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The mechanized tracked platoon, I realized, had been reinforced with field gunners that were assailing my Catapult with a portable AC/2, which explained the intensity of their attacks. A second foot platoon was closing on me, spraying my 'Mech with machine gun fire, while a nearby mobile field base attempted to lob flights of LRM-10 missiles at me, with only moderate success, given our relative closeness. I was surrounded and had to prioritize my targets, so I decided to go after the biggest threat - the Shadow Hawk - first.

Leveling my sights on the approaching war machine's torso, I fired all four of Tyche's pulse lasers, three of the four weapons scoring hits across the inbound biped's left and right arms. My Catapult's damage indicators shrieked with another report of laser fire from the tracked platoon; as my armament cycled, I tried to kick at the squad, but they were too close for the ungainly movements of Tyche's oversized legs to have any effect. The laser squad, now directly beneath my Catapult, returned fire with a blistering volley, shattering Tyche's belly armor, the coherent energy of the attack coring into her gyro and engine, inflicting critical damage in the process. The BattleMech staggered wildly as its internal balance mechanisms began to fail. As I fought with the pilot's controls, I saw another foot squad inbound. It was at that moment that I realized what was happening - the raiders were attempting to overwhelm and capture my BattleMech - not destroy it - and the Shadow Hawk was on station just to ensure that if things got out of control, it could inflict a quick kill.

I locked my long-range missile launchers onto the most distant squad, and opened fire, sending thirty warheads corkscrewing into the center of the infantry formation. As the missiles landed in the middle of the squad, I strafed the group with my pulse lasers. Unfortunately, only a few of the foot soldiers seemed to have been affected by the attack, the rest maintaining their charge toward me.

I tried to push Tyche backwards to clear additional target room between me and the units that had now ensnared my BattleMech, but that maneuver proved to be too much for the mortally-injured Catapult. The 'Mech began to tilt severely to one side, and although I struggled frantically to counteract the ancient machine's loss of balance, fortune was no longer in my favor. Tyche crashed to the ground, stricken and out of the fight.

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C.S.V. Republic
Aegis Division staging site
3.2 kilometers from D.C.S. Takashima
Great Banded Desert, Nirasaki
January 31, 3029
___________________________

"Mantis is down!" Marcus Donovan's voice crackled in my headset, a priority telemetry feed from the Mendacius exploding onto the Combat Information Center's massive display wall.

"I see it, Captain," I replied, dismissing the flurry of alert boxes warning of loss of telemetry from Tyche. "Control to Mantis - do you copy?"

A burst of static hissed across the CIC's speakers. 

"O'Neil, see if you can boost the gain on that signal!" I exclaimed, worried that the MechWarrior may already have been getting overwhelmed by the ground forces that had penned him in. Fortunately, moments later, Lennox's transmission began to resolve into a coherent message. 

"...its to Control - do you read me? Mantis to Control!" 

"We read you, Mantis - what is your situation? Are you able to bail out?" I replied.

"She went down on her belly; I'm pretty sure I can eject safely, but Major, I really don't wanna leave the Captain's 'Mech to these assholes," Marius answered. 

I grimaced. "I appreciate your dedication, Mister Lennox, but eye in the sky shows me that they're already trying to cut through the hatch. Frankly, I don't give a damn about Captain Maxwell's priceless family heirloom right now; I want you back alive. I'm ordering you to eject. We'll get Charles some new toys later on if we have to."

"Aye sir - I'm ejecting!" The end of Marius' sentence was punctuated by the detonation of emergency bolts blowing the top of the Catapult's hull away and the whoosh of the ejection seat's rockets firing.

"Track that pod!" I exclaimed. "I want a fast-mover out there to pick him up as soon as you've got a fix on his location. Between the heat and the locals, he's not gonna last long out there."

"You got it, sir," Sergeant Martinez replied.

