Author Topic: The Day When Heaven Was Falling  (Read 1705 times)

DOC_Agren

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Re: The Day When Heaven Was Falling
« Reply #30 on: 13 February 2018, 19:12:55 »
I like the way they handle management issues

will there be more please

and yeah i can see that being Reina personal sound track...
"For the Angel of Death spread his wings on the blast, And breathed in the face of the foe as he passed:And the eyes of the sleepers waxed deadly and chill, And their hearts but once heaved, and for ever grew still!"

snakespinner

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Re: The Day When Heaven Was Falling
« Reply #31 on: 13 February 2018, 23:18:55 »
The termination package was very impressive. O0
I wish I could get a good grip on reality, then I would choke it.
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Kidd

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Re: The Day When Heaven Was Falling
« Reply #32 on: 14 February 2018, 01:24:12 »
Excellent. I smell an epilogue... O0

@ Kidd: I think that's "ha ha ha" in Thai. A friend of mine worked in Bangkok for a year and I went to visit, but can't claim any real knowledge of the culture: just thought it would be nice to feature a group that doesn't get much coverage in the fiction.
I must say, you do pick up these things fast. M not Thai but close by, always nice to see some reference to this part of the world. Crack on!

Dubble_g

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Re: The Day When Heaven Was Falling
« Reply #33 on: 14 February 2018, 08:44:39 »
Mildly long intro: Jump to the three stars to skip.

@DOC_Agren & Kidd: Yes, this next post is the end of "season 1" of the story. So far I've never done a continuing story, so I thought I'd try and structure it almost like a TV series ... season 2 is in the works. (@Kidd: You from Singapore then? Another country i've only visited once--did the touristy things, the Raffles long bar, Sentosa, the zoo).

@snakespinner: Right, I'm thinking the theme of season 1 was "The Business of War," extra cynicism on the business. Sort of a funhouse mirror look at modern corporate culture--the bean-counting boss, backstabbing fellow employees, office politics, the corporate takeover.

Seak peak: Season 2 is tentatively "Command and Control" (though I reserve the right to change this the moment I get a better idea).

* * *

EPISODE 1-10: In which things become clearer

The DropShip was burning a steady one G for Poulsbo’s zenith jump point (the Lyrans held the nadir point). Some DropShips have the names of wives, husbands, lovers, others, famous places and people. Edwards had named ours and there hadn’t been time to change, so the hull still said Orbital Assault Transport Ship Number One. The OATS-1. Unity, I was glad he was dead.

Glad we were on our way to Galatea, too.

Almost all the ACES had come. Well, what else were they going to do, stick around on Poulsbo forever? Some would doubtless desert as soon as we hit dirt on Galatea, but Reina reckoned we’d have at least two squadrons, maybe three left. Enough for a new start.

Almost 12 days to the jump. The DropShip was on a night cycle but I couldn’t sleep. Got tired of trying to count F-10s flying through hoops. Just kept seeing Manny, Groucho, Blue Max, Hanzo … all the ones we’d left back on Poulsbo.

I still wonder about that, wonder what Hanzo’s end game was going to be. Get rich as the XO and retire to some ski chalet on Tharkad maybe. Huh. Ever meet a retired merc? Few and far between. Being a merc pilot isn’t really a career move, it’s just something you do because it’s in your blood, and you can’t NOT do it without becoming someone else. Like me: I was a flyer. That was who I was. Maybe loyalty to the League, to democracy, to my wingman had all been there at one point, but scratch the surface and it was just a thin coating over my need for wings.

Well, thoughts like that weren’t gonna help me get any sleep, so I kicked off the covers and headed over to the micro-lounge on the day-cycle deck. Had a viewport, a holoscreen, a couple of thick padded sofas and chairs, and an auto-bar. Of course.

There was a light on inside and I wasn’t surprised to find Reina sitting in one of the sofas in there, back to the door, looking out the viewport, chin resting on one hand.

I coughed loudly and went in, waving casually as she looked up. “Care for some company, Wing Commander?”

“Don’t call me that.” She sounded tired. “Couldn’t sleep?”

“Guess not,” I said, sitting down at the opposite end of the sofa. “You know, you said we’d talk later and...” I glanced at my timepiece. “Looks like it’s half past later right about now-ish.”

“Talk about what?”

“About how a little rich girl from one of the biggest families on Ozawa doesn’t speak Japanese, carries a Tong footsoldier piece and an emergency stash of cash, and knows where to buy black-market firearms.”

“Oh right.” Not tired, maybe: Resigned. “That.” She got up, crossed to the bar, thumbed the door open by pressing on its access plate and rooted around inside. “Let’s make this interesting.”

She came back with two shot glasses and a squarish clear bottle of something dark blue and moderately lethal-looking. A small, simple label in a font done to imitate jittery handwriting proclaimed it was ‘Sapphire Stones.’

There was a low table in front of the sofa. Reina put a glass in front of me, the other in front of herself, filled them both to the brim then plunked the bottle in the center of the table.

“Simple rules: We take turns making guesses about the other person. If you’re right, I drink. If you’re wrong, you do, then vice versa when it’s my turn. Got it?”

“Got it,” I nodded. “Who goes first?”

“Ladies first,” she said. “We’ll start slow: You walking in on me just now was no accident. You’ve be waiting for the chance to corner me alone with all these burning questions of yours.”

“Guilty,” I agreed, picked up the shot and tossed it back. Fire and ice, cool and bitter citrus in the mouth turning to alcohol heat as it hit the back of my throat. “My turn: You kind of wanted someone to ask you those questions.”

She grimaced a little, and threw her shot back, then refilled both glasses. “I got one: You were never in the Eagle Corps. You got that black bird tat on your arm just to impress the girls and intimidate the boys.”

I sat back a little and pointed at her glass. “Drink.”

She raised an eyebrow. “Huh,” then swallowed her shot. “You still with them?”

“Asking questions is cheating, but no.” I rolled up the right sleeve of my shirt, twisted my arm so she could see the tattoo near the armpit. A black eagle gripping a sword. “Not that I would tell you if I still was.”

“People don’t just leave the Corps, you know.”

“No they don’t,” I agreed. “They certainly don’t. My turn. You got kicked out of the NAIS weeks before graduation because they found out you were running with the New Avalon White Tigers.”

It was her turn to sit back. “Go on then,” she said, nodding at the shot.

“No? Something else then?” I said, and drank.

Her answering smile was enigmatic, unreadable. “Now you’re the one who’s cheating. I wasn’t kicked out. I dropped out.” It was, I noted, not a denial of the Tong connection. She drummed her fingers on the arm of the sofa. “It’s the League, so, let me guess: You were forced out of the Corps for political reasons? That’s why you were slumming with a unit like the ACES—keeping a low profile.”

I considered that, then shrugged. “Yah, politics, close enough.” Another drink. Everyone in the ACES was running from something. Why I changed my name. We were all keeping a low profile, hiding, I thought, even if only from ourselves.
That thought stuck. Hiding, even if only from ourselves. A premonition ticking my skin.

Changed my name. Hiding from ourselves.

Names. Hiding behind names.


I looked Reina right in the eyes, and said: “You aren’t Reina Paradis.”


Slowly, never taking her eyes from me, she reached for her glass. And drank.


“Of course,” I winced to myself at the thought of what an idiot I’d been. No wonder she didn’t speak Japanese, or knew so much about the Tongs. No wonder. “And the real Reina Paradis?”

“Still on New Avalon. Dead, probably. Possibly not.”

“But your file… the 2D photos and the holos…” I was rubbing my temples, trying to figure this out. “What, you’re a clone, a double?”

“A what? Like a doppelganger? What a strange notion,” she laughed humorlessly. “No, just looked similar enough to fool the professors at a university over 200 light years away. Miss Paradis was a spoiled little girl who spent too much on drugs and gambling and got into debt with the White Tigers. I don’t know what they did with her, and I don’t want to know. She was disappeared. I was a courier for the White Tigers, when they realized I could pass for her. So they set up a scam: I went to NAIS, preserved the appearance of normality, and the Tong skimmed off the monthly allowances Mama and Papa Paradis were sending their kid, then had me HPG them for more.”

“And then?”

“Graduation was coming up. Mama and Papa Paradis decided to attend. I could fool the professors, but there was no way I was fooling the family. I had to drop out, so I slipped out of their reach—I mean beyond the reach of both the parents and the Tong.”

“So who knows you’re not the real Reina?”

Her eyes flicked up and to the left, calculating, I think. “Well she does, obviously, if the Tong left her alive, though honestly if the Tigers haven’t tried ransoming her back to her family yet, she probably isn’t. Who else? You, me. The White Tigers boss, maybe one or two close associates of his. That’s it.” Her eyes focused back on me. “Your turn,” she said. Bottle forgotten.

I looked away, watched the stars for a moment. “There was an op. Authorized by one faction, then de-authorized by another. We became a liability, an embarrassment. And were left to die. As far as the League knows, I’m a dead man.”

Hmm? The op? I’ll tell you. One day. Some other time.

“Oh?” she said. “I may have to rethink my stance on necrophilia then.”

Her way of letting me know it was all right, she was all right with me knowing her past, was all right with knowing mine. “I got better,” I joked, then sobered. “All this time, and we’re still like strangers.”

Reina reached across, squeezed my hand. “Well, you can still call me Reina, or Rain. I’ve kind of gotten used to it.”

I squeezed back. “Ditto with Aric.”

“Good,” she sat up, formal, and shook my hand. “Nice to meet you, Aric Glass.”

“Nice to meet you, Reina Paradis.”

