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Author Topic: Who Goes There?  (Read 45960 times)

snakespinner

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Re: Who Goes There?
« Reply #90 on: 22 August 2019, 00:57:19 »
Another great story.
Are they still there waiting for someone. :beer:
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.

Kidd

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Re: Who Goes There?
« Reply #91 on: 22 August 2019, 14:49:43 »
Tell it in your own voice, JAB, you don't need Starling to tell it for you :thumbsup:

JA Baker

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Who Goes There?
« Reply #92 on: 22 August 2019, 15:24:02 »
Tell it in your own voice, JAB, you don't need Starling to tell it for you :thumbsup:
In my head, it was recanted in a gruff, profanity laden, whiskey soaked Texan accent, something far removed from my own "Queens English".

But I don't want these to sound like they're all coming from the same person, so different voices are a must.
"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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Who Goes There?
« Reply #93 on: 28 August 2019, 11:33:15 »
Making use of a unit I created years back as part of a joke. And colourful language, because, well, pirates.​

Off The Edge Of The Map


Yeah, I'm a pirate.

What? You expect me to make some excuses?

Look, you took the time and effort to track me down here, so you know who I am and what I did. So, yeah, I'm a pirate, or at least I was before too many years in space behind inadequate and poorly maintained radiation shielding caught up with me. And judging by the way the docs keep pumping me full of the good stuff, I ain't got much time left before I'm face-to-face with Old Scratch, so it's not like you'll be putting me on trial, and believe me, killing me would be doing me a favour.

I signed up with Calico Jack Rackham about three months after he was elected leader of his crew, after old Walker D. Plank was killed on a raid. And that's something that a lot of people don't understand about some pirate crews: we ellect our Captain from among the members. Everyone has a vote, and everyone is free to put their name forward, no reprisals. All open and fair, like. Not every outfit operates like that, but ours did. You get five minutes to state your case, then someone neutral, usually the cook or the doc, calls a vote. Whoever gets the most votes is the new Captain, and that's the end of it. Sure, people try and 'contest the count', but that's seen as going against the will of the crew, so it's not exactly good for your health, if you catch my drift. But Calico Jack was an old-hand by that point, so nobody actually stood against him, and the crew accepted his leadership without question.

Well, almost everyone: I wasn't there when Revy Two-Hands quit, but they were still repairing the damage to the Lady Luck when I arrived.

What happened? Well, I only heard this second hand, but apparently someone back in the Combine got in touch, said they could get her a pardon, a chance to visit her husbands grave, if she'd tell them everything she knew about some corrupt officers. She took the deal, but the bounty ISF had on her couldn't be lifted until she'd testified, and a couple of the less honourable members of the crew figured that if she wasn't one of them any more, they might as well try and collect on it. Suffice to say, it ended badly for them, and Calico told her not to let the sun go down with her still on planet.

But you didn't come all this way to talk about the inner workings of a defunct pirate band. No, you want to know what happened out there. You want to know just how Calico's Cutthroats met their end, don't ya?

Well, we'd come to the conclusion that the Chaos March was getting a little too hot for our liking. I know that the old adage is 'in confusion, there is profit', but it was getting to the point where we were more likely to be caught in the crossfire of better armed opponents, so we decided to ship-out for the Deep Periphery. Calico had a lead on some kind of mining operation that the JàrnFòlk had supposedly set-up between Hamar and Alfrk. Some desolate little mud-ball that didn't even have a name, but was apparently rich in... look, all I know is that it was apparently worth spending the better part of a year getting to, assuming that we could get our hands on it and find a buyer.

And I tell ya, if you think space travel can drive you crazy, try it with a crew who's most of the way there in the first place. It was only the fact that Calico had made his wife, Pollyanna, Master-At-Arms, that kept us from killing each other. Now, there was a woman you didn't want to get one the wrong side of, even out of that blood-red suit of Sylph battle armour she'd pulled off of a dead Diamond Shark, so it wasn't too hard for her to keep us in line.

We were getting close to going at each other, 'Pretty Polly' be damned, when we arrived in system. It was a fairly typical F-type main-sequence star with four planets, the outer two being a gas and ice giant respectively, but it was the second planet, circling on the inner edge of the habitable zone, that was our prize. Now Calico had done his homework, or, at least, paid someone to do it for him, so we had a pretty good idea what we were getting into. The planet was hot and dry with a lot of tectonic activity that brought a lot of rare elements to the surface. The JàrnFòlk had set up an open mine at the end of a steep-sided box canyon, digging into the side of the mountain for all that lovely mineral wealth. But the local geography and weather meant that they couldn't land DropShips too close to the mind, and instead had to ship out the ore to a makeshift spaceport some distance away.

And that meant that there were regular convoys of ore just waiting to be scooped up!

Not that they weren't ready for trouble: each convoy had an escort, but nothing we couldn't deal with: the JàrnFòlk may fight like the devil himself hand-to-hand or in space, but in BattleMechs? Not their natural habitat. Word was they had a company of light and medium 'Mechs, but never sent more than a single lance out on escort duty. Certainly nothing a company of heavies with a couple of assaults couldn't handle.

The Lady Luck set down in a maze of canyons that were probably ranging rivers in the wet season, but it was the hight of summer, so they were as dry as a nuns gusset. And it was deep enough to hide a Union like the Lady, meaning that the JàrnFòlk had no way of knowing we where there unless they literally stumbled over us. Did make it a little interesting finding our way out to the ambush point, but that's all part of the life. And, again, Calico had done his homework: we knew the rout the convoy would be taking and roughly when it was due, so we had time to slip into position but didn't have to spend too long sitting there with our thumbs up our arses. Calico sent Polly off to keep an eye on the mine, then shadow the convoy, make sure there weren't any unpleasant surprises waiting for us when we sprung our unpleasant surprise.

And looking back, that should have been our first clue that something wasn't right.

I've seen pretty much every kind of active and passive defence known to man, torn through or bypassed most of 'um, one time or another, but what those JàrnFòlk had set up was something different. Most obvious was the wall: big enough to bide a small DropShip behind, and made out of what passed for trees on that god forsaken rock. Big ones they were, too, thick and hard enough to stop even a medium laser, but they'd collected enough to completly enclose the end of the canyon with a big gate in the middle. They had weapons emplacements along the top: not true turrets, but enough to protect the crews from a fair bit. Then there were massive wooden stakes, effectively entire trees, buried at a 45-degree angle and the exposed ends sharpened to a point that looked like they could impale a BattleMech. Certainly not the kind of defences you'd normally expect, even that far out into the outer darkness. The wall was topped by a geometric dome made of wood, cable and netting, each joint crowned by another spike. It wasn't camouflaged, but it was obviously intended to keep someone, or something, out.

Well, the convoy moved out on time, but at a far slower pace than we expected. They seemed to be hugging a low ridge line that would eventually bring them to where we were waiting, but it wasn't the fastest or the most direct rout, not by a long shot. And they were putting out enough active sensors to spot an honest man in government and chatting away on unencrypted radios, but it was clear from what little we could translate that they weren't looking for us, or pirates in general, just... there was this word they kept using, something in Japanese, but with Two-Hands gone, none of us spoke it well enough to translate it.

Anyway, we got ready as they got closer: soon as they passed a predetermined point, we'd burst out on them, guns blazing... which actually worked better than expected, because they straight up surrendered immediately. As in, didn't fire a single shot in defence. Instead, they laid down their weapons and begged us not to shoot.

Well, that's not exactly true: they pleaded with us not to make so much noise.

Now, while we were happy to have gotten the prize without so much as a paper-cut, something about just how easily we'd one had their hairs on the back of my neck standing on end, and I could tell that Calico felt the same, because he ordered us to keep our guns trained on the JàrnFòlk while Polly inspected the bootie. And sure enough, it was exactly what we'd been expecting. More of it, in fact. Enough to keep the Cutthroats going for at least a year, even after giving everyone their cut. And the JàrnFòlk, well, they just wanted us to take it and go, quietly.

But the way they kept asking us to keep the noise down was getting to some of the others, and one, a real nasty piece of work who went by Reinhardt, he decided to 'show them who was in charge', so he raised the arms on his JagerMech and let rip a long burst with all four autocannons. Couple of the others followed suit, taking the opportunity to blow off a little steam by shooting at the sky. Spent she'll casings clattered to the ground in heaps while the air boiled with the heat of discharging lasers. Me? I was watching the JàrnFòlk, and they were watching the skies, but not out of fear of the display my companions were putting on. Backing up my Orion, I looked over to Calico: his BattleMaster hadn't moved, and I didn't know him well enough to work out what was going on in his head.

That's when the first red blip appeared on my radar plot: High up but diving down fast. I tried to get a better lock, but my tracking system just wasn't up to the task. I shouted a warning over the company wide frequency, but nobody was listening, even as I moved into a defensive stance, and more red blips started to appear, converging on our location. But the JàrnFòlk were paying attention, and had started to scatter, looking for what cover they could find, even as the first distant roar echoed over the sound of weapons fire. I looked up to see something approaching, and snapped off a quick shot from my large laser, missing by a country mile.

It, however, didn't miss.

Flame enveloped Reinhardts JagerMech from head to toe, the shock staggering him back even as he was hit by the downdraft of his attacker passing overhead. I got a glimpse of green and black, and then it was gone. Panic and confusion exploded among the Cutthroats, Calico screaming over the radio, trying to issue orders amid the chaos. Then something swooped down, knocking over a JàrnFòlk Commando, sending it crashing to the ground with massive rents in its rear armour.