"Donovan, we're not faring particularly well at the moment," I continued, switching my comm unit over to a private channel with the Mendacius. "We've lost a BattleMech and two Condor crews, including Weyland. I hope we can turn the tide here, or at the very least, get Maxwell and his team into the objective and back out again as quickly as possible."

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Meanwhile...

Black Eclipse Discovery Site
Great Banded Desert, Nirasaki
January 31, 3029
___________________________

I stepped out into the sweltering heat of the desert, thumbing my MechWarrior combat suit's medipack to 'on.' The device attached to a hook-up point on the wearer's thigh and monitored their condition, automatically injecting any necessary combinations of painkillers and stimulants to keep its patient functioning. It contained storage for up to a dozen doses of medication, and could run off an internal battery for 48 hours. A small readout flickered into existence on the inside of my helmet, recording a baseline of my current vital signs. The desert was not a good place to have a physiological episode - if I was going to fall out from dehydration or exhaustion, I wanted to be the first to know about it.

The low whine of electric servos behind me caught my attention, and I turned to see our unit's MediBot trundling down the lowered ramp of the Maxim. We'd brought the robot along in case we had any casualties while inside the Takashima - and to serve as a possible interpreter between the ship's computers and us, if the Apple-Churchill kit I now carried with me didn't do the trick.

"Hey there, sport," I chuckled as the robot drew near. Someone aboard the Maxim had strapped a climbing harness and a backpack on the robot, and it now looked as though it was ready for an afternoon of spelunking and tomb raiding. "You ready to go bust some ghosts and find some treasure?"

Medibot stared blankly at me for a moment.

"Do you require medical attention?" it finally inquired.

"No, I'm good," I laughed. "I hope you'll help me stay that way."

"I am programmed with over 4,387 prophylactic regimens designed to optimize health. We can begin one immediately."

"Let's not get too excited," I replied, holding up a hand. Medibot emitted a series of chirps and maneuvered itself into a standby posture, awaiting its next instruction.

I glanced toward the southern area of our field staging area, where Dexter Friedman's Raven and Steve Jenkins' Dragon stood watch over us. Behind them, the sun dipped low on the horizon, beginning its transition into nightfall. Multiple booms echoed on the evening air, which carried with it the smell of burning cordite and gunpowder. According to the periodic radio transmissions I was hearing, a full-on engagement with the occupiers was still raging in the northern end of the compound, and by the sounds of it, blood had been spilled on both sides. I knew we didn't have much time to do what we'd come to do before even more lives would be lost.

As I turned back toward the Maxim, a masked infantryman, wearing Sergeant's insignia, approached me. I recognized him from the crew of one of the Condors in our convoy.

"Captain?" the man inquired.

"Yes, Sergeant, uh, Sergeant - " I began, glancing about for a name tape on his uniform.

"Miles. Sergeant Miles," the infantryman replied.

"Sergeant Miles. Pleasure to meet you. What can I do for you?" I asked.

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Black Eclipse Discovery Site
Great Banded Desert, Nirasaki
January 31, 3029
___________________________

Sergeant Miles. Pleasure to meet you. What can I do for you?" I asked.

The Sergeant held the Captains silty confused gaze for a moment before speaking. 

“Captain, I’m here to finish LT Weylands mission” responded Miles in a flat tone 

Captain Maxwells confused eye went from confusion to suspicion. His face now had a tired harden look. 

“Thank Sergeant, but that won’t be...”

Miles interrupted Maxwell.

“ I mean no disrespect Captain...but you don’t have a choice in this matter. You see, this is the Skinwalkers way. Weyland was blooded...by Moth...in our ways, which this means is, whatever mission he was assigned now become the most senior Skinwalker’s responsibility to complete. It is debt of honor that I must repay. Besides, last time I checked you are down a man for your OP, so you have a position open now” Miles did not hide the hurt in his voice for his deceased comrade. 

