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Author Topic: Who Goes There?  (Read 35895 times)

DOC_Agren

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Re: Who Goes There?
« Reply #60 on: 02 July 2019, 17:04:53 »
 :clap: :clap: :clap:
"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!"

JA Baker

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Who Goes There?
« Reply #61 on: 05 August 2019, 21:39:47 »
I hope you all enjoy this one, because it's been a cast-iron bitch to write...

The Most Dangerous Game

Most people think that the Jihad ended in 3081, when Stone's forces took Terra. But the sad truth is, all these years later, there are still Blakist holdouts spread out across known space, and still people hunting them down.

I was part of one such unit; the 106th Reconnaissance Battalion, aka the Stray Dogs. We were a small, close knit team, all veterans of the Jihad, 100% battle hardened life takers and heart breakers. We'd been through hell and come out the other side, having stolen the Devil's lunch money on the way. We thought that we were invincible, that there was nothing that the universe could throw at us that we couldn't handle.

How wrong we were.

We were sent to New Dallas, which is about as close as you can get to hell as you can get. Between the damage done during the Fall of the Star League, then the early Succession Wars and the subsequent breakdown of the atmospheric processors, it's a hot, choking radioactive mess of ruined cities being slowly reclaimed by the native wildlife. A few species descendent from plants and animals brought in from off-world can still be found, but they've adapted to survive, and aren't the same any more. Especially the ****** house cats.

Someone up in Intel had apparently uncovered evidence that the Blakists had been using New Dallas as a plant-sized training ground for some of their Manei Domini units, and as such it was decided to send in our unit to have a look around and report back anything interesting. We'd gone up against the Dommies more than once, so we went in locked, clocked and loaded for something a damn sight nastier than bear. Only problem was that they pulled our C/O at the last minute and lumbered us with Leutnant Colfia. Now, there are two kinds of officers in this 'verse; killin' officers and murderin' officers. Killin' officers are poor old buggers that get you killed by mistake. Murderin' officers are mad, bad, old buggers that get you killed on purpose - for a country, for a religion, maybe even for a flag. And it was well known that Leutnant Colfia wanted to be Hauptmann Colfia as soon as possible, regardless of how many poor sods she had to get killed to get there. As such, she took risks, only never with her own life, but she also go missions done, which is why the brass loved her and put up with the disproportionately high number of losses units under her command tended to take.

She was, in short, a completely self-serving bitch, and no one who survived serving under her was likely to shed a tear if she stepped on a landmine and was turned into human confetti.

Good thing about a unit like the 106th is they let you choose your own kit, meaning that we were decked out in the most eclectic assortment of battle armour you're ever likely to see. I'd long ago settled on the G13 variant of the Tornado power-amour, preferably the smaller silhouette and the stopping power of the 'David' Light Gauss Rifle. I wasn't a sniper, but I had achieved the Designated Marksman award back in the FWLM before everything went to shit. And as back up, I had a little something Tai-i Shirogane had given me when we got word he was being replaced with Leutnent Colfia. And no, I have no idea how someone who started out in the DCMS got their hands on an experimental Lyran weapon like an Adjudicator.

Now, not many of you are likely to have even heard of an Adjudicator, let alone seen one, so let me explain just what makes it so special.

You see, back before the Clan Invasion, nobody outside of ComStar had seen combat Battle Armour for centuries, so the appearance of Elementals... well, let's just say that a lot of people needed a lot of clean underwear afterwards. The concept of highly mobile, jump-capable infantry that could shug-off hits from 'Mech grade weapons was a complete Out Of Context Problem for a while, and R&D teams were throwing everything at the wall to see what sticks. And the Adjudicator is the end result of one such project that was ultimately scrapped in favour of GyroJet pistols and the like. If you want to imagine what an Adjudicator looks like, take the biggest, 'I'm overcompensating for something' hand-cannon you can think of, then make it about half as big again. Only rather than bullets better suited for demolishing a wall, it's loaded with these little metal containers of chemicals, and the firing pin is actually a tiny little laser. So, when you pull the trigger, that little laser fires into the rear of the chemicals, which in turn give you a much more powerful chemical laser out a barrel that's really just there to help you aim. And belive me, you want to be sure of what you're shooting at when you fire a weapon I've personally seen burn a hole through a 'Mechs cockpit visor.

Downside is that it generates a lot of heat, so you need something with a fair bit of bulk to act as a rudimentary heatsink, and each pull of the trigger is worth about 1,000 C-Bills a go, so it's not the cheapest weapon on the market. On the upside, it's damn near silent, has no recoil, and looks intimidating enough to make a lot of people back down when they see it hanging on your hip. Shirogane said I might need something on hand for any unexpected happen. And given our line of work involved actively seeking out the unexpected, it was a reassuring friend to have at my side.

Standard operating procedure would have seen us get dropped off in a heavy APC or IFV a few kilometers from the primary target and then advance as we saw fit, but Leutnant Colfia vetoed that in favour of a nighttime HALO drop into the ruins of a nearby city, just so she could log another combat drop. HALO jumps can be difficult at the best of times, but trying to coordinate one while wearing heavily modified battle armour and jumping into an inhospitable atmosphere... we were only lucky we didn't lose anyone right off the bat. I was lucky enough to come down in a wide street, but a couple of the others had to make their way down from the tops of buildings that hadn't been maintained in centuries.

We were scattered across half the city, and it took us hours to join back up together, by which point is was starting to get light, so we had no choice but to call it quits for the day and find somewhere to hold up. Fortunately, they sent along a couple of Broncos, little walking drones that can carry all sorts of equipment that you can't really strap to a suit of battle armour, including a small inflatable habitat module just big enough for half of us to sleep in outside of our armour. It's a bitch of a job to set up right, especially as you need to make sure that the decontamination unit is working properly, but at least you can get a few hours shut-eye and a bit of hot food down your neck. Those on watch had to make do with hooking their suits up to the other Bronco, letting it supply them with power, air and water so as not to drain their suits systems.

Soon as darkness fell, we set out towards the Blakist base: a massive domed structure our recon satellites had picked up about ten kilometers outside the city. It wasn't easy going, as with between the fighting, lack of maintenance and exposure to a worsening environment, the roads were at times impassable, and we often had to take long detours around fallen buildings. I was walking scout, so I had the misfortune of being the first to fine evidence of what the Blakists had been up to. Biological material doesn't last long after death: bacteria, carrion eaters and the elements quickly break down everything, even bones given time, but what I found was fresh enough to still be identified as having been human.

But only just.

There's an unspoken rule that you're respectful of any remains you find, because you never know when you're going to be the one someone else finds. It's an age-old tradition amongst soldiers, something that takes a lot to override. So you can probably imagine, even if you'd rather not, that there wasn't much left to find. But even then, it was clear that they hadn't died quickly or cleanly, with some of them having been strung up on the rubble and left to suffocate when their air supply ran out. One had been in what looked like Elemental armour, and a quick checking of their Codex bracelet indicated that its late wearer had once been a Point Commander of Clan Smoke Jaguar, which was crazy because they'd been destroyed almost twenty years before. Other bodies were in uniforms that indicated a ragtag collection of Mercenary units and even a couple of ComsGuards, with no indication of how they'd ended up on New Dallas. People started accusing Leutnant Colfia of withholding information about previous missions to the planet, accusations she strongly denied, and I found myself believing her, much to my own surprise. So we cut them down, buried them as best we could, and moved on.

Despite the hell New Dallas had been through in the bast, we started to find evidence of more recent combat: scorching not warn clean by the passage of time, places where exposed metal had been damaged, leaving patches not yet fully tarnished by rust and corrosion. But we'd been expecting as much, given we were looking for a recently active trading base, so we didn't think much of it until we came across the burnout husk of a Bolla Stealth Tank by the side of the road. Two of its wheels had been blown off, while someone had taken the time to arrange the severed heads of all three crewmembers on top of the turret. All evidence indicated that the vehicle had been travailing away from the Blakist base at high speed when it had been disabled, causing it to crash into the remains of what had once been a tenament building of some kind.

Soon we found more vehicles, military and civilian, scattered along the road, each and every one rendered inoperative, their passengers killed, bodies strewn around. Most had simply been left where they lay, others... we found some kind of bus or similar transport, each seat filled by a decapitated body, their heads arranged in a geometric pattern in the middle of the road.

Now, we'd all seen enough horrors during the Jihad to earn a Section-8 discharge if we'd asked for one, but I tell you, New Dallas was something else.

