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The Universe, 3031

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Continued from The Universe - 3030...


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.

In 3031, the Capellan Confederation entered a state of war with the Magistracy of Canopus. The Tikonov Free Republic disbanded as a nation, and the Wolf's Dragoons Black Widow Battalion became fully operational and available for hire. Thomas Marik left ComStar to assume the post of Captain-General of the Free Worlds League after Janos Marik suffered a stroke. For a timeline of key events, refer to Sarna.net | 3031.

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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Site 187
Outskirts of Gellen's Heights, Sheratan V
Sheratan System - Tikonov Free Republic
January 13, 3031 (Thursday)

The comm unit on my desk chirped loudly and I looked down at it blankly for half a second, I had been concentrating on running through the latest reports for Aegis Division's day to day operations so much that my mind took a moment to refocus and realize that I needed to answer the intruding device.

Reaching down I activated the comm just as the second set of chirps started, "Jaeger here."

"Sir," replied Specialist Fredricks, she had rotated back onto comms duty this week, "I have a priority message from the planetary government for Aegis Division."

"Alright, shouldn't this be going to Captain Maxwell though? I know we're making him take it easy coming back to work from his extended honeymoon but it's been almost a week now," I answered, half joking about the Maxwell part. We were indeed trying to force the Captain to ease back into running everything to do with Aegis Division after his honeymoon/month off following Alyssa and his wedding, as much as we could that is; It was a minor miracle we convinced the man to extend his leave by a week, though I suspected that was more out of a sense of duty as opposed to any desire to bury himself in work or get away from his newlywed wife.

"I thought as much too Commander but they asked for you by name, very specifically," answered Fredricks with a shrug I could hear in her voice.

"Ok, send it through, I'll take it in my office here," I resigned, more curious than anything at this point. It was still strange saying anything related to 'my office' though, about 3 weeks back Levi and Nick and finished renovating and wiring up one of the many empty spaces located within Site 187, which is a still ongoing project, and they turned this particular corner of the admin section into what was now my own personal office. The space was wired into the Site 187 mainframe and even had fiber optic connections that allowed our minor HPG terminal, which was little more than a direct, metered, connection to Sheratan's ComStar administered HPG station in Gellen's Heights, to route calls directly to the computer here and its pair of tri-vid, or holographic, monitors. The office was still pretty plain, though it did have a large, cherry coloured, wooden desk made from an abundant local species of hardwood that was similar to Terran oak trees, and a surprisingly comfortable faux leather office chair with a set of equally comfy 'casual' chairs for any visitors, the door even had my name on it; It was written in Sharpie on a recycled piece of ferro-aluminum but it was in a proper name card holder type of thing.

"Yes sir," replied Fredricks and I could hear the faint typing of keys in the background before she hung up.

A moment later the ComStar logo appeared, slowly spinning, on the one monitor as the call was rerouted, maybe two seconds later the logo was replaced with the face of someone in a stiff high-end business suit with a garishly orange tie who was staring blankly at their screen as everything was transferred and my own image would have appeared on their end. The Aegis Division dress uniform, with my commander pips clearly visible on the collar, stood in stark contrast to the nearly overbearing presence the government official was putting off.

"Commander?" the man inquired, his voice crisp and his words spoken as a greeting, an expectation, and a question all in one somehow.

"Sir," I answered with a curt nod, "I am Commander Jaeger of Aegis Division, to whom do I have the pleasure of speaking?"

"I am Tribune Luke Montgomery Commander," replied the official, almost appearing offended that I didn't know him by sight.

The man paused for just a moment then continued in a now annoyed sounding voice, "Your, ... secretary tried directing me to someone else but I'm glad to see they weren't as incompetent as I had feared."

Oh this was going to be fun ..., I thought before replying, "Apologies Tribune, but she's not a secretary, Specialist Fredricks is a highly trained communications and sensor operator with skills far exceeding her chosen area of expertise. As for who she was trying direct you to, that would be Captain Maxwell, the man in..."

"Tsk, tsk," interrupted Montgomery, I could see I was going to get along splendidly with this guy, "I'm not looking for excuses Commander. You are Commander Orlex Jaeger, yes? The one who ran a recent operation for us regarding an undisclosed agricultural issue, one that resulted in a favourable outcome for all parties concerned, are you not?"

"Yes I am," I said shortly.

"Good, good, then I am indeed talking to the right man," continued this self-absorbed Luke fellow, as though he barely even registered my response, "Look, you don't strike me as a man for small talk so I'll cut right to the chase. There are some unresolved elements regarding that prior issue that require taking care of, issues that require a great deal of collaboration and no small amount of muscle. We want to put on a good face, make a strong impression with the parties involved, a show of force if you will. I mean, we can do that without help of course but it tends to lend a different level of impact when said impression involves contractual members on top of the standard deployments, you follow? Good, now we can work out the finer details later but ..."

Now it was my turn to interrupt him, and I can't lie, it felt kinda nice to do so, even given our short discourse so far, "No, I do not follow Tribune. There seems to be a point somewhere in there, and maybe I'm just a dumb mercenary, but I don't see it. What, specifically, is this call about? And for that matter, if this is involving our last contract with the Office of the Prefect why isn't Tribune José Guevara contacting us?"

Luke furrowed his brow for a moment, as though confused as to why I wasn't following along with his severely broken train of thought, before shaking his head and sighing, "Tribune Guevara is currently indisposed planning and dispensing required actions from your previous mission. The summit is part of that and he isn't available for dealing with something on this level apparently. As for what the call is about, I thought that was clear. The Office of the Prefect requires Aegis Division to be present at the summit as an Honour Guard."

"Alright, at least we're getting somewhere now," I said before I could help myself, "What summit are we referring to? And what type of Honour Guard are you demanding of us? You do recall that we are a freelance mercenary group right, we aren't on contract to the Sheratan government or even the Tikonov Free Republic at the moment."

"Commander, please, try to keep up," the Tribune's crisp, clipped, voice sighing with feigned resignation, "The political summit that Sheratan is holding at the end of the month, what other summit is there? A standard Honour Guard, Aegis Division is meant to be there in full strength as both a show of strength and as recognition for your assistance in that agricultural mess. And yes, of course you are mercenaries, how could I possibly forget that fact, that is why we want you to be present as the Honour Guard, it's all in the contract."

"Tribune, let's pretend that I don't hear all the gossip and rumours and details that you have access to at your office and that I don't keep abreast of the political comings and goings that don't deal directly with mercenary units within the Tikonov Free Republic. Also, I have seen no contract at this time and I'm not even aware of any contract having been offered to Aegis within the last month, please explain, from the very start, what it is that you are calling me about," I asked, hoping to unravel whatever it was that this scatterbrained official was trying to get across.

"No contract? What do you mean? I sent that last week," scoffed Tribune Montgomery as he turned to look at another screen or terminal, his eyes searching frantically before momentary triumph was drowned but sudden melancholy realization, "Ah, I see, it would appear that my, ... assistants, failed to follow through on my orders. I shall have to rectify that shortly. In the meantime, after your successful remedying of that unfortunate field issue last year it was determined, at length, that a greater cooperation amongst the worlds of the Tikonov Free Republic would be required in order to prevent future instances of such terrorism to take root. Towards that effort the Office of the Prefect has called for a political summit involving dignitaries and representatives from nearly every world in the Republic to both share our findings and to discuss future efforts to prevent such events from occurring again. Despite our planet's comparatively low strategic value, in the grand scheme of things, most parties invited have responded favourably and many are enroute now or will be shortly. Aegis Division, is being requested to act as an Honour Guard for the summit, both as a show of force for the visiting dignitaries and as a recognition and thank you for your previous services on this specific issue. It is a standard 1 month Security Duty contract with a bonus, but the specifics can be worked out later. The Office would request that your Honour Guard be present in BattleMechs only but fully armed, for the best possible impression, however full security will be provided by the planetary militia, again those details are in the contract that will soon be headed your way."

"Ok, well that clears things up, thank you Tribune," I responded after taking everything in, glad to finally have a clearer picture, "There's just one problem sir, why were you so insistent on contacting me? Don't get me wrong I can definitely pass on the information, now that we have it, but the decision as to whether or not we take this contract and act as your Honour Guard lies solely with the Captain, I'm only Aegis Division's XO, I've got pull but I can't go over the CO's head, not that I would anyways."

"Wait, what? But, but, you're Commander Jaeger, the Commander of Aegis Division," muttered Luke, seemingly flabbergasted by this revelation, "You were in charge of the Hollingsworth OP."