Captain Maxwell thought for a moment, being honest with himself he knew things were bad, but the situation was still manageable. He also felt a twinge pain remembering Bishop. From what he knew of the of man this is what he would have done too. 

Maxwell nodded “Ok, we step in five”

Miles smiled underneath his mask, looking at the black gaping hole that would be their entry point, he racked his combat shotgun. Violence and death called to him from the abyss beyond. 

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Northwestern corner of the compound...

A hellfire of missiles rained down around me as the Aegis Division Longbow lit me up with its LRM20s. My Jenner stumbled around as its armor melted away. In all directions, explosions shook the compound, BattleMechs brawled with each other, and vehicles exploded. By my count, Aegis Division had lost at least one Mech. I couldn't tell how many other units they might have also had fall. For our part, we had lost our Marauder and our Thunderbolt. Our Hatchetman was in the process of getting mauled by an Aegis Division Orion, while the Hunchback and I fought to hold our ground against an inbound Crusader and a Buster.

"Take that Buster, I can handle the Crusader!" Edgar shouted on the comms. Turning his Mech toward the Crusader, he opened fire, landing a devastating blow against the pirate Mech while I opened up on the Buster with all the lasers and missiles I could bring to bear on it. The Buster ragdolled willdly under the impacts but stayed standing, coming at me with autocannons and LRMs blazing. I stood resolute against the attack, continuing to fire back at it. Meanwhile, Edgar traded shots with the Crusader, and just when I thought he was going to get the upper hand on the fight, the enemy pilot cut loose an alpha strike of LRM-15s, SRM-6s, Medium Lasers, and Machine Guns directly at the head of Edgar's Mech. I heard a scream come across the radio from inside the cockpit, and before I knew it, the Hunchback fell to the ground, not moving. The cockpit was still intact, and I didn't see an ejection pod. I hoped that at worst, Edgar was unconscious.

Suddenly, a colossal blaze of at least a dozen volleys of laser fire smashed into the Hunchback from behind me, coring its gyro and engine apart, leaving the BattleMech unable to do anything but lay like a broken toy on the battlefield floor. As I continued to fight the Buster, its assault whittling away my armor, I saw an Awesome, bearing Aegis Division colors, moving in from the direction that the weapons fire had come. I tried to see who the pilot was, but an abrupt explosion beneath my Mech drew my attention to the status indicators on its display. An infantry squad had moved under me and detonated something, blowing my Jenner's left leg completely apart, and I suddenly felt the rush of negative G-forces as my Mech slammed to the ground, impacting hard. Panels exploded everywhere around me and my cockpit glass blew out as everything was cast into darkness. I frantically slapped my ejection button, but the ejection mechanism on the Jenner was destroyed. I was trapped, unless I could somehow get out from the melee happening around me without getting stepped on, shot at, or vaporized. Realizing that my seat harness was also jammed, I pulled a bowie knife out of the holster attached to the pilot's chair and started hacking through the straps, hoping I could bail out in time.......

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With an explosive crack, the Autocannon/10 of Perses, the Orion that was currently under my charge, drove a depleted-uranium round and a pair of laser blasts into the Hatchetman's center of mass, causing the war machine to double over like a prizefighter that had just been punched in the gut. I steered my BattleMech into a slow, loping circle, swinging its torso a full ninety degrees to the left to keep its entire arsenal trained on the Black Phalanx unit. While I knew that I had the Hatchetman significantly outclassed and outgunned, the fact of the matter was, if it was able to get in close enough to use its melee weapon - an actual hatchet that was nearly half as long as the 'Mech was tall - it could inflict some serious hurt on me. I wasn't about to allow that to happen.

As the Hatchetman tried to recover its bearings, and my weapons cycled, a pirate Crusader, which had just moments before, been having its way with a Jenner from the same unit, came about and lobbed a couple of rounds of laser fire at me, accompanied by a salvo of machine gun fire.

