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One minute, Captain Maxwell was quizzing Bishop about his local knowledge, and the next, I was hanging off the back of a very angry pirate, trying to beat him into submission before he kicked our asses - or worse. This was just how things went in Aegis Division sometimes. I didn't ask questions. I was just happy to have a job.

"BY THE POWER OF MY BLADE AND THE OATH OF MY PEOPLE I CAST AN ANCIENT SHAME AND DISHONOR ON - " Steve rambled, not actually attacking.

"STEVE, SHUT UP AND KICK HIS ASS!" I yelled, trying to keep my hands over the pirate's eyes as he fought to wrestle me off his back.

"HOO KAY, I'LL SEE WHAT I CAN DOOO!" Steve replied. Inexplicably, instead of using the sword or any number of other weapons he carried, Steve jumped on the pirate with me. Now, there were two of us idiotically getting spun and thrashed around by the guy, and it didn't seem like we were having much of an effect.

"THIS IS STUPID!" I yelled. All of a sudden, a feral dog came charging out of nowhere and took down one of the pirates, ripping his face off in a gory display. Simultaneously, a deafening gunshot rang out, and I looked up to see Captain Maxwell standing with smoke wafting from the barrel of his Hawk Eagle in one hand and his other hand on his gun belt, he had apparently taken out one of the pirates quite literally single-handedly. As Steve might have described it, the scene was a bit like "the movies." But my marveling at the moment was short lived.

"FUCK YOU GUYS, I KNOW WHEN TO LEAVE!" The pirate that Steve and I were still inexplicably riding explained, tossing us both unceremoniously off onto the ground and running off into the trees, leaving his three surviving battle buddies to be captured, electrocuted, and, in the case of the unfortunate third, having their limbs torn from their sockets and then bashed in the head with them. Dazed, I stood up and shook my head, seeing a band of people that looked like mercs staring at us incredulously. In the background, I heard an ongoing series of "thwaps" as Bishop apparently continued to bludgeon the one unfortunate pirate with his own arm.

"Who the fuck are you?" one fellow asked, while another, a striking woman with cybernetic augments, eyed us suspiciously.

"Uh, I'll let him explain." I explained, pointing at Captain Maxwell. "I'm just the help."

"DON'T WORRY GUYS, I GOT THIS!" Steve exclaimed....

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I slumped down in the tiny patch of shade at the base of a boulder, and held my jacket over my head to keep the sun off. I’d gave up on wearing the helmet and clipped it on my belt instead a ways back

Black Canyon Oberon VI - Oberon Confederation October 7, 3029 ____________________________________ "Orpheus-1 to Orpheus-2 and Orpheus-5 - it looks like we've got some double trouble up ahe

PART DEUX....  "Well I DON'T want to get Fines and low credit scores for doing Atrocities like ripping out teeth, go ahead and do what you need to do Steve, just don't melt his brain." Said CPT M

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Earlier that day...

Oberon VI
Oberon System, Oberon Confederation
October 7, 3029
__________________________________

There had been no contact from the Kirishima since Link had informed me they were being escorted out of orbit by a wing of local aerospace fighters, I was annoyed but not overly concerned since I still had the beacon signal indicating that the dropship was still in system. There were a number of reasons that could explain the lack of communication, from relative positions in regards to the planet and whether we had "line of sight" to each other, to jamming from the local aerospace forces, to simply being out of reach of my fighter's comparatively limited range comm systems. The likelihood of them being disabled by an attack, or worse, destroyed, was quite low though due to the signal beacon I was still receiving indicating everything was normal. The beacon, while not on a stealth mission, was used to send a simple signal indicating one of four possible states that the ship was in using the local public comm arrays and so line of sight and distance within a system were not a concern. To an outsider the signal would appear just as a standard ship beacon using one of many standard frequencies, but for someone that had the correctly coded comm system it could not only identify the ship like normal but also determine, broadly, its current status. The signal would automatically modulate its frequency slightly based on whether the ship was "normal", "engaged", "damaged", or "prepping for jump", the last one was used mainly to alert any deployed assets of the dropship's intention to dock with a jumpship and leave system in case they were out of range for normal comms. The system was by no means secure, nor was it meant to be, and instead relied on others simply not being aware of which frequency referred to which state as its only means of security.

