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The Universe, 3029

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Continued from The Universe - 3028...


The Inner Sphere is a region of interstellar space surrounding Earth to a radius of roughly 450 - 550 light-years, generally demarcated by the outer borders of the "Great Houses." Within this region of about 2 million stars, there are approximately 2000 inhabited planets. Beyond the Inner Sphere is the Periphery.

While a variety of smaller states have come and gone, the Inner Sphere has historically been dominated by five 'Great Houses' who rule over their separate dominions: House Davion (Federated Suns), House Liao (Capellan Confederation), House Marik (Free Worlds League), House Steiner (Lyran Commonwealth), and House Kurita (Draconis Combine). The leader of each Great House claims to be the rightful successor to the rule of the Star League, and so the nations the Houses rules over are known as the Successor States.

The space surrounding the Inner Sphere contains a number of independent nations, known collectively as the Periphery. The largest of these nations (the Outworlds Alliance, Taurian Concordat, Magistracy of Canopus, and Rim Worlds Republic) predate the Star League and rival the Successor States themselves in size, but are vastly inferior economically and militarily. More moderately sized nations, such as the Marian Hegemony or Bandit Kingdoms, also lie near the Inner Sphere. The Periphery contains countless other independent nations, many consisting of a single star system each and rarely playing a significant role in Inner Sphere politics. The mostly uncharted space beyond the nearby Periphery states is known as the Deep Periphery and contains numerous pirate havens and lost Star League colonies.

3029 was an eventful year in the Inner Sphere. For a timeline of key events, refer to Sarna.net | 3029.

From the farthest reaches of the outworlds to the heart of the Inner Sphere, this is the place to stake your claim in the universe!

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- Incoming Coded Message -- Command Instruction Follows -
- Decode Omega Protocol - ZuluKappa27black: 23rd -

- Disseminate by need only -

Operation Codename: Black Eclipse
Planet: Nirasaki (Draconis Combine)
Terrain: Desert
Time: Day
Mission Type: Objective Raid
Payment: 4,210,223.82 C-Bills
Salvage Rights: 90%
Support Rights: Battle/Full
Command Rights: Integrated


The Crayven Corporation has contracted with Aegis Division and the Skinwalkers to retrieve an object of interest from the wreck of a Star League-era WarShip on the surface of Nirasaki. This exercise will be a combined-arms operation which will be executed in three phases. We expect to encounter extreme resistance on our way to the objective.



In 2766, Nirasaki Computers Collective, in a partnership with New Age Computers and Maltex, achieved a technological breakthrough: an artificial neural network that was capable of independent thought, communication, and decision-making. Just prior to the outbreak of the Amaris Civil War, the Collective partnered with the DCMS, in a highly-classified venture, to load the neural network into the mainframe of one of their obsolete Cruiser-class WarShips to test the technology under load as a real-world proof of concept. The ship chosen to be the testbed was the D.C.S. Takashima. Regrettably, due to some manner of systems failure onboard - some say it was the out-of-date shipboard technology, others say sabotage, and some even cast blame on the A.I. itself - the Takashima fell from orbit shortly after the program was installed and activated.

The ship was rumored to have crashed in one of the equatorial regions of Nirasaki. However, the outbreak of the Amaris Civil War would see the staff of Nirasaki Computers Collective rounded up and taken to Terra, and Nirasaki itself ravaged by the armies of the Rim Worlds Republic. Consequently, a salvage of the vessel was never attempted, and the Takashima was lost to history.

In November 3028, the crew of the C.S.V. Mendacius located the wreck of the D.C.S. Takashima on the surface of Nirasaki in the Great Banded Desert, in an inhospitable, isolated region known as the Sabireta Expanse. 

The site is infested with raiders and looters, who don't know what's actually inside the vessel, but who have fortified the place and have begun to part the ship out for scrap and weapons. To make matters worse, we've gotten word that the Capellans have been sniffing around the border near Nirasaki, so it's possible that they're undertaking a parallel venture.

To get to the planet, we plan to exploit a sensor gap in the planetary defense network and insert our forces onto the planet unseen. The C.S.V. Republic, one of our Union-class transports, will make planetfall with the M.V. Tana several kilometres outside of a fortified encampment that the local looters have set up to defend the wreck site. Meanwhile, the C.S.V. Mendacius, in the disguise of a passenger liner, will provide real-time intelligence and telemetry of the operational area from orbit.