"Ugh, I was saving this for your friend," I muttered, quickly swinging my weapons over the new arrival's chassis and unleashing an apocalyptic salvo of missile, autocannon, and laser fire in its direction. The torso of the Crusader, evidently having been worn down by a previous engagement, literally fractured and split apart under the impacts, causing the BattleMech's fusion reactor to lose containment and consume the biped in a tremendous blossom of uncontrolled reactor mass. As the Crusader was torn asunder, the Hatchetman's rear armor was melted completely from its body by the heat and shock wave of the explosion. My adversary's pilot, apparently a functional idiot, instinctively pivoted his BattleMech's torso away from me to look in the direction of the conflagration playing out behind him, turning his now-unshielded reactor casing directly into my weapons arc.

"Bye," I whispered, once again pulling the trigger on every weapon that Perses was capable of bringing to bear. The Orion's overheat warning screamed as fourteen missiles, two pulses of coherent laser energy, and a supersonic bullet the size of a small child left their launchers and smashed through the Hatchetman's vulnerable machinery, apparently destroying the 'Mech's engine, the war machine abruptly lurching to a shuddering stop. Switching to my autocannon only, I leveled my sights on the Hatchetman's hip actuator and fired, inflicting further mortal damage on impact, ensuring that the machine was effectively out of commission. Seconds later, I saw the Hatchetman's head detach and rocket skyward, its pilot apparently having decided to take the high road and get out of the fight while he still could.

"That's the smartest thing I've seen you do so far," I muttered at the departing pilot.

A sudden pelting of energy and projectile fire, coming from beneath my 'Mech, drew my attention to the next problem that needed to be dealt with. The infantry squad that I'd become aware of causing a huge amount of attrition to both our units and Black Phalanx's had now come for me - but I had no intention of letting them have me. As the foot soldiers closed to within capture range of my Orion, I slammed the 'Mech's throttle forward, charging through their formation, causing the soldiers that did manage to get out of the way to scatter, while others, who were foolish enough to stand their ground, were reduced to various piles of flattened offal on the sandy terrain. Throwing Perses into reverse, I pivoted the 'Mech around and brought its sights to bear on the pacification squad, unleashing four short-range missiles in the pirates' direction, observing with grim satisfaction as several more of their numbers were eliminated from the battle.

The infantry squad returned fire, bringing a mechanized laser platform into the fight as they did so, inflicting several critical hits on my Orion's chassis. As I continued reversing, my long-range missile suite unexpectedly began screaming a hard lock, and I realized that I'd backed off far enough for the warheads to become effective. Manually leveling my sights to ensure that I had a proper shooting solution, I let the missiles fly, the ten warheads corckscrewing into the infantry formation and detonating with a resounding blast. A surge of sand, debris, and body parts was thrown skyward; as the carnage settled, I could see that nothing more remained of the squad - or so I thought.

As my weapons cycled once more, I became aware of a single figure running in the direction of my BattleMech, waving its arms at me. It appeared to be a surviving infantryman, though I couldn't work out why he'd be flagging me down, unless it was to surrender.

"What the hell?" I blurted out loud. Quickly, I swung my targeting recticule over the approaching individual, and zoomed in with its scope. My breath caught in my throat as I realized who it was.

"Schmidt?" I gasped.

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Meanwhile...

D.C.S. Takashima
Great Banded Desert, Nirasaki
January 31, 3029
___________________________

As we stepped through the blasted remains of what were once the doors of the Takashima's cargo hold airlock, the sounds of combat faded away, replaced by the dull whistle of the desert wind whipping through the eerie remains of a long-dead starship. I drew my Hawk Eagle auto-pistol, flicking its flashlight on, sweeping the resulting beam through the darkness. The cavernous space was completely empty, its contents likely carried off long ago by the first looters to breach the site. Glancing around, I realized that the floor of the vessel had now become the left wall, and the ceiling had assumed the position of the right wall, owing to the vessel's final resting position being offset by ninety degrees, a condition our intelligence briefing had projected. We were now walking on what was actually the starboard bulkhead. The heat in the hold was significantly higher than it had been outside, and I could feel beads of perspiration beginning to form around the seals of my helmet.