They call it the 'Mad Minute', but there's no real hard rules about how long it can last, even if the mad part is selling it lightly. It happens when a group of soldiers find themselves surrounded and under attack. Training goes out the window as adrenaline and instinct kick in, and you fill the air with as much firepower as you can in a desperate bid to kill the enemy before they kill you. Even elite House troops can fall victim to it, so you can imagine how easy it was for a bunch of strung-out pirates to loose any sense of cohesion and just go nuts. Nobody was really looking who or what they were shooting at, and there was a fair bit of not-so-friendly fire, my own 'Mech taking a couple of hits. I saw a Warhammer rip itself apart as a burst of flame enveloped it and set of the ammo for its SRM Launcher, and a Crusader stagger around, writhed in flames, obviously on the point of shut-down due to excessive heat.

Then one of them landed, and I suddenly realised what the JàrnFòlk had been squawking about, that word in Japanese that none of us understood.

Doragon.

Or, if you prefer, dragon.

Yeah, roll your eyes as much as you like: just another crazy old spacer high off his tits on pain medication to combat the cancer eating his body from the inside out, spinning a yarn for gullible dirt-siders. But think on this; someone a lot higher up the chain of command for whoever you work for sent you all the way out here to the arse-crack of the universe to talk to me. Someone knows, or at least suspects, what I saw out there and wanted to hear my side straight from the Archons mouth, before it's too late. That someone believes in dragons.

So yeah, it was a dragon. Or at least as close to one as I've ever heard of. It must have been a good twenty meters long, end to end, and about half of that was tail. It was hunched over slightly, wings folded back. God, it was an ugly beastie, no denying it: all green and grey scales, head topped with a spiked crest. But the yes, ye gods, the eyes on it! Ever look at a bird or prey? Or a big predator of any kind? They got a way of looking at you, like they're already planning on how they're going to cut you open to get to the good bits inside? That's how that demon looked at me: like it was ready to rip my 'Mech apart and eat me alive.

So, perhaps you can understand why I gave it a long blast from my autocannon: the KaliYama may be an older design, but they're almost legendary for their reliability, and 150mm HE rounds can still ruin anyone's day if your aim is good. Well, that close my aim didn't have to be good, and I traced a line of hits from its gut to left shoulder. But sure as I'm sitting here before you now, I may as well have fired a kids BB gun at it. The Good Lord himself only knows what that bastards scales were made of, but they shrugged off most of the hits with no apparent damage. It was only the last one from the burst, the only one that actually hit the shoulder, that seemed to do any real damage. And even then, I only seemed to piss it off.

It clocked its head back, opened wide and belched forth a fireball that struck my Orion just below the cockpit, sending all the heat gages instantly into the red. Don't ask me how it did it, but it did and it damn near killed me: only the CASE system I'd used my cut from the last job I pulled to pay for saved me, but at the cost of turning my LRM launcher to so much molten slag and terminally jamming the autocannons feed, leaving me with just a twitchy SRM-4 and my lasers, none of which I dared use with the heat gages all buried in the deep red. I was one dead pirate.

It was Calico Jack himself who saved me: back when he'd founded the band, old Captain Plank had come across this infamously crazy Cappelan arms dealer named Boris "the Blade" Yurinov selling knock-off 'Mech scale swords on the black market. While far from Snake build quality, they were functional, and Plank insisted that every 'Mech under his command capable of doing so carried one. That were real pig-stickers, to be sure, but they scared the shit out of most people, especially when you had someone like Two-Hands living up to her name and dual wielding them. The practice had somewhat fallen out of favour since Planks death, but Calico's BattleMaster still had its sword.

The dragon, and I'm going to keep calling it that, no matter how many times you roll your eyes, the dragon must have heard him coming, because it started to turn towards him. That meant that his first swing only grazed its arm, but the follow up blast from his lasers and machin-guns made it ****** its head to the right, opening up its neck. The angle was wrong for another sword swipe, so Calico decided to pistol whip it with his PPC, and sevon tons of blut force trauma is still seven tons of blunt force trauma. That the dragon definitely felt, and it went down, letting out an ear piercing roar on pain. Calico looked ready to finish the job with the sword when, well...

The creatures we'd been fighting, if you can call flailing about like a bunch of drunks fighting, we about as big as a Zues, but what turned up next? Well, I'd bet anything you'd care to mention that it was their mother, come to see what her kids were up to.

It was big; so big the ground shook when it landed. I had to fight to keep my 'Mech upright, but I could see the broken remains of a blood-red suit of Sylph battle armour clutched in one hand, the evil looking talons punched right through it. Calico only just had time to look up in surprise before it let him have it right in the face. And this flame was white hot, almost like a blowtorch, and it melted the head right off his BattleMaster, quick as you like. Then the ready ammo in the SRM launcher went up, blowing the entire left arm, sword and all, clean off as the rest of the 'Masters ammo started to cook-off. The engine must have gone into emergency shut down, as it toppled over backwards and lay still on the ground.

And that was the end of James "Calico Jack" Rackham.

I hit the chicken switch and rode my command couch out of there, managing to angle myself away from the action, putting as much distance as possible between myself and the last stand of Calico's Cutthroats. Parafoil deployed clean, and I was able to coaxs another kilometer out if it before I touched down, but evidently the dragons were more interested in playing with the still firing 'Mechs, because they didn't seem to notice me at all. I grabbed my survival kit and started back towards the Lady Luck, only to encounter a JàrnFòlk scout on a hover bike heading back the other way. Probably not realising I was a pirate, they stopped, no doubt to ask what had happened. What they got was two centre of mass and another through the head before they'd even had a chance to say a word. I grabbed their goggles and dust mask before hightailing it out of there.

Pitty, really: she was a bit of a looker.

I managed to find my way back to the Lady just before dusk, a couple of the others trailing in later, mostly like me in vehicles they'd taken from the JàrnFòlk. Not one of our 'Mechs made it back. With Calico and Polly dead, that put the DropShips captain in charge, and he gave the order to burn hard for orbit, turning our fusion drive on that god forsaken rock and never looking back.

That was fifteen years ago, and the devil take my soul, I'm thankful for every day that puts it further in the past.

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 #94 on: 28 August 2019, 22:25:49 »
Revy Two Hand if she had been there the battle would have gone the other way
"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!"

Kidd

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Re: Who Goes There?
« Reply #95 on: 29 August 2019, 09:41:28 »
Battletech beasties don't get enough canon love...

Sir Chaos

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Re: Who Goes There?
« Reply #96 on: 29 August 2019, 09:45:08 »
Do not meddle in the affairs of dragons, for you are crunchy, and go well with ketchup.
"Artillery adds dignity to what would otherwise be a vulgar brawl."
-Frederick the Great

"Ultima Ratio Regis" ("The Last Resort of the King")
- Inscription on cannon barrel, 18th century

TigerTiger74

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Re: Who Goes There?
« Reply #97 on: 30 August 2019, 06:18:48 »
There are Dinosaur analogues on Caph and Hunter's Paradise, Branth's are used as riding animals similar to Dragons that can damage Light Mechs, and there are probably more so your dragon story is not that far-fetched.

JA Baker

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Who Goes There?
« Reply #98 on: 02 September 2019, 17:13:48 »
With special thanks to Giovanni Blasini for reasons that will become clear to those who know his work.

The Last Spartan

They called it Task Force Leonidas, and to the history books, it's a small footnote in the grander story of Operation LIBERATION.

You see, the old Star League Defense Force loved their tech: they had to have the best, the newest, the shiniest toys available. Didn't matter if it was a combat knife or a battleship, they were obsessed with showing off just how powerful the Terran Hegemony. And nothing showed just how big your package was like warships. BattleMechs and infantry may take a planet, but it was warships that got them there and made sure nobody rained on their parade. And the Star League had the biggest fleet of the best ships humanity has ever known. They played by Stiener Rules: you brought a Corvette, they'd bring a Cruiser. You bring a Cruiser, they'd bring a Battleship.

In fact, their entire naval doctrine can be summed up with just four words: kill it with battleships.

The Star League Defense Force had the money, the manpower and the will to simply drown their opponents with massive firepower. Not to say that they were a blunt instrument, but when you own a hammer worthy of Thor, it's real tempting to look at every problem like it's a nail. But even they had their limits. Space is kind of big, after all, and a flotilla of warships guarding System A aren't covering System B. And if you spread them out too thinly, you risk being defeated piecemeal by an enemy able to gather sufficient forces to overcome each individual detachment one at a time. The old 'death by a thousand cuts' problem. The Star League decided they needed something new, something that would tip the balance of power back in their favour. They wanted to make the idea of invading the Hegemony simply unthinkable, something that would allow them to redeploy their massive fleet in such a way that nobody within a thousand light years of Terras would dream of defying the will of House Cameron.

Because while the other Great Houses of the Star League thought they were playing chess, House Cameron was playing Paradox-Billiards-Vostroyan-Roulette-Fourth Dimensional-Hypercube-Chess-Strip Poker the entire time.

The Star League had the ability to alter the rotational velocity of planets and weld continents together, and while all the hospitals and schools they built across the Inner Sphere and Periphery may have been good PR, they were the velvet glove that hid a fist forged from a neutron star. And when they put all that brain power into killing something, that something tended to end up very, very dead. Enter the M-5 "Caspar" Capital Drone, an AI controlled warship the size of a destroyer but packing enough highly concentrated death to ruin anyone's day. With no need to stock food, supplies, or provide crew quarters, the ships were upgraded to include a weapons suite more common to a battlecruiser. As the ships were not hindered by human limitations, they could outmaneuver the manned vessels they were designed to attack. Using the advanced computers provided by Nirasaki Computers Collective and control systems from Ulsop Robotics, the Caspars could out-fight any manned ship in space. The concept was that a star system protected by Caspars as part of an integrated Space Defense System would be, to all intents and purposes, immune to the threat of invasion.