I figured that was the last I’d ever hear of the original Reina Paradis, because deep down, even after all I’d been through, I was still an idiot.
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Kidd

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Re: The Day When Heaven Was Falling
« Reply #34 on: 14 February 2018, 22:11:03 »
Interesting place to end it. Yes, the zoo is great innit? But you have a great eye for cultural detail methinks - Singapore is too civilised, too Americanised. The rest of SEA is a lot more colourful ::)

snakespinner

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Re: The Day When Heaven Was Falling
« Reply #35 on: 15 February 2018, 00:38:42 »
Spent 12 years in a backstabbing office atmosphere before I backstabbed the boss and spent a few years travelling around asia until I stopped laughing.
Edwards was a dead ringer for my boss at the time. :D ;)
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Dubble_g

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Re: The Day When Heaven Was Falling
« Reply #36 on: 15 February 2018, 08:22:45 »
Okay, on to Season 2: Command and Control

The first episode is a long one, so I'm going to try splitting it up into multiple posts, see if that makes it easier to read.
Wanted to write about mercenary contract negotiations, and have a bit of fun with the 3rdSW setting at the same time. Needless to say, the contract details and personalities are all chosen with malice aforethought.

* * *

EPISODE 2-1: Movement to contract

“BattleMechs.”

The ComStar agent at the Mercenary Review Board wasn’t quite what I was expecting. Reina and I had been waiting patiently in his office when he threw open the door with a bang and strode in, wearing one of those terry-towel robes of theirs that looks like they juuust stepped out of the shower.

The office itself was 31st century Inoffensive Utilitarian. Big glass windows overlooking Galaport, wide wood-paneled desk with a black top and built-in terminal, beige carpets and eggshell-colored walls, two stuffed leather armchairs facing the desk. Digital 2D image frames on the walls showed short video loops of Terra: red maples waving in the wind, waves rushing ashore along a white-sand beach, sunlit filtered through the stained-glass windows of a Medieval church, Buddhist prayer flags fluttering above a Nepalese stupa.

The agent had copper-brown hair turning grey, slicked straight back from his forehead. A close-cropped beard and a million-kilowatt smile. He looked like the kind of guy who would try to sell you an ’02 Gienah he insisted was in mint condition, despite being so full of rust holes it looked as though a JagerMech had used it for target practice.

He winked and pointed finger pistols at me and said, “Ah, praise Blake, here’s my nine o’clock. What can I do for you, big guy?”

I just aimed a thumb Reina’s way, and she held up a data crystal. Our digital resume, if you like, with a list of assets, organization, personnel files, unit history, carefully edited guncam highlights of some of our better engagements, as well as requested terms of employment: money, missions, command and salvage rights.

“Secretary?” he shone his smile at her as he plucked the data crystal and carried it to his desk.

“Unit commander,” she said through half-gritted teeth.

“Well, isn’t that something,” he said patronizingly, his plastic smile never melting. I wondered if he’d had his lips glued to his gums, or he was just congenitally incapable of any other expression. “Let’s see what we got here.” He slotted the crystal into a terminal on his desk, and skimmed through the content.

“Aerospace fighters?” One arched eyebrow indicated what he thought of that idea. “BattleMechs are what you want, my friends. Get you top C-Bills for BattleMechs. Blake knows, every Lord and Lady Nobody from Nowhere Special wants BattleMechs. Even if they can afford a battalion of Demolishers, they’d still prefer a lance of moldy, multiply-salvaged, malfunctioning BattleMechs.”

Reina exhaled slowly. Threw me a look of infinite patience being tested to its limits. Looked back to the agent. “We don’t have any BattleMechs,” she said mildly. “We have aerospace fighters, experienced pilots, and a winning record.”

“Hey, hey, you know best,” said the agent in a tone that suggested we definitely did not know best, indeed, that it was likely we knew nothing at all. “See what I can do. I’ll put it up on the boards, see who comes calling. No guarantees though. Standard handling fee for the posting, plus five percent of any contract. Sound good?”

Reina gave a minute shrug. “Not like we have any choice.”

The agent gave a false laugh and tapped a few keys on his terminal. “BattleMechs,” he murmured as though to himself, but loud enough for us to hear.

“When does it go up?” I asked, hoping to head off any verbal or physical violence from Reina.

“Just did, my friend.” He pointed at the screen as if this was a silly question, even though the screen was facing him so we couldn’t see.

Maybe Reina wouldn’t be the one committing violence, I thought. “And when do you think we’ll get a response?”

“Depends on the market and the unit, you know?” Indicating mild amazement that even such basic principles were beyond our feeble grasp. “Aerospace fighter unit now, jeez, I don’t know guys, could be a while, weeks, if you get any response at all. Might want to think about trading in the fighters for Battle—”

He paused, squinted at the screen. “Huh. Okay. One offer. House L … Three offers. No, four. Five. Six. There’s only five houses, how the hell did you get—it’s Wolf’s Dragoons.” I was delighted to see the smile slip a bit, though a little disappointed my lips-glued-to-gums theory was proven wrong. “Who the hell are you people?”

I looked at Reina and grinned. Guess it was infectious, since she mirrored it back. We stood, and the agent handed a stack of printed-out offers to me, still open mouthed. “Haven’t you heard,” I said, nodding at Reina.

“That’s Hard Reina, the Amazon Ace.”
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Dubble_g

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Re: The Day When Heaven Was Falling
« Reply #37 on: 15 February 2018, 08:24:46 »
House Liao

We met the Capellan negotiator, Gansukh Zhao, at the walled Confederation diplomatic compound in Galatea City.

The compound was done in Capellan brutalist style, all bare ferrocrete and 90-degree angles. The four expressionless guards who escorted us to the meeting room wore green parade uniforms with knife-edge sharp creases, but the auto pistols at their hips looked well-worn and ready to use.

The meeting room was also largely bare, the only furniture being two metal-tube chairs, an imposingly solid steel-grey desk, and portraits of Max and Elias Liao hanging on the walls. Each corner of the ceiling was pimpled by the bulge of a spy camera.

Gansukh Zhao stood as we entered, a thin man with straight black hair and a narrow moustache, dressed in a baggy, green mandarin-collar jacket. He motioned for us to sit in the chairs. Mine had a leg that was too short, and wobbled slightly when I sat.

“Paradis Reina,” he said, putting her name in the Chinese order, surname first. “I have followed your career on Poulsbo with great interest.”

Politeness. He’d probably only been briefed on us by the Liao hiring hall agent that morning. “You are too kind,” Reina murmured.

“Not at all. House Liao’s respect for aerospace forces is well known. Why, Chancellor Maximillian Liao’s own great aunt, Ingrid Liao, was famous for her love of flying.”

Well, yeah, okay. Also famous for getting 40 fighters shot down during the ‘Great Lee Turkey Shoot.’

“We’d be delighted to continue this tradition of course,” Reina smiled politely. “How can we be of assistance to the Capellan Confederation?”

Zhao steepled his fingers. “We would like to hire you on retainer, to supplement the aerospace forces of one of our other mercenary contractors, and you will operate under their command. Primarily for raiding, though there may be some garrison or defensive duties as well. Remuneration will be commensurate with the risk.”

“Which unit would we be working with?” 4th Tau Ceti, I figured, or maybe McCarron’s crew.

“That is confidential.”

“Location?” I asked.

“Couldn’t tell you at this juncture.”

“Type of targets?”

“It would be premature to speculate.”

“Opposition?”

Zhao shook his head. “I’m not at liberty to say.”

It figured. “Figured,” I said.

We took an autocab back to the temporary mercenary lodgings close to the Hiring Hall. Reina brooded, staring out the window, watching the people swirl by like sand suspended in a river. Or maybe just watching her own reflection. “What do you think?” she asked at last.

“Too early to tell.”

She turned away from the window to look at me. “Is that a joke?”

“Wouldn’t care to comment.”

She punched me then, in the arm, but it was worth it for the look on her face.
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Dubble_g

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Re: The Day When Heaven Was Falling
« Reply #38 on: 15 February 2018, 08:28:16 »
House Kurita

Chu-sa Mamoru Akechi invited us to a private room at the I-Ro-Ha restaurant. Techno-naturalist Japanese, myomer-fiber tatami mats and sliding transparent faux-paper doors, letting us see out but nobody in. Table almost flush with the tatami, with space underneath for our legs, the table itself a raw length of Kagoshima oak, unvarnished, sinuous and unshaped.

Despite the name, Akechi was almost Vikingly Caucasian, with platinum blond hair almost as colorless as his dress uniform, white eyebrows and grey eyes. He ordered for us, then talked of the weather, zero-G acrobats, ComStar communication fees and aerospace racing until we were done eating.

When the table was cleared, Akechi placed a printout on what I was sure was the mathematical center of the table, first facing himself, then slowly turned it so it faced Reina. “Now, to business. Paradis-sama, in light of your battle record on Poulsbo, we are pleased to offer you very favorable conditions. These are our terms. A six-month contract, for planetary assault, in a system to be named by us upon arrival in Combine space. Your unit will be divided into individual flights, each of which will work directly under the operational Combine commander, and will answer to the chain of command. Repair and resupply will be at your own expense, purchased from preferred suppliers selected by the DCMS.”

Favorable conditions, huh? Reina looked down at the paper for a minute, collecting her thoughts. “For a planetary assault, we’d appreciate a little more leeway on command rights,” she said.

“This offer is non-negotiable.”

She frowned a little. “It’s less than the Capellans are offering, you know.”

There was a little twitch in Akechi’s mouth, of a sneer not-quite suppressed. “If you do not mind fighting on the losing side. This offer is non-negotiable.”

“At the very least keep our squadrons—”

“This offer is non—”

“—together as one unit.”

“Negotiable. Seriously, ‘Poison Paradis’ san, we admire your prowess, but you did murder your own commander to obtain your current position. Command independence is quite out of the question.”

“Salvage rights?” Reina asked suddenly.

Akechi blinked a little, then looked down at the contract, scanning. Up again after a moment. “All salvage rights remain with the Combine.” He saw me open my mouth. “This offer is non-negotiable.”

As we walked back to our quarters, Reina observed, “Tough customer.”

I grunted. “Probably a diversionary raid,” I said. “Hang us out to dry while they hit the real target. I notice he didn’t even bother to think about salvage until you mentioned it.”

“No,” she sighed. “No, he didn’t.”
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Dubble_g

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Re: The Day When Heaven Was Falling
« Reply #39 on: 15 February 2018, 08:32:37 »
House Marik

The Free World League negotiating team consisted of three members: Katarzyna De Graaf, Arshad Ram and Helena Serrano. The meeting room overlooked the cargo landing pads of Galaport, the windows periodically rattling with the basso boom of landing DropShip engines.

