a scheduled stop in this system, however we received word that Twycross is currently purchasing filter masks and environment suits at a premium and we have some in bulk after a botched sale back in Bensinger. My crew and I were hoping to make some extra c-bills on the way home from Oberon. You'll see in our contract from Stormvanger that we are not excluded from conducting side business as long as it doesn't negatively impact our primary shipment." Nikki then made sure to attach the appropriate files detailing our cover of working for Stormvanger Heavy Industries and the associated bills of lading, which conveniently actually included an unassigned shipment of environment suits, before sending the package as whole with basic encryption back to the Lyran patrol ship. The transmission would take roughly 4 hours to get back to the Oldenburg with another 4 hours before any reply from them could get back to us, that meant we had at least 8 hours before any 'further instructions' could be delivered and would get us that much closer to the planet itself. Once on the planet we could likely use the excuse of the constant storms as interfering with our long range communications and the Lyran vessel would take at least 7 days at their current speed to reach orbit after we made planetfall. At best the Lyran Kommandant would scrutinize our records and send us on our way with a warning, possibly requesting a quick inspection, and at worse they might wrongfully assume we are pirates and attempt an interdiction when we go to leave the planet. In preparation for such an eventuality we decided it would be best to limit our time on the planet to as short as possible, ideally recovering the stolen LosTech and getting off-planet before the Lyran ship arrived in orbit. A few minutes later, after most of the crew had filtered out of the bridge leaving only the two Captains and myself, the comm station beeped and lit up again with an incoming message. With everyone slightly baffled since there was no way a message could have gotten back to us this quickly Nikki made her way back to the station and pulled up the message info on the terminal. "Think this one is for you Charles, assuming you're expecting a message from 'Privateer Courier Services'?" called Nikki with a raised eyebrow.
  13. C.V. Hurry Up Bessie, Mule-class Dropship Oberon system jump point Oberon VI - Oberon Confederation October 25, 3029 _______________________________________________ The impromptu engagement party a few days ago, graciously hosted by Captain Nikki and her crew, had been a resounding success and everyone had a great time. The chance to both unwind and relax after our intense mission as well as celebrate Charles and Alyssa's engagement was a boon to everyone and even the less sociable members of the team were able to have a good time. Steve, in true Jenkins fashion, had somehow managed to convince Lieutenant Weyland to arm wrestle him and it went exactly like anyone thought it would. Also in true Jenkins manner he somehow managed to knock himself unconscious with one of the confetti cannons, though not before sending it careening around the mess hall like a missile, you never knew what kind of crazy zaniness would happen next with him around. The newly minted couple also seemed to enjoy themselves immensely, with the normally stoic Captain even scooping Alyssa up and carrying her about the room at one point, although with considerable amounts of prodding and encouragement. They also embraced and shared a large number of PDAs throughout the night as well, though I'm sure the case of brandy Nikki had dug up had lent some assistance to both parties in the more adventurous endeavors. Since then the Captain had been in an understandably happy mood, even when stuck doing seemingly endless boring tasks, like scheduling training and maintenance shifts for Aegis or filling out the daily and weekly reports we had to send to Crayven while in their employ. We did have some more interesting events, Nick had managed to crack the data we pulled from the research lab during our mission on Oberon, or at least part of it so far, and it confirmed the manifest of the LosTech shipment we had redirected. A good portion of the data was technically duplicated from the shipping manifest but it had much more detail, including technical specifications, in so far as Irian knew them, of many of the LosTech components in the shipment. Apparently they had been researching them quite intently for some time before they packed them up to send to Shiro III and there was even some new information in there that I had never seen before. I thrive on that nitty gritty technical detail so I was rather engrossed pouring over the data we had cracked for a few days. We also managed to decrypt the plans Irian had made for a prototype technology test bed which they intended to assemble on Shiro III with some of the components in the shipment. Along with Captain Maxwell and Nick we played around with the build and designed a field worthy model that could theoretically be made entirely from the shipment itself with only needing a base chassis to work from. The final design used a Cataphract CTF-1X as the base chassis, being one of the newest 'mechs on the market and thus having the some of the latest hardware and electronics that we could currently manufacture. Rather than the traditional loadout of the CTF-1X this model used a LosTech 280XL Fusion engine to save an enormous amount of weight and allow the inclusion of jump jets, additional armour, salvaged corrosive double heat sinks, as well as an AC/10, two prototype Extended Range Large Lasers, and three of the -1X's four Medium Lasers, with only one rear facing. This data, along with information about the LosTech shipment and its modified shipping location of Saiph, were forwarded to Crayven discretely through our regular reports. Schuster had devised a clever way of imbedding information within existing files that would be able to avoid flagging any automated monitoring systems on the HPG network. In essence we could send information that was invisible to the system and would require a deep dive by ComStar into the file itself to discover the additional information, the reports themselves were padded with mildly extraneous details as well as photos, an unusual but not flag raising practice, in order to hide the increased file size from anyone looking into the reports. The information within the reports were not encrypted any more than normal so ComStar could still easily read them but the secret information within was dispersed throughout in a manner that it did not appear to be encrypted and was just random miscellaneous bits and bytes of data from an older, less efficient system. The deception wouldn't stand up to increased scrutiny and Schuster said ComStar could likely crack the encryption and any code we tried to use with relatively little effort, with Alyssa agreeing, but there should be no reason for ComStar, or anyone else, like Irian, to want or need to take a closer look at the files in the first place. We were still careful and did not specify anything too incriminating within the hidden information, the LosTech was simply referred to as valuable salvage and the design details used a code that Crayven had already put in place to reference certain LosTech items should such an eventuality be necessary. As we slowed for our final approach to the jumpship the Hurry Up Bessie became a hive of activity