Caspars did not need to eat, drink or sleep. So long as they were kept supplied and maintained by their equally automated command stations, they could operate round the clock. A Caspar couldn't be bargained with. It couldn't be reasoned with. It didn't feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely would not stop, ever, until you were an expanding cloud of debris. It was a suit of armour that the Star League was going to put around the entire Hegemony, the ultimate defence against any imaginable attack from without.

Unfortunately, when that attack finally came, it came from within.

One of the first things that rat-bastard Amaris did was take full control of the Space Defense System of every Hegemony world that had one. Entire fleets of Cameron loyalist warships were lost, like bears set upon by wolves. It didn't matter how many drones it took to take down a warship, because they were far cheaper and easier to replace. Only the Charlotte Cameron was able to put up a real fight, but that's a story for another time. So now this ultimately defense was in the hands of a mad man. The Caspars didn't know any better, least, most of them didn't.

There are stories, okay, about a few experimental models that were effectively self aware, who tried to fight back against the Usurper. Most died under the guns of their less intelligent kin, while the others... we'll, they say one pointed itself at the Andromeda galaxy, burned all its fuel to reach near relativistic speed and shut itself down. The rest just vanished into the out darkness. But, again, a story for another time.

There's an old hypothetical question: what happens when an immovable object finds itself in the path of an unstoppable force?

Because if the Caspars were the ultimate defence, then the Star League Defense Force was the ultimate weapon, a giant creature made of armour and weapons, born from your darkest nightmares. Aleksandr Kerensky was a man driven by the sure and certain knowledge that the universe would be better off without Stefan Amaris around to use up perfectly good oxygen. His army was willing to follow him into the gates of hell if so ordered, and that's what going up against the Caspars was like. The drones didn't understand politics, couldn't comprehend that their orders were coming from a power mad murder. All they knew was that they had been told that the incoming SLDF forces were the enemy, and that meant only one thing: kill them with fire. Every system protected by Caspars became a meat-grinder, with dozens of ships and thousands of people lost just to reach orbit. It was a fight even the SLDF could not win, so Kerensky had his best minds work on finding a way to defeat the drones without having to throw bodies at them.

And they did, sort of. They found a way to jam the long-range communications links between the individual drones and their command nodes. Cut off, these drones could often be ignored as they just sat there, waiting for orders that would never come. Unfortunately, this only worked on long-range communications, meaning that Caspars closer to the nodes would still fight, and the Sol system had been seeded with control nodes, meaning that, when the time finally came to liberate Terra, most of the 250 drones protecting it would be active. But Terra had to fall; the Usurper had to die for his crimes, and that meant sending the Star League Defense Force into the jaws of death.

And that brings us back to Task Force Leonidas.

Kerensky assembled a flotilla of forty warships, led by the captured Stefan Amaris class battleship SLS Chieftain, and gave them the task of gutting the fleet of Caspars defending Sol. It was a suicide mission, a fact that wasn't kept from the crews, but even then, less than thirty members of the eight thousand men and women serving aboard those ships opted to back out of the mission when Kerensky gave them the choice. These people knew full well what was being asked of them, but they also knew that every day Amaris was left in charge of the Hegemony meant thousands more dead civilians. They were soldiers; they had sworn to give their lives if necessary in defence of the Star League and everything it stood for. And when the time came to fulfil their oaths, they would not be found wanting.

While the rest of Kerenskys massive armada attacked the main jump-points, the ships of Task Force Leonidas jumped into the L1 point between Sol and Mars, instantly drawing the attention of the Caspars in the area. Fearing that this was the prelude to an attack on Mars, Amaris ordered more and more drones in, but he didn't give them time to build up sufficient force to deal with the Task Force. Instead he sent them in as they arrived, meaning that many went in alone, while others attacked in twos and threes. The ships of Task Force Leonidas ripped these first few drones apart with overwhelming firepower for three hours, until thirty Caspers arrived at once.

That's when the gloves came off.

Nuclear fire enveloped the first wave of the Caspars as the ships of Task Force Leonidas unleashed a barrage of missiles in the 250-650 kiloton range. Sixteen drones were destroyed outright, with more crippled or badly damaged. The planners had expected the drones to break off at this, but it only spurred the Caspers on, as to their simple AI minds, Task Force Leonidas had just made itself the single biggest threat in the entire system. Singling out the ships that had fired the nukes, they doubled-down, going into what, had they been crewed by humans, could only be called a frenzy. Star League ships started to fall under the withering fire, and that brings us to the subject of this story.

The SLS Jervis Bay was a Congress class frigate that had seen almost two centuries of service, mostly escorting supply convoys around the Inner Sphere. But the fighting to retake the Hegemony had taken its toll on the Jervis Bay, and she had suffered severe damage to her interplanetary drive in the fighting above New Earth. Indeed, there was some debate as to whether or not she'd even be able to make the jump with the rest of the flotilla. But her engineers patched the damage as best they could, the crew petitioning General Kerensky for a spot on the mission: knowing that their ship would likely be scrapped once the war was over, they wapnted to give her the chance to go out in a blaze of glory.

But fate is a fickle mistress, and had other plans for the Jervis Bay.

The jump into the Sol system had crippled the frigates drive. Knowing that retreat was not an option, the crew of the Jervis Bay decided that they would sell their lives dearly, and set about destroying every single Caspar that came within range. For two days, the crew of the Jervis Bay and the rest of Task Force Leonidas fought like their namesake, destroying or crippling over a hundred Caspars before the last ship, the cruiser Sovetskii Soyuz, was finally destroyed.

But the fate of the Jervis Bay remains... contested.

The official after-action report by the Star League Defense Force states that it suffered damage to its reactor shielding, inflicting lethal radiation doses on the crew. They were ordered to pull out of the fighting, but instead on remaining on station, those not killed outright taking massive doses of pain killers and combat stimulates to remain functional. Then damage to the Chieftain crippled its starboard point-defences, a potentially catastrophic opening that the Caspars pounced on. All guns firing definitely, the crew of the Jervis Bay redlined their already damaged engines in a bid to cut off the drones and buy the flagship time to effect repairs. It was a desperate move, as it caused a fresh surge of radiation to envelope the ship, killing most of the surviving engineering crew as they mand their posts to the last. Her hull torn and venting atmosphere, the Jervis Bay threw itself at the enemy.

And then something happened.

Officially, the Jervis Bay was destroyed when her reactor finally lost containment, the resulting explosion destroying a nearby Casper and badly damaging two more, while leaving no wreckage of the frigate. However, long-range sensor records indicate that the IR flair that preceded the disappearance of the frigate was closer to what one would expect from a catastrophic miss-jump, leaving many to speculate that the damaged reactor sent a power surge through the damaged jump-core, triggering it. Many who subscribe to this theory believe that the Jervis Bay was destroyed by the resulting energy release.

And that was the end of Task Force Leonidas: with the remaining Caspars delt with, General Kerensky sent ships to recover the pitifully few lifeboats and escape pods to be found, and the twisted, broken remains of the flotilla and the drones they had given their lives to destroy were left to settle into a solar orbit, a tomb for those who did their duty until the very end. No attempts were made to salvage the wrecks before the Exodus, and they quickly faded from common knowledge. That was until around twenty years later, when an enterpriseing group of Belters decided to see if there was anything worth recovering from the hulks. Now, many might consider this akin to grave robbing, but let's not forget that three centuries of war have left their mark on the known galaxy, and battlefield salvage is part of everyday life. At least the Belters were more interested in simple survival rather than killing.

Well, next thing anybody knows, they're sending out a distress signal, yelling that an unknown warship suddenly jumped-in and started firing on them. ComStar, who by that time, had taken control of the Sol system, dispatched a rescue mission, expecting to find nothing more than a few idiots who'd hit some debris and panicked. What they found was a crew of experienced spacers in a ship that showed signs of having taken damage from capital grade weapons. Fearing that one of the Successor States was making a secret play for Terra, ComStar deployed the CSV Alacrity, one of the few active warships in their possession at the time. The Vincent class corvette approached the Task Force Leonidas debris field with the crew at battlestations, only to be surprised by an unidentified Congress class frigate suddenly jumping in, firing upon them without making any attempts to communicate. The Alacrity made use of its superior acceleration to break contact, and the unknown warship seemingly jumped back out again.

Twice more the corvette would approach the wrecked ships, but no matter the angle they chose, the Congress would appear and open fire.

After this, modified Mark 39 Voidseeker Attack Drones were deployed, broadcasting various IFF transponder codes, but no matter what, the Congress always appeared and destroyed them. Long-range observations of the frigate showed that it taken massive damage, but showed clear signs of operating under human control. One drone was able to survive long enough to take a close-up image of the hull, from which the ships registration number could be seen: F40. A search of surviving records identified it as the Jervis Bay.

All subsequent attempts to contact the Jervis Bay, including by former Star League officers who knew the crew, failed. Any attempt to approach the Task Force Leonidas wrecks invited immediate attack from the frigate. All attempts to discover just how the shop was able to jump in and out so frequently failed, as did trying to plot where it was between appearances. In the end, ComStar simply deployed navigation bouys to make the area as a serious hazard to navigation and left. The Jervis Bay would not be sighted again for almost three centuries, until the Word of Blake, having recently wrested control of Terra from their former brothers, sent an expedition to inspect the wrecks. The Belters living in the system tried to warn them off, worried that they'd awaken the 'Last Spartan' as they called it.

The Word ignored them, and lost five ships with all hands.