Once we're on the planet, our objectives will be to eliminate the OpFor and fortify the wreck of the Takashima against incursions while a recovery team penetrates the wreck, neutralizes any hostiles that may be occupying it, and recovers the hard drives from the ship's computer core and the vessel's logs from its bridge. The recovery team will then need to be evacuated from the operational area to the C.S.V. Tana, which will transport the recovered assets to the Mendacius for containment and return to New Earth.

The OpFor for this exercise is unknown. The crew of the Mendacius has observed a ragtag, eclectic, and ever-changing grab bag of military hardware; everything from cobbled-together vehicles carrying naval weaponry to the odd Mackie BattleMech. We believe there to be fifty to seventy-five individuals on the site at any given time, to say nothing of how many more may be inside the wreck, so we'll have to treat this as an assault on a fortified installation.

In addition to the hostiles at the site, we'll be battling sandy terrain, high temperatures, and potential sandstorms.

Good luck.



I. Defeat hostile OpFor blocking access to the Takashima
II. Secure the wreck site and hold it against aggressors while recovery team makes entry into it
III. Neutralize OpFor occupying the interior of the Takashima 
IV. Recover Takashima computer drives
V. Recover Takashima ship's log
VI. Evacuate to the Tana and Republic
VII. Safely deliver the recovered assets to the Mendacius
VIII. The Mendacius must depart Nirasaki intact


I. Eliminate all hostiles in the operational theater to permit salvage operations



  • Lieutenant Mara Walsh (KGC-0000 King Crab)
  • Sergeant Alyssa Chase (ON1-K Orion)
  • Lieutenant Marius Lennox (CPLT-C1 Catapult)
  • Corporal Steve Jenkins (DRG-1N Dragon)


  • Captain Dutch McKenzie (AWS-8Q-OB1 Awesome)
  • Lieutenant Alexander Blackwood (LGB-6Q Longbow)
  • Contract pilot (MAD-3D Marauder)
  • Dexter Friedman (RVN-1X Raven)


Commanded by Lieutenant Bishop Weyland

  • 2x Drillson Heavy Hover Tank
  • 1x Condor Heavy Hover Tank
  • 1x Maxim APC + infantry squad + Captain Charles Maxwell


Commanded by Lieutenant Bishop Weyland

  • 1x Drillson Heavy Hover Tank
  • 2x Condor Heavy Hover Tank
  • 1x Maxim APC + infantry squad


  • 1x Kestrel VTOL
  • 1x Heavy BattleMech Recovery Vehicle



Planet Details: Nirasaki


Star Type: G1V
Position in System: 1
Number of Moons: 2 (Nagano, Okinawa)
Days to Jump Point: 17 
Surface Gravity: 1.10
Atmospheric Pressure: Standard (Breathable)
Equatorial Temperature: 37°C
Surface Water: 57%
Highest Native Life: Mammals
Capital: Elusian
Population: 2,108,000,000


Nirasaki has two continents: Kalifax and Ouanii. Nirasaki's original government structure was nearly unique in the Inner Sphere. Based on the idealist's belief that everyone could live in harmony without a dedicated police force or government, the original colony grouped itself into a series of small communes that were originally going to trade with each other. The problems in this system became clear shortly thereafter, as settlers forced to use a barter system limited economic opportunities with other worlds and infighting among settlers undermined group efforts.

Eventually a modest planetary government formed from a coalition of communes on the two largest continents. One of their greatest achievements was the implementation of a basic economy for the world based on "work credits" and a consistent means of valuing goods and services. The coalition government enjoyed strong support from the population as its power was so limited. Based on democratic ideas, the planetary government required only a simple majority for issues that affected interplanetary trade or a large planetary region. It also contained an emergency powers clause for defense against external threats. Other than these efforts and responsibilities, the coalition government had absolutely no power of any sort.

This lax form of government kept the power in the hands of the people, and even under the Terran Hegemony the world was left to its own devices. Nirasaki was one of the worlds which had been abandoned by the Terran Alliance following the Outer Reaches Rebellion and the Demarcation Declaration of 2242, but Nirasaki was incorporated into the Terran Hegemony within a century, becoming one of the worlds within the Lone Star Province.

