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Author Topic: Btech Mercs: First Adventures of the Untainted Half Dozens  (Read 788 times)

blackpanzer

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Some of you might remember reading about the exploits of the Black Stars mercenary command, made up of collectives of smaller sub-units. The universe we RP-ed in is an AU that is currently in 3100/3101 and is based on the canon information leading up to 3068, but in the dozens or so years since have taken a different path from the 'Dark Age' story path.

The story writing of the Stars and many other different units, with a wide spectrum of set-up, background, etc was in the Battletech Mercenaries and its linked forums.

For those interested in either joining myself and others, do drop me a note and we'd be glad to fill you in more!

Anyhoo, I've been writing there for quite a number of years, and was out for the recent few due to RL issues. I was recently back, and is collaborating with a few other members in a joint-contract. The following are posts that I've done up in the last month or so. I was never a prolific nor captivating writer, especially given that English was not my first language, so do be gentle with me if you have comments.  :D

At the moment, I have yet to come up with a name for my new set up (which I've RP-ed as somewhat related to the Black Stars, but not one of their sub-units officially), nor confirm the hardware. I envision it as having a preference for knife fighting and close range combat, in addition to having its own small combat engineering assets and some of the members' wizardry with jury-rigging, repairs and refitting of 'Mechs and vees.
« Last Edit: 27 July 2020, 09:31:20 by blackpanzer »

blackpanzer

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Flash back – Brief on the state of affairs of the Black Stars Mercenary Collective and Erdyvnn Systems

Governor-General's Office
Gubernatorial Palace, Arcadia City
Trakin Continent, Erdvynn Prime
Erdvynn System, Lyran Alliance
15th October 3095
1300 hours local time


Clint let out an extended yawn as he stretched out on his high backed chair, rousing himself from his habitual post-luncheon nap and yelling “lights on” to his virtual assistant who promptly caused the incandescent lamps around the room to flicker on, bathing his office in a candlelight glow. “Windows transparent,” he added, causing the electrical glazing on the room's floor to ceiling windows to dissipate, going from opaque to transparent in the blink of an eye, instantly revealing a vista of Lake Alcyone, which was unfortunately a touch glum given this particular time of year.

Rubbing his temples to banish away his grogginess, he ambled over toward one of the windows. Clint watched as the falling rain beat ceaselessly against the glass while Lake Alcyone stretched out beyond, its once silvery placid surface now a roiling morass beneath the torrential downpour and the howling winds blowing through the plain, bubbling and churning like a fired up witch's cauldron. The skies above were smudged by sooty assemblage of clouds whirling ominously over the city, the gloom occasionally pierced by a streak of crackling lightning quickly followed by a cacophonous crash of thunder. The turning of the leaves had brought with it the autumnal monsoons, massive rainstorms that came roaring out of the Transcontinental Sea and hurtled across the length and breadth of northern Trakin, dumping a year's worth of rain in its wake on the habitually dry savannas of the northern hemisphere.

“Governor-General,” his virtual assistant chimed in again, “your one thirty appointment has just checked in with the front desk, she is on her way up.”

“Ah yes,” Clint nodded contemplatively, “have coffee and pastries sent up,” as he self-consciously straightened his shirt and tie, tugging here and brushing there, checking if he had inadvertently left some bit of his lunch on his person before slipping off to his midday nap. Satisfied, he walked over behind his desk, reached for and slipped into his charcoal black mandarin coat, managing to button it up a few scant moments before the rosewood double doors creaked open to admit his guest.

“Ms. Rothery,” his VI announced, “ABC 5,” short for Arcadia Broadcasting Corporation, a local subsidiary of the megalithic Tharkad Broadcasting Corporation that ran virtually half of the Lyran Alliance's media.

“You're a hard man to get a hold of Governor-General,” said a voluptuous woman as she sauntered into the room, wearing a navy blue suit with white accents. She was just a hair shorter than Clint, of fair complexion with shoulder length blonde hair permed into curls framing her green eyes, accentuating her thoroughly Nordic features.

“Oh, affairs of state,” Clint cavalierly replied, smoothly gliding toward her and offering a firm handshake which she reciprocated and he gestured for her to take one of the high backed chairs in front of the faux fireplace which glimmered with imitative firelight as the heater concealed behind the wall exhaled artificially heated air to warm the room. “Building a government, hunting pirates, making war for fun and profit, take your pick.”

“Or taking up interior decorating apparently,” she pointedly said, gesturing to her environs with both hands, “I hear from the staff you personally curated every piece of art in this place,” she spared a moment to glance at the various paintings in the room, the giant planetary atlas that occupied the wall behind his desk and his collection of American Civil War-era weapons, “and that you designed the planet's coat of arms,” gesturing to the escutcheon featuring a Twin-Tailed Roc circling a black star hanging over the fireplace.

“And what do you think?”

“Well its a lot less self-aggrandizing than most palaces I've been to,” she replied, putting a finger to her lips for a moment, “it has all the trappings of grandeur and opulence, with the marble floors, hardwood walls, velvet curtains and all, but the selection of artwork is different, off theme I would say,” she spoke haltingly, parsing her words, “purposefully so.”

“Off theme?”

“Palaces tend to focus on the State, lineage of rule, the divine right of kings, etc,” she explained, “they put a lot of emphasis on glorifying the regime and its leaders, their predecessors and relatives, but in contrast I haven't seen even a single portrait of the Baron, the members of the Board or you anywhere. The theme of the pieces you've chosen seems to run the gamut of Terran history, mythology and even outright fantasy in some cases,” she pointed to the painting of the Torcedera and the Kapre next to the fireplace. “a simpler person would remark that you've more or less turned this place into your personal picture gallery.”

“Well it is my Palace after all,” he smugly pointed out.

“I remember walking down one hallway to interview Dr. Wade,” she continued, “I think it was about those space whales on Edrvynn V, and I have to say was really creepy when I noticed that all the paintings on the walls were about animal attacks, especially the one with the giant bear bursting through a house wall to attack a woman and her baby. Didn't help that the wallpaper was burgundy red in that room.”

“Ah yes Kesagake, he was a real ornery bastard,” Clint began to narrate the sordid tale, “a brown bear that went rabid and terrorized a village in Hokkaido during the winter of 1915, mauled and killed about ten people in their own homes. Imagine having to deal with that monster who had no fear of fire, with nothing but spears and single-shot breech loaders and a flimsy bamboo screen between you and it.”

“The stuff of horror movies,” she nodded.

“Well they eventually got him after a few days,” he continued the tale, “a local sheriff got ahead of him, set up a gun line along a frozen bridge by the river, and let him have it once he showed his hairy face. They found him the next day sitting under a tree and finished him off,” closing out the story and adding, “Point of fact every one of those man-eaters depicted in that hall was eventually hunted to ground. So I would opine that that particular exhibit speaks less of human frailty and more about human indomitably in the face of such unnatural monsters.”

“I see,” she pursed her lips, processing his words for a bit before she continued with her line of inquiry, “so the question is why? Why have such an eccentric array of paintings in the first place?”

“Well for starters I can't stand the sight of threadbare wall,” Clint jokingly answered, “it just screams poverty which is the opposite of the image we are trying to project,” pausing when the door creaked open again and an orderly slipped in with a tray laden with sugared pastries and coffee for two, setting it down on the low table between them and politely bowing to the two of them before exiting.

The distinct aroma of Arabica Coffee infused with ground Macadamia Nuts began to fill the room, another old legacy from his family. “Refreshment,” he offered, gesturing toward the platter, “if you don't like coffee, I do have some stronger stuff,” he pointed at the various decanters atop his liquor cabinet in the corner, “or softer if you prefer,” he pointed to the half-sized refrigerator beneath it, its transparent door revealing an array of sodas and fruit juices.

“Maybe after the interview,” she politely declined.

“Now as I was saying,” he continued, “there's really no profound explanation to it, I have a Palace and I just had to fill it. The long and short of it is that they are just pretty to look at, thematics and symbolism aside, and I think you'll agree with me that this corner of the universe could use some sprucing up. And by the way where's your camera crew?” he asked her, “As much as I enjoy talking about myself I do have a schedule to keep, so can we start the interview?”

“Interview's already started,” she smugly grinned back, tapping an elegant silver brooch topped with a purple gemstone pinned to her blazer, right next to her suit's scandalously revealing plunging neckline, “my producer says that it keeps the interviewee fixated on the camera.”

Clint let out a hearty laugh when he realized he was inadvertently doing just as she had intended, “touché,” then reached over and plucked a doughnut frosted with chocolate and topped with multi-colored candy sprinkles, “well now that you've exposed me for a lech, no sense keeping up any sense of decorum. I could never resist these things,” he proudly declared before taking a bite of the abominably sweet confection, “go on, what's the next question.”

“Well since we're on the topic,” she began, “you don't strike me as someone that would've taken to the life of a mercenary; an economist, a lawyer, a wordsmith and now I see an art critic. Hardly a MechWarrior, let alone a general, make. Your disposition alone, if you'll forgive me, is totally at odds with what we've all been led to expect.”

“One does what one needs to survive,” Clint shrugged as the doughnut quickly disappeared in a few short bites, “there is such a thing as an interstellar war going on.”

“True but you could have easily toddled off to into one of your family's other holdings,” she countered, “and from what I understand your family has land and wealth in virtually every Successor State. You could have just sat out the war in some backwater paradise but instead you took a six hundred year old 'Mech and became a gladiator, a mercenary and now a governor-general. Why give up the life of luxury for the road? ”

“Not so much the road as the stars,” he corrected her, “Now this may sound trite but honestly I was just plain bored.”

“So you took up a life of soldiering to escape the banality of the comfortable rich life,” she concluded skeptically, “Is that why you joined the ComGuards?”

“Oh heavens no,” Clint chuckled while waving his hand dismissively, “I am a man still much enamored with comfort and luxury, I'll leave the real soldiering to the professionals like Walter and Oswald, I just joined the militia. I just wanted some excitement and adventure, to look good in the uniform and have something to brag about to the ladies,” Clint paused for the barest of a second before going on to elaborate, “I snapped up an officer's commission by virtue of my law degree, post-graduate degrees automatically make you an officer you see,” he explained, “and then I just filed the paperwork to bully my way into a cockpit, which was about the only way you could get into one on Terra short of joining a mercenary company or going full time into the ComGuards. Never dreamed I'd have a fleet of WarShips over my head raining hell on half of Asia though.”

“Yes the Free Worlds League, you have must have some pretty complicated feelings about them,” she noted, “you lost your home to them, spent almost a year on the road and now, if my information is correct, you've actually just spent the last four months under contract to them.”

“Not really,” Clint shook his head.

“Oh? No hard feelings at all,” she said with no small bit skepticism, “You're not just putting up a public face for one of your employers are you?.”

“Do elephants mind the affairs of whales?” Clint countered coolly, “Granted I do feel some mild resentment for their horribly messy usurpation of Terra but I feel no personal animosity toward the Captain-General. As Professor Moriarty once said," paraphrasing the villain's lines from a thousand year old Sherlock Holmes movie, “when two celestial objects collide, damage is inevitable. When two interstellar empires, or in our case five, decide to make war on one another mere mortals can do nothing but run for cover and make the best of things,” he nodded contemplatively, “but I will concede your point,” he noted, “I would not trust me to hold my tongue in her presence. A case of hundred year old Madeira and a humidor full of twenty six year old aged cigars, gone just like that when they bombarded our Singapore base from orbit,” he shook his head in disappointment, musing wistfully, “now that's a real war crime.”

“Well that's a bit callous don't you think,” she pointed out sharply, “cigars and wine versus the deaths of hundreds of thousands?”

“People die every day,” was his curt retort, “whether by natural or unnatural causes, accident or misadventure,” rattling off the various legal categories of death, “People will die somewhere out there in the vastness of space so its hardly a unique occurrence by any measure,” a flash of lightning followed by an ominous grumble of thunder dramatically punctuating his point, “If we invested so much emotion on matters far beyond our control and so infinitesimally peripheral to ourselves we'd be emotional wrecks. And in my defense that wine was bottled a century,” he emphasized the word sharply, letting his mask of impassivity slip for a moment, “a century ago on a chain of tiny islands on the Atlantic barely the size of Singapore. It takes longer than most people's lifetimes to make that wine, let alone get a hold of it and I lost a whole case of it!”

“Well setting aside inestimable ability to compartmentalize your feelings, all things considered you have made the best of things,” she raised her hands at her opulent environs.

“I'd like to think I landed on my feet,” Clint replied smugly, his civil façade back on.

“That's an understatement,” she snickered.

“I try to be modest,” he sarcastically quipped back, the downpour outside seemed to slacken a bit.

“To your credit you have accomplished much,” she went on, “as the youngest head of state in the Realm you've built three cities out of nothing along with instituting a very efficient system of government while maintaining a positive balance of payments and steady GDP growth over the course of two years. How do you do it? What's the secret?”

“Well if I were to boil down several thousand hours of work and planning into one word I would say it would be delegation. Surrounding yourself with like-minded competent people and giving them the trust and leeway to implement your designs.”

“Really? Its that simple?” she said sarcastically, “Sounds like something out of a college textbook.”

“Sounds simple but it really isn't,” he explained, “competent people are rarely, if ever, found near the halls of power. The study and practice necessary to refine their skills conspires to keep away while conversely those closest to positions of authority, whether by bureaucratic prowess or accidents of birth, are rarely are so gifted which is why you have such horrifying episodes of leadership failure throughout history, from the madness of the hereditary Roman Emperors to the Fed-Com Civil War."

“Was that a dig at the Archon I heard,” she interrupted him, laying a transparent trap that Clint was canny enough to sidestep. That said there was no shortage of bait in that innocent seeming question; from the Fed-Com Civil War, which was fundamentally a bout of extended family drama between two maladjusted siblings, to the return of the Social Generals, essentially institutionalized nepotism that made general's commissions hereditary by appointment. If anything it was a testament to the resilience of the Lyran people in general and the stalwart soldiery of the LAAF in particular that the Alliance had survived as long as it has despite the relative instability of House Steiner.

“It is what is,” Clint cavalierly replied, not taking the bait, taking a sip from his coffee, “perks of not needing the work after all,” nudging the leg of the rosewood coffee table between them with his shoe, resulting in a audible clink, drawing attention to the table's centerpiece. It was Clint's sardonic attempt at art, composed of an ad hoc arrangement of various precious metals; gold, platinum, germanium, palladium among others, in bullion bar form, stamped with the seal of Vickers Mining, stacked asymmetrically on top of one another on thick silk doily. Clint had taken them as part of his payment to commemorate his first contract in command of the Gunslingers in Althastan and also as a not so subtle display of personal wealth.

“But back to the point at hand,” he continued, waving his finger in a circular pattern, “all this, isn't me. Arcadia, the Directorate, I owe that all to the boffins in my Cabinet; the Gunslingers, my staff officers. Good leadership isn't about being the smartest person in the room, or thinking you are, its about realizing you aren't and collaborating with those who are.”

“Which then begs the question,” she interjected, “if everyone is so much better than you, what do you bring to the table?”

“Serendipity,” Clint answered glibly, “I was fortunate enough to be born to privilege, to be educated well and to possess the right set of credentials the moment our good Baron, long may he reign, needed them. While on the other side of the coin the Baron was fortunate enough that, unlike other politicians, I had the wherewithal, or rather the contentment, to think beyond my next meal ticket do something constructive; like build a country,” he threw his hands up to enunciate the point, “in fine, I'm the bow on the gift box, that unidentifiable alignment of favorable factors that tie a good government together.”

“And thus modesty evaporates,” she laughed.

“Nothing prideful about being truthful,” he replied, “Napoleon had his fourteen Marshals, Liu Bei had his sworn brothers, Alexander had his Companions, and not the kind you are thinking about,” he laughed, a not so subtle dig as the great conqueror's penchant for bisexual infidelity, “all of them were talented in their own right, but it takes a certain quality to get them all working together in the right direction and I'd like to think individuals such myself, the various regimental commanders, the members of the Board and the Baron himself provide that.”

« Last Edit: 15 July 2020, 23:39:52 by blackpanzer »

blackpanzer

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“Well speaking of direction you've charted a fairly unconventional course for Edrvynn, to put it charitably,” she went on, deftly changing the topic of discussion, “point of fact Lindon Ashley of Democracy Now has described your government as a freakish amalgamation of libertarian oligopoly and socialist autocracy.”

“With all due respect, Mr. Lindon Ashley can take his words and go suck start a shotgun,” he bluntly replied, not bothering to mask his hostility for the prolific liberal activist from nearby Novarra who had made a name for himself as the successor to the head of a movement lobbying for the equitable distribution of power within the Lyran Alliance, which was doublespeak for the abolition of the office of Archon and the enactment of allegedly democratic reforms across the realm. Clint was enough a student of history to know that that was just another barely concealed power grab, another attempt of the meager and the subservient to bring down their apparently betters and place themselves in power

“That's a fairly strong reaction,” she noted.

“I could never abide by stupidity,” he explained, “much less the self serving kind that gets people killed for no better reason than a power hungry demagogue preaching from his soap box.”

“Are you talking about democracy in general or Democracy Now in particular,” she asked pointedly.

“Is there a difference,” he laconically replied, pausing briefly to filch another doughnut from the platter, a cream filled Berliner showered with confectioner's sugar. Leaving the point hanging between them as he munched on it and washed it down with a cup of coffee.

“Uhm you were explaining to me your extreme political position,” she pensively prodded him.

“Do I really have to,” Clint said with an irritated tone, “just look around. name me one major power that is an actual democracy,” he challenged her, “not some feudal electorate mind you, that's just like monarchy with extra steps, but an actual direct democracy where people elect their leaders to govern and represent them.”

He paused awhile, giving her the opportunity to reply, before continuing, “you can't. The five Successor Houses, the Clans of Kerensky and their own successors,” referring to the Rasalhague Dominion and the Raven Alliance, “even the Star League, not one true democracy among them which can only lead to the inevitable conclusion that absolute democracies do not work, especially in an environment as lethal as the Inner Sphere,” he went on “because democracies are by their nature are fragile, unstable and factitious little things, prone to mercurial and contradictory swings in policy at the drop of a hat and highly susceptible to internal strife because the system impels leaders to be more concerned about retaining their posts than actually doing their jobs.”

He then paused again, waiting for her rebuttal but instead she simply gestured for him to continue, “don't stop on my account, you'll either start a new political movement or end your own career, either way you just made the story.”

“See there's exactly where you're wrong,” he latched on to her line of reasoning, “On any other world, yeah this will be big news. I'd have demonstrators out on the streets, commentators calling for my resignation, boycotts, blah blah blah. The people holding me to account for my actions,” Clint smugly declared in a sarcastically ominous voice, “but none of that's going to happen, because this isn't a democracy. I will wake up tomorrow, watch this interview and the thing I will be most concerned about will be how fat I look in this suit,” he tapped his coat.

“Well you've certainly struck a bellicose tone,” she nodded, “But isn't that the sort of behavior that democracy is supposed to curb? To hold the people in power accountable to their subjects.”

“But I'm not accountable to my subjects am I?” he replied, “There is no social contract between me and them,” referring to concept of the unspoken compact exchanging liberties for protections between citizen and state pioneered by Thomas Hobbes' Leviathan, a treatise that held sway over Terran political science for centuries, “I answer to the Board of Directors who in turn answer to our Lord Baron, long may he reign, who, by the grace of the majestic Archon of the Lyran Alliance, wrested this world from bandits and monsters by force of arms and strength of resolve, and who continues to administer it in her name. The sufferance of the people,” he raised his hands in air quotes, “does not enter into that equation, but rather it is the reverse, that it is they who exist by our tolerance. Not to put a fine point on it, Erdvynn is a feudal monarchy, an absolute albeit a benevolent one, expressed as a technocratic military government. Let's have no illusions of it being, or aspiring to be, otherwise.”

She looked from side to side for a moment and exhaled, “you are amazingly frank for a dictator,” she laughed, “its a wonder your people have not yet revolted.”

“Well must be something to do with my roguish charm,” he chuckled and added with veiled menace, “and the fact that I have three dozen house sized tanks in my back pocket.”

“So the strong rule the weak,” she snidely concluded.

“Well flip the script,” he countered, “put yourself in my shoes for moment. I fought for this regiment, though thankfully I never actually had to bleed for it,” he snickered, “built a city, formed a government, struck bargains with interstellar corporations, heck I even punched King Kong in the face for it,” referencing the giant genetically engineered gorilla he fought in the ruins of an ancient weapons facility in Trakin's equatorial jungle, “Would you be willing to go through all of that knowing that you could be replaced at a whim by people whose only real qualification is having a pulse and being old enough to smoke and drink? I think not. I serve at the pleasure of the Baron,” he tapped his chair, “and no one else, if the Baron wants me gone he need only say so and so far he has not said so, so I must be doing something right.”

“Little wonder then that you and the Baron had the confidence to accept the parolees from the conquered Lyran territories,” she said, confronting him about the repatriation agreement signed between the leaders of Duchies of Alarion and Tamarind-Abbey that resulted in thousands of Lyrans citizens, particularly those who find themselves irreconcilably hostile with their new masters, from worlds captured by the Free Worlds League paroled back and scattered across the various worlds of the Alliance.

“You'd rather they languish in prison over an ideological dispute?” Clint glibly answered, “You're more hardhearted than I am,” he chuckled.

“Don't sidestep the issue,” she snapped back, “Saving lives is one thing but imprisoning them at the behest of the enemy is another, some would say treasonous, thing entirely,” referring to the condition of the parole agreement that parolees were not only specifically forbidden from joining the Lyran armed forces but would be barred from leaving Erdvynn Prime itself for two years as an assurance. That said the League was footing the bill for their upkeep and they did have the run of the entire planet so their stay was hardly discomforting by any measure.

“And neither should you,” he curtly replied, “Say I follow your logic, we let them go, they leave Erdvynn on the sly, poke a finger in the eye of the League, half of them join the LAAF to liberate their home worlds, and we'll have a nice warm fuzzy feeling that'll last all of a week before the League simply executes our dissident citizens en masse. In the grand scheme of things this was the best among several bad outcomes. Besides its not forever. If the war is still raging by the end of their term of detention they're free to skip over the border and burn down the Captain-General's house.”

“I guess we will let history be the judge of that,” she concluded, “now let's move on to another topic, capital punishment, your government has been fairly enthusiastic at imposing the death penalty, not to mention it has been fairly glib in the process of doing so. Six dozen last year alone and some in fairly gruesome ways.”

“Which one are you referring to,” Clint asked nonchalantly, “the one where I fed someone to a Carnosaur or the one where my man Walter skinned someone alive on video?”

“The latter definitely earns the sickest home movie award,” she replied.

“You wound me, mine was definitely a better snuff film” he feigned disappointment, “But in all seriousness the frequency of capital punishment is directly correlated to its necessity. Recall where we are, up until last year this was lawless space, a pirate kingdom and there are at least still three that we know of within a thirty light year radius,” though he made a point not to mention names, “roughly half of those we've executed so far have been pirates or their collaborators,” he explained, “with the remaining balance being for brigandage, corruption and heinous crimes.”

“Yes you have made a reputation for being quite draconian,” she noted.

“To be fair there has been a reciprocal result to our efforts,” Clint explained, “attacks on outbound and inbound shipping affiliated with Erdvynn have seen a marked decrease in the fourth quarter of this year. We can only hope the trend continues in the coming year,” then he quickly added snidely, “though I am sure my pets will be less than thrilled at that.”

“Well pirates are one thing but you've been somewhat inconsistent when it comes to your own people,” she pointed out, “on one hand you fed a man to a dinosaur for being convicted of enterprise corruption, a white collar crime, but you allowed probation for another who plead guilty to homicide and it cannot escape notice that he was a former member of the Black Stars Collective, so it calls your impartiality to question”

“My rulings came down to the intent that accompanied their crimes,” he answered, “As to the first case, the defendant was found guilty of embezzling funds for tropical disease vaccines, while in the second case, the defendant was inebriated and involved in a tumultuous affray. The first committed his crime with both eyes open, he knew full well that passing out adulterated vaccines would definitely get people killed, it would be as if he slit their throats himself. The second was defending himself in a spontaneous brawl, albeit it with excessive force as a result of his intoxication. I think the distinction is fairly clear.”

“Yes but probation for killing someone in bar fight?”

“He isn't free by any measure,” Clint clarified, “he was released into the custody of his unit commander, he is confined to barracks when off-duty, virtually the entirety of his salary is being garnished for the duration of his probation and the monies remitted to the victim's family. The government is spared the cost of a trial, the victims are well compensated, the guilty party is punished and the regiment retains the use of an able soldier. Conflict is resolved with minimal fuss.”

“But would you have allowed the trial to proceed had the victim's family pressed the issue?”

“Of course. The decision to accept the plea bargain was put to them before being finalized.”

“Without any pressure on the part of your office?”

“At preliminary stage of every trial we have all parties go through various modes of alternative dispute resolution,” Clint elaborated, “providing every opportunity for both parties to resolve their grievances without having to go through the hassle, to put it mildly, of a full blown trial which would have taken at least two years to resolve since he was being charged with murder, which is a capital crime, that will be appealed all the way to my office or even the Board of Directors. Without going into details of the case we are discussing, it was impressed upon both parties that a prolonged trial would have served no purpose but continually rub salt on a deep wound, so they both agreed to a conclusive compromise which we, the State, will enforce. If the defendant attempts to abscond or withholds on his payment, well he can make his appeal to the Carnosaurs, while alternatively the plaintiffs are prohibited from harassing the defendant with any further litigation. Simple and clean.”

“Very. Just like how your constabulary dispersed those demonstrators last month,” she said, quickly pivoting to another topic, referencing a riot that was decisively and brutally put down with the use of battle armor, horse cavalry and his own Mackie.

Without breaking stride Clint bluntly replied, “They had it coming.”

“So people demanding the right to vote and criticizing your government deserve to be trampled by horses and assaulted with Battle Armor,” she said with a skeptical tone, “much less being fired upon with an automatic cannon by a one hundred ton BattleMech which, I am told, actually belongs to you?”