More ships were sent, including warships from their small but growing fleet: they were all attacked relentlessly until destroyed or driven off, the Jervis Bay seemingly taking no damage. Countless theories have been put forth since the first encounter with the Jervis Bay as to what exactly happened to the ship, and how it is able to appear and disappear seemigly at will, always when someone approaches the ships of Task Force Leonidas. Scientists have speculated that the power surge caused the jump-drive to create a window in spacetime, and that the Jervis Bay and her crew are forever living out their last, glorious charge in defence of their long dead comrades. They have plenty of big words and charts to back up their theories, but the Belters have a far simpler answer.

They say that the Last Spartan is standing eternal vigial of the grave of Task Force Leonidas, and will strike down any who seek to desecrate their tomb.

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


Ajax_Wolf

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Re: Who Goes There?
« Reply #99 on: 02 September 2019, 19:41:20 »
Nice, one should know better than screw with the graves of the honored dead.
Why does everyone "Fire at Will"? Is he really that bad of a person? And what did he do to make everyone want to shoot him?

If a group of necrophiliacs met a group of zombies, who would do the chasing?

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Kidd

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Re: Who Goes There?
« Reply #100 on: 02 September 2019, 21:54:53 »
If you think about it, that's pretty scary. A graveyard guarded by ghosts... on Warship scales.

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snakespinner

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Re: Who Goes There?
« Reply #101 on: 02 September 2019, 22:42:27 »
Jervis Bay was the name of the armed merchantman sunk by Admiral Scheer.
Interesting choice of names. :thumbsup:
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JA Baker

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Re: Who Goes There?
« Reply #102 on: 03 September 2019, 12:08:30 »
"Steiner Rules" - is this a thing? It needs to be a thing!
https://youtu.be/xPZ6eaL3S2E
Jervis Bay was the name of the armed merchantman sunk by Admiral Scheer.
Interesting choice of names. :thumbsup:
Seemed appropriate
"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


nerd

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Re: Who Goes There?
« Reply #103 on: 03 September 2019, 19:13:51 »
Jervis Bay was the name of the armed merchantman sunk by Admiral Scheer.
Interesting choice of names. :thumbsup:
Agreed. I was wondering if you'd reference her, and the pennant number confirmed it.
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JA Baker

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Who Goes There?
« Reply #104 on: 04 September 2019, 07:51:47 »
Agreed. I was wondering if you'd reference her, and the pennant number confirmed it.
The name, and pennant number, were very deliberate choices. I was actually finding it hard to settle on a name for the ship, toying with Spartan, John Spartan (as a Demolition Man reference), Kratos (at one point the Belters called her the "Ghost of Sparta") or some other ancient Greek reference.

But then someone mentioned "pulling a Jervis Bay" in a BattleTech related thread on another forum, and it then came down to that or Glowworm. In the end, Jervis Bay won out. I will admit that finding the pennant number was a bit of a task.
"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


Giovanni Blasini

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Re: Who Goes There?
« Reply #105 on: 05 September 2019, 23:08:33 »
Seems like a good choice though, in the end.
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JA Baker

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Who Goes There?
« Reply #106 on: 12 September 2019, 20:47:00 »
With thanks to Chris O'Farrell and gladiusone for letting me play with some of their toys ;)

Incubus

Don't be surprised if you've never heard of Port Moresby: it's arguably the Outworld Alliances best kept secret.

You see, back in the day, the Star League found themselves in desperate need of a secure shipyard closer to the action than the Hermegony boarders, but didn't exactly trust any of the other member states not to try and get a look at all the advanced tech Royal units had if they used one of their shipyards. So they set up a number of hidden anchorages around the edge of the Inner Sphere, little boltholes their ships could go to if needed. The biggest was supposedly somewhere within the Federated Sun's, but there's no evidence that it still exists.

Port Moresby was created, to put it bluntly, by wedging a damaged Newgrange class yardship of the same name into a planetoid big enough to have a semblance of gravity, but not enough to cause a hindrance to JumpShip and Warship repairs. The facility was further expanded upon by excavating much of the planetoid, hollowing out a number of large chambers to act as cargo bays, machine shops, crew facilities and even extensive hydroponics. They even found room for a couple of counter-rotating grav-decks, allowing the crew to at least spend some time is something approaching normal gravity. There was space for massive weapons emplacements dotted around the surface, mostly hidden inside craters and crevices, but they'd been stripped decades before the Alliance Military Corps took control of the station, and wouldn't be replaced until after we joined with the Ravens.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

I was nineteen when I first shipped out to Port Moresby: straight out of basic training, my head still filled with dreams of becoming a hot-rod rocket god of precision and strength, tear-assing across the cosmos and hunting for heaven. Well, my first six weeks pealing and washing vegetables in the galley put a stop to that. Not everyone is born to be gods own gift to the AMC. No, some of us are born to be small cogs in a far bigger machine, but that's not to say we're any less important. And after six months of doing what I was told and keeping my mouth shut, I was able to get myself transferred to the quartermasters office as a very junior supply clerk. Still unlikely to impress the ladies, but at least it was less mind-numbing.

Back then, Port Moresby was really just a massive logistics hub for the entire Ramora Province, and as such the Quatermasters office was always over-worked and under-staffed, so I often found myself trying to do three things at once. Almost half the station had been closed off due to lack of money and personnel needed to keep it up and running, and most of what was left was just warehousing dedicated to making sure that any ship to pull in to dock could be resupplied and back out again before anyone tracking our fleet movements was able to work out where we were. And believe me, we had no end of briefings about just how much the Davions or Kurita or ComStar would just love to get their hands on an extra shipyard, even one as barley functional as Port Moresby. The only outsiders we did on occasion see were a small group of JàrnFòlk who seemed to have their own reasons for straying so far from home. They were a good source of information and hard to find luxury goods, so as long as they kept their mouths shut about where they were going, HQ back on Alpheratz was willing to look the other way.

The store rooms were massive, and by that I mean big enough to hold a DropShip with room to spare. Most of the heavy lifting was carried out by these crazy but utterly irreplaceable Harvester Ant IndustrialMechs that had been almost completly rebuilt to operate as LoaderMechs in microgravity, the combines replaced with basic manipulators and the engines with power cells. Last thing you want is something belching out God knows what in a closed environment like a space station. But there was still a labyrinth of smaller store rooms and cargo bays dedicated to handling smaller items, and more often then not, that meant the careful application of brute force. And I do mean careful: just because you're in microgravity doesn't mean that something suddenly possesses only a fraction of its mass.

After all, there's a reason why Sir Isaac Newton's name is still known, and on occasions cursed, over a thousand years after his death.

So anyways: big place, lots of dark rooms and nowhere near enough people. Pretty much like every other depot I've seen since signing up. And like everywhere else I've served, the old timers like to haze the fresh meat. This is a universal fact, as much a law as anything Sir Isaac ever came up with, and no amount of regulations will change that. But over time, you start to grow a thicker skin, become a little more cynical, and it stops getting to you, until the datly you find yourself doing it to someone else. But Port Moresby was a little different: there they outright tell you during your orientation briefing that some of the things you'll hear stories about actually did happen. Stories like someone opening a sealed hatch to try and take a short-cut and finding themselves trying to breathe vacuum on the other side. Because, like I said, it's a really big place and we only just had enough maintenance staff to keep the basics running.

Long story short, assume that any warning signs, even those written by hand, are there for a good reason.

Yes, even the one that says "beware of the Leopard".

Don't ask.

Anyways, I'd been on Port Moresby for about two years when I was sent to retrieve something or another from one of the more distant store rooms. I double checked to make sure that it wasn't another 'glass hammer' gag, and set out on the long and boring treck through the identical passageways until I reached the indicated room. Turning on the lights, I was happily surprised to discover that only half of them had stopped working, so I didn't have to use the flashlight clipped to my belt to find my way around. I synced my noteputer with the manifest and made my way to the appropriate shelf. Only what I was looking for wasn't there. The box was there, sure, but it was empty. Now this isn't exactly uncommon anywhere: someone takes something and either forgets to put it back or puts it in the wrong place, so I checked a few of the other boxes to see if it had simply been misplaced, but came up with nothing. Procedure for a situation like that was to call up the Quatermaster's office and see if there was a possible replacement somewhere else, but the stations intercom system was in about as good a shape at the rest of it, so that meant backtracking a fair bit.

Now, back when it had been a Star League outpost, they'd had a couple of hundred little drones scuttling about, doing the kind of basic repair work that even a green AsTech could be trusted not to completly FUBAR, but the station had been abandoned for about two centuries before the AMC stumbled upon it, and nobody had been around to do any maintenance on the maintenance drones. By the time we took up residence, there was just one drone left operational in the entire station, and, well...

Nobody really understands his programming, and a few little oddities have sprung up, resulting in what could be considered a personality. He, and yes, we all refer to it as a 'he', tends to be a bit skittish around people he doesn't know and prefers to be left alone to do his job without interference. He's basically a mascot for Port Moresby, with someone, no one will admit to who, even painting a caricature of him on the hatch of the maintenance bay he uses to recharge. Anyone who suggests taking him apart to look under the hood finds themselves on the first ship headed to the nastiest posting the chief engineer can think of, and they rend to be very imaginative.

It was while searching for a working intercom that I stumbled upon the little guy: he was hanging in the middle of a wide passageway, slowly spinning, its little tracks whirring helplessly. I thought it was kind of odd, as he had little magnets built into his tracks that usually kept him firmly in place, so it was hard to imagine a situation where he'd become so helpless. Now pretty much none of you reading this are going to have encountered any thing nearly as advanced as that little bot, so if you want to imagine the way he looked at me with those two big camera eyes of his, imagine a kitten stuck up a tree and you're in the same general area. It's hard to describe just how emotive he could be, given that the most he could do was make little bleeps to warn you of his presence, but it was clear he was desperate for help. So, bracing myself against one wall, I waited until he was pointed the right direction, then gave him a push. He impacted the far wall with a clang, then rocked back and forth on his tracks a few times to make sure that the magnets had a good grip, then bleeped appreciatively at me.