again as everyone went about their final preparations for a jump, once we docked we would likely be jumping to Blackstone within the hour and beginning the first leg of our 6 month journey back to Sheratan. *********************** Somewhere near the Nadir Jump Point Twycross System - Lyran Commonwealth November 23, 3029 The large, roughly spherical object hung in the vast emptiness of space, its dark slate gray exterior blending almost seamlessly into the inky void surrounding it and to all outside observers appeared to be just a derelict vessel, yet another victim of the never ending Succession Wars. But this one was different, this one still housed life within it, imperceptible with the limited technology readily available in the Inner Sphere's current state, but present nonetheless. Deep within the vessels dark corridors the crew laid in wait, an almost feral air surrounding them, like a pack of ancient Terran hyenas just waiting for the kill. Deeper still within the vessel and the barely perceptible hum of machinery could just faintly be heard, running on battery power only it seemed, the systems necessary for keeping the crew alive were the only thing operational and even then it was just barely. A few thousand kilometers away another vessel snapped into existence, a heavy EMP burst washing over its hull as the K-F field collapsed in a controlled manner and dissipated into the surrounding empty environment. This vessel was much larger than the other, by nearly an order of magnitude, and much more cylindrical with 3 large bulges dispersed across the ship's central shaft. Small thrusters, relatively speaking, flared to life on the vessel and began maneuvering it slowly away from its jump location and orientating it so that it faced the nearby star, moments later a large reflective sail began to unfurl from the vessel in order to begin collecting solar energy and start the long process of recharging its powerful engines. The jumpship was vulnerable now, even if it had the near mythical LosTech of a lithium-fusion battery allowing it jump again immediately it could not do so with the solar sail deployed and it would take several precious minutes to retract the sail without risk of damage, yet still the Intruder waited and did not move. The spheroid ship, an Intruder-class dropship, though you couldn't easily tell since all spheroids tended to look the same, sat waiting clearly aware of the newly arrived jumpship and its bevy of attached dropships, all potentially laden with tempting cargo, but seemingly hesitant to act. A few more minutes passed and the jumpship's sail fully unfurled, it then became clear what they had been waiting for, with the sail unfurled facing the sun and the ships' relative positions to each other and the sun the Invader would be in a visual blind spot from both the jumpship itself and the attached dropships, with the sun at their backs they would have free reign to approach their target unannounced. That was except for the fact that radar existed and most ship's sensors could easily compensate for the solar array, even with its considerable size, meaning they would still be spotted within moments of getting within range. Either way it still showed a tactical awareness in the crew of the Intruder that one would not normally attribute to them given their outward appearance and feral attitude. Shortly after the solar sail was fully deployed the Intruder came to life, a few exterior lights flickering on as though the 3,000 ton vessel was struggling to wake up, before the rest of the running light snapped on illuminating the ship's exterior and revealing some unusual and startling aesthetics. There were a series of protrusions and attachments adorning the majority of the vessel's normally smooth exterior, it appeared like someone just welded scrap metal to various parts of the hull of differing shapes and sizes. It gave the effect as though the vessel was clad in a hodge-podge of ad-hoc, rudimentary armour, with several pieces of it clearly having broken off or melted, likely due to re-entry on a planet. Adorning the top/nose of the vessel was a well worn Jolly Roger painted in faded crimson red, with portions of it patched in differing shades as panels were replaced over time. Behind the vessel a light, nearly as bright as the nearby star itself, flared into existence before settling into the more familiar glow of a fusion drive, although this one flared and flickered sporadically as though the engine was backfiring like an ICE, something that was technically impossible for fusion. A few seconds later, before the fusion drive had fully warmed up and much sooner than most crews would have allowed, the drive flared to life again as superheated plasma was directed out of the thrusters at full burn, one of the thrusters appeared to be malfunctioning however and a thick plume of gaseous plasma was venting alongside its sporadic normal exhaust. This gave the ship the appearance that it was smoking, with the other drives emitting the normal, controlled flame looking plasma exhaust and the malfunctioning one pouring a sickly blue-green tinted pink cloud of rolling plasma gas, not hot enough or fast enough to actually provide thrust. The heavy veil of plasma drifting behind the ship as it accelerated towards the still unaware jumpship, the vast emptiness of space causing the plasma cloud to slowly expand and dissipate but still retaining most of its heat and energy and staying relatively bright for a considerable amount of time. Back at the jumpship a feeling of panic could be seen washing over the vessel as they suddenly became aware of the now fast approaching Intruder, the Invader-class jumpship did not have any weapons to speak of and its trio of attached dropships all appeared to be civilian class models and also lacking in any meaningful means of defense. A moment later and the dropships began to detach from their docking clamps one by one and break off to flee in varying directions. The first to leave was a Mule-class spheroid dropship, the largest of the attached vessels, and it started a heavy burn out into deep space, away from the star and its planets, presumably because that was the direction it was facing when they detached. The second vessel to leave was a considerably smaller spheroid which appeared to be a Danais-class dropship but was in fact a Trojan-class, which was just an up-armoured and armed Danais. This vessel started a hard burn towards the nearby planet of Twycross III, though nearby was relative as it would still take nearly 15 days at full burn to reach it, a 22 day trip nominally. The third and final ship, and the slowest to depart, was a Buccaneer-class aerodyne dropship and its Captain opted to depart along a path roughly halfway between the other two ships' departure vectors, still heading into deep space but on a plane parallel to the planetary orbits instead of perpendicular like the Mule had done. The likely thought being that the single pirate vessel could not chase all three of them down and so hopefully they would not be the unlucky one the pirates went after. The Intruder was prepared however and as it continued its fast approach, smoky plasma still trailing behind it, it launched a pair of aerospace fighters from its integrated hangar bays. The twin Sabre-class 25-ton fighters were vermillion red with a stark white 'X' painted across the top and bottom of the agile ships, their twin exhausts flaring to life and propelling