I had spent the remainder of the day yesterday doing field repairs on my Lightning after my run-in with the Owl II pirate patrol and what appeared to be a Nickel's Boys and Irian brawl. I was rather limited on what I could do since I had no supplies for actual repairs and instead patched up my remaining armour best I could with the multipurpose cutting/welding torch that was carried onboard the fighter. It pretty much amounted to me tacking down a few loose plates and hammering a few others back into shape as I was not a Aerospace technician by any stretch of the imagination, I likely wouldn't even qualify as an AsTech with my limited skills. However, while it did nothing to improve my remaining armour coverage, it did ensure I wouldn't be losing any additional armour outside of more combat and also helped maintain the aerospace fighter's aerodynamics, a relatively vital thing when flying in atmosphere and with limited fuel supplies. Speaking of, I had managed to burn through the last of my external fuel stores withdrawing from that last engagement and was now limited to just my internal tanks, however I decided to retain the two spent fuel tanks since they wouldn't impact my flight characteristics any further as long as I was still carrying external ordnance as well. If needed I could always fly in to Port Royale and request landing clearance at the spaceport in order to refuel, though until things were worked out with the Kirishima and the local authorities I likely wouldn't be allowed to leave the spaceport if I did so. After the ad-hoc repair job, and checking over the rest of the fighter to the best of my ability, I spent some time comparing my scan data to the known planetary maps we had acquired and was pleased to see they were accurate, I then plotted out the optimal search pattern based on my remaining fuel. I had enough fuel left to search an area roughly 130km x 130km (81 x 81 miles) and still be able to fly back to orbit or to Port Royale and refuel, which should be more than enough if my intel was correct. I had then spent the night sleeping in my fighter's cockpit, while I had an inflatable bubble tent in the field kit also stored in the fighter I didn't feel a need to use it for just a single night, plus sleeping in the cockpit meant I would be ready to go if anyone from earlier managed to find me unexpectedly.

This morning when I got up I gave the ship another once over to make sure everything was ready for take off and that I hadn't picked up any local stowaways, I'd had that happen once when a small mammal similar to a Terran raccoon had climbed into a previous fighter's thruster exhaust ducting. It was not pretty, for any party involved. With the pre-flight check completed I fired up the thrusters and used the Raijin's VSTOL capabilities to launch the fighter skyward from a virtual standstill, the three main thrusters firing plumes of superheated plasma several feet long behind it. Back in the sky I set to work following my search pattern, sensors on full scanning for any signs of BattleMech activity, without any other lead and no idea what mission Aegis Division was contracted for on this planet finding BattleMech activity in the vicinity of Port Royale was my best chance at tracking down my target and finally claiming the bounty placed by the Governor of Capra in the Draconis Combine. 

A sudden burst of EM sensor contacts lit up on my board before fading out, a moment later and another slew of EM contacts came and went, nothing solid enough to attempt any form of ident but the computer tagged them as being consistent with BattleMech's or similarly sized objects, likely in combat. Their location, while not definite from this range, put them in the same general vicinity as the brawl I came across in Black Canyon yesterday. I had little interest in getting shot at again by Irian and/or the Nickel's Boys but there was a chance it could be something different this time and I had to go check it out, the distance to get back to Black Canyon, while conserving my fuel, meant it was going to take a little while to get there. In an effort to make the most of my fuel I took a non-direct route to Black Canyon that would allow me to continue surveying a portion of my search area on the way, without wasting too much fuel backtracking. Adjusting my heading I settled in for a long morning that was just as likely to run me afoul of random pirate BattleMechs as it was to lead me to my target.

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One moment, we were walking into a dilapidated, ramshackle town in the midst of nowhere.

The next, we were being set upon by the same goons who'd attacked us down in the canyon.

An orgy of violence ensued.

And now, I found myself with smoking pistol pointed in the general direction of a now-deceased pirate who'd made the very grievous tactical decision to come at me with a sawed-off shotgun.

And Sergeant Steve Jenkins was grandstanding at the folks who'd had the courtesy to not attack us during this fiasco.

In other words, a fairly typical day in the life of Aegis Division.

"Sergeant Jenkins!" I exclaimed, holstering my weapon, "I think I can take it from here - thank you."