"Eden to Control - we've penetrated the wreck," I advised, speaking into my helmet's headset.

"Copy that, Eden. Good hunting," Major Hayes replied.

"Not much to see here, huh?" I quipped, gazing at the dingy steel walls and deckplates.

"And no obvious way through, either," Sergeant Miles grumbled, gesturing at the far wall. I glanced in the direction he was pointing, my eyes landing on the airlock door that would allow us further access into the wreck. Under normal circumstances, the portal would've been easily accessible, but now, it rested almost five meters in the relative 'up' direction from what we perceived as the floor.

"Damnit," I cursed. "Nothing about this part of the job is going to be easy, is it?"

As I wandered closer to the airlock door for a better look at what we were dealing with, I noticed what appeared to be the remains of a ladder, welded in place just below the lip of the door. The ladder had been cut off at the upper rungs, and the severed section was nowhere to be found. Shining my flashlight on the stubs that remained, I realized that the cut sections of metal gleamed in the darkness, unlike everything else around us. Casting my flashlight beam down onto the sand-covered floor revealed several dried globs of metal, untouched by the elements.

"These cuts are fresh," I murmured, gesturing for the rest of the squad to join me. Six additional flashlights focused on the remains of the ladder as the machine gun and laser infantrymen approached, accompanied by Dutch McKenzie, Sergeant Miles, and MediBot. "Notice anything else unusual?"

"Where's the other half of the ladder?" one of the gunners asked.

"Exactly," I replied. "I suspect that whoever did this is still here. We need to proceed under that assumption."

"We're gonna have a hell of a time getting the robot up there," Dutch observed.

###

Several minutes later, all elements of our party, including MediBot, who we'd unceremoniously team-winched up through the airlock and back down again, had rappelled over the doorway and were now safely on the other side. We found ourselves inside an enormous, twelve-by-twelve meter cargo bay filled with debris and looted cargo containers. My flashlight cast eerie shadows throughout the space as we made our way slowly through it, stepping over, around, and in some cases, through the ruins. On the far side of the vault, we could see what appeared to be a small craft hangar bay; likely an alcove for parking cargo drones. At our current distance, I couldn't tell whether or not anything of value remained in it, but I doubted it. The early indications were that anything accessible had been stripped bare before we'd arrived.

Suddenly, the clang of a large metallic object hitting the deckplates grabbed my attention, and I swung my pistol in the direction of the noise mere moments before the crack of gunfire further shattered the silence.

"Shit! We're not alone! Get down!" I yelled, falling behind a nearby cargo container, grabbing the MediBot by its backpack and dragging it along with me. The sound of carbine fire continued to penetrate the hold, seeming to draw nearer with every volley. It sounded like there were five shooters - possibly more - and in the darkness of an unfamiliar environment, we were at a serious disadvantage.

"Everybody! Cover down!" Sergeant Miles barked. I holstered my Hawk Eagle and brought my Gunther MP-20 to the ready, toggling its night vision scope on and carefully propping the weapon atop the nearest accessible cargo container. I slowly peered up into it, sweeping the room until I saw the glowing outline of one of the gunners in my crosshairs. Taking a deep breath, I squeezed off a burst from the weapon, its recoil kicking me in the shoulder and causing me to lose momentary visual on my target. As I leveled the sights again, I could make out the glowing outline of one of the shooters laying on the floor.

"Tango down!" I called out. A barrage of gunfire ripped through the cargo container I'd taken position behind, narrowly missing me and the robot, small plumes of sand getting blown into the air where the rounds had fallen. While ruby-red lances of laser fire arced over my head as the squad began mounting a defense, I attempted to shift position again to get a second look at what we were facing. Rolling onto my back, I leaned out slightly from behind our makeshift cover and performed a visual sweep of the room.