During the Star League era several companies attempted to take advantage of the perceived lack of central authority on Nirasaki, but the Nirasakians' insistence on using the work credits system made it nearly impossible for these corporations to succeed. The only notable exception was Nirasaki Computers Collective (NCC), a company organized as a part of the existing Blue Heron Collective. Being familiar with the existing work credit economy and based on Nirasaki, NCC quickly gained a reputation for high-quality computer products. NCC's work was so highly regarded that their programmers created the software used in the Star League's Space Defense Systems. Although the NCC and its programmers were obliterated during the Amaris Civil War, the factories are now owned by Blue Heron Computers.

After the fall of the Star League, Nirasaki was claimed by the Draconis Combine. After centuries of being exposed to the Dragon's idea of planetary government and administration, Nirasaki's central government has expanded its power somewhat, overseeing a planetary police force and a militia.



Audio Recording
Speaker: Kauffman, W.
SubjectCruiser-class diagram, D.C.S. Takashima
Beginning playback...

"Please excuse the dated nature of this image. We pulled it from an SLDF training deck that we found in an archive. We believe, based on our analysis of the crash site and through extrapolation from this diagram, that the bridge is in the area marked by the number 1 on the slide. Entry into the ship will most likely be best-achieved through one of the two cargo hold doors - marked as 2 and 4 on the diagram - or via the landing bay, marked as 3. The ship crashed on its port side, so the orientation of everything in the craft will be offset by ninety degrees from the relative 'down' position. The bridge is also completely submerged in the sand; currently, only entry point 4 is exposed, and that is how the squatters are accessing at least a portion of the vessel."



Sender: Major James Hayes
Encryption Priority:
HPG Relay 163NR95-SIGMA-1849
Received: OP Comp. 2027 Standard Terran Time

Operation Black Eclipse - Contract.xlsm

BattleTech 1646 - Living Legends, Star League.pdf

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C.S.V. Republic
Final approach to Nirasaki
Draconis Combine
January 30, 3029


"What...a...shithole," Bishop Weyland marveled, arms folded across his chest, gesturing at the bllistered wastes that rolled past the C.S.V. Republic's viewscreen. "And look at that weather. 48 degrees C and sandy."

"Sounds like paradise," I replied, sarcastically.

"Yeah, well, I bet I'll be digging pieces of 'paradise' out of my teeth for weeks after this shindig," the infantryman replied, scowling at the display. "I'm frankly real concerned about the hard time that the equipment's gonna have when we're down in the middle of that, too."

"Good call opting for hovertanks," I answered. "You couldn't pay me enough to put down tracks in this crap. Well - okay - you could pay me enough. But I wouldn't enjoy myself."

"Hell, I'm not gonna enjoy it even with hovercraft. Hey, you got any more of those fancy cigars?"

I chuckled and withdrew my pocket humidor, passing it to Bishop. I liked the guy - over the month and a half that we'd come to know each other, we'd discovered quite a bit of common ground - he, a man who'd run hard and seen incredible things while working with Irian before falling on hard times, and me, having fallen on hard times before digging back out of the hole I was in, courtesy of the Arano crisis. Bishop's skills were oriented toward infantry and armored combat, while my own competencies leaned toward BattleMechs and asset extraction operations. Moreover, we both recognized what a potential windfall this operation represented, and how it could open a substantial number of doors for us if we could manage to come through the contract intact.

"Donovan sent an intel report over this morning. Don't know if it made its way to you yet," I added.

"Oh yeah? Is it gonna make me like Nirasaki more? Or less?" Weyland asked, clenching a cigar between his teeth as he reassembled the humidor and passed it back to me.

"Less, I think. While the OpFor's loadout reads like the Sunday circular from Discount Dan's, the sheer number of units that're down on the site makes the situation practically ridiculous, even with the amount of gear we brought. Here, check it out."

I passed a datapad over to Bishop, who let out a low whistle after glancing at it.

"How the fuck did a bunch of randos get a BattleMaster?" he asked.

"You got me. Probably the same way that they're going after the guts of the ship. Theft," I speculated.