The Sergeant offered me a salute with such fervor that it left a handprint on his forehead. Approaching the group of friendlies - though, I used that term lightly - they were simply the people that had not yet attacked us - I made a casual 'hands in the air' gesture.

"I'm Charles Maxwell, captain of the mercenary unit 'Aegis Division.' It seems we might have a common denominator here," I began. "Am I correct in that thinking?"

A tall, toned, charismatic woman with cybernetic augments glanced at me with a raised eyebrow.

"Baroness Octavia Incendio," she replied, at length, "and this is my crew."

"By 'my crew,'" a man standing a short distance from Octavia interjected, "she means the crew that she is a part of."

I glanced toward the speaker. "And you are?"

The fellow laughed haughtily. "I guess I shouldn't have expected a hayseed such as yourself to know - I apologize. I'm Johnny."

I felt a muscle start to twitch behind my eyebrow. I needed a goddamn cigar, but Alyssa had taken every measure to make sure I stayed clean on this contract. It was starting to piss me off.

"Well, Johnny," I replied, "forgive this country bumpkin, but I don't believe your reputation precedes you in my neck of the woods. Go on, though."

"I'm in charge of this unit. 'Scorched Earth.' And you are?" Johnny replied.

"As I said - Aegis Division. MRBC unit 146501. We're here at the request of the Crayven Corporation. And we're hoping that someone - maybe you - can tell us what the hell ransacked that cave down the hill from here," I answered. I had no idea whether Johnny actually knew anything. But it was damn peculiar that we would run into another mercenary unit in the same town at the same time. And that, in my opinion, was a lead worth pursuing.

It was the only one we had.

"Well," Johnny began, "we may have seen something..."

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I rolled my eyes at Johnny's bravado.  "Ignore him, Captain Maxwell."  My slight irritation that Luke hadn't stepped forward to do the introductions was abated by the fact that he was watching the others carefully.  He'd best have a plan in place. "It's the Davion in him."

Thwap!

"Don't remember you complaining about the Davion in yo---" Johnny's snark was cut short by Luke 'accidentally' jabbing him with an elbow, and he shook his head before turning back to Maxwell.  "Why the hell should we tell you?"

I pinched the bridge of my nose, feeling a migraine coming on.  Funny how that happened whenever Johnny spoke.  The repeated 'thwaps' weren't helping. Thankfully, Luke remembered his duties and stepped forward after elbowing Johnny into kingdom come.  "Captain Maxwell, I am Lucius Ortus, also of Scorched Earth.  We are more than happy to assist you, but...well, we certainly hope you understand we need to check your claim." 

Thwap. Thwap.

He pulled out his comms and ran a few searches, before nodding discreetly at me. To Johnny, he added, "They are honest about the MRBC."

Outnumbered, Johnny pulled out a cigar, pistol still in hand. Lighting it, he blew a smoke ring at Maxwell.  "Dunno a cave, but Irian ransacked the joint then flew off from that direction with chopper blades between their legs."

Thwap.

Myrmidon's disembodied laughter floated around my ears, adding a level of piercing pain to the agony forming behind my eye.  It'd been on too long, but I couldn't risk turning it off until we got more intel from these mercenaries.  "Why were you in a cave for this Crayven Corp? Why--"

Thwap.


"St--" I began, but Luke interrupted, saving me from losing face in front of the newcomers.  Good man. 

"Stop that!"  he snapped, glaring at the offending mercenary beating a nearly dead pirate. "How uncouth."

We waited, wary, to see how these strangers would respond.

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Black Canyon
Oberon VI - Oberon Confederation
October 7, 3029
____________________________________

"Stop that!" snapped the man called Lucius Ortus, glaring past Captain Maxwell towards where the sound of a man being beaten with his own arm was coming from, "How uncouth."

I turned to look in the same direction, wondering why Bishop would still be beating on the disarmed, literally and figuratively, and unconscious, or dead, pirate. To my surprise Bishop was standing a few feet away from the downed pirate and simply shrugged towards us with a look that seemed to say, "He was still moving" and "It's not me" at the same time. However, instead of Bishop standing at the pirate as expected we saw Steve Jenkins, dismembered arm in hand, standing over the pirate and staring back at us with a look like he just got caught with his hand in the cookie jar. I had no idea when Steve had slipped back there or how long he had been the one hitting the pirate with his own severed arm.