them towards the fleeing dropships with even greater speed. The fighters weren't heavily armed, only sporting a trio of medium lasers each, but they were fast and agile and could easily outmaneuver any of the dropships while still having enough firepower to slowly whittle away at their weak points. The Intruder made a slight course correction, made plainly obvious by the sudden turn in the trailing plasma cloud, and was clearly heading towards the nearest target, the Buccaneer as the jumpship was apparently not considered a target or at least not a high priority target as it was effectively immobile until its K-F drive was recharged. The fighters on the other hand both diverted their path towards the Trojan dropship, opting to leave the Mule for now, likely on the assumption that it wouldn't go far into deep space lest it risked getting stranded. Weapons fire erupted from the twin fighters a few moments later as the overtook the considerably slower dropship and at first it looked like they had caused some pretty severe damage as various panels exploded outwards from the ships exterior all around the vessel. A second or two later though and it became obvious that it had been intentional as the crew of the Trojan blew out the panels covering their vessels hitherto hidden weapon bays. Return fire lanced out from the concealed weapons as the pirate fighters crossed through the different firing arcs as they came around from another pass, the Trojan clearly not willing to go down without a fight. Meanwhile the Intruder was beginning to catch the Buccaneer, which was only marginally slower, and finally entered weapons range. PPC fire and missiles arced through the void to detonate violently across the rear of the Buccaneer, the pirate ship still out of range of the aerodyne's paltry rear weaponry of 2 medium lasers. Autocannon fire from the Intruder joined the missiles and energy weapon barrage as the craft continued to close on its chosen victim, the minimal return fire barely even being noticed as the spheroid pirate ship continued unabated. It was over in minutes, the Buccaneer sat motionless in space, its crew apparently having surrendered and was now allowing the pirates to unload cargo from its hold without resistance assumedly on the promise that they would be spared. The Trojan on the other hand was still fighting hard against the pair of fighters, but it was clearly showing wear, the upgraded civilian ship was never intended for combat and the numerous holes, clearly damaged engines, and failing weapons showed that immensely. Without an escort of their own they were at the mercy of the much faster and nimbler fighters and while they clearly had managed to get a few good hits on the fighters they were still outmatched and it was only a matter of time before they too succumbed to the pirates. The bevy of medium lasers protecting the Trojan's rear arc was not sufficient to prevent the Sabres from making quick strafing runs against the dropship's vulnerable engines and eventually they managed to punch through upgraded armour and strike critical components within, the spheroid's main engine sputtering and then cutting out, leaving the vessel drifting uncontrollably through space headed in the general direction of the planet but still millions of kilometers away. Despite this the crew did not give up and continued to use the Trojan's attitude thrusters to maneuver and fire at the pirate Sabres as best they could, one particularly lucky salvo of LRMs and large lasers punching a hole through a fighter's wing and fuselage, disabling the craft. The Intruder fired up its "smoking" engines again, leaving behind a contingent of armed pirates to hold the Buccaneer while it moved towards the crippled Trojan apparently seeking vengeance for its disabled fighter craft. It took several long minutes for the ship to catch up but with the Trojan merely drifting, with no real propulsion, it was inevitable, and upon arrival the Intruder laid into the stricken Trojan with reckless abandon, firing every weapon it could bring to bear on the larger vessel and punching significant holes through its hull with the Intruder's significantly more powerful weaponry. The Intruder did not stop firing until the Trojan could no longer fire back, which took longer than probably anticipated, and the vessel's upper section looked like swiss cheese, the armour was completely destroyed and the hull itself was perforated in numerous locations with what was most likely atmosphere venting out of several of the larger holes. Most of the exterior lighting on the Trojan was now dark and the ship's attitude thrusters were silent along with its weapons and main drive, the spheroid dropship appeared lifeless as it continued to drift, now with a slight off-center spin along its longitudinal axis. The Intruder pulled up beside the stricken vessel and matched its speed, a moment later a series of small specks and lights could be seen drifting between the two vessels as what had to be marginally insane pirate marines boarded the damaged dropship and were able to force entry into the cargo section of the ship. Over the next several hours the pirates unloaded whatever cargo they could from the all but destroyed Trojan before they left it drifting aimlessly towards the system's planets and moved back to the still compliant Buccaneer and finished unloading cargo from that vessel. The Intruder, still spewing uncontained plasma from its main drive and now sporting several new scorch marks and holes across its armoured surface with a few of its adornments newly damaged or destroyed, turned and made its own way towards the Twycross planets, now with its functional Sabre retrieved and apparently ignoring the still fleeing Mule dropship and stationary Invader jumpship. Likely either its cargo hold was full they intended to make off with the loot they currently had rather than getting greedy, or the vessel had sustained more damage than it appeared and the pirates had decided to cut their losses. ************************* C.V. Hurry Up Bessie, Mule-class Dropship Maxie's Planet system jump point Maxie's Planet - Lyran Commonwealth November 26, 3029 _______________________________________________ Bishop barged into the mess hall like he was on a mission, the man always walked with purpose but right now it was more direct, like he had to get somewhere quickly and nobody was going to get in his way. He looked across the room in a quick, efficient survey before narrowing in on Captain Maxwell, Schuster, and myself and then beelining it across the room in the most direct route, several junior crew members nearly tripping over themselves to get out of the way as the large man loomed closer. "There's a problem," boomed Bishop's deep voice, straight to the point, no candy coating and no small talk, it was just like him, "have you seen the latest news reports?" "Not since we jumped in, I haven't bother following it since its been just more of the same. Fed Suns are still conquering Capellan worlds left and right, despite supposed rumours of peace talks. The St. Ives Compact has seceded from the Capellans and the Lyrans are still doing a bang up job pushing into the Draconis Combine. In a few months or a year's time it'll all switch around and keep us gainfully employed," I replied looking around the table at the others. "I've been a little preoccupied," replied Maxwell with a shrug, "this unit still has a ton of paperwork and upkeep to take