Eventually, we reached a low rise that looked out over the base we'd been sent to investigate: it had been built as a giant dome, separated into four equal quadrants with a central control tower rising out of the middle, making it look to all the world like a kids spinning top. Something had evidently exploded inside one of the quadrants, the structure bent and twisted outwards like burst seed pod, and our passive sensors were picking up no signs of heat or power from within. Normally, we'd have dug in and observed the base for a day or two, but the truth was, we were all getting a little bit jumpy, so when Leutnant Colfia suggested that we head straight in, we all agreed.

We moved in, standard two-by-two cover formation, the heavier suits keeping watch over the perimeter while our electronics expert hooked up a power-cell to one of the air-locks and ran a remote bypass. Fortunately, even the Blakists aren't stupid enough to forego standard safety protocols, so the default S&R code had the lock cycle, allowing us entry.

We soon wished that it hadn't.

I don't know if any of you have ever seen the aftermath of close-quarters combat, but it isn't pretty: few buildings are designed to withstand military grade weapons being fired inside them, and the Blakist base was no exception. The floor, walls and ceiling were pitted and scorched by laser and projectile fire, while some sections had obviously been ground-zero for explosions, given the way the metal was all torn and twisted. Someone had thrown a hell of a party, and hadn't hung around to clean up afterwards, that's for sure.

You probably have this mental image of us advising down a long, corridor with some hand-help scanner out front. Well, I hate to tell you this, but that only happens in the TriVids. Sure, motion trackers like that exist, but they're too easily spoofed to be of any real use in an active combat situation, so we were reliant on Mk.1 eyeballs. We made our way into the base, taking advantage of what cover there was, checking rooms and side corridors as we went, eyes on a swivel, always checking the corners.

Always check the corners when you first enter a room, or it'll eat you alive.

The place had been trashed: desks flipped over, paperwork and broken data-slates scattered on the floor, signs that several fires had raged without anyone trying to stop them. It certainly didn't look like we'd be finding much useful information unless the main control room was in better shape, so we made our way deeper into the dome. There wasn't enough of us to do a proper sweep, but we'd never been intended to be more than the proverbial canary down the mine, checking to see if it was safe to send in the REMF's. The damage only seemed to get worse the deeper we went, but the crazy thing was, we didn't find any bodies, not so much as a severed finger or missing ear. Place looked like a ****** carnel house, but not so much as a speck of blood to be seen. That was enough to make the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end, and even through their suits, I could tell the others felt the same.

Reaching the core we were surprised to discover that it still had a breathable atmosphere: the entire structure was compartmentalised in case of a breach, but with no power and all the damage we'd seen, we'd kind of assumed that the entire place was open to the elements, but we quickly set up an ad-hoc airlock and decontamination unit using the parts from the inflatable habitat. Lot of us weren't happy with that, but Leutnant Colfia pulled rank, and she wasn't in the mood to pole opinions.

Inside the core was in better shape: there was damage, but there were also signs that someone had done their best to patch up the worst of it and generally clean house. It was piss-poor in comparison to what a proper damage control party would do, but it was our first indication that someone had survived whatever had happened. Even though all the tests we could run indicated that the air was good, no one opted to pop the seal on their suits and take a deep breath: Blakists have a history of cooking up all kind of nasty surprises that standard tests can't detect, and we'd all seen the results first hand. But the closer we got to where we assumed that the control room was, the more... homely the pace seemed to be. Someone had, badly, painted the walls a soft shade of pastel green, and had evidently converted some of the offices into living space.

Now you can't exactly be light footed in military grade battle armour: even the most advanced suits still sound like a charging elephant on metal flooring, and even Leutnant Colfia wasn't crazy enough to try and order us to dismount and proceed on foot, so there was no point in playing coy.

"Hello?" amplified by her suits external speakers, the Leutnants voice echoed down the long, dark corridors.

We all stood, weapons at the ready but doing our best not to look too much like a team of highly trained and experienced commandos sent to make sure that the base was out of commission, one way or the other. A couple of us had been issued less-lethal weapons during the latter stages of the Jihad and never quite got around to handing them back, so we had them out rather than our regular extremely-lethal loads. I had a military grade tazer that I'd once used to stop a charging Elemental dead in their tracks.

"Hello?" the Leutnant called again.

There was the sound of something hitting the floor in the distance, and everyone got their game faces on as a faint glow appeared in a side corridor about twenty meters ahead of where I was standing. I tapped the transmit button on my radio, letting the Leutnant know that we had contact without having to actually speak, and she turned to look where I was pointing with my tazer. The light grew, then a pale face with unkempt mousey brown hair appeared around the corner, an emergency lamp held in a shaking hand.

What she saw was a dozen suits of heavily armed battle armour, and quite understandable took off like a frightened jackalope.

I was moving even before the Leutnant gave the order, but even under ideal circumstances, I was nowhere near as fast as someone not wearing 400kg of armour and electronics. Add to that I had no idea of the layout of the base, and I was effectively running blind. The only advantage I had was the inferred view my HUD gave me let me easily track the lamp she was carrying as she bounced off walls and round corners until she slipped through a half-closed door into what looked to be some kind of storeroom. The door mechanism had been jammed to the point where even the enhanced strength of my power armour couldn't budge it. I didn't know if I had the time to cut through or wait for one of the others to catch up with a more powerful rig, so I powered down my armour and hit the quick release latch, offering up a silent prayer that the air was as safe as our sensors insisted. Stripped down to the light fatigues I wore under the armour, I eyed the Adjudicator for a moment, then clipped it to back of my belt before grabbing the tazer, being sure to make sure that it was on one of the lower settings. I had to squeeze to get through the door, and was surprised at what I saw on the other side.

Someone had obviously spent a lot of time turning it into a refuge of sorts: the heavy shelving had been pushed to one side, making room for a small bed and an assortment of boxes that looked like they contained emergency rations. A small folding table had been set up in one corner, a scattering of personal effects laid out on top, including what looked like a family photo in a cheap frame. The sound of movement made me turn slowly, the flashlight in my hand settling over the woman as she huddled in the far corner, holding what looked like a scalpel out towards me defensively. Judging by the way her arm was shaking, she was more of a danger to herself than me.

"Hi." I did my best to sound nonthreatening as I switched the light from a sharp beam to a softly glowing orb, "My name's Billi. I'm not here to hurt you."

Her only response was to try and make herself look as small as possible, her eyes wide with terror.

"Can I sit?" I crouched down, trying to get a better look at her: she looked to be in her early to mid twenties, dressed in what looked like they had once been surgical scrubs that hung loosely on her slender frame, making her look like a kid playing dress-up in her parents clothing. There was a bandage on her left arm that looked reasonably fresh and professionally applied, and she looked and smelled surprisingly clean for someone who'd been living like a rat for god only knew how long. That said, I could practically smell the adrenaline pumping through her system.

She shifted, and I spotted a thin silver necklace round her neck, a tiny silver sword with a sapphire in the hilt hanging from it.

You'd run into them occasionally: true believers so indoctrinated to the cause that they simply can't accept that they were wrong, yet still good people. They tended to come from the Sol system or other worlds that had been under Blakist control long enough for kids to spend their entire lives growing up under it and reaching enlistment age. They'd fight like the devil himself, but not because of any malicious intent, but because they honestly think they're doing you a favour. Only good thing is that they tend to be less of a problem once captured, less prone to trying something stupid that just gets people killed, even as they assure you, with all the sincerity in the galaxy, that the Word of Blake will surely triumph over the forces of evil. I'm honestly not sure if that makes them any better to deal with than the foaming-at-the-mouth lunatics, truth be told.

I sat myself down across from her, far enough away to be out of easy slashing range.

"Ok, so I'm not going to lie to you or talk down to you like you're a kid or something." I took a deep breath, "Your side lost the war: we've taken Terra and the fighting is all but over now. There's only a few mop-up operations on planet like this left."

She looked at me, and I could tell she was trying to work out if I was telling the truth or not.

"Now, the good news is that we're not here to hurt you, like I said before." I did my best to sound reassuring, "Truth is, after we saw the state of this place, we thought everyone was dead..."

"They are dead." her voice was soft but hollow, with what sounded like a Rasalhaguian accent, "Everyone."

"OK." I nodded, finding no reason to disbelieve her after everything we'd seen outside, "What happened?"

She hesitated, the memory obviously not a pleasant one, but was about to answer when a massive, armoured hand grabbed the door and started to bend it open.

The woman bolted towards an open air vent quick as you like, but I'd been ready, and dived towards her, wrapping my arms around hers, pinning hers to her side even as she struggled to get free. She kicked and screamed and struggled, trying desperately to get away, but I'd been well trained in unarmed combat, and knew how best to restrain her without doing any permanent damage.