“You are a fellow Oriente native, are you not Mister Glass?” Serrano gave me a bright smile. The best kind of lie is the truth. My faked personnel file says I was born on Oriente, which is true enough. The spec ops stuff I leave off. “I’m sure you’d be happier playing for the home team, wouldn’t you?”

“Wing Commander Paradis is from Ozawa, in the Federated Sun,” De Graff interrupted before I could do anything more than return the smile. “Perhaps we should not try to play the origins card too strongly.”

“Oh stuff and nonsense, De Graaf.” Serrano sniffed, then turned her smile back on me again. “Once an Oriente native, always an Oriente native, right Mister Glass?”

“After their excellent service on Poulsbo, I’m sure both he and Commander Paradis are aware of the values the Free Worlds League represents,” said De Graaf stiffly. “Values like democracy, tolerance, and freedom, which are surely more important than any short-sighted loyalty to the planet you happened to be born on.”

A decade earlier, she might have been right. I had fought for democracy, freedom, all those good things. It had been a little crushing to learn democracy was unwilling to fight for me. It had taken me a long time to rediscover a purpose, a belief in something other than myself.

Ram sighed loud enough to drown out any further rebuttal from Serrano. “You’ll forgive my colleagues, Commander Paradis. We Leaguers are a passionate people. Too passionate, perhaps. Our emotions are sometimes easy to inflame. There is, for example, currently unrest on one of our Periphery rim worlds which we would like you to help us with.”

“The Lesnovo contract?” De Graaf looked surprised. “I thought we’d agreed on the Park Place cadre duty, to help train the air wing of the 4th Militia?”

Ram made a great show of very deliberately not rolling his eyes. “Park Place is an interior world, under no threat, De Graaf. The Militia can look after their own training—”

“I still say if we’re going to have them work cadre, Hassad and the 2nd Militia would make more sense,” Serrano put in, swiveling her chair 90 degrees to look at the other two. “It’s right there on the Capellan border.”

“And the fact that the 2nd is posted near the Duchy of Oriente is just pure coincidence, is it?” De Graaf turned to face her. “You represent the League here, not the Duchy, Serrano.”

“I don’t care for your tone, De Graaf.”

Ram tried again: “Look, can we get back to the—”

“Don’t act like you’ve got the moral high ground here, Ram. You started it by bringing up Lesnovo, when we’d already agreed on Park Place.”

You agreed, maybe, De Graaf. I assure you Serrano and I made no such promises.”

“Well it’s the only—”

Ah, the League. Deep down, I think we Leaguers all dream of living in some sleepy seaside village, closing up our shop at five sharp and gathering in the town square to gossip, drink and dance, going to bed late and waking up at noon, spending our days in pleasant, indolent idyll. Nothing done in a hurry, everything done on its own time.

Too bad it’s no way to run an interstellar empire. A trillion people who all think they’re living in their own little village, that’s a recipe for parochialism, myopia and infighting. In a democracy, legitimacy flows from a common purpose, not from the barrel of a gun. What was the League’s purpose? To put a Marik on the throne of Terra? Yeah, no. That’s not a dream to inspire the masses.

As the three of them bickered, Reina tapped me on the shoulder and nodded in the direction of the door. I scribbled a note asking them to contact us later. We stood up quietly, and left.
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Dubble_g

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Re: The Day When Heaven Was Falling
« Reply #40 on: 15 February 2018, 08:36:15 »
House Steiner

Sofia Hoffmann presented her business card to us outside the Thirtieth Interstellar Infantry Fighting/Combat Transportation Vehicle Trade Show (IIFCTVTS 30): A neat, Steiner blue card with neat edges and neat white printing, ‘Sofia Hoffman, Director, Private Military Contractor Recruitment, Galatea Branch.’

Hoffmann herself was short, stocky, blond and businesslike. A short grey jacket and long skirt piped in blue over an eye-achingly white blouse. A VIP pass hung around her neck, and once the introductions were done she gave Reina and I yellow guest passes.

After navigating security, we threaded our way through the trade show floor, Hoffmann keeping up a steady but impersonal patter as we passed booths displaying the very latest infantry carriers, amphibious assault vehicles and scout cars, over which scantily-clad booth babes and boys draped themselves in artful poses.

“It’s one of the few fields of military hardware that still sees any innovation, yes?” Hoffmann was saying over her shoulder. “BattleMech, main battle tank, even aerospace fighter designs, they’ve all fossilized, yes? Stuck where they were centuries ago.” She nodded at one of the bigger booths. “Ceres Metals, yes? Jararaca 4x4 scout car, now with increased ground clearance to defeat anti-tank mines after that business on Quentin, yes? Over there, a next-generation Cascavel-6, in response to mercenary requests now available in LRM, SRM, yes, or triple-barreled MG versions for greater mission flexibility.”

“Yes,” muttered Reina.

One of the Ceres girls, dressed in nothing but a network of transparent tubes filled with liquid that changed color in time with the music blaring from overhead speakers, saw me looking and blew me a kiss. I went to wave back, caught Reina watching me from the corner of my eye, and ran the hand through my hair instead.

“Ceres sells to the Confederation, yes, to us, to the Houses, to mercenaries like the Dragoons. War is a business, yes, and business is booming,” said Hoffmann, as we arrived at the private Lyran Commonwealth booth in one of the far corners of the floor. The Ceres Metals music was mercifully dampened to a half-remembered tremor in the diaphragm.

We perched on high chairs around a small table, not much over half a meter in diameter. An aide brought tree tall glasses of something clear and fizzy which, I discovered to my distress, turned out to be sparkling water.

“And so, to business, yes?” Hoffmann smiled, as she did everything, professionally.

“Yes,” agreed Reina.

“We are suitably impressed by your victories against our forces on Poulsbo. I hope we can convince you to use these talents for us, rather than against us, yes? We offer defensive operations along our Combine border, six months, automatic extension during combat. Virginia Shire, where we anticipate a Combine counteroffensive after our capture of Port Moseby. Standard garrison pay scale, rising to campaign scale in the event of enemy action, yes? You will be under the direct command of the senior ranking general on whichever world you are posted to, yes?”

“No,” I said. “You’ll forgive me, but your generals have not inspired great faith in their abilities of late. Perhaps a liaison officer, and more deployment flexibility?”

Hoffmann threw up her hands in a placating gesture. “For your first contract with us, under a new commander, I think direct control would be best, yes, at least until we get to know each other better.”

Reina grimaced a little. “The Combine rep said much the same thing.”

A narrow vertical line creased her forehead as a thought trickled its way into her consciousness. “You have spoken with a representative from House Kurita, yes?”

Reina gave a palm-up, well-you-know gesture. “A little.”

The line deepened. “In that case, I am sure we can work something out.”

“Yes.”
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Dubble_g

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Re: The Day When Heaven Was Falling
« Reply #41 on: 15 February 2018, 08:38:21 »
House Davion

Federated Suns envoy Brett Anderson invited us up to his sky penthouse at the top of the DeChavilier Tower. There was an exclusive elevator up, gold-plated inside, voice-activated.

Anderson met us as we stepped off. Auburn hair, black suit, white shirt, open a few buttons at the collar. Fashionable stubble, calculated smile. He led us to the living room, a sun-drenched expanse of plush carpeting, looking out over a patio deck and Olympic-sized swimming pool.

He ignored me, fixated his gaze on Reina instead. Kissed the back of her hand and only let it go with great reluctance.

“The Amazon Ace, huh? Saw the gun cams, fantastic, just fantastic stuff. And so beautiful too. Listen, here’s what I can do for you: Retainer. Yeah, that’s right, free-floating retainer in the Capellan March, one year minimum, with option to extend for up to two more,” he said. “Rotation to New Syrtis every three months for R&R. Generous remuneration. Transportation and resupply costs all borne by the Federated Suns. Full salvage rights, independent command.”

“That’s very—” said Reina.

“Fantastic, fantastic, knew you’d agree. You’ll join me for dinner, to celebrate? Maybe for breakfast too?”

“Well I’m not—” she tried again.

“Wing Commander Paradis. Reina. Mind if I call you Reina? Reina, this is a limited-time offer. You know how it is, right? Got a lot of other units competing for these contracts. There are no guarantees once you walk out that door. Hey, I’m pulling for you here, but I’m going to need a sign of good faith. Look, I know it’s a big decision, so why don’t you take some time, maybe have a dip in the pool out there, water’s great, got a spare bikini in the guest room, I’ll order us up some Italian—you like Italian, great, knew you would—we can talk through any doubts you have. Your friend can wait at the temp quarters, catch up with you later.”

“I need to discuss—”

“Hey, I get it. It’s a lot to take on board. You need some time to think it over.” He snapped his fingers, as though a brilliant idea had just occurred to him. “You know what, you should come down to my summer villa, on the coast. I can have my ‘copter pick us up on the roof, we’ll be there by dinner-time. Very peaceful, very exclusive, very private. We can talk about this as much as you need … all night, if you want.” He winked.

“Mister Anderson—”

“Brett, please.”

“Mister Anderson. That’s very generous, but there is no way, No Way, I’m making a decision without talking it over with the unit.”

He sighed, as though tragically wounded. “Reina, Reina, I’m only looking out for your best interests. I’m hurt, I’m very hurt you can’t see that.”

“You’ll recover,” said Reina, then she stood and marched back towards the elevator.

“I can stay all night, if you like,” I offered brightly.

Anderson ignored me, turned away to look out the windows. Waved me away, dismissive.

The elevator sank down through layers of uncomfortable silence. “He seemed nice,” I said finally.

Reina laughed shortly.

“A generous offer,” I added.

“Very. It’s everything we were hoping for,” she agreed, sadly. “All it will cost is my soul.”
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Dubble_g

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Re: The Day When Heaven Was Falling
« Reply #42 on: 15 February 2018, 08:40:55 »
Wolf’s Dragoons

Faith Celik, the Wolf Dragoons recruiter, was waiting for us in the lobby of the mercenary lodgings when we returned.