"Just be more careful in future." I warned him with a smile, "I may not be there to rescue you next time."

He responded with a series of musical notes, then headed off down the hall, happily trundling along what was generally considered to be a wall as it he was talking a stroll in the park.

Eventually finding a working intercom, I called up my supervisor and told him about the missing equipment. I then took a step back from the speaker as he cursed the air blue like only a veteran spacer can, before he finally informed me that the only alternative was on the far side of the station, so he'd send someone else to go get it. Which meant I could clock-off half an hour early, which was nice because it was date night with one of the LoaderMech jockeys, and it gave me time to hit the shower before changing.

But you didn't come here to hear about how I met my wife, now did you?

Well, it turned out that Port Moresby had a long history of equipment and supplies going missing. Not exactly unheard of, I know, but a station like that is pretty much a closed environment, with none of the usual opportunities for an enterprising individual or group to sell off some inventory to make a little extra cash on the side. Any large organisation has long ago accepted such losses, and just worked towards keeping them down to a reasonable level. That's not to say that anyone caught with their hands in the proverbial cookie jar wasn't beaten around the head with a hardback copy of the Uniform Code of Military Justice until they saw more stars than there are in the Alliance.

But, by all rights, Port Moresby should have seen less 'shrinkage' than most bases, but we were actually slightly above average. Now base command and HQ tended to put this down to a combination of bad records keeping and the base just being too damn big for us to keep track of everything. But nobody wanted to send more people out to help us, because that would increase the risk of some foreign power locating the station. Which was kind of crazy, as almost no one serving there knew where it was.

Oh, you want to talk about crazy? I got hit-on by this drunk Mercenary once, and he bragged about how he'd had jump-jets mounted on the arms of his 'Mech so he could perform 'rocket punches'. Guy was a complete lunatic, and even if I wasn't a lesbian, there was no way in hell I would have gone home with him that night. Seem to recall I hooked up with the barmaid that night. Oh, to be young, free and single again...

Please don't tell my wife I said that.

So, anyways, things had a habit of going missing, or not being where you left them, and there wasn't enough people around to account for a lot of it. And that's where the stories go started. Not a lot to do somewhere like Port Moresby; limited recreational activities and a bar that strictly enforced your quota... well, not much else to do off duty but stand around a pool table and talk. The station had no HPG at the time, another thing the Ravens would eventually bring with them, so it was a bit difficult to talk sports, and everyone knew everyone, so trying to brag about your love life could easily backfire on you. So that left... stories.

Kind of like the one I'm telling you now.

They'd start off like you'd expect: something you heard from a guy who'd heard it from some DropShip pilot who's brother was a MechWarrior who'd been there. Tall tails to tell in the small hours while you tried to make your last drink of the evening last until dawn. And I'm sure you've heard plenty, but not about Port Moresby. Because, with such a small crew, chances are you know the person the story was about and could ask them to confirm or deny it. That means they tend to be a little closer to the mark. Now, a lot of these stories were about people doing something stupid, or some bit of LostTech not working as expected, but there were a few that were, different. As I've said, most of the station was closed off, unused and unexplored, but there was always a few brave or foolish people who'd use their downtime to go exploring. Some did it for the novel experience, some looking for LostTech to sell, others because it got them away from everyone else for a little 'private time', if you catch my drift.

So my friend Tex starts talking about this time his roommate Lenny talked him into checking out what the station schematics said was quarters for visiting crew. The idea was that maybe they left something of value behind when they left that they could sell when they next got leave. Now while the higher ups didn't exactly approve of these little treasure hunts, they knew that there was no way to stop them short of placing Marines at every access point, and our detachment was far too small for that. So instead they insisted that anyone going hunting had to take a second person with them, and inform the duty commander exactly where they were planning to go. That way at least any search party would have an idea where to look for the bodies.

So Tex and Lenny grab a couple of flashlights, a box of glow-sticks to mark their path, and head off into the great unknown. And it wasn't easy going; even the little maintenance drone never went that far out, so they had to work their way around obstructions and jammed hatches. Eventually, they find what looked like an old mess-hall, but floating above every seat is on of the glow-sticks they'd left behind them. It took them hours to find their way back, actually bumping into the search party that had been sent looking for them, who'd been smart enough to use florescent paint on the walls to mark their progress. They make fun of Tex and Lenny, insisting that they must have somehow stirred up the air so that the glow-sticks followed them... right up until they reach the last hatch before the inhabited part of the station, when the glow-sticks and all neatly stacked in a pile before it.

My story?

OK, so say what you like, but this really happened. I was making my way along a corridor leading to the docking bay when I saw someone coming the other way. I had my head in a shipping manifest so I didn't look up properly, just glanced up enough to see a power-blue jacket with far more navy blue braid than I have even now, so I side-stepped into a hatch way and quickly threw up a salute as they passed. It wasn't until a minute or two later that I realised that the uniform they'd been wearing wasn't AMC issue, and we had no visiting ships in at the time. I spun round, but the officer had vanished. I reported the encounter to my CPO, but he shook his head and told me to forget about it.

Without a second thought, I do just that, until one day when I'm doing inventory of one of store rooms. It was real drudge work, but the boss-man made sure that everyone had to do it at some point, and my unlucky number had come up. So I'm in this store room with my noteputer, counting boxes of footpowder or whatever the hell it was; I was kind of running on automatic pilot by that point, when I happened to glance up and see a face watching me from the other side of the racking. I felt my blood run cold as I looked into a pair of eyes that were never supposed to be part of a human face: big, far bigger even than one of those souped-up aerospace pilots the Clans produce. No, these eyes took up almost a quarter of the face, and were completely black, as if there was nothing but iris. Then there was the nose, or rather the lack there of, leaving just two vertical slits between those massive eyes and a mouth that looked far too small.

We looked at each other for what felt like an eternity but couldn't have been more than a few seconds, then it hissed like a snake and suddenly vanished towards the ceiling.

I'm not ashamed to say that I bolted for the hatch like a scolded rat, the sound of whatever it was scrambling across the shelving behind me. It's not easy to run fast in microgravity, but I set a new personal record that day, moving as if the devil himself was on my heals, which for all I knew, he was. Boxes tumbled from the top of the racking, falling almost comically slowly before bursting open on the deck. I didn't even think of looking back, my own personal universe consisting of just the open hatch and the all too slowly shrinking distance between the safety it represented and myself.

Something that felt uncomfortably sharp tugged at my shoulder, and I dived through the hatch, kicking it closed as hard as I could. It snapped shut, the automatic locking mechanism engaging with a reassuring click.

I laid on the deck, trying to get my heart back down out of my throat and into my chest while I sucked down huge lung fulls of air. Then there was a worrying bleep as the someone, or something, started to unlock the hatch from the other side. Pushing off with my hand, I back-peddled across the hall until my back was pressed against the other side. My heart once again pounding, I could do nothing but sit there, frozen in terror as the hatch slowly started to unlock.

A loud whirring sound came from my right, but my eyes were fixed on the hatch. I was surprised, but happily so, when the little maintenance drone rumbled up to the hatch and produced a wielding probe from one of its small arms and pressed it against the lock controls. Sparks of electricity erupted from the control panel, and the failsafe triggered, fusing the lock firmly in place.

The drone turned to look at me.

"Just be more careful in future." I heard my own voice coming from the little speaker built into its 'head', "I may not be there to rescue you next time."

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


PsihoKekec

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Re: Who Goes There?
« Reply #107 on: 13 September 2019, 01:34:07 »
Ah, the little maintainance drone that could.
Shoot first, laugh later.

Kidd

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Re: Who Goes There?
« Reply #108 on: 13 September 2019, 09:40:56 »
Quote
Eventually, they find what looked like an old mess-hall, but floating above every seat is on of the glow-sticks they'd left behind them. It took them hours to find their way back, actually bumping into the search party that had been sent looking for them, who'd been smart enough to use florescent paint on the walls to mark their progress. They make fun of Tex and Lenny, insisting that they must have somehow stirred up the air so that the glow-sticks followed them... right up until they reach the last hatch before the inhabited part of the station, when the glow-sticks and all neatly stacked in a pile before it.
Oh that's nice. That's real nice. That's a classic campfire singalong right there.

Quote
"Just be more careful in future." I heard my own voice coming from the little speaker built into its 'head', "I may not be there to rescue you next time."
Awww! <3

JA Baker

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Who Goes There?
« Reply #109 on: 03 October 2019, 21:04:00 »
Depending on how you take it, this might actually offend some. I assure you that no offence was intended, and I've rewritten parts of it that even I found... questionable, but you can't please all the people all the time.

Bad Moon Rising

You ask the average person on the street about Mercenaries, and the chances are they'll think of one of the more famous units: the Light Horse, the Dragoons, the Hounds or the Highlanders. And that's what centuries of books and TriVids have told the great unwashed the average Merc is.

But let me throw a few numbers at you.

40% of all Mercenary units are destroyed or dissolved within their first six mothers of operation, and 60% of those who survive will never make it past their first year. So, out of every 100 units founded, only 36, little over a third, will see their second year. Some will be destroyed on the battlefield, absorbed by larger units, become House units after falling into the trap of Company Stores, or otherwise fail to secure a well paying enough contract to pay the bills. And while I've never commanded more than a Lance, I can tell you that the paperwork even a company of BattleMechs and their attendant support staff can generate could crush an Atlas. Wages have to be paid, so do taxes, rent, food bills, insurance and JumpShip fees. Ammunition and spare parts have to be sourced, along with people to run maintenance, as even without seeing combat, the average BattleMech can need upwards of 60-hours of maintenance per week. More if it's a particularly old or troublesome model. The average mercenary commander is less Jamie Wolf and more a stressed-out cubicle drone up to their eyeballs in spreadsheets and invoices.