care of even when in transit." "Nikki's had me pretty busy with fixing the ship, still I try to keep up on things. What's going on Bishop?" added Nick, his brow furrowing slightly in concern. "Our shipment," said Bishop matter of fact while laying a datapad on the table, its display showing a glaring headline of Pirate Attacks Increase in Twycross. The article went on to explain, with extravagant and likely sensationalized detail, about how yet another merchant fleet was ambushed in the Twycross system a mere 3 days prior, the next system on our scheduled jump path. This time there were 3 civilian dropships that were supposedly attacked at the jump point, the article listed them as the C.V. Flores, C.V. Kessel, and F.W.L.S. Mayweather, and all three of them were registered as independent freighters. The Flores and Mayweather returned to the jumpship and were recovered, although the Flores reported losing its cargo, but the Kessel was still missing and presumed captured or destroyed. This was apparently just the latest in a string of pirate attacks in the neighbouring 4 systems over the past 8 months and the authorities had yet to do anything meaningful. There was a supposedly a Lyran military patrol 'in the vicinity' but they had yet to produce any results and their presence had done nothing to slow the attacks. The article then continued on to gripe about how the Lyran Commonwealth's government was too focused on the 'unnecessary' Fourth Succession war and their incessant desire to conquer more of the Draconis Combine instead of tending to their citizens and their needs. The article itself was not that unusual, nor was it particularly concerning about the pirate attack, the likelihood of pirates still being there when we next jumped were pretty slim as they often didn't stick around long, what was concerning though was the mention of the C.V. Kessel. I looked up towards Bishop upon reading that name before continuing the article, he gave me a knowing look and when we were finished he asked, "That ship name, sound familiar?" "Vaguely," replied the Captain, appearing to be racking his brain about where or why he might have heard it before. Meanwhile Nick was unaware and told us so, "I don't think so, it's not ringing any bells at least." "Yeah, it is does. Is that the same ship?" I asked. Bishop nodded, "I believe so, swipe over, I pulled the manifest from Oberon just to double check and that is the same name. I'm pretty sure that's our Kessel." "Damn, the LosTech one?" replied the Captain, the memory of the name coming back to him. "The very one," stated Weyland grimly. "Wait, if that's the ship carrying the stolen LosTech, how did it get to Twycross ahead of us?" inquired Nick, a confused look on his face, "We left Oberon the same day, shouldn't it be in the same place we are?" "No, the cargo route was jumping through some uninhabited systems, a little risky but a more direct route in this case. Irian already had it travelling that way to begin with so we couldn't really change it too much," I replied, pulling up the jump itinerary on the datapad. "Well it doesn't look like the risk was worth it this time," said Nick, shaking his head, "Now what?" "Well it's not often that pirates will just outright destroy a ship, even if they fight back, they are after the cargo after all," said Maxwell thoughtfully before turning to Weyland, "any chance those Irian boys would have given up without a fight?" "None," replied Bishop, "it may have been registered as a civilian vessel but Irian would have had it crewed with nothing less than an elite seasoned crew that was unquestionably loyal. No chance the pirates took the ship while they were alive." "Well that means they either drove off the pirates but got disabled, given how the other two merchants returned to their jumpship, or else the pirates got them and decided their haul was enough to leave the others alone," I said, working through possible scenarios in my head. "Or they ran out of room?" suggested Nick, "There's no mention of what kind of ship the pirate's had, maybe they just didn't have enough room for all the loot?" "True, still doesn't bode well for our shipment but maybe the pirates stashed their loot somewhere nearby if they planned to continue raiding," stated Maxwell. "Yes but how does that help us? We still have," I said, pausing while checking my watch, "4 days until we jump to Twycross, pirates will be long gone by then, along with our loot." "Not necessarily, Twycross is a pretty big system, lots of travel time if they were moving anything around in there, plus we might have an ace up our sleeve here," smiled the Captain. I raised an eyebrow at Maxwell, not quite sure what he was referring to, before he answered, "Malice." "You want to use that for this sir?" I asked, referring to the contact device we had received from Malice when assisting him back at Ozymandias station. "What better to use it on? It's directly pirate related and who knows the next time we'll even be in this part of the Inner Sphere, plus if there is any chance of recovering that LosTech shipment I want to take it." "Sounds good to me, hopefully he can provide something better than aimlessly searching a system for a derelict vessel and hoping the pirates left something behind," I said with a half joking chuckle. "There's always Plan B Lieutenant," smirked Maxwell. We discussed things a little further, the Captain saying he would take care of contacting Malice and determining what kind of assistance we could acquire, while in the meantime we would jump to Twycross as planned and begin searching the immediate area for any signs of the lost ship. We would have roughly 4 days to search before we would have to head back to our jumpship to catch a ride to next planet or else we would be stuck waiting until another jumpship with an empty berth arrived. With any luck Malice would get in touch with us before that and we could make arrangements from there as necessary. With the discussion of our now lost LosTech shipment concluded for the time being the conversation moved on to more mundane things, like the current standings for the Solaris VII season and some good natured ribbing of the Captain and his new duties as a fiancée.
  14. C.V. Hurry Up Bessie, Mule-class Dropship En-route to Oberon system jump point Oberon VI - Oberon Confederation October 10, 3029 _______________________________________________ "Then I recommend going straight to the horse's mouth. Let me see what answers I can get out of IE directly," Schuster proposed. "Do it," Maxwell confirmed, "Let's see what this Pandora's Box holds." The faint sound of footsteps echoing in the corridor outside the fault reached my ears as the Captain advised Schuster to go ahead with his hacking attempts on Interstellar Expeditions. I looked towards the Captain with concern, unsure who might be coming down the hall, and he matched my gaze. "Are we crossing our fingers that hope remains after the horrors escape?" came Octavia's voice from outside the vault a moment later. "Ah Ms. Incendio," began Charles as Octavia stepped up to the open vault door, a momentary look of indignation crossed her face before he continued, "Forgive me, Baroness." Octavia smiled ever so slightly and gave Maxwell the smallest of nods as he addressed her by her self-proclaimed title, I still didn't know if she was a legitimate Baroness or if it was just delusion of grandeur, though she definitely had the attitude to be a real