About my height, steel hair pulled back in a tight bun, dark grey pant suit, discrete red and black pin on the breast, simple but timeless. Reina shook hands, invited her up to our room. Celik sat on one chair, Reina on the other, with me perched on the bed.

Celik pulled a small black box out of her bag and set it on the table beside her. A glowing red light blinked, then turned green. Celik nodded, then looked at Reina. “Perhaps we might speak alone, Miss Paradis?” she said, her hand making a gentle, open gesture in my direction.

“He’s my XO,” Reina said. “He stays.”

Celik smiled thinly. “You’ll, sorry, you will forgive me, but we have certain. Reservations. About Mister Glass’s background, given the sensitive nature of the offer we wish to make. You’ll, ahem, you will understand, of course, as a general rule we do not conduct business in front of Great House special operations soldiers. Particularly. Hm. Dead ones.”

I was impressed. “I’m impressed,” I said.

Celik tipped her head, accepting the compliment.

“What’s so sensitive about your offer?” Reina frowned.

“Well, to be blunt, Miss Paradis, your unit does not impress us much.” Celik held up a forestalling hand as a storm gathered on Reina’s brow. “You, on the other hand, impress us very much, Miss Paradis. Our offer is, how shall I put it? Exclusive. To your person.”

Reina blinked slowly, digesting it. “You want to hire me?”

Celik beamed, arms spread in a welcoming gesture. “Precisely. We feel your initiative and flying skills would make an excellent addition to our Aerospace Operations Group. I can assure you, pay will be almost double what any other outfit would offer you, plus there is—if I may be so bold—a certain cachet to working for the most famous mercenary organization in the Inner Sphere.”

Reina was dogged. “You don’t want my unit?”

“Alas, but no.”

“And him?” Reina looked over at me. “He’s, not with the uh, I mean, he’s reformed you know.”

“Perhaps,” Celik’s smile withered slightly. “That’s, ah, that is not a risk we are prepared to take.”

Reina promised to think about it.

“Well?” I asked after Celik was gone, taking her little black box with her.

“I’m thinking about it.”

“Opposite of the Davion offer, isn’t it?” I mused. “Give up yourself for the unit, or give up the unit for yourself.”

“A choice made under duress is no choice at all,” she said.

*

In the end, the choice was simple.

“It is good that we could come to a mutually-agreeable arrangement.” The House rep shook Reina’s hand, then stepped in and gave her an impulsive hug. “This is the beginning of a long partnership, yes?”

“Maybe.”
BattleTech fiction and SciFi writing: https://one-way-mirror.blogspot.jp/

Kidd

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Re: The Day When Heaven Was Falling
« Reply #43 on: 15 February 2018, 10:00:34 »
I laughed out loud at the Comstar agent's first line. And the rest are spot on. Loving it!

Dave Talley

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Re: The Day When Heaven Was Falling
« Reply #44 on: 15 February 2018, 13:06:02 »
I feel the need for a shower after that Feddie sleaze, and I like the Feds
 :)
Resident Smartass since 1998
“Toe jam in training”.
I agree. Conditionally. I have no qualms kicking the favorite faction in the crotch--repeatedly. But the fact of the matter is, I prefer to kick EVERYBODY in the crotch as often as possible, like a game of whack a mole, only here's it's whack a crotch. Because we're playing in a wargame universe, and if you're NOT getting kicked in the crotch (repeatedly), then you're not in the ****** game.
- Herb

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mikecj

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Re: The Day When Heaven Was Falling
« Reply #45 on: 15 February 2018, 23:45:55 »
Nicely written; are you sure the Feddie isn't Canopian?
There are no fish in my pond.
"First, one brief announcement. I just want to mention, for those who have asked, that absolutely nothing what so ever happened today in sector 83x9x12. I repeat, nothing happened. Please remain calm." Susan Ivanova
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snakespinner

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Re: The Day When Heaven Was Falling
« Reply #46 on: 16 February 2018, 02:36:58 »
I wonder if it's the Lyrans they signed up with.
That Feddie definitely overdosed on Viagra and slime before that meeting.
The Cappie was shifty.
The Dracs were their usual when dealing with both a woman and mercs. O0
I wish I could get a good grip on reality, then I would choke it.
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Growing up is optional.

Dubble_g

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Re: The Day When Heaven Was Falling
« Reply #47 on: 16 February 2018, 07:16:34 »
Fantastic feedback, awesome to see everyone rolling with the idea. I may have overdone it with the Feddie though: The idea I was going for is the Feds in 3025-3030 have the best toys, the best leader, the biggest heroes, the best everything and they know it--and they'll use that to try to steal your Archon-designate and/or girlfriend.

@snakespinner: Not trying to make it a mystery: One of the House reps has a unique speaking style, so the last few lines give it away.

* * *

EPISODE 2-2: Total war

Why do they call me Sunny? Well, kind of a long story, but if you want to know.

Picked the name up about a year after I joined the ACES, well before I met Reina, when we were on a counter-insurgency op on Cronulla, one of the League/Capellan border worlds way down near Andurien.

Cronulla has this series of deep trenches, anywhere from 5 to 10 kilometers deep, 1 to 2 wide, and the cities are built right into the sides, either bored into the rock walls or on convenient outcroppings of rock. The ACES base was on one of the latter.

Although the rebels weren’t too heavily armed, the vertical geography made ferreting them out kind of tricky, since they were so deeply dug in. So the militia hired mercs to do their dirty work for them.

Aerospace fighters are kind of overkill in these situations unless you’re planning on carpet-bombing your own cities, and hey, this was the League, not the Combine.

The contract didn’t pay much, which got Edwards worried about the ROI (return on investment: equals profit divided by cost of doing business) of the op. Worried we couldn’t kill the insurgents quite profitably enough.

So he stowed the F-10s and all our other toys, and talked the FWLM into loaning us these captured Capellan Mujikas for us to fly instead. Officially known as the Guardian, they’re these light S/VTOL jets that can hover like a helicopter, carry 90 micro-missiles in the belly and burst into a ball of flame if you so much as say anything mean to them.

Actually, this crappy little fighter was kind of useful for maneuvering in the canyons and blasting the rebels out of their hidey-holes—schlock and awe if you will—but damn, it felt like flying naked. Instead of armor, the damn things had two defensive systems: “chaff” and “flares.” Can you imagine? Defending yourself with confetti and fireworks. These things were not so much bargain-basement as bargain-planetary core.

Still, the People’s Revolution for an Independent Cronulla (or PRIC—Unity, who comes up with these names?) didn’t have much in the way of AA ‘cept for a couple of shoulder-fired missile launchers, so there was pretty much only one way they could get to us: on the ground.

So that’s what they did.

It was late at night, one of Cronulla’s little blue moons half-visible in the narrow strip of sky above the canyon. I was walking back towards the pilot lounge, whistling a merry old tune, when I saw a black lump sprawled across the ground, right next to the crew quarters building. Drawing closer, I saw it was one of the base security guys, a big hole burned right through his chest. I knelt down and felt for a pulse. Wasn’t surprised when there wasn’t one.

Then there was a jab as something cold and hard was pressed against the back of my neck. Wished I hadn’t had quite so much Double Tap right then, or I might have heard whoever it was approaching.

“Know what this is?” said a nasty voice. Yeah, I knew. Laser pistol lensing crystal. Same thing that shot the security guard, of course.

“You’re happy to see me?”

“Funny man,” he jabbed the crystal into the back of my neck again. “This is a Sunbeam laser pistol, funny man, and in two seconds it’s gonna burn a hole right through your skull unless you put your hands where I can see ‘em.”

The Sunbeam is less of a laser pistol, more of a laser blowtorch. It would indeed blow a hole in my head, and through the wall in front of me, quite possibly through every wall in the entire building and punch right through to the other side.

I raised my hands, very slowly. Truth is, up in the air is a far better place for them when a laser is pointed at your head than down at the waist. This guy was an amateur, an untrained revolutionary maybe, a home-grown guerilla. You don’t press your gun right up against your hostage, for example: take a few steps back so they can’t grab you, and even if they make a sudden move they’re still in your field of fire.

Two figures came creeping over as I stood there, dressed head to toe in black, hooded and masked. One held a shredder, what they call a needler rifle, the other a short-barreled submachinegun.

“We shoot him?” hissed one of the newcomers.

“Not yet,” said the one behind me. “Human shield, until we take the others.” The Sunbeam jabbed me in the neck again. “Walk. Slowly.”

So we took a nice little stroll over to the Revolving Restaurant, where inside I could still hear Groucho, Manny and Blue Max arguing loudly over five-card Drax.

“Open it,” Mister Sunbeam said, so I did.

We stepped inside and all conversation stopped. Three pairs of eyes came up, running through a range of expressions like one of those hand-drawn flip book cartoons I used to draw in the corner of my textbooks at school: Annoyance, surprise, anger.

“Everyone stand up slowly or this guy’s head is toast,” growled the leader.

“Oh no,” said Groucho, clapping a hand to her mouth. “Unity, no.”

“Take it easy. Just. Take it easy,” urged Manny, hands up in a placating gesture.

Blue Max just sat still and screwed his eyes as tight as they would go. “Just make it quick,” he said. “I can’t stand to watch people suffer.”

The man behind me laughed harshly. “Oh, your suffering is just getting started, mercenary scum.”

Max opened his eyes, looking really puzzled. “Wasn’t talking to you.” He looked right at me. “Not too much blood, okay Aric?” Max knew what my tattoo meant.

Mister Sunbeam was still trying to process that when I twisted, one hand clamping on the man’s pistol hand, the other palm hammering right up into his elbow, bending it quite the wrong way with a snap. Even as he dropped, screaming, the Sunbeam was in my hand and I was spinning towards the guerilla on the left.

He was blinking, mouth a round O of shock, when the Sunbeam torched a sizzling line across his neck as I spun. The body went one way, his head went the other.

My pirouette ended with me facing the last guerilla. Give the guy credit, he’d gotten as far as bringing the needler rifle up to his hip. The Sunbeam took his arm off just below the shoulder.