"Yes I am Commander Jaeger, but I am not the commander, so to speak. That would be Captain Maxwell, as both myself and Specialist Fredricks tried to point out to you. I was in charge of that OP, that is correct, but only because our CO was otherwise occupied at the time and even then I still consulted with him on everything that mattered. Again, I appreciate that you've clarified things, and look forwarding to reviewing the potential contract but you'll still need to discuss the matter with Captain Maxwell before any decision on Aegis Division's behalf will be made," I tried my best not to let a smirk slip through onto my face, and I think I managed, mostly, but inside I was rather enjoying the sudden turn of events that left this posh and pompous official looking the fool.

"Of course, m-my mistake," stammered the Tribune, I got the feeling that those two words were the hardest he ever had to say in recent history, "I will send Aegis Division the proposed contract and will contact Captain Maxwell in a day or so once he's had time to review the material. Thank you Commander, and goodbye."

Rather abruptly the Tribune cut the feed and I immediately burst out with a deep belly laugh once the screen went dark, that had turned out to be rather more entertaining in the end than I had ever anticipated and I looked forward to filling in Charles with all the details. On a serious note though the potential of a new contract with the local government was quite promising, the last one, despite its hiccups, had been quite profitable for us and while we weren't back in dire financial circumstances, despite not having a contract for a couple of months now, it was always better for a mercenary unit to have work lined up. The loan repayments from the purchase of the pair of LC-150 Staryacht small crafts last year were aggressive, but manageable, and it would be nice get enough c-bills in the bank to fully cover the entire principal of that loan, even though we still had another 9 or so months to repay it. Also the Tachi's repairs had turned out to be slightly more expensive than originally planned due to its unscheduled return to gravity back in November, with the remaining repairs now being conducted at Site 187 instead of sending the vessel back up to Hollingsworth Station; But according to Levi and Alyssa's number crunching it was still cheaper to do those repairs on site than sending the vessel back up to the station at this point. A temporary pad had been built on the west side of the facility, technically just outside Site 187's fence line, and the Trojan-class dropship had been moved there to facilitate repairs while still allowing the Tana, or any other suitable vessel for that matter, access to the base's main pad and underground storage facilities.

Still chuckling to myself at the befuddled look on the Tribune's face as he cut the link I pushed back from my desk and stood up stretching, swiping my personal comm unit from the desk I deposited it into my pocket, secured my terminal and made my way out of the office to go in search of Captain Maxwell and share that rather amusing exchange I had just been a part of.

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Site 187
Outskirts of Gellen's Heights, Sheratan V
Sheratan System - Tikonov Free Republic
January 13, 3031

A solid knock at my office door jolted me from my thoughts as I pored over the mountains of mundane reports that had accumulated on my desk during the month of my honeymoon. I took a deep breath, stood up, and smoothed the wrinkles out of my uniform before calling out, "Come in."

The door creaked open, revealing Commander Orlex Jaeger.

"You busy, Captain?"

I flashed a quick grin at Orlex, pushing aside the pile of data slates on my desk. "Never too busy for you, Orlex. What brings you by?"

The commander stepped further into the room, chuckling.

"I have to admit, it's weird not to be sharing the same office anymore. I feel pretty spoiled by Nick and Levi setting up a separate workspace 

for me," Orlex began, closing the door behind himself and settling into one of the two chairs set before my desk,

"Yeah, it's definitely a change of pace. But it's good for you to have a place where you can prevent your focus from being interrupted by my incessant typing," I smiled in agreement, gesturing at the enormous pile of reports that had accumulated on my desk.

"So, what's going on? I doubt it's just to reminisce about old office habits," I prompted, leaning back in my chair.

"Well, I just got a call from the Sheratan government. And before you ask - no, they weren't doing an end run around you. They just had a mistaken impression of our command structure, and the Tribune assigned to the call apparently hadn't done his due diligence."

"Sounds about par for the course for this regime," I laughed. "Go on."

"They were impressed with our last foray and are offering us a new contract," Jaeger continued, handing me a data slate. "It's pretty straightforward. Honor guard duty down the road in Gellen's Heights while they're dealing with a diplomatic summit. They need extra security to make sure everything runs smoothly."

I nodded, scrolling through the details on the slate. "Looks like easy money."

Orlex nodded in agreement. "I get the impression that they're not anticipating any complications at all. There's a line item about us wearing our dress uniforms in our BattleMechs, for crying out loud."

I chuckled at the thought. "A symbolic security gesture? Seems too good to be true. Who are the participants in this conference?"

Orlex leaned forward, his expression turning serious. "The main players are the Tikonov Free Republic, the Capellan Confederation, and the Federated Commonwealth, with representation from a few other houses. To be honest, I perceive it to be a kind of delicate situation, but Tribune Montgomery seemed to think otherwise."

I stared at the notes before me, turning over the particulars in my mind. A diplomatic summit, however friendly, could easily turn into a powder keg waiting to explode - or worse, a target for outsiders looking to cause chaos.

"Well, I'm certainly not going to turn down the opportunity for an easy contract to get back in the saddle," I began, reflecting on the last month of downtime that everyone, including myself, had enjoyed, "but I think we should treat this gig as a serious security operation. I've been less than impressed with the competence of the Tikonov government so far, and I wouldn't be surprised if there were some hidden risks involved."

"Agreed," the commander replied, looking relieved that I shared his concerns. "I've already begun thinking about a security plan that assumes the worst-case scenario."

I smiled, impressed by Orlex's foresight. "Good. What's this Tribune's contact information? I'll give him a call and ask him to send us an official contract."

Jaeger leaned forward and pulled up Tribune Montgomery's details on the slate I'd been viewing. 

"He says he'll be contacting you as well," the commander clarified, "but I'm sure us calling back first won't hurt."

I nodded in agreement.

"Did he mention a date?"

Orlex shook his head. "No, just that it's at the end of the month, and that it's going to be held at the capitol complex in the middle of the Central District. It's a huge venue, so they must be pretty confident about how uneventful they think the whole affair will be.

I sighed, knowing that overconfidence could be deadly in any situation. "Well, let's hope we can meet their expectations and simply be set dressing for the event. But let's be prepared for anything. Once we've got the contract in hand, plan to have whatever assets we earmark for this shindig tagged for an urban warfare refit."

Jaeger's eyes widened slightly.

"That makes sense, of course, but are you thinking we might actually see some action at this event, sir?" he asked incredulously.

I shrugged. "I'm just saying, we can't rule out any possibilities. And if something were to happen, we need to be ready for it."

The commander nodded slowly in agreement, the gears in his head turning. "Understood, sir. I'll start prepping for a potential urban combat scenario."

I nodded appreciatively.

"On another note, I hadn't had the chance to ask you - how was your honeymoon?"

With a smile, I leaned back in my chair and let out a chuckle. "It was incredible. Alyssa and I went to a resort in Aiurton. The water was crystal clear, and the sand was so white it practically glowed. We spent most of our time relaxing on the beach, but we also went scuba diving and parasailing. And the food...let's just say we both needed a bit of a detox afterward."

Orlex grinned. "Sounds like paradise."

"It was," I agreed. "But it's good to be back in action, too. It's what we do best, after all. What are they proposing to call this contact, anyway?"

Jaeger let out a reserved sigh.

"Operation: Stormgate," he replied. "A name less confident than the image they're hoping to project."