“No, people are free to say whatever they like,” he answered, “the fact that you aren't being turned into fish food right now for this line of questioning is proof of that, but they have to obey the rules because without them we live with the animals,” quoting Winston, the ever cordial yet subtly menacing proprietor of the fictional Continental Hotel.

“Rules on speech?”

“No, rules on expression,” he corrected her, “you are free to say or write whatever you want, content is completely unregulated. Criticism is always welcome and complaints are always taken seriously. Point of fact we just prosecuted and sentenced a former constable convicted of extortion to hard labor in a penal work company based on one such complaint. He will be clearing tropical jungle by hand for the next six years and if I might add that this handily blunts any charges of partiality. That while we may be, in your words, draconian in our laws we are doubly vindictive in policing our own ranks but I digress.”

“When your form of expression infringes on public space,” he continued, “like say a road or park which is res communis by definition, infringing on its use and the rights of others to make use of it, that's where your rights end and where my truncheon begins. The demonstrators you were referring to, who were supported by Democracy Now by the way, were blocking the principal entrance of this very building which is the main point of transaction for civil matters. Meaning while they were freely expressing themselves,” he made another air quotes gesture, “they were impeding others who had urgent business with the city. My constables told them to move away, they refused and so were summarily ejected by force.”

“But the amount of force used could be deemed excessive by some,” she pointedly remarked.

“Well they were warned,” he answered back, “We don't practice moronic concepts like maximum tolerance in this government, the gloves are always off. Everyone's gets one warning to comply otherwise its straight silver,” British slang for a bayonet charge, “no exceptions,” he curtly declared, “mess with the bull you get the horns.”

She paused for a moment and took a deep breath after his answer, “well that was a highly charged back and forth.”

“Indeed.”

“Let's move on to something less political,” she suggested.

“What did you have in mind?”

Flash back ends

blackpanzer

  • Sergeant
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  • Posts: 178
Baron’s Office
Fortress Dachenfels
Trakin Continent, Erdvynn Prime
Erdvynn System, Alarion Province
Lyran Alliance
11th May 3100
2245 hours local time


Nearly thirty years ago, the man sitting on a plush leather chair before stacks of reports, a pair of large sized monitor and a mug of long cooled spice coffee would never had thought that he would be in a position to not only consider the circumstances of an entire galactic system, but even for what might potentially be an entire newly constituted Lyran Province. He ran a hand over his head, his fingers running across pepper coloured hair that he had allowed himself to regrow to shoulder length over the last couple of years or so.

Zhao Zi Long signed deeply. Ever since awarded the title of Baron, he had been spending his time increasingly on administrative, political and other non-military matters. One of these was being tasked by the Lyran Intelligence Corps with sending out the Black Stars and other mercenary commands under the Lyran payroll to explore systems around the Collective Command's home world of Erdvynn that had belonged to the former Rim Worlds Republic.

The task had proceeded with surprisingly less obstacles than what everyone initially would have dreamed of. Many of the out laying systems had been more than glad to swear allegiance to the Lyran Alliance in exchange for protection and all manners of material assistance that they would otherwise be starved of. However, there were those systems and planets whose population were made up of refugees who had fled the Inner Sphere to escape from the politicking and ravages of war that association with interstellar nations by extension naturally came with. If one of such systems had nothing to offer to the greater good of the Lyran Alliance, Zhao was more than glad just to sign a simple, and to be frank, irrelevant non-aggression pact. However, if it was a system from which considerable resources the Alliance could tap on, or wanted to simply deny said resources to potential enemies – the nearby Free Worlds League or one of the other stronger Periphery states, the Baron of Erdvynn would have to undertake initiatives at their own discretion, not all of which were above the table.

The latest missive sent from Tharkad, directly from the Mercenary Liaison office of Damad Sandaker, had instructed the Stars probe one such system - the system of New Mars.

Sitting right on the outskirts of the Lyran Alliance, Free Worlds League and Circinus Federation and just about two jumps away from the Erdvynn system itself, New Mars had been one of the first outlaying systems that the Stars had approached in their efforts to redirect potential pirate activities away from Erdvynn and the Lyran Alliance. Despite the Stars being notified of constant changes in local leadership, New Mars had always upheld their end of the bargain in the period since that had stretched over a decade since the Black Stars Collective had claimed Erdvynn as their home world. No aggression of any kind had originated from the Periphery system, though there had been more than considerable commerce and trade. The Stars had chosen not to question the source of military salvage and a myriad of different wares that merchants from New Mars had offered in exchange for other commodities or straight up cash. On the other hand, since Erdvynn itself exported a wide variety of food, it had not seen the need to import the crops that New Mars was noted for which the other systems of the Alarion Province clamoured for.

It seems that Tharkad, or maybe the Alarion Province, was no longer satisfied with having substantial number of its worlds being reliant on what was essentially viewed as a Periphery pirate system for their main source of food. On the surface of things, it would seem that the Lyran Alliance would like to be more aware of the political leanings of the enigmatic Periphery system. Off the record, Zhao Zi Long knew that more than one Lyran noble – both from within the Alarion Province and even from beyond, had expressed interest in the request for assistance in claiming New Mars for themselves, with both blatant and subtle promises of “tangible goodwill” offered to Erdvynn and the Black Stars.

Zhao sighed again. He was loath to disclose to the Liaison office openly of the Stars’ ability to contact several of the so called warlords on New Mars. After all, he had negotiated with the Lyran leadership for virtual free reign in this part of the Lyran Periphery in exchange for autonomy as long as they got the results they want – that of increased and growing trade coupled with the absence of pirate raids.

From even before the Black Stars had occupied Erdvynn and taken the system as their land hold, New Mars had been ruled by a collective of warlords – not totally unlike how the Stars themselves operate. Essentially what could be described as a miniature Inner Sphere, New Mars was not a unified realm but instead was home to numerous small duchies or principalities. Like the Successor States of the Inner Sphere, these neighbouring principalities constantly vied for supremacy and had been engaged in Succession War-style combat of varying intensity for a long time. Other than the Circinus Federation and Rim Collection, other small pirate bands had used the system to trade and exchange goods, or simply settled on New Mars proper. Over time, these small pirate bands had evolved more into militia and security, working ever closer with the locals to establish themselves more as a multi-party nation rather than a pirate nest or bandit kingdom. Much like the Inner Sphere states, the various factions had settled into a state of uneasy peace over time, with about half a dozen of the more powerful factions delicately balanced against each other.

The Black Stars had considered the potential impact of the Lyran Alliance planting a foot in this part of the Periphery. On one hand, most nearby systems would never refuse additional presence of Lyran troops. However, said presence could very easily topple the delicate balance that the Black Stars had established in the ten odd years since they had set up home in these parts of the Periphery.

The LA reports were not all in error though, collaborating with the Black Stars' own intelligence reports on New Mars. Every now and then, the delicate equilibrium would be upset when one or more of the factions decided to expand their sphere of influence at the expense of another. Such actions had the usual consequence ranging from outright warfare, to trade disputes, to attempts at covert operations. It would seem that New Mars had started to slip into one such state of affair again.

Diplomatic and unofficial responses from the various parties from New Mars had been increasingly terse in the last year or so, as had the flow of commodities for trade and request of purchases. The eyes and ears that the Stars had scattered over New Mars had reported tightening control of movement of civilians by the local authorities, with the last encrypted communiqué delivered onboard one of the freight JumpShips dated three months ago providing limited updates about a brewing civil war erupting across the five continents.

Zhao reached for the spiced coffee on his table and took a sip gingerly. “Maybe it IS[/i] time we remind our friends there that their over inflated sense of autonomy is subject to our blessings.”

blackpanzer

  • Sergeant
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  • Posts: 178
“The Magic Infuse” Mech Repairs Workshop
Mercenary Hiring Sector, Free Trade Zone
Atlantis City
Trakin Continent, Erdvynn Prime
Erdvynn System, Alarion Province
Lyran Alliance
27th July 3100
1322 hours local time


Despite the time of the day and the blazing sun that seemed to sear Atlantis City for more than half the time of a year, the workshop remained chilly and gloomily dim. Even though numerous halogen lights hanging from the high ceiling above bathed the internals of the workshop, easily revealing heavy equipment that lined three sides of the walls, shadows and darkness at the furthest corners of the building gave the place a bleak and haunted feel. A bank of air ventilators circulated the temperature within the workshop to a level of surprisingly effective coolness. Even so, the unmistakable smell of nitrogen coolant and mechanical grease hung over the air like a heavy cloak.

Virtually enveloped by the spidery metallic arms of a gantry close to the workshop’s main roller shutters, a barely humanoid shape stood motionless as thick cables snaked from within its limps and chest. One of the rubber encased cable led to a half metre tall round canister that was again a full metre in diameter just behind the gantry, while the other few smaller ones curled and ascended up towards a heavy workstation. Their connection terminated at a trio of computer monitors, where numbers, diagrams, charts and figures crawled across the screens to provide diagnostics of the eleven metre tall metallic monster.

Squatting at one of the clawed feet of the strange looking BattleMech, a figure clutched a hand held spray paint gun, air ventilator mask covering more than half her face, applying the finishing touches to the ‘Mech’s coat of desert brown paint.

One of a pair of smaller side door was suddenly flung open, not only admitting the tepid and arid atmosphere from outside into the workshop, but allowing the raucous blaring from the packed and crowded streets outside to flood into the relative tranquillity within the premise.

The figure stood and turned around towards the door, seemingly unperturbed by the sudden intrusion. “If you came any later, I would’ve had to charge you storage.”

“Keep ya cool, me lassie!” A massive shadow blocked off much of the afternoon sunlight streaming in through the doorway with a deep baritone voice accompanied by roaring laughter. “I was ‘fraid ya keno deliver on yer boast, don’t ya know.” The massive figure stepped through the doorway before easily slamming shut the heavy blast proof door behind him with a single nudge. While not nearly as large as one of those Clan bred Elementals, the running joke was that with both his height and muscle layered girth, the massive assault Battle Armour suit was the only piece of equipment he could fit into, and even IT squeaked in protest when he squeezed into it. Long raven black fringes flowed across his weather beaten forehead, while his hair was worn short at the back of his head. Short, neatly trimmed beard that was a shade lighter than his hair framed his jaws. “I like this workshop well enough I suppose,” the man squinted his eyes as he scanned around him in exaggeration. “but I’d like ta smash ‘em ‘Mechs more than fixin’ ‘em up, don’t ya know. If I win this here Magic Infuse from ya, I wouldn’t know what ta do with it.”

“Not even in your most orgasmic dream Benavidez.” The woman chuckled heartily. “But then again, if not for you recommending those opponents you took down in the arena games to The Magic Infuse,” She spread her arms to encompass the entirety of the repair workshop, “we probably wouldn’t have done so well, goodwill from the Baron and Black Stars not withstanding.”

“Ya’ll do well ta rememba’ that lassie!” Roy 'Hardcore' Benavidez boomed out in glee again before his gaze finally stopped and rest on the BattleMech behind the woman. “What cha’ do to her, me girl? Run me through it won’t ya?”



“You didn’t leave a lot of it for us to work on, what with literally tearing the limps from the bloody ‘Mech.” Shaking her head, Nadine Wambach lifted a hand and beckoned for Benavidez to move closer. Like the hulking Battle Armour trooper before her, the long hair that cascaded down her back was jet black. That, however, was all that was physically similar between the pair. Despite the overalls that covered much of her willowy and comparatively slight frame, it did little to conceal her athletic and toned physique. “If the bet was winner takes all, shouldn’t you have tried to keep it as intact as possible? Anyway, we pulled that oversized engine from the Legionnaire’s body for a start,” Wambach started to explain, “and swapped it out for a smaller 300 rated XL fusion from a wrecked Tessen – which was where we pulled those arms from as well.”

“Hold a sec’ lassie,” Benavidez interrupted, a dubious frown on his face as one of massive paws that he passed off as hands stroked his chin. “I hadda some time gettin’ ova ya all puttin’ together a FrankenMech as it was. Now ya tellin’ me ya did what?! I was thought that them engine was da most valuable item on that Legionnaire, why’d ya pull it?”

“We pulled it precisely because it was the most expensive workable component from that carcass.” Wambach rolled her eyes in dramatically faked exasperation. “Selling it got us a lot of cash so that we can get other components to get your ‘Mech here up and running.” She stopped, glaring at Benavidez. “Do you want me to continue or would you prefer I wait for you to finish your complaints?”

The brute of a man nodded, though his hesitant expression showed that he was far from convinced.

“Those reverse ball and socket legs are from the remains of an Uziel we scavenged from the very same scrape pile that we pulled the remains of your Legionnaire from.” Wambach continued. “The most time consuming procedure was to calibrate the new limps to the LGN’s gyro. Even before we cater for those jump jets, you wouldn’t believe the tuning needed to re-establish the centre of mass equilibrium for the entire ‘Mech. And THAT, was only the initial settings based on standard gravity…”

“English, lassie!” Benavidez held up both hands in surrender. “English.”

“Erm, right.” Benavidez’s abrupt interruption stopped Wambach, who sheepishly coughed to clear her throat. “All I can say is, too bad you’re not a MechWarrior. Once calibrated, those Uziel legs provide an incredibly stable weapons platform. You would’ve loved it.”

Benavidez shrugged his shoulders as he beat a fist on his chest. “Well, none of ‘em ‘Mechs have any cockpits big enough fer me tar fit in, don’t ya know?”

“So I’ve heard.” Wambach did not even try to suppress her guffaw at the big man’s retort before she continued. “The new armour plating is regular StarSlab, nearly ten tons of it. We’ve also given it a purely all energy weapons package, tied in to an electronics counter measure system.”

“Wait, what?” The frown on Benavidez’s brows furrowed deeper. His expression was one of such genuine sorrow that it was almost child-like. “No dakka?”

“No, no dakka.” Wambach confirmed as she broke out in laughter again. Benavidez started to protest but Wambach held up a hand to stop him. “But whoever’s riding it is most likely gonna hit whatever he’s firing at. Those pair over there at the end of the left arm are your standard extended range medium lasers, but the other two over on the right are your state of the art X-pulse lasers – a large and a medium. They have the enhanced accuracy of pulse lasers, plus the bonus of extended range. To try to compensate for the extra heat, we’ve mounted two of the four extra freezers directly on the right arm.” Wambach turned back towards Benavidez, finally pulling off her filter mask to reveal a wide grin. “And we had every weapon on that baby of yours nicely tied in to a targeting computer to give superior accuracy.”

“Not too bad, if I may say so me ‘self, lassie.” Benavidez’s smirk was a virtual mirror reflection of Wambach’s. “How much do ya think it’ll fetch in da market?”

Wambach scratched the back of her neck at that question. “Well…”

“Easily over ten million.” A new voice joined in the conversation from the back of the workshop from amongst the shadows as a figure strode into the light. “Provided you find it an owner that is able to maintain those X-pulses.”

“Andre!” Benavidez exclaimed with a tilted head at the new comer. “Was wonderin’ where ya’ve been.”

Like Nadine Wambach, Andre-Pierre Varane was not only a MechWarrior, but also a more than competent technician. The name of the ‘Mech repair workshop, The Magic Infuse, was inspired by Varane’s callsign of ‘Warlock’ and Wambach’s ‘Witch’. “Heard from the grapevine that there’s a couple of new contracts up for grabs so I went to have a look see if there’s anything that’s up our alley.”

“I still din’ understand this nonsense.” Benavidez snorted depreciatively. “Given da relationship ‘tween his father and da Baron, both ya proven skills in a 'Mech cockpit, our combat records and whatnot, we coulda just asked fer a slot in them Stars, don’t ya know.”

“You know he doesn’t want to call in that favour unless absolutely necessary.” Varane waved Benavidez’s words away irritably. “Especially since we have the ability to earn our spurs anyway.”

The Battle Armour trooper’s eyes lighted up with those words. “Maybe you’d like to buy that FrankenMech from me?” he asked hopefully.

Varane shook his head with a grin. “Not my style, and you know it.”

Benavidez pouted. “Kenna blame me fer tryin’ no?”

“Not at all.” Varane winked back at the man. “Good attempt.”

“So, anything from the hiring halls that’s… what’s those words you used?” Wambach asked, “Oh ya, up our alley?”

Varane’s smirk widened as he looked at the other two. “I’m so glad you asked…”

blackpanzer

  • Sergeant
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  • Posts: 178
Business Development Office
Corporate Headquarters
Defiance Industries
Myoo Mountains, Hesperus II
Hesperus II System, Lyran Alliance
20th April, 3098
1000 Hours Local Time

Senior Test Pilot Quan “Linebacker” Abbas - formerly Hauptmann Abbas of the 2nd Donegal Guards, Lyran Alliance Armed Forces (LAAF) - walked towards the desk of Ms. Lilith Von Braun, secretary to Regional Business Development Manager Archie Benson, his adopted father. With a smile as wide as his face, Quan politely asked, “Hello Ms Von Braun, is my father free?” Ms. Von Braun warmly answered, “Now Quan, as I’ve told you before, you can always call me Lilith, and yes, your father is free at the moment. Shall I let you know you’re here?” Quan, a mountain of a man at 35 years of age, blushed slightly at the slightly flirtatious exchange and responded, “Yes, that would be fine...Lilith.” As Ms. Von Braun depressed the buzzer that allowed the locks to Archie Benson’s office to disengage, Quan experienced some momentary flashbacks associated with his entrance into Archie’s office.

As a 9-year old kid, being led to his office by a Defiance Industries security officer, and being told that his parents, Ly and Marcus, were killed in the Word of Blake attack on the facility.

Walking into his office a few months later, meeting his newly adopted family: Archie, his wife Marielle, and their two kids, 7-year old Chase, and 5-year old Rianne.

Bringing the game ball, Most Valuable Player award, and football championship trophy to his father’s office so that they could take a picture together with all three since Archie was unable to attend the game.

Being led into his office a few months later by a Defiance Industries security officer after being caught taking an unauthorized flight in an Avenger-class assault dropship.

Carrying his luggage into his father’s office as he was about to depart to the War College of Buena to start his curriculum as a technician and aerospace fighter pilot.

Returning from the Periphery as his stint in the Buena War College Training Battalion ended and his next deployment to the 2nd Donegal Guards garrison on A Place was just about to start.

Starting his first day as a test pilot with Defiance Industries, and walking to his father’s office to have lunch with him.





Quan opened the door to his father’s office, and was completely caught off guard by the flying hug from his adopted sister Rianne. She was currently managing the engineering group working on refit packages for the Zeus assault battlemech model ZEU-10T, but was highly adept at repairing and modifying various battlemechs, having grown up in Defiance Industries operations her entire life. Rianne - or Ri as she preferred to be called - was an engineering genius, having learned from the best in the industry, but remained rather grounded by Archie’s and Marielle’s upbringing, and having two older brothers looking out for her.



Out of the corner of his one eye not covered in his sister’s red hair, Quan eyed the smiling figure of his other adopted sibling, his brother Chase, confidently standing on both of his legs, resplendent in the latest fashion of corporate attire. Quan knew it all to be a facade, that under that guise of just another corporate drone lay one of the most determined minds he’s ever known. Like Quan, Chase had joined the LAAF, but started out in the infantry, eventually applying and being accepted into the Special Forces. Two years into his deployment with the Special Forces, CB - a nickname he picked up during basic training - was hit by a glancing light particle projection cannon (PPC) shot from a Word of Blake Malak light battlemech. Although not a direct hit which would have killed him outright, the shot blew off his right leg below the knee, and the electrical discharge severely damaged the nerves in his right leg. After being fitted with a prosthetic leg, and undergoing two years of rehabilitation, CB was given a desk job in Lyran Military Intelligence. After serving out his remaining enlistment obligation, he joined the Lyran Intelligence Corps (LIC) as part of the Diplomatic Corps, travelling throughout the Inner Sphere on the staffs of ambassadors and nobles, garnering a wealth of contacts along the way.

While still being hugged by his sister Rianne, Quan reached out with his right hand to CB, and happily shook it and said, “I guess congratulations are in order little brother”, at which everyone in the room chuckled at the long-standing inside joke. Despite being older and bigger than Chase, Quan always considered him his big brother since he’d been adopted into the Benson family, and Quan highly appreciated Chase’s insight on all things. Archie Benson interjected into the joyful family reunion and said, “Yes Quan, congratulations indeed. We all can see the amount of thought and work you put into this project, and I’m especially happy that everything is coming together.” Quan reached out to shake his father’s hand and said, “Thanks Dad, I really appreciate it, but all of this was entirely a family affair. You with your industrial contacts and pull with the company, Ri with her technical knowledge to scope out what is needed, and CB with his uncanny ability to provide some insider information. Little birds again?” Chase shot Quan his typical standoffish grin when asked how he comes about with his information, and replied, “This time, a flock of birds, but little birds all the same.”

Quan nodded and started to open the tube document holder he had brought into his father’s office, laying out the documents on the meeting table. As the details and plans were laid out for his family to see, Archie let out a long whistle and said, “You’ve really been planning this out, son”, to which Quan replied, “Well, my father taught me that was essential in any venture, be it for business or life, and this is a combination of the two.” Archie, Rianne, and Chase had all known that Quan had been planning to break out and start his own company, and the Department of Mercenary Management (DMM) on Terra had offered him the opportunity. They just didn’t realize the extent of his preparation until all of it unfolded on the table for all to see. Archie immediately noticed the name and logo of Quan’s new venture, asking, “Lion & Lion Limited? How did you come up with the name, son?” Quan turned to face his adopted family and said, “I’ve been blessed with having two great families, despite the tragic incident that brought us altogether. I love my first parents just as I love my second parents, and the brother and sister they brought into my life. As you all know, my mother’s name was Ly, which in her native Vietnamese language means ‘lion’. Coincidentally, my father’s last name Abbas also means ‘lion’ in his native African tongue, so therefore ‘Lion & Lion’. The green was Ly’s favorite color, and yellow is mom’s favorite color. Lastly, the blue background is the same used in the Defiance Industries’ logo, which represents the roots of this unit, including all of you here.” Archie was busily drying his glasses, the usually stoic Chase had moisture at the corners of his eyes, and Rianne tearily asked, “Why isn’t my mom here Quan? She should be here to see all that you’ve created.” With a side smile to his sister, Quan answered, “Ri, who do you think designed the logo? I asked her to create this a while back, when I hadn’t even worked out all of the technical details. I think she knocked this out of the park, don’t you think?”, to which Ri softly said, “Yes.”



Quan quickly changed the subject to his plans laid out on the meeting table. “I am having the Union-class dropship Ladrao refitted at Federated-Boeing’s facility on Galax to reflect the composition of the unit I want to field. I’m keeping one aerospace fighter (ASF) cubicle for my VRN-10B Vernichter, but the other ASF cubicle will be refitted to house two VTOLs. Four battlemech bays will remain to house a lance of battlemechs. Two of the battlemech bays will be converted to house a platoon of battle armor, with the rest converted into a mixture of heavy and light vehicle bays. Dad, is Hangar 420 still slated for my use once the Ladrao can be flown here?” Archie answered, “Yes, Hangar 420 is being prepared for your use and will be ready when you need it. Per Defiance Industries security policy, we still need verified background checks on the personnel you plan on taking into your unit, so I assume that’s being worked out?”

Before Quan could answer, Chase interjected, “We anticipated development, so I’ve had feelers out looking into the records, both official and unofficial, of the people Quan was interested in. Once they’ve been verified by my sources and Defiance Industries, we can start sending out offers and bringing them aboard.” Archie looked at his Chase and said, “We? I thought you were still attached to the Diplomatic Corps within LIC? Are you moonlighting, or am I missing something here?” Quan looked at both of his other siblings, and then back to his dad and said, “When I started looking into personnel, CB became quite interested in the bunch of people I had tagged, especially those outside of Defiance Industries, and especially those outside of the Lyran Alliance. Plus I had the feeling he was getting tired of attending all of these posh cocktail parties and state dinners, having to wear his scratchy LAAF dress uniform or the corporate dress you see him in today, so I offered him the position of Chief Information Officer (CIO) in Lion & Lion Limited.” Chase laughed slightly before saying, “Quite the contrary brother, but I do like wearing these expensive suits, especially if it’s on the state dime. It’s the drab social perfunctory duties I need to perform, glad-handing these idiotic state officials and dealing with equally incompetent military officers that I find terribly tiring. But the female nobles and attractive hangers-ons, well, that makes the job bearable!”, which was met with a disapproving look from Archie and Rianne, wiping the smirk from Chase’s face.

While Quan was trying to hide his laughter at Chase’s expense, Archie said, “Wait, if you have a CIO, then who is your COO (Chief Operations Officer),” and quickly glanced at Rianne, saying, “No. No. You can’t be serious.” Rianne turned towards her father and said, “I guess the cat’s out of the bag like a Lyran assault battlemech lance making planetfall, huh dad? And before you blame Quan or Chase, it was I who went up to them and told them I wanted to be part of Quan’s venture. I love you father, but I need to step out of your shadow, out of the influence of Defiance Industries, to find out if I can make it out on my own out there. I’ve been part of Defiance Industries ever since I was able to walk, playing with product concept models and tools instead of dolls and tea parties. Don’t get me wrong, my childhood was wonderful, and you and mom made sure I had no need for anything, but I need to do this for me. Quan went away, and became a master technician and top-notch ASF pilot, even defending the Alliance from pirates and Clan attacks. CB got to play soldier, and despite his injury, still out beyond Hesperus II experiencing the Inner Sphere. I’ve been here at Defiance Industries, living here, educated here, working here, always here. Besides, I get a promotion and get to work with both my brothers, and when we’re not out on contracts, we’ll be back here at Hangar 420.”