Just one bad job, one mission where you rolled snake-eyes, and you can find your whole world spiralling out of control.

So, when someone offers you a nice, fat contact to play hired muscle for some Lord with more money than sense, it's not surprising that the 'average' mercenary would be on it like a drowning man reaching for a life-vest. That's what happened to the unit I was with, and forgive me if I don't mention any names, as some of the people involved have deep pockets and no qualms about silencing someone they seam to have dishonored them or their families.

We were in the Draconis Combine, not long after ComStar took the Clans out to the proverbial woodshed for an arse whooping on Tukayyid. Our unit, two companies of 'Mech and a third company of mixed armour and infantry for support, had been assaulted by the Smoke Jaguars after our previous CO had thought it a great idea to take a job on Wolcott, and led us into a woodchipper of a battle on a subcontracted raid. He at least had the good crace to get his head blown off, leaving the XO to pull the survivors out of the fire and back to the DropShip. All in, we lost an entire company of 'Mecha, destroyed or so badly damaged that they were little more than walking scrap, but that was nothing compared to the physiological impact of being tossed around like toys in the hands of children throwing a temper tantrums.

We'd been little more than a live-fire exercise for the Jaguars, and that left us with an unfortunate desire to make someone, anyone, hurt like we'd been.

That led us to taking a job with the Lord of a planet, neither of which will be, for reasons already stated, named. He effectively wanted a little extra weight to throw around, but his official bodyguard unit had been stripped away to replace losses on the front lines. So, despite the Combines longstanding hatred of Mercenaries, he went looking for some hired muscle. We were apparently big enough to look impressive before the hoi-polloi, and desperate enough to get our hands dirty if he ordered it, and after what we'd been through, we were more than willing to take his money just so he could act like he had a big swinging dick. And the going was pretty good for the first year or so: some people find garrison duty far from the front lines dull, but those people have seldom gone up against the Smoke Jaguars. We took the opportunity to rest up, repair and refit our surviving 'Mechs and vehicles, and replace losses both material and personnel wise. Not that we were sat on our arses the entire time, mind, as our new benefactor liked to show us off like a prize hunting dog, having us form an honour guard every time anyone of any importance popped-by.

But, see, the Little Lord didn't actually control the entire planet.

That's not exactly unheard of across the Inner Sphere: lot of planets are home to land-holds and grants that are both technically and legally outside of the planetary rulers domain. Sometimes they're held by a prestigious Mercenary unit or some highly decorated old warrior. Others are the private fiefdom of some business interest or another. All that matters is that there was about 20% of the planet that was outside of his control, and that vexed him. And looking at it as an outsider, I could understand why, as the land in question was some prime real estate, with plenty of natural resources going untapped. Certainly would have boosted his yearly income an noticeable amount.

But the problem was, getting control of that extra bit of land was easier said than done.

See, back during the diaspora, the first people to settle the planet in question had been a lose coalition of peoples whose ancestors had this long history of being kicked off the land they lived on by other people. But humanities exodus to the stars would, they hoped, finally give them a place to call their own that nobody would take from them. And when they found themselves part of the newly formed Draconis Combine, they'd petitioned Shiro Kurita himself to try and protect their claim. So he'd sent people to survey the planet, and they came back and said that the people living there were only using 20% of its avaliable land. And so, in a very un-Kurita like decision, Old Shiro decreed that the land they were currently using was their in perpetuity, and signed an official treaty to that effect and everything. Given that this was signed by the very founder of the Combine, no Coordinator since has felt the need to counter-act it. After all, 80% of a planet is still an awful lot of land.

Now of cause there are ways around annoying little things like laws and treaties, often bloody ways, but the Planets HPG happened to be located within that 20%, so simply 'disappearing' the people wasn't an option. Nor was making them sign over the rights with a gun to their heads, as the planets HPG station was in the all-important 20%, and they were watching. The Lord tried to get them to move closer to his estate, but they fed him some obvious BS about geophysics and stellar alignment, so that was a no-go. What that left us with was essentially acting like massive dicks in the hopes that they'd eventually get the message and sign over the land for about a quarter of what it was worth on the open market, which was what all our esteemed employer was willing to pay.

"So," I hear you ask, "how exactly does one go about convincing a people with the law and government on their side to sign over their ancestral land for a fraction of what it's worth?"

Well, I'd be lying if I said I'm glad you asked, because I'm not exactly proud of what we had to do.

See, despite the land being under their domain, planetary defence was still the perogative of the DCMS, and with most of them up on the Clan boarder, that meant that it was a certain understrength mercenary unit who got the job. As such, we had the right to perform security patrols and conduct training exercises with the local militia wherever and whenever we wanted. And when your boss tells you to take all of your BattleMechs and tanks and APC's and conduct a mock attack across some farm land that just so happens to be just days away from harvest... you take all of your BattleMechs and tanks and APC's and go ruin some poor bastards entire years work. Then you conduct a week-long live-fire training exercise that cuts off the only access to a town, leaving them dangerously short on supplies. And then you do a couple of dozen other things to make life as difficult as you possibly can for the people you're trying to influence, all while making sure that you're just inside the letter of the law.

ComStar can watch. ComStar can give you dirty looks. But ComStar can't bring it up with the MRCB as you're only fulfilling your contract.

Perfectly leagl and completely immoral, so perfect for "mercenaries", so far as the Combine is concerned.

Well, after about a year of trying to act like the biggest bunch of jerks outside of the Clans, and we'd gotten exactly nowhere. Which wasn't exactly making our employer happy, and it's a universal constant that shit rolls down hill. So he starts to make our lives difficult: pay started arriving late or in less than the agreed upon amounts. Again, all done within the terms of our contract, if you actually go read the fine print. Then supplies are delayed, support staff reassigned, lines of credit with local businesses cut short. All designed to make it clear that he was not happy with our apparent lack of progress in getting him his land. And desperate as we were, we knuckled down and redoubled our efforts, a few members of the unit getting dangerously close to crossing the line and giving ComStar grounds to call in the MRCB.

I'd like to state, for the record, that I personally never did anything illegal. Just so we're clear.

So we step up our nuisance operations: run security sweeps and customs inspections where none were needed, churn up some more farm land with our 'Mecha and vehicles, generally act like the house guests from hell. And they just sit there and take it. I guess that, after all their various ancestors had been through, people sticking to the letter of the law like us were exactly what I said, a nuisance.

But then the inevitable happened: a couple of our ground-pounders got a little out of hand, some locals objected, and when the dust settled, we had twenty locals dead, twice that in the hospital, and ComStar crawling up our arses. The CO did the only thing she could, and cut those responsible loose, let the local law enforcement deal with them. Didn't have to: our contract gave us means, immunity and jurisdiction, and our employer was more than willing to sign off on what happened being the result of local criminals trying to interfere with legitimate operations. Only thing is, the MRCB isn't stupid, and ComStar had all the evidence they'd need to have us stripped of our accreditation. That happens, and you've got a choice between signing a on with someone looking for a unit willing to do whatever's asked of them, or head out into the Periphery and see how things work out for you there.

Neither of those appealed to us, so cops got their pound of flesh.

But now it was personal: regardless of the circumstances, the locals had cost us some of our own, and our blood was up. Some of us tried to keep a level head on our shoulders, but it's all too easy to get drawn into pushing back. So we stopped playing nice, stopped actively stopped trying to cause collateral damage and instead set about inflicting as much as possible. And it's really easy to cause damage, even in the lightest of BattleMechs, given how easy it can be to "accidentally" step on or knock over a car, or even a house. Oh, sure, there's insurance for that sort of thing, but it can take a long time for the paperwork to go through.

Unfortunately, we weren't making many friends among the locals, even those who didn't live on the all-important 20%. Word gets around when you have a reputation for trashing peoples places, and soon some local businesses stopped wanting to have anything to do with us. Bars stopped serving us, shops closed or jacked up their prices when they saw us coming, people crossed to the other side of the road rather than pass you on the street. You can start to feel real lonely real quick, times like that.

It was pretty clear that things were getting close to boiling over, so there was a understandable amount of relief when one of the local leaders called for a sit-down meeting. ComStar provided us with a neutral location, and we acted as "escorts" for the Lords representatives. Thankfully, things started off okay: about twenty or so people, all sat around a table, talking. The locals made it clear that, after thousands of years of being pushed off their various ancestral lands, they weren't going to be moved on again, while the boss' rep makes it clear that he wanted access to the mineral wealth they were sitting on.

And this was when things got.. weird.

One of the locals leans back in his chair, closes his eyes and says something in a language that nobody on our side of the table understands, but silenced everyone on his side. And not just silenced: some of them looked damn right worried at whatever he said, like he'd just admitted to farting in the Coordinators face or something. Then, without opening his eyes, he starts to spin this yarn about how humanity wasn't the only thing to leave Terra during the diaspora. Other things, ancient, nameless things, had followed them to the stars. One such thing was on that planet, and it was only by keeping out of its way that the people were able to live in peace. But if the Lord got his way, there'd be a price to pay.

Now, I've been from one side of the Inner Sphere to the other, and I've seen some truly crazy shit on planets that you wouldn't see anywhere else, but I had never seen anything remotely like what he talked about.

Anyways, it soon became clear that we weren't going to be coming to an agreement any time soon, so we called it quits for the night. As we're getting ready to leave, one of the locals came up to me and, in hushed tones, warned me against taking the same route back that night: said something cryptic about a bad moon rising. I thanked her for her advice, assuming that some of the less patient locals were planning a little ambush. Well, we had a lance of BattleMechs and a company of tanks and IFV'S, when all the locals had was civilian vehicles and small-arms. Certainly not a fair fight, even if they'd had the element of surprise on their side.