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Site 187 - 'Mech Bay
Outskirts of Gellen's Heights, Sheratan V
Sheratan System - Tikonov Free Republic
January 14, 3031 (Friday)
A muffled chirping echoed through the confines of my Catapult's cockpit as I lay on the floor, inverted, my head beneath its command console and legs splayed on the pilot's chair, electronics dangling above me. I groaned with annoyance, recognizing the sound of an incoming call, and grunted as I struggled to pull myself up, my joints creaking in protest. In the month that I'd been off on my honeymoon with Alyssa, Tyche had sat in storage, unused, but somehow, the ancient war machine still managed to develop technical difficulties that had plagued everyone but me. It was as if the Catapult had been stubbornly waiting for my return.
With a final, defiant heave, I managed to upright my body and deposit myself into the pilot's couch. Punching the comm button, I glanced at the video screen on Tyche's console, where a stuffy-looking representative of the planetary government, whose name read "Tribune Luke Montgomery," appeared. He cleared his throat and raised an eyebrow before speaking.
"Captain Maxwell, I presume?"
"You've got him," I replied with a sigh, trying to mask my annoyance at the interruption. "What can I do for you?"
The Tribune paused for a long moment, his eyes flicking from side to side. "Have I gotten you at an...inopportune moment?"
I shook my head. "No, no. It's fine. Why do you ask?"
The Tribune cleared his throat again before speaking, "It's just - you're not wearing a shirt."
I grimaced as I looked down at my bare chest. I'd forgotten that I'd pulled it off in the heat of the cockpit and felt a momentary wave of embarrassment.
"Neither am I! It's hot! We're fixing shit! What's your point?" Alyssa suddenly interjected, popping into view behind me, staring at Montgomery with a challenging look in her eyes, her torso in full view of the camera. I instinctively looked toward her with an incredulous expression on my face that was half surprise, half amusement. Simultaneously,  Montgomery's face reddened, almost matching his hair color.
"What sort of operation is this?"
"One that would be operating a lot more smoothly if you'd cut to the chase, Tribune," I interrupted, leaning toward the video screen, not wanting to waste any more time on his pointless commentary.
Tribune Montgomery cleared his throat once more, seeming to regain his composure. "Right. Well, Captain Maxwell, I wanted to find out if you'd had the opportunity to review the contract proposal I sent you last night."
I nodded, reaching for the tablet on the console next to me. "I did. And there are a few points that I'd like to discuss before we move forward with anything."
"Of course," the Tribune answered, relief evident in his tone. "What are your concerns?"
"Well, for one thing, if you don't like 'Mech jocks overheating and showing their scandalous bits, we probably want to eliminate the line item about wearing dress uniforms in the cockpit," I answered with a smirk. "I'm assuming that was simply an oversight and not borne out of any lack of practical experience with the rigors of combat."
Alyssa chuckled from behind me, and I could feel the cool touch of her hands gently grasping my shoulders, offering silent support. The Tribune's face reddened again, but he managed to keep his voice steady.
"Ah, yes. That was an oversight. We can certainly remove that clause."
"Good. And I'd like to see some more detail about the entities that you propose to place in charge of us, seeing as how we appear to be at the bottom of the pecking order on this job. Even if we're basically going to be there as...set dressing," I remarked, tossing the tablet onto the console and leaning back in my chair. Tribune Montgomery raised an eyebrow.
"I don't see any real objectives listed here other than 'look fancy,' and 'make sure that people don't get killed, even though there's no risk of that happening anyway,'" I clarified.
The Tribune's expression darkened slightly. "It's honor guard duty, Captain, not rocket surgery. I'd have thought you'd enjoy an easy billet after your previous mission."
"Don't get me wrong, Tribune, I can appreciate the value of a little downtime," I replied, "but I feel like you're holding something back. If this were actual honor guard duty, you wouldn't have spent so much time on the mandates that we refit our BattleMechs for urban combat and had your lawyers craft such explicit terms around what shouldn't get wrecked in the event of an attack. So, level with me. What are you afraid is going to go down?"
Montgomery looked at me for a long moment, debating what to say. As he did so, Alyssa's grip on my shoulders tightened ever so slightly, a sign that she was just as interested as I was in hearing the answer.
Finally, the Tribune let out a deep sigh and leaned back in his chair, his expression grim. "Off the record, Captain, there have been some rumors circulating about possible opportunistic strikes by the Capellans. You of all people should know about the terrorist cells that have been cropping up in the wake of Pavel Ridzik's assassination, and, what with the Liao plot you put down last year, well, we thought it best to err on the side of caution."
I nodded thoughtfully, processing the information.
"Alright. Get me payment, support, and salvage terms, along with specific details about who's reinforcing us and where they're going to be while we play honor guard. I want to be sure we have everything we need to not screw things up. Give me a couple of days to run it all by my first officer and our legal counsel."
"Of course," Tribune Montgomery acknowledged.
"And, by the way, if you really want us to refit a lance of 'Mechs for urban combat, you're looking at a week of support costs, minimum," I added. "Possibly more."
The Tribune nodded, scribbling down notes on a datapad. "Understood, Captain. I'll have the details sent to you by the end of the day."
"I look forward to hearing back from you," I nodded.
"Captain Maxwell; Ms. Chase," Montgomery concluded as the video link disconnected, leaving Alyssa and me in the relative darkness of the Catapult's cockpit. Alyssa came around from behind the pilot's chair, leaning back on the command console and locking eyes with me, matter-of-factly twirling a gray tank top clutched in her left hand.
"What the hell was that?" I asked, incredulously.
Alyssa rolled her eyes, throwing the shirt at me. "Oh, please. Don't tell me you're turning into a prude, too."
I couldn't help but smile at her as I reached out and put my hands around her waist, shaking my head at her teasing.
"Come on. This isn't the twentieth century. I'm not talking about that. I'm talking about you swearing at our new employer before the contract is even signed yet."
Alyssa gave me an impish grin, her lips curving into a playful smirk. "Well, you just said it yourself - he's not our boss yet."
I chuckled at the playful deflection.
"Yeah, well, anyway, here's hoping that this'll be the easiest job we've had yet," I replied, pulling her toward me and kissing her gently on the forehead. As I did so, I was met with the intense, dubious gaze of Alyssa's violet eyes from beneath the messy locks of her dark auburn hair. I knew in an instant that neither of us believed the comforting lie.
"Even if it's not," Alyssa responded quietly, "we'll get through it, Charles. We always do."
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Site 187 - 'Mech Bay
Outskirts of Gellen's Heights, Sheratan V
Sheratan System - Tikonov Free Republic
January 17, 3031 (Monday)
"So, what's this I hear about us having a contract soon?" I asked Levi as we walked together through the underground 'Mech Bay. Levi looked up from his tablet and raised his eyebrows.

"What makes you think we have a contract?" Levi asked innocently. I looked at him with narrowed eyes.
"Just because we're dating doesn't mean I don't still make it my business to know what's going on in the unit." I said with a smirk. Levi chuckled and shook his head.
"Fine, you got me. We do have a contract coming up soon. Word from Maxwell is that it's a pretty big one," he said, tapping on his tablet. "But I really don't know much about the details. Just that my team is supposed to be on standby to refit a lance for urban combat."
We walked further into the 'Mech Bay, the sound of technicians and mechanics working on the towering BattleMechs filling the air. As we passed the captain's Catapult and Alyssa's Raven, I wondered what I'd be piloting this time. Having been demoted down to Private, and after inadvertently destroying my UrbanMech on our last mission, I wasn't sure whether I'd be trusted with anything more advanced than a Locust.
But my thoughts were interrupted by the sound of heavy footsteps approaching. I turned to see Commander Jaeger striding towards us, his face set in a grim expression.
"Schuster, come with me." he barked, without even acknowledging Levi's presence. I gave Levi a quick nod before hurrying after Commander Jaeger.
We walked for a while in tense silence before we finally reached the Quartermaster's office. The door slid open and we stepped inside. Orlex took a seat at the empty desk, gesturing for me to take a seat opposite him. I sat down cautiously, my mind racing with possibilities of what this meeting could be about.
"Private Schuster, I need to talk to you about our upcoming assignment. It's a security detail, and we'll be calling a general briefing about it later, but at the moment, what I want to discuss is whether or not you feel you've matured enough to be reinstated to your Rifleman."
I froze. It wasn't what I was expecting to hear, especially after having destroyed my UrbanMech on the last mission.
"Sir, I...honestly don't know if I'm ready for that kind of responsibility again." I stammered out. "I don't want to let the team down or put anyone in danger. I think that you and Captain Maxwell were right to bust me down to Private."
Orlex leaned forward, his sharp eyes drilling into mine. "Schuster, that's not the answer I was expecting to hear. Frankly, I admire your honesty." he commented, his voice low and measured.
He paused for a moment, scrutinizing me closely. I felt a sudden urge to squirm in my seat, but I kept my face neutral. Commander Jaeger was not someone to be trifled with, and I knew that he wouldn't let me off the hook easily.
"However, I need you to understand something very important, Private." Orlex leaned back in his chair, his hands steepled in front of him. "We all make mistakes. Every single one of us. The key is how we learn from those mistakes. I understand you made a mistake. Several of them. What did you learn from them?"
I took a deep breath, collecting my thoughts. "I learned that I need to be more cautious in my decisions. I need to not practice an "ask for forgiveness" doctrine. I need to pay attention to my surroundings and keep a clear head. I also need to communicate more effectively with my team and not act impulsively."
Commander Jaeger gave a small nod, looking down at his metallic, bionic arm.
"Good. The decisions we make out on the battlefield can mean the difference between life and death for our team and for innocent civilians. Your actions have consequences, Private. It troubles me that it's taken you this long to realize that." he said, his tone stern.
I felt a pang of guilt wash over me. He was right, of course. My recklessness had cost me time and time again.
"I guess Captain Maxwell told you about the other incidents." I said, my voice barely above a whisper.
Orlex's expression softened slightly, and he nodded. "Yes, he did. But he also told me about your potential, and how you've shown improvement since then. You're a skilled MechWarrior and a capable hacker. You have potential. But you need to understand that your actions have consequences. You need to be accountable for them."
I straightened up in my seat.
"I understand, Commander. I take full responsibility for my actions, and I'm committed to doing better. I won't let you down again." I replied firmly, my resolve strengthening.
Commander Jaeger leaned forward, clasping his hands together on his desk. "I believe you, Private. And I want to give you a chance. That's why I'm giving you a provisional promotion to Corporal and reinstating your access to your Rifleman. But you need to understand that this is your last chance. Maxwell and I have reached an agreement. You step over the line again, and your ass is out of this unit. Do you understand?"
I nodded, feeling grateful for the second chance. "Yes, Commander. I won't let you down again."
To my surprise, Orlex stood up, his expression becoming extremely intense. I recoiled instinctively, unsure of what was happening.
"I hope you don't," he said, his tone low and dangerous. "Because if you do, I won't hesitate to personally remove you from Aegis Division myself. And trust me, Private Schuster, you do not want to see me angry."
I swallowed hard, feeling a lump form in my throat. It was at that moment that I realized Jaeger wasn't just being friendly. I hadn't won him over at all. He was being cold, calculating, logical. And I knew firsthand the extent of his abilities and the fury he could unleash if pushed too far.
"I won't disappoint you, Commander," I said, my voice barely above a whisper.
Orlex Jaeger stared at me for a long moment, his eyes calculating. I could feel his scrutiny like a physical weight on my shoulders, and I fought the urge to squirm uncomfortably under his gaze. Finally, he nodded curtly.
"Dismissed." he stated without further comment, the moment of tension gone as quickly as it had come. As I left the office, I took a deep breath and cleared my mind. I headed straight to the Mech 'Bay, eager to requisition my Rifleman from cold storage. I needed to focus and make the most of this second chance.
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Site 187
Outskirts of Gellen's Heights, Sheratan V
Sheratan System - Tikonov Free Republic
January 18, 3031 (Tuesday)