"Possibly," Weyland nodded. "Well, the way I see it, we're gonna have to divide and conquer on this one. The mounted cavalry should probably break northwest and try to divert the heavier shit away from the insertion teams, while the APCs and hovertanks break to the southwest and head around the far end of that wall they've got built out."

"That's what I was thinking," I agreed. "This whole thing is going to be a matter of overwhelming shock and awe on one end and pure speed on the other end. Having seen what we're up against now, do you feel like there's anything we need to change about our plan of attack?"

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C.S.V. Republic
Final approach to Nirasaki
Draconis Combine
January 30, 3029



“That's what I was thinking," I agreed. "This whole thing is going to be a matter of overwhelming shock and awe on one end and pure speed on the other end. Having seen what we're up against now, do you feel like there's anything we need to change about our plan of attack?"

Bishop starred at the datapad analyzing the new intel Captain Donovan sent over. 

“Damn... that’s allot meat they have down there” Weyland said more to himself. 

The massive Mercenary turned to Captain Maxwell. 

“Well sir, I believe we can beat them. We have speed, surprise and violence of action coming in. We just need to keep them moving, we can’t allow them to dig in or coordinate their forces. Guys like us have seen this before, being out numbered isn’t a good feeling... but we’ve seen this and lived through this”. Bishop continued. 

“Your mechs will be the anvil, the hovers the hammer, if we swing hard enough we can break them. We just can’t let up... if we do... we’re dead. We also have that Kestrel with an additional squad as a QRF in our boot if need be”.

Captain Maxwell nodded. “Well it looks like I’m in that Maxim with the squad. You gonna stay close to provide cover?”

“That’s the plan, it will take me a hot minute to off load and suit up once on target. I’ll help deal with the Battlemaster, so long as we hunt as a pack we should drop it quick” responded Bishop. 

Maxwell was now tracing the line of is jaw “ It’s gonna be a brawl down there. You know if we pull this off the Corpsortion is going to start pulling C-bills in like no other”. 

“Yeah your right... so if we get split up, don’t hesitate to pull the trigger on the QRF. They are good dudes. They’ll bail you out if things get sideways down there”. Bishop didn’t hide the concern in his voice. He liked the Captain, both had been grunts at the start of their career. The man was intelligent and a good leader. From what Bishop observed, his crew respected him. Which many Captain didn’t get. 

The Captain let out a short laugh “ you getting all sentimental on me Bishop? You don’t seem the type”.

Bishop smiled “ Well Cap... I helped planned this thing, so I feel responsible for this squirrelly team.  The arena is a unpredictable and unforgiving... you know that”

Maxwell smiled, “It will be fine Lieutenant, we got a good team”.

Bishop moved the cigar over to the other side of his mouth with a flick of his tongue.  

“I hope so sir..... I really do” Bishop said, now looking down at the datapad. 

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Back on the TANA, I had heard it was the Medi Bots birthday. I walked into the M<ed Bay and I looked at the Robot. "Happy birthday!!!" I screamed at it. But the Medi Bot just made lights at me. "What do you want for your birthday???" The lights just blinked and intoned at me.

Then I remembered that I had been an Entertainer back on SHERATAN. I decided to do a Juggling Act I had learned back when I was in show business. I went to the MechBay and got some cutting torches. Then I brought them back up to the Med Bay and stood in front of the Robot. "Look robot!" I yelled. "This is a Juggling Act for your birthday!" The Robot just made lights at me and didnt't do anything. I turned on all 5 of the cutting torches and made the plasma go really strong to show how dangerous the Act was. Then I threw them all up in the air and started to catch them one at a time, at first Everything went great, but then I Missed one and it kicked off my sleeve and lit my Arm on fire. "AAAHH!!" I'm on Fire!" I scremaed at the Robot. "404." It finally said. "Command I'M ON FIRE not found." "YAAARRRGGHH!" I yelled as I looked around for something to put the fire out. Meanwhile the Plasma Torches had all fell on the floor and were cutting different Designs in the floor because no one was controlling them.