The door fully opened at last, the imposing bulk of a suit of Elemental armour appeared in the opening, and I recognised it as belonging to Órla Kabrinski, a Ghost Bear on detached duty to the 106th. She gave me an apologetic look, before stepping back to make room for Leutnant Colfia's IS Standard suit, the faceplate still closed.

"Report, Trooper." She ordered briskly.

"Making friends and influencing people, Sir." I managed a smile even as the survivor snapped her head back, earning me what I immediately knew was going to be a black-eye.

The Leutnant stepped aside, allowing Hudson, our medic, to step through the doorway. Like me, he'd taken off his power armour and had an inoculation gun in hand. Grabbing my new friend, he pressed the gun against her arm and pulled the trigger, flooding her system with a powerful tranquilliser. The young woman struggled against it, but it was designed to calm down combat troops high on adrenaline and combat stimulates, and it wasn't long before her struggling lessened and she eventually stopped fighting. I helped Hudson mover over to the bed and give her a quick medical check-up: aside from minor malnutrition and vitamin-D deficiency, no doubt from living in a metal box on a dust shrouded world, eating nothing but emergency rations for who knows how long. The bandage on her arm covered a nasty gash that was starting to heal, and showed signs of having been treated with standard broad-spectrum antibiotics.

We also found a laminated ID badge with her photo on.

"Carla Hentschel, nurse from the base medical staff." I handed the badge to the Leutnant, who quickly and quietly checked it against our records of wanted Blakists.

Lot of bad people did some very bad things before and during the Jihad, and all too many of them had slipped through the net when the tide turned against them. One of our jobs was to keep an eye out for anyone trying to lay low and avoid their due date with the hangman. But evidently Hentschel wasn't one of them, as the Leutnant simply nodded and pocketed the ID. Grabbing a bag I found discarded on the floor, I gathered up the handful of personal effects I could see: Blakist or not, they might be the only links to her old life left, and there was no way of knowing if we'd be able to swing back that way before we left.

TBC
"That's the thing about invading the Capellan Confederation: half a decade later, you want to invade it again"
-Attributed to First-Prince Hanse Davion, 3030


JA Baker

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  • Dreamer Of Dreams
Who Goes There?
« Reply #62 on: 05 August 2019, 21:40:44 »
Cont.

We made our way to the main control room with a semi-lucid Hentschel in tow, only to find it almost completely destroyed by fire, the floor, walls and ceiling covered in soot, broken glass everywhere. Fortunately, the adjoining commanders office was in slightly better shape, and Leutnant Colfia, who was also our computer expert, set about trying to get the desk terminal back up and running. The rest of us started going through what physical files we could find, but it soon became clear that the fire had been started by incendiary charges built into the filing cabinets, no doubt intended to destroy the contents on command. However, not all of the files had been rigged to burn, and those that weren't had been kept in a cabinet that had been designed to withstand fire. Amongst the surviving documents were some of the personal files, and I prickly dug out Hentschels, confirming that she was nothing more than a nurse assigned to the base infirmary, with the lowest level of security clearance needed to be assigned to the base. She was, in short, a nobody, someone who'd survived whatever the hell had killed everyone else and wrecked most of the base through sheer luck.

People like to think that an organisation like the Word of Blake is full of irredeemable evil, mustache twiddling fiends dressed all in black, the kind of obviously evil demon in human form who can be easily spotted. But the truth is, the overwhelming majority of their membership was just ordinary people, the kind you pass in the street every day without a second look. Hentschel was nothing more than a qualified nurse who'd happened to be assigned to this particular base, when she just as easily could have been working in some random hospital in Terra. She wasn't necessarily evil or complicit in the crimes the Blakists committed... she was just a young woman with a job. Unfortunately, wars tend to chew up people like her, and spit out whatever was left, and there was no way of knowing if there was anything left on Terra for her to go home to.

I made a quick scan of the file: Intel was going to want to debrief her later, and it would give them a place to start.

"Stop your grinning and drop your linen." Leutnent Colfia announced, "I'm into what's left of their system."

Aside from the two assigned to guard the door, and Hudson, who was keeping an eye on Hentschel, we all gathered around the former base commanders desk as best we could as the display screen flickered to life. It was filled with static for a moment as the badly damaged system struggled to run corrupted data.

"...day 19." A man's voice announced, and the image cleared to show a man in a lab-coat, looking all the world like your typical scientist, "Testing continues on the latest batch of volunteers from Manei Domini program. We lost Subject-9 today: his body rejected the first round of genetic manipulation, indicating a previously undetected medical condition that our preliminary tests failed to pick up on. I have submitted a revised list for the next phase. Blakes Will Be Done."

"Day 103." The video skipped ahead, "As per my last report to Precentor Kernoff, we have move ahead to Phase Two ahead of schedule. Subjects-14 and 21 have proved to failures, the more extreme genetic modifications resulting in their DNA unravelling. We were forced to euthanize them. Blakes Peace Be Upon Them."

"...236." the image skipped again, the scientist looking agitated, "Of the first batch of Subjects, only Subject-5 remains, the rest having either died due to some unforseen fault in their augmentation process, or as in the case of Subject-2, self-termination upon realising just how much of them had been changed. I had hoped that by selecting from those who'd already volunteered for the Manie Domini programme, we would be able to screen out those with too great an attachment to their physical form, but it seems that the Blessed Blake is using this opportunity to test both our resolve and our wisdom. His Will Be Done."

"Day 300. The second batch of volunteers arrived today, two choosing self-termination after being introduced to Subject-5. We may have to limit his interaction with new subjects in the future, at least until they have a chance to come to terms with what exactly is being asked of them."

"... 7." the video skipped again, and Scientist Guy seemed angry about something, "We lost Subjects-29 and 34 during a training exercise in the Jungle Training habitat, both killed by Subject-5. I personally debriefed him afterwards, and he showed no remorse over their deaths, which is itself to an issue, but it's the reasoning he gave: 29 and 34 had been assigned to his team for the exercise, and he said that they were 'slowing him down', seeming to believe that that was all the justification needed. I know that what we are doing here is all part of the Blessed Blakes plan, but I sometimes feel that he is testing me personally."

"Day 327." now he looked almost ill, "As per Precentor Kernoffs orders, we are moving ahead with Phase Three: to implantation of a prototype C3 based wireless networking node into the most promising group of Subjects. I pushed for the Alpha-node to be given to Subject-42, but I was overruled, and it will instead be given to Subject-5." he paused and looked intently at the camera, "I wish to go on the record as stating my objections to this decision in the strongest possible way. Subject-5 remains on the boarderline for acceptable behaviour, even with increasing doses of mood stabilisers and sessions with our best psychologists. I can not shake the feeling that maybe we went too far, removed too much of what made him human. I prey to Blake that I am wrong."

"...331." He looked surprisingly happy as the next fragmented video started to play, "All participants in the C3 experiment have survived surgery and are recovering. Even Subject-5 has shown remarkable improvement in both his general mental health and personal interactions with the medical staff. We have no way of knowing if this is some lingering side effects from the anaesthetic or an unexpected effect of the connection he now has with the rest of his team, but an improvement it is none the less. Truly, Blake smiles upon the work we are doing here."

"... 47. At the insistence of Precentor St. Jamais, we conducted a live-fire exercise in the ruins of Caddo City. Against my better judgement, I agreed to allow the use of so-called 'Bondsman', Elemental warriors formally of Clan Smoke Jaguar, as the opposition force. They seemed eager for the chance to face an enemy in battle, preferring the opportunity to 'die in battle as warriors'. Well, they got their wish." the scientist looked pale, finding it hard to make eye-contact with the camera, "I understand that we face great opposition to our appointed tasks, that there are those who will, in their ignorance, struggle against being brought into the Light, but still... They didn't just kill the Elementals: they tortured them to death for nothing more than the thrill of seeing the life slowly drain from their eyes. I... I understand that extreme measures may be necessary, but how can we save humanity if we resort to such barbarism?"

The screen was filled with static, indicating a mass of corrupted data, then the words 'Final Entry' appeared, and we all leaned in closer.

"I don't know why I'm making this entry: Blakes will be done, and the nuclear failsafe will destroy the data core and everything else in this accursed place." The scientist looked almost mad, his normally pristine lab coat covered in soot and blood, "Well, we did what were were told: expanded the number of subjects tied into the C3 net... Blake save us, we did exactly what Subject-5 wanted..." static played across the screen for a moment, "He took control of the other test subjects... turned them I to little more than extentions of his own twisted mind. He then turned on us! Killed the medical team and had his subordinates begin turning them into...into spare parts to further enhance themselves. I gave the order to blow the dome, but it was too late: they'd already been upgraded to survive in inhospitable atmospheres. The security team.. " he shuddered as the sound of weapons fire could be heard in the background, "I've ordered the support staff to evaluate to a waiting DropShip, but I don't know if we can hold them off long enough. If they... If they get off planet... Blake help us, all we wanted to do was protect people from war..."