Archie looked at his kids, opened up his arms, and gathered them in an embrace, fighting back the tears he would shed later tonight in the privacy of his home, being consoled by his wife Marielle. He closed his eyes and softly said, “All of you better look out for each other. You are my loves and constant form of stress. Family always, you understand me, family always.” The four of them stood there in silence for quite some time.

blackpanzer

  • Sergeant
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  • Posts: 178
Baron’s Office
Fortress Dachenfels
Trakin Continent, Erdvynn Prime
Erdvynn System, Alarion Province
Lyran Alliance
7th October 3101
2310 hours local time


“I take it the meeting with His Grace didn’t give us the answer we wanted?” Raven van Hauten and Miroslav Podolski trailed behind Zhao Zi Long as the Baron of Erdvynn plodded into his office deep in Fortress Dachenfels, a refurbished, modified and renamed Outpost Castle harking back from the days of the Rim Worlds Republic. The mercenary commander flopped heavily onto a thickly cushioned chair, waving to both his second in commands to do likewise. Van Hauten took up a seat opposite to the Baron but Podolski chose to remain standing, his hands clasped behind his back.

“****** waste of time and resources.” Zhao murmured as he picked up a decanter on his table and poured himself a drink of the dark brownish liquor. He lifted his head to take in the pair of officers before him. Both shook their heads. “Didn’t think so.” He gulped down the contents in a single go before refilling his glass. “He might as well just send us a HPG message,” Zhao grumbled darkly, “Instead of making me travel all the way to Alarion just to hear him say no.”

Podolski raised an eyebrow. “Perhaps Duke Serfass was not informed about the HPG Generator here on Erdvynn being on-line…”

“He was communicating with us just fine before that no?” Podolski’s counterpart, van Hauten cut in with a reminder before looking back at Zhao. “Didn’t Serfass passed on the promise from Tharkad that a small swarth of former Rim Worlds systems around Erdvynn will be awarded to the Black Stars for the formation of a new Province as long as we pacify them with our own resources?”

“Apparently, the Duke does not recall having heard of such an absurd arrangement.” Zhao’s fingers tightened around the cup. “And of course, there wasn’t any official black and white.”

“I hate to be the one saying 'I told you so', but that's Lyran politics for you. If I were you though, I’d be more worried about your enemies on the Planetary Directorate.” The overall commander of the Sharp Shooters’ vehicular force shook his head as he brought a hand to scratch his chin, drawing a snarl and a dirty look from Zhao. Raven van Hauten shrugged nonchalantly. “What? Tell me you’re not concerned about how Rolf Kelswa and his cronies won’t milk this for all its worth. You promised them a smattering of planets to rule over after all.”

Like the Black Stars Mercenary Collective itself, the government of Erdvynn was led nominally by the Baron of Erdvynn. The Erdvynn Planetary Directorate was a chartered government created under the authority and auspices of the Barony of Erdvynn in accordance with the terms and provisions bestowed up the Black Stars Collective by the Lyran Alliance. Five members sit on the Board, with the incumbent Baron of Erdvynn guaranteed a seat. The Board appoints a Governor General to exercise all executive, legislative and judicial powers on its behalf. All such acts shall have the force of law unless rescinded or amended by the Board of Directors or the Baron of Erdvynn.

One of the very few ‘original’ Black Stars that had returned to the Collective after their ill-fated pirate contract for the Magistracy of Canopus in the Gal' ron systems under Major Aik, the Black Stars nominal Commanding Officer preceding Zhao Zi Long, Kelswa’s story was seemingly made for the movies. As a member of one of the Lyran Alliance’s notable noble Houses, a teenage Kelswa spurned his family’s military roots and ran away from home to study for the priesthood. An ill-advised tryst with a nun ended Kelswa’s religious aspirations rather quickly, though.

The man who was light years away from the leadership of the Kelswa House next joined the Skye Rangers, and was posted to the Seventeenth Skye Rangers RCT one year later. Once again, a romantic relationship altered Kelswa’s trajectory – which actually saved his life as the Seventeenth was destroyed less than a year later on Barcelona and Black Earth by invading Clan Jade Falcons forces. While stationed on Hesperus II, Kelswa fell for a native woman who prompted her future husband to switch sides and chanted anti-Separatists slogans.

The Kelswa family did not take kindly to pro-Lyran sympathies among its ranks and kicked Rolf Kelswa out of their clan. Thus began Kelswa’s long walkabout in the Periphery backwaters of the Lyran Alliance, taking up various anti-pirate contracts while slowly building up what would eventually be his own Black Stars sub-unit. Many had questioned why House Steiner had not accepted back someone who had openly displayed loyalty to the throne against the wishes of his own House. Despite being spurned by the LAAF, Rolf Kelswa put together nearly a company worth of machines, mixing heavy and assault BattleMechs, conventional armour and heavy infantry that specialized in defensive and siege operations – a reflection of his Steiner affiliations.

Like the scant few survivors of the Black Stars old guards, Gal' ron would prove to be Rolf Kelswa’s last combat campaign. His Crusader shot out under him and his sub-unit destroyed to the last machine, Kelswa managed to ransom himself from the pirates before rejoining the Black Stars. Despite the defeat, Kelswa remained highly respected and retained a political clout among the mercenaries, especially the non-combat old guards – an influence that saw him being placed on the Board of Directors.

It was no secret that despite being offered a seat among the Cell and being the unofficial leader of those who no longer commanded military forces amongst the Collective, Rolf Kelswa had always itched to rebuild a sub-unit he could once again call his own to challenge Zhao’s position as the nominal Commander of the Black Stars mercenary collective. There were rumours that Kelswa did indeed reformed his long ago shattered Unchained Bloodhounds which he had intended to send to partake in the Erdvynn invasion, but his sub-unit never put in an appearance. The unconfirmed reports about the whereabouts, and even the reality of its continued existence remained unknown.

The mercenary of Chinese descent crossed his arms defensively and snorted again. “I certainly did NOT.”

“I’ll have to agree with Raven on this.” Podolski cut off Zhao’s protests before he could even begin. “Kelswa and quite a number of his associates even reinforced their own sub-units or put together new ones just to sweep the few systems around Erdvynn clear of bandits and pirates in preparation of having the rights to a bigger stake in whatever new assets the Lyran Alliance might bestow onto us.”

“I can’t help it if those idiots chose to interpret things the wrong way. What we, the sub-unit commanders, promised all Black Stars was a place we can call our home, other than Pharos.” The veteran tank commander retorted as he referred to the Snowden mining station that the Black Stars had used to house their dependents until the Lyan Alliance awarded the Erdvynn system to the mercenary collective as their landhold. “As it is, any and all sub-units have the option of setting up their lairs here on Erdvynn or Galisteo in the Free Worlds League if they wish.”

“As long as they provide garrison forces to ensure the safety and well-being of all dependents.” Podolski intoned with a nod, despite it being a well known fact that the overall commander of the Sharp Shooters’ Battle Armour and infantry forces had never gotten around to having a family of his own.

“Indeed.” Zhao Zi Long sighed as he took a more measured seep from the glass before swirling the contents languidly. “Seems like quite a couple of our sub-units have apparently recruited extensively from Galisteo to fill their ranks of the MechWarriors.”

“The locals from the Trinity Worlds have always been trained to pilot AgroMechs from an early age,” Podolski nodded in agreement. “One career advantage of raising massive and violent herd animals I guess.”

“God dammit.” Van Hauten raised up a hand to stall further discussion between Zhao and Podolski. “Can we focus on the issues in hand please?”

“Alarion has already put out contracts asking for mercs to undertake recon raid missions to New Mars.” The commander of the Sharp Shooters sub-unit smirked at his always serious second in command. “The matter is officially out of our hands.”

Podolski tilted his head sideways. “But…”

“I’ve gotten a message from the kid.” Zhao started to explain. “He’s asking for permission to pick up the contract as an independent command.”

“You’ve gotta give it to the boy.” Van Hauten sighed as he finally accepted the fact that New Mars, and as such the possibility of establishment of an Erdvynn Province, has slipped from the Stars’ grasp. “Stubborn though. Takes after his old man.”

When Major Morgan Chan, formerly of the Aura Wings aerospace mercenary unit, retired from his command, he brought along with him quite a number of fellow Aura Wings mercenaries who did not agree to the increasingly close relationship between the Wings and the Draconis Combine. Along with the soldiers were sizable number of civilians. The military hardware and civilian skills that Chan’s contingent provided much needed help to the Stars when it was most needed after the Taurian incited civil war on Herotitus in 3087 that saw not only mercenary units fighting against each other, but the splitting up among the Black Stars as well. When the Black Stars were awarded their landhold on Erdvynn and Galisteo, they promised employment and safe haven to those that provided aid and assistance to them in those dark days. Many had accepted the Black Stars’ offer – some settling down on Erdvynn or Galisteo, more than a couple signing up with one of the sub-units or training cadres, with yet some others even setting up as Black Stars sub-unit commands.



Like Miroslav Podolski, Morgan Chan was not known to have a family of his own outside of the Black Stars. Unlike the Battle Armour trooper however, Chan adopted a child those many years ago who grew up learning the various trades, skills and sadly, the signature vices and debauchery from time spent among the Black Stars. To say that the young man was a trouble maker in his younger days would be an understatement. Those supposedly keeping track claimed that the young man spent more time in lock-up than out.

Eventually gathering around himself a small group of like-minded individuals, Morgan Chan’s adopted son had never requested for special treatment, leeway or alms from the Black Stars. Instead, the small group had picked up the odd contract every now and then, honing their skills and cohesiveness, using the funds and salvage to build up a TO&E that reflected their combat abilities and preferences.

“I take it you’ve approved of their application.” It was not a question from Van Hauten.

“It was an open contract offered by the Lyrans, not the Black Stars.” Zhao grinned. “I wouldn’t be able to stop him even if I wanted to.”

"There's a silver lining to all of this that you guys are missing." Podolski reminded the other pair of mercenary officers.

"Oh?" The question came from van Hauten, although the bemused look on Zhao's face hinted that the Baron of Erdvynn and Galisteo already knew the answer.

"We've finally gotten the kid off Erdvynn." The former Word of Blake warrior supplied matter of factly. "No matter how slim the chance, there's always the likelihood that he'll stay away... for a VERY long time."

blackpanzer

  • Sergeant
  • *
  • Posts: 178
Atlantis Interstellar Space Port
Mercenary Hiring Sector, Free Trade Zone
Atlantis City
Trakin Continent, Erdvynn Prime
Erdvynn System, Alarion Province
Lyran Alliance
20th November 3100
2120 hours local time


The small assembly of mercenaries looked on in one of the many hangers that made up Atlantis Interstellar Space Port as a myriad stream of human and cargo traffic passed by below them on the tarmac. The original, and one the only space port on Erdvynn until the Black Stars took over, Atlantis Space Port had continued to serve civilian and outworld mercenary traffic while the Stars themselves built a spanking new capital city and space port restricted for use by the Black Stars mercenary collective.

Ask any civilians not in the know, and chances would be that they would rattle off military expeditions to entail soldiers and their weapons. Although true to a certain extent, any military organization that had intentions of sustaining its operations for any period of time would need to be supported by an even larger team of non-combatants as well as a massive supporting convoy of provisions ranging from ammunition, spare parts, fuel, medicine, rations and sustenance – military logistics encompassed all these and much more. Clothing, stationary, housekeeping supplies and equipment, construction material, toiletries – it seemed a never ending list. While DropShips had long served as the workhorse in transporting all manners of personnel and material, it might surprise many that conventional aircraft, VTOLs, wing in effect vehicles, small craft and blue water vessels continued to shoulder much of the on planet logistics and transportation duties despite the increased economics of using DropShips to so do.

The Caravan heavy transport aircraft that towered over the everything else in the hanger was one of countless such designs. Considered a primitive design dating back to the twenty forth century, atmospheric aircraft like the Caravan filled an inexpensive link in a world's transportation network which could not afford nor utilize the more expensive DropShips or space shuttles.



“You think our stuff are down there?” Nadine Wambach asked as she tried in vain to spot any markings on any of the uncountable number of containers.

Benavidez snorted. “If any of ‘r stuff are still down there, you kenna bet ya last C-bill that it’s not goin’ ter make it in time fer our little adventure, don’t ya know.”

“He’s right.” Varane supported the Battle Armour trooper’s statement with a nod. “Erdvynn’s the last stop over for any vessel before jumping to New Mars,” The mercenary MechWarrior gave Wambach a wink. “Unless you’re a pirate of course.” Andre-Pierre Varane took a deep breath before he continued. “We’re not exactly first class passengers nor our belongings considered priority cargo. When we land, the Lyrans will want to unload their own their own things as quickly as possible from their DropShip. Despite the size of that thing, a Mammoth is armoured like an egg - relative to DropShips of course. They won't want it to be exposed to potential enemy fire if at all possible.”

“So, we’ll disembark last?” Wambach’s voice raised by a few octaves.

Benavidez boomed his signature baritone chortle. “Maybe yer were expectin’ they’d roll out ta red carpet lassie?”

“Why, that’d be very nice of them indeed.” Wambach batted her eyelashes at the massive man.

Jiang Ziya, the oldest in the small group coughed delicately. “If it’s any consolation to any of you, getting off last should buy us a little much more time before Huo’s arrival.” Unlike Varane and Wambach, Jiang was not born nor raised a mercenary. While the Capellan native wasn’t quite THAT old as to have partaken in the Great Refusal against the Clans in 3060, more than a couple of clues hinted that the veteran MechWarrior had been part of the Inner Sphere’s second multi faction efforts against the Clans under the banner of Operation Lorelai – the offensive against Clan Jade Falcons in 3077. There had long been a pot among the mercenaries to guess how old Jiang Ziya’s Vindicator medium ‘Mech actually was. The running joke was that the largest amount of stakes was on it dating from the Second Succession War.

Wambach frowned at that reminder. “Now that you’ve mentioned it, when DOES our esteemed leader intend to join our little party?”

“One of the benefits of driving ‘Mechs is that we pack fast.” Varane replied. “Given the need to meet the time frame of the start of our contract, we’re deploying with our vees, troopers and basically everything we have here on Erdvynn first. Huo’s coming in later with our ride.”

“That being the case,” Wambach’s eyes narrowed in suspicion as she turned her attention to the hulking form Benavidez. “What are YOU doing here.”

“I be needin’ ter gather some supplies fer da troops first. And I’m not be da only one in me squad.” Benavidez shrugged nonchalantly. “I only needs da give some instructions and I'd be havin’ me folks carryin’ out them chores. We'd be havin’ quite a few more pair of hands nowadays, don’t ya know.”

“The new squad’s finally been given the green light to join us for this job?” Wambach’s eyes brightened at Benavidez’s implied words.

“Both of ‘em, actually.” Roy Benavidez replied by raising an arm with an accompaning pair of fingers sticking up.

“Well than,” Wambach’s grin widened as she tossed her hair with exaggerated flippancy. “As long as Huo doesn’t forget about little old us on New Mars, he can take his own sweet time.”

“Begging the lady’s pardon,” Jiang interrupted again, “but I’d rather Huo not indulge himself along the trip to New Mars nor dally around too much.”

“Pfffff!” Benavidez scoffed at Jiang’s words as a massive paw waved the older man’s concerns away. “We be dealin’ with ‘em pooh dung Periphery militia on New Mars. They might’ve ‘em numbers on their side, but if things git excitin’ an all, it’d just mean more body bags ter tag after all 'em shootin'.”
 
“Quantity is a quality all by itself.” Jiang Ziya objected with a raised hand while shaking his head. “Furthermore, while most of the warlords on New Mars do indeed rely on massed infantry hordes and waves of low cost combat vehicles, quite a few of them have managed to put together substantial fleets of higher quality conventional forces and BattleMechs too. Regardless of the situation on New Mars, I'd rather not risk our collective asses to the mercy of an Elsie DropShip's Captain, thank you very much. I'll feel much more comfortable if we have our own ride off of New Mars when we have to, for whatever reason.”

“The old man's right you know. If LIC’s intelligence reports have any shred of accuracy in them, the number of ‘Mechs on New Mars collectively could hit nearly a full battalion at last count.” Varane nodded to Jiang’s words. “Of course, the numbers have doubtless been inflated with IndustrialMechs outfitted with armour plating and weapons. Not forgetting too that a substantial number of those reported ‘Mechs are probably Second Succession War relics as ancient as our friend's Vindicator.” The younger man threw his comrade a sideways glance but caught no hint of any reaction from Jiang Ziya to his friendly barb. Sighing with disappointment, Varane continued. “The irony is that many of the military hardware used on New Mars actually came from Erdvynn. Not necessarily the Black Stars mind you, but virtually most New Mars trade, whether with the LA, Free Worlds League, other Periphery states, even black market, came through Erdvynn.”

Benavidez nodded heartily at those words. “Aye, let’s kenna make sure that da correct hands weld ‘em weapons than eh?”

“You’re thinking like a Black Stars again Roy.” Jiang chided the big man.

“Why?" Wambach raised an eyebrow at his words. "What’s wrong with that chain of thought?”

“Simply that we’re not.” The Chinese man replied curtly. “At least not yet. And I’m not sure if we ever will be.” He scanned those around him. “If Huo wanted to ride on the goodwill of his dad and signed up with the Stars, I’m sure there’ll be no shortage of sub-units wanting to sign him up, or sponsors willing to invest in us to set up our own sub-unit in the hopes of scoring some sort of favours with the Baron, and by extension, the Lyran Alliance.”

“Meh, you guys are getting a little too serious for my liking.” Wambach complained with a pout as she pointed a finger accusingly at Jiang. “And don’t think I’ve forgotten that YOU started all this brooding.”

Erasing the slight smile on his face, the veteran MechWarrior bowed extravagantly. “My apologies.”

Wambach was about to press her advantage when the public announcement systems reminded of the imminent departure of the Lyran Alliance Civil Services Division’s Exploration Expedition Mammoth class DropShip.

“Our final call gentlemen,” Varane repeated grandly, before turning towards Wambach. “and the lady of course. Our ride awaits.”

"Cheer up lassie," Benavidez rested a hand on Wambach's shoulders. "Fer all you know, we might just have ter swoop in, stand 'round and look menacing while 'em Lyrans gather their data. At da end of da day, we might not even git ter fight at all."

"We can only hope so." Jiang Ziya mumbled under his breath as the group of mercs made their way towards the waiting DropShip.

blackpanzer

  • Sergeant
  • *
  • Posts: 178
Randis Interstellar Space & Sea Port
Plantary Capital City of Randis
Continent Tharsis, New Mars
Independent System
Lyran Alliance Anti-Spinward Periphery
30th November 3100
1130 hours local time


Despite the rediscovery and resurgence of technology since the 3040s, the fact that human kind had spread to such far flung worlds meant that even within the Inner Sphere proper, there would be worlds of insignificant strategic value that terraforming the system, or even to bring in  machinery to improve living environments would be considered financially not viable nor justifiable. Such a situation was even more prevalent in the Periphery, the region of space surrounding the outer most parts of Inner Sphere. While drawing lines in the boundless stretches of space seemed a ridiculous concept, the ‘border’ between the Periphery and the Inner Sphere has long been accepted as generally 450 to 550 light years away from Terra. Where single independent countries on Terra alone could number tens of millions in population eons ago, entire systems in current days could sometimes barely hit a million.

New Mars II was one of such a planet. Despite the temperate climate, virtually similar atmosphere and gravity to Terra and abundance of water, the second planet of the New Mars system has never had a sizable population throughout its recorded existance. This was even more surprising if one was to consider the fact that agriculture had long been the main source of local employment and income for the system from the days of the Rim Worlds Republic. Even with the ability to not only support itself, but apparently to half a dozen other nearby systems, New Mars neither grew in terms of population size, saw any sort of external investment, nor suffered invasion and conquest by the nearby Free Worlds League or Lyran Alliance, Circinus Federation, Lothian League or Marian Hegemony. Other than the occasional pirate raid, much of violence and war on New Mars were between the many warlords who had set up base here. Until recent months, even such occurrences were infrequent.

The ability to leverage its neighbours against each other, using the continuous supply of food and crops to various factions had seen the various warlords on New Mars get their hands on equipment and technology many other Periphery kingdoms and states would turn green with envy with. What the capability to cultivate a surprisingly wide variety of grain crops, wheat and plants with edible parts on the different continents with different climates brought about were sights of Lyran manufactured Patton tanks trundling alongside Free Worlds League manufactured Orion heavy ‘Mechs.

The thing about many technologically backward, less developed systems that had its population spread across five continents separated by four oceans was that the major space port that catered to massive DropShips that brought human and cargo traffic on and off the planet surface, as well as from space onto the ground, would traditionally (and logically) see a major sea port built right beside it. For a system like New Mars, where the oceans covered up to nearly seventy percent of the planet’s surface, the lavishly named Randis Interstellar Space & Sea Port saw the space port, air port, sea port and capital city all rolled into one. Unfortunately, the lack of controlled, focused and long term planning and development meant that the planetary capital resembled a cluster of slums, especially compared to some of the other cities and towns dotting New Mars. While most warlords contributed levies and duties to ensure the continuous maintenance of the port, there were never much doubt that most of the monies went straight into the pocket of whichever warlord was holding the planetary capital city.



“The Elsies are interested in scouting out THIS place!?” Nandine Wambach wrinkled her nose in undisguised disgust as she cast a disapproving scowl at the dilapidated buildings around the harbour. “Seriously, why not just let the locals slug it out and allow the victor the spoils?”

“Because given free rein, they’d most likely devastate the lands so bad that New Mars won’t be able to continue on as the breadbasket for those other nearby systems in the Alarion Province.” Despite his words, Jiang Ziya was similarly twitching his nose uncomfortably as he sniffed the stench brought about by the murky greased layered waters lapping against the jetty. “And that’s discounting unconfirmed reports that New Mars is selling to the Free Worlds League and other nearby independent systems as well.”

“How can this place grow anything edible at all?!” Wambach shook her head in scepticism. The small group of mercenaries had made landing on New Mars just hours before. Just as Benavidez had predicted, their hardware would be the last to be allowed off the Mammoth class DropShip. It was expected that first unloading from the cavernous cargo holds of the colossal space vessel, followed by transferring to smaller transport atmospheric aircraft would take at least a couple of hours more. The mercenaries had jumped at the chance to check out the local sights, taking the opportunity to stretch their legs as well.

“You haven’t seen the rest of the planet yet.” Jiang Ziya countered, before he looked up as he seemed to recall something. “On the other hand, I’m afraid that I’d have to recommend you look out the windows while we’re on route to Hellas.”

“Ah yes, our assigned area of ops way up in the northern polar continent of Hellas.” Varane commented dryly as he used a hand to shade his eyes, squinting as he cast his view into the skies above as a VTOL darted above the port. “Shows how highly we rank up the mercenary ladder that we’ve gotten the pick of the lot eh?”

“We ARE the smallest of all the merc commands that signed up for this gig.” Jiang reminded his fellow MechWarrior as he raised his right hand and extended four of his fingers. He curled his index finger close as he ticked off the reasons for their assignment. “And the only one lacking a half decent track record.” The veteran warrior laughed in spite of himself as a second finger closed. “And of course, we currently do not have our own DropShip support.” Only the fifth digit of his hand was left. “Heck, we don’t even have a proper unit name.”

“Bah! Ya wan’ a name? We kenna ask ‘em ter give us one when we be kickin’ their asses.” Roy Benavidez stretched his massive frame, the sharp stench of seeming little effect on the Battle Armour soldier. “Plus, anybody willin’ ter pay some cash kenna git a kid wif hackin’ skills ta conjure up some half ****** dossier ter impress, don’t ya know.”

“Doesn’t really matter. Remember – we’re not on a combat mission.” Jiang shrugged his shoulders. “Our main job is to baby sit the Elsey assets, find out as much as possible about the situation on Hellas, and keep our noses clean.”

“With Hellas so far out of the way, I’m sure whatever hardware we brought along is more than enough.” Varane nodded in agreement. “It’s just that the idea of possibly playing peacekeeper between two local warring factions simply sit doesn’t well with me.”

“Unless we’re given the orders to do so by the Elsies, we won’t need to.” Jiang replied as he addressed the others in the party. “The latest and most updated intel we’ve had since we landed reported that the fighting seemed to have died down since the beginning of the month. Maybe the presence of the Elsies will put a hold on any further aggression that either side might entertaining, at least for now.”

“You can wish and hope if it helps you sleep better at night.” Varene replied with another snort. “Personally, I’d rather we make sure every one of our crates and pieces of equipment gets transferred nice and proper.” The MechWarrior swept his gaze at the buildings around him as the group continued on their route back towards the space port. “I’m not sure if we’d be able to find a spare part for ANYTHING if we missed something out along the way.”

As the group turned the last corner, the small space port of Randis came into view. Logistics handlers, cargo masters, traffic controllers and all manners of ground support crew with their equipment were busy carrying and directing the flow of material from the bowels of the fifty two thousand ton Mammoth down several ramps leading from its lowest of its five cargo decks. The seemingly endless trail snaked their way towards a quartet of waiting Longhaul cargo planes, before once again being loaded up through large roll-on/ roll-off drive through doors in the front and rear of the airframes.



“Good thing they have those.” Varane indicated towards the four large fixed wing aircraft. “If there’s one thing the Elsies did right, it was to charter those birds.” Large conventional air transports built by the Federated-Boeing company, the FB-335 Longhaul cargo plane was designed to air lift a hundred ton worth of cargo and more than two dozen passengers using short and rough airfields. “I cannot imagine travelling by sea to Hellas.” He turned towards Jiang with an uneasy shrug. “What did the locals say again about travelling by ship? It’d take anytime between two weeks to over a month? That’d be a massive chunk of our contract time gone!”

“A leisurely cruise paid for by our employers?” Wambach interrupted with a twinkle in her eyes. “I don’t see what’s to complain about.”

“It wouldn’t be a luxury cruise ship we’d be travelling up north in.” Varane continued with a roll of his eyes. “And if our non-armed, commercial blue water naval vessel we get intercepted by some pirates while we’re over vast tracks of water…”

“Right.” Wambach coughed uneasily. “A few hours of flight it is.”