"So what do you think?" I queried, looking across the metal table towards the two Lieutenants, Blackwood and Lennox.

"Permission to speak freely sir?" asked Alexander Blackwood, his tone hinting that he was well aware this was just a formality.

"Always Lieutenant," I answered flatly.

"Commander, this seems a little light. I mean yes, its an Augmented Battalion of militia units, which by the way I had to look up the definition for, but despite its name it's not really much stronger than a regular battalion and this is an armour battalion, not a mech battalion, meaning its considerably weaker to begin with; The Tribune should have listed it as an Augmented Armour Battalion for clarity. I mean on paper 32 combat vehicles and 20 'mechs sounds pretty impressive but a true battalion would have 36 'mechs, then you have to consider that these are militia units, by default inferior to any House unit in the Inner Sphere and most mercenary commands too, at least in skill and experience. Most militias make up for inexperience with sheer numbers but clearly the Sheratan militia, and likely the Tikonov Free Republic as a whole, just can't do that," began Blackwood.

"The Republic has roughly 5 mech regiments, 18 armour regiments, and 36 infantry regiments, and aside from the 'mech regiments maybe half the others could be considered to be 'House Unit' quality," offered Marius Lennox, seemingly from the top of his head and showing why he was of Aegis' top intelligence analysts next to Alyssa, "Small when compared to the major powers of course but reasonable given the size of the Republic itself. That also doesn't count the planetary militias themselves of course, that's just the available units the Republic can utilize freely. Still with those numbers you would think that they could spare some more units for a political summit which is supposed to include not only high profile dignitaries from throughout the Tikonov Free Republic but also ambassadors from not one but two Great Houses."

"Exactly, also consider this, according to the details that Tribune Montgomery has given us this 'Augmented Armour Battalion' is meant to provide a security perimeter that extends out 10km from Gellen's Heights in all directions. That means that they have roughly a 63km line to protect around the circumference of this proposed perimeter, 50km if you ignore Gellen's Bay. At best they could have 1 'mech every 2.5km or so, and even if you counted every single unit that's still only 1 combat unit per any given kilometer. Sounds like a lot of holes to try and watch. I know there's a line item in there stating that there's an additional company of 'mechs being supplied from some other poor garrison that'll now be shorthanded but that's still only 12 more units which barely gets more than 1 unit per km, and that's if you ignore the comment about the additional company being held as a 'reserve force'," continued Blackwood getting more animated as he spoke.

"Well I'm glad to see that I'm not the only one with this opinion," I replied.

"Have you talked to the Captain about this Commander?" inquired Lennox.

"I have, and he agrees with us as well, even brought the point up with the Tribune. Apparently this 'reserve force' was actually the Tribune's response to our suggestion that they shore up the defenses, so to speak, initially it was just the armour battalion and the infantry company, which you neglected to point out, " I added with a smile.

"Oh I didn't forget sir, infantry has their role, don't get me wrong, but a single company, even if it is reinforced with some mechanized platoons, isn't going to do jack shit against an enemy force in Battlemechs in open terrain," countered Alex with a shrug.

"I don't disagree, but despite our advice, and the current past precedence, the Tribune, and by extension the government, remains convinced that these are adequate forces against what they call 'any credible threat' to this coming summit. They have also reinforced the point that we are meant to be acting as an Honour Guard only and thus shouldn't be concerning ourselves with the 'bigger picture', leaving it to the militia and governmental offices to deal with," I replied.

"Have they even seen these projections, what are they expecting these poor sods to do? I mean look at this force deployment," asked Blackwood incredulously, sliding a tablet into the center of the table with images and data showing unit deployments and proposed coverage.

--- Militia Combat Units ---
    A Company                                            B Company                                                   C Company                                                 D Company                                         Command
        Lance 1                                                  Lance 1                                                         Lance 1                                                     Lance 1                                                Lance 1
        1) CV - Peregrine [30]                          1) CV - Goblin [45]                                      1) CV - Hetzer (LRM) [40]                       1) CV - Vedette (Liao) [50]                1) BM - LCT-1V Locust [20]
        2) CV - Vedette [50]                            2) CV - Vedette [50]                                    2) CV - Vedette [50]                               2) CV - Vedette (AC2) [50]                2) BM - TBT-5N Trebuchet [50]
        3) CV - Condor (Liao) [50]                  3) CV - Pike [60]                                          3) CV - Vedette (Liao) [50]                    3) CV - Scorpion (SRM) [25]              3) BM - WHM-6D Warhammer [70]
        4) CV - Bulldog [60]                            4) CV - Bulldog [60]                                     4) CV - SRM Carrier [60]                        4) CV - Skulker [20]                           4) BM - OSR-2C Ostroc [60]
        5) BM - VND-1R Vindicator [45]         5) BM - UM-R60 Urbanmech [30]              5) BM - STG-3R Stinger [20]                  5) BM - VL-2T Vulcan [40]
        6) BM - WVR-6R Wolverine [55]         6) BM - ARC-2R Archer [70]                       6) BM - RFL-3N Rifleman [60]                6) BM - JM6-S JagerMech [65]
        Lance 2                                                 Lance 2                                                         Lance 2                                                   Lance 2
        1) CV - Bulldog [60]                             1) CV - Striker [35]                                      1) CV - Scorpion [25]                              1) CV - Vedette [50]
        2) CV - Brutus (PPC) [75]                   2) CV - Vedette [50]                                    2) CV - Scimitar [35]                              2) CV - Maxim [50]
        3) CV - Hunter [35]                             3) CV - SRM Carrier [60]                             3) CV - Vedette [50]                              3) CV - Peregrine [30]
        4) CV - Vedette [50]                           4) CV - LRM Carrier [60]                             4) CV - Demolisher [80]                         4) CV - Schrek PPC Carrier [80]
        5) BM - BJ-1 Blackjack [45]                5) BM - WSP-1A Wasp [20]                        5) BM - VND-1AA Vindicator [45]          5) BM - CRD-3L Crusader [65]
        6) BM - OTT-7J Ostscout [35]            6) BM - VND-1R Vindicator [45]                6) BM - GHR-5H Grasshopper [75]        6) BM - WSP-1A Wasp [20]

    Infantry Company
        Platoon 1 (Standard)
        28 soldiers - 22 Autorifles and 6 LMG support
        Platoon 2 (Standard)
        28 soldiers - 22 Autorifles and 6 LMG support
        Platoon 3 (Mechanized Hover)
        20 soldiers -  16 Laser Rifles and 4 SRM support
        Platoon 4 (Mechanized Tracked)
        28 soldiers - 24 Gyroslug Rifles and 4 Semi-Portable Particle Cannon support
    Company (Reserve Forces)
        Lance 1                                                           Lance 2                                                Lance 3
        1) BM - SHD-2D Shadow Hawk [55]            1) BM - OTT-7J Ostscout [35]            1) BM - VTR-9A Victor [80]
        2) BM - GRF-1N Griffin [55]                          2) BM - STG-3R Stinger [20]              2) BM - VLK-QA Valkyrie [30]
        3) BM - KTO-18 Kintaro [55]                        3) BM - HBK-4G Hunchback [50]       3) BM - ON1-V Orion [75]
        4) BM - ON1-K Orion [75]                             4) BM - CRD-3L Crusader [65]          4) BM - ENF-4R Enforcer [50]

 * Map of Gellen's Heights and surrounding area, annotated with force deployments and security perimeter

"I should hope so, I mean they are the ones that created them and sent them to us, would be pretty bad if they didn't see them," joked Lennox, although his demeanor and tone suggested he was only half convinced.