There was an explosion, and he looked up at something off-screen, his eyes going suddenly wide with terror as what little colour remaining drained from his face. His hand shot up, pressing a hold-out laser pistol to the underside of his chin. He said something that the microphone failed to pick-up, then fired a bolt of coherent light up through his brains. The popular view of a laser weapon from movies and TriVids is a flash of light, a small burn-mark, and the victim falling down dead, nice and clean.

Reality isn't anywhere near as nice, and we got to see his eyes start to bulge out as all the liquid inside his skull was suddenly superheated before the screen thankfully went dark. We all looked up, and sure enough, there was a single burn mark in the ceiling above the desk, but no sign of the body.

"Pack it up." Leutnent Colfia's voice was cold and detached, "We're leaving."

For once, nobody questioned her order, and we set about collecting the surviving files and getting back into our suits. I helped Hudson get Hentschel into an emergency environment suite from one of the emergency kits: it wasn't much more than a pressure suit and a oxygen tank, but it would keep her alive until the shuttle could pick us up. The young nurses was still dazed from the tranquillisers, but with it enough to be more of a help than a hindrance, and she was even able to clutch the bag holding her personal effects.

It was at that point that the fecal matter hit the environmental control unit, as the old saying goes.

First clue we got that something was wrong was when we lost the signal to the Broncos, then the alarms on our suits started screaming that the atmosphere was becoming tainted. Fortunately, everyone was already in their suits at the time, so it was just a case of snapping shut faceplates and hitting the over-pressure switch to purge anything nasty. Then came the unmistakable rattle of a Bearhunter Superheavy Autocannon as Connor, our resident Ghost Bear, opened up on something in the corridor outside. That first quick burst was followed by a second, drawn out barrage as he jerked his weapon around, evidently trying to get a solid lock onto something moving fast. Then came the whoomp-bang of a grenade launcher, and the room shook.

One thing you learn when fighting the Blakists is that the best defence is a strong offence, so we charged out of the room, forming a perimeter in the wide hallway beyond. We'd expect to face Manei Domini, but what we found would have given even those freaks nightmares.

They'd been human, once, possibly more than one in some cases, but they'd been taken apart and put back together with what looked like the contents of the local scrapyard. Metal and flesh met in ways the Good Lord never intended, creating abominations with more arms, legs and even eyes then were normal. Some had weapons grafted onto their bodies: hands replaced with blades, lasers where eyes should have been. They seemed to be coming from somewhere deeper in the base, and it was very obvious that they weren't interested in a cup of coffee and a chat.

Someone gave the order to open fire, and we lit them up with everything at our disposal: the flash of lasers and man-pack PPC's blind us even as our visors struggled to compensate. I shouldered my gauss rifle and fired into the centre mass of something, I don't know what, punching a fist sized hole right through it. I followed this up with a second shot to what I think was its chest, then a third through the head, just like they thought us in basic. Thankfully it went down, but for every one we killed, two more seemed to take their place. I saw Hudson go down, some kind of barbed spear through his chest, then watched wide-eyed as his body was pulled away by means of a cable attached to the other end.

Evidently Subject-5 was looking for fresh parts.

All semblance of a organised defence were soon lost: sometimes a single shot was all that was needed to put one of them down, sometimes it was like our weapons fire just bounced off them. Only our heaviest of weapons seemed to be able to guarantee a kill, and we had all to few of those. Even the heavy flamers seemed to do little more than turn them into flailing torches that rushed our lines, trying to set us on fire before the damage overcame their inhuman desire to kill. I don't know who broke first, but it soon spread. I grabbed Hentschel by the arm, dropping my by then empty rifle and drawing the Adjudicator. I gave one last loom over my shoulder: Leutnent Colfia was standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Órla and Connor, the three holding the line as the rest of us ran for our lives.

There aren't many things in my life I'm ashamed of: you don't last long in this line of work without becoming cynical as hell, but I'll admit that I regret every bad word I ever said or thought about Leutnent Colfia.

The automapping system in my suit already had the way-point marker set, making sure I didn't get lost, and while the Tornado may not be the fastest thing on the battlefield, in close confines, it's quicker and more agile than most. Hentschel did slow me down a little, but it never occurred to me to let her go, and the sight of what was following us seemed to have cut through the dug induced haze that had enveloped her. Up ahead, I saw something that looked for all the world like a giant scorpion come crashing down out of the ceiling, and I brought the Adjudicator up and fired almost on reflex. A bolt of sapphire blue light connected the two of us for an instant, and a dark hole appeared on one of its arms. I fired again, adjusting my aim, this time burning through one of its legs. Myomer snapped and burned, but even the loss of a leg didn't seem to slow it down as it turned to face us with a disturbingly human looking face.

I fired four more times and the face was a blackened, burnt-out mess, the cybernetic creature little more than dead metal.

Another cyborg, this one almost human looking, except for the two long scythe like blades where its hands should have been stood waiting by the impromptu airlock, and I fired the last two shots from the Adjudicator through its chest, dropping it like a puppet with the strings cut. I dropped the pistol back into the holster: I hadn't the inclination to stop and reload any time soon. Through the airlock and we were back out into the blasted remains of the base, my comslink filled with the screaming of my teammates as they fell, one by one, to the Blakists. Some of you might say that I should have gone back, should have tried to help them, but to hell with you all! I've faced death enough times that it no longer holds much fear for me, but I'd be damned before I became part of that sick, twisted army of half-human puppets.

We were quickly outside, and I activated my suites emergency beacon, preying to a God I was no longer so sure existed that the shuttle got to us first. Dragging Hentschel behind me, I just chose a direction at random and ran as hard and asop fast as my suit would allow me. I felt her stumble and fall, and almost instinctively threw her over one shoulder in a crude fireman's lift.

I think, if I had to put I to words why I felt such a need to save her life, it was because I needed to see some good come out of the hell that was New Dallas. Blakist or not, she was still an innocent, and there are all too few of those left in this galaxy.

A new icon appeared on my HUD, indicating that the shuttle was coming down hard and fast, the rendezvous set for just under a klick away. The thought of impending rescue lent my legs fresh strength, and I stumbled on as fast as I could. We reached the extraction point just as the shuttle was setting down, and the hatch was barely open before I all but fell through it, dropping Hentschel unceremoniously onto the deck. I yelled at a startled crewman to close the hatch and tell the pilot to burn hard for orbit, but they'd been expecting a full team, not one crazy woman and a stranger in an emergency suit.

In the end I drew the still empty Adjudicator and waved it at the man: he had no way of knowing that it wasn't loaded, and slammed his hand down on the close button and told the pilot to red-line the engine. I could feel the g-forces pushing down on me, almost crushing me, but every second took us further and further away from New Dallas.

Docking with the waiting DropShip, I turned myself over to the waiting intelligence officer, handing over my weapon and the mission data recorder from my suit. I spent the better part of a week locked in a cabin while they waited for someone else from the mission to activate their be on, but in the end, they were forced to accept my version of events, especially as it was supported by the MDR. We were ordered out-system by someone very high up, and arrived back at the JumpShip just in time to see an honest-to-God warship arrive in system, apparently with orders to burn the entire continent down to the bedrock.

I never found out if they did follow through, or if they were dumb enough to try and send another team down, but it's been almost ten years and the Inner Sphere hasn't been taken over by crazed cyborgs, so I guess we're doing alright.

The End
« Last Edit: 07 August 2019, 07:59:51 by JA Baker »
"That's the thing about invading the Capellan Confederation: half a decade later, you want to invade it again"
-Attributed to First-Prince Hanse Davion, 3030


Siden Pryde

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Re: Who Goes There?
« Reply #63 on: 06 August 2019, 17:54:04 »
 :thumbsup: Another great addition.  I imagine lots of SpecOps and merc groups ran into little pockets of Wobbies here and there, if not quite as horrifying as this one.

Kidd

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Re: Who Goes There?
« Reply #64 on: 06 August 2019, 21:52:48 »
Me see Sharpe reference, me like!

kelgar04

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Re: Who Goes There?
« Reply #65 on: 06 August 2019, 23:39:51 »
Burn the continent down to bedrock then making it so it glows in the dark is the single most rational response imaginable.

Sir Chaos

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Re: Who Goes There?
« Reply #66 on: 07 August 2019, 05:04:06 »
Burn the continent down to bedrock then making it so it glows in the dark is the single most rational response imaginable.