“Somehow, I know you’d see it my way.” Varane smiled back at his colleague winsomely.

blackpanzer

  • Sergeant
  • *
  • Posts: 178
Gabriel's Gatecrashers Temporary Fieldbase
Clearing along Harmakhis River and Fosenkov Forests
Boreum Plains
Contested territory between Isidis Regions and Akbar Dominion
Continent of Hellas, New Mars
Independent System
Lyran Periphery Anti-Spinward Periphery
31st November 3100
0815 hours local time


As promised by the locals, the flight from Randis Interstellar Space & Sea Port to one of the small commercial airports on Hellas took just under nine hours. The problem for the mercenaries was that only a fraction of their forces made the initial trip by air, with the bulk of the new hires forced to take the arduous journey across the Eythraean Ocean by sea.

The detachment from the Lyran Alliance Civil Service Exploration Expedition that was sent over to the continent of Hellas could only be considered small when taken into context against the other LACS teams dispatched to other parts of New Mars. Despite the considerable load that the quartet of Longhaul heavy transports could ferry, the Lyrans had insisted that all of their equipment were to be loaded on board before those belonging to the mercenaries could. As such, other than a fifty ton, eight wheeled and jump capable Shackleton All Environment Survey Vehicle, a considerable convoy of rough terrain transport vehicles, a virtual village of temporary camp modules and crates after crates filled with anything from outlandish looking equipment to woollen socks filled the bowels of the FB-335 Longhaul cargo planes. Nadine Wambach complained bitterly that their employer had already breached the terms of their contract. “I thought our mission was supposed to just escort a single vee? Now we have to babysit to a thrice damned motorcade!”



To compound the problem for the hired soldiers, air freight, especially the necessary kind of muscle needed to lug the considerable remaining military hardware of the mercenaries, were in critically short supply due to most of them being reserved to transfer high value commerce freight for export off world. That meant that after unloading whatever meagre forces the hired mercenaries could squeeze onto the Longhauls alongside the LACS, the next available chartered air freight would be nearly two months later. Upon berthing at the Isidis docks, there would be further delays as the mercenaries would have to be transported over land to where ever they were assigned. When Jiang Ziya politely asked if the LACS could mobilize their Mammoth class DropShip to help solve their predicament, he was replied with equal courtesy that the massive spheroid space vessel was to be reserved strictly only for the LACS’s own transport needs. Quite a number of LACS members and DropShip crew within earshot who overheard the conversation showed much less etiquettes however, doing little to conceal their contempt at a mercenary command that lacked their own DropShip support.

The lack of urgency shown by the LACS on the matter stemmed from the fact that Lyrans did not appear to mind the lack of an escort. They were steadfastly convinced that they would not be molested by the locals given that the Isidis Regions and Akbar Dominion had thus far reserved their undivided aggression solely towards each other. That, and their insistence that every piece of equipment and personnel allocated for Hellas was ABSOLUTELY crucial, thus cannot be delayed in their arrival, meant that the mercenaries were forced to pick what they hope would be sufficient to safeguard the ‘guaranteed’ safety of the LACS team thrust into their care.

To say that Major Marcus Gabriel was disappointed that the anticipated reinforcement of heavy hardware his Gabriel’s Gatecrashers had been expecting consisted of only a pair of dilapidated looking BattleMechs with an equally ramshackle support force of vehicles would be a massive understatement. The myth of a howling banshee along the Harmakhis River was supposed attributed to another story that would be circulated for years after that very day. Borne after the initially meet up between Major Gabriel and the latest addition to his Gatecrashers, the stories were supposedly based on unsubstantiated claims from a few of his subordinates that the mercenary hard-man actually cried and wailed unashamedly along the banks of the Harmakhis where he had first laid eyes on the new comers.

“I know things are bad with ULTRA and all, but is inflation really THIS bad?” The Commanding Officer of the Gabriel’s Gatecrashers moaned, massaging his temples as the last piece of equipment made its way down the awning ramp of a Longhaul, a ubiquitous Hetzer light wheeled tank. "Or has the Elsies sent all mercenaries more than a jump from the Periphery to the ULTRA borders?"

“Apparently, we were the only set up the LACS could afford after squandering most of their budget on those other guys.” The shrug from Jiang Ziya would have been more noticeable if the man was not wrapped in four layers of winter wear, the outermost a thick parka coat. “Take it as a complement Major. I think our employment was solely attributed to our possession of personnel and gear needed to help construct the LACS campsite.” Jiang looked around at the snow swept clearing they stood on bordered by the Harmakhis River on one side and Fosenkov Forests on the other. The Gatecrashers had other outposts deeper in Isidis Regions, but this location was prepared specifically for the LACS's use, rather than allowing them to establish their base deep within the Isidis Metropolitan in a rather pointless attempt at maintaining Lyran neutrality on New Mars. “That means that the Elsies are pretty confident in your Gatecrashers’ to hold your own without any sort of meaningful cavalry riding into town.”

“I’d rather they brand me a weakling if it means they’ll send me proper reinforcements.” Gabriel spat sourly, before straightening up towards Jiang. “No offence intended to you and your people.”

“No offence taken whatsoever.” Jiang Ziya raised a mitten engulfed hand. “Though I did hear on the way in that there hasn’t been much fighting for a couple of months?”

“You heard that right.” Major Marcus Gabriel replied as an aide approached the pair of soldiers handed him a noteputer. “S’cuse me a sec.” He scanned the displayed data quickly, extracted a touch pen from the side of the flat contraption and scribbled on its reflective surface. The aide nodded before withdrawing away to make his way back to the Gatecrashers' temporary base camp. Looking up again at his fellow mercenary, Gabriel allowed the ghost of a smile to play around his lips. “Like you guys, we were brought in to keep tab of things and prevent the situation from escalating out of hand here on New Mars. In fact, I believe we were the first merc command hired by the LACS. About... two months ago I think, we were offered an additional supplemental contract to bolster the Isidis Regions Military when the Dominion started moving in, trying to grab themselves some real estate.”

“You were ordered to take sides?” Jiang was genuinely surprised.

“I was as surprised as you are. The official sit-rep we got in our briefing package was that until the Elsies set up a proper channel to whoever’s boss here on New Mars, they wanna keep things stable.” Gabriel nodded, exhaling a small white cloud of condensed breath from his mouth. “Isidis is one of the larger exporter of crops, and Akbar water and ice. From what we manage to gather, our employers want these two, and other factions on New Mars for that matter, to concentrate on doing what they do best rather than wage petty war on each other.”

“Peace keeping.” Jiang Ziya nodded in understanding.

“More like peace making. The Dominion has always been one of the more aggressive factions here on New Mars, with more than a couple of ‘Mechs to ‘inspire’ their horde of slave infantry. They managed to push into the outskirts of Isidis Metropolitan before the Regions stopped and turned them back.” Gabriel grimaced at the memory of the heavy and brutal fighting. “One of my PBI squad managed to help set up an ambush that took out a Dominion ‘Mech. That brought enough time for Isidis to pour more troops into the fight to bloody the Dominion enough trouble for the latter to pull out. Heck, the Dominion were spoked so bad that they withdrew even before my own ‘Mechs could get some action.”

“Good show!” Jiang exclaimed in appreciation. “Must have been quite some fight your troopers put up.”

“Damn right it was!” The Major pumped a clenched fist into the air. “That Shadow Hawk was the only enemy ‘Mech taken out and it was by infantry. MY infantry.”

“Glad to be in the company of your Gatecrashers than Major.” Jiang smiled at his counterpart. “We might have been brought over to help the LACS set up base and escort their fancy ride, but nothing in our contract said anything about not allowing us to provide any sort of assistance to make your job easier.”

“I do like myself some properly done up entrenchments.” Gabriel beamed at Jiang. “And traps, I’ve always been fascinated by BattleMech sized traps.”

“In that case Major,” Jiang offered his right hand that Gabriel grabbed and shook firmly. “Consider them done!”

blackpanzer

  • Sergeant
  • *
  • Posts: 178
Lyran Alliance Civil Service Exploration Expedition Fieldbase
Clearing along Harmakhis River and Fosenkov Forests
Boreum Plains
Contested territory between Isidis Regions and Akbar Dominion
Continent of Hellas, New Mars
Independent System
Lyran Periphery Anti-Spinward Periphery
26th November 3100
1100 hours local time



A considerable layer of frost had settled like a heavy cloak over the Fosenkov Forests after several days of blizzard had dumped spade loads of snow onto the land as it swept across parts of the Boreum Plains. With the weather finally letting up, the LACS had finally decided that it was time to deploy its Shackleton to roam the wide expanses of New Mars’ northern Hellas continent. Given the fifty ton wheeled vehicle’s top speed of over sixty kilometres an hour, the mercenaries' decision to deploy Jiang Ziya in his Vindicator with their Hetzer wheeled assault tank  alongside to act as escort while leaving behind other machines that could boast greater firepower and armour protection finally made sense. Not only could the Vindy pace the Shackleton, both had the ability to jump. Jiang's forty five ton medium 'Mech was also the machine least reliant on ammunition.

The rest of the unit on Hellas, not stuck back at Tharsis basking in the planetary capital's relative warmth, had been tasked with various assorted chores. The platoon of combat engineers were keeping themselves busy fortifying the LACS base. Its designated location next to the Harmakhis River solved at least one of their problems – ensuring a safe supply of water source. Improving mobility of their assets was another usual task that the combat engineers did not have to be overly concerned with, at least for the moment, given that the mercenaries were not preparing themselves for any sort of battle. That had left the difficult undertaking of enhancing their defences as their main focus. On one hand, they did not want to construct an outright military base that would give off too much of an offensive vibe to attract unwanted attention from the Akbar Dominion, or even put the Isidis Regions in any sort of unease. On the other, providing security for a group of civilians with the limited resources they had in hand made it imperative that they afford themselves with the maximum amount of defensive advantage in any way they could. The combat engineering team had started off by erecting field fortifications like perimeter walls, obstacles and barriers, anti-tank and BattleMech ditches and trenches. They had also selectively reinforced some of the pre-cast temporary structures that the Lyran Exploration Expedition had brought along to serve as bunkers, while several entrenched positions were dug.

Whenever he was not tied down with his commitments to the Isidis Regions Military, Major Marcus Gabriel had dropped by to observe the preparation works in earnest. His initial despair that the latest reinforcements had consisted of only a solitary BattleMech had since been replaced with nearly child like curiosity as a pair of IndustrialMechs had started work on establishing the defences that encircled the LACS camp in multiple rings.

Despite originally declared a failure over five hundred years ago when first introduced, the various re-designed Jabberwockys IndustrialMech launched in the 3060s had more than proved their capabilities in more than half a decade of service since. The fifty ton fusion engine driven machine had put its salvage arm and rock cutter to their intended use, clearing stretches of area around the LACS base rapidly while its industrial grade triple strength myomer powered lift hoist had made moving all manner of material for the construction works faster and more efficient than usual construction machines could.

However, it was the larger Diomede that attracted Gabriel, and indeed, everyone’s attention the most. The massive ConstructionMech could easily had been mistaken for a full scale assault BattleMech if not for the large array of construction equipment it spotted. A pair of rivet guns with fully articulated hand made up its right arm while its left arm ended as a powerful pile driver. Much like cannons and ‘Mech grade weapons some BattleMechs were armed with, each shoulder of the Diomede mounted lift hoists used to tow and carry large objects and cargo. Like its smaller cousin, the hundred ton IndustrialMech was equipped with caterpillar tracks on where its calves would be, allowing it to move with greater stability when weighed down with heavy loads. Gabriel had been informed that embedded deep in the Diomede’s chests were a pair of missile launchers to assist in demolition works, missiles that could easily be used in battle if absolutely necessary with their ability to be armed with a myriad range of warheads.

His gaze shifted from the pair of IndustrialMechs to another pair of machines that had been similarly put to work setting up the LACS base. What was certainly a heavy tracked engineering vehicle was working alongside a modified yet still very familiar looking Büffel tank. Equipped with bulldozer blades and backhoe, they were excavating, pushing and compacting moulds of earth to form solid barricades, directed by several combat engineers around them.

Marcus Gabriel thought back of the several IndustrialMechs he had heard, and in some instances seen first-hand that locals deployed in action. The CattleMaster armed with its retractable blade used to round up the massive bovine herds on New Mars' plains, the PeaceMaker PoliceMech armed with short range missile launchers, ‘Mech grade machine guns and a MechTaser, as well as a bewildering range of other IndustrialMechs that could, and in several cases, were outfitted with weaponry. Despite them being outarmoured and outgunned by even the weakest of true BattleMechs, these machines could very well serve more backwater worlds like New Mars. Not for the first time, the Gatecrashers’ CO wondered if he should dip into the market to bolster his mainly infantry and conventional vehicular unit with these machines as a cheaper alternative to the short company of true blue BattleMechs that his unit already possessed, especially in the typical low intensity contracts that Gabriel’s Gatecrashers usually picked up.

At the very least, Gabriel would not have to stand having some stuck up MechJock telling him how much better and more technologically advanced their spanking new ride was compared to the half a dozen older tech 'Mechs that populated the ranks of the Gatecrashers.

 
Fosenkov Forests, Boreum Plains
Contested territory between Isidis Regions and Akbar Dominion
Continent of Hellas, New Mars
Independent System
Lyran Periphery Anti-Spinward Periphery
26th November 3100
1400 hours local time


The small detachment of white clothed soldiers sauntered along a relatively worn dirt path through the forest. The point man at the head of the contingent had a leashed dog that seemed to be more interested in chasing after any trace of small game in the leafless underbrush rather than any possible threat. An unfamiliar looking bipedal machine trailed scant metres behind the last heavily bundled member of the patrol. Unlike BattleMechs and some of the more advanced IndustrialMechs, the machine’s pilot was not cocooned in a cockpit. Rather, he had to wrap himself like the infantry troopers in front of his ride with winterwear as well, with his seat and controls being exposed to the elements. A missile launcher rack perched on the ‘Mech’s right shoulder, possibly a design of indigenous manufacture, giving additional punch to a pair of heavy guns that made up its right arm - a package that hinted at considerable firepower the machine could dish out. Unperturbed and unconcerned with what transpired in it, the Fosenkov Forests slumbered on, the sodden snow that blanketed it seemed to absorb all manner of sound, making any sort of noise muffled and subdued.

At least, that was what Roy Benavidez hoped.



Benavidez had forsaken his usual Battle Armour suit and had, in his own word, opted to go naked. Equipped with observation scopes, long range thermal imagers and tight beam GPS receiver instead, the only pieces of weapons ‘Hardcore’ had allowed himself had been a combat knife, a noise suppressed submachine gun and a suitably chunky “Shredder” heavy needler. If not for his considerable constitution, it would be hard to imagine most others to consider lugging such an inventory around garbed in cumbersome winter dress as the equivalent of being unclothed.

Their mission had been to diligently tag and record the strength and hardware the Dominion forces employed. Several other of his squad had been sent to other known patrol routes taken by Akbar Dominion forces along the border shared with the Isidis Regions. On several occasions, the mercenaries had moved deeper into Dominion territories, observing troop movements in and out of several of their outposts and bases, categorizing every piece of hardware they could. Despite reports from the Gatecrashers and Isidis military, no BattleMechs had been observed amongst the Dominion forces thus far. Instead, a fair number of IndustrialMechs jury rigged into MilitiaMechs had been observed – machines such as the one Benavidez was eyeballing at the moment. If not for the remnants of the destroyed Shadow Hawk carcass that had been savaged during the fighting in Isidis Metropolitan a few months ago, the claims that Akbar Dominion had substantial ‘Mech strength would be considered nothing more than stories by Isidis to solicit more Lyran assistance.

Recon runs like the one undertaken by Benavidez had however seem to support Isidis intelligence that the Dominion forces were contented to simply hold on to their positions. There had been no surge in deployment or mobilization of their forces to suggest otherwise, at least according to Major Marcus Gabriel.

Jiang Ziya and Roy Benavidez, the two most senior of the newly arrived mercenaries had other opinions though. For the Dominion to push aggressively all the way into the capital city of Isidis Regions, and then to pull back after suffering what would be sustainable losses simply did not make sense. Not especially if the Dominion reportedly had seemed to reserve the bulk of their BattleMech force during the initial assault.

“What do ya think da Dominion warlord’s waitin’ fer?” Benavidez had asked during the morning's briefing.

“I’m not sure yet.” Jiang had replied honest with a worried frown on his brow. “And that’s what have me concerned.” He had looked at the small assembly of mercenaries before indicating at a holomap projected by a small portable holo projector representing the Hellas continent. It was split into two three sections – the majority coloured in a yellow hue indicating territory held by the Akbar Dominion; a much smaller section of blue about a fifth of the continent showing those controlled by the Isidis Regions, and a silver of pulsating red sandwiched between the two signifying contested lands. “Until the LACS send their satellite into orbit and gives us more intel on the situation deep in Dominion control, we’re only limited to how far we can penetrate into their lands for now.”

“And we kenna do much with our wee’ hands tied havin’ ter babysit them Elsies.” Benavidez grumbled in his low baritone.

“Indeed we are.” Jiang had agreed with a nod. “I’ll talk again to the LACS, Isidis military and Major Gabriel to see if any one of them can do anything about bringing the rest of our troops over from Tharsis earlier, but we’ll have to work with what we have for now.”

“It’s winter,” Benavidez had winked at the group, “we can hope fer some magic, don’t ya know?”

“I’d rather we have some solid BattleMech steel if you don’t mind.” Jiang smacked the big man on a shoulder. “Until that time, I guess we’ll have to make do with guessing the mindboggling possibilities of hardware the Dominion techs are slapping on their IndustrialMechs.”

“Meh!” The hulk of a man retorted with a snort. “Gimme my wee’ Grenadier and it won’t matter. I’ll tear ‘em limp ter limp, and then we’ll show ‘em what REAL hardware looks like.”

Benavidez shook the memory of the meeting back at the LACS field base from his mind. The man chided himself mentally. All this forlickin’ in ter snow’s makin’ me brain turn ter slosh. He waited for another hour before he adjusted his prone body after the small group of Dominion forces had moved on, pushing himself down from the position he had been laying in for the better part of three hours. Chicken walker with ‘em pair of rocket launchers and pea shooter guns. Da kinda piss I ‘ave ter remember. For the umpteenth time, Benavidez shook his head and wished for the relative comfort his Battle Armour suit would had given him as he prepared to send the latest report back to base on his comms.

blackpanzer

  • Sergeant
  • *
  • Posts: 178
*FLASHBACK*
TSS KRASNY OKTYABR
Union Class Drop Ship
LAAF GRAIL
Cavanaugh II
Gawain Continent
Registered Contract: PR-RR-06-02
Cavanaugh System
Lyran Alliance
November 1st, 3100
0903 hours, local time


Kevin McShane settled into the ground commander’s work station, pulling the seat restraint straps tight, before making eye contact with Captain 1st Rank Vladimir Mukhin, master and commander of the TSS KRASNY OKTYABR. As the last of the Union Class Drop Ship’s readiness reports were vocalized, confirming the ship’s crew’s readiness to lift, Captain 1st Rank Vladimir Mukhin winked at Kevin, then turned to Captain Lieutenant Andrei Grindos, the Ship's XO, and Lieutenant Pasha Demidov, Head Pilot.

“Captain Lieutenant Grindos, lift. Take us up.” Captain 1st Rank Mukhin ordered.

“Pilot.” Captain Lieutenant Grindos spoke one word, but said it with the authority of an order.

Lieutenant Pasha Demidov opened a channel to the Control Tower. “LAAF GRAIL Ground Control, this is TSS KRASNY OKTYABR. Request clearance to lift, over.”

Seconds passed, and Major Kevin McShane looked around the command bridge. All crew members were at their stations, all of them watching Lieutenant Pasha Demidov, as if they were watching the actions that were unfolding outside the drop ship. As the Lieutenant’s fingers flew across his key board, Kevin could feel the vibration of the Union Class Drop Ship as the engine were brought on line.

“TSS KRASNY OKTYABR, you are cleared for lift off. Winds aloft are at 18 knots, south, south east. Tower is 3 degrees, north, upon lifting, come about to heading 275 degrees, angels 10,000, and maintain position for 12 mics. Upon completion of station keeping drill, you are cleared for orbit. Safe Travels.” LAAF GRAIL Ground Control announced, giving a more permanent feel for the newly re-established Lyran Alliance military base.

“TSS KRASNY OKTYABR copies, 275 degrees, angels 10, station keeping 12 mics. Stay Sharp, Ground. TSS KRASNY OKTYABR, out.” As Lieutenant Pasha Demidov secured the channel, he increased the thrust, and Kevin could feel and hear and the 35,000 ton drop ship pushed up off the ground, rotating as it rose, then swinging around, to the south, clockwise. Moving quickly to the position he was directed to, Lieutenant Pasha Demidov hailed the ship’s crew once more, getting updates as to the drop ship’s airworthiness, preparation and readiness. Once all sections reported in, Lieutenant Pasha Demidov announced over the 1MC to the entire drop ship. “Now hear this, set condition Zebra. All units prepare for orbit, and weightlessness.”

 Lieutenant Pasha Demidov then looked over at Captain 1st Rank Vladimir Mukhin.

“Station keeping is complete, da?” Captain 1st Rank Vladimir Mukhin questioned.

“All sections green, all sections report ship is secured.” Lieutenant Pasha Demidov reported.

“Take us into orbit, Pilot.” Captain 1st Rank Vladimir Mukhin ordered.

“Roger.” Lieutenant Pasha Demidov confirmed. Again, the noise level rose, and the Union Class Drop Ship swayed, the forward section angling up, the deck slanting as the drop ship fought against gravity and won. As the drop ship pushed up through the atmosphere, the pilot switched his attention between the monitor before him, and the computer screen set into his work station. Keying several sequences, Kevin observed the monitor mounted on the bulkhead change, now showing a navigation track, to the Zenith Jump Point. 3 jump ships were at station keeping, 2 of them showing military tags, belonging to the 4th Alliance Guards, the Lyran Alliance unit currently relieving the Black Talon Phoenix Mercenary Command on Cavanaugh II. A light pulsed, denoting the third jump ship. and the tag associated with it indicated the light pulse belonged to the LAMS FITZGERALD, a Lyran Alliance Merchant Jump Ship. Kevin knew from his briefing, that the LAMS FITZGERALD was a Monolith Class Jump Ship, which was a decommissioned military jumper. She had started out in the Lyran service over eight hundred years ago and had been severely damaged during the FedCom -Lyran Alliance Civil War. Once repaired, the jump ship had been transferred into the merchant service.
 
As part of the mercenary company contract that Lieutenant General Lance McRaven had received from Lieutenant General Regan, and Major Kevin McShane had accepted, the LAMS FITZGERALD was to transport the TSS KRASNY OKTYABR, and The Mangudai, by extension, to Poulsbo. Once there, they would receive the final briefing, with updated intelligence, refit, rearm and resupply, to allow them to prosecute the contract to its fullest. With 2 days travel to the Cavanaugh II jump point, Kevin had plenty of time to study the contract, and the intelligence and information that had been supplied with it.
Kevin opened his work center, logging in to the security protocol, so it would allow him to view the files contained within. Opening the secure file that he kept on the drive, Kevin looked for the alpha numeric identifier for the upcoming contract. PY – RR – 06 – 02. The type of contract was listed as a reconnaissance raid, working for the Lyran Alliance, in the Periphery. Planet listed was New Mars, which was just over the border from Poulsbo, the way Kevin understood it. Pulling up the Star Map in the file, Kevin looked at see the big picture, before getting down to specifics.

 

3 Jumps from Cavanaugh II to Poulsbo, and then, once they were ready, 5 Jumps to New Mars. Looking at the map, New Mars was in the Periphery, Kevin saw, and actually shared a border with the Circinus Federation and the Lyran Alliance.

Seeing it laid out before him, Kevin decided he needed to dig in, and understand the movement plan. From the initial briefing they had received on Cavanaugh II, all travel was to be within the Lyran Alliance, until they jumped off into the Periphery. Jumping through the Circinus Federation, they would save 1 Jump, but then the Circinus Federation would know where they were going. Due to the rough and tumble nature of the Periphery, the less that was known of their travel and destination, the better chance their reconnaissance would be, especially if it turned out to truly be a raid.
Digging further, Kevin next studied the terms listed in the contract.

Registered Contract: PY-RR-06-02

Region:    Periphery
 
System:    New Mars   
Galactic Coordinates:    X: -458.2 Y: -37.65   
Days to Jump Point:    8 days   
Planet:    New Mars

Primary Planetary Climate:    Temperate   
Approximate Population:    1 Million People    
Capital City:    Randis   
    
Contract Type:    Recon Raid

Primary Operational Terrain:    Badlands   
Contract Duration:    6 Months negotiable    
Employer:    Lyran Alliance

Employer Contact:    Damad Sandaker   
Command Rights:    Independent Command   
Forces Recommended:    A Company Strength Detachment   
Supporting Forces:    LACS Exploration Team   
Enemy Forces:    Pirates   
Supplement Contracts Offered:    Objective Raid

Bounty:    120,000,000.00 upon completion of terms   
Minimum Bounty:    40,000,000.00   
Bonus Salvage Category:    Type-C Salvage   

PLANETARY DETAILS:
SYSTEM INFO:
Star Type: F7II
Position in System: 2
Recharging Station: None
ComStar Facility Class: None
Moon: 1 Volcroth
Surface gravity: 0.95
Atmospheric pressure: Standard (Breathable)
Equatorial temperature: 37° C (Temperate)
Surface water: 68%
Percentage and Level of Native Life: Avian
Military Leader: Various Pirate Warlords
Political Leader: Various Pirate Warlords

The money being offered for a 6 month contract, where the employer was providing the supplies, was very good. The salvage clause was even better. In this case, because there was no other military units traveling or operating with them, meant that the Black Talon Phoenix Mercenary Command, and the Mangudai, to be more specific, would be claiming all the salvage found, but would be sharing any intelligence gathered. So, any war materials, mechs, combat vehicles or aerospace fighters defeated or found, could be salvaged exclusively by the Mangudai. Kevin loved that clause, but with the limited intelligence that they had received so far, Kevin had a feeling they would be earning every piece that they salvaged. Seeing the last part of the planetary details, Kevin knew his feeling was going to come true. 2 words grabbed him. Pirate Warlords. This hinted at a lack of government, at least in the normal sense. The pirates were bound to have a pecking order, but they usually didn’t work well together. This meant Kevin would have to be careful in his dealings with the different factions, unless he wanted the others teaming up and trying to take out the leader that they were working with. It also meant they would probably be facing off with a hodge podge of mechs and other combat vehicles. Hard to plan out any contingencies, until they got on the ground, and gathered intelligence on the composition of the units they found there. It also meant their enemy was not bound by honor, or any other rules of engagement.