Baroness. "It was just a turn of phrase, referring to some of our unforeseen complications during our mission on Oberon," said Maxwell as he moved to come down from the slightly raised dais in the middle of the room. "An apt expression I suppose, given that it was supposed to be a quick and stealthy in and out and it was anything but," responded Octavia snidely. The nerve of that woman, I thought and fought back a physical expression as her tone caused me to bristle. She seemed to notice and the look in her eyes as she cast me a passing glance screamed Too Easy. Maxwell on the other hand took it in stride and met her on level ground just inside the door to the vault, which Octavia had proceeded to enter after Charles' greeting. "However," she continued, "I was under the impression that that mission is now complete. This certainly doesn't look like a debrief, though to be fair it wouldn't completely surprise me if it was, so I guess I'm just curious what you were discussing about the mission." "What are you getting at Octavia?" I asked, annoyance tainting my words. What was with this woman? When we were in the research lab she was competent, respectful, and professional, now she was entitled, deceptive, and elitist, and it left me to wonder which was the true Octavia. "I'm not sure what you mean Lieutenant, I was assigned to assist Aegis with your mission as required, if that mission is not complete it is my duty to see it to completion," replied Octavia evenly, though I read more malice into her tone than she had probably intended, my bias against Capellans and nobility rearing its head. "Right," I said flatly, stopping myself from saying anything more. Once again Maxwell read the room like a pro and moved in to save me from myself, "Quite right indeed, please forgive the Lieutenant Baroness, he was injured more than he let on yesterday and I do believe the broken ribs are making him rather irritable of late." I looked up, doing my best to swallow my pride and follow the Captain's handy escape, I also caught a glance from Alyssa, still standing up on the dais by the table though now on this side of the table and leaning against it slightly and her eyes pleaded with me to take Maxwell's lead in no uncertain manner. "Apologies Baroness, I did not mean to be uncouth," I replied, doing my best to sound sincere, my hand almost unconsciously moving to cradle my one side. "No need Lieutenant, I understand, but they are accepted anyways," Octavia said, almost dismissively before turning back to Maxwell, "Now Captain, about this mission of yours, was I incorrect in deducing that it is not yet complete?" "Not entirely Baroness, no," replied Maxwell eloquently, "We have completed our mission to retrieve the artifact as we had discussed previously and enlisted your assistance for, and prior to the outstanding circumstances with Scorched Earth we would have parted ways with both parties having completed their obligations. However, circumstances as they are, we are fortuitous enough to retain your company. I apologize for not bringing you in on this as I had not considered that you might view your role in assisting us as incomplete." Octavia nodded tersely as though in acceptance of Charles' explanation and/or apology before he continued, "Our mission will not be complete until we deliver the artifact we retrieved to our employer or representative. That was supposed to happen back on Oberon but circumstances as they were, our contact was compromised and so we now need to deliver the item ourselves. That in itself is quite straight forward, the dilemma we were discussing as you arrived was concerning the other data and items we recovered from research lab. As I'm sure you recall we acquired a few other items of interest during our foray, including possibly appropriating a sizable cache of LosTech." "Yes I do recall that, in fact I had come in search of you to speak with you about that very matter but we will get to that," stated Octavia with a raised finger, before opening her hand and gesturing for Maxwell to continue, "Please, continue." "Well, we aren't completely sure what the entire contents of that cache are but we do have encrypted data which contains that information," obliged Charles. "Ah, the proverbial Pandora's box?" asked Octavia. "Precisely," nodded the Captain, "we don't actually know the contents of that data, we believe there is worthwhile information in there but we may just end up getting ourselves embroiled in political or corporate warfare that we really can't afford to be. On the other hand our contract does give us first dibs on a limited amount of salvage, and this LosTech cache is classified as salvage since it was incidental that we even acquired it, but we need to know precisely what is in it in order to make any claims." "I see, well I don't believe I can offer you much on that front, however it does lead to my earlier point. While we did end up accomplishing the mission, it was a bit of a wash as well. I feel that the level of risk between our two operations was not comparable and was hoping you would be open to discussion on that front," stated Octavia, clearly being tactful but also not mincing her words. "Ah yes, about that, as I mentioned our contact was compromised and we received some questionable intel. We also have reason to suspect now that Irian had been alerted to our plans by a third party, hence the unexpected showdown in the tower," answered Maxwell, holding up a hand to forestall Octavia as he continued, "I also realize that bad intel or not it does not dismiss the increased risk incurred during our portion of our joint operation, and while I do apologize I also know that is not what you were looking for. I am open to discussion on that matter, provided the terms are reasonable, what did you have in mind?" I shuffled slightly, both uneasy with the current situation as well as galled by Octavia's boldness, though I did have to hand it to her, not just anyone could pull that off and it was impressive in its own right. She wanted compensation for her 'personal risk' incurred because our mission when a little off the rails, ok a lot of the rails, but we had already agreed that she was only helping us because we had helped them already, with considerable risk to ourselves I might add. Yes our risk was more monetary, with the near destruction of several of our BattleMechs, but there was still personal risk involved as well, any one of us could have easily bit the bullet had our 'mechs taken a critical hit or in some cases just a little more damage. I had a feeling that the main reason she was here pushing for compensation was due to the fact that there was LosTech potentially available for her to scoop up, something I had a feeling she would keep to herself over sharing it with Scorched Earth as a whole, given the chance. Also I wasn't sure what the details were behind why she was still with us, other than there was some kind of circumstance that left Scorched Earth currently indisposed and unable to reunite with Octavia at the moment. It wasn't that I didn't want her around, despite my obvious prejudice against Capellan nobility, and she as more than competent at holding her own when it counted, but in regular day to day business she somehow managed to rub me the wrong way for some reason, huh, maybe my injuries were making me more irritable.