FInally I found a brown bottle with no label, I shook it up and it seemed like it had Water inside, I took the Bottle and dumped it on the fire on my arm but it made a hugemongous fireball instead!!I was really confused and so I drank some of the liquid to see what it was, it was Rubbing Alchol, I knew because I had had an Accident with it one time before. "AAAAAAAAAAH!" I Yelled and went running out of the Med Bay, then I ran into the Showers, but people were all in the Stalls taking forever. "COME ON GUYS, HURRY UP, I"M ON FIRE!" I yelled, Then I got tired of waiting and jammed my entire On Fire arm into a toilet Bowel. The fire went out and made a huge hiss and a lot of smoke, I laid there for a minute and relaxed in the water, but then I tried to get my arm out and it was stuck! "WHAT THE HELL?" I Yelled, I couldn't believe I had got lit on Fire but then I got stuck in the toilet instead! Then I remembered I had another Plasma Cutter in my back pocket, I got it out and turned it on full blast and cut through the back of the toilet, which made water explode everywhere and somebody started yelling that they were getting scalded in the shower, but I didn't care because it was an emergency. I stood up but the Toilet was still stuck on my arm!

"ARRRRGH WHY DO THESE THINGS KEEP HAPPENING" I Said, then I ran back to the Med Bay and came in to it. The floor was all chopped up on account of the Laser Cutters and I could see guys walking by on the floor below. "MEDI BOT! I NEED YOU!" I Yelled. Then the Medi Bot rolled out and made lights at me. "PLEASE STATE THE NATURE OF THE MEDICAL EMERGENCY" it said in a voice from an ancient TV Show I had heard of, I think it was called "Space Trek."

"I HAVE A TOILET STUCK ON MY ARM!: I Yelled. The Medi Bot stared at me for a minute and then got out a t-shirt cannon. "WHAT THE HELL?" I Yelled, but it was too late, the Medi Bot had shot me in the face with a rolled-up t-shirt that said BIRTHDAY BOY and I.........blacked........................out..........

Then I woke up screaming for like 5 minutes straight. When I came down from my scream I realized I was actually in the REPUBLIC in Med Bay I tried to talk to the nurse but I had one of those breathy masks on and it all came out like a bunch of mumbling noises. 

"Shoosh shoosh shoosh." Said the nurse. "I'm nurse Chun Li. You have been in a Coma since the Refrigerator back on Sheratan. Do you know what date it is?" 

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"HOW COULD I KNOW WHAT DAY IT IS, I'VE BEEN IN A COMA" I yelled, except I had a mask on so it sounded like "MUH MUH MWUFF MUH MUR MWFFF." But somehow the nurse understood. "Well it is next month now and you have a Battle tomorrow, so I have to Discharge you now that you're awake." Then the nurse sat the bed up into a standing angle and took the mask off me. "Eat 5 of these pills every 3 hours and come back in 2 days for another head scan. Here is a doggie bag with your Clothes in it." Then she handed me a brown paper bag and I realized I was in an embarrassing Hospital Gown. I took the bag and went down the hall to the Bunk Room, then I started pulling all the Tape and electronic Things off me from my hospitalization. "AAARRRRRGH!"

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Elsewhere -

DropShip Kusanagi
Great Banded Desert, Nirasaki 
January 30, 3029


"Alright, let's go over this plan one more time." I gestured at the battle map on the cramped & dingy situation room's monitor for emphasis. Outside, the wind howled, and the rattle of debris bouncing off the ship's hull as a sandstorm moved past could be heard. "RULE ONE: now that we're here on the surface, undetected, we need to STAY that way until Aegis Divison and the Crayven Corporation hit the wreck. Pop quiz time: why are we doing that?"

Jack Whitley scowled at me. "Come on."

"Answer the question. Anybody. I want to make sure you understood my briefing."

"Because they will be the distraction to pull the bulk of the shooting away from us so that we can slip into the compound unopposed." Edgar finally said in a monotone.

"Bingo. Aegis and Crayven will be the bait. While they're slugging it out, we can get a lance into the compound undetected. But everybody needs to STICK TO THE PLAN." I continued, slapping the screen for effect.

"I still don't like the idea that we have to use my BattleMechs for this. You told me your friends could give us hardware." Whitley said.

"Yeah, well, apparently, they sent it all off to the front right before we got there. They kitted you guys out with what they had, though. I bet it's been a long time since your Mechs were in that good a condition." I pointed out.

"So how are we gonna know when to say 'go?'" another guy in the room asked.