LACS Exploration Team could prove worrisome also. The Mangudai would need to safeguard the Civil Services Division and their equipment, to make sure the pirates didn’t stop them from gathering the information and samples that they wanted to collect.
Turning to the Employer Situation Report, Kevin looked to see just what generalizations the Lyran Alliance High Command had agreed for their military units to perform. It was laid out in a series of objectives.

EMPLOYER SITUATION REPORT:

Our own LIC can tell us almost nothing about this enigmatic little world that produces an abundance of crops to feed the Lyran populace. The Lyran Alliance Civil Services Division has obtained authorization to dispatch an Exploration Expedition to New Mars. Our Expedition Forces will consist of a Lance of Shackleton All-Environment Survey Vehicle (AESV), a Mammoth Class Drop Ship, of which one of its five massive cargo decks capable of holding a little more than 8,000 tons of cargo will be designated for your use, a QR 243 HPG Relay Satellite, that our Exploration team will deploy into a geostationary orbit around New Mars, and a Scout Class Jump Ship.

The political and military face on the planet is unknown. Our LIC Agents indicate that it’s a ‘fluid’ situation and that any given Warlord will claim that it is he or she who is the Rules Maker. We require two objectives of your command, Protection and Reconnaissance.

We need you to guard our Exploration Team and to uncover who is actually the Warlord in charge of New Mars.

PRIMARY OBJECTIVES:

1) Make sure the Shackletons are returned to the Lyran Alliance
2) Ensure that the QR 243 HPG Relay Satellite is deployed and functioning

SECONDARY OBJECTIVES:

1) Determine which Warlord is the Political Leader
2) Determine which Warlord is the Military Leader

Kevin paused his reading and started over. When he got to the section that had caused him to pause the first time, he stopped again. Taking a minute, Kevin studied the part of the sentence that had caught his attention twice, almost to the point of distraction.

“a Mammoth Class Drop Ship, of which one of its five massive cargo decks capable of holding a little more than 8,000 tons of cargo will be designated for your use, a QR 243 HPG Relay Satellite, that our Exploration team will deploy into a geostationary orbit around New Mars, and a Scout Class Jump Ship.”

‘One of its five massive cargo decks, capable of holding 8,000 tons of cargo, will be designated for your use.’ That seemed to be suggesting that the Mangudai would be transshipping on board the Mammoth Class Drop Ship. This was further supported by the Scout Class Jump Ship. Scout Class Jump Ships only had 1 docking collar. Kevin’s brow furrowed as he tried to grasp the significance of it all. Without the TSS KRASNY OKTYABR, they would be without a defensive hard point, should the situation go south. If it went south in a hurry, they would also be without a fast withdrawal, or even a hot drop offensive platform. So, they would need to plan out a series of contingencies, for what they would do, in different situations. Kevin had served in contracts where the employer had been responsible for all the transportation assets, and he was not very comfortable with the arrangements, each time. So, Kevin had made a note in the margin, first, to get a hold of Lieutenant General McRaven, to have him try and negotiate for a different transportation plan. One that would allow the TSS KRASNY OKTYABR to transport and support them all. Secondly, he needed to work up his arguments to present to Lieutenant General Regan, or his representative, when they arrived, to see if the Lyrans might change the contract provisions, without Lieutenant General McRaven getting involved.

Starting through the situation again, Kevin stopped at the mention of a ‘QR 243 HPG Relay Satellite.’ The QR 243 HPG Relay Satellite was Clan tech and had a number of uses. 1st, and most obvious, was as an HPG Relay.   Since the planet did not have any type of HPG or ComStar Facilities, there was no way to communicate quickly with anyone they might need to call out to. To get any word out, the Scout Class Jump Ship would have to jump out of system, broadcast any message it had been given, and then jump back in. With this satellite, this would not be required. The Clans deployed these satellites to maximize their surveillance of systems occupied by enemy forces as well as allowing normal communication between allied systems. So, it could be used as a spy satellite, or be tied in with other satellites to provide a proper satellite network, that could report back to the Lyran Alliance. Kevin was sure that if the pirates knew anything beyond the ‘communications’ aspect of this satellite, they would go out of their way to try and destroy or disable it.

Another paragraph that needed to be examined was “The political and military face on the planet is unknown. Our LIC Agents indicate that it’s a ‘fluid’ situation and that any given Warlord will claim that it is he or she who is the Rules Maker. We require two objectives of your command, Protection and Reconnaissance.” “Fluid” hinted at a stay of unrest or war. Maybe a tug of war within the pirate bands would cause a situation that could pull The Mangudai into a war they didn’t want to be involved in. Once embroiled, they would have a very hard time of extricating themselves from it, without suffering a catastrophe. Protection and reconnaissance could mean they would have to suffer through a defensive posture, until getting the exploration team out, and reconnaissance meant they would need to put themselves at risk, until they understood the current political and military climate. Plus, with no real authority on planet, other than other pirates, there was no hope for help or reinforcement.

Kevin had a lot of experience with ‘fluid’ situations, as had most of his command lance. Kevin had even worked in the Periphery before, both with the Black Talon Phoenix Mercenary Command as well as on his own. The most recent time was in the employ of the Black Talon Phoenix Mercenary Command, working in tandem with Major Harley Rassor and Able’s Aces, of Otisberg and Gillfillian’s Gold, on The Rack, in the Rim Collection, fighting Morrison’s Extractors. The majority of the Extractors were killed or imprisoned, but ‘King’ Hopper Morrison and several of his staff managed to escape, along with a small band of pirates. The Rack, and Pain, were both liberated. This allowed for the Rim Collection government to hire Able’s Aces in a more permanent sense, offering them regular military status. They were in fact indoctrinated in as the Rim Collection Regimental Combat Team. Kevin stayed in contact, monitoring the union created, and was glad to see that both sides were benefitting from the deal.

Looking at the contract before him once again, Kevin saw that the planet of New Mars was divided into 5 continents.  7 oceans and seas were also documented.

Looking at the surface map of the planet’s surface, wanting to visually recon it, and identify the continents and oceans splitting them up. Kevin tried to imagine the conditions they could face. 5 continents, split by 4 oceans. For a system like New Mars, where oceans covered up to nearly seventy percent of the planet’s surface, it limited growth, based on the commercial and corporate profits each year, keeping it from becoming more wide spread. One major space port, the Randis Interstellar Space & Sea Port was the space port, air port, and sea port for most residents of this world. Randis was also the planetary capital, probably due to its size and physical location. Of course, there were other drop pads, but most of them were owned and controlled by the corporate fisheries, and agro farms. These drop pads would probably be automated, for the most part, but Kevin made a note of each location, and saved it to the map he was compiling, which he would transfer to his mech once they were on the ground. Good contingencies allowed one to grow old. Satisfied that he had examined the contract enough for now, Kevin quickly jotted down his questions, then turned his attention to the actions taking place on the drop ship’s bridge. He had plenty of time to examine the contract and maps further. Turning off his computer, Kevin nodded to Captain 1st Rank Vladimir Mukhin, and made his way off the bridge.

blackpanzer

  • Sergeant
  • *
  • Posts: 178
TSS KRASNY OKTYABR
Union Class Drop Ship
LAAF BANGOR
Poulsbo
Bangor Base
Bangor City
Registered Contract: PR-RR-06-02
Cavanaugh Theatre
Lyran Alliance
November 30th, 3100
1018 hours, local time


As they neared the main hubris of the base, Kevin could see a cluster of buildings, with one building standing out from the others. Tall, taller than the control tower on the other end of the field, it was also painted white, which made it stand out from the other gray toned buildings. It also had some sort of artwork or mural covering its sides. Looking closer, Kevin saw what appeared to be a Victor Assault mech, riding a wave on a surf board. The works “PUTTHAMMMERS” in raised bold print letters were scrolled on the bottom of it. Kevin had worked with the 36th Lyran Guard in the past, but only as part of an allied push, fighting ULTRA, and had never seen this graphic, which represented the unit’s emblem. Kevin thought it bold that they had it painted across the face of the commander’s building, but then, the Lyran Alliance Military Command had always been one for bold action. Kevin could not figure out why a military command, and one that was storied by confict, would have adopted such an icon.

As they passed through the various drop pads, the Kevin identified an Excaliber Drop Ship, 2 Overlords, several Mules and several Unions, set back across the field.  At least 3 of the drop ships had some sort of activity, loading or unloading, going on. Arriving at the administration building, where his meeting was to take place, Kevin nodded. Of course, it had to be the building with the mural on it.

The 36th Lyran Guards were a storied unit, so the aide had plenty to say. All Kevin really picked up from the man’s ramblings were that this was a memorized, much rehearsed speech. Kevin did note rather quickly that the captain, and all other command staff passing him were wearing mechanized infantry uniforms as well. The 36th Lyran Guard was a combined arms unit, but based on his observations, Kevin was willing to bet that Lieutenant General Regan had been a mechanized infantry commander. So, he would not be easy to sway, at least based on Kevin being a mechwarrior. No mutual experience stories to influence his questions or comments.

Kevin had barely taken a sip of his black coffee, when a portion of the wall to his right slid open. Standing framed in the opening was a Lyran Alliance lieutenant general, in a mechanized infantry officer’s uniform, resplendent with medal and ribbons. (Just like he had imagined him.) The man’s hair appeared freshly cut, and his mustache was meticulously trimmed. As the man approached, his arms held behind him, Kevin took note that the man was shorter than him, by at least six inches. The man wore a slight frown on his face,  as he observed Kevin, and Kevin could imagine it had to do with his choice of dress. This was a man used to a certain amount of formality. The fact that Kevin was not wearing his dress uniform was received as a sign of disrespect. The man’s expression was easy to read. Any type of uniform would probably have been acceptable, but the fact that Kevin was wearing a black Leather trench coat, Solaris VII Centopach Stables red and black t-shirt, military issue camouflage trousers, tucked into jack boots seemed to have delivered some sort of insult to the Flag grade officer. Kevin winked, and pasted a smile on his face, intent on not letting this man get under his skin.
 
Kevin set his coffee cup down, slowly, and drew himself to up into a position of attention. Much as he hated to play this game, he was well versed in it.  “Major Kevin McShane, 1st Company, 1st Battalion, Black Talon Phoenix Mercenary Command, reporting at the behest of Lieutenant General Amitage Regan, and Lieutenant General Lance McRaven.”

“Major, is it?” Major General Regan said with a smirk. “I understand your commander allows certain deviations from military courtesies and customs, but I do not. Major, I find your choice of dress to be very disrespectful. Had I known you would choose to attend this briefing in just such attire, I would have ordered you to report in full dress. I am not known for my flexibility when it comes to rules and regulations, and you have pushed me to my limit. As such, I am going to excuse you, for your lack of decorum, and chalk it up to your having to travel so far and so fast. I am going to blame it on your travel lag. Of course, personally, I am insulted, so I am going to excuse myself, and have my aide come in to brief you. Please, make yourself comfortable, of my generosity, as I get Captain Burba over here.” Lieutenant General Regan said, his sarcasm so heavy it dripped from each word. “I will be sending your commanding officer a full report of this meeting, and my disapproval. You, I am sure, have not heard the last of this.”

As Lieutenant General Regan moved back the way he had come, Kevin could not help but reply. “Pleasure meeting you as well, General. Glad to see that a line officer of your caliber is able to understand the difference between House military units and mercenaries. You have yourself a fine day.” Kevin’s grin was full of cockiness, and a hint of challenge. Lieutenant General Regan did not rise to the bait but continued to exit the room. ‘Oh well,’ Kevin thought, ‘that went well.’ With a shake of his head, Kevin refilled his coffee cup, and sat down. ‘Might as well get comfortable.’ Pulling a flask out of his coat’s inner pocket, Kevin poured a slug into his cup. ‘Hate coffee that is too weak.’ Holding the cup up to the ceiling in a silent toast, Kevin took a swig. ‘Just right.’

Kevin had just finished off his cup of coffee, when Captain Burba entered the room. Kevin almost laughed out loud, seeing the diminutive, bespectacled, mousy looking officer. Just what he had come to expect from the short time he had spent in Lieutenant General Regan’s presence. Didn’t say much for the renowned “Putthammers”, but Kevin would hold his own counsel after the briefing.

Captain Burba set down several folders of hard data, and pushed his glasses back up onto the bridge of his nose. Major McShane continued to sit, one leg draped over the arm of his chair. Captain Burba looked around, as if confused by Kevin’s lack of movement. So, Kevin decided to help him adjust.

“Carry on, Captain. Let’s not stand on formality. Why don’t you just fill me in on what you have gathered together there, and we will be able to get to a conclusion that much more swiftly.” Kevin said, with a wink and a grin.

“Uh, right.” Captain Burba replied. “Well, then, as I am sure you are aware, the Black Talon Phoenix Mercenary Command has accepted a contract for employment in the New Mars System. It is in the Near Periphery, just outside the Lyran Alliance.” Captain Burba opened up the first folder, right on top, and paused, taking a minute to refresh himself on what the folder contained. Nodding slowly to himself, he spoke again. “So, from the looks of your contract, you are to join with the Lyran Alliance Civil Services Division, who will be fielding an expedition force consisting of a Lance of Shackleton All-Environment Survey Vehicles (AESV).” Looking up from his reading he paused again, as if seeing Kevin once again, an becoming confused by what he saw, versus what he expected. “Excuse me Major McShane?” Captain Burba queried.

Kevin just smiled and nodded, wholly enjoying the effect he was having on the young officer.

“You see, it’s just that,…, I mean, well, you see, … “ Captain Burba stammered.

“Kid, Captain, whatever.  Look, my name is Major Kevin McShane. I represent the Mangudai, and What I mean by that, is that part, parcel and whole, the Mangudai, 1st Company, 1st Battalion of the Black Talon Phoenix Mercenary Command is my command. I run a striker company, and I am very talented in working my way through most battle mech commands, and pirates as a specialty.” Kevin grinned. “I have been fighting since, at my guess, long before you were even a twinkle in your father’s eye. I do not play well with others, but I am very good at what I do, do. And, what I do is kill people and break things. So, don’t waste my time, let me know what I need to do, and what I am going to have to do what I do, and then get out of my way so I can do it. Like I said, I am very good at what I am about.” Kevin said, reaching into his inner pocket, and pulling out a cigar. Biting the end off one end, spitting it onto the table next to him, Kevin began licking and sucking on the end, in preparation of lighting it.

“Please, sir, Major….you see, … The General will not allow smoking in the building.” Captain Burba announced.

“Who is going to tell him?” Kevin quipped. “certainly not me. What he doesn’t know won’t hurt him.” Kevin reached into his pocket again, pulling out his lighter.

“Major, please. I beg of you. Please do not light that in here.” Captain Burba gulped. Sweat had broken out on the young man’s face, bringing an even bigger smile to Kevin’s face.

“Well then,” Kevin suggested, “I guess you had better hurry up and get to the facts. I am not one to put off smoking a perfectly good cigar, after a cup of strong coffee.”

“Very well. We need a veteran mercenary company to provide escort for Lyran Alliance Civil Service explorers. They are going to New Mars, hoping to perform several survey missions, in 4 different locations. When first established, this contract was going to be granted to one company. Since it’s initial inception, it has been revised several times.” Captain Burba pulled the bottom file folder out, opening it, and scanned the hard copy within. “We currently have no less than 3 mercenary companies involved now, and, I might add, not all of them are mech commands.”

Kevin leaned forward, his brow furrowing. “Wait. Stop right there. What do you mean to say, when you say no less than 3 merc units? Are you supplementing the contract? What does that do to the bounty and salvage clauses? I need you to hear this captain, because I Do Not Plan On Sharing. Period. Get me?”

“Yes, Major, please relax.” Captain Burba said nervously. “We are offering full terms to each and every unit involved. Full compensation, and salvage is granted versus the unit that incurs the conflict.”

“So, in other words, I keep what I kill?” Major McShane questioned.

“Absolutely.” Captain Burba replied.

“Good. Wait. So, what does that do for transport? I mean, according to the initial contract, we were to travel to New Mars aboard a Mammoth Drop Ship. That can’t still be the plan, can it?” Kevin continued, trying to wrap his hands around the changes as the captain spoke.

No, like I just said, the situation is very fluid. You will be limited to one drop ship. I trust you will want to take the one you arrived in?” At Kevin’s nod, Captain Burba continued. “We will still be deploying you in a Scout Class Jump Ship, so it can only take 1 drop ship at a time. We don’t want the war lords to think we are invading. We want to seem like we are there to help, not hurt.” At Kevin’s cross look, Captain Burba continued quickly. “Not that I think they will over react like that, we are just trying to be careful. We are moving each unit in separately, at varying times.”

Kevin sat quietly, chewing the end of his cigar, digesting what Captain Burba had just said.

“So, the war lords. Still no clearer picture as to what is going on there?” Kevin asked. He scrutinized Captain Burba’s expression, looking for any guile.

“No. That is still the situation. You will need to see what you see, and report back. Of course, if you find a situation you can influence, with a war lord who seems inclined to favor the Lyran Alliance, then take what ever steps are needed to solidify that relationship. The Lyran Alliance wants to develop an ally on New Mars.” Captain Burba replied, his expression neutral.

“In other words, The Lyran Alliance can always use another system to guide and protect.” Kevin said with a laugh. Should I advise them to expect a visit from an envoy of the Lyran Alliance?”

“No Major, you are definitely putting the cart before the horse, as they used to say. We, the Lyran Alliance, are simply looking to develop relationships in the Periphery, and this survey is but the first step in that relationship. I am sure you can see your way clear to represent that direction. Of course, as per the contract, any resistance to this survey, can be handled by the unit on ground, in whatever way, up to and including removal of that resistance.”

“Ok then. So, now we need to talk supplies and travel itinery. I have a complete list of the aerospace fighters, mechs and battle armor suits I have on board the TSS KRASNY OCTYABR. We have armor, re-suppy and repair parts, but after being involved on Cavanaugh II, we could use approximately 30% restock on these items, as well as food stuffs and standard supplies. I have prepared the lists on this data crystal I have in my pocket,” Kevin said, reaching into his pocket, pulling it out and brandishing it. “Is that something I can look forward to, since we are moving forward of the Lyran Alliance border, and will be pretty much on our own?”

“Of course, Major. Lieutenant General Regan said to make sure we top off your resources, to help you succeed at your mission.” Captain Burba reached for the data crystal. “If you would let me have that, and your drop ship’s communications information, I will get it processed through our supply system, and will alert you when all is in readiness. Our Scout Jump Ship is currently deployed, but I will also let you know when it arrives back in system, so you can meet the captain, and work out your debarkation preparations. Until then, please make your selves at home, but bear in mind this is a military base, and one needs to follow the rules.”

“Of course, Captain, whatever you say. After all, you are our host.” Kevin said with a wink. “I am sure we will meet again.” With that, Kevin stood, turned towards the door he had come through, and flicking his ever present lighter, lit his cigar. Riding down in the lift, Kevin puffed away at his cigar subconsciously. They didn't have to worry about getting seperated from the TSS KRASNY OCTYABR, but before this was over, what would they become seperated from.

blackpanzer

  • Sergeant
  • *
  • Posts: 178
Zenith Jump Point
Reykavis System
Marian Hegemony
Free Worlds League Anti-Spinward Periphery
27th November 3100
1600 hours local time


There has always been a general perception that since JumpShips were designed specifically to transport DropShips from one system to another, making jumps of up to thirty light years at one go, they were engineering contraptions that were fragile and skeletal. Indeed, the purpose of JumpShip designs revolved around two pieces of technology – the Kearny-Fuchida drive that made faster than light travel possible and docking hardpoints to ferry DropShips between star systems. However, such a claim could only be made when JumpShips were compared to other space faring vessels like DropShips as well as massively armoured and armed WarShips.

Even one of the smallest JumpShip designs, the Scout class, weighed in at ninety thousand tons and measured nearly three hundred metres in length. One of, if not THE largest JumpShip ever built, the Monolith class was over seven hundred and fifty metres long with an unladen weight of nearly half a million tons.

Yet, even a flotilla of these massive space vessels would be nothing more than a sprinkling of sand in the vastness of space.

It was with that perspective that DropShip Captain Fogarty Fegen felt once again how miniscule and insignificant he was in the universal scale of things. In the silence and vacuum of space, the ADS Jervis Bay, a Seeker class DropShip was making steady progress towards its ride out of the Marian Hegemony system of Reykavis – the ADS Albouy’s Point, an Invader class JumpShip. From a distance, the Invader appeared nothing larger than the size of a thermal water flask. However, Feden knew that it measured over half a kilometre long. Following in the fusion fuelled plumes’ wake of the Bay were two other much larger DropShips – the ADS San Demetrio, an Aqueduct liquid carrier DropShip and the ‘ADS Emile Francqui’, a Mule class DropShip. Hanging in the space between the ADS Albouy’s Point and the trio of DropShips, a pair of Sparrowhawk light AeroSpace Fighters provided token escort to the convoy. Even though they were along the borders of the Free Worlds League and Marian Hegemony, there had been little to provoke aggression between the two factions in recent memory. With the FWLM seemingly focused more on matters within the Inner Sphere and indeed, within itself, the Hegemony had concentrated on their long running conflict against the Circinus Federation.



Not that any of these mattered to the Akbar Dominion of course.

Since the time of early space travel, exploration and colonization, cargo JumpShips configured as tankers were already in existence. However, it had always been the case that individually, these so-called tankers were not commercially viable back in their days to supply bulk amounts of water to dry worlds. Rather, governmental agencies usually foot the bills for these ‘water runs’ to their faraway, fledging and parched colonies.

In at least one instance, IceShips described as "huge vessels capable of transporting millions of gallons of water across interstellar distances" plied the massive black ocean space around the year 2600. These IceShips seemed to be larger and were considerably more profitable to operate than their early twenty second century forebearers, with new vessels being continuously constructed despite the IceShip technology being considered outdated in the face of increasingly more advanced water purification technologies. One of the most famous and notable corporation in the business, Curtiss Hydrosystems was said to have operate over three dozen active IceShips, the sole lifeline to over a dozen Free Worlds League systems including Jubka and Ayn Tarma. By 3067, they were managing more than fifty of these fragile vessels.

In 2177, the Ryan IceShip Cartel patented and implemented a new IceShip technology, allowing crews to cut massive blocks of ice from the asteroid belts of uninhabited systems before transporting them to inhabited systems using a formation of JumpShips, which exponentially increased the amount of ice that could be transported compared to the ice or water being carried on individual JumpShips or tanker DropShips. The rate of extra-terrestrial colonization was greatly accelerated by the increased availability and quality of water provided by the Ryan Cartel.  The cartel's IceShips stimulated the colonization of many worlds previously believed only marginally habitable.
 
The Ryan Ice Cartel would continue to operate as the primary supplier of vital water through to the formation of the First Star League. But that all changed in the wake of the Reunification War, when League engineers developed a new water purification procedure half the size and a third the cost of any previous water purification system and significantly cheaper to operate over importing water via IceShips. Once again, the new invention made it economically more feasible to settle Inner Sphere worlds previously ignored during the Exodus as well as providing many already settled worlds with an unexpected economic boom.

As fewer and fewer worlds relied on its service, the Ryan Cartel was nearly driven bankrupt. By 2688 the remaining assets of the Cartel's IceShip Division were bought up by Curtiss Hydroponics, the League based manufacturer of water purification systems. Conducted more out of pride than sound business practice, Ryan Cartel would continue to lose millions before better management and cost cutting measures stabilized its finances.

As the Star League teetered on the brink of collapse in the wake of the Amaris Coup, Curtiss began production of five new vessels for the Ryan IceShip Division, the first of their kind built in almost two centuries. The fortuitous acquisition of the Ryan Cartel helped the company to weather the maelstrom of the Succession Wars as the slide of technology once again made construction of IceShips, sale of ice and water both increasingly vital and highly profitable.

Despite conducting its business without dedicated IceShips, relying instead on large capacity DropShips to transport water drawn from New Mars’ vast northern oceans, the Akbar Dominion still has considerable freedom and ability to choose customers. Other than for cold hard cash, the Dominion also accepted barter trade, exchanging their water for equally precious and life saving commodities like medical supplies. And then, there were the military hardware and weapons.

With the Circinus Federation and Marian Hegemony having little to offer other than their indigenously manufactured machines of war, the Dominion got to fill their ranks with second hand and salvaged military hardware, as well as products fresh off the factories on Baltazar III, Alphard, Leximon, Illyria, Pompey and Horatius.

Hardware like those that filled half the cargo holds of ADS Jervis Bay. Two weeks ago, the trio of Dominion DropShips had just delivered over forty thousand tons of water to the arid world of Reykavis. In exchange, all sorts of military hardware had been loaded onto the three Dominion DropShips consisting of items ranging from ammunition to radio transceivers, infantry weapons and armoured vests, to much larger machines like Harasser and Gladius hover tanks, assortment of tracked and wheeled armoured personnel carriers and a twenty five ton Commando light ‘Mech. There was even a wrecked carcass of an UrbanMech that had been loaded onto the cargo hold of the ADS Emile Francqui, hauled onboard on no less than half a dozen separate trailers. Fegen had grinned in spite of himself. Whoever could put the war machine together – if an UrbanMech could indeed be graced with such a tag, would be nothing less than a worker of miracles.

“The Albouy’s Point is hailing us on the open channel Captain.” The report from his Chief Mate brought Fegen out of his musings. “Shall I patch it through to your station?”

Captain Fogarty Fegen took a deep breath to clear the cobwebs from his mind before he replied. “Negative. We know what’s coming. Put the open channel on the PA, Mister Byam.”

“Roger that Captain.”