Poor sap just kind of stood there for a second, staring dumbly at the smoking hole of his shoulder and the gently barbecuing arm on the ground. Gave me plenty of time to adjust my aim, and shoot him right between the eyes. Laser beam flash-fried every liquid in his skull with enough force to blow the whole back of his head open and spray it across the far wall like ejecta from a meteor strike.

“On second thoughts, I am kind of happy to see you,” I told the guy with the broken arm, then torched him, too. “PRIC,” I muttered.

“Dammit Glass, I asked you,” complained Max, looking at the blood-splattered wall.

I just wordlessly tossed Max the needler while Groucho scooped up the SMG. “Stay here, barricade the door.” I told them. “Gonna have a look-see outside.”

I opened the door just a crack and saw another black-clad figure dashing by right outside. Guess he saw the light because he slowed, frowned, then eyes widened when he realized I wasn’t one of his boys.

Fired the Sunbeam, and his head jerked back. Legs folded. I crouched over him and found he’d been carrying another Sunbeam, so I picked that one up too and put it in my left hand.

No guesses where he’d been running to. I could hear gunfire, shouting and screaming from the direction of the married pilots’ quarters. It’s a terrible thing, hearing a child scream. I thought we were done with total war, done with it centuries ago, when (after nuking ourselves halfway back to the Stone Age) the whole species had finally figured out it was a shortcut to extinction. Guess some lessons need to be learned again.

I came around the corner and saw three of them trying to break down the barracks door while two more were shooting at the second-story windows. A Sunbeam in each hand, I shot those two before they knew I was there. Other three looked up, one of them dropped a sledgehammer, clawing for his SMG. Didn’t let him get it. Put neat, orange-white holes in the two others, then in the sledgehammer guy as he tried to run.

There were shadows in the windows above me now, people wondering why the hammering had stopped. I heard some
people saw me take the insurgents down with the Sunbeams.

The last cadre had gone after the hangars: A demolitions squad, armed with satchel charges. The security guys there were on their toes more than the ones near the pilot quarters (taking better care of the hardware than the people, thanks guys) and had taken cover down the far end of the hangar.

Then along comes this madman with a Sunbeam in each hand—that would be me—who starts torching the bandits left and right. Guys at the rear, Sunbeam to the back. Satchel charge guys—Sunbeam to the chest. Set off one charge, blew him and his buddies to hamburger filler. Their leader, the traitor who’d let them into our base—Sunbeam to the head.

Sunbeams, Sunbeams, Sunbeams everywhere.

So yeah.

It was very sunny the next day, so that’s why they called me Sunny.
 
BattleTech fiction and SciFi writing: https://one-way-mirror.blogspot.jp/

Kidd

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Re: The Day When Heaven Was Falling
« Reply #48 on: 16 February 2018, 07:48:56 »
Nah, I thought all of them were good :D

DOC_Agren

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Re: The Day When Heaven Was Falling
« Reply #49 on: 16 February 2018, 14:32:52 »
Brett Anderson makes a lounge lizard cringe :o   I feel like I need a shower now

I'm pretty sure they signed with Sofia Hoffmann and House Steiner, as the only reasonable one

House Marik, sends 3 person team with no clear lead, very House Marik

House Kurita offer sucks for the unit, and House Liao it would be crap shoot what they want from them


"For the Angel of Death spread his wings on the blast, And breathed in the face of the foe as he passed:And the eyes of the sleepers waxed deadly and chill, And their hearts but once heaved, and for ever grew still!"

snakespinner

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Re: The Day When Heaven Was Falling
« Reply #50 on: 16 February 2018, 18:40:35 »
He's just a ray of sunshine. :D ;D O0
I wish I could get a good grip on reality, then I would choke it.
Growing old is inevitable,
Growing up is optional.

cpip

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Re: The Day When Heaven Was Falling
« Reply #51 on: 17 February 2018, 01:14:29 »
I'm enjoying this one a great deal. Looking forward to seeing this continue!

Dubble_g

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Re: The Day When Heaven Was Falling
« Reply #52 on: 17 February 2018, 08:37:02 »
@cpip: Hey, glad to hear it and welcome to the party.
@snakespinner <-- this guy gets it!
@DOC_Agren: Yes, with House Steiner. Hoffmann's habit of ending every sentence with "...yes?" is the giveaway.
@Kidd: Thanks friendo! They were all fun to write with tongue planted very firmly in cheek.

* * *

EPISODE 2-3: Meeting engagements

After combat losses on Poulsbo, and loyalty losses on Galatea, we were three shy of two full squadrons.

“Put together a flight. See if you can find some likely candidates. Make yourself useful for a change,” Reina said with a wink. “And while you’re at it, help me think of a new name for the unit.”

“Reina’s Raiders?”

“Ugh. ‘Somebody’s something’ are the UrbanMechs of mercenary names: Cheap, cheerful and cheesy. Wolf’s Dragoons, Hansen’s Roughriders, Barrett’s Privateers, blah blah blah. We need something to stand out, not blend in. Something with gravitas.”

“Ok. Gravitas Force, G-Force for short?” She looked at me funny. “Hey, it’s got gravitas.”

“Go,” she pointed at the office door. “Shoo. Va-a-a t’en.”

So I made a list, checked it twice. Tried to guess who was naughty or nice, then dropped all the nice ones. Nice doesn’t cut it in the air.

Despite what the holovids like to pretend, being a great, or even a good aerospace fighter pilot in the 31st century takes more than mirror shades and a shit-eating grin. A lot of it is technical—you’ve got to know your fighter, know what it can do both in an atmosphere and in a vacuum, know what the other guy’s can do, know how all those things are impacted by gravity, inertia, drag and a hundred other factors, know how to use them to your advantage—not just know, but know instinctively, without thinking about it.

Of course, there’s more to it than that. Luck helps, as does experience, plus a dash of aggression—the ingredients of a vodka pilotini, always stirring, never shaken.

I started with a list of 50 names, took out those with no combat experience. We were going to the Combine front, no time to learn the ropes. Whittled down the rest by looking at psych profiles, unit evaluations, and criminal records—yeah, I was aware of the irony of doing that in Reina’s unit—ended up with a short list of five names. It was time to get to work.

Gaurav “Lucky” Singh had an infectious grin, an unruly mass of curly black hair, and stubble that wasn’t so much five o’clock shadow as midnight pitch darkness. A Sikh from the Federated Suns outback world of Panpour, he skipped the traditional turban and the beard: Wasn’t his style, he said, with a careless shrug. I got the feeling this was a guy who lived life precisely the way he wanted, other people’s expectations be damned.

I met all the candidates in a meeting room at the Hiring Hall. More of a cubicle really, two chairs and a small round table, just enough space to prop up the noteputer and read through the personnel files.

Singh glided into the room right on time, with that trademark grin of his.

“Hey chief, what’s good?”

“War, wine and women, my friend.” I stood to shake his hand, then pointed to the other seat. “Pull up a chair if you’re sticking around.”

He grinned and sprawled almost bonelessly into the chair. “How do you want to do this?”

“Well, there’s a couple of questions I’d like to ask, and if that goes okay, we’ve got 30 minutes in the flight sims downstairs for you to show me your stuff. Two 15-minute back-to-back sessions, 600K upper thermosphere and 15K standard atmosphere.” The two places aerospace fighters see the most action: either intercepting an assault before it hits dirt, or over the battlefield once both sides are on the ground.

He waved his hand, in a go-ahead kind of way. “Sounds good, chief. So shoot.”

“Tell me about your last unit.”

“The Junkyard Devas,” he said with a rueful shake of his head. Good memories, it seemed. “Merc company from people down my way, Panpour, Jodipur, Basantapur, combined arms. Great unit.”

“So great that you got cut to pieces by the Dracs.”

“By the Dragoons, chief. No shame there.”

“And you say your nickname is Lucky?” Kind of cocked my head at him, put the weight of irony into his nickname.

“Hey,” he just gave a liquid shrug. “I’m still here, aren’t I? I call that lucky.”

The flight sims were these light beige, egg-shaped pods that kind of swelled out from the floor. The actual cockpit inside was mounted on a triple gimbal framework that could spin you faster than Hanse Davion’s PR department, and while the displays were a little low-rez they were slightly more realistic than Max Liao’s chances of becoming First Lord.

I configured the two pods to simulate the CNT-1D (confusingly called the Centurion, a name it shares with a BattleMech design—though pilots tend to call it something else which also contains the letters CNT, in that order). Started Singh and I at the same altitude, flying towards each other, and the fight was on.

Singh wasn’t bad. I won the low atmosphere fight, he won the high orbit one (yeah, well, he got lucky). Well, fair enough. Skill counts for a lot, but a little luck never hurts.

*

“The Para-demons?” I suggested to Reina. “You know, Paradis plus demons.”
Reina did a quick search through the database. “Bad luck, Sunny. Already taken. Some Stephen Wolf guy.”

*

Big hair, big moustache, big jacket, big belt buckle. Big voice. That was Zack “Hack” Unomwe.

“Trust me bud, I’m the best damn pilot that’ll walk through that door. So, where’s this Amazon Ace chick? She must be pretty wild, huh?”

“You could say that. You’re the best pilot, huh? And yet the Fighting Urukhai let you go?”

“Malkin’ idiots don’t know nuffin’ about nuffin’.”

“That so?”

“That's right, I could fly circles around every damn one of them with my eyes closed and one hand holding my pecker.” He waggled his big buckle for emphasis.

“Impressive.”

“Got that right. Malking General Greenspan just too damn dumb to realize it. Greenspan, more like Greenhorn, am I right?”

“And the insubordination charges in your file are, what. A misunderstanding?”

“Greenhorn, ha ha. Or Green-spam. Green-ham. Sorry bud, what did you say?”

“Never mind.”

“You wanna take a spin in the sims? I’ll do loops around your ass so fast you won’t know what hit you.”

“Know what? I think I’ve seen all I need to see.”

“So, when do I get to meet this Reina babe?”

“Let me get back to you on that.”