"I know, but as Captain Maxwell said, we brought up our concerns and unless we're going to go and hire a bunch more mercenaries ourselves, out of our own pocket, then there really isn't much else we can do. We'll plan for the worst and roll with the punches like we always do, the Tribune is still adamant that only our Battlemech assets take part in the Honour Guard which means we'll have to have our other combat assets readily available at Site 187 if/when the proverbial shit hits the fan. From the looks of it we'll have between 5 and 10 minutes from a perimeter breach until enemy units can reach Gellen's Heights, should be enough time to get everything in place if it all goes to hell, hopefully," I said, once again glancing over the displayed information from the Tribune, even though I'd already all but memorized it, "With any luck it'll be as nice and easy a job as it sounds, but we all know how that shit goes in this line of work."

An hour or so later ...

"Commander, the refits are going well," answered Levi as he took a momentary break from working on rearming Corporal Schuster's Rifleman which had recently been returned to active status, "we've got a full team of techs available for each individual unit now that we're back at Site 187 so, just very roughly, we can replace any single weapon system on a 'mech in about one 8 hour shift. Which means Captain Maxwell's Catapult should be ready in about 2 more days, as long as 'Tyche' doesn't decide to develop another gremlin that only the Captain can somehow remedy. Your Merlin meanwhile will be ready by the end of today."

"Excellent work Levi, as always, I'll let you get back to it," I replied with a gentle slap on his shoulder.

Levi had been overseeing all the refit work on our 'mechs as we prepped them for urban combat but thankfully hadn't needed to run double shifts or even extra hours as the availability of temporary Astechs from Gellen's Heights allowed us to fill out our MechTech teams with temporary contract workers, many hands make light work as the saying goes. The refits were predominantly straightforward as well, swapping most LRM launchers for a similar tonnage of SRM launchers, but even some of the more extensive refits, such as Charles' Catapult, weren't overly difficult due to being able to swap parts with another popular variant of the 'mech, in this case one of the Kuritan CPLT-K2 model's PPC mounted "arms". Despite still having a minimum range on the PPC it was more effective than an LRM launcher in a strictly urban environment and the particle cannon could still deal out a punishing amount of damage at comparable ranges, unlike what could be accomplished with an equal tonnage of lasers.

My next stop would be to review everything with Captain Maxwell before Alyssa, myself, and the Captain put together the official briefing for Operation Stormgate currently scheduled for tomorrow.

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Site 187
Outskirts of Gellen's Heights, Sheratan V
Sheratan System - Tikonov Free Republic
January 19, 3031 (Wednesday)

"Captain Maxwell!" a voice called out as I made my way up the winding catwalk of Silo 2's 'Mech Bay toward the crossover bridge that would take me into the base's habitation and operations wing housed in Silo 1. I turned to see Orlex Jaeger following me, his long strides closing the gap quickly.

I paused, turning to face him with a casual lean against the railing. "Jaeger? What's going on?"

"I'd been hoping to chat with you about the final tactical feedback from Alex and Marius," Orlex replied, coming to stand beside me and looking out at the sprawling workshop below. "I'd hoped to track you down last night, but I couldn't find you."

I sighed, absentmindedly wiping servo lubricant from my hands as I took in the sight of the 'Mechs prepped for the upcoming mission. "Yeah, Alyssa had a last-minute neurologist's appointment in town and asked me to come along. We didn't get back until later in the evening. I did read over their annotations. I should have closed the loop with you. Sorry about that, Commander."

"No worries, Captain," Orlex said with a dismissive wave of his hand. "Just wanted to make sure we're on the same page before the briefing today."

He paused for a moment, studying me with his dark eyes. "How's Alyssa doing, by the way?"

"She's fine," I replied with a shrug. "The doctor cleared her for neurohelmet use. He didn't foresee any complications with the augment Curie built, though he conceded he'd never seen anything like it before. With that said, Levi had to completely recalibrate the Raven's DI computer since Alyssa's last time in the pilot's chair."

Orlex raised an eyebrow, clearly intrigued. "That bad, huh?"

I chuckled mirthlessly. "Let's just say that Alyssa's neurological response to her previous configuration was...intense. Levi had to pull out all the stops for the rewrite."

Jaeger nodded thoughtfully, his gaze still fixed on me. "You seem tense. Everything okay?"

I huffed out a breath, running my fingers through my hair. "It's this contract. Something doesn't sit right with me. The resourcing seems incredibly slipshod and sparse for what's supposed to be a monumental political summit."

Orlex frowned, his bushy eyebrows coming together. "The force projection and support asset restrictions they've specified are a load of bull, if you ask me. The Tikonov government's been completely irresponsible with this planning for the operation. But I'm not telling you anything we haven't already hashed out in our meetings."

I nodded, pulling out my pocket humidor and withdrawing a cigar before offering one to Orlex. He shook his head, declining the offer.

"Maybe I'm just being paranoid," I mused, lighting the cigar and exhaling a puff of smoke. "But I've seen this kind of dysfunctionality before. In the Aurigan Reach. Planets were constantly being conquered and re-conquered, with no one government ever able to gain a strong foothold. And it was all because of poor planning and mismanagement. I don't want to see history repeat itself. Especially with no one actually at the head of the government after Ridzik got offed last year. It seems like the people running the show are social generals at best and incompetent opportunists at worst."

Jaeger leaned forward against the railing, gazing down into the 'Mech Bay, his expression serious. "I'm stupefied that they'd spread themselves so thin and then prohibit us from mobilizing the support assets we'd need to mount a real defense. If you're feeling uneasy about it, there's a reason."

I took another puff of my cigar, nodding in agreement. "Yeah, you're right. We need to have a backup plan. When we brief the gang later, let's frame this job as a high-risk

operation with a potential for multiple variables going wrong and essentially zero employer support. We'll present it as a challenge, but we'll also be upfront about the risks and what we'll need to do to mitigate them."

Orlex nodded thoughtfully at my suggestion. "I think you're right, but I'm sure morale's going to take a hit when we tell them that they're only bringing their BattleMechs and nothing else."

I took a final puff of my cigar and flicked it away, watching as it sailed over the railing and down into a disused waste bin below. "Morale's already taken a hit with the details that have gotten out, Commander. The way I see it, presenting this job as anything other than what it is would only make it worse."

"Point taken. I'll see you at 1300, then?"

I nodded to Orlex. "I'll have the final TRO for Tyche ready for the mission briefing by then. Turns out that Catapult really didn't like being converted into a kitbashed K2, but we finally managed to get it up to spec. We'll need to think about a backup plan for this job, by the way. Sitting around with our hands tied, waiting for orders from bureaucrats when everything's hitting the fan doesn't work. Failure is not an option."

Jaeger gave me a small smile. "That's why they pay us the small bucks."

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Site 187
Outskirts of Gellen's Heights, Sheratan V
Sheratan System - Tikonov Free Republic
January 19, 3031 (Wednesday)

"Whatchdoing?" Steve's voice bellowed, breaking my concentration as I worked in the grimy, noisy depths of our 'Mech Bay, trying to dial my Rifleman's weapons loadout into the level of coherent energy appropriate for the delicate nature of urban combat.

I sighed. "Trying to figure out the appropriate energy to plasma ratio needed to drop a ferrosteel war machine while not causing a blow-through on some innocent civilian target."

Steve grunted in response and leaned against one of the nearby 'Mechs. "You're always tinkering with that thing. You know what they say, Nick, 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it.'"

I set my calibrator wrench down in frustration. "I don't want to fuck this up, Jenkins. Commander Orlex is trusting me with giving me my rank and my 'Mech back. You think it would be a good look if I accidently took out a whole city block while shooting at a threat? I don't want to 'fix' it, Steve, I want to perfect it. There's always room for improvement in a weapon, especially in a field as unpredictable as urban combat."

Steve rolled his eyes. "Well, you better perfect it fast. We have a briefing in 5 minutes and you're not exactly dressed for the occasion."

My eyes bugged out as I grabbed my comm unit and looked at the time.

"Holy shit! I was wondering why you were dressed so normal for a change. I'm going to be late!"

I threw off my grimy overalls and raced to my quartera, shedding my grease-stained shirt and pants with practiced ease. I quickly changed into my freshly pressed uniform, my fingers pinning my rank insignia back on, ensuring the keeoers were in place and straight. I grabbed my boots and began doing them up. All the while, the chime of the PA system echoed in the room, reminding me of the looming briefing.