A sudden and shrill shriek cackled for a second over the public announcement system onboard the Seeker before clearing up almost immediately. “Convoy HX84, this is the Albouy’s Point. Welcome back.”

“Captain Purvis! You and your crew missed the party on Reykavis.” Addressing the Captain of the Invader class JumpShip, the gruff voice of Captain Conrad Vidot of the ADS San Demetrio was instantly recognizable.

“Captain Vidot, I’ve been on Reykavis before you know.” Kennedy Purvis reminded the commander of the Aqueduct class DropShip with a chuckle. “I’m very sure I won’t be losing any sleep over my losses.”

Albouy’s Point, this is Jervis Bay.” The voice of Fegen’s Chief Mate cut in again. “Requesting confirmation of docking sequence and assigned collar.”

The shadow of a smile tugged at the corner of Fegen’s lips as he observed the proceedings on the captain’s seat on his Seeker’s bridge. The ADS Albouy’s Point, the ADS San Demetrio, the ADS Emile Francqui and his own ADS Jervis Bay had been working together for nearly five years, having undertaken uncountable number of ‘water runs’ for the Akbar Dominion. The combination of the ability of the Aqueduct to hold massive quantities of liquid store, the Mule’s storage capacity of all sorts of solid cargo and the Seeker’s above average speed and flexible configurable military transport bays made the team a good fit to deliver water drawn from New Mars’ norther oceans and bringing back all sorts of return freight. They had since reached an understanding that unless there were any reasons for change, similar docking and undocking sequences would be observed with each of the three DropShips always assigned to the same docking collars. Even if the JumpShip or any one of the DropShips were to work as part of a different team, such a practise had long been established as the standard operating procedure for Akbar Dominion convoys transporting water and returning back to New Mars. Any deployed AeroSpace Fighters or small craft would be retrieved last. The fact that his Chief Mate has requested for the information had easily betrayed his inexperience.

“Is that the newb we were told about, Fegen?” Vidot’s voice replied coarsely. “Must be eh? ‘S that you Byam?”

Albouy’s Point, this is Jervis Bay.” Guy Byam repeated stubbornly. “Requesting confirmation of docking sequence and assigned collar.”

“Well, seems like you’ve pissed off the boy, Vidot!” A new piercing voice with a jolting laugh joined in this time, that of Captain Florent Paret of the ADS Emile Francqui. “Not afraid of the big bad Captain Vidot eh? Seems like I should’ve put up more of a fight to get you to join my deck. Heck, if you’re raised half the Captain your old man was, I’d even consider offering my left arm for you!”

Stanley Byam had been one of the pioneer DropShip Captains employed by the Akbar Dominion to deliver water to other systems more than half a century ago. Together with several other enterprising Captains and engineers, Stanley Byam refined the still underdeveloped procedures and techniques. Byam senior and his founding cohort not only made ‘water runs’ highly efficient and profitable for the DropShips and crew, but were also hugely responsible for exploring and charting the numerous routes linking New Mars to other far flung systems.

“Give the boy a break you lot, it’s his first run after all.” Fogarty Fegen finally cut in the banter.

“Fegen, you know you’re gonna be cursed with a crew as boring as you are until the day you retire ya?” Vidot retorted with humour. “I don’t know what are things coming to nowadays. We Periphery backwater Captains can’t even work without a stick up our asses?”

“You spoilsport.” Captain Kennedy Purvis accused. “All DropShips, you three know the drill. Bring your ships back and get docked nice and proper. We’re already juiced up and ready to go. Next stop,” The commander of Albouy’s Point paused for a second before going on dramatically, “Uninhabited space!”



blackpanzer

  • Sergeant
  • *
  • Posts: 178
Nadir Jump Point
Uninhabited System
Unclaimed space Anti-Spinward of the Marian Hegemony & Circinus Federation
21st December 3100
0810 hours local time


After a jump, the K-F drive of a JumpShip must be recharged, which has always been a slow and delicate process even after centuries of jump technology usage. The most common practise was for the JumpShip to turn its stern towards the sun and deploy its jump sail, essentially a huge solar collector resembling a parachute about one kilometre in diameter.

Station keeping thrusters allowed the JumpShip to maintain its position at the jump point and countered the downward drift toward the local star induced from the faint solar gravity at the standard zenith and nadir jump points.

Using this traditional process, the jump drive could be recharged in six to nine days depending on the spectral class of the star. An alternative to the jump sail, though not usually practiced unless under the most dire of circumstances, would be to recharge the drive with the JumpShip's own power plant. As the delicate machinery of the K-F drive could not tolerate such treatment well, this was not a method any mentally lucid JumpShip Captain would usually employ.

Taking an oft used route established by decades of Akbar Dominion ‘water runs’, Convoy HX84 had made four jumps within Marian Hegemony space after leaving Reykavis, with each time heading deeper towards the anti-spinwards of the Hegemony and into the outer Periphery. While staying within the Hegemony would allow for some sort of security giving the friendly relationship between the Hegemony and the Dominion, every single stopover in systems controlled by the Marians would also necessitate additional delays, sometimes a couple of days’ worth, while paranoid local security ascertained their identities. The alternative of greasing the hands of said security posed a different set of problems all by themselves, as the ‘acceptable’ level of stipend seemed to rise after every encounter – usually by exponential leaps. Making a beeline towards uninhabited and unclaimed space out of the Hegemony would cut down all these shenanigans, forsaking the dubious protection offered by the Marian Hegemony in exchange for time and cost savings.

The downside of travelling in uninhabited space, as Convoy HX84 now regrettably faced, was the chance of encountering pirates with no help to call upon.

“They want us to stand down and allow them to board without resistance.” Captain Kennedy Purvis announced to the Captains of the three Dominion DropShips. “Claimed they’d only take whatever cargo onboard and will let us continue on our way as long as we cooperate.”

“I believe them,” Captain Florent Paret of the ADS Emile Francqui responded to Purvis with words heavily laced with sarcasm. “Like I believe in the tooth fairy.”

“They’re running a pair of Trojans off that Merchant with its pair of docking collars.” Captain Conrad Vidot of the San Demetrio pointed out. “That means they won’t be looking to grabbing one of our ships.”

“They can take our entire fleet if they just bring a JumpShip salvage crew onboard the Albouy’s Point.” Fegen highlighted. “Or they can just put guards on our bridge. Or, they could just kill us all and scuttle our ships just so that no one comes after them after they rob us blind.”

“My, aren’t you all sunshine and cookies.” On the bridge of his Invader class JumpShip, Purvis rolled his eyes and frowned. “Anyone with any other ideas that might give us at least a snowball’s chance in hell of surviving this?”

“Let me have a go at them first.” Fegen finally replied through tightened jaws. “The Jervis Bay’s the most well armoured of the three of us and the fastest. Once we pull at least one of them off course, you guys can hit them from their aft. I might have to slow down to allow you to move in on them, but I think the Bay can take a couple of their hits.”

“I don’t like it, but you might have a point there.”  Vidot reluctantly agreed. “Well, at least they don’t seem to have…” The Captain of the Mule class DropShip stopped midsentence as a pair of small dots separated from one of the pirate Trojan DropShip. “… fighters.”

“We have our own.” Fegen replied simply. “We won’t need to destroy them all. Just hurt them enough for them to encourage them to leave us alone.”

“I’m all for having a good go at them.” Paret sneered. “The Emile Francqui might not be a combat Dropper, but she’s far from teethless. Would be nice for us to chalk up a couple of kills of course.”

“Very well than,” Purvis summarized for the group, though his voice more than hinted that he wasn’t convinced with the hastily worked plan. “Let’s get the show on the road.”

Already detached from the ADS Albouy’s Point and facing the approaching pair of pirate DropShips, Fegen ordered the Jervis Bay to pull away from the Dominion employed JumpShip and the other pair of DropShips. The massively powerful quad RanTech fusion drive that accounted for almost a third of the Seeker’s mass roared and sent vibrations throughout the ship as it easily pushed the three thousand nine hundred ton military spheroid to three Gs of thrust.

Caught out by the sudden manoeuvre, the pirate DropShips seemed not to know what their next move should be. When they finally acted, it was a move totally unexpected by the Dominion flotilla – the pair of DropShips broke formation, one and its attendant pair of AeroSpace Fighters continuing its headlong charge towards the Albouy’s Point with the accompanying Aqueduct and [/i]Mule[/i] DropShips, while the other chased after Fegen’s Seeker.

“You seeing this Jervis Bay?” Purvis didn’t even try to conceal the incredulity in his voice.

“We can thank whatever God and deity each of us pray to after this for stupid pirates.” Fegen replied. “I’ll lead my tail around a bit, you boys smack that the other one nice and proper please.”

“Will be our collective pleasures, Jervis Bay,” Paret growled. “Don’t you go dying on us eh?”

“I wouldn’t dream of it Emile Francqui.” Captain Fogarty Fegen replied with a savage grin already forming on the sides of his lips.

Relying more upon its rather considerable maximum speed of 4G thrust to enter and flee hostile territory, the Seeker’s light weapons array was designed and geared towards lengthy independent operation, dominated by energy weapons. The nose bare, its forward facing armaments consisted of just twin particle projectile cannons, one on each side, while the aft quarters each mounted a ten tube long range missile launcher and large laser paired with twin medium lasers. The laser trio set up was further duplicated in the aft facing. That meant that unlike virtually all other DropShips, the ADS Jervis Bay has more firepower in its aft facing than that of its front.

At the same time, the Seeker class DropShip had always been renowned for its unique reconfigurable transport bays. The primary vehicle bay of the spheroid DropShip was capable of carrying forty light vehicles and separate living quarters were set aside for up to four platoons of infantry. The vessel also had two cargo bays – a larger thousand and two hundred ton capacity unit and another capable of holding four hundred plus tons, used for general supply storage including spare parts and ammunition, foodstuff and other equipment. Common practise by Seeker Captains and crew were to modify their vehicle bays to carry lesser vehicles, using the saved space to fit a lance of BattleMechs, a couple of AeroSpace Fighters bays, or other different combination and mix of cubicles types. However, the design could not carry these as effectively as dedicated 'Mech or fighter transports. In particular, launching and retrieving fighters would expend three times as long when compared to DropShips with dedicated Aerospace Fighter bays.

Easily holding at least half a G thrust of speed advantage over the pursuing Trojan, the Akbar Dominion Seeker was easily keeping a safe distance from the pirate space vessel. On a few occasions when the pirate was allowed to close, it fired off its large lasers and a couple of banks of its long range missiles. At such extreme range, the Seeker had more than enough time to dodge the attacks with ease. From time to time, Fegen would order his ship to slow down so as to allow the Trojan belief that it might actually catch its faster prey, before pulling away again. It took the pirate vessel nearly twenty minutes of futile pursuit before its Captain finally realized what the Jervis Bay had been doing.

“Enemy DropShip launching fighters Captain.” Guy Byam announced with a steady voice while his fingers flew across the controls to punch up information and data. “IFF says a pair of Hellcat AeroSpace Fighters.”

“Took them long enough.” Fegen mumbled as he shifted in his seat against his safety harness. His right hand ran through his hair as he looked at his First Mate. “Are our little birds ready?”

“Yes sir.” His Chief Mate reported. “Copper Lead and Copper One are on standby and ready to launch.”

“Alright than…” Fegen nodded in acknowledgement. “Pilot in Command, bring us down to fifty percent maximum and come to heading oh seven hundred forty five degree.”

“Aye Captain.” Byam replied and cleared his throat. “Reducing speed to two G thrust. Mister Bartle, bring us to heading oh seven hundred forty five degree!”

Orders were repeated and the bridge burst into life as the dozen crew members exploded into action. The crew were subjected to momentum induced pull to their sides as the fusion engine cut down the energy fed to the four thrusters while small directional thrusters dotting the surface of the Seeker ignited automatically in bursts to turn several thousand tons of construct in the direction desired by its pilot.

“Captain, we are at heading oh seven hundred forty five degree!” Byam finally declared.

“Launch fighters!”

“Aye, Captain.” On larger or more dedicated AeroSpace Fighter carrying DropShips, there would usually be an Air Boss, or Air Officer along with an assistant responsible for all aspects of operations involving aircraft including the hangers, flight deck and launched aircraft. On a smaller DropShip like the Jervis Bay where there were typically not more than four officers, thirteen enlisted ranks and three gunners, the Chief Mate, and sometimes the Captain would have to be in charge instead. However, with the Seeker designed to cater to substantial numbers of military units, a Load Master was typically granted absolute control over the safe loading, transport and unloading of all cargo in relation to the DropShip cargo bays – and therefore by extension all aerospace assets related operations. Receiving his orders, Master Chief Guy Byam tapped on the onboard comms system linking him with the pair of AeroSpace Fighter bays within the bowels of the Jervis Bay. “Load Master, this is bridge. Copper Lead and Copper One are green to launch.”

“Affirmative on launch, bridge.” The Load Master went silent on the comms channel linking to the bridge for seconds, no doubt barking instructions to the bay crew and checking on the status of the pilots in the pair of AeroSpace Fighter bays. “Copper Lead and Copper One launching in ten… nine… eight… seven… six… five… four… three… two… one… LAUNCH!”

From two bay doors located on direct opposite sides of the Jervis Bay's hull, a pair of fifty ton comets streaked from the innards of the Seeker, tens of tons of machine shot out into space by air pressure powered catapults not unlike those on Terra’s bluewater naval aircraft carriers. Not the fastest fighters around, the pair of machines dating over four centuries old in design both made a graceful arc before forming before the nose of the Jervis Bay, matching its speed and velocity. Far in the distance, azure laser beams, miniature flames trailing missiles and flickering reports of autocannons flashed across inky black space indicated that the other Trojan and its pair of fighters had similarly engaged the Dominion DropShips as well as their own small screen of escort fighters.

“Weapons are green!” Fegen barked. “Engage!”

Possessing the longest ranged forward firing weapons, the pirate Trojan’s heavy LRM launchers vomited a cloud of hundred twenty missiles at its onrushing opponents. Rolling and spinning sharply, the pair of smaller Lightning fighters peeled away to their port side while the Seeker veered in the opposite direction somewhat more sluggishly despite its considerable speed compared to most other DropShip designs. None of the missiles caught the Lightnings, but enough smashed into the side of the Jervis Bay to blast away more than ten percent of its total armour plating. The rotation of its hull and had spread the damage across the wide sides of the Bay, lessening the impact of the ferocious assault somewhat. Trailing pieces of armour scattered into space in the wake of Jervis Bay’s course even as it levelled off from its roll, picked up speed before firing its own aft mounted LRMs. Even with all twenty missiles from the pair of LRM 10s finding their targets, the meagre damage inflicted was mere pinprick to the pirate DropShip.

Like a shark smelling blood, the Trojan pushed on, its half dozen racks of twenty tube missile launchers furiously recycling their next reload. Unlike on the ground, the lack of gravity in space meant that ballistic and missile weapons had theoretically unlimited range once they achieve certain velocity. Undoubtedly aware of the Seeker design’s inability to retaliate with noticeable effect even against the Trojan’s weaker armour, the pirate vessel pressed on, discharging its second wave of missiles. Accelerating further, the Jervis Bay did another barrel roll while turning. This time, even more missiles cratered into the aft of the three thousand seven hundred ton space vessel, tearing huge chunks of armour plating off its spheroid egglike shape and blasting deadly shrapnel into the innards of the Seeker.

If sounds could be heard in space, the pirate crew would have been subjected to the banshee like shrieks from the Lightnings’ fusion engines as the two LTN-G15s reminded their enemy of their presence. Taking advantage of the distracted Trojan and its slower speed, the fifty ton fighters had shaken off their pirate counterparts and slotted right into the pirate DropShip’s vulnerable six o’clock, completing a heavily modified Thach Weave manoeuvre and catching the pirate DropShip where they had wanted. Unlike the Seeker, the Trojan was conceived with virtually no weapons to protect its aft and conspicuously less armour plating there. The Lightnings dinked slightly as the Trojan’s full rear arsenal of six medium lasers clawed vainly at the Dominion AeroSpace Fighters. Ignoring several of the laser beam hits that barely scratched their armour, the pair unleashed their terrifying forward payload consisting of a heavy Armstrong Requiem autocannon and a trio of medium lasers.

Compared to the range from which the Trojan had fired at the Jervis Bay, the Lightnings were in virtual spitting distance when they fired. Round after round of autocannon shells ripped into the enemy vessel, joined in the maelstrom of destruction by laser beams that further flailed deep into the savaged rear quarters until first one, than another of its thrusters flickered before dying as nearly all of the Trojan’s rear armour protection was obliterated.

Unlike their counterparts, the pair of pirate Hellcats were designed such that damage was dealt by several smaller weapon systems rather than focused through a massive one like the heavy autocannon on the ten ton lighter Lightning. The Akbar Dominion AeroSpace Fighters paid for their triumphant attack as the pirates’ own fighters slashed them with their own mix of large and medium laser beams, curving out metallic armour and making them run like molten lava off the Lightnings’ airframe.

Unnoticed, the Jervis Bay re-joined the melee silently. A pair of man made lightning streaks were discharged from the Seeker’s only forward mounted weapon systems. The sudden surge of electrical charges swept across one of the Hellcat fighter. While nothing to sniff at, the damage done by the pair of particle cannon hits were not all that serious, especially in the face of the Hellcat’s bricklike armour protection. However, the strike created enough disturbance to the sixty ton aerial war machine’s electronics that it suffered a shut down. The few seconds window of inactivity was all the Dominion Lightnings needed. Realigning themselves, Copper Lead’s deadly Armstrong Requiem autocannon once again roared to spit out what seemed like an endless stream of metallic slugs that tore into the nose, cockpit and fuselage of the stricken Hellcat. Not to be outdone, the other Lightning swooped in once again on the wounded pirate DropShip, concentrating on its already ravaged rear and strafing it with a trident of medium lasers before its heavy autocannon bellowed destruction, sounding the death knell of the Trojan as the shells ripped into the roughly domed shape of the space vessel, its crucial rear fusion drive and thrusters ignited into a nova fireball, before quickly imploding against the vacuum of space.   

Their DropShip reduced to a piece of powerless wreckage, one of their two Aerospace Fighters breaking up and disintegrating in space, the remaining Hellcat decided against valour, turning to bolt towards their faraway Merchant JumpShip.

“Permission to pursue Captain?” The level voice of Byam gave no indication that they had just been through a brutal battle.

“Negative, Chief Mate. That Hellcat may be hurting, but its still got a bite. The Bay’s not exactly well armoured enough for me to want to enjoy the stroking of its lasers.” Fegen scratched his chin with a shake his head. “Pilot in Command, bring us around and make towards the Albouy’s Point.”

“Aye Captain!”

With numbers and firepower on their side, the ADS San Demetrio, ADS Emile Francqui and pair of Sparrowhawks from the Albouy’s Point, further joined by a pair of armed and heavily armoured Aquarius escort vessels stowed in the small craft bays of Captain Conrad Vidot’s Aquedectp DropShip had chased the other pirate Trojan and its pair of well armed Lucifers away. Unlike the tangle that the Jervis Bay and its pair of fighters had been forced to engage in, the other Dominion group had simply traded long range shots with their pirate opponents without really venturing into closer range with each another. Despite that, the AeroSpace Fighters and escort craft had clashed at knife point proximity. That had left one of the Lucifer heavy fighter shattered. The Trojan had pulled back towards the waiting JumpShip with its surviving escort. The Dominion’s victory was apparently not without price though. All the surviving Dominion ships showed signs of substantial missiles damage from the Trojan’s half a dozen LRM-20 launchers, their surfaces pockmarked by shredded armour. In exchange for the destroyed Lucifer, both of the lightweight Sparrowhawk were nowhere to be seen, reduced to nothing more than debris floating aimlessly in space. One of the Aquarius had lost all power, its crew reporting multiple breaches in its hull while the other moved in gingerly to provide assistance and rescue.

“Looks like you managed to come back in one piece,” Purvis remarked in deliberate composure. “So to speak, of course.”

“You folks have done reasonably well as well, I see.” Fegen smirked back. “Hard battle eh?”

“As hard as any we’ve faced in years Fegen.” Paret answered tiredly. 

“Unless any of you folks have anything else urgent on your agenda, I do suggest we deploy all available assets to pick up whatever we can from this place and gather ourselves quickly before hauling our asses back to New Mars as soon as we can.” It was not exactly a reqeust from Purvis. “I don’t think I’d like it very much if those pirates made plans for after party parties.”

“Aye, Captain Purvis,” Conrad Vidot agreed earnestly. “Let’s get moving. We have two more jumps before reaching New Mars and heaven forbid, we run into another band of blood thirsty pirates.”

“Don’t do that.” Purvis’ retort was nearly instantaneously.

“What?” Vidot asked.

“Pray for something NOT to happen.” Purvis replied solemnly. “You’ll jinx it.”

“Seriously Purvis?” Vidot exclaimed with unconcealed exasperation. “Sailors’ superstition?”

“Though, if it means we’d be getting home unmolested, I’d keep my thoughts to myself and my mouth shut if necessary.” Guy Byam suddenly cut into the conversation.

“Amen to that, Byam.” The comms stayed silent for what felt like an eternity before Purvis responded again. “You are your father’s son indeed boy.”

blackpanzer

  • Sergeant
  • *
  • Posts: 178
Lyran Alliance Civil Service Exploration Expedition Field Base
Security Detachment Sector
Clearing along Harmakhis River and Fosenkov Forests
Boreum Plains
Contested territory between Isidis Regions and Akbar Dominion
Continent of Hellas, New Mars
Independent System
Lyran Alliance Anti-Spinward Periphery
23rd December 3100
0245 hours local time



Captain Huo Qu Bing pulled the cloak wrapped around himself tighter as he peered into the darkness beyond the walls of the camp that his very small unit shared with the Lyan Alliance Civil Service Exploration Expedition team here on the New Mars northern continent of Hellas. His eyes couldn’t penetrate the darkness of course, the mercenary officer knew that from where he stood, the Harmakhis River snaked and twisted towards the Eythraean Ocean on to their east, its waters unfrozen despite the polar temperature. In the west, the seemingly infinite Fosenkov Forests spanned between territories claimed by the Isidis Regions and Akbar Dominion. He didn’t really mind the cold – in fact, given the choice of operating in a desert or artic environment, he’d choose the latter faster than batting an eyelid. However, it was the… lifelessness of the place that had set him on edge. Especially with them being this close to such a wide expanse of forest, it was simply unnatural. The mercenary thought back to the rough and turbulent voyage when the DropShip he was on had to travel through an asteroid field towards its waiting JumpShip when they were making their way out from the Niops Association, where Hou had finally linked up with his chartered space vessel.



Given any other circumstances, as he stood on the bridge of the Aurora DropShip stoically observing the scenery outside, Huo would had appreciated the flashes of lightning that flickered around the space around them, the greenish and shimmering hues stretching and meandering across the ink black vacuum. He could not place a finger on the source of his disquiet. It was not trepidation of potential enemies they might face in the upcoming months, nor concerns of the Lyrans possibly sending him and his people to their doom – nothing so dramatic or gloomy. No, it was… something else. He had shaken his head, mentally pushing the uneasiness aside in his mind – as he did now as he stood within the LACS compound. Clutching his cloak, he turned and headed back towards the temporary structure that served as their command centre.

Huo’s arrival in New Mars had brought equal levels of relief and consternation to his people. On one hand, the Aurora class DropShip that he managed to charter meant that he had his folks were no longer reliant on the goodwill of local logistics services nor those of the LACS for their cross ocean transportation. Heck, they could do a short hope from one side of Hellas to another if they wanted to. On the other hand…

Even the usually unflappable Jiang Ziya had regarded the DropShip with barely concealed revulsion when it first landed after picking up all remaining forces from Randis Interstellar Space & Sea Port before making for the LACS semi-permeant base camp on the northern snow covered continent of Hellas. Varane and Wambach had both merrily remarked how spacious and comfortable the ‘Pallada’’s passenger accommodations were as they trotted down its lowered ramp. Their bliss lasted only until Jiang had set his steely gaze at them and reminded them that the short hop they took was nothing more than a field trip. After dumping ice water on their cheerfulness, the veteran MechWarrior proceeded next to point out that no matter how highly configurable bays of the Aurora were, it would not be physically possible to wedge in all their hardware and personnel into the thousand six hundred ton space vessel.

From that point on, it was all about how his folks were suddenly unable to believe that the dilapidated DropShip was going to be their ride for the foreseeable future, reiterating Jiang’s point that the ‘Pallada’ couldn’t even take all their CURRENT hardware, let alone hoping that it be able to cater to any of their expansion plans. There were even some who found fault with the name of the vessel, unable to understand why it was not named after something or someone they were familiar with. “‘Pallada’?” Someone had asked, “What does it even stand for? Name of someone’s long deceased lover? A destroyed star system? A dead pet?”

Huo had listened deadpanned, taking in the myriad criticisms without so much as a nod. When his people finally ran out of steam, he looked up and tilted his head. “You guys done?”

The nonchalance in Huo’s question stopped the ruckus around him virtually instantly.

Looking around, Jiang Ziya nodded before he answered sheepishly. “I believe so Captain.”

“We make do with what we have for the moment.” Huo had continued, his words soft yet stern and loud enough to carry to all of his people gathered at the shadow of the landed Aurora class DropShip. “We should be relieved that there’s a Dropper willing to hitch up with us, given our track record – or rather, the lack of one. If we do New Mars well, we’ll have no lack of DropShip Captains willing to sign up with us. Screw this contract up,” the man of Asian descent swept his gaze across the small gathering, waiting for the implications of his words to sink in, “none of us will need the service of any DropShip.”

“You heard the Captain!” Varane had then proceeded to start shoving those around him up the ramp of the “‘Pallada’. “We’ve got stuff to unload! Move your asses!”