  15. C.V. Hurry Up Bessie, Mule-class Dropship En route to Oberon system jump point Oberon VI - Oberon Confederation October 10, 3029 _______________________________________________ "Yes, I probably can do it, but if I try to hack client data and I get caught, you're going to have a much bigger problem on your hands than if a kid with a scrubbed identity does so. ComStar knows who I am," Alyssa replied to the Captain's unspoken question, "Schuster is a good call. I'll help him as much as I can." "Alright," Charles nodded, exhaling heavily, "Lieutenant Jaeger - please make it so. Oh, and, Lieutenant?" "Yes, sir?" I said, turning to look back towards the Captain. "I welcome any suggestions you might have as well." I paused for a moment in thought, this new information provided by Chase put our recent discovery in a new light, we had known we likely had something valuable before but we didn't realize how rare and valuable this particular piece of LosTech actually was. Providing the device actually worked it could arguably be one of the most important pieces of LosTech in the Inner Sphere, even more so than the Helm Memory core, depending on what exactly was found in the unlocked Castle Brian that is. Whoever held this key, and had access to an undamaged Castle Brian, could potentially become as powerful as any Great House overnight. That was a lot of power and it was very tempting, as the ramifications washed over me I'd be lying if I said I didn't consider what I could do with that kind of power, just as I'd be lying to say the thought of taking it for myself didn't cross my mind. The difference being I had no intention to act upon that thought, even as the tactical part of mind very briefly considered the outcome of that scenario, it was in my favour but just barely and only because of the element of surprise and existing injuries. However, I also knew that at the same time similar thoughts had probably passed through both Charles' and Alyssa's minds but I felt I knew them well enough to know they also would not act on them. As I saw it, and presumably the Captain did as well, we had a contractual, if not moral, obligation to turn over the artifact, in its entirety, which in this case included the LosTech device, upon our return whether we agreed with it or not. I felt I knew the Captain well enough to know that he would see a contract through to the end and do everything he could to uphold his end of the contract barring a breach of contract from the employer, a truly suicidal thing, or something morally reprehensible, and since none of those currently applied to our situation it was likely the Captain had every intention of following through and turning over everything to Crayven Corp once we got back to Sheratan. Of course that didn't that Maxwell would like it, nor did it prevent him from negotiating some additional 'Hazard Pay' despite the terms of the contract already appearing relatively generous. I wouldn't hold it against him if he did do that either, we weren't exactly prepared for, or expecting to be dealing with this kind of heat for an ancient doll artifact. "Well sir," I began, "obviously we want to keep the circle of people aware of this to an absolute minimum. To me that includes keeping the rest of Aegis, Bishop, and especially Octavia and Captain Harlow's crew out of the loop. It's not that I don't trust the others but either we don't know them well enough to bring them into this or else it would just be unnecessarily dangerous for them to be aware this item. Even Bishop, whom I believe we could completely trust, I don't think is necessary, he is either already aware of the true nature of this mission and thus does not need to be informed, or else he isn't and was intentionally not informed for a particular reason which we are not privy too. Either way though, I don't think bringing him into the circle would provide us with anything useful at this point. Arguably I shouldn't even be in the circle except that I was present here when we discovered it." The Captain nodded in agreement as I continued, "I say we put everything back the way we found it, unless you have a more secure place to keep the device shielded, and do our best to pretend nothing has changed. Any further communication about it should probably use some kind of code or reference so that anyone overhearing won't know exactly what we're talking about. I would also make sure to omit any mention of the device itself in any reports or logs, even personal ones, just to avoid any chance of them being transmitted and ComStar finding them. If what Ms Chase says is true, and I have every reason to believe her, we need to do whatever we can to make it look like we are oblivious to the true nature of this artifact. If ComStar knew of this artifact, or even suspected what it might be, you can be certain they would have already made attempts to recover it themselves, that's about the only silver lining I can find at the moment. But if any kind of word that even suggests we might have something gets out, we'll have ROM agents breathing down our necks faster than a K-F jump." "All that being said, we can bring Schuster in but does he need to be aware of the true reason why we want to hack the MRB/ComStar and retrieve the client data? That's not my call to make, but just a suggestion, from what I've heard that man doesn't have the best track record with vital information," I said, finally finishing. "That may be, but that particular account was quite situational and I believe our young Lyran friend has grown considerably since then," replied Charles pensively, "Alyssa and I can discuss it more while you retrieve Mister Schuster. Thanks for your input Jaegar, I always find it insightful." "Thank you Sir. I'll go retrieve Nicholas now," I said with a nod before turning towards the vault door and heading out. I wasn't sure where I would find Schuster at the moment and the ship was far too large to search for him at random, at the same time I didn't want to page him on the intercom either since anyone and everyone would here it and I was just a tad bit paranoid about that at the moment. Instead I made my way towards the bridge, I figured Nick would have checked back in with Captain Harlow now that we weren't in direct combat and she was the most likely person to know where he was, or at least if he had been assigned any work for the day. Bare minimum it would give me a place to start. I passed by one non-functioning lift and had to backtrack a bit to get to another set of lifts that were working before making it up to the bridge. As I approached the bridge I could feel more than hear the rhythmic beating of what I assumed to be music from somewhere nearby, reaching the closed door I toggled the intercom to chirp on the bridge, requesting entrance. No response, I tried again but still got nothing, the door wasn't locked so I toggled the manual switch and the pneumatic door slide open with ease, the traditional Shhhht noise drowned out by an onslaught of metal music that now poured forth from the bridge at an almost offensive volume. It sounded almost like death metal or maybe electric metal but had a certain garage band sound to it, I couldn't be certain though as I wasn't particularly familiar with that branch of metal music or its large variety of subgenres. I called in to the bridge, trying to speak above the music and failing, and understandably received no response and so I resorted to using my metal prosthetic arm to bang as loudly as I could on the ferrosteel doorframe hoping that might draw someone's