Indeed. This is one of those times where "nuke the place from orbit" doesn´t quite cut it any more.
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JA Baker

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Re: Who Goes There?
« Reply #67 on: 07 August 2019, 05:41:05 »
Me see Sharpe reference, me like!
I can't remember putting them in, but it's one of my favourite shows, so it's a strong possibility that I did so subconsciously.

EDIT: hang on, yes, that was a Harper quote I used towards the beginning. Congratulations on being the first to spot it
"That's the thing about invading the Capellan Confederation: half a decade later, you want to invade it again"
-Attributed to First-Prince Hanse Davion, 3030


PsihoKekec

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Re: Who Goes There?
« Reply #68 on: 07 August 2019, 05:58:55 »
I just hope the warship got the right continent.
I was kind of expecting the last minute twist, with the nurse turning out to be Subject-5, considering how it kept changing from he to she in scientist's narration I thought it is capable of changing apperance.
Shoot first, laugh later.

JA Baker

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Re: Who Goes There?
« Reply #69 on: 07 August 2019, 07:57:08 »
I just hope the warship got the right continent.
I was kind of expecting the last minute twist, with the nurse turning out to be Subject-5, considering how it kept changing from he to she in scientist's narration I thought it is capable of changing apperance.
Yes, there was an early draft where it turned out that the nurse was Subject-5; it was going to tie back into Sealed Cargo, but I changed my mind. Keep having to go back and correct missed pronouns
"That's the thing about invading the Capellan Confederation: half a decade later, you want to invade it again"
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DOC_Agren

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Re: Who Goes There?
« Reply #70 on: 07 August 2019, 19:55:38 »
Burn the continent down to bedrock then making it so it glows in the dark is the single most rational response imaginable.
what do you mean, not enough...  this time u need to crack the planet to be sure you get them all
"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!"

JA Baker

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Who Goes There?
« Reply #71 on: 13 August 2019, 21:14:40 »
OK, so this one is going to be a bit different from the rest...

Fair Fight

There's this story, a kind of urban legend, that's popular among MechWarriors across the Inner Sphere and beyond. There's countless variations, but the basic facts are always the same.

So there's this planet, usually agreed to be in Capellan space, that gets attacked: some people say it was the Fed Sun's, some the Leaguers, a few even the Terrans Hegemony, doesn't matter. But this world is home to an order of Buddhists Monks who live in a temple atop this hill overlooking the capital, which puts them slap-bang in the middle of the raiders line of advance. Everyone tells them to get the hell out of there, but they're not having any of it: their faith is resolute and their spirits strong enough to defend their holy temple from any attack.

A scout for the raiders turns up and sees that the temple is s till occupied, so they likewise advise them to get with running away. And again, they're told that the monks aren't moving, and anyone who threatens their temple will pay the price. Well, the scout isn't getting paid to hang around, so they take off, giving the monks one last worning.

Now I get honour and defending your home and all: it's why I joined the military in the first place, but there's a very thick line between honour and stupidity.

So anyways, along comes the main force of the raiders: couple of companies worth of BattleMechs, all planning on making a straight line to the capital, regardless of who or what is in their way, and the head monk is waiting out front for them, head bowed, summoning up his Chi or whatever. He waits until the lead 'Mech, a BattleMaster in the version I first heard, is just in front of him. He suddenly drops his robes off his shoulders and charges forward, one fist pulled back ready to strike. He let's out a banshee like roar and let's fly with his fist, putting everything he has, mind, body and spirit into it... and promptly breaks every single bone in his hand.

Every. Single. One.

Even those little ones in his fingers.

Shatters them.

The 'Mech? Doesn't even notice him as it continues on through the temple.

Moral of this story? Don't try and punch a BattleMech, I guess.

But I'm a aerospace pilot, so I seldom have to worry about crazy people trying to punch me while I zip around overhead. And I told you this story not only to get a cheap laugh out of you, but to better set the scene for what I'm about to tell you, which I can assure you is 100%, cross my heart and hope to be dispossessed, really did happen. It dates back to when I had a gig with the Explorer Corps, and we were making a stop off at Cyclops Station.

For those of you who've never been there, Cyclops Station is something else. Originally a Potemkin class transport called the SLS Cyclops, she was abandoned when she suffered one of those nasty little 'hiccups' during a jump that left half the crew dead and the KF-core a half-molten mess of titanium and germanium. They probably intend to go back and salvage her, but then the Star League fell and everything went to hell in a hand-basket. So instead she was picked almost clean by pirates and scavengers until she fell under the control of a surprisingly enterprising Pirate King who had the bright idea of turning her into a space station. He spent years and every single credit he'd earned doing it, but in the end he'd turned a derelict ship into one of the few relatively safe Free-Ports in that part of the Periphery. Lot of people make use of Cyclops Station as a way point headed into or out of the Inner Sphere, and that canny Pirates descendents get 10% of all the business done, right off the top.

The Explorer Corps stumbled upon it back around 3040 or so, and have kept a low-key presence there ever since. We were waiting for our jump-drive to recharge, so the boss lady decided to give us a few days Liberty, least those of us she felt she could trust on Cyclops Station. Thankfully, I was one such aerojock, which is how I found myself in a small bar on one of the gravdecks, sipping something they claimed was whisky and I wasn't in the mood to question. It was a relatively quiet place by local standards, which is why a couple of members of a Clan Diamond Shark trade delegation decided to stop by.

Now, don't get me wrong: I have no more desire to live under the jack-booted foot of the Clans any more than the next freedom loving Lyran, but the Sharks are actually kind of decent people. Still walk around like their shit don't smell, but you can actually sit down and do business with them. You can spot a Shark trade envoy easily enough: just look for someone dressed in a conservative but well-made suit, with either a lapel pin or signet ring bearing the Clan's insignia. Also helps that they tend to be accompanied by a couple of warriors, usually Elementals, especially if they're looking to make a statement. And very little makes a statement like two-and-a-half of muscle and belligerent intent.

Well, this Shark was a sterne looking woman sat at a table with some guy dressed in the ubiquitous jumpsuit of a spacer, unsurprisingly devoid of any unit patch or rank insignia. He'd evidently been drinking harder and longer than she had, gagging by the somewhat glazed expression on his face and the way his hand was creeping closer to her knee. I gave him about fice centimeters before it was removed, possibly permanently, by one of the two warrior cast members riding shotgun on the merchant. The first was a striking woman, skin as black as night with a faint fuzz of copper coloured hair. I know enough about Clan insignia to tell she was a MechWarrior, a Star Captain by the gold and green shoulder patches on her field uniform. And she was all business, keen eyes constantly scanning the room, her back against the wall so nobody could sneak up behind her.

Honestly, I was kind of impressed.

Her companion, on the other hand... look, every military in human history has a few examples of people who have no right being in uniform and the knuckle-dragger sat on the other side of the merchant was a prime example. He was clearly an Elemental, and a big one at that, his battle-scared head shaved bald. But if it wasn't for his ill-fitting uniform, I might have mistaken him for a pirate: while the other two Clanners sat up straight with near textbook posture, he was slumped back in a chair that was only just big enough to hold him. There was also a look about him, almost like a wild animal that knew with absolute certainty that he was the single deadliest person in the room, if not the station. Cyclops Station has very strict rules about bringing weapons on board, and I doubted anything on the acceptable list of would so much as slow him down.

I found my checking how close the nearest exit was.

Truth is, I wasn't paying them much attention: I was more interested in finishing my drink before I had to get back to the waiting shuttle, so I didn't notice that the 'waitress' serving their table was dressed in ill-fitting clothes and was lacking even the faintest hint of makeup. I did, however, notice the Bondcord on her right wrist, and the somewhat sullen look in her eyes. She placed four glasses down on the table and took half a step back, only to let out a surprised shriek as the Elemental grabbed her and pulled her down onto his lap. He lent in close and whispered something into her ear that made her eyes go wide and what little colour there had been drain from her face, which only made the Elemental laugh.

What can I say? It's a rough, unforgiving universe, especially that far from 'Civilisation', and I wasn't about to get my neck snapped for a total stranger.

"I do not believe that the young lady is seeking your attention." a strong voice called out from across the bar, which suddenly became very quiet.

If the Elemental heard, he made no sign.

"I would ask that you remove your hand from her shoulder and apologise for whatever it is you said to her." the voice called out again, and this time I was able to zero in on who said it.

It was a tall man, at least by non Elemental standards, dressed in a grey tunic with some kind of cape sling over his shoulders, the clasp of which was fashioned like a coat of arms. But hey, the Periphery is home to countless worlds, each with their own idea of what's fashionable. He had piercing blue eyes and greying hair, but he held himself with an aura of authority and nobility that you don't expect to find somewhere like Cyclops Station. His companion was a younger man, dressed the same, but sitting back in his chair, a stein of beer in his hands, an amused expression on his face.