Huo smiled slightly as the relative warmth inside the building already started to chase away the chill that had seeped into his bones. Making his way to a cluster of foldable tables, he pulled up a metallic chair and opened it up. Setting it firmly on the floor, the mercenary tested his weight on it by pressing hard with both hands. Satisfied that the flimsy looking furniture would not give way, Huo sat himself down and extracted a datapad from one of the reinforced luggage cases. He waited for a while for the device to start up, contemplated by resisted the urge to prepare a thermal flask of coffee for himself. He could never get accustomed to the bitter acidic after taste of the black liquid. The datapad emitted a soft chime, indicating that it was ready. Huo concentrated on the screen, pulled it closer and adjusted himself on his seat before he started typing away.


Quote

++ Date: 27 / 12 / 3100 ++
++ Security Code: Yellow ++
++ Password: ************ ++
++
++
++
++ AUTHORIZATION CLEARED ++
++
++
++
++ ACCESS APPROVED ++


{Note: This report is a combination of field reports and profiling carried out by our own eyes on the ground in addition to as much data as we managed to pull from local archives. It is independent of the chronicles being prepared by the LACS team assigned to Hellas, and I imagine will offer conflicting opinions.} Q B Huo


++ INDEPENDENT SYSTEM OF NEW MARS SIT-REP ++

Unlike its namesake, which is the fourth planet of the Sol system with four inhabited worlds including Venus, Jupiter, Terra and Mars itself, the independent Periphery system of New Mars has remained the only habitable planet in the entire system to support life, which was why it has simply been referred to as New Mars rather than New Mars II after its second position in the system, or any other potentially confusion naming conventions.

Located in the Lyran Alliance and Free Worlds League’s anti-spinward Periphery region, New Mars is one of the many former Rims Worlds Republic systems that vanished from maps during the Second Succession War, indicating that the system had been abandoned, depopulated or rendered too insignificant to merit further recording. That reason by itself ironically was one of the most important cause for its continued survival to the present day as it became a destination for refugees and deserters looking to escape the ravages of the Succession Wars. In the eons since, New Mars slowly transformed into a crossroads of sorts. On one hand, the abundance of agricultural crops from New Mars are exported to systems hailing from the five nearest factions including the Lyran Alliance’s Alarion Province, Tamarind District of the Free Worlds League, the Marian Hegemony, the Circinus Federation, the Rim Collection, as well as other smaller independent systems. On the other hand, New Mars also serves as a waystation where pirates and other traders from across the regions gathered, using the system to peddle, trade and exchange wares.

Major terrains and geographical locations on New Mars were based on the initial but erroneous mapping and naming nomenclature by ancient Terran Italian astronomer and science historian Giovanni Schiaparelli. These names had been the first to be widely accepted and generally adopted for use for Mars in the Sol systems until humankind actually made landing on Mars as part of the Terran Alliance’s initiatives and efforts for humanity to colonize the stars humanity's – the mass migration, eventually dubbed the 'Great Exodus'.

The main and largest continent of Tharsis is where the planetary capital city of Randis is currently situated. After colonists landed on New Mars, population centres sprang up around the initial landing zone. Without the benefit of centralized planning and control, the Randis Interstellar Space & Sea Port saw the space port, air port, sea port and capital city all rolled into one, with growing and sprawling clusters of slums that passed for the capital city and its connecting township spreading ever outwards around it. Ironically, more than a few of the other smaller population centres sited in other locations on New Mars were more modern and well developed. Over the years, fighting within and near to Randis itself seldom occurred due to its importance to the continuous survival of ALL factions on New Mars. A strange phenomenon developed, with direct control of the planetary capital and its vital facilities falling under the administration of a panel – the New Mars Mercantile Union. The NMMU was staffed by merchant guilds that drew representatives from a dozen or so of the most prominent factions on New Mars. As a result, most warlords contributed levies and duties either directly the Mercantile Union itself or one of its composite guilds, so as to ensure the continuous maintenance of the planetary capital, with the unspoken understanding that in a way, the merchant guilds who sat on the Randis Council would fight for the benefit of the faction they represent in exchange for the opportunity to milk every deal to line their own pockets.

With agriculture holding such an important role in the survival of New Mars, the endless tracks of cultivated lands held by most Warlords and faction were almost holy grounds that had long since been unofficially recognized non-combat zones.

Similarly, with so much commerce and their precious commodity communing across the vast seas and oceans, targeting civilians shipping is considered very bad form. In fact, New Mars history records of an instance where four Warlords who had been far from cordial with each other put their differences aside sufficiently enough to pool their resources together to exterminate the blue navy of another faction who had thought of free riding on the agrarian efforts of others by conducting pirate style raids of harvested crops on the high seas. It remained the only instant of more than two separate and independent Warlords working with each other for a common goal.

Since that time, the New Mars Mercantile Union had maintained a small but well equipped blue navy flotilla. This force comprises of a pair of ancient but more than serviceable Rapier class patrol destroyers, a small fleet of missile corvettes, a sole Silverback electronics warfare ship, a half dozen of ubiquitous Mauna Kea surface naval ships, a quartet of fast moving Sea Skimmer hydrofoil vessels all supported by Wing in Ground Effect vehicles and VTOLs. The upkeep of this significant wet navy had always been underwritten by the same stipends remunerated from the various warlords to support the maintenance of Randis. {Note: from what we’ve heard from more than a handful of quarters, the general consensus is that the extravagantly christened Grand Navy of New Mars deserved every ounce of respect its name commands. I’m seeing some interesting possibilities here, the examples set by the Grand Navy of New Mars as well as those four Warlords – common assets funded by all the warlords but controlled by none. I’ll ponder on this matter a little bit more.} Q B Huo


++ CONTINENT OF HELLAS SIT-REP ++

The ice and snow blanketed Boreum Plains dominates the northern polar continent of Hellas. Half a dozen factions, pirate bands and warlords had initially reasoned to use the virtually permanent freezing temperatures, blizzards, snow storms and other natural hazards as natural defences against predations from other stronger factions. The Eyrthraean Ocean separated Hellas from the continent of Tharsis.

Due to the importance of cross ocean logistics, atmospheric aircraft and blue water navies had been more prominently utilized on New Mars compared to most other Periphery systems. Technology in relation to these modes of transport, ice and water mining, as well as agriculture and animal husbandry managed to be sustained at a surprising high level. Despite the undeniable age of New Mars equipment and hardware used, most of them remained well maintained.

After eons of political and military drama amongst the Hellas factions, two factions currently remain – the Isidis Regions and Akbar Dominion, as others were conquered, annexed and absorbed. The former possesses one of the most modern and well equipped military forces of all factions, as well as a more developed and thriving commerce on New Mars, leveraging on the export and sale of cold weather strains of garlic, leeks, onions, radishes, lettuce, peas, potatoes, chard, spinach, rhubarb, and other leafy greens such as bok choy and kale. In addition, Isidis had successfully bred a hardier breed of Ayrshire cattle for both their meat as well as dairy. Herds in their thousands foraged the vast snowy lands across the Boreum Plains. As such, the Isidis Regions saw heavy employment of IndustrialMechs and AgroMechs.

Gabriel’s Gatecrashers were sent to New Mars in early 3100, the first mercenary command deployed by the Lyan Alliance to the Periphery system to display some sort of presence on the world without looking to be overly intimidating. With initial orders to simply hold positions and observe, with a floating supplemental contract to assist local factions against pirate or bandit incursions, the Gatecrashers had scant little to do until the Akbar Dominion drive into the Isidis Regions in late August 3100. Fearing that protracted conflict would negatively affect the supply of primary produce and water to a fair number of Lyran worlds reliant on New Mars for these precious cargo, the Gatecrashers were ordered in to blunt the Dominion aggression. Since that time, the mercenary command had remained at their stations on the Hellas continent along the Isidis Regions and Akbar Dominion borders.

{Note: After floundering around a bit and stepping on quite a few toes, I have finally found a way around our peculiarly contradictory position in this contract, whereby our main objectives include ensuring the safety of the LACS, remain neutral in any local conflict, as well as provide support to Major Gabriel’s Gatecrashers in whichever way we can within our means.

Our more mobile combat assets have been employed to shadow the LACS
Shackleton AESV while it roams the Hellas wilderness – in rotation of course. I have not personally been on one of these escort missions but if even Jiang felt these errands cumbersome and dour, the least I can do to ensure that my people don’t fall asleep in their cockpits is to make sure that they move out with a buddy to cover each other. Still, if it happens that BOTH of them doze off, I’ll have to get Wambach to install these little devices in their ‘Mech cockpit seats that will send up an electric shock if it detects the pilot falling asleep. The ‘Witch’ claims with unwavering confidence that these are quite invigorating. 

The remaining forces have been deployed to provide close proximity security to the LACS camp. After they had finished set up entrenchments and barricaded our temporary base to satisfactory levels, our combat engineering team have been seconded to the Gatecrashers to help with improving their own defensive positions. We can only hope that the favour will be remembered, though hopefully without the need to be returned.} Q B  Huo


 
++ Gabriel's Gatecrashers ++

Even though Major Marcus Gabriel has always declared his unit as nothing more than an infantry security force with added muscles, the fact is that short of a full scale planetary invasion, the Major’s small unit possesses of enough manpower with a flexible TO&E of hardware and proficiency to undertake most traditional and conventional types of contract jobs as long as they remain of relatively low intensity in the Periphery regions.

CO: Major Marcus Gabriel
BattleMech Strength:
Marauder MAD-3M (CO)
Cyclops CYP-10-P (XO)
Trebuchet TBT-5S
Hermes II HER-5S
Javelin JAV-10F

Conventional Forces:
4 x Myrmidon medium tank (std)
6 x Vedette medium tank (std)
4 x Vedette medium tank (LBX)
2 x Zhukov heavy tank (std)
8 x Heavy APC
6 x APC
3 companies of foot & motorized infantry


++ Isidis Regions Military (IRM) ++

Like most small Periphery military forces, the IRM relies heavily on traditional infantry as its main fighting force supported by conventional vehicles. However, what many intelligence analyses have constantly underestimate is the sizable number of modified IndustrialMechs quietly employed by the IRM, anchored by quite a number of Arbiter MilitiaMechs acquired from Meridian Manufacturing of nearby New St. Andrews system.

Several reasons made this particular unseen branch of the IRM more formidable than they have any right to be on paper – the fact that these machines were paired with highly proficient IndustrialMech jockeys who grew up piloting their machines; that more than a few of these machines had been retrofitted with ‘Mech grade electronics, armour plating and weapons; and that the IRM had reportedly managed to put together over forty of such machines.

{Note: People say that in the face of danger, innovation is natural's tool of survival that the the most desperate asked to be blessed with. If that is the case, Mother Nature has no doubt given the locals a massive jab of engineering novelty. Dedicated MilitiaMech design like the earlier mentioned Arbiter have been reinforced by quite a number of other machines. We have seen even lightweights like Harvester Ants being uparmoured and armed with machine guns and SRMs. I have personally heard a couple of armourers discussed rather offhandedly about attempts to reinforce industrial exoskeleton suits to narrow their deficiencies compared to Battle Armour suits – to varying degree of success.} Q B Huo



These militarized IndustrialMechs had yet seen any notable action, but only a fool would discount them in any fight.

TO&E
14 companies of foot and motorized infantry
6 x Manticore heavy tank (std)
12 x Scorpion light tank (AC)
8 x SRM carrier
4 x LRM carrier

6 x Corsair CSR-V14
2 x Thunderbird THB-D36


++ Armed Forces of the Akbar Dominion (AFAD) ++

One of the most aggressive factions on Hellas and arguably entire New Mars system, the Akbar Dominion have always chosen to rely more on banditry for its sustenance rather than switching to agriculture, fishery and animal husbandry like most other New Mars factions. Employing a military force bulked out by hordes of slave infantry, the Dominion have continued the tradition of raiding less defended nearby systems. However, realizing that it will not be able to sustain itself indefinitely through such raids since there ARE limits to the richness of resources in the Periphery after all, the Akbar Dominion has engaged in the off-planet export of water to nearby water starved systems. To this end, the Dominion employs its black naval flotilla comprising of DropShip classes capable of conveying substantial cargo loads including designs like Aqueduct, Mule, Seeker and a single Mammoth. Reliable reports also indicate that the Dominion has at least one, if not more JumpShips. One of their confirmed vessel is the ‘Albouy’s Point’, an Invader class.

{Note: Like the IRM, the Dominion has stockpiled quite a number of IndustrialMechs to bolster their military. UNLIKE the IRM however, the AFAD also has between seven to ten BattleMechs leading their battle lines as well. All reports indicate that these are mostly of Succession War era technological level. However, since we have yet to encounter any of them, and with all reports in this area of the Dominion military supplied by the Gatecrashers as well as IRM intelligence of dubious reliability, we can only prepare for the worst (I personally won’t be surprised if the Dominion gets their hands on higher level tech through the notoriously prevalent black markets in these regions, salvage through raids or through the hands of some desperate Inner Sphere deserter), and hope for the best (I know of merc commands and Periphery kingdoms possessing a fair number of BattleMechs but all non-serviceable due simply to their inability to maintain their hardware. It is because of such case studies that having Varane, Wambach and our little tech team with us warms the cockles of my heart in the cold winter here in New Mars.} Q B Huo

TO&E
More than 30 companies of foot and motorized infantry.
Over a battalion of Scorpion light tanks of assorted variants spread over several locations.
Reinforced strike company consisting of Gladius, Harasser, Sacaren and Scimitar hover tanks further supported by infantry ferried in hover APCs.
12 x Bulldog medium tank (std)
12 x SRM carrier
10 x LRM carrier

4 x Sabre SB-27
4 x Lucifer LCF-R15
16 x Defender medium strike fighter
12 x Defender II medium strike fighter
10 x Raubvogel AB-18C aerobomber


{Note: We believe that in addition to the above aerial assets, the Dominion’s DropShip fleet have their own small protective screen of AeroSpace Fighters and small craft. Given that we have yet to hear of any of their ‘water runs’ being lost to pirate attacks in the years since they started selling water to other systems, we must assume that this aspect of their military possess of considerable skills as well.} Q B Huo

++ REPORT ENDS ++
++ ENCRYPTION ENABLED ++



Huo ran through the documents on his datapad two more times, editing a couple of points before finally saving the files. Placing the device on the surface of his desk, the mercenary officer stretched himself expansively, letting out a loud and uncouth yawn even as the foldable chair creaked in protest underneath the pressure it was placed under. Out here in the northern polar continent, with its longer nights and much shorter day, it was difficult to tell when it was time for… anything at all without relying on time telling devices. Huo glanced at his chrono before mumbling a couple of choice expletives under his breath. Apparently, he had gone through an entire night without sleep – yet again – for the third time in the week.

Maybe, he told himself again, he should finally join the damned Shackleton on its next exploration run. Huo was rather certain those Elsies would at least remember when to sleep. He started to reach out for his thermal flask for some coffee before he remembered he didn’t make any. Captain Huo Qu Bing cursed again.

blackpanzer

  • Sergeant
  • *
  • Posts: 178
Akhmad-Haji Space Port
Akbar Dominion
Continent of Hellas, New Mars
Independent System
Lyran Alliance Anti-Spinward Periphery
28th December 3100
1105 hours local time



Ramzan Kadyrov nodded his head slightly as he acknowledged the salutes from a pair of DropShip Captains. In the background, a literal army of Drop Port ground crew had swept onto the tarmac shortly after it was declared safe for unloading operations to commence. The Warlord of the Akbar Dominion squinted slightly as the first of a caravan of cargo were spotted making their way down the ramps of the spheroid DropShips, a pair of Mule class vessels.

“Welcome back Captains, I trust that you had a smooth and uneventful journey?” Relatively far from the hive of activities swirling around the pair of grounded space vessels, Kadyrov’s voice easily carried over to the two Captains.

“Aye, My Lord.” Captain John Crown of the ADS Majaba replied curtly. Like most DropShip Captains in current service to the Akbar Dominion, Crown was a second generation DropShip commander that had continued the family tradition of service to the Dominion. While the Dominion officially owed the ADS Majaba, the Crown family had been running the DropShip for over three decades. “The fighter pilots onboard the Great Green weren’t very pleased that they were not able to stretch the wings of their war birds throughout the entire trip.” Crown reported with a straight face, referring to the Merchant class JumpShip that the pair of Mules had been ferried on. “The Able’s Aces reputation in and around the Rim Collection seemed to have kept pirates honest. Don’t think any of our convoys ever ran into such trouble.”

“Convoy runs to those regions usually transpire without much excitement, My Lord.” Captain Joseph Laing of the ADS San Wenceslao nodded in reply. Like the wiry Crown, Laing was also of considerable height and muscular in build. Unlike the Captain of the ADS Majaba however, Laing was half older than Crown and one of the very few remaining first generation DropShip Captains. “Indeed. And the fact that quite a few of those DropShips making their way to and from Hunter’s Paradise are transporting folks with considerable coin means that they usually bring their own escort as well. Given that much retaliation to banditry, only the most well equipped, or foolhardy pirates would appear in that stretch of space.”

“Don’t worry Captain Laing, I’m not asking to accompany any of our convoys on their forthcoming trips.” Kadyrov smirked grimly at the subtle hints that the words of the sixty year old Captain concealed. “I have not heard, nor heeded the callings of wanderlust for quite a while.”

The second son to Warlord Akhmat-Haji Kadyrov, Ramzan and three other younger siblings had always been primed to support the anticipated succession of Akmat-Haji Kadyrov’s eldest son, Zelimkhan. Even though their father and grandfather had made their names carrying out ruthless raids against other systems and pillaging other New Mars factions, Zelimkhan Kadyrov and his younger siblings had instead been brought up in an era where trade was increasingly encouraged instead. It was under Akhmat-Haji Kadyrov’s rulership that the Akbar Dominion had started the first of the ‘water runs’.

While his eldest brother was groomed as the next successor, Ramzan Kadyrov elected to learn the ropes of DropShip command and space operations, thereafter embarking on ‘water runs’ that saw him being exposed to the outside world more than most other folks from New Mars. Over several years, Ramzan Kadyrov made trips up and down across the Lyran Alliance and Free Worlds League borders, ranging as far as the bandit systems of The Rack and Pain, precariously close to Jade Falcon borders, and down to the space sandwiched between the Marian Hegemony and Niops Association adjacent to the Canopus part of the Confederated Magistracy. Akmat-Haji’s third child, Khava Kadyrov found her calling also with the ice and water mining business of the Dominion, although she was more academic, spending most of her time researching technologies and methods that would enhance and improve the mining operations. Aslan and Makhmud, the two youngest sons unsurprisingly opted to join the military, Aslan already piloting one of the Dominion’s prized Ostroc heavy ‘Mechs. Makhmud, on the other hand, had been training as a pilot, long having his eyes set on one of the Akbar Dominion Lucifer heavy AeroSpace Fighters. 

Despite the increased stability to the Dominion brought about by the slow but steady transition from piracy to trade, many of Kadyrov’s lieutenants were displeased by what they perceived as a decline of their status and positions within the Dominion. These were thought to be the main perpetrators of the assassination on Akhmat-Haji Kadyrov. The senior Kadyrov died instantly in a powerful bomb blast that ripped through the inspection podium upon which the Warlord had stood. The irony that the event during which the assassination occurred was the victory memorial celebrating the coming to power of the Kadyrov clan. Hushed whispers even accused Zelimkhan Kadyrov as a fellow conspirator, if not the mastermind. Zelimkhan’s rein did not last long however, passing away barely a year after coming into power due to a massive heart attack – at least as far as the official stories went.

Thrust into the position of power that he was neither prepared nor groomed for, Ramzan Kadyrov tackled the challenge with gusto. With public support from his surviving siblings, Kadyrov’s biggest opposition to his fledging rule came from his father’s former lieutenants. Controlling most of the Dominion military, there was little Ramzan Kadyrov could do but sanction raids and invasions that these officers aggressively advocated for – offensive operations that they would had undertaken without his approval anyway. While Dominion raids and plundering resumed, Ramzan Kadyrov quietly replaced losses with those who backed his more benign leadership. At the same time, a military force free of the lieutenants’ influence was assembled, mainly bank rolled by the scaled back ‘water runs’. Kadyrov even managed to convince small mercenary bands to sign up under his flag.

In late August 3100, these lieutenants who by that point operated with virtual independence from Kadyrov’s authority and blessings drove into the Isidis Regions. Expecting little resistance and a quick victory to be secured within a week, if not days, these truly bandit forces were stunted in their aggression by a combination of Lyran hired mercenary reinforcements, dogged Isidis defenders equipped with a massive army of militarized IndustrialMechs, as well as critical lack of tail end logistics support. From being a sizable force made up of four poorly coordinated lances of BattleMechs supported by huge foot infantry formations, the group was worn down to barely eight BattleMechs in strength and had lost more than half their conventional forces by the time they were pushed back and forced to retreat into the Akbar Dominion.

Expecting to renew their offensives after reinforcements, rest and refit, what they found waiting for them instead was half a dozen BattleMechs with considerable supporting elements facing them down and asking for the surrender of their leaders. Knowing the fate that awaited them, the lieutenants ordered their forces to charge the defensive lines.

It was a not nearly the massacre that reports said it was.



Despite attacking prepared and fortified positions with weary and half starving troops, the lieutenants DID have among their ranks some of the most battle hardened and bloodthirsty troops on New Mars, if not along that particular stretch of the Periphery region, plus superiority in numbers. What did eventually tip the fight in the favour of Kadyrov’s forces was the fierce bombardment from AeroSpace and conventional fighters, bombers and DropShips.

When the dust finally settled, only two of their BattleMechs remained operational, and only one of the four lieutenants remained alive. As proof of their surrender, the survivors had dragged the lieutenant out from his shattered Wolverine and hauled him before their victorious opponents. Ramzan Kadyrov executed the last lieutenant and mercilessly purged the ranks of those who surrendered. Together with his siblings, Ramzan finally consolidated his position and power, earning the backing of the entire Akbar Dominion at long last.

“Isn’t there another convoy due back in at about the same time as us?” Captain John Crown asked, stamping his feet on the ground in a futile attempt to keep himself warm in the wintery weather.

“HX84, the Albouy’s Point and her companion DropShips.” Laing supplied. “Went down to… Reykavis I believe.”

“Ah, the Hegemony runs are the best.” Crown replied with a sigh. “At least most of their systems don’t freeze your fingers off for standing in the open for too long.”

“Well, you know what we say here on Hellas no? Winter starves our bellies but sharpens our wits.” Warlord Ramzan Kadyrov intoned bleakly. “Well now, Captain Purvis sent words in advance that they’ve gotten one of those Hegemony manufactured Commando light ‘Mechs and the remains of an UrbanMech.” The Warlord of the Akbar Dominion pointed at a prime mover pulling a pair of tarp covered trailers down one of the San Wenceslao’s four ramps. “What wares have you gentlemen brought back from our friends this time?”

“An Urbie?” Laing raised an eyebrow in surprise at the Warlord’s statement. “What are the chances...”

Kadyrov turned and looked at the veteran spacer. “We’re going to have TWO of them?”

For the first time since he disembarked from his DropShip, Captain Joseph Laing smiled. “You sound like a new father who just discovered his pregnant wife is going to have twins, My Lord.”

blackpanzer

  • Sergeant
  • *
  • Posts: 178
Lyran Alliance Civil Service Exploration Expedition Field Base
Security Detachment Sector
Clearing along Harmakhis River and Fosenkov Forests
Boreum Plains
Contested territory between Isidis Regions and Akbar Dominion
Continent of Hellas, New Mars
Independent System
Lyran Alliance Anti-Spinward Periphery
28th December 3100
1210 hours local time



Major Marcus Gabriel would be the first person to admit that he was not a flashy MechWarrior. His first ever assigned BattleMech was the large laser armed variant of the Blackjack. It was slow for a ‘Mech of its weight, not impressively armoured, and could not use all of its weapons package without overheating. Since that time, none of the ‘Mechs he piloted had exceeded the speed of sixty five kilometres an hour, although he did managed to upgrade on ‘Mech class, weight, armour and weaponry over the years. A proponent of simply pouring overwhelming firepower into one’s enemies, the mercenary officer had thus tried to build his command around his Marauder – steady moving, heavily armoured and armed. Like most bright eyed fresh start up, the Major soon discovered that in the harsh reality of life, he did not actually have much choice in matters.

Initially boasting fourteen BattleMechs, attrition would take its toll on their numbers and machines. Unable to repair the heaviest damage that would inevitably be suffered by their best machines, the Gatecrashers were forced to sell most of their heavier ‘Mechs off to keep the lighter ones running. At the same time, the pilots of the most powerful machines were poached away by other larger and more reputable units. That had left Marcus Gabriel with a lance of ‘Mechs, anchored by his own Marauder and his XO’s Cyclops, both hand-me-downs of Succession Wars era. Seeking to give his small unit more flexibility, firepower and sheer numbers, Gabriel had brought onboard infantry forces to bulk out his command, further adding conventional vehicles like the dependable Myrmidon and Vedette tanks. The most recent additions, a pair of heavy Zhukov tanks promised to add considerable firepower and tenacity to the Gatecrashers with the bonus of easy maintenance.

Despite being the heaviest BattleMech in their ranks, his XO’s Cyclops was less armoured than his own Marauder and had just marginally more armour plating than the Trebuchet and Hermes II, ‘Mechs that were half the CP-10-Z’s ninety ton weight. Gabriel has started to question if the Tacticon B-2000 Battle Computer onboard the Cyclops was worth the trouble of retaining an assault ‘Mech that did not have the ability to weather the bulk of enemy fire that it tended to attract. His XO, Captain Zenobia Artemisia, had grudgingly concurred. More than once, the mercenary officers had debated the possibility of trading the Cyclops with lighter but more effective BattleMechs like a Warhammer or another Marauder.

He had been sharing his predicament and troubles with the new arrivals of course, as all mercenaries tended to. Lieutenant Jiang Ziya had proved a good sounding board, experienced enough to offer solid advice on seemingly all matters under the sun. However, it was the arrival of Jiang’s colleagues fresh from the main continent of Tharsis that had gotten him all excited.