"Sorry," said Steve a little sheepishly as he slowly lowered the arm back down without breaking eye contact with the rest of us, "I saw an opportunity, and he looked like he was trying to escape."

"Jenkins, I'm pretty sure he's dead at this point, and I don't think we're worried about them escaping," replied Captain Maxwell with a sigh.

"Speak for yourself," quipped the man named Johnny between puffs on his cigar.

As if on queue the man still pinned beneath the self professed Baroness stirred and elicited a pained moan as his movement forced both his broken arm to move and his shoulder into Octavia's blade, which was still stuck through him.

"My apologies," responded the Captain as he turned back towards the other group, "I was only referring to my unit, as our mission does not currently involve capturing a local pirate, if yours does we will not interfere."

An attitude filled grunt was Johnny's only response as he waved his pistol wielding hand dismissively, as if to say "you'd better not".

"As to why we were in the cave for the Crayven Corporation," continued Maxwell, turning his attention subtly, but intentionally, towards Octavia and Lucius, "you'll have to understand that our mission is sensitive and the details are classified. I can tell you that we are under contract to retrieve some misplaced property for them due to the potentially hostile environment."

"Understandable, but likewise you must understand our reluctance to assist you, for all we know you..." began the Baroness before getting rudely interrupted by Johnny again.

"How do we know you fuckers aren't going to shoot us in the back the second we turn around? Or maybe after you get whatever items you're searching for?"

"And how do we know you won't do the same?" I piped up, pointing at Johnny with my prosthetic arm and catching movement out of the corner of my eye, most likely Bishop moving up in response to the thinly veiled threat, "Point is, we don't, and you don't, but there's a thing called professional courtesy. Ever hear of it?"

"As the Lieutenant is saying," stepped in Captain Maxwell, "we don't know each other but as your partner already confirmed ..."

"We aren't fucking partners," growled Johnny.

"Poor choice of words," continued Charles, a slight twitch barely noticeable above his one eye, "as your associate already confirmed, we are a sanctioned MRBC mercenary unit and we are working on good faith that you and your crew are also a respectable unit and will continue to do so until you give us reason to believe otherwise. As such, I can assure you we will not be the ones to start anything if, and that's a big IF, there's an altercation between us. I give you my word."

"But we will finish it," growled Bishop in a low voice beside me, I couldn't tell if it was loud enough for the other group to hear or not but I couldn't help but grin just a little.

Lucius turned to his two companions, intentionally not facing away from us completely and not lowering his voice beyond where we could easily hear him, "We have no reason to distrust them currently, and clearly there is no need to provoke them unnecessarily. I believe we should consider our options, perhaps if we help them they will in turn help us. After all we do still have our own mission to complete and appropriate assistance, I believe, would be welcome."

"I would agree, it seems we both have something to gain from our mutual cooperation," said Octavia in an equally non-private voice.

"Of course you do, you just LOVE cooperation," replied Johnny snarkily as he rolled his eyes before turning back toward Captain Maxwell, "So, let's say we play ball, what's in it for me? Why should I go along with your little game?"

"I'm sure we can work something out, despite our differences, but first I'd need to know what you potentially want help with. Anything you can tell me about your mission?" answered Maxwell, the conversation finally starting to stay more civil with most of the posturing out of the way.

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I gagged at the smell, even with my helmet still on. This mech had a stereo system, which was blasting fast music with drums, electronic noises and screaming. There was blood splattered on the windshield, and on the floor, and I really hoped it wasn’t human but it probably was. The walls had intimidating-looking lettering on them in a language I couldn’t read. It was like this mech was owned by a cultist or something.

 

Most of the floor was coated in brown ooze, which pooled at the far end of the cockpit by the window where the mech’s crouched position sloped the floor down. The place smelled like spoiled milk, sewage and death all at the same time, and all of it was baking in the sun like a bag of dogshit in a hot car. I kept my helmet on and tried not to hurl.

 

Once my eyes adjusted to the light, I took a few steps further in and looked around. The status display showed some damage, but nothing that I couldn’t fix if I got it back to the shop. Even with some battle damage, this thing was an upgrade from the flea. I’d have to invest in some bleach, though. A lot of bleach.