I spread the word to keep eyes open and weapons hot as we started back to base, passing through a wide, forested pass between the HPG station and the Lords palace. It was a beautiful landscape, but the locals seemed to avoid it at night, preferring to take longer routes through the mountains than the more direct highway. Fortunately, it was massively reinforced to support even BattleMechs on the march, so I had the two Wolfhounds out front, my Centurion in the middle with the representatives limo, and our Valkyrie bringing up the rear, with the vehicles spread out around the VIP.

Everything was goind smooth as silk until we were about halfway through the pass, and I even I was starting to think that we were on a Snipe Hunt, when the wind suddenly picked up, thick clouds rolling in out of nowhere to blot out what little natural light there was. Not that it meant much, as I could easily switch over to inferred, night instantly turning into a mass of blue, red and orange. I warned everyone to keep sharp, but the wind was starting to pick up to the point where I had to really start concentrating on keeping myself upright. Last thing I needed was to fall over and crush the people I was supposed to be protecting, so against my better judgement, I gave the order to spread out a little more, giving everyone more room to manoeuvre.

We kept on moving through the pass, our pace reduced to a near crawl as we struggled with the wind that seemed to be coming from every direction, making it increasingly hard to keep balanced. I was actually glad that we hadn't brought any of the bigger 'Mech, as despite their increased tonnage, they tended to be even more susceptible to high winds due to their increased cross-section. The radio was filled with chatter about the wind, how it was stirring up dust and debris to the point where it was hard to see two meters in front. Even by combining night-vision, inferred and magnascan, I felt link a drunk stumbling around in the dark.

Then my Centurion lurched forward suddenly, almost as if I'd taken a hit to the left shoulder. I quickly compensated, cursing the fool who'd chosen the rout without first checking the weather forecast, even if it was, you know, me. Then one of the tanks reported being knocked almost back to front by something that felt and sounded more like being kicked by an Atlas than the wind. I could feel the hairs on the back of my neck standing up, and you don't last long as a mercenary without developing good survival instincts. And right then and there, they were screaming at me to get the hell out of there. But it wasn't like I could just leave the Bosses rep sitting there all alone, so I swallowed down the bile that was starting to rise up my throat and ordered the convoy to pull over and hunker down, deciding it was safer to sit out the storm than to try and risk pushing forwards. The others happily agreed, the tanks and IFV's forming a close circle around the limo, packed in tight enough to provide mutual support against the wind. Us 'Mech Jocks had to settle for crouching down in a small drainage ditch that provided at least some protection from the elements.

I don't know if you've been alone in a confined space during a storm, but it isn't as much fan as you may think. Most BattleMechs are designed for function over form, with only a passing thought towards pilot comfort. And my old Centurion had seen more that her fair share of action down the years, so what creature comforts there had been were long gone. All I could do was grab a can of self-heating coffee and try to keep warm. Not that the storm seemed willing to help, as if anything, it seemed to be getting worse, having gotten to the point where we couldn't even pick up the steady pulse of the navigation beacon from the HPG station, the wind was kicking up so much static interference. Which was odd, because I couldn't see any rain, let alone lighting, and it takes a hell of a lot to drown out a beacon that's traceable from high orbit.

But that wind though, it just kept getting worse and worse and worse, unlike anything I've ever seen. Even crouched down with the left arm out to support me, my Centurion was getting pushed around like you wouldn't believe. Hell, I've done combat drops into a contested LZ that were less bumpy. And there was something about how it seemed to be coming from every direction at once, almost as if we were inside a tornado. Only we were in the wrong part of the planet for those, which is one of the reasons why the HPG had been built so close by.

Then it happened: a voice over the radio, screaming that someone was trying to open the hatch on their tank. That set everyone off, snapping us out of the semi-relaxed state we'd allowed ourselves to drift into. Seasons and weapons went active, searching for any signs of hostiles, but absolutely nothing could be seen. Yet even over the noise of the wind and the interference, I could hear the sound of the hatch unlocking then being ripped open, followed by the high pitch whine of a discharging laser pistol and the terrified screams of someone staring death in the face. Confused voiced filled the radio, asking if anyone knew what had happened while I tried desperately to identify which of our tanks had been attacked.

Any ideas I had about rallying the others to form a coherent defence ended when my Centurion was lifted up into the air and sent flying across the road and into the trees beyond. It landed exactly like you'd expect 50-tons of metal and myomer to, which is to say, badly. Despite my head ringing like a bell on Christmas morning, I managed to get it up into a seated position in time to see the Valkyrie open up, sending 10 LRM's corkscrewing off in almost every direction. One flew over my right shoulder, only just missing my cockpit, and exploded upon hitting something behind me.

That was the signal for all hell to break lose, with people firing seemingly at random.

I don't know if you've ever seen a unit simply loose their collective shit, but let me tell you, it ain't pretty. Weeks of pent-up stress and strain let go like a coiled spring, filling the night with smoke and flame. Nobody was aiming, not really, and I saw more than a little friendly fire, even as I struggled to get my com system back up and running. Then I saw a Packrat get picked up as if by some invisible hand and slammed down hard on top of a SRM Carrier. The explosion went on and on and on as the missiles cooked-off like firecrackers, leaving no hope of survivors. One of the Wolfhounds stumbled through the explosion, arms flailing as if its pilot was trying to fight against something they couldn't see. Whatever it was ripped the cockpit open, the flash of the pilots discharging sidearm clearly visible six times, followed by a seventh as they appear to take their own life.

Now, in the years since, a lot of what I remember about that night has been put down to the concussion I'd suffered when my 'Mech went down, but despite what they try and tell me, I know what I saw. I saw battle hardened mercenaries, people I had seen hold open the jaws of death to escape a trap set by the Smoke Jaguars, people who'd long ago accepted that they weren't going to see old age, fight like cornered rats against an enemy they couldn't see. A few tried to pull a fighting retreat, backing up the highway, putting down covering fire, only to be pulled apart one by one, their dying screams echoing across the radio.

I don't remember passing out; I think that's kind of the point, but I do remember being pulled from the wreck of my Centurion a little after dawn the next day. The rescue team was entirely made up of locals, led by the woman who'd tried to warn me against taking the highway the night before. The trail of carnage was spread out across almost two kilometres, with the bunt-out, broken wrecks of the escort strewn seemingly at random. The only vehicle missing had been the limo carrying the representative, which had taken off like a rat out of a trap soon as the shooting started, not stopping before it reached the apparent safety of the HPG station.

They were the only other survivors.

Accusations flew back and forth between us, our employer and the locals, everyone trying to blame everyone else, with me stuck in the middle. I was questioned, interrogated and called a lier, but ComStar recovered the Battle ROM from my 'Mech, among other, less fortunate units, and what they were able to recover supported my recollection, even if nobody could officially explain exactly what happened. In the end, it was put down to a freak electrical storm making our equipment report hostiles where there was none. Friendly fire did the rest.

Officially.

Unofficially? Well, we never took that highway again at night, and the Lord dropped his plans to grab that extra land.

Far as I'm concerned, the locals can keep it: they at least know to keep the hell away from whatever it is lurking out there.

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


Kidd

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Re: Who Goes There?
« Reply #110 on: 03 October 2019, 21:48:50 »
That's pretty good.

What's offensive about it?

drakensis

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Re: Who Goes There?
« Reply #111 on: 04 October 2019, 02:29:55 »
Quote
40% of all Mercenary units are destroyed or dissolved within their first six mothers of operation, and 60% of those who survive will never make it past their first year. So, out of every 100 units founded, only 36, little over a third, will see their second year.

You have the numbers wrong. If 40% don't last 6 months and 60% of the remainder don't last a year, then that's 100-40= 60, 60-(60%=36)=24

So either 24% see the second year, or alter it to 40% don't last 6 months and 40% of the remainder don't last a year.
"It's national writing month, not national writing week and a half you jerk" - Consequences, 9th November 2018

JA Baker

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Re: Who Goes There?
« Reply #112 on: 04 October 2019, 06:09:25 »
What's offensive about it?
Before I went back and edited it, it was straying into  "wise old native people, living in harmony with the spirits of the land, know things that the White Man has forgotten", which is a somewhat racist and overused trope at the best of times.

You have the numbers wrong. If 40% don't last 6 months and 60% of the remainder don't last a year, then that's 100-40= 60, 60-(60%=36)=24

So either 24% see the second year, or alter it to 40% don't last 6 months and 40% of the remainder don't last a year.
Well, all I can say is that, when I first did the maths, I came up with 36.
"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


Dave Talley

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Re: Who Goes There?
« Reply #113 on: 05 October 2019, 23:02:04 »



  Because while the other Great Houses of the Star League thought they were playing chess, House Cameron was playing Paradox-Billiards-Vostroyan-Roulette-Fourth Dimensional-Hypercube-Chess-Strip Poker the entire time.
JA Baker

i think i have a new sig ;-)
Resident Smartass since 1998
“Toe jam in training”

Because while the other Great Houses of the Star League thought they were playing chess, House Cameron was playing Paradox-Billiards-Vostroyan-Roulette-Fourth Dimensional-Hypercube-Chess-Strip Poker the entire time.
JA Baker

DOC_Agren

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Re: Who Goes There?
« Reply #114 on: 06 October 2019, 21:43:35 »
Well done another interesting story
"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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Re: Who Goes There?
« Reply #115 on: 07 October 2019, 04:27:04 »


  Because while the other Great Houses of the Star League thought they were playing chess, House Cameron was playing Paradox-Billiards-Vostroyan-Roulette-Fourth Dimensional-Hypercube-Chess-Strip Poker the entire time.
JA Baker

i think i have a new sig ;-)
I've heard it's just a silly kids card game  8)


WARNING: NSFW audio
https://youtu.be/7g-ydhg10UE
"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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Who Goes There?
« Reply #116 on: 24 October 2019, 16:53:25 »
I was going to save this for Halloween, but I've never been a patient man...