Good pilots are confident, sure, but there is a limit. Save the cockiness for the bar. Overconfidence will get you killed as sure as a Stuka on your tail.

*

“Black Sheep? White Rabbits? Red Devils? Blue Jays?”

“I dunno, Sunny. Maybe something more, hmm, timeless and mythic maybe?

“Mythic. Gotcha. I’ll get back to you on that.”

*

Desmond “Dope” Ball was a short guy, clothes going at the seams, looking a little pale and sweaty. One knee bouncing up and down with nervous energy. Didn’t say much.

“You’ve got a fine record with Narhal’s Raiders, Dez, up until last year. Then there’s a blank. Fill it in for me?”

He was silent a long while, long enough to wonder if he’d heard me. Finally, he said, barely more than a whisper: “I can still fly.” He looked up at me then, with desperate conviction in his eyes. “I can.”

I sighed. Rubbed my eyes with the balls of my hands. Let them fall, carelessly. Man, this was not what I signed up for. Okay, so I kind of volunteered for this, but whatever. “Let me guess, Dez: Evoke? Racer?”

One of the downsides of being a pilot is getting too used to the adrenaline rush than comes with flying. Some guys, they get addicted to that, want that rush every day of their lives. And there are people quite willing to sell it to you in a bottle, in a needle, in a lifetime’s slow wasting away.

Evoke and Racer were just two of the more common ones—dopamine and serotonin boosters, feel-happy drugs that made you feel like you were flying when you were laying on the bare concrete floor of a rat-infested basement. Just as well, cos that’s where you’d probably be after taking either for long enough.

“Does it matter which?” Desmond asked.

“Nah, not really.” Guy needed help, and a frontline combat unit was not the time or place. “Look man, check yourself into a clinic. Get them to wire me, I’ll see what we can do to help you through the program. If you’re clean when we come back this way, we’ll talk again.”

A good pilot is reliable, this guy just wasn’t. Not right then. Guess some people got to fight their own wars. Hoped he’d win his.

*

Niall “Bulldog” Davis was tall, well-built, square-jawed with a shaved head and a short beard. Slightly stubborn but hangdog look to him. Must have been pushing almost 40, with the first signs of grey in his beard.

“Your last unit was the 12th Star Guards,” I said. “Great unit, fine reputation. So what gives? Why quit?”

Davis had a solid record. Just. Well. The Guards’ evaluation was a little too generically nice, like someone was trying to write it just positive enough to get rid of him, without offering any specifics.

“Didn’t quit,” he said, kind of hurt. Like he’d known that question was coming, probably been asked it by every unit hiring, and was tired of answering. “Let go. They didn’t renew my contract.”

I let that sit in the room for a bit. Let him tell me on his own time.

“They hired a dozen new guys, fresh faces, right out of academies,” he said at last. “Said I was too old, I’d lost my edge.”

“Have you?”

His mouth set in a grim line. “Think I’d be here if I had?”

Got to admit, I’ve got a soft spot for an underdog. With my background the Confederation is the nearest thing I’ve got to an ancestral enemy, for example, but damned if I don’t cheer them on every time they scrap with the Suns.

“The 12th is on station in the Ryde Theater. Any experience fighting the Dracs?” Maybe I was reaching for a reason to hire the guy, the underdog. When he nodded kind of ruefully—in an oh hell yeah kind of way—I followed up with: “So how should I fight, say, a Sholagar?”

He rubbed his chin for a second, thinking. “Well, it’s got a bad rep, because it’s unstable in the atmosphere. But that’s the thing—it’s meant to be unstable. Just means it’s brutal on novice pilots, like Akiro Kurita.” The Coordinator’s nephew had died in a Sholagar crash in 3002. “Your best bet is to mix up your maneuvering, scissors, yo-yoing, rolls, so the other guy has to concentrate more on flying than shooting at you.”

“Sound advice. Now, let’s see if you still know a few tricks, old dog.”

The two sim duels ended up in draws. Think I was the better gunner, but every move I made he saw coming a mile away and had a counter for, so I could never land the knock-out punch.

Good instincts and training are must-haves for a good pilot, but there’s no substitute for experience.

*

“You wanted mythic, so here goes: The Cat’s Claws? The Stormbringers? The Doom Givers? The Battle Friends? The Foe Hammers?”

“No, nah, nope, hmm, you might be on to something there.”

*

Irina “Nova” Desiderata. Spikey as a porcupine, quick as a viper, that was Irina. Thin, gaunt, all the ink on her arms and throat maybe doubled her body weight. Some kind of dark constellation made up of bones, spiders and daggers, marching up one arm and then down the other. Seemed unaware it was possible to buy clothing in a color other than black.

Kicked the door instead of knocking. “You him?” Hands on hips, tense, like she was ready to run if I said ‘No.’

“Possibly?”

“Reina Paradis’ new outfit?” Her eyes restlessly roaming the room, as though Reina might be somehow hidden inside the walls or under the carpet.

“That’s me,” I nodded, and indicated the chair. “Take a seat.”

“Prefer to stand.” She took two long legged strides into the room. “So?”

“You’re from Tortuga.”

“That a question?”

Had I every been that young, that brash, that full of myself? Actually yeah, bet I had. Bet the look on my face right then was the same look the recruiter back on Oriente had on his when I signed up: irritation warring with knowing amusement, irritation winning out. I closed the noteputer with one hand, massaged the back of my neck with the other. “Irina—”

“Nova.”

“Okay, Nova. Give the attitude a rest and grab a seat. Watching you prowl in here is giving me a neck ache. I’ve no idea what you went through to get from Tortuga to here, but believe me, I am not your enemy. So save your poison and talk to me like a fellow human being.”

Being an aerospace also takes respect. That’s one thing Reina had reminded me: You’ve got to rely on the people around you.

For a second, I felt Nova wasn’t buying it. She looked like she was about to split, took one step towards the door, then changed her mind and sat. I didn’t know it was possible to sit viciously, but somehow, she threw herself into the chair like she was attacking it.

“It took a lot.” She said. “You’ve no idea.”

“I’ll bet. So tell me, why does a deserter from a Tortugan pirate outfit want to fly with our unit?”

“Reina,” she said immediately.

I knew the feeling. “And what guarantees do we have that you won’t desert us like you did the Tortugans?”

“Reina,” arms folded, like that answered everything. Which I guess it did.

I won both fights in the sim, but neither was easy. Nova lacked finesse, but I could see the raw talent there, and the aggression, you bet she had the aggression, just needed to temper it with a bit of good judgement. With an old hand, perhaps.

*

“Hey Reina,” I knocked on the door, threw her a wave when she looked up. “Got the new recruits for you to meet’n’greet.”

The three were waiting outside. My new wing: Lucky slouching comfortably, Bulldog standing at ease, Nova trying very badly to hide her excitement.

“Welcome, warriors,” said Reina, smiling. “Welcome to the Black Arrows.”
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Dubble_g

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Re: The Day When Heaven Was Falling
« Reply #53 on: 18 February 2018, 08:33:49 »
EPISODE 2-4: Friendly fire

Yeah, there’s more to being a good pilot than quick reflexes and accurate shooting. Take brains, too. For example? Huh, well, you remember I was telling you about Cronulla, right? Counter-insurgency op on the Capellan border. Planet with a crust like old leather.

One time I had to think on my feet—or on my wings, if you will—was in this place called the Cavern of the Kings, a massive karst and limestone cave system leading off one of the main canyons, maybe 300 kilometers long, with the main cave around a kilometer high and two kilometers wide. Damn thing was big enough for its own river system, which spilled out into the canyon in a two-kilometer high waterfall. It was dotted with skyscraper-sized stalactites and stalagmites explorers had named after ancient kings: Jackson, Elvis and Bowie.

Oh yeah, and at the very back of this titanic obstacle course was the PRIC theater operations headquarters. The PRICs were wedged in there good, in a bunker guarded with enough guns and missiles to take out a DropShip: Quad medium lasers, octuple machineguns, SRM-way-too-many racks. Couldn’t just starve them out, ‘cos the cave system had thousands of exits in addition to the main one, most unmapped, which the PRICs used to slip in and out like a sex toy covered in petroleum jelly.

Going in and blasting them out was a suicide mission.

“Glass, I’m empowering you to put together an agile team that can achieve mission-critical deliverables,” Edwards waffled to me.

“You want me to fly in there and take out the HQ? Hanzo, tell him how crazy that is.”

Hanzo smiled sympathetically and put a hand on my shoulder. “Aric, let me explain: We want you to fly in there and take out the HQ.”

I’ve heard of guys getting shot down by friendly fire before, but this was the first I’ve heard of it happening while you were still in the briefing room.

Eight hundred meters of height might sound like a lot, but that’s a rounding error for aerospace pilots. The F-10s couldn’t do the job, obviously: They’d just slam into the cavern walls on the way down if they were unlucky, or if they were very, very lucky, they’d slam into the cavern wall once they reached the end of the tunnel. VTOLs would have been better for this mission, but we didn’t have VTOLs did we? The Guardian would have to do. Only one way to do it: Slalom down the cavern, hit the brakes and fire off a clutch of missiles at the bunker, then flip around and run like hell before the AA got you.

I couldn’t, in good conscience, ask anyone I liked or respected to join me on this mission. So I ordered Manny, Groucho and Blue Max to do it instead.

“Did you tell Edwards how crazy this is?” Manny had both hands in his hair after I told him.

I just gave him a look.

“Oh right, yeah. Okay, well then did you tell Hanzo how crazy this is?”

“I did.” I said. “He’s behind this Charlie Foxtrot 100%.”

Blue Max whistled appreciatively. “Wow Glass, just wow.” Sarcastic clapping. “Way to get us all killed.”

“Hey,” I blew him a kiss. “The least I could do.”

The approach run was easy, since we could just fly way above the canyon, rather than along it. Then we’d dive down, pull a 90-degree turn into the cavern mouth, fly single file and slow enough that we didn’t smear ourselves across the geography, before actually hitting the target.

The approach run should have been easy, that is. Guess nobody told the PRIC that, ‘cos they had a welcoming committee waiting the minute we showed.