"FREEBIRTH!" The Elemental hissed as he stood, something that took a while, given how tall he was. He stalked over to the other table, looming over the older man like an advancing glacier, "She is my Bondswoman, taken in battle, and I will say and do to her as I wish."

If he'd been looking to intimidate the Good Samaritan, he failed, as the man stood, his expression calm and composed.

"You are a warrior, a man of honour, or at least you claim to be." the old man locked eyes with the Clanner, "Tell me, is this how an honourable man treats a defenceless young woman where you come from?"

The Elemental sneered in response, drawing back a fist the size of a sledgehammer, ready to strike.

"Giddion." the Star Captains voice sounded like a crack of thunder in the silent bar, the unspoken order behind the name breaking through her subordinates rage and making him relax slightly.

"So, you consider yourself a man of honour?" the sarcasm dripping from his voice was almost palpable, "Care to prove it in a Circle of Equals?"

"Ah, one of your Trials of Possession?" a faint smile flickered across the shorter man's face, "And the stakes?"

"Her freedom." the Elemental clocked his head towards the startled young woman, the looked at his opponent with a killers eyes, "Your life."

"I believe that the phrase is 'Bargained Well And Done'." the Good Samaritan took off his Cape, folded it and laid it across the back of his chair, before gesturing towards an open area where, on occasion, live music might be performed, "Shall we?"

Bar patrons moved out of the way, but only so they could get a better view of the free entertainment, while the barman started taking bets. If I haven't made it clear by now, Cylops Station isn't your usual port, and the kind of people who gather there tend to have a somewhat fatalistic outlook on life, knowing full well that it is often short and violent. The Good Samaritan reached the stage area first, turning to wait for the Elemental who was approaching like a malevolent storm. He eventually reached the open area and smiled.

"We call upon all those present to bear witness to what follows." he announced, holding his arms wide open, "One battle has started, let none interfere until honour is satisfied."

"Seyla." the Star Captain and the Merchant spoke as one.

The older man simply nodded, standing with his hands clasped behind his back.

With a roar that seemed to shake the bulkheads, the Elemental charged forward, his right fist swinging round like a wrecking-ball. The Good Samaritan simply lent back and to the side, allowing it to sail past him without so much as rustling his hair. The Elemental staggered to a halt, seemingly surprised to have missed his target, only to find the other man standing behind him. Clenching his fists together, the Elemental spun around, clearly intending to take the other man's head clean off his shoulders, only for his opponent to drop down and reverse direction, once again popping back up behind his far larger opponent.

And that was how the fight went on: the Elemental telegraphing strikes that would probably kill if they ever actually connected, and the Good Samaritan simply not being where his opponent expected him to be, moving with a fluid grace at odds with his apparent age. The longer the fight went on, the angrier and sloppier the Elemental became. I have to admit, I found myself impressed with the older man's technique: all he had to do was wait until the neanderthal he was fighting committed to a strike, and simply move somewhere else. It was a skill any soldier in their right mind could appreciate, and out of the corner of my eye, I could see that he had impressed the Star Captain, if not her subordinate.

"Savashri!" the Elemental spat, showing no sign of tiring, "Fight me, you dishonorable Surat!"

In response, the Good Samaritan waited until his opponent swung another wild punch, then finally struck back. His hands moved almost too fast for my eyes to follow, but I saw him jab the bigger man three time; twice in the upper arm, once in the shoulder. The moves were measured and precise, and the result was instantaneous.

The Elementals arm suddenly dropped to his side, limp and non-responsive. He looked at it in utter bewilderment for a moment, shaking his shoulder to try and get it to respond. But it just hung there, uselessly. He let out a mighty roar as he swung his other arm round, but the Good Samaritan simply ducked under it and came up the other side, striking at that arm as he had the first, leaving it to hang just as lifeless.

"The paralysis is only temporary." he stood before the confused Elemental like a school teacher addressing a particularly unruly pupil, "It should wear off in an hour or so. But I believe I have won this contest, and as such, the young woman's freedom."

The room was silent, save for the omnipresent hum of the air circulation system and the distant chatter of voices out in the corridor. Nobody knew what to think: they had expected to see an Elemental do what he had been bred for, not see an older and far smaller man make a mockery of him with little to no apparent effort. The universe just didn't work that way, not in real life. But we had all seen it with our own, mostly two, eyes, and there was no debating who had won the fight.

The Elemental disagreed with that last part.

Swaying back, he rocketed his head forward, intending to crash it into his enemy like a hammer blow from the gods... only to find himself instead encouraging the Good Samaritans hand coming the other way, his outstretched finger jabbing the Clanner almost dainty on the temple. The Elemental staggered back, more out of shock than anything, his disbelief quickly turning to fresh rage as he realised that his opponent had turned his back and was walking away.

"Get back here!" he demanded, not seeming to notice the faint trickle of blood that was starting to run down his head from his nose and ears, "We are not finished yet!"

"The fight is over." the Good Samaritan paused, a sad expression on his face, "You are already dead."

The Elemental looked confused for a moment, then suddenly fell forward like a tree, landing with enough force to shake the entire bar.

There was a moment of silence, then the room exploded with noise as people started to argue about what happened. But the Good Samaritan ignored them all as he walked over to the table where the two remaining Diamond Sharks and their suddenly very sober companion were sitting. He looked at the Star Captain, who simply nodded her head.

"My dear." the man held out his hand to the visually shocked and confused Bondswoman, "If you would like to join us, we'll get that bracelet off of you, then see what we can do about getting you home safely."

I tell you, it was the damnedest thing I have ever see.

The End

Cyclops Station is something I came up with more than ten years ago and decided would make the perfect setting for this snippet. Feel free to make use of in campaigns if you wish: just remember to give credit where due. Stats can be found here on the forum.
« Last Edit: 14 August 2019, 03:45:24 by JA Baker »
"That's the thing about invading the Capellan Confederation: half a decade later, you want to invade it again"
-Attributed to First-Prince Hanse Davion, 3030


Kidd

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Re: Who Goes There?
« Reply #72 on: 14 August 2019, 12:12:06 »
Beautiful  :clap:

The legendary dim mak is bread and butter in Chinese fantasy but still relatively rare in Western media. Always nice to see it pop up in all sorts of places.

JA Baker

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Who Goes There?
« Reply #73 on: 14 August 2019, 14:15:48 »
Beautiful  :clap:

The legendary dim mak is bread and butter in Chinese fantasy but still relatively rare in Western media. Always nice to see it pop up in all sorts of places.
Giddion found himself facing a master of the Hokuto Shinken, but didn't realise it before it was too late
"That's the thing about invading the Capellan Confederation: half a decade later, you want to invade it again"
-Attributed to First-Prince Hanse Davion, 3030


Kidd

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Re: Who Goes There?
« Reply #74 on: 14 August 2019, 14:32:40 »
Giddion found himself facing a master of the Hokuto Shinken, but didn't realise it before it was too late
N-nani?!?!?!

I was so engrossed I didn't even catch that. Nice!

JA Baker

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Who Goes There?
« Reply #75 on: 14 August 2019, 16:57:03 »
N-nani?!?!?!

I was so engrossed I didn't even catch that. Nice!
It was that or the Five Point Palm Exploding Heart Technique, and I've been a North Star fan for almost twenty years...
"That's the thing about invading the Capellan Confederation: half a decade later, you want to invade it again"
-Attributed to First-Prince Hanse Davion, 3030


wolfcannon

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Re: Who Goes There?
« Reply #76 on: 14 August 2019, 17:08:00 »
thought i recognized the "your already dead!" statement.
Daniels Avenger                Clan Coyote
General Jennifer Daniels    Galaxy Commander Jim Skyes
                                        Omicron Galaxy
Clan Wolf in Exile
328th Assault Cluster(the Lion Hearted)
Star Captain James Sword

mikecj

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Re: Who Goes There?
« Reply #77 on: 14 August 2019, 22:53:29 »
Ah, I thought it was Chiun, Master of Shinanju.
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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Romo Lampkin could have gotten Stefan Amaris off with a warning.