As I rushed out of my quarters, I almost ran into Warrant Officer Dexter Friedman, who swore in German eyebrows as he looked me up and down, taking in my freshly pressed uniform and polished boots.

"Nice of you to join us, Corporal Schuster." he sneered, his thick accent dripping with sarcasm as we rushed toward the admin center. "I'm glad to see you're taking this briefing seriously."

I suppressed the urge to roll my eyes and instead chuckled. "You're in a bad mood." I joked, keeping my voice neutral. "Somebody use Blake's name in vain again?"

"Nein." Dexter grunted in response I fell into step behind him as we made our way through the maze of corridors. "Lieutenant Maxwell has the Raven. Again. Meanwhile I am on the ground providing 'tactical analysis' and 'counterintelligencs' to our employers. Ever since she and the Captain have become...intimate, she's been handed all the pilot missions while those of us with more experience are stuck behind a desk."

I raised an eyebrow, slightly surprised at the level of vitriol and the unrestrained accusation of favoritism in Friedman's tone.

"You jealous?" I quipped, trying to lighten the mood as we stepped into the admin center.

Dexter let out a sharp bark of laughter, his icy demeanor finally melting away for a moment. "It is simple logic, Schuster. Let's just get this over with."

Even with the mood broken, I could feel Dexter's annoyance radiating off of him in waves. It wasn't the first time Alyssa had earned his ire, and had a feeling it wouldn't be the last.

"I'm sure Captain Maxwell just wants the best man for the job advising our clients." I sighed. "And that's apparently you." 


As we approached the admin center's auditorium, I could hear the murmur of voices coming from within. We stepped through the doors, and I immediately spotted Captain Maxwell standing at the front of the room with a stern expression etched on his face. He was flanked by Commander Jaeger and some guy with an outfit that screamed "government bureaucrat."

"Ah, there you two are," Captain Maxwell said as we made our way towards available seats. "We're just about to get started. Please take your seats."

I sat down in between Dexter and Steve Jenkins, keeping my eyes trained on Captain Maxwell. His body language told me that this was going to be a serious briefing and I tensed up in anticipation.

Just then, Steve let out a fartt hat sounded like an over-inflated balloon deflating and which echoed throughout the auditorium, causing everyone to turn and stare at him in disgust. I could feel the heat rising to my cheeks and wished that the ground would swallow me whole.

As the government man glared at Maxwell and Jaeger, the Captain cleared his throat, his expression darkening even further. "Alright, if everyone has concluded their...business...we'll begin."

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- Incoming Coded Message -- Command Instruction Follows -
- Decode Omega Protocol - Lambda228Red: 903rd -

For internal dissemination only -

Operation Codename: Stormgate
Planet: Sheratan V (Sheratan system, Tikonov Free Republic)
Terrain: Dense urban
Time: Day
Mission Type: Security duty
Payment: 21,647,010 C-Bills
Command Rights: Integrated
Transport Rights: Full
Support Rights: Battle/10%
Salvage Rights: 50%


Following the successful completion of Operation: Ingratus Winter, the Sheratan planetary government has once again retained the services of Aegis Division to carry out a mission of a slightly more mundane nature: honor guard duty.

With the conclusion of the Fourth Succession War, the major powers of the Federated Commonwealth, the Capellan Confederation, and the Tikonov Free Republic have turned their attention to long-standing territorial disputes, including ownership claims over worlds held within conquered administrative units such as the Sarna March. While these talks have yet to boil over into outright hostility, the negotiations have seen a marked increase in rhetoric from all sides within an atmosphere of fear and distrust. The Tikonov Free Republic, in particular, finds itself in an especially perilous bargaining position following last year's assassination of Supreme Lord Pavel Ridzik and the bioterrorism attacks on Sheratan, both at the hands of the Capellan Confederation.

Archon Melissa Steiner-Davion and First Prince Hanse Davion have called representatives from the quarreling factions to a summit scheduled to be held on the final week of January, 3031. The proposed venue for this meeting is the Gellen's Heights Capitol Complex on Sheratan V, where a lavish suite has been set aside for representatives of the Great Houses and their assorted delegates. In response, the Office of the Prefect has requisitioned the services of Aegis Division to secure the Gellen's Heights complex, the diplomatic envoys, and the civilian populace against any potential attack or disruption of the peace.



While Aegis Division's presence will largely be ceremonial and supplemented by assets from the planetary militia, a diplomatic summit at the scale of this one is a tempting target for threat actors and various mercenary units looking to make a name for themselves. As such, while the Sheratan Militia will be chiefly responsible for securing the Gellen's Heights spaceport and the city perimeter, Aegis Division will have the distinct honor of defending the capitol itself, alongside select units from the Gellen's Heights Police Department and security representatives from factions as determined by local authorities.

The Office of the Prefect has requested that Aegis Division refit all participating BattleMechs with loadouts appropriate for urban warfare. Additionally, all insignia and paint schemes should be refreshed and changed to be commensurate with the regalia of the Sheratan Militia. BattleMech pilots will be provided with patched that denote mercenary operators as auxiliary units of the Sheratan Militia.

The Prefect's office has also requested that participating Aegis Division staff wear covert communications rigs, to be provided by the Sheratan Militia. These radios, consisting of a receiver worn underneath clothing at the small of the back and an in-ear monitor, are designed to be used for cross-unit coordination via secure channels without risk of interception by external third parties.

Dignitaries will begin checking in to their private suites at the Capitol Complex on Monday, January 24, 3031. It is requested that all assigned personnel prepare for Operation: Stormgate to commence in-theatre on January 25, 3031. The operation will conclude on the evening of Friday, January 28, 3031.



  1. Ensure the safety of all diplomatic delegates and provide visible force projection for the planetary militia.
  2. Ensure the security of the Gellen's Heights Capitol Complex.
  3. Prevent any disruption to the peace or sabotage of the conference.


  1. In the unlikely event of an incident, mitigate property damage to the Capitol Complex and surrounding districts.
  2. Ensure that negotiations can continue uninterrupted.
  3. Neutralize all threat actors, prioritizing capture over elimination.

Rules of engagement

This theater is a dense urban environment with a heavy civilian presence. While terminating any hostile forces encountered is permissible, the following operational restrictions on BattleMechs apply:

  1. Limited engagement capability only. BattleMech pilots are restricted to low-intensity skirmishing maneuvers.
  2. Avoid excessive collateral damage. Abide by civilian safety protocols and minimize destruction to existing infrastructure whenever possible.
  3. Secure captured enemy personnel. Capture all threat actors whenever feasible, and provide for their safety and security.
  4. Aegis Division must defer to the Sheratan Militia in all matters of operational direction and responsiveness.


Due to the location of the venue in the Gellen's Heights Central District, access to support and recovery assets will be significantly limited. However, as no threats to the conference are anticipated, this tactical alert should be considered an advisory only.

Lance assignments





  • Mantis: Command (ready reserve) - Lieutenant Marius Lennox
  • Bridgeburners: XCT reserve
  • Aces Wild: Armor reserve
  • Traveler: Orion ON1-K - Lieutenant Alexander Blackwood
  • Pandora: Heavy BattleMech Recovery Vehicle - Levi Wright
  • Archangel: MASH Ambulance - Mallory Aldon