attention. Still not seeing anyone or hearing anything I could qualify as a response I stepped into the bridge, hollering a greeting again as I moved far enough into the bridge to spot the Captain's chair located roughly in the center of the main bridge area. I was behind the chair still from my vantage but I could see that someone was occupying it, a single leg hung over one side and I could just make out the edge of someone's head on the other, they appeared to be lounging comfortably in the chair, their roughly shoulder length hair, dyed but difficult to tell the colour under the current lighting, and appearing to be clean shaven on the side I could see but long on top, was hanging down loosely. I thought it might be Captain Harlow but I couldn't be sure, and I didn't feel I knew her well enough to just barge into her bridge either so I stopped and found another metal post I could bang on. I slammed my arm against the post, the metallic ringing echoing about the bridge despite the loud music and this time apparently not completely getting drowned out as whoever was in the Captain's chair responded to my call. Bang! Bang! BANG! "HELLO! CAPTAIN HARLOW IS THAT YOU?!" I hollered loudly yet again. The person sitting in the chair quickly swiveled around bringing their lone leg down and sitting upright as the music came down considerably in volume, a moment later Captain Nikki Harlow's face swung around the side of the chair looking back towards me with the faintest bit of a sheepish grin, "Sorry, didn't hear you there." "Ah, Orlex, how are you?" she continued as she recognized me, and moved to get out of the chair. "I'm well thank you Captain, permission to enter the bridge? Or rather remain on the bridge I suppose," I added with a slight chuckle, I knew the Captain wasn't huge on formalities but it was a hard habit for me to break, and a bit of a crutch I tended to fall back on when stressed. "You know you don't need to bother with that here, sorry about the music, I was just relaxing and reminiscing. I don't usually get visitors this early while in transit," she said standing beside her chair and punching in a command on the arm that cut the music down to merely background noise. "Sorry for interrupting, who was that? They almost sound familiar but I can't place them," I asked, genuinely intrigued by her music choice. "Ah, that was just Electromagnetic Menace, I doubt you've heard of them, very small time from a few years ago. They were heavily influenced by Electric Mayhem though, you might have heard of them before," answered Nikki, leaning casually against the side of the Captain's chair. "Hmmm, still doesn't ring a bell, but I must have heard the music somewhere before, it's not the style of metal I typically listen to but it's got a good rhythm to it." "Thanks," replied Harlow, "I think I've heard Mr. Jenkins listening to Electric Mayhem before, but I doubt you've come to bridge to wax nostalgic about music with me, though if you have I'm all for it. What brings you here today?" "I bet that's where it was, that's definitely up Jenkins' alley. And no, sadly, though another time maybe we could chat. I'm actually looking for Mr. Schuster and figured you would be the best person on board to know his whereabouts." "Nicholas? Yeah I do know where he is, or at least where he should be, but why not just page him? Oh, don't tell me the ship intercom is down again, I just had Schuster fix that last week." "No, no, it's working, as far as I know, but I don't need him for anything urgent and figured the walk to find him could do me some good, keep me from getting too stiff while my ribs heal up," I answered, hoping she didn't question it too much further. "Oh yeah, I heard some of you got pretty banged up planet side this time," replied Nikki with a slight wince. "Nothing I haven't been through before, but yeah things kinda went south a bit on that one. So you do know where Nick is at? Could you tell me?" I inquired. "Sure, he's been working on the avionics all morning," answered Captain Harlow as she walked over to another nearby terminal and retrieved a datapad. "Avionics is pretty generic on a ship this size, could you be more specific please? Would save me a lot of time crawling through maintenance tunnels," I chuckled as Nikki flipped through the contents of the pad. "Yeah," Nikki smiled, "he should be working on the navigational relay on 3rd deck, junction C14, at least that's where he was headed an hour ago and I haven't seen him since so I assume he's still there. Hasn't checked it off as complete yet either so that's the best place to start looking." "Thanks, I appreciate it," I said as I turned to leave. "You're not planning to pull him away from his duties again are you?" asked Nikki in a mock stern voice, turning back to look at the Captain she was standing with the datapad still in hand and her hands on her hips, one eyebrow raised. "No ma'am, just a small side project I wanted to talk with him about, a little something for when he has free time," I answered, the white lie coming all too naturally, but better safe than sorry I figured. "Nah, I'm just messing with you. We've got lots of time in transit on the way back to Sheratan for you folks and there's nothing absolutely critical he needs to fix at the moment. As long as we stick to pre-planned jump points and don't decide to go trekking off into deep space with pirate jumps or something crazy like that this old girl will be just fine," replied Nikki as she broke into a smile and relaxed her pose, before continuing in what seemed like a run-on thought, "Though it would be nice to get reliable readings from the nav array again just in case we need to make an unscheduled jump, not sure if the old girl could find her own way right now if we didn't have the star charts pre-loaded." "Alright, thanks Captain. I promise I won't tie him up too much," I said with a wave before leaving the bridge and the Captain to her own musings. As I left the bridge and the door closed behind me I heard the volume of the music pick up again, though not quite to the same level as before. I made my way to 3rd deck shortly and headed towards junction C14 as Nikki had said, quickly finding Schuster crouched down beside an access panel with a series of computer boards withdrawn from the wall and what appeared to be a soldering iron in his hand. "Hey there Nick," I called as I approached, Schuster looked up momentarily from his work as I did, "the Captain said you might be in this area." "Hi Orlex, she did, did she? Have you come to lend a hand or add more work to my pile?" said Nick, only half joking. "Sadly the latter, I'm afraid, though not from that Captain. What are you up to? Those boards look like they're about 20 years out of date and due for the scrapyard," I said as I looked closer at the withdrawn panels and the work Nick was doing. "Yeah, tell me about it, but try 30 years past date, most of the new stuff on this ship is older than half its damned crew and all of it needs some major TLC. We could have this boat in drydock for a month with the best Lyran engineers working on it and we'd still only scratch the surface of what needs to be done. But I digress, you said something about Captain Maxwell?" "Yes, I did, he actually sent me to find you. I mean Captain Harlow told me where you were, but I was looking for you on behalf of Captain Maxwell," I said while continuing to watch with earnest as Nick worked on repairing one of the circuits, "Can