"Well, since we were able to land to the North of the wreck site, all we have to do is watch for their DropShips entering the atmosphere. Then we stage up. And then, when we start seeing explosions, we move in."

"You're gonna be on the line with my guys, right?" asked Whitley.

"Of course I will. I just need to borrow your Jenner." 


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C.S.V. Republic
Final approach to Nirasaki
Draconis Combine
January 30, 3029

Overhearing the banter between Maxwell and Weyland, I made my way across the bridge to the pair, a wry smile playing across my face as Bishop gestured disdainfully at the view on the bridge's sweeping status display. Though I hadn't known him very long, there was a certain charisma about Charles Maxwell that seemed to put everyone at ease. Though young in his years, the mercenary Captain had a worldliness about him that instilled in his personality a levelheadedness, experience, and degree of wisdom that allowed him to integrate in well with the crew. Above all else, he seemed to ascribe to an ethos of never taking himself too seriously, a trait I could appreciate. I suspected that the joviality, at least in part, was the coping mechanism of a haunted soul. Though he never spoke of it, the streaks of gray in Maxwell's hair, creases at the edges of his eyes, and the way that his smile often didn't reach quite as far as it should were indications of a man carrying a profound amount of history on his shoulders.

"I couldn't help but overhear you gents dissecting Donovan's latest breakdown of the shitshow down on the surface," I chuckled, striding up alongside Charles and Bishop. "Mind a little input?"

"Not at all," Charles replied, pivoting, along with Bishop, to face me. "What've you got?"

"Well," I began, pulling up a tactical map on my personal datapad and putting the device in presentation mode, "my doodles aren't as pretty as William's, but bear with me."


"This is the current situation down at the dig site. 'H' and 'A' represent the projected deployment locations of our 'Heavy' and 'Armor'  brigades, respectively. 'Heavy' means Hammer and Anvil lances, while 'Armor' represents Sabre and Vulcan. You tracking me so far?" I asked.

"Copy that," Bishop nodded.

"Good. Now,  up in zone 'A' is where the pirates seem to have the bulk of their heavy hardware - the BattleMechs and other gear that tends to ruin someone's day. Zone 'B' is where we're seeing a lot of armored cavalry activity - tanks, mobile HQs, and assorted harasser squads. The red crosses are the areas we're noticing the highest concentration of assets at any given time," I continued.

"Alright, that makes sense," Maxwell agreed.

"Now, my advice to you gents would be to do exactly as you've proposed. Take Heavy brigade up along the red route here and put a hole through the garrison wall where the X is. Hit their primary defenses hard and fast. That'll trigger an instinctive response from them to try to plug the hole and keep you out. Simultaneously, I propose that we take Armor brigade along the purple route, smash through the barrier at the indicated location, and sweep up through the eastern part of the site to the insertion location on the wreck. You'll attract the attention of their tanks in the process, but that'll draw them away from Heavy and make it easier for those guys to do their jobs keeping the worst of the mess away from you. Plus, our intel indicates their armor is going be outclassed by what you guys will be driving."

"Speaking of which," Maxwell interjected, "is Donovan's list what we're reasonably expecting to encounter?"

"For the most part," I nodded. "Based on activity we've observed over the last few days, I'm gonna call what I've got here the most authoritative list. Here, have a look."

I punched a few buttons on the pad, bringing up an ordered shortlist of enemy assets.


  • 4x Harasser laser platform
  • 3x Sabaku Kaze heavy scout hover tank
  • 1x BLR-1G BattleMaster
  • 1x WVR-6K Wolverine
  • 1x CGR-1A1 Charger
  • 1x SDR-5K Spider
  • 2x MON-66 Mongoose
  • 2x Shillelagh missile tank
  • 2x SHD-2K Shadow Hawk
  • 2x HSR-200-D Hussar
  • 1x CRD-3K Crusader
  • 2x Field Gunners (AC/2)
  • 2x Foot Platoon (MG)
  • 3x Mechanized Tracked Platoon (Laser)
  • 2x Pirate Lady Death's 'Pacification' Squads
  • 2x Mobile Headquarters
  • 2x BC XV-M Buster HaulerMech Mod


Bishop let out a low whistle. Maxwell furrowed his eyebrows.