 

I saw some broken machinery sticking out of the wall, but I was pretty sure it wasn’t critical - it looked like a drink machine, of all things. Guess that explained where the nasty milk smell came from.

 

I walked over to check that it really was just a drink machine, and then I saw a guy, hiding behind the pilot’s seat. I froze. It was just the top of the guy’s head, really, the rest of him was on the far side of the chair, and he must have been lying down on the floor, for some reason? And he wasn’t trying to shoot me or chase me away or anything, just lying there, like he’d fell asleep.

 

Very carefully, I turned on my infrared display and leaned to the side so I could see a bit more of him. He showed up as warm, but compared to my own hand, not anywhere near as warm as he should have been.

 

I turned the display off and walked around to the other side of the pilot’s chair for a closer look. The guy was dead, and his guts were falling out of a big cut in his stomach. There was another dead body on top of him, that wasn’t quite so obviously wounded but had a bunch of blood soaking through his pants. So now I had a new reason to be terrified and a new reason to need to hurl.

 

I should probably have moved the bodies, but that would require touching them, so I took the nasty towel that was hung over the back of the pilot’s seat and threw that on top of them instead. Then instead of seeing two dead guys it just looked like a gross towel rapidly becoming drenched in blood, with two dead guys’ legs and an arm poking out from under it which was a little better but not very much better. I decided to just avoid looking at them or thinking about them as much as I could ‘til I’d gotten the mech somewhere safe. I really, really didn’t want to become the third dead guy in this mech.

 

I gave every part of the cockpit that I could see without looking at the dead guys a once-over, trying really hard to think of the mech as just a machine, and not a space that I was currently in and also might die in. All the really important stuff seemed to be in working order.

 

I sat in the pilot’s seat, and didn’t look at what was on the floor next to me. The controls were different from the flea, but I was pretty sure I could make the mech walk back to the workshop at least. The battlefield display showed that the scout mech keeping watch was still facing in the other direction. I held my breath, took the Thermo Man helmet off, and quickly tied my jacket over my face so I wouldn’t have to breathe the nasty air. I kept the Thermo Man helmet in my lap since it didn’t look like there was anywhere clean in here to put it. Then I put the neuro helmet on and started up the mech.

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Meanwhile...

"I'm sure we can work something out, despite our differences, but first I'd need to know what you potentially want help with. Anything you can tell me about your mission?" I answered, the conversation finally starting to stay more civil with most of the posturing out of the way.

Johnny initially balked at my question, clearly unaccustomed to running into another mercenary unit and being solicited for mutual aid. It was, to be fair, probably a social misstep on my behalf. The madness into which the Aurigan Reach had descended during its civil war had forced anyone that wasn't fighting on the side of House Espinosa to band together. That included mercenaries - if you ran into another unit during your maneuvers, the encounter was usually of mutual benefit - unless the other unit happened to be shooting at you. Commanders tended to watch each others' backs, as you never knew when your fortunes would take a turn and you'd find yourself in need. The bigger a roster of potential allies you could build, the better. It was about survival first, and then getting paid.

But here, in the Inner Sphere, I'd begun to realize that the opposite was true. War was a true business sector in the Inner Sphere - commoditized and competitive. The local mercenary commands tended to be very territorial when it came to their contracts and employers. While I'd heard about this atmosphere, I'd not experienced it firsthand. Since we'd been back from the Outworlds, we'd had the good fortune of being handed exclusive jobs from the Lyrans and the enigmatic Crayven Corporation in operational theaters where we were the only hired guns around. Until today.

"First off, Captain Maxwell, I want to tell you that this is highly irregular. As far as I can tell, we're not business associates of any kind. With that being said, I'm curious to know exactly what has you poking around our OpFor, so I'll bite. We're here to deal with a piracy issue in Black Canyon," Johnny replied.

"A piracy issue? That strikes me as a bit of a contradiction in terms as it relates to the Oberon Confederation," I replied. "I thought that King Grimm generally turned a blind eye toward that sort of activity."

"He does," Octavia interjected, "until the piracy starts turning its eye toward his convoys and settlements. Then, it's an entirely different situation."

"I see," I nodded.