Groucho was the first to spot them “Contact! A dozen bandits, two o’clock low.”

Sure enough, a swarm of gnat-sized black dots were pouring out of the cavern mouth beneath us. Had a quick glance down at one of the multi-purpose displays in the cockpit to get a sensor reading and saw what we had.

A squadron of Angel light strike fighters. It’s the cheapest, shoddiest piece of machinery you’ve ever seen, with twin nose booms make it look like a metal crab—and it’s only marginally more aerodynamic. Only people on Cronulla who used it were the militia, which meant a dozen of them had switched sides without anyone telling us.

Outnumbered three to one, we did what we do best: Attack.

“Split right, Groucho. Max, with me,” I ordered. Each pair tipped up a wing and began to dive down towards the Angels, my section curving left, Groucho’s right. That way one pair would get a shot at the Angels tails, regardless of which pair they went after first.

The PRIC air force split half and half and climbed straight towards us. I thumbed off a salvo in front of the lead fighter’s nose from beyond range—an old trick, make the other guy flinch before you get into effective fighting distance. Worked like a charm. He swerved, giving me and Max a shot at his side as we dove past. Four micros slammed home and blew the fighter apart.

Then we were through their formation, heading right for the six fighters closing with Groucho and Manny. Tails towards us. Too easy. Picked a target, waited ‘till it filled the scope, fired. Whoosh as six micro-missiles leapt from the racks and corkscrewed right into the Angel. Wasn’t much left but scraps of armor, falling like black rain.

There was a shrill warning in my helmet as an Angel locked on to me. Dropped tinsel ad pulled back all the way on the stick, went rocketing straight up, a flash of exhaust beneath me as the Angel’s missiles flew past. Then I cut power and flipped the Guardian. The Guardian is vectored thrust, just like the F-10, means you can point the exhaust lots of places that aren’t directly behind you, making your fighter nimble as a ballerina. When I say I flipped the fighter, that’s pretty literal—like a kick-flip or somersault, one second the nose was pointing straight up, the next almost straight down.

Pointing right at the Angel on my tail. Thumbed the big red button on the control stick and watched the missiles roar right into the fighter: one nose boom blown off, bowling-ball holes punched in each wing, engine guttering out. The fighter spiraled away, more smoke than fuselage left, before its missiles cooked off and took out the rest of it in a burst of flame.

Got a moment to look down and see the cavern we were aiming for. Just in time to see the second wave of eight more PRIC fighters launch from the cavern.

“Aw, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot Boss—” Max had seen them too. Someone had screwed up the intel on this op, and bad. Definite case of friendly fire.

It was time for a change of plan. “Groucho, Manny, try to keep them busy here. Max, on me. We’re going down the rabbit hole.”

We dove past the slow-climbing second wave, firing off missiles wildly to make them scatter, dumping fistfuls of tinsel and popping flares as we cut straight by them, never slowing, then throwing our fighters into a skidding turn into the cavern.

Half the PRIC squadron kept climbing, going after Groucho and Manny, but four Angels looped around and followed.

What a ride that was. Almost pitch-black after the first couple of kilometers, switching to night vision so everything glowed a ghostly green around me. Colossal pillars of stalactites suddenly lunging at me from the blackness. Angels hot on my tail. Scissoring back and forth, trailing a whole stream of flares and twinkly-silver chaff, the air pulsing as near-misses slammed into the rock wall behind me.

“I’m hit!” Max shouted on the comms. “Losing fuel.”

“Get clear,” I told him.

And then it was just me and four Angels.

Big stalactite coming up, called Cornell, close to the cavern wall. Stood the Guardian on one wing and went for the gap. Scraped through, meters to spare. Two Angels tried to follow at the same time, flew together and then blew out in a blinding ball of light, briefly turning the cavern night into day.

No time to celebrate. Another hard turn around Lennon, the biggest pillar in the whole cavern, then fired a full spread at Harrison, the pillar just beyond. Fountains of flying rock and debris blasting out from the surface just as I flew past—right into the path of the Angel sitting right on my ass. Fist-sized chunk went right through the cockpit ferroglass and took the pilot’s head off.

Then I slammed on the air brakes and cranked the thrusters to hover, standing the fighter almost still, letting the last Angel shoot right past me as it pulled around the stalactite. Six micro-missiles stitched into its underbelly, blowing it almost cleanly in half.

Thought I’d done it, then. Thought the ending was a foregone conclusion—I felt invincible.

Then I saw the web of AA fire the PRIC were putting up in front of the bunker. Like a deadly rainbow, a wall-to-wall killer lightshow. No way to fly through that, and live.

A word about the modern micro-missile, the ‘mimi.’ Short-range missiles are the shotgun of the battlefield these days, not the sniper rifles they used to be. ECM got so good any ordinance with any brains and maneuvering power could be turned against its owner, so for the last couple of centuries they’ve just been a quick-burn thruster with a big ‘ole HEDP warhead strapped to the front, and a micro-hamster brain that goes after the last thing it was pointed at.

Any soldier will tell you these babies have an effective range on the battlefield of a couple hundred meters. After that, the rocket runs out of fuel and gravity and atmospheric drag take care of the rest. Now, let that sink in for a sec. If you’re only 10 meters off the ground, like the ’Mech jocks, running out of fuel means the mimis hit the ground pretty quick. It’s a different story when you’re 500 meters up. The mimis don’t spontaneously combust or fly up to missile heaven. They keep on going, falling, dropping to the ground until they hit something and go ‘boom.’

So, I was heading straight towards a solid curtain of multicolored AA laser fire just waiting for me to fly into range. I nosed down, screaming right over the cavern floor, then yanked the stick back into my crotch and pulled into a near-vertical climb. And fired as the nose tipped up.

Just outside of range, I fired, with the Guardian pointed at the cavern ceiling. Dumped off the last of my mimis, two clusters of six.

Turned my climb into a loop, flying inverted just under the cavern roof. Rolled and hit the afterburners, kicked back in my seat as the Guardian zoomed away from the bunker.

Bet they thought they’d scared me off. Panicked me so bad I’d taken wild shots and run for my life.

A dozen contrails arced through the cavern. Mimis are built for random course changes so they’re harder to shoot down with AA, so it was like a nest of wispy, billowing snakes racing through the air. Up, up, then leveling out as gravity took hold, flying flat and straight. Then the contrails spluttering and disappearing as the rocket fuel ran out.

Did they wonder, then, did they guess? A dozen mimis still in the air, no longer powered, but still up there, falling now, falling back down to ground. Did they see it coming? The invisible hand of physics gripping the missiles now, the cold arithmetic of velocity, mass and resistance. Pulling them back down, towards the ground.

Red-black fireballs erupted on the cavern floor, the shockwaves visible as bows of white light pulsing outwards from each hit. An AA gun hit, pieces of men and machine tossed high into the air. A missile rack, cooking off its own load of mimis in a chain reaction. Three hit the bunker, one impacting on a viewport and incinerating a room full of cadre commanders peering outside. The other two smashed into the armored front doors, then the dual-purpose warheads filled the air with shrapnel and punched holes in the center of the door, filling the rooms beyond with twin jets of volcano-hot liquid metal.

Not much left of the PRIC high command after that.

My luck finally ran out on the way back when some lucky grunt on the ground hit me with a shoulder-launched surface-to-air missile. Punched a hole in the wing and forced me to crash-land in the middle of that frigid little river running down the middle of the cave.

But that’s a story for another day.
BattleTech fiction and SciFi writing: https://one-way-mirror.blogspot.jp/

mikecj

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Re: The Day When Heaven Was Falling
« Reply #54 on: 18 February 2018, 14:02:41 »
Great chapter!
There are no fish in my pond.
"First, one brief announcement. I just want to mention, for those who have asked, that absolutely nothing what so ever happened today in sector 83x9x12. I repeat, nothing happened. Please remain calm." Susan Ivanova
"Solve a man's problems with violence, help him for a day. Teach a man to solve his problems with violence, help him for a lifetime." - Belkar Bitterleaf
Romo Lampkin could have gotten Stefan Amaris off with a warning.

pensiveswetness

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Re: The Day When Heaven Was Falling
« Reply #55 on: 18 February 2018, 22:33:04 »
I thought he would aim for the cave ceiling with his SRM's and let gravity do the rest via rocks doing the damage... still worked.

snakespinner

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Re: The Day When Heaven Was Falling
« Reply #56 on: 19 February 2018, 01:56:41 »
Ancient kings, all singers from the 20th century. O0
I wish I could get a good grip on reality, then I would choke it.
Growing old is inevitable,
Growing up is optional.

Dubble_g

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Re: The Day When Heaven Was Falling
« Reply #57 on: 19 February 2018, 07:47:16 »
@mikecj: Thanks my dude.
@pensive: Yeah, I was thinking of that, then realized I'd already done a "blow up a bit of the landscape to take out the bad guys," so it felt like I was repeating myself. Looked for a way to have him hit the target and survive and came across toss bombing, which was simply too cool NOT to use.
@snakespinner: Knew you'd catch that! I like putting in those kinds of things for people to find. The islands on Poulsbo were all named after painters, too, but maybe that was a little too obscure.

* * *

EPISODE 2-5: Battle drills

Port Moseby was nice. The word ‘nice’ has a certain connotation doesn’t it? It’s the lukewarm tea of adjectives. Slightly pleasant but not too exciting, that was Port Moseby: Mild temperatures, mild geography, mild weather. Bland. Boring. Nice.

Mind you, after Poulsbo I was in the mood for a bit of boring. It was nice, for example, to know that the continent I was on would be in more or less the same place when I woke up the next morning, and that the number of local fish species which could conceivably kill and eat me was in the low single digits.

Back in 3022, the Lyrans had surprised the Dracs—and probably themselves—by retaking the planet after generations of Combine occupation. The people had been under the Combine boot for the last two, maybe three centuries, and had the fastidious politeness and uncertain joy of a population just learning that it would no longer be a capital offence to bow at the slightly wrong angle. The people were inoffensive. Nice.