JA Baker

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Who Goes There?
« Reply #78 on: 15 August 2019, 12:58:33 »
Ah, I thought it was Chiun, Master of Shinanju.
I deliberately made it as generic as I could to avoid making it a crossover, with the inspiration for how the Good Samaritan looked and spoke actually coming from an episode of Babylon 5 (the one where the crazy guy thought he was King Arthur). The idea was to make it somewhat believable, right up until he did the whole "touch of death", and then leave it up to the reader as to just how he pulled it off.
"That's the thing about invading the Capellan Confederation: half a decade later, you want to invade it again"
-Attributed to First-Prince Hanse Davion, 3030


DOC_Agren

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Re: Who Goes There?
« Reply #79 on: 15 August 2019, 13:55:29 »
Ah, I thought it was Chiun, Master of Shinanju.
and I was thinking the line continuing down though Remo's lineage as Chiun's went rogue.. as I recall
"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!"

JA Baker

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Who Goes There?
« Reply #80 on: 18 August 2019, 06:42:28 »
Divine Intervention

Never shall innocent blood be shed, yet the blood of the wicked shall flow like a river.
The Three shall spread their blackened wings and be the vengeful, striking hammer of God

Everyone sent into Machen Pass knew we were being sent to die.

The 3rd Benjamin Regulars were rolling up the valley like an express Maglev, and the only chance we had to stop them before the capital was to slow them down long enough for the rest of the Militia to regroup and dig-in. Unfortunately that meant leaving a mix bag of 'Mech's, armour and infantry to hold the only pass leading out of the North end of the wide valley for as long as possible. But we knew that it was a one-way mission, we knew what was being asked of us, and no-one backed down: this is Kentares IV, and we know the Mercy of the Dragon.

Some of us wrote letters to our famalies, other prayed, got drunk or found someone willing to have one last roll in the sack with. I personally spent every last credit I had on a genuine, real beef stake, figuring that I should at least have a decent last meal. It cost almost a months wages, but by God and all his angles, I've never eaten anything half as good.

Dawn found us on the firing line, the rest of the militia having pulled out under the cover of darkness. I know in all the TriVids, this would be the part where someone stands up and gives a rousing speech about Honour, Duty and the House Davion, but real life isn't like that. We knew what was being asked of us, and we all knew that we'd die where we stood. My family may have emigrated to Kentares after the Massacre, but it was my home, and I'd spent my entire life being told the story of what happened back in the First Succession War. I have a sister and two nephews in the capital, and I would be damned if I let any Drac bastard get anywhere near them while there was still breath in my body. Technically I was the gunner on a Schrek, an old, second-line model that had long ago had its PPC's and fusion reactor stripped out and replaced with a trio of AC/5's and a stinking old ICE that had a nasty habit of backfiring. Not that it was likely to happen that day, given that the sappers had dug a pit for the Schrek to be driven into, then covered the lower hull with earth and rocks, turning it into an ad-hoc turret.

Technically, they'd left the rear hatch clear, and I had a rifle and pack ready to go, but nobody actually expected me to make use of them, and I'd handed the ammo over to a couple of ground-pounders. They'd be able to make better use of it than I ever would. I looked up at the maxim some long forgotten tanker had etched into the armour just above the gunsight:

Out of fuel, become a fortress. Out of ammo, become a bunker. Out of time, become a hero.

Well, there was nothing but heroes in Machen Pass that day.

The sappers had rigged the pass with every smoke charge they could lay their hands on or build from scratch in time, filling the valley with a thick, artificial fog that played hell with visuals and thermal sensors, forcing the Snakes to get in close, close enough that even our outdated, ill-maintained weapons could kill them if we got the chance. It mean't we couldn't see shit, but a network of hard-lines had been rigged up, at least allowing the forward observation posts to give us a warning before they got over-run. Not that any died easy: every fox-hole had an inferno-SRM, heavy machine-gun or morter, with satchel charges and sticky-bombs at the ready.

HQ may have sent us to our deaths, but they at least made sure we could make the bastards pay for every step they took into the pass.

It was a little after dawn when the first reports of Drac scouts started to filter in: I guess they didn't like the idea of trying to force the pass in the dark. Snipers took out their infantry, forcing them to send in battle armour and IFV's, which started to take fire from the heavier weapons, so they had no choice but to send in the BattleMechs. It was nothing short of a nightmare, being stuck alone in that Schrek, listening to my comrades dying, knowing that any moment, it might be my turn. My entire world consisted of the gunsight, the joystick in my right hand and the radio, everything else fading away. I wasn't a young man who'd joined the militia because he was stupid enough to think women might be impressed by the uniform. I wasn't some random cubicle monkey who spent his 9-to-5 filling out shipping invoices. No, I was nothing but a fire-control system.

It didn't take long for the fighting to reach me: an already damaged off-white Panther stumbled out of the smoke, its pilot evidently disorientated. I quickly rotated the Schrek's turret until the targeting radical pulsed gold and pulled the primary trigger, sending three streams of 90mm death screaming into it. Armour flaked and fell as it staggered backwards, knocked off balance by the force of the attack. But I followed it without needing to even think about it, keeping the crosshairs over the centre torso as best I could, but between muzzle lift and the Panther stepping into a shell crater, it started to fall backwards.

All three streams of autocannon shells connected with the 'Mech' s head, ripping through it, and the pilot inside.

I had no time to contemplate my first kill, as a Galleon support tank rumbled into view on my left flank, its medium laser bitting into the armour on my turret as I struggled to bring my weapons back round. Unfortunately, the Galleon wasn't staying put, but rather continued to move forward, managing to keep ahead of my guns even as it continued to pump megajoules of laser energy into my already weakened armour. Then a pair of infantryman appeared, one lobbing a pair of satchel charges into the tanks tracks, the other one giving it a one-two hit from a shoulder-launched SRM. The satchel charges lifted the right side of the Galleon off the ground, and I saw sections of track and bogies flying free, then the SRM's exploded just short of the front armour, spraying the already damaged vehicle with burning napalm. It wasn't enough to totally kill the light tank, but it was enough to keep the crew occupied burning the ground-pounders down with their twin small lasers while I finished bring my autocannons round.

The Schrek's guns barked, and depleted uranium tipped death tore through the Galleon, gutting it in less than a minute.

I didn't have time to revell in my victory, as an entire squad of Raiden battle armour came leaping out of the smoke. They were too fast and too agile for me to track, as the moment I thought I had one in my sights, it would suddenly change direction whole its companions picked away at my rapidly demonising armour with thier small lasers. I felt sure that my time was running out, so I resorted to simply spraying out as many shells as I could in the hopes of hitting something purely by law of averages.

But then it started: an Arrow IV struck the ground amid the Snakes, tossing them through the air like a child discarding unwanted toys. They landed in broken heaps, a few moving slightly as their injured pilots struggled to regain their footing. But more missiles came, a seeing unending barrage, the force of the explosions clearing the smoke, revealing the battlefield. Only a handful of the Militia units remained in fighting condition, surrounded on all sides by the advance guard of the 3rd Benjamin Regulars. Only the artillery missiles fell with unnerving accuracy, every one finding a 'Mech, tank or infantry squad to decimate. I saw a bone-white Atlas stagger as it took a direct hit to the shoulder, blowing an arm clear off, followed by two more than simply shattered its body, the head flying high on a pillar of smoke and flame as the pilot ejected. Others were less lucky, with the inexplicable rain of death striking cockpits or setting off ammunition explosions that gutted 'Mechs and vehicles like.

I turned my turret around to find a trio of truly ancient looking Archer's in the blood red of the Draconis March Militia standing in a line, half hidden by the remaining smoke. Each was covered in the scars of battle, one missing both arms, yet they continued to unleash death and destruction upon the invaders. And the Snakes had nothing that could touch them at such a range, forcing them pull back out of the pass or face utter obliteration. I fired the last of my autocannon rounds into their backs as they retreated into the smoke.

When I looked back, the Archer's were gone, the only sign they had ever been there the dead and broken Draconians they left strewn across the pass.

Those of us who survived pulled back to the extraction point, surprised by just how many of us there were. Then the radio sprung to life with word that the 10th Lyran Guards were burning hard for the planet, having learned of the Combine raid while passing through the system. The unexpected arrival of an entire RCT had the 3rd Benjamin in full retreat, looking to get off planet before they were caught dirt-side.

We reported what had happened in Machen Pass, all of us looking to thank the three Archer pilots who'd saved our arses, only for HQ to insist that there were no Arrow IV equipped BattleMechs on the planet, and certainly no Archer's of the type we described. Indeed, a check of Militia records showed that none had served on the planet since the First Succession War, the last three being destroyed while fighting to hold the Combine in Machen Pass...

The End
"That's the thing about invading the Capellan Confederation: half a decade later, you want to invade it again"
-Attributed to First-Prince Hanse Davion, 3030


cklammer

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Re: Who Goes There?
« Reply #81 on: 18 August 2019, 07:44:31 »
Very well done  :thumbsup:

Kidd

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Re: Who Goes There?
« Reply #82 on: 18 August 2019, 07:58:24 »
And shepherds we shall be, for thee my Lord, for thee...