"Octavia's correct," Johnny continued. "Our assignment is to find the Nickel's Boys stronghold and take it out. We've been out here for a couple days trying to sniff it out. That's why we're up here - to see if the locals can tell us anything. Or this asshole."

Octavia gave the captured pirate a jab, eliciting a grunt from the pinned man.

"That freight train that brought your gear in," the Baroness explained, "was going to be the Nickel's Boys' next target. Fortunately for you, they spring our trap on the way in. Took a couple of their 'Mechs out wholesale. Did enough damage to them that they pulled back. On their retreat, the unlucky bastards ran into an Irian lance coming up the canyon. No idea why those goons were there, and frankly, we're a little concerned about it. It adds some...overhead...to our assignment."

"I suppose thanks is in order for preventing the untimely demise of our equipment," I answered. "We would've been in a pretty unfavorable situation when we encountered what was left of that lance on our way in. They looked pretty torn up. I'm assuming that you - or Irian - must be packing some decent firepower."

"We're here with all of three BattleMechs," Octavia replied.

"Three?" I asked, raising an eyebrow. "That's a rather...svelte number to be taking on the stronghold of arguably the most notorious pirate commands in this end of the galaxy."

"This nest isn't their main FBO. It's just an encampment they've set up on Oberon VII. Nobody knows where they're actually based. We suspect Star's End. But that's outside the parameters of our contract," Johnny interjected.

"Still - if the survivors that we encountered were any indication of what they're fielding here - you must've brought some heavy artillery," Orlex added.

"We have a Quickdraw, Grasshopper, and a Raven," the Baroness deadpanned.

"And?" Orlex asked.

"That's it. What are you fielding?"

A stupefied silence hung in the air as I processed the information that Octavia had just shared. The mercenaries of Scorched Earth were either elite 'Mech jocks, or they were suicidal.

"Well," I began, slowly, "we have a Swiss-cheesed Atlas, a Merlin, Dragon, a Phoenix Hawk LAM, and, as coincidence would have it, a Raven. We've also got a Swiftwind and a M.A.S.H. unit. Back at the spaceport, we have a pair of Mark VII landing craft that we can use as weapons of last resort."

Octavia cast a look at Johnny. "We could use that additional firepower."

"We still don't know why they're here! In my mind, that kind of gear raises more questions than answers," Johnny objected. "Why are you here, Captain Maxwell?"

I glanced at Bishop. With a quiet resignation, the Lieutenant nodded.

"Alright, I'm going to level with you. We're here as a subcontractor for Interstellar Expeditions," I explained. "I can't get into the details of who our direct employer is, but trust me when I say that they're on the level. No cloak-and-dagger bullshit. We've been tasked with retrieving a...collectible...from Black Canyon and conveying it back to the client. Unfortunately, it appears that someone got to our objective before we did, and by the sounds of it, Irian played a part."

"Go on," Johnny prompted.

"That they sent a full lance - augmented with at least one aerospace asset - and made a point to collapse the cave where it was supposed to be makes me think we're dealing with something more than your average artifact. It also means that, without the objective in hand, without any leads as to where it went, and without the firepower to go up against Irian if we do manage to find it, we're hosed," I added. "And I really need a goddamn cigar right now, too."

"Here," said the fellow named 'Luke,' who had remained quiet up to this point. A plastic-packaged Yak 42 sailed through the air. I grabbed it mid-flight, unwrapped it, and flicked its ignition patch.

"You're my hero," I replied, gratefully. Taking a drag on the stogie, I inhaled its aromatic bouquet. It was cheap and acrid, but it smoked. I closed my eyes for a moment and let the stress bleed away.

"So what exactly are you proposing, Captain Maxwell? And for that matter, you as well, Octavia?" Johnny asked.

"Well," I answered, "if we're being honest, it seems to me that we're both at a tactical disadvantage as concerns our respective contracts. The odds of taking out a Nickel's Boys stronghold are a lot better with eight BattleMechs than three, and perhaps in return, you could help us get that artifact back. Everybody wins."

"That's going to put some additional costs on the operational bill," Johnny muttered. Octavia glared at him.

"Stop being obtuse and think about it for a second, Johnny," the Baroness retorted. "It's either that or attrition that we really don't need."