I ask why you're using an actual soldering iron and not a laser or induction iron like on a multitool?" "You mean like that multitool sitting in the toolbox there?" replied Schuster with more than a bit of sarcasm laced in his voice while motioning over his shoulder, "Yeah it doesn't work, like everything else on this ship. Can you pass me the full-wave bridge rectifier?" I stepped over towards the toolbox and the pile of circuitry and components that Schuster had methodically laid out on the access panel cover, selecting the desired component and handing it to him as he began to describe it, "It's the one with 6 leads on it, about 25mm (1") long, oh yeah that's the one, thanks." "It's nice when someone actually understands what I ask for," chuckled Nick as he placed the rectifier on the board and began soldering it in place. "I can sympathize, didn't realize you did this kind of work for Captain Harlow," I answered while continuing to watch. "Well I'm mostly a software guy, I'll admit, but I've got my fair share of experience with hardware too and since Everything on this boat needs an overhaul I've gotten more hands-on experience with it than all my years at the academy," replied Nick as he finished soldering the last component in and turned off the iron, "Well that should just about do it, for here at least, only 1500 or so more boards to replace/update and I'll actually be done." "Damn, she's got a lot of work lined up for you then hasn't she?" I chuckled as I helped Schuster insert the boards back into the access panel, the circuits sliding smoothly into place, the guides obviously having been tended to by Schuster already. "It never ends, but honestly she's really good about it, plus it keeps me out of trouble," shrugged Nick as he gathered the still good components back into their appropriate compartments on the toolbox and reattached the access panel cover. "Speaking of," I said with a sly grin, "Captain Maxwell was wondering if you might have an interest in a small side job for him." "I was just going to ask what it was that Charles' was looking for me for," replied Schuster as he collected his tools. "Well, I'm not at liberty to tell you the details, but I can say that it should be fun and a good test of your abilities. If you're interested I can take you to Charles now and he can fill you in on the details." "I'm intrigued, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't at least a little curious what use he has for me when he's got Alyssa around. Now that woman is skilled, she could probably hack ComStar or even the LIC under the right circumstances, I mean I probably could too but she's still good," said Nick, having finished collecting his things and now standing in the corridor and chatting with me. "Funny you should say that," I mused. "What do you mean?" questioned Nick, the look in his eye giving away how interested he was. "I'll let the Captain explain, but you may get to work with Alyssa on this one," I replied. "That's kinda scary, she can be a bit intense, and I get the feeling she doesn't really like me, but don't tell her I said that," Nick balked. "I'm sure it'll be fine, after all the job is for Captain Maxwell, if you're still interested, follow me," I motioned as I turned to head back towards the vault. "Now that's not fair, do you have any idea how much I owe that man? Also, you're exploiting my natural curiosity," stated Schuster as he grabbed his toolbox and moved to follow me. "I know, I was counting on it," I said over my shoulder with a chuckle. "Damn you, well I'm invested now. Lead on Lieutenant, let's see what kind of mess Captain Maxwell wants to get me into this time," said Nick as he picked up his pace to catch up and come alongside me. "Hehe, you have no idea, Nick," I chuckled to myself as Schuster caught up. "What was that?" he inquired. "Just saying you'll have to wait and see, it won't take long to get there," I replied with a knowing smile. A few minutes later and we had made our way to a working lift and descended several decks until we reached one with access to the ship's vault. Nick and I continued with small talk about his work on the ship and some meaningless banter about Davion and Lyran intelligence agencies and the two great houses in general as we made our way to the vault entrance. Upon arriving I had Nick wait outside for a moment while I went in to check if Captain Maxwell was indeed ready for him. "Yes the Davions love their dakka, but the Lyrans aren't much better with their love of Assault 'mechs. I mean there are memes about Atlas scout lances for a reason," I joked as we approached the vault, "Do you mind waiting here for a sec Nick, I'm just going to check that the Captain is all set. In all seriousness, this little side job does require some certain precautions." "Yeah no problem," replied Schuster, quickly switching to an all business tone of voice. "Thanks, I'll be right back." I entered the vault and quickly found Charles and Alyssa still inside standing near the metal table that had housed the doll 'Robert' and his unusual internals earlier, though I couldn't currently see if it still did, and it looked like I might have interrupted a bit of an intimate moment. I gently cleared my throat and the two slowly broke their embrace before turning to look at me, each with a single arm still around the other's back. "Ahem, ... sorry sir, ma'am, I didn't mean to intrude," I said somewhat awkwardly. "Nonsense Lieutenant, Alyssa and I are engaged now, there's no reason to hide it," replied Charles stoically, a smile beaming across Alyssa's face as he said so. "I wasn't aware it was official sir, congratulations, both of you," I answered with a smile. "Thank you Orlex," replied Alyssa before turning to Charles and simply saying, "And thank you." I wasn't sure what that was about but the faintest tint of red seemed to touch the Captain's cheeks so it was likely something between just the two of them. Charles turned back to me and a moment later was back to business as usual, although he didn't let Chase leave his one arm embrace, not that she was trying, and I doubted it was just to provide physical support due to her injuries. "Did you manage to find Mister Schuster for us Jaeger?" asked Charles. "Yes sir, I did, he's waiting outside, I just wanted to make sure you were ready for him before bringing him in," I replied, still smiling at the two of them. "Excellent, let's bring him in," said Charles with a nod. "Yes sir." I slipped back out of the vault and found Schuster waiting patiently off to the side, I told him the Captain was all ready and ushered him inside, the two of us entered the spherical room with a multitude of facets set into the wall at varying angles, each containing a separate lockbox of differing sizes. The relatively dimly lit space was offset by a portable work light currently hanging from a nearby alcove and directed towards the center of the room and the metal table which Alyssa and Charles were standing at, still in a single arm embrace, and provided sufficient light to clearly see most of the room, as long as you weren't looking directly at the light of course. Nick looked around curiously at the vault room, not that he hadn't seen it before as he likely had working as a crew member for Nikki Harlow, but definitely curious about why this was the chosen location to meet with Captain Maxwell, and of course Alyssa Chase as well.
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