Intermittent_Coherence

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Re: Who Goes There?
« Reply #83 on: 18 August 2019, 08:32:07 »
And yea though I walk through the vallley of death, I shall fear no Dracs, for I have Archers with Arrow IVs behind me. :D

JA Baker

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Who Goes There?
« Reply #84 on: 18 August 2019, 08:50:22 »
And shepherds we shall be, for thee my Lord, for thee...
First person to get the reference  :thumbsup:
"That's the thing about invading the Capellan Confederation: half a decade later, you want to invade it again"
-Attributed to First-Prince Hanse Davion, 3030


Sharpnel

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Re: Who Goes There?
« Reply #85 on: 18 August 2019, 09:40:57 »
First person to get the reference  :thumbsup:
It was a great movie. The 2nd one notsomuch
Consigliere Trygg Bender, KGC-01BL King Crab, The Blazer Mafia
Takehiro 'Taco' Uchimiya, VND-1R Vindicator 'Taco', Crimson Oasis Trading Company
Tai-i Shizuko Lofgren, Third Infantry Company, Oniwaka

The Honor of Men cannot be bound by the words of Fools - Marco Hietala
"Of what use is a dream, if not a blueprint for courageous action" -Adam West
It's an Omni, so I can build it into whatever I please - JHB
"Life is too short to be living someone else's dream" - Hugh Hefner

snakespinner

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Re: Who Goes There?
« Reply #86 on: 19 August 2019, 03:05:04 »
Arrow IV's always bring a tear to my eye.
Great story. :thumbsup:
I wish I could get a good grip on reality, then I would choke it.
Growing old is inevitable,
Growing up is optional.
Watching TrueToaster create evil genius, priceless...everything else is just sub-par.

DOC_Agren

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Re: Who Goes There?
« Reply #87 on: 19 August 2019, 16:25:07 »
Got to love those old "Ghost" Soldiers who still remember their jobs and and shooting skills all these years later
"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!"

JA Baker

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Who Goes There?
« Reply #88 on: 21 August 2019, 20:01:45 »
The format of this may come across as odd if you haven't ready the Interstellar Players source books

And a shout-out to Tex of the Black Pants Legion, whose video on the Amaris Coup inspired this story


Upon A Pale Horse

Those of you who have been following me for a while know that rumour and hearsay are my stock and trade, but that I never publish anything that I haven't at least been able to independently verify with a secondary source, but, well, there are exceptions to every rule.

I think we all know the story of the original Royal Boack Watch Regiment: they were, without a doubt, the single most elite unit in the old SLDF. They were the best trained, best equipped and best led soldiers in human history, each and every one a graduate of the almost legendary Gunslinger Program, unmatched in all of explored space. Even the Clans, with their centuries of selective breading and technology advancement have trouble coming close to same standards as the Black Watch. They were the Royal Bodyguards of House Cameron, tasked with defending the First Lord and their family against any and all who might seek to do them ill, and despite his best planning, they came close to ending the Usurpers coup even as it started.

Even after Fortress Cameron was hit by multiple nuclear weapons, two Lance's of the Black Watch held up the 4th Amaris Dragoons as they attempted to link up with the Usurper in Unity City, fighting so hard they he had to resort to sacrificing his own troops to hold them in place while a tactical nuclear device was used to finally wipe them out. And even then, survivors managed to escape and form the Ghost of the Black Watch Guerrilla movement that plagued Amaris until the day he died.

But I'd bet my last C-Bill that many of you don't know the legend of the Four Horseman.

Nobody knows just who the Horseman were. It's not even known if they were members of the Black Watch, but they certainly seem to have had access to highly advanced Star League technology, including the Chameleon Light Polarization Shield and the Null Signature System, effectively rendering their BattleMechs invisible. And they used this advantage to cut a bloody swathe through Amaris' forces, both on Terras and across the Hegemony.

The first recorded action by the Horseman took place on Terras, when the depleted 4th Amaris Dragoons were trying to rebuild their strength after their battle with the Black Watch. They'd taken over a SLDF training range on Baffin Island, and had spread out by battalion to engage a variety of holographic targets. Two days into the exercise, a snowstorm cut off the command company, forcing them into the Baffin Mountains. It was there that they came under attack by an unknown enemy that quickly dispatched the bodyguard lance before hunting down and destroying the other 'Mech's one by one. The radio waves were filled with desperate calls for help, confused voices trying to identify the attackers or even just where they were. The rest of the 4th Dragoons rushed to the last reported location of the command company. But by the time they get there, all they find is the broken, burning remains of twelve heavy and assault class BattleMechs, each one the funeral pyre of its pilot. A massive land, air, sea and space search was launched to try and find the attackers, but they don't find so much as a spent shell casing or drop of coolant.

Assuming that it must have been local partisans, a company from the Greenhaven Gestapo was sent in to "make an example" of a small town.

They never arrived: the same mysterious force ambushed them within sight of the town, taking down each of the Mercenaries with a single shot to the cockpit. It was this battle, if you could call it that, the only one known to leave living witnesses, that gave birth to the legend of the Four Horsemen, as the witnesses claimed that the ambush had been carried out by just four assault class BattleMechs.

A snow white
Highlander, a blood red Cyclops, a jet-black Thug and a bone white Atlas II.

Stories soon began to spread, first across Terras, then to the rest of the Hegemony. Convoys ambushed, fire bases while out, senior field commanders killed. It got so bad than many of Amaris's senior advisors refused to leave the apparent safety of Unity City or stayed in orbit, turtles up on board DropShip. People were actively mocking the Usurper, and the harder he tried to crack down, the worse things got. Units sent out to commit reprisals were slaughtered wholesale, carefully laid traps turned into bloodbaths for the units laying in wait. Nothing he did could uncover the identity of the Four Horsemen, let alone locate their base of operations or how they managed to move around seemingly at random.

Then they struck Luna, destroying a number of DropShip loading Helium-3, followed by attacks on Mars and Titan. Everywhere the Horsemen went, the story was the same: they appeared out of nowhere, attacked a specific target, then vanished into nothingness. They became the boogieman for the occupation forces, the monsters hidden under your bunk, ready to strike in the middle of the night.

There's no way that every attack accredited to the Horseman was actually them: in just one day, they supposedly hit New Earth, Outreach, Epsilon Indi and Ko, a feat physically impossible, assuming that you believe that they were actually physical BattleMechs, and not the vengeful wraiths that many started to believe. Over the fourteen years of the Star League Civil War, the Horsemen were accredited with over two thousand confirmed kills on planets all across the Terran Hegemony. And not a single confirmed recording of one of their attacks survived, with less than one hundred people living to tell of one of their attacks, none of them intended targets.

The last confirmed sighting of the Four Horsemen was on Terra during Operation Liberation. The Second Legion of Fire had taken up position inside one of the Arcologys that made up the Greater Tokyo Area. They used the civilian population as human shields, snipping at SLDF forces as they attempted to re-take the city. Unwilling to risk the massive collateral damage of a direct assault, the SLDF commander on the ground was looking over options when reports started to come in of weapons fire being heard coming from within the Arcology.

Fearing that the mercenaries had started killing their hostages, the SLDF troops prepared to launch a full on assault, only to be shocked when a Legion of Fire
Phoenix Hawk emerged from the underground parking complex, running full speed towards the Star League lines. The pilot screamed over every frequency that they surrendered, only for a single gauss rifle round to emerge from within the smoke-filled Arcology, decapitating the fleeing BattleMech, killing its pilot instantly. For the merest of moments, the smoke cleared enough to show the right arm, upper torso and head of a stark white Highlander, before it vanished from sight.

The single gun-camera recording of this incident remains the only direct evidence that the Four Horsemen ever existed.

Upon entering the Arcology, the SLDF forces found the Second Legion of Fire slaughtered, yet no sign of just who, or what, had almost effortlessly killed two battalions of battle-hardened troops. Officially, it was put down to infighting between those who wanted to surrender and those who wanted to go down fighting, but there were few who believed this version of events.

Since that day, there has never been a recorded sighting of the Horsemen or their distinctive 'Mechs. Nor is there any indication that they rejoined the victorious SLDF.

At least, that's the
official story.
-Starling

The End
"That's the thing about invading the Capellan Confederation: half a decade later, you want to invade it again"
-Attributed to First-Prince Hanse Davion, 3030


DOC_Agren

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Re: Who Goes There?
« Reply #89 on: 21 August 2019, 23:50:22 »
 :thumbsup:
"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!"