"Miles!" I called out. "There's one on the catwalk up above us, three to the right of the room, two to the left, and one - the one I hit - is in the center. We're in the middle of an ambush!"

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Simultaneously.......

The Orion loomed over me as the sounds of combat rang out around the grounds. I stared up at it, waving my arms, hoping the pilot would respond to me. I knew I'd been seen. The pilot had stopped moving the Mech and pitched its cockpit down slightly to face me after its brutal exchange with the infantry squad had settled. Its gun arms trained on me just before its P.A. system clicked on. A filtered-sounding, familiar voice rang out.

"Nathan Schmidt? Is that you?" It was Alyssa Chase, the Aegis Division operative I had met on the Half Moon.

"Yes! It's me!" I yelled back. I had no idea if the pilot could hear me, so I also flashed a thumbs-up. "I surrender!"

"What?" Alyssa replied, the P.A. system almost deafening over the roar of fighting. I realized that she couldn't hear my words, so I put my hands on top of my head in a posture of submission, kneeling down on the desert sand.

"I hope you know I'm not going to come down there any collect you." Alyssa said. "It would be suicide to park in the middle of this. Plus, I'm not letting you hijack my Mech. If you really want to surrender, come on up."

A panel on the Orion's roof blew open, launching a rope ladder from within. The ladder unraveled all the way down to the ground, and I ran to it and climbed it quickly. As I got to the top of the Mech, I saw that its hatch was already open, and I ran to get inside. Suddenly, a .45 caliber handgun was pressed into my face from within the cockpit.

"Gather up the ladder and get inside." Alyssa hissed. I did as I was instructed, and I was soon inside.

"You're under arrest. Put these on." Alyssa commanded, throwing me a pair of restraint cuffs. I started to snap them onto my wrists, but the MechWarrior stopped me. "No. Behind your back."

I frowned and moved my hands behind my waist, clicking the cuffs into place.

"Now, sit down on the rumble seat."

I did as I was asked. Alyssa approached, still training her weapon on me.

"Lean forward."

Again, I did as I was asked. Alyssa clicked a second set of cuffs onto the first, connecting them to part of the seat to ensure that I couldn't get up.

"No offense, but you're going to be sitting behind me." Alyssa said. "I don't want you to be able to reach anything."

"I get it." I said with a sigh.

"Alright, now sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride." The MechWarrior replied, holstering her weapon and sliding back into the pilot's seat...

"Alyssa, thank you." I said.

"Don't thank me. I already regret it." she replied.

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MEANWHILE... 

Back at the combat Camp outside of the wreck site, I sat in my Dragon and waited for something to happen. Guard duty could be really boring, and this was really boring. I could hear all of the battle yells of my comrades on the radio from the other end of the camp, and I wish that I was over there. But I was not. Instead, I was outside of the treasure site, hoping that a bad guy might come along so I could blow him up.I looked over at all of the soldiers that were waiting for Captain Maxwell and the team to come back out of the wreck, and then I looked over at Dexter, and all of them looked sad and bored. I decided it should be my job to cheer them up. So I decided to think about the tricks that I learned when I was a contractor for the USO.

I stomped my Dragon over to where there was a wreck bus and picked it up in my Mech's arm. I would do the biggest juggling act they had ever seen!

"Hey guys, come over here!" I yelled on my Mechs loudspeaker. I honked the Mech's horn a bunch of times to get their attentions. When everyone had shown up, I ramped up my Dragon's arm really hard and threw the Bus into the sky, it flew into the air and I turned my Mech's arm over to catch it. 

"I will now do a juggling act!" I yelled. The bus was coming down fast, and I stuck my Dragon's arm out. It was going to be a perfect Landing. But I guess the bus was going too fast, or it was too heavy, because it crashed into my Mech's arm, ripped it off, and kept falling until it hit the ground and blew up in a huge fireball. 