Marcus Gabriel had been told of Nadine Wambach and Andre-Pierre Varane, the dynamic duo in Jiang’s unit who ran a ‘Mech workshop on Erdvynn of considerable renown. Notorious for ingenious jury rigging and customizing of BattleMechs, the pair of MechWarriors with the callsigns of 'Witch' and 'Warlock' respectively had aptly named their workshop ‘The Magic Infuse’. Jiang had promised Gabriel that he would talk to the pair to see what magic they could conjure to elevate Gabriel’s concerns regarding the current situation of the Gatecrashers.

Shortly after their arrival, Wambach and Varane had made their way to the Gatecrasher’s HQ before heading straight to their MechBay, giving the Cyclops a thorough diagnostics. By the evening of the same day, they had returned with a proposed tinkering of the ninety ton ‘Mech, a proposal that both the CO and XO of the Gatecrashers had nearly immediately agreed to.

That was barely five days ago. News of a purportedly ambitious retrofit had quickly spread among the Gatecrashers and even some quarters of the Isidis Regions Military. Proof of the latter was confirmed when Gabriel reached the camp where the security detachment of LACS was housed. The familiar figure of Warlord Date Masamune was waiting for Gabriel at the entrance of the LACS base.

The mercenary officer picked up his pace, followed closely by Captain Artemisia. “Forgive me, My Lord, I was not told that you would be joining us.” Gabriel began as the Warlord turned towards the new arrivals. “If I had known…” Gabriel tried in vain to brush off dust and wrinkles on his military fatigues.

“No Major, it should be I who apologize.” The Warlord assured the mercenary with a ready smile. “I have heard that there is magic to be seen today, and I just could not resist the urge.”

“I certainly hope that you will be satisfied with the show as much as we will be, My Lord.” Gabriel returned the grin, before his eyes suddenly widened in horror. “Where are your escorts, My Lord? Did the Elsies left you here waiting alone? Did you inform them that..”

“No, I have not.” Masamune raised a hand. “I want to observe our new friends in action without the burden of the weight of my office over their shoulders, at least for now.”

“Very well, My Lord. Shall we proceed than?” Gabriel bowed respectfully, before extending an arm towards the LACS camp. “Pretty decent weather today.”

“Indeed Major. You have been on New Mars and Hellas for quite a while now haven’t you? If that’s the case, you should have heard of a common saying here: Winter in Hellas – ending in July to recommence in August.” Date Masamune’s beam widened, before he made a deliberate attempt to smoother it. “After you Major.”

As the trio finally made their way into the LACS camp, Gabriel turned his head slightly to regard the youngish Warlord trudging along beside him. Date Masamune was the only child of Date Teremune, one of several of the previous Warlord’s military commanders. Unlike most other ‘Periphery hog farmers’, the young Masamune attended tertiary and degree courses in both the Lyran Alliance and Free Worlds League, majoring in both agriculture and BattleMech engineering.

After Masamune returned to New Mars, he took up an immediate interest in upgrading the massive numbers of IndustrialMechs employed by the Isidis Regions for a wide variety of roles. Masamune put forth the reasoning that militarized IndustrialMechs would be easier to maintain, cheaper to acquire, and would allow the Isidis Regions to leverage on the large number of trained IndustrialMech pilots within its borders. Furthermore, Masamune argued that using massed IndustrialMechs to support true BattleMechs had the extra advantage of drawing less attention to the growth of their military.

When the Warlord passed away without an heir, Date Teremune was elected into power as the next Warlord. Masamune continued to argue fervently and advocated for widespread conversion of IndustrialMechs to MilitiaMech standard. His father, as the new Warlord, chose to thread the middle road, prudently purchasing small number of BattleMechs when the Region was presented with suitable opportunities, while simultaneously procuring IndustrialMechs to add to those that they already possessed. Like most factions on New Mars, the Isidis Regions continued to rely on conventional forces for their military. Despite his father’s restrains, the Isidis Regions Military managed to build up an impressive number of IndustrialMechs to MilitiaMech and SecurityMech standards, with an ever growing assemblage and variety of non-combat ‘Mechs on the ready to undergo necessary alterations. The Isidis Regions Military became a unique blend of BattleMechs, militarized IndustrialMechs, conventional combat vehicles supported by foot, motorized and mounted infantry.



Rumours began to circulate that Warlord Date Teremune was emptying their country’s coffers and indulging his son’s efforts to push for the employment of IndustrialMechs in military roles not only for the sake of patriotism and national defence. Many alleged that the Warlord’s act could also be attributed to the fact that Masamune was born blind in one eye. That had meant that it was highly difficult, if not totally impossible for the younger Date to pilot actual BattleMechs – hence the constant emphasis on increasing the availability and roles of less demanding IndustrialMechs.

The debate on whether if there was any truth in those accusations became a moot point when the Isidis Regions came under attack by the Akbar Dominion. Having shown glimpses of their combat prowess somewhat during the Isidis annexation of the Kingdom of Telos in long range fire support roles, these militarized IndustrialMechs proved their worth beyond doubt against the invading Dominion. Piloting a refitted quad Daedalus CargoMech, Date Masamune took full advantage of his machine’s low physical profile and stability to conduct ambushes along the Dominion line of advance. Protected by nearly ten tons of standard ‘Mech grade armour plating and weaponized with machine guns, lasers and rocket launchers, his sixty ton machine became the first Isidis IndustrialMech to register a kill against BattleMechs. A salvo of paired medium lasers had nearly sheared off the enemy Dervish’s right arm. A follow up barrage of rockets would end the life of the fifty five ton medium ‘Mech as more than a dozen of the highly explosive projectiles smashed into the BattleMech to ignite the stores of ammunition in the Dervish’s arm and torso. Dominion infantry hordes that had charged Masamune’s machine in an attempt to close so as to bring their own weapons to bear were ruthlessly mowed down by a quartet of machine guns.

Date Masamune would score another shared ‘Mech kill with one of the IRM’s own Phoenix Hawk BattleMech and a pair of Manticore heavy tanks – this time against a heavier JagerMech. For his ferocity and courage in the short but intense Dominion incursion, Date Masamune would earn the nickname of the ‘One-eyed Dragon’.

Their initial scepticism in the use of militarized IndustrialMechs debunked, the Isidis Regions would proceed to import substantial numbers of these machines. As foretold by Masamune, no one questioned the purchase of these machines that were openly put to work in both their farms and fields. Satisfied that the citizens of the Regions were in full support of his son, and that Isidis would pass into good hands, Warlord Date Teremune officially handed over leadership of the Regions to Masamune. Despite his newly elevated position, the ‘One-eyed Dragon’ retained his interest and fascination in BattleMech engineering – as evidenced by him appearing at the LACS camp.

The three were directed to one of the taller buildings in the camp. They were about twenty metres from the entrance to what was undoubtedly a workshop when Major Gabriel realized that this was the first time Warlord Masamune had visited the LACS and their attached mercenaries.

“Steady there Major.” The words from the Warlord carried only as far as Gabriel and Artemisia. “No reasons to panic.”

Marcus Gabriel nodded wordlessly as Masamune observed his surroundings with quiet interest. From the outside of the camp, the small LACS camp looked like any other temporary field research facility. Other than two guard towers and barb wire topped chain link fencing surrounding its perimeter, there was nothing to indicate any sort of enhanced defences. It was only from the inside that the scope of the layered defensive structures disclosed the proficiency and skills of their designers. Several small and indiscrete builders had been heavily reinforced from the inside, serving as bunkers and prepared positions for combat vehicles. Invisible from the outside, clusters of foxholes and entrenchments would offer buffered shelters for teams of infantry and their support weapons. It took Masamune a few moments, but he could only smile slightly as he passed by a hole in the ground that was having its bottom laid with steel spikes. These would no doubt be covered and camouflaged later to prevent humans from falling in, making it essentially a BattleMech sized tiger trap.

“The LACS security detachment,” Masamune asked of Gabriel, “I never got to know their name.”

“You know something, My Lord?” The mercenary Major replied with a troubled frown just as he pulled back the door into the workshop, “neither did I.”

Their guess was correct, as evidenced by the working platforms, gantry cranes, halogen spot lights, a bewildering bevy of equipment, computers and display consoles, all manners of tools in boxes and hanging on walls. Right in the middle of the building was the massive form of Captain Artemisia’s ninety ton Cyclops.



“You’re early.” The voice of Nadine Wambach echoed across the workshop as she approached the three figures, wiping grease off her hands as she lifted her head to look back at the motionless assault ‘Mech. “Lucky we’ve already gotten her all made up and ready for the party.”

“She’s beautiful.” Captain Zenobia Artemisia whispered.

“Wait ‘til we run through her specs with you.” Masamune directed his gaze towards the new voice as Andre-Pierre Varane pulled his head from under what would be the Cyclops’ left armpit with a laugh. He winked at his collaborator. “Show ‘em Naddy.”

“My pleasure. If you would just follow me?” Wambach led the three to one of the bigger holo displays. Quickly clearing what was on the screen with rapid taps on the keyboard, she next pulled up the blueprint of the massive war machine standing before them. From its listed speed, armour distribution and payload, it was obvious that the machine on the screen was the original CP-10-Z model. “Like we told you previously, given the facilities, equipment and time limitation, the most efficient way to reboot your ride was to yank the 360 Hermes.” Wambach began, a finger stabbing at the heart of the Cyclops’ image and flicking it aide. A rather chunky block of fusion engine flew across the screen in response. “You also mentioned that you thought that an assault ‘Mech should have thicker armour.” Wambach was clearly enjoying herself as much as her audience were. She closed her fingers and thumb and swept her right hand across the screen, causing the armour plates on the digital ‘Mech to shatter into a cloud of stars before fading away.

“Now, the first thing we did was to give your ‘Mech a new heart. You said you didn’t mind going slower, so we replaced the original 360 with a 270 rated fusion instead. No XL engine block though, since we don’t know if it’d affect the B-2000 – the entire reason for the existence of the Cyclops.” Wambach grinned at Artemisia. “We thought you might like some freezers to go with your new engine as well. So… we basically dropped your top speed by about 10 klick an hour in exchange for nearly double your previous cooling capacity and over twenty tons of additional payload.”

“I believe you’d save another ton from a smaller gyro too.” Masamune commented, his eyes bright and sparkling.

“Yes, yes we did.” Varane confirmed as he looked with interest at Masamune. “You know your ‘Mech engineering.”

“Just a personal interest since my youth.” Masamune replied with a nod, raising both hands in surrender. “Nothing close to your obvious genius.”

“We’re always open to suggestions and ideas.” Wambach continued on Varane’s chain of thought. “If you ever have time, do drop by. If there’s anything you’re working on, we’d love to hear about it.”

The Warlord looked at Wambach with near childlike delight. “As a matter of fact…”

“I’m sure there’s a better time for us to talk about this again.” Gabriel cut in abruptly. “There’s a schedule we need to keep, tasks to perform.” He first regarded Wambach, then Varane before returning his gaze to the ‘Witch’ and Masamune beside her. “And I heard from Captain Huo that you might be off escorting another one of those Elsie foraging trips.”

“Wet blanket.” Wambach scowled at the older mercenary before returning her attention to the holo display. “Let’s continue. We didn’t touch your lasers nor your missile systems, but we pulled that boomstick and the four tons of ammo supply from its right chest. Other than a lower max speed, this is the part you’ll need the most getting used to.” She lowered her voice dramatically, lifting a hand in a show of whispering to Artemisia. “In its place, we slotted in a gauss rifle. In. Each. Torso.”

It took all of five seconds for the trio to comprehend the meaning of those words.

“Bloody hell, I’m gonna pilot a Gaussilla.” Captain Artemisia finally stammered, her words referring to general reference to the proliferation of BattleMech designs armed with two or more gauss rifles since the rediscovery of the technology in the 3050s.

“I told you that part should have came last.” Varane chided Wambach accusingly. “They’re not going to be interested in anything else you say after that.”

“Oh well, we all agree that having thirty five percent more armour and a new Cellular Ammunition Storage Equipment to protect against those missile explosions aren’t that sexy.” Wambach shrugged, though the twinkle in her eyes betrayed the gratification she got from the amazement obvious on the faces of Gabriel, Artemisia and Masamune.

“The calibration process for that new gyro must surely have been a nightmare, especially to compensate forthe recoil from those new guns.” Masamune finally uttered.

“You’d be surprised at how easy it was actually,” Varane had joined the small gathering. “The continuous kick from the old Zeus Mark III autocannon was wickedly horrendous compared to the simplicity of the gauss rifles. Making sure both of them discharge simultaneously if the pilot triggered them so the aim won’t be thrown off was much more of a challenging.”

“Gauss rifles run through electrically charged magnetic currents.” Masamume suggested. “I’m guessing you installed a switch to regulate the electrical feed to those guns?”

“Bingo!” Wambach grabbed Masamune’s shoulders eagerly. “It took us a couple of days to came up with that idea and you just thought it off the top of your head!” She turned towards Gabriel with narrowing eyes. “I am so gonna convince Captain Huo to steal this man off your payroll.”

“Erm, as much as I appreciate what you’ve done for Artemisia’s ride, and also promising to look at a couple of other of our ‘Mechs, I don’t think His… ehhh… Masamune here would be available.” Gabriel shifted uncomfortably as he replied. “Not to mention that he’s not a member of the Gatecrashers. He’s from the IRM.”

“You know, one can never be sure about such things.” Masamune countered Gabriel’s words as his grin grew. “I might just be tempted enough to jump ship.”

“That’s the spirit!” Varane wrapped a friendly arm around Masamune’s shoulders. “Who do we have to talk to about poaching Masamune here.”

“We’d probably have to conquer the continent of Hellas, if not the entire New Mars system itself.” All five turned towards the silhouette at the workshop’s door. The shadow closed the door behind it before making its way to join the group. It raised a right arm and saluted Masamune smartly as the lights were finally able to illuminate the face. “Captain Huo Qu Bing, pleasure to finally meet you in person, My Lord.”

‘I assure you, the pleasure is all mine, Captain Huo.” Masamune returned the salute before he extended an arm sheepishly. “So, what gave me away?”

“Don’t worry My Lord. It’s not due to any breach of intelligence or anything like it.” Huo grasped the Warlord’s offered hand and pumped it warmly once. “Just a matter of deduction. Until we came along, there isn’t any notable folks of east Asian descent on New Mars itself – with the exception of you and your family. Then, there’s that eyepatch PLUS your unbridled interest in ‘Mech tech.”

“Points well noted.” Masamune nodded in appreciation. “If I ever need to go incognito anywhere, I’ll remember them.”

“I certainly hope that won’t be anytime soon My Lord.” Huo responded firmly. “Hellas, New Mars and quite a few other people of prominence and in power ought to know who you are, and what you stand for.”

“You’re right of course.” The Isidis Regions Warlord exhaled a heavy sigh. “I’d like to believe that like us, none of the other factions are looking forward to war. But when push comes to shove, the Isidis Regions is always ready to heave back.”

“For everyone’s sake, let’s hope it doesn’t come to that My Lord.” Captain Gabriel concurred grimly.

“It’s strange that nobody really wants war, but war has been spreading all over New Mars.” Masamune commented, once again casting his eyes on the Cyclops. Whereas the war machine had previously represented hundreds of years of engineering ingenuity, it now epitomized an avatar of death. “I can only wish that this disease gets stymied from its roots, and soon before we all get engulfed in death and destruction.”

"New Year's approaching." Huo also looked up at the Cyclops. "Let's hope your wishes come true, My Lord."

blackpanzer

  • Sergeant
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  • Posts: 178
TSS KRASNY OKTYABR
Union Class Drop Ship
LAAF BANGOR
Poulsbo
Bangor Base
Bangor City
Registered Contract: PR-RR-06-02
Cavanaugh Theatre
Lyran Alliance
November 30th, 3100
1633 hours, local time


Major Kevin McShane had been reflecting on his conversation with the Lieutenant General Regan, ever since they had parted. Kevin had to admit that the talk had gone south in a hurry, but had improved when the General’s aide had taken over. A whole lot better than he had anticipated, given the circumstances that had led to the General storming out in the first place. Kevin had thought the General might have had him arrested, might have seized his ship and its contents, might have ordered his company personnel remanded away from him. Hell, he probably had the power to banish him from the Lyran Alliance, given his noble status. Kevin had expected the Flag Officer to be by the book, but in most cases, when Kevin had met Generals, especially ones in line units, they gave mercenaries a little lee way.General Regan was not one of those officers, sadly.

Kevin thought back further, thinking about a time when the Mangudai had been a stand alone mercenary unit. 22 years old, Kevin had taken contract during the beginning of the Marik Civil War. They had been approached, after forming up their 3rd lance, bringing them to company status. Kevin had felt that a garrison assignment would be just what he needed to work his unit, establishing cohesiveness, building a team. The others were pumped, just formed and already in demand! Kevin grinned, a sad grin, as he thought how they had set out, ready to conquer the Galaxy, just like their namesakes. Proud, defiant, invincible! How clear everything had seemed. How long ago that seemed!

Kevin had signed a 1 year contract on April 11, 3077, garrisoning the world of Connaught, along with a Battlemech Company from Romanov’s Crusaders. Kevin was charged with conducting raids against the Capellan Confederation, in the name of Lady Alys Rousset-Marik. Arriving at the planet, Kevin found out that in addition to Romanov's Crusaders, the 18th Marik Militia was on planet, protecting The Kong Interstellar Corporation Battlemech Facility. Cautioned by Captain Asper, CO of the Squires, also working off planet, using it as a staging area, as to the volatile nature of the 18th, as well as their history of supporting Janos Marik II, Kevin repeatedly volunteered for the raids taking place off planet. He was returning from just such a raid on that morning, successful, brimming with the warmth that only victory could bring, burning for the planet's surface, when he had heard how the 18th Marik Militia had fallen on the Squire's Base Camp, annihilating the company.

Landing on the tarmack of the spaceport, Kevin had met with his personnel, and they had all agreed that they needed to keep the spaceport open, until the civilians could escape off planet. Telling Captain Mukhin to keep the ship primed for takeoff, as well as defending himself, Kevin ordered his people into their mechs. Breaking the company into separate lances, Kevin had taken the main gate and highway, Stone had been assigned the Spaceport Terminal and accessway, and Selene had been assigned the warehouse area. And from there it had unraveled. The whole recon lance was gone. Gone! Selene, Billy, Charlie and Bobby. All made it back to the ship, but all had fallen. Timmy from Stone's lance had fallen, Stone himself dragging the mech back to the Drop Ship. Bobpa had made it on board, a refugee that Kevin couldn't leave behind, no matter what. The 18th Marik Militia had been everywhere, and outnumbered the units trying to defend.

They had made it off world but were seriously damaged. 5 mech warriors had died, their mechs heavily damaged. Kevin was left with 7 mech warriors, and their mechs, but even those mechs were tore up. With no paymaster, and no clear confirmation of contract completion, they would be hard pressed to repair the damage they had suffered, let alone replace the mech warriors lost. Kevin knew he had to respect the blood, and to continue to forge on. They would need to rebuild, before anyone would hire them.

This had led Kevin to the Shadow Lancers Mercenary Command, and after a series of successful contracts, when that unit had accepted a position within the Capellan House Units, the Black Talon Phoenix Mercenary Command. Colonel McRaven had pushed the Mangudai out, glad to have a company that excelled at special tactics, offensive in nature, more than prepared to take the fight to their enemy. When the Mangudai had been reformed and resupplied, they didn’t have a mech weighing less than 45 tons. Most of their mechs were equipped with energy weapons and jump jets, to further press their offensive capabilities. After Kevin’s falling out with Colonel Lance McRaven, and Kevin’s subsequent firing, the Mangudai had become a more conventional company. They had even taken a line company billeting in 2nd Battalion. That is, until Kevin had come back. After much ass kissing, and a little groveling, with an eye for the prize, Kevin had gotten a company command again, and that company was his own, precious Mangudai. Jack Daniels and Shawn Stone, both of them former Mangudai mech warriors, whom had risen to company command status, in Kevin’s absence, had resigned their commissions, so they could rejoin the Mangudai, and serve under Kevin once again. Many mech jocks sought out a position, to be able to serve in such an aggressive unit.

Kevin’s next move, after promising to restructure the unit to once again be a serious striker company, was to swap out the light recon mechs for their heavier medium class mechs, some ECM equipped, still fast, and jump capable. He then started to replace as many of the other mechs, even replacing assault class mechs with jump capable heavies, to achieve the need for speed. Now, he was about to show the prim and proper Lyran General why he was a value once again for the Black Talon Phoenix Mercenary Command. He had been through the fire, and the forge, and the school of hard knocks had just made him stronger, sharper.

Walking down through the various mech bays, back aboard the TSS KRASNY OCTYABR, Kevin once again appraised his unit, and felt the pride swell within his chest. This was HIS unit. His Company. They answered to him, and through him, the Black Talon Phoenix Mercenary Command. Amber Lance, his pursuit lance, was made up of 2 Hellspawns, both HSN-8E’s. ECM Suites helped to hide the unit’s movement from enemy sensors and scanners. Jump Jets, and an XL engine allowed the mech to move with improved mobility. 2 extended range medium lasers, a medium pulse laser and 2 long range missile launchers, with Artemis IV fire control systems gave the medium mechs a serious punch. A Hatchetman, a HCT-6D, was another fast mech, with an XL engine, weighing in at 45 tons, increased its maneuverability with Jump Jets, armed with a Mydron Tornado Rotary Autocannon and 3 extended range medium lasers. It also sported a Guardian ECM Suite. Rounding out the lance was a STY-3D Star Slayer. This was the lance commander’s mech, with Jump Jets, extended range Particle Projection Cannon, Large Laser, and 3 Medium Lasers. At 50 tons, it was the heaviest, as well. Lieutenant Junior Grade Shogei ‘Rosey’ Rosse had come on board from the Lyran Alliance, and had pushed for Kevin to assign him to this mech. In the last few years, ‘Rosey’ had proven himself more than capable to pilot it. Kevin nodded to each of the mech warriors present, smiling at the determination he felt from their returning nods. At his wave, they fell in behind, knowing the Major had something to share.

Moving on to the second mech bay, Kevin took in the view as he came upon Bitter Lance. This was one of Kevin’s fondest memories, both before and now. These mech warriors had been with him since the start. The lance commander, Captain Shawn ‘Stonewall’ Stone, was the Company Executive Officer. Many a night, drinking with Kevin, while they both served with Storm’s Metal Thunder, Stone had pitched the idea about them striking out on their own. And then it had happened. Captain Shawn ‘Stonewall’ Stone, his trademark Stetson perched on his head, smiled at Kevin, and sketched a quick salute. Kevin shook his head, winking at his friend, before raising his eyes to the mechs before him. A Centurion, CN9-D, a solid all around, 50 ton brawler, with an XL engine, Mydron Excel LB-X Autocannon 10, a long range missile with Artemis Fire Control system and 2 medium lasers. Next, a HU-WO-R4O Huron Warrior, another all around, 50 ton brawler, another XL engine, a gauss rifle, extended range large laser and medium pulse laser. A well matched pair, the last two were even more so. 2 Nightsky, 1 a NGS-4S, the other, a NGS-5T. Both possessed a 4 ton hatchet built into it’s right arm. Both had Jump Jets, and XL engine. The Nightsky NGS-4S had 1 large pulse laser, 2 medium pulse lasers and 1 small pulse laser. The NGS-5T replaces the large pulse laser with an extended range particle projection cannon. The mechs were very well matched in the speed department and could easily keep up with the pursuit lance. Again, with a wave, Kevin summoned them to follow him.

Lastly, Kevin entered Mech Bay 1, where his command lance was waiting for him. Everyone was in the last stages of prepping their mechs, before stepping out. Two twin mechs, at least at first sight, stood closest to the mech bay door. Thunderbolts, 65 tons each, stood like sentinels, guarding the way. The TDR-10SE was equipped with MASC and Jump Jets making it more than mobile, able to keep up with all the mechs in the company, at least short term. An extended range particle projection cannon, 3 extended range medium lasers, targeting computer, long range missile launcher and Guardian ECM Suite made this mech more than a match to be reckoned with. The 2nd Thunderbolt was a TDR-11SE, not as fast, but with Jump Jets, more than capable to keep up with its lancemates. Armed with a snub nose PPC, 3 extended range medium lasers, a multi missile launcher, capable of firing both short and long range missiles. This mech was also protected by a Guardian ECM Suite. The 3rd mech in the mech bay belonged to Captain Jack Daniels. Captain Daniels was basically Death, incarnate. He piloted his Warhammer WHM-9D as if it was an extension of himself. 70 tons of death and destruction, capable of moving as fast as a medium mech, with Jump Jets to move it around. Paired extended range particle projection cannons, and extended range medium lasers, linked to an advanced targeting computer, made the Warhammer a serious infighter. Passing the Warhammer brought Kevin to his own mech.

A Marauder MAD-5D. Equipped with an XL engine, and Jump Jets, this particular model of Marauder was able to carry a heavy suite of advanced weapons systems. two extended range PPCs, carried in either arm, supported by a large pulse laser, mounted on the AFT Dorsal, in place of the autocannon. Two medium pulse lasers were matched with the extended range PPCs, sharing the same vambraces in each arm, while a STREAK short range missile launcher meted out damage close up. Kevin had been piloting this particular mech since the birth of the Mangudai. When he had moved the unit to the Shadow Lancers, and the Black Talon Phoenix Mercenary Commands, he had continued to pilot it. Because it had been his, when he left the Black Talon Phoenix Mercenary Command, the mech had gone with him as well.

As Kevin paused, placing a hand on his mech’s right leg, Kevin thought about the years between, when he had left, and when he had made his way back in. 6 years, to be exact. He had served with distinction with Narhal’s Raiders but left after hearing the news of the losses the Black Talon Phoenix Mercenary Command had suffered due to a jump ship mis-jumping. All hands were believed to have been lost. Of course, due to the unit’s movement’s, Kevin didn’t arrive until almost 2 years later. Again, Kevin had to win his place, and prove to the acting commander, General Gallagher, that he was rehabilitated, and could be trusted to follow orders. Shaking his head, Kevin began the climb up, onto his mech’s foot, allowing him to rise above the men and women now loosely formed around him.

Kevin smiled, which did nothing to reduce everyone’s