The most impressive thing about it wasn’t on the planet at all, but rather its big emerald moon, Kiwi, a shade closer and larger than Terra’s own Luna, giving the oceans some impressive tides.

As a border world, we were on high readiness at all times. Spent a lot of time in the air, even a little in orbit, putting the Black Arrows through battle drills. All the same, Reina and I still found a little time to rent a little cabin by a white sand beach, lie together in a big ol’ hammock beneath the pom-trees, looking up at that moon, hanging right over our heads.

That was nice, too.

Which, of course, meant it couldn’t last. Unity, I’d learn to hate that moon.

First sign of trouble was a grey-and-blue groundcar pulling up in front of the hangar, with a request-slash-order for Reina to get down to the 20th Arcturan Guards CP in Feintuch City, ASAP. As the only ’Mech unit on the planet, the CO of the Guards was the de facto commander of the planetary defences. The invite was for Reina and the liaison officer, Anya McBride, but Reina pulled me into the back of the car, too.

The whole party was in attendance when we got there. Colonel Jurgen Petersen, with his saturnine face and black hair and beard spiked with grey. Duchess Joan Welman, back on her ancestral home after eight generations of living on handouts in exile on Tharkad. Prime Minister Simon Teltra, a Combine-era bureaucrat who’d been senior enough to be useful to the Lyrans, but not so senior that they’d had to purge him. The militia commander, the colonels of a couple of conventional armor and infantry regiments, plus a double handful of communications techs and intelligence officers rounded out the audience.

Most of them ignored us when we arrived: Teltra started to bow, then went for a handshake. Everyone else was glued to a huge monitor, on which there was an image, something in the low-pixel count, showing the long thin needle of a JumpShip. Timestamp in one corner showed earlier that day, digital letters in another spelled out: PTMB-OLY-SCAN:Z:001.

Colonel Petersen nodded to one of his intelligence officers, who stepped forward so he was directly under the center of the image. “At 0300 Feintuch time, the Olympus recharge station at the zenith jump point detected the arrival of an unscheduled JumpShip. Analysis of gravity waves and the video images suggests it is Star Lord class, tentatively identified as the DCMS vessel Soaring Crane.”

The image jumped, zooming in and losing even more definition. Mottled grey blobs—four rounded, one more linear—detached themselves from the needle and were haloed with the pixelated fire of thrusters. “The JumpShip immediately deployed six DropShips: One Vengeance-class, one Intruder-class, four Mammoth-class.”

Reina and I looked at each other. “What the hell are they thinking?” she said. Pretty much everyone in the room was echoing the sentiment, if not quite so succinctly. The Vengeance was a fighter carrier, with maybe two full squadrons and change on board, the Intruder an assault ship, heavily armed, with space for a reinforced company of marines.

So far, so what you might expect from a Drac raiding force.

“Perhaps a merchant convoy and escort?” Teltra said hopefully. Nobody bothered to correct him.

The Mammoth, you see, is a civilian cargo ship. Correction, the Mammoth is a malking gigantic cargo ship. Nearly 20 times bigger than the Intruder, capable of hauling 40,000 tons of cargo each. But unarmored, almost unarmed. Four of those on a trading mission would be excessive. Four on a raiding force would be idiotic.

“All six DropShips began a high-G burn towards Port Moseby. The Intruder made a high-speed pass by the Olympus station, targeting sensor arrays.”

There was a brief flash of cobalt light, and grainy image on the screen cut out in a wash of static.

That was another surprise. By unspoken consent among the Great Houses, attacking recharging stations like the Olympus was generally considered unsportsmanlike, gauche, a Very Naughty Thing Indeed. Those stations were vital to keeping the scattered web of humanity knit together. Knocking out its sensors came verrry close to crossing that rather sensitive interstellar Rubicon. Had to be something the Dracs were pretty desperate for us not to see. Took us a few days to find out what.

With the intel briefing over, Colonel Petersen took the floor.

“Your grace, Mister Prime Minister, gentlemen,” he intoned like a funeral parlor undertaker. “High G approach means we may have as few as three days to prepare. I’m declaring martial law and authorizing an emergency call up of all reservists. Wing Commander Paradis—” He turned to us. “I want one squadron in high orbit at all times, the other on standby. Let’s nail as many of these Snakes as we can before they hit dirt.”

Five days later, I was orbiting Port Moseby about 2,000 kilometers up with Lucky, Bulldog and Nova in tow. While refitting on Galatea, my flight had swapped the F-10 for the heavier HCT-214 Wildcat, a Hellcat variant with the engines mounted on either side of the fuselage rather than over the cockpit.

“Ah, this is the life,” said Lucky.

After sitting in a cockpit for six hours with the flight suit’s vac-seals making the seat about as comfortable as a Marik family reunion, I was thinking a lot of things, but the joy of flying in space was pretty far down that list.

“Yeah, it’s got everything,” I agreed. “Numbing boredom, freezing death on the other side of the glass, burning death down the gravity well. What’s not to like?”

“Well,” Lucky gave it some thought. “It’s quiet.”

When aerojocks joke we should be making double what the ’Mech jocks do, it’s the cold darkness of space we’re talking about. A BattleMech handles pretty much the same in any environment its in. Buddy, you’d better believe that flying in the air is different from flying in space. It’s a whole new, frictionless, weightless, a million-ways-to-kill-you ballgame. Mercenary aerospace units tend not to negotiate about salvage rights ‘cos if you get shot down out here, then only thing they’ll be salvaging is a microscopic layer of dust spread over half the planet.

If you’ve seen that new holovid about the fight over Stein’s Folly, you might assume that defending fighters are always scrambling to get spaceborne as invaders come ploughing through the atmosphere like comets. That only happens if a very large number of people have screwed up in a very large number of ways. No, what you want to do is have your fighters already up in orbit, with enough velocity to meet the invaders wherever they try to land.

You could post your fighters right at the jump point, I guess, but since there are two in any system, plus Unity-knows-how-many Lagrangian pirate points, that would be way too easy to either overwhelm or bypass altogether. And since each jump point can be connected to the system’s inhabited world by an infinite number of routes on parabolas of varying length, the only other option is to try to catch the blighters right over the planet. Otherwise, you’d find yourself hundreds of thousands of kilometers out of position, as the invading force whizzes merrily past you.

Which is precisely what happened.

“Parsifal one, this is Camelot Home,” a voice interrupted our banter. “Drive signatures detected. Bandits inbound.”

“Copy that Camelot Home. Give me some digits.”

“Azimuth one-one-zero, altitude oh-six-five, range two million kilos,” came the crisp reply. I narrowed the sensor scan in the direction indicated, and picked out the faint flickering of the approaching DropShips’ drive flares as they decelerated, preparing for the attack: The tiny little flicker of the Intruder, the irregular blobs of the outboard thruster units on each Mammoth.

Down on the surface I knew Reina and the rest of the Black Arrows would be taking off, rocketing skywards to reinforce us up here. The heavier fighters from the 20th Guards’ air wing would follow soon after. Our job would be to clear the fighter escort provided by the Vengeance, giving the Lyrans a clear shot at the DropShips.

Bulldog came on the taccom. “Trajectory looks a little odd to me, chief.”

He was right. I punched the Lyran channel again. “Camelot Home, this is Parsifal one. Drive sigs are confirmed. We got a reading on their target zone?”

“Wait one,” came the terse response. “Calculating.”

We waited. Waited some more. Then, just for a change of pace, we waited.

“Still with me, Camelot?”

“Maybe they got sleepy?” Lucky suggested.

“Parsifal one, this is Camelot Home, inbound DropShip trajectories confirmed,” the other guy said at last. “Bogies are not headed for Port Moseby, repeat, not on course for Port Moseby atmospheric entry.” A pause. “It’s Kiwi.

“The Dracs are heading for the moon.”

Which put us a couple hundred thousand kilometers out of position to intercept them. Groans from Lucky and Bulldog. “You mean to say I’ve been stewing in my own fluids for the last two days for nothing?”

“We can still intercept over the moon,” Nova suggested.

In my cockpit I was shaking my head. The Vengeance had 40 birds, more than enough to wipe my 16 without breaking a sweat. We’d have to wait for Reina’s squadron and the Lyrans, and by then it would be too late.

“That’s a negative, Parsifal four,” I told her. “Might be something else we can do, though. Parsifal six,” I signaled Pepper, leader of the F-10 Recon flight. “This is Parsifal one. Anyone in the mood for some sight-seeing?”

*

We ramped two F-10Rs up to fly-by speed by slinging them around the planet a few times, then hurled them out towards the moon. It’d take them days to slow down and head back after their pass, but they’d also be going way too fast to engage.

It’s 300,000 kilometers from Port Moseby to its moon. Even at the terrific speeds the two F-10s were going, it took six hours until they whizzed by Kiwi like shooting stars, giving us a glimpse of what the Dracs were up to down there.
The Vengeance was in orbit, like a mother duck trailing a line of little aerospace fighters. The Intruder and four Mammoths were on the surface. The latter were unloading machinery, lobster-like things with diamond mandibles.

Drills.

The Dracs were drilling a tunnel into the moon.
 
BattleTech fiction and SciFi writing: https://one-way-mirror.blogspot.jp/

mikecj

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Re: The Day When Heaven Was Falling
« Reply #58 on: 19 February 2018, 16:52:32 »
Now that's something you don't see every day...
There are no fish in my pond.
"First, one brief announcement. I just want to mention, for those who have asked, that absolutely nothing what so ever happened today in sector 83x9x12. I repeat, nothing happened. Please remain calm." Susan Ivanova
"Solve a man's problems with violence, help him for a day. Teach a man to solve his problems with violence, help him for a lifetime." - Belkar Bitterleaf
Romo Lampkin could have gotten Stefan Amaris off with a warning.

snakespinner

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Re: The Day When Heaven Was Falling
« Reply #59 on: 19 February 2018, 20:07:30 »
Drilling a hole on a moon. Star League base maybe.
Naming the moon Kiwi, hopefully no New Zealanders there. :D O0
I wish I could get a good grip on reality, then I would choke it.
Growing old is inevitable,
Growing up is optional.