WOOP WOOP WOOP went my computer. CRITICAL DAMAGE DETECTED. I looked on my damage display and there was no more arm status indicator, on account of the arm now being underneath the smashed Bus. Everybody stared at me for a while before starting to slow clap. 

"I'm really sorry guys, I just wanted to do some entertainment!" 

"Damnit Jenkins, you should show more respect for your Holy BattleMech!" Dexter yelled on the radio. I decided I should probably try to find the parts of my Mech's arm and take a break from entertaining, so I parked my Mech and went down to the ground. 

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D.C.S. Takashima

Great Banded Desert, Nirasaki
January 31, 3029
___________________________

Miles!" I called out. "There's one on the catwalk up above us, three to the right of the room, two to the left, and one - the one I hit - is in the center. We're in the middle of an ambush!"

Sergeant Miles took cover behind what appeared to be a  small cargo hauler. With adrenaline pounding in his veins the veteran gunfighter took a few seconds to survey his battlefield. Squatting on his haunches, with his heavy combat shotgun cradled in his arms the Sergeant watched his targets.  The Captain’s assessment was correct, they had been ambushed, however they faced a second class enemy who dropped the ball on the ambush. Miles intended make them pay for their mistakes.  

Within seconds Miles had what he needed, looking at the two closet riflemen to his left, firing laser rifles, Miles barked 

“Hey! Assholes!!” 

Both Grunts turned to see the Sergeant,

“Do me a favor, and smoke the shit head up in the rafters!” Growled Miles. 

He would have done it himself but the Sergeant wasn’t sure if the Shotgun could punch through steel rafters at that range. 

On command both infantrymen shifted there fire to the gunman who was attempting to snipe at them.  Seconds later there was a scream as the man fell from above and smashed into the deck with a bone breaking sound. 

With the immediate threat taken care of Miles shifted to the other side of the cargo haul to look at three pirates holed up in the right corner of the room. Luckily for him they had taken cover together behind a pile of metal creates. Looking to his side of the room Miles found the machine gunner and some odd looking rando Mech Warrior spraying gun fire all over the room. Miles slapped the side of of the cargo hauler a few time to get the machine gunner’s attention. The large man finally turned to see Miles. 

“You two, suppress the three in the corner!” “And you” Miles pointed at the now watching Mech Warrior  “Slow your rate of fire, your burning up your ammo and not doing shit” 

Both men excitedly nodded and began blasting into the three pirates. The Sergeant shift back to his original position and looked for Captain Maxwell. Yep, right where I left him thought Miles. The Captain was now laying down on his side, pounding away at the two Pirates spraying rounds in their direction. Maxwell had been running his SMG like bastard from the site of the barrel, which was now red hot. Miles reached into his tactical vest and pulled out a fist sized object. 

Using his shotguns mounted light, the Sergeant flashed the Maxwell three times to get his attention. It would have been pointless to try to yell to the Captain, he was running his gun on full auto. Maxwell, annoyingly looked up at Miles while firing.  Miles showed the Mech Warrior the grenade and pointed to the two Pirates using his bladed hand. The Captain gave a concerned look at first, a grenade in tight quarters was a risk to friendly units.  The other risk, was Miles would have to cut in front of Maxwell to fallow through with his plan. This was a test of trust between two men who never trained together. After a second the Captain nodded his approval.  This surprised Miles, with out talking, Maxwell had read the situation and had understood the Sergeant plan by his body language. 

Miles waited the Captain to perform a lighting fast combat reload of his SMG. The room was a picture of absolute chaos, thundering gunfire, smoke, and dust raining down from above, Miles was in his element. When Maxwell reengaged the two Pirates, Miles pulled the pin on grenade  and lobbed it high into the air towards the gunmen. 