"She's got a point," I offered. "Dealing with these issues separately, we all stand to lose more than we gain. What do you say?"

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If they were being honest,  we were fairly even in forces.  With Trevor and Raelyn in reserve, our three mechs were five if needed. Johnny could make the call on whether to reveal them. 

"I'm inclined to agree." Retracting my blade,  I hefted the half dead pirate to his feet. Perhaps he'd be useful for however long he had left - Johnny did tend to get snarky when Luke or I committed war crimes. "This one should be good for a little questioning."

 

We needed to keep our rating up more than we needed funds. With Comstar fuckery they could slowly tank our rating if we didn't keep up.

 

Johnny grumbled,  but finally nodded and extended a bloodied hand to Maxwell. "We'll help.  For now."

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MEANWHILE....... 

I Stared at the Dishonorable Pirate the OCTAVIA BARONESS had kebabed on the ground, her and CPT Maxwell and Johnny I think his name was had just got done talking a bunch of Tactical Things, then they looked at the Pirate. 

"ARE YOU READY TO TALK???" Intoned Cpt Maxwell in a voice like a Lion. "NOOOOO" Said the pirate back at him sounding like a Wolverine "You will never learn my secrets or where my treasure is buried" 

"Your treasure???" Demanded Octavia 

"What treasure??" 

"What what is this treasure??" Bishop Roared, then they stood the pirate up

"Yeah I buried my Wallet when I was about to get caught on account of I was scared you would Abduct me and do Identity theft, but I'm never Gonna tell you where it is, my ComBuster card is in there and I get unlimited PorNoMax for 19.99 XBills a month." 

"WHAT THE HELL IS AN XBILL??" I Exploded, I didn't have time to screw around with the Pirates games. "Stop lying!!!" 

"I'm not, here's an XBill" said the pirate getting a real x bill out of the back pocket of his chaps and handing it to Me, I looked at it with Suspicion "Oh shit its real, ok, never mind that. I have to Interrogate you!" 

CPT Maxwell looked at me, "Who said you could interrogate The Prisoner??" he asked. "WELL" I Said, then I pulled out the Nueral Interrogator "I have THIS" Remember Operation BLACK ECLIPSE?? I asked, then I showed the neural interrogator to CPT Maxwell

"WHAT THE HELL, HOW DID YOU GET THAT OUT OF THE BLACK VAULT??" He asked. "Jingles got it for Me!!" I Said. CPT Maxwell looked at me "I don't know what that means Steve Jenkins but go On" 

" I was a Professional Interrogator during my time on Archimedes" I said " I know how to use this thing and get Results" 

"Are we talking the kind of Results where somebody gives you useful answers or the kind of results where they wind up having diarrhea of the brain down their leg?" Captain Maxwell demanded. "WE HAVE TO KNOW WHERE THE NICKELS BOYS BASE IS!!!!!" 

"YES" I Said, then I adjusted my Bushido Blade to prove my point. "So do I get a CHANCE??" 

"STEVE, THAT thing is illegal on most worlds" ORLEX said. 'Yeah but is it illegal ON THIS WORLD??"I Shot 

" He has a point Capt Maxwell "said Bishop." We can trie it or I can interrogate him By Ripping his Teeth out one at a Time, which do You think? "

I Stood there with excitement and I waited for the GO CODE 

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PART DEUX.... 

"Well I DON'T want to get Fines and low credit scores for doing Atrocities like ripping out teeth, go ahead and do what you need to do Steve, just don't melt his brain." Said CPT Maxwell, then he and the Scorched Earth people walked off with Bishop and Orlex to talk business. "OK pirate, you are going to answer some questions, here is a band aid for your impalement." Then I got out a band aid and handed it to him, he put it on the cut and Glared at me with death eyes. 

"So I have to put this computer on your brain." I said as I got out the stick that was the Neural Interrogation computer. I turned it on and it made all kinds of flashing lights. Then a spinning wheel with all kinds of Swirls painted on it came out and started spinning at the pirate. "You have to look at it or it won't work." 

"WHAT IF I DON'T LOOK AT IT??" Asked the Pirate. 

"THEN that huge guy over there is going to fit you for some dentures!!" I Yelled. The pirate roared in a animal way and then started at the Nureal Interrogation Computer, a minute later he started to go cross-eyed and I hooked up some Electrodes all over his head. Then Nick Schuster walked over to ask what I was doing. 