"Now, I know that's gonna be a lot of moving targets," I acknowledged. "What can I do from here to help you fellows out while you're down in the thick of this mess? Give me the details, and I'll get a crew briefing on the books so we all know what roles we need to play tomorrow."

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"Well," I replied, scrutinizing the situation report, "I think the most advantageous type of intelligence we could receive would be help heading off as many encounters with the hostile tanks as possible while we are making our way toward the rack. The less engagement we have to do, the better. I'm not averse to smash-and-grab, mind you, but I have a sneaking suspicion that our attrition rate for this endeavor is going to be higher than normal as it is. So, anything we can do to mitigate that, I'd like to do."

Major Hayes nodded in agreement. "Makes perfect sense. Bear in mind, some of the the telemetry that you'll be receiving is getting beamed from the Mendacius in orbit to the Republic down on the planet, then interpreted by me and regurgitated to you after that, so there's gonna be a bit of a delay in the process."

"Noted, we'll treat everything as though it's time-shifted unless you explicitly advise otherwise." I glanced at Weyland. "Anything else you can think of?" 

Bishop shook his head. "Nope, Major, a long as you call the shots, we'll knock em down."

"Sounds like a plan," Hayes nodded. "I'll draw up the tactical plans and get a brief on the books this afternoon. See you gents then."

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The following day...

C.S.V. Mendacius
Geostationary orbit
Great Banded Desert, Nirasaki
January 31, 3029

I watched the Mendacius' viewscreen intently, the surveillance vessel's sensors delivering incredibly high-detailed video of the Republic and the Tana as they descended into Nirasaki's atmosphere. Yesterday's briefing had been one for the record books - never before in in its history had the Corporation performed an extraction raid of this magnitude. We'd spent the better part of the afternoon on a three-way video conference, briefing rooms aboard all of the ships in the flotilla packed to the walls with participants, planning the operation. For security reasons, we'd not been able to call home to our corporate office or bring William into the meeting from his present remote location somewhere in the Lyran Commonwealth; on this initiative, we'd be on our own.

The Skinwalkers had proven to be an interesting choice of mercenaries to bring into the fold. 'Colorful' didn't even begin to describe their dossiers, with some of the members of the group having backgrounds that would make even the most seedy of commanders blanch with horror. But they were reputed to be good at what they did, and their MRB rating reflected it, so we'd proceeded as planned, ensuring that the contractors were well-insulated from the truth about our mission - and from the Crayven Corporation's involvement in it. As far as any outsiders were concerned, this undertaking was a massive Aegis Division project, and our goal was to recover the flight data recorder from the Takashima in the hopes that it would lead us to a Cameron-class battlecruiser. If anyone suspected otherwise, they were to be immediately withdrawn from service and told that their misgivings constituted a security risk. We'd been fortunate, however, that our bluff had held. Every trace of Crayven Corporation insignia had been removed from the assets of the Mendacius and the Republic, and everyone - even those of us who would never be seen by the contractors - were wearing Aegis Division uniforms. The masquerade had to be perfect, and so far, it was proving to be exactly that.

"Captain Donovan, the Tana and Republic have achieved atmospheric interface; the communication blackout has begun. We anticipate re-establishment of comms in approximately three minutes," the Mendacius' sensor chief reported. I nodded an acknowledgement in his direction, continuing to watch the main display pensively as the mission clock counted up. Glancing at the telescope feed of the assembled OpFor on the ground, I noted grimly that our projections concerning what the team would be up against had proven accurate - the number of squatters with all manner of guns was to be overwhelming. Superior tactics and superior firepower were the only two elements in our favor that we possessed. Nevertheless, I'd made it a point to emphasize to Major Hayes the importance of having battlefield medics on hot standby, should the need arise.

Our primary objective was simple - smash our way through the occupiers of the site, grab the units from the wreck, and get the hell out. Secondary objectives, should we be able to pacify the entire site, were to salvage as much as we could of the hardware we ruined on our way into the wreck as possible while our planetside window on Nirasaki remained favorable. However, there was a rogue element I was tracking closely - the weather. If a sand hurricane blew through while our forces were on the surface, all bets were off. That was a worst-case scenario - one that I hoped wouldn't come to pass... 

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