Ships In The Night

Nobody is exactly sure just how many JumpShips there are, playing their trade between the stars of the Inner Sphere and beyond.

The Great shipyards of Star League and Periphery nations churned out a near unending stream of ships of every size and design, from the humble Scout to the Monolith, a class that certainly lives up to its name. Many were customised and adapted to fit the individual needs and tastes of their owners, resulting in an unknown number of sub-classes and variants too numerous to mention. Even with the Age of War, the Fall of the Star League and the resulting Succession Wars, with their widespread destruction, could only partly deplete their numbers.

Every Successor State possess a House Fleet of ships resurved for government and military use, the latter at times misidentified as warships. Next you have the massive shipping cartels and transtellars, each with their own retainer of ships to carry cargo and passengers securely between the stars. Then comes ComStar, with perhaps the single largest fleet not under the direct control of one of the Great Houses. Even some of the larger and more successful Mercenary units have been known to own and opperat their own JumpShips, allowing them far more freedom than those reliant on their employers, but they are by far the exception rather than the rule. And, last but not least, the independents, owner-operators who go where the cargo takes them, often owing allegiance to no flag or Lord. Combined, they represent by far the largest proportion of ships known to operate in the Inner Sphere.

And all these ships together, how many do you think there are? Ten thousand? Twenty? A hundred?

Well, as I said, nobody is exactly sure. Flags of convenience are common, and it's not unheard of for a ship to leave System A under one name, and arrive in System B, across the boarder, under a completely different name, depending on how the political winds are blowing at the time. Because while wars come and go, trade is eternal, even among supposed enemies.

If the Succession Wars have tought the House Lords anything, it's that it's often best to let the other side hold a system for ten years than risk them relocating a key factory or lab somewhere further from the boarder. And if that means turning a blind eye as an independent merchant delivers much needed supplies, even at a time of war, well, that's just part of the Great Game.

Now, not every ship visits every system: that's just impossible. Most stick to the major trade routes, like the Golden Triangle, between New Avalon, New Syrtis and Robinson, the Northwest Passage, that skirts the Periphery boarder of the Lyran Commonwealth, both of which connect to the Main Line, which links New Avalon, Terra and Tharkad, or the newer Silk Road that stitches together the Capellan Confederation, the Taurian Concordat and the Magistracy of Canopus. From the trade hubs serviced by these great highways through the stars branch off hundreds if not thousands of smaller routes that connect smaller regional hubs that in turn connect to almost every inhabited planet in the known galaxy. Some of the more isolated Periphery worlds may go a year or more between seeing a passing ship, but the more important world's of the Inner Sphere may have multiple ships laying at anchor, recharging their drives at any given time.

Now, some of these ships carry dedicated DropShip along predetermined routs, but these tend to be government ships or those under the flag of the major cartels. An independent ships is more likely to arrive in system and then broadcast their next destination or two, advertising any available docking collars they may have. If a DropShip is looking to go that way, they can try and negotiate a price, something that tends to be pretty standard in the more regularly visited worlds, but can be a bit more open to negotiation the further out you go.

"But," I hear you ask, "What's that got to do with anything?"

Well, aside from giving you a basic understanding of how interstellar trade works, I'm trying to get across the fact that getting a DropShip from Point A to Point B is a lot more like standing at the side of the road and sticking your thumb out than you might first imagine.

Now, I'm a lifer: I was born in space, have lived in space, and God willing, I'll die in space. Ain't nothing a planet's got that I want any part of: unpredictable atmospherics, hostile wildlife and all kinds of nasty bugs that you have to stand in line at the spaceport to get inoculations for? No thank you! Give me a good grav-deck and environmental controls any day. And in my life, I've been from one side of the Inner Sphere to the other, and a few places beyond. I've seen the Seven Sisters of the Pleiades Cluster and the crossed the Draconis Rift. I've been to Rim Collective and the Outworlds Alliance. And, once, I found myself hitching a ride on a genuine ghost ship.

Oh, I thought that that would get your attention all right.

It was twenty years back, and I was working as cargo master on a truly ancient Union, the sort of ship that's held together by duck-tape and good intentions, running cargo out of... honestly, I forget where we were. All those systems kind of blur together after a while, but I'm pretty sure it was somewhere in the Free Worlds League. We had a cargo hold full of agricultural equipment to deliver, but were find it hard to make any headway: our destination was somewhat off the regular trade routes, and we didn't have the cash to charter an JumpShip for just one ship. So we were stuck looking for someone heading in the general direction that we could pay to take a detour.

Well, after about a month of sitting in some backwater system, the kind of place that's lucky to see a ship pass through a handful of times a year, cursing our luck, we were at the point of having to forfeit part of our pay when traffic control picked up the signature of an incoming ship. Well, the skipper gave orders to make ready to boost, and we managed to get set in time to see a immaculate Tramp with bright running lights appear in a blinding flash of light. Now, when you're dealing with an unknown ship, the first thing you do is make sure you're ready to burn hard in the opposite direction, 'case they turn out to be hostile. Then and only then do you squark your transponder to identify yourself. So we sent out our ident code and asked which way they were headed, and if they had an open slot. And, if I'm honest, by that point we would have taken a ride anywhere.

Few minutes later we got a reply: MV Phantom, running empty, next stop a system twenty five light year away that still had a recharge station, meaning we were likely to find someone heading our way.

Well, the captain didn't waste any time asking for a price to take us along with her while she deployed her sail and started to charge her engine. It was pretty clear that we were in a tight spot, and the JumpShip could have really gouged us, but instead she offered us what amounted to a peppercorn price. Given we were unlikely to see another ship any time soon, we agreed and burned as hard as the skipper was willing to risk it on a ship that had been old back when the Star League was still around. She shook, rattled and protested all the way out to the Zenith jump-point, but we managed to get there just as the Phantom finished charging and started to pull her sail in.

We docked, expecting the crew to be waiting to take payment, but her captain just told us to keep hold of it until we reached the other end.

It was a smooth jump, as these things go, and we found ourselves on the outer edge of the Nadir jump point, an hour or so out from the station at a steady 1g burn for a zero-zero intercept. Our skipper again asked how his counterpart on the Phantom wanted paying, but she just laughed and told him to keep the money, and have a drink at the station bar on 'Big Jo'.

Not wanting to look a gift house in the mouth, we detached and headed out for the recharge station, expecting to see the Phantom deploying her jump sail behind us, but instead she jumped out again as soon as we cleared the safety margin, which was unexpected to say the least, as damn few Tramps have Lithium-Fusion batteries, and certainly not ones you'd expect to find that far off a main trade rout. We had to wait a day or so while before we could dock with the station, using the time to put out feelers for any ships heading towards where our cargo was due, but eventually we managed to get to the bar, and the skipper puts down a hundred C-Bill note and tells the barman that our first round was on Big Jo.

Well, I tell you, you could have heard a pin drop in that little bar, and I ain't ever seen so many faces go so deathly pale at once.

Barman laied out a line of glasses and produced a bottle of whisky that looked like it cost damn near more than a hundred C-Bills, and asks the name of the shop that brought us in.

"Why, the Phantom." our old skipper explained, somewhat confused.

Well, the barman started to pour our drinks, and the while he did that, he started to speak.

About twenty years before, there'd been some kind of environmental desaster on a nearby planet, and they'd had to evacuate as many people as they could. Every JumpShip in the area had taken part, including the Phantom, under one Captain Josephine 'Big Jo' McSweeney. She'd been a bear of a woman from Caledonia, almost two metres tall and built like a BattleMech with flame red hair, but while she took no bull, she was known to be a good, honest captain many were proud to serve under. The rescue mission was rather slap-drash, with ships jumping as and when they could, and the Phantom had just arrived to help when a ship loaded up with children suffered one of those 'one in a million' accidents and arrived too close to the Phantom. The feedback from the jump blew pretty much every safety on both ships, sending the newcomer drifting towards the Phantom when her station-keeping thrusters miss-fired.

Big Jo reacted instantly, firing the Phantoms own thrusters to get out of the way, but that's when things went from bad to worse, as Tramp was now on collision course with the recharge station. With not enough time to correct, she ordered all hands to abandon ship, staying behind to manually disengage the docking clamps on one of the DropShips when they locked up. Then, drawing power directly from the ships reactor, Big Jo deliberately overloaded the Phantoms jump-drives, intentionally causing a miss-jump that saved the station.

Well, that was the last anyone saw of Big Jo and the Phantom , until a year later, on the first anniversary of the accident, a DropShip arrived at the station, having been given a ride by the a JumpShip that wanted no payment, save they raise a glass in their name at the station bar.

Ever since, from time to time, a DropShip would arrive at the station, having been given a ride by Big Jo and the Phantom, and every last one would find themselves raising a glass in her memory, and the memory of all those lives she saved that day.

The End

Credit and respect due to the great Red Sovine, whose song, Phantom 309, inspired this story
"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


ThePW

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Re: Who Goes There?
« Reply #117 on: 25 October 2019, 01:39:12 »
One Ping Only.

Kidd

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Re: Who Goes There?
« Reply #118 on: 25 October 2019, 03:10:22 »
Oh yeah that's the stuff (urban) legends are made of

Hairbear541

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Re: Who Goes There?
« Reply #119 on: 25 October 2019, 20:56:38 »
red sovines the saga of the phantom 309 , a truckers saga .
i doubt many caught this ?