Time and space slowed, in Mile’s minds, as the  grenade floated the air the Sergeant could hear the “Cling” of the grenade’s spoon disengaging and flying off. While the grenade was still in flight, Miles shot forward in a crouched run, shotgun high and tight in his shoulder he charged forward. As the steel ball of explosive landed behind the two Pirates in the far corner of the room, both men responded accordingly. The duo jumped two either side of their cover, as the grenade detonated in a spectacular fashion.  The man closet of the charging Sergeant landed face down on the steel deck. With out aiming, Miles snapped his combat shotgun towards the Pirate and hammered down on it trigger. The gunfighters head exploded like a watermelon being hit with a bat. Blood and brain matter splattered the area. 

As Miles traversed back to his right seeking the second Pirate he smashes intro a solid structure... that was made of flesh and rage. The second Pirate was already on top the Sergeant and twice and big. As Miles attempted to bring his gauge forward , the well trained Private had smashed the shotgun down  with his arm, trapping the firearm between the two combatants, rendering it useless. Simultaneously, the Pirate produced a large Bowie Knife with his free hand from his belt and attempted to swing wide into Mile’s throat. Years of battle experience and training took control of Miles, without thought the Sergeant stepped into the Pirates knife arch trapping his massive bicep underneath Miles’s arm. The knife plunged in to the Skinwalkers back plate armor making a teeth grinding metal screeching sound. 

Using all his power and adrenaline Miles began smashing his forehead into the larger man nose. There was sound was like two bowling balls hitting each other as the Pirates nose and orbital sockets shattered. The discrattionary blows allowed the Skinwalker to slide his free hand down to his thigh holster. Retrieving his M&G service pistol, Miles brought auto pistol up and began pulling the trigger. The 10mm rounds sliced through muscle, femoral artery and bone of theattacker’s  tree trunk sized inner right thigh.  While continuing to fire, the Sergeant moved the pistol up to the Pirate’s pelvic girdle area. The rounds smashed through tissue and continued through the man’s pelvis bone. The Pirate screened in pain and collapsed like a ball of wet rags onto the floor. 

A smile creeped across the Skinwalker’s masked face as he causally stepped over the dying human. With in a fraction of a second Miles’s well trained hands eject the pistol empty magazine and smoothly slammed the fresh one in. As he re-holstered the sidearm Miles transitioned back to the combat shotgun while taking a knee behind the two dead pirate’s cover. 

A flash of gun fire and movement caught the Sergeants attention. Captain Maxwell and the remaining squad were bounding up to the last three Pirate’s position. One attacker was clearly dead with a hole in his head. The other two still held there position. In the dim light Miles saw Maxwell jump onto the metal creates that the Pirates bunkered behind and single handed goose necked his SMG over the top of the creates and dump a magazine of death down on top of the now cornered criminals. There was a loud yep as one of the Pirates crumpled to the floor. 

The last survivor thought it was a good idea to try and run from the slaughter. As he bolted out firing wildly Miles raised his combat shotgun and waited. Fearing his death, the Pirate forgot to check were exactly he was running.... straight into the waiting Skinwalker. With a loud bark the vibrated the room the shotgun fired, nine .38 caliber ball bearings smashed in to the man’s chest with such force the Pirate was lifted of his feet and flew back to toward his hiding place. Finally the room fell silent. 

Miles stood and confidently swept the room with his gauge. No threats presented themself. In a freakishly calm voice Miles said,

“Room clear”

The Captain was already on the radio calling in the incident to command. As the squad and Miles began to recuperate from the violence. The Sergeant let his eye wonder around the scene, for reasons unknown his eyes stop on a small camera in the corner of the room. As he stared at the small rectangular device in the smoke and gloom Miles thought....he saw the camera lens move... as if was attempting to focus. The hair on Miles’s neck stood up, instinctively he reached up and touched a necklace made of bone and bronze. Mother’s gift to him..... standing transfixed on what he saw....

Edited by Sergeant Miles
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