Planetary Militia Forces (Augmented Battalion)
Augmented Company 1   Augmented Company 2   Augmented Company 3   Augmented Company 4   Battalion Command
Lance 1   Lance 1   Lance 1   Lance 1   Lance 1
1) CV Peregrine 30 tons   1) CV Goblin 45 tons   1) CV Hetzer (LRM) 40 tons   1) CV Vedette (Liao) 50 tons   1) BM LCT-1V Locust 20 tons
2) CV Vedette 50 tons   2) CV Vedette 50 tons   2) CV Vedette 50 tons   2) CV Vedettte (AC2) 50 tons   2) BM TBT-5N Trebuchet 50 tons
3) CV Condor (Liao) 50 tons   3) CV Pike 60 tons   3) CV Vedette (Liao) 50 tons   3) CV Scorpion (SRM) 25 tons   3) BM WHM-6D Warhammer 70 tons
4) CV Bulldog 60 tons   4) CV Bulldog 60 tons   4) CV SRM Carrier 60 tons   4) CV Skulker 20 tons   4) BM OSR-2C Ostroc 60 tons
5) BM VND-1R Vindicator 45 tons   5) BM UM-R60 Urbanmech 30 tons   5) BM STG-3R Stinger 20 tons   5) BM VL-2T Vulcan 40 tons          
6) BM WVR-6R Wolverine 55 tons   6) BM ARC-2R Archer 70 tons   6) BM RFL-3N Rifleman 60 tons   6) BM JM6-S JagerMech 65 tons          
Lance 2   Lance 2   Lance 2   Lance 2          
1) CV Bulldog 60 tons   1) CV Striker 35 tons   1) CV Scorpion 25 tons   1) CV Vedette 50 tons          
2) CV Brutus (PPC) 75 tons   2) CV Vedette 50 tons   2) CV Scimitar 35 tons   2) CV Maxim 50 tons          
3) CV Hunter 35 tons   3) CV SRM Carrier 60 tons   3) CV Vedette 50 tons   3) CV Peregrine 30 tons          
4) CV Vedette 50 tons   4) CV LRM Carrier 60 tons   4) CV Demolisher 80 tons   4) CV Schrek PPC Carrier 80 tons          
5) BM BJ-1 Blackjack 45 tons   5) BM WSP-1A Wasp 20 tons   5) BM VND-1AA Vindicator 45 tons   5) BM CRD-3L Crusader 65 tons          
6) BM OTT-7J Ostscout 35 tons   6) BM VND-1R Vindicator 45 tons   6) BM GHR-5H Grasshopper 75 tons   6) BM WSP-1A Wasp 20 tons          
Mech Company (Reinforcements)                                        
Lance 1   Lance 2   Lance 3                    
1) BM SHD-2D Shadow Hawk 55 tons   1) BM OTT-7J Ostscout 35 tons   1) BM VTR-9A Victor 80 tons                    
2) BM GRF-1N Griffin 55 tons   2) BM STG-3R Stinger 20 tons   2) BM VLK-QA Valkyrie 30 tons                    
3) BM KTO-18 Kintaro 55 tons   3) BM HBK-4G Hunchback 50 tons   3) BM ON1-V Orion 75 tons                    
4) BM ON1-K Orion 75 tons   4) BM CRD-3L Crusader 65 tons   4) BM ENF-4R Enforcer 50 tons                    




  • UNKNOWN (none expected)

Itinerary and logistics

Any assets and support personnel required by Aegis Division for this contract will be transported to a staging area at the Gellen's Heights Spaceport by logistics contractors in the employ of the Sheratan Militia. From there, Aegis Division will move its assets into position at the Capitol Complex via a designated route that has been cordoned off by the Gellen's Heights Police Department for this summit.


Integrated command representative

The Office of the Prefect will integrate Tribune Luke Montgomery as our integrated command representative. As a representative of the planetary government and liason to the Sheratan Militia, he will be responsible for defining Aegis Division's operating parameters and will be on-site to ensure that the mission's objectives are met. He will also be responsible for ensuring that any applicable local laws and regulations are followed.


Star Type: K5V
Position in System: 5 (of 9)
Number of Moons: None
Days to Jump Point: 4
Recharging Station: Nadir
Recharge Time: 9 days
ComStar Facility Class: B
Surface Water: 40%
Atm. Pressure: Standard (Breathable)
Surface Gravity: 0.9
Equatorial Temp: 31 C
Highest Native Life: Mammal
Population: 87,318,057
Governor: Prefect Rafael Gantulga
Planetary Legate: Francisco Perez

A sparsely inhabited, forest-covered world with thick jungles around the equator, Sheratan is one of the most beautiful planets in the Sarna March. The land is arranged in a single continent covered in forests and farmland, with several large inland seas. The world is sparsely populated, with deep jungles around the equator. 

Due to the expansive fertile areas created by the planet's forests, large agricultural concerns, most notably Hollingsworth Agrifoods, quickly established production centers on the planet, moving in, buying land, and sowing vast crops of fruits and vegetables from across the Inner Sphere. As a result, Sheratan's economy is largely agrarian, though a visitor to the cosmopolitan and upscale capital city would be forgiven for thinking otherwise.

Home to the world's largest spaceport, the city of Gellen's Heights is immense, stretching for well over 30 square miles. The capital city of Sheratan, Gellen's Heights is the cultural and economic focal point of the planet. Theaters, libraries, museums, government offices, and commercial structures dot the landscape, while hovercars whisk down tree-lined streets and spacecraft touch down at the interplanetary spaceport. The atmosphere is very modern, while at the same time incorporating elements of Victorian-era architecture from the early part of Terra's 20th century; the effect creating a charming, yet sophisticated look.

Daggaknot, to the south, is considered Sheratan's agricultural hub and is the location of Hollingsworth Agrifoods. Other population centers include Jaynesville and Pittston.

Aside from its fertile soil, Sheratan lacks significant resources, so the planet's small population and economy were spared most of the ravages of the Succession Wars. When the Federated Suns invaded the Capellan Confederation at the outset of the Fourth Succession War, Sheratan was one of many Capellan worlds near Terra that were cut off from the Confederation and incorporated into the Tikonov Free Republic. 

At the world's Nadir point is Hollingsworth Station, a fully-equipped orbital facility featuring drydocks, warehouses, a recharging station, and accommodations for travelers. 

Planetary History

Early History

Having become independent as a result of the Demarcation Declaration, Sheratan was subsequently added to the resurgent Terran Hegemony; whilst some worlds joined the Hegemony during its early years as a result of diplomatic and trade incentives, many more were conquered in "campaigns of persuasion" launched by Director-General James McKenna, the first of which began in 2316 and ended with the capture of Towne in 2317. Sheratan was one of the worlds added to the Hegemony during or around the time of this first military campaign.

Succession Wars

Other than a great deal of farmland, Sheratan had nothing else to recommend it. Therefore it was generally spared the horrific effects of the Succession Wars. During the formation of the Chaos March, however, the world was ravaged by CCAF troops. After the world joined the Republic of the Sphere, its economy and population stabilized.

Fourth Succession War

Following negotiations between Colonel Pavel Ridzik, chief military advisor to Chancellor Maximilian Liao, and AFFS Lieutenant General Ardan Sortek, conducted in February 3029, Ridzik created a new nation, the Tikonov Free Republic. The Republic was created by incorporating those worlds of the Tikonov Commonality that hadn't already been conquered during the first half of the Fourth Succession War. Ridzik returned to Elgin, the new capital of the Tikonov Free Republic, on the 3rd of March 3029 and swiftly began implementing a new government consisting of family members, friends, and other appointees loyal to himself, purging dissident elements on the various Republic worlds and taking the opportunity to settle old scores. Sheratan was one of the systems incorporated into the Republic.



Sender: Office of the Prefect, Gellen's Heights, Sheratan
Encryption Priority:
HPG Relay 19JLP1071-MU-8852
Received: OP Comp. 1454 Standard Terran Time

Site 187
Outskirts of Gellen's Heights, Sheratan V
Sheratan System - Tikonov Free Republic
January 19, 3031 (Wednesday)

No sooner had the lights in the briefing room dimmed than Sergeant Steve Jenkins decided it was the appropriate time to break wind in spectacular fashion, causing the sparse few cadre present to turn and stare at him in disgust. I suppressed a sigh and cast him an admonishing glance. Meanwhile, Tribune Montgomery simply glared.

"Sorry. I farted," Jenkins announced,

I cleared my throat, re-focusing my attention on the task at hand. 

"Alright, if everyone has concluded their...business...we'll begin," I began, the mission overview for Operation: Stormgate splashing onto the projection screen behind me.

"I think I should take it from here," the tribune interrupted, seizing control of the briefing. I gave him a tight-lipped smile but made no move to stop him. 

"My name is Tribune Luke Montgomery," he continued, straightening his collar, his voice dripping with condescension. "I represent Sheratan's Office of the Prefect. As you are all undoubtedly aware, Archon Melissa Steiner-Davion and First Prince Hanse Davion have seen fit to bestow upon us a great honor - the opportunity to host a diplomatic summit here, in the capital city of Gellen's Heights - during which long-standing territorial disputes are to be resolved and trade agreements will be brokered."

A computer-generated flyover of the Gellen's Heights metropolis played on the screen, familiar landmarks whipping past as the bird's-eye view closed in on the Capitol Complex itself, its massive form reflected on the glimmering surface of the Gellen River.

"The summit will be held here. Over the course of the day on January 24, dignitaries will be shuttled from the Gellen's Heights Spaceport to their private suites at the Capitol Complex, with the talks themselves commencing the following morning." Montgomery paused, allowing his words to sink in before continuing. "The Sheratan militia, backed by local law enforcement, will see to the security of the envoys during the transit process."

"Alright, so where do we come in?" Idris Nasir suddenly blurted out, his thick accent resonating off the walls of the unusually-empty auditorium, "and why are like, three-quarters of the people that are usually at these kickoffs not here?"

Tribune Montgomery looked taken aback, glancing between me and the muscular technician sprawled casually in his amphitheater-style seat, undoubtedly caught off-guard by the perceived lack of decorum in Idris' demeanor.