"What are you doing?" Asked Nick. "I'm gathering Intelligence" I intoned and I kept working. "I'm going to find out where the Pirate Base is." 

"You know you have to put a helmet on him too right? It doesn't work with just the Electrodes" said Nick. OH SHIT I said, I didn't bring the helmet, maybe I can use my Mech Warrior helmet instead. So I plugged all the Wires and Electrodes into my Mech Warrior helmet, then I put it on the Pirates head. 

"Why did you put the helmet on backwards Steve??" Asked Nick. "Because I don't want him to look at me or know where to run if he tries to ESCAPE." I said, then I ramped up the Nural Interrogation system to 11. The pirate started twitching and making Yells as the Nerual Interrogation Computer did its mind things. "Are you ready to talk yet???" I Asked. The pirate made a bunch of random mouth noises at me. "Niock I don't know if this thing is working right" I said. "I don't know either Steve, I never used one, just hit all the buttons and it will Probably eventually do something useful." Said Nick. So I started pushing all the buttons on the Interrogation Computer until it was light up like an ancient holiday thing I had heard of one time called a "Christmas Tree." All of the sudden the pirate made a HUGE barfing noise inside my Helmet and a bunch of Barf and other Things splattered down from the inside of the Helmet, it looked like spaghetti and bean and bacon mixed with Beer and Froot Loops. 

"OH COME ON WHY DID YOU BARF MY HELMET???" I Yelled, "That wasn't Supposed to happen!!" 

But the Pirate wasn't listening, instead he said: "I AM GARY AS YOU ARE GARY AS WE ARE ALL GARY TOGETHER GOO GOO GA JOOB!!!" "What??" I asked "That doesn't make any sense, now tell me where the Nickel's Boys fort is!" 

The Pirate twitched and sundered some more and then said "WHEN THE MOON IS IN THE 7TH HOUSE AND JUPITER ALIGNS WITH MARS I AM Going TO KILL YOU" I looked over at Nick. "I think something isnt working right, he made more sense before I put the Nureal Interrogation Computer on him." 

"What does WARN OLOAD BP TOO HIGH mean??" Asked Nick. "Well how the hell should I know, I never heard those words before!!" I Said. "No really look it says it on the screen thingy" Said Nick. I looked at the Neural Interrogation Computer and it had an art of someone with lightning bolts coming out of their Mind flashing on screen with the words WARN OLOAD BP TOO HIGH in flashing letters. Then all of a sudden the pirate did a Power Puke in my helmet again. "Maybe we should turn this Thing off" Said Nick. 

"No wait Steve Jenkins, I've got this" Said a new voice. I looked up and it was Jingles the Clown standing behind the Pirate!! 

"AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH WHAT DO YOU WANT???" I Screamed, then Nick looked at me and said "Stop being weird" but it was hard to hear on account of my screaming. 

"Hold on I just gotta Do one thing" Said Jingles, then he got out a safety pin and popped his red Ballon with it. All of the sudden I heard a HUGE splat like a watermelon exploding and a bunch of Blood sprayed out of the inside of my Helmet which was still on the Pirate. 

"NOW YOU'RE BARFING BLOOD?? OK THIS ISN'T WORKING!!" I Said, then I turned off the Nureal Interrogation Computer. "Here Jingles hold this" I started to hand the Computer to Jingles but he was gone. "Who the hell is Jingles??" Asked Nick. "NEVER MIND THAT!!!" I Said, then I went to take the helmet off the Pirate, "WE'RE JUST GOING TO ASK QUESTIONS THE OLD FASHIONED WAY" Then I grabbed the helmet and RIPPED it off the pirate's head, a bunch of Gore poured out of it and got all over me!! "What the HELL??" I asked, then I realized that the pirate had no more head and it was all over my Shirt and Shoes and all up inside my helmet and worst of all we still didn't know where the Enemy Base was!! "AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!" I Screamed in Terror and Sobbing on account of mourning the Pirate's passing, I started running, stumbling backwards and then I barfed violently into the grass, as the Stray Dog ran over to eat the chunks of my puke I fell over and........ Blacked........ Out.......... 

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