"Your role," the tribune continued through gritted teeth, "is purely ceremonial. You will be standing honor guard at the entrance to the Capitol Complex over the course of the summit, ensuring that our honored delegations from Outreach, Elgin, Hsein, Carver V, Procyon, Keid, Terra Ferma, Nanking, and Ingress are all provided with a sense of security and respect as they arrive. It's symbolic, Captain - we don't expect mercenaries like yourselves to actually have to do any fighting. The planetary militia is well-equipped and has a comprehensive security perimeter defined."

I glanced up at the projection screen as its view shifted to display the force compositions of the Sheratan Militia and their proposed deployment zones, leaning on the lectern as I did so.

"Tribune, you just rattled off nearly a dozen names that sound like the ingredients for a powder keg at best and a real tempting target for someone with a grudge at worst. And you want us to stand around looking pretty? The idea of being reduced to mere window-dressing doesn't sit well with me, especially given how paltry your idea of a 'security perimeter' seems to be. You really think nothing's going to happen?"

I could feel the tension in the room as Tribune Montgomery bristled at my comment, taking a deep breath before speaking

"Captain Maxwell, this is hardly the time nor the place for contract renegotiations. I ordered four BattleMechs and an asset coordinator from you. Nothing more, nothing less. Your decision to include your wife and some Marik washout that doesn't know his place doesn't exactly inspire confidence in your ability to follow orders and work within the parameters set forth. The Tikonov government will be providing security for the summit. Your job is to be set decoration and stay out of the way of our trained professionals. If we need you to do anything else, you'll receive express orders from me or from Governor Gantulga."

I clenched my jaw, feeling a fiery rage building inside of me. Montgomery was a typical pencil-pusher, more concerned with optics and politics than actual safety and security. But I knew better than to let my emotions get the best of me. Taking a deep breath, I glanced out into the auditorium, noting similar expressions of confusion and concern on the countenances of the few who were present for the gathering - Steve, Idris, Alyssa, Nick, Dexter, Levi, and Alex. Straightening my back, I cleared my throat, adopting a more diplomatic tone.

"Apologies, Tribune. We understand the parameters of the contract and will see to it that we carry out our duties to the letter. With that said, if you'll permit it, my first officer, Commander Orlex Jaeger, has taken the liberty of drawing up a contingency plan for your consideration, purely as a courtesy, should the unexpected take place."

Tribune Montgomery's eyebrow raised in surprise at my sudden shift in demeanor, but he motioned for me to continue. "I doubt such a plan is necessary, but given that he's already put in the effort, I'll indulge him."

I nodded in thanks before turning to address Orlex.

"Commander Jaeger, if you would, please."

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Site 187
Outskirts of Gellen's Heights, Sheratan III
Sheratan System - Tikonov Free Republic
January 19, 3031 (Wednesday)

"I doubt such a plan is necessary, but given that he's already put in the effort, I'll indulge him," Tribune Luke Montgomery said smugly.

Blake I'd love to wipe that smug look off his face, I thought to myself as the Tribune was speaking, his condescending tone apparent to all except maybe himself; Although he didn't appear that oblivious, just in the matter of tactics, strategy, and logistics, you know the stuff that mattered in warfare. I kept a neutral face outwardly, as did most others in the briefing, but I could tell that I wasn't the only one to share a near instant dislike for this man.

"Commander Jaeger, if you would, please," offered Captain Maxwell with a slight nod.

Pushing my dislike for the bureaucratic pencil pusher aside I returned Charles' nod and stepped forward, "Alright then, I'll keep things brief."

Tapping the controls on the podium I returned the viewscreen to the mission details that laid out our current planned force compositions before continuing, "As the Tribune dutifully pointed out, we are contracted for a single lance of BattleMechs to act as an Honour Guard for the arriving dignitaries and the summit proceedings. That lance consists of Captain Maxwell, myself, Sergeant Jenkins, and Corporal Schuster. Additionally the Office of the Prefect has approved us to have an overwatch attachment consisting of First Lieutenant Maxwell and Technician Nasir who, with their lighter machines, will provide additional security/Honour Guard duty between the spaceport and the capital complex during the arrival period and then join us on perimeter duty of the complex itself during the summit. Warrant Officer Friedman will be providing tactical analysis and coordination support from the Complex's joint CIC."

Tribune Montogomery looked like he was getting bored already but I honestly didn't care and pressed on, "Given our prescribed limitations, and the perceived lack of threat, any additional units we have available to field, including the Bridgeburners, Aces Wild, and any additional 'mechs, will have to be held on standby within the confines of Site 187 itself. There are no staging grounds available that are closer and while we could use the militia grounds to the southeast it's basically equidistant from Gellen's Heights as Site 187 is."

Switching the display to now show the planetary militia force deployment plans, one screen showing the actual map with icons to represent the deployed units and the other showing the given unit compositions, I resisted the urge to make a comment about the lack luster defensive cordon provided by the militia battalion; which sounded great on paper but less so when actually looking at a map and seeing the actual area they were expected to defend with what amounted to an understrength combat vehicle battalion reinforced with few handfuls of second line 'mechs.

"As you can see the planetary militia will provide a security perimeter roughly 10km from Gellen's Heights, according to the information provided they will also retain a full company of BattleMechs as a reserve force presumably located at the militia barracks or surrounding the city itself to allow for a quick response to any quadrant in the event of an incursion. Now, as unlikely as it may be, should there be an incident that results in a breach of the perimeter Aegis Division would be able to respond with full force, including our reinforcements from Site 187, within roughly 5 to 7 minutes, a little less than the time it should take any aggressors to cross that 10km divide. In such an event, both the Captain and myself can use our jump jets to exit the Capital Complex directly and get outside the city to meet any oncoming threats as necessary while the Sergeant and Corporal will need to make their way through the main thoroughfares to exit the complex and city through established roadways or, if necessary, through the river itself and using the shallows to the east of the city to get back onto dry land."

A momentary look of surprise or shock crossed Montgomery's face as I explained our initial plans for a breach and it drew my attention, it was pretty much the express I expected and I did enjoy seeing his uncertainty but I also knew that we still needed to placate the pompous fool so I tried to throw him a bone as I continued, "The same as our previously discussed contingency plans sir, with the addition of using the river as a viable exit strategy."

"Well uh, uh yes yes, of course," blundered the Tribute, revealing his hand that he in fact had not read over our submitted proposals despite having claimed to have done so, and unsurprising fact, "but we can't use the river that way. It's uh, simply, not allowed. Collateral damage and all. Besides you won't be leaving the Capital Complex, there will be no need."

"With all due respect sir, while we do not question that the planetary militia will do everything they are capable of to prevent this scenario. If it does occur, and that is a real possibility despite whatever information you may have to the contrary, we need to be able to respond to the threat. You've shackled us with extremely limited rules of engagement within the city limits, and understandably so as there will be a large civilian population present not even counting the delegations themselves. But those very limits, in place to protect both the people and property of Gellen's Heights, will hamstring us in properly defending the Capital Complex itself. If we are able to exit the city limits quickly we will be able to engage the enemy forces with limited risk or exposure of civilian targets, limiting both collateral damage and casualties while simultaneously denying the enemy the same. I highly doubt they will abide by the same rules of engagement if they manage to get within the city limits. The river also offers not only the quickest exit for our non-jump capable 'mechs but it also presents the lowest risk of collateral damage, yes there will be some damage to any boats in the river and possibly some minor water damage to riverfront property in the lower areas but that is considerably less than potential collateral damage to buildings or the almost guaranteed damage to vehicles and unreinforced roadways when 60 ton BattleMechs run along them, and we will be running in this situation," I countered.

Luke stared at the screen showing the projection of Gellen's Heights and its surrounding areas for a long time, his breathing almost seeming labored as though he was struggling with warring thoughts in his mind, before he finally let out a slow sigh and turned back to face Captain Maxwell and myself, "Fine, IF and only if we somehow run into this impossible scenario you've concocted, and you receive permission directly from myself or the Governor to leave your postings as an Honour Guard, then, maybe, you can use the river if you're careful. Any damage incurred due to those actions however will be taken from your salvage pay."

I was about to rebuke the Tribune, about how he can't renegotiate payments any more than we could at this point, but a subtle signal from Charles told me to drop it, he'd deal with it later if necessary. Our discussion continued for a few minutes longer discussing troop deployment, response times, and potential rally points depending on just how badly the enemy defeated the security perimeter, everything from a single lance breaking through somewhere to a complete collapse or destruction of an entire quadrant or more. We also discussed our varied responses, from simply plugging a gap to fighting a delaying action long enough for the Capital Complex to be evacuated. Finally with the multiple scenarios covered in detail we opened the floor up to questions.

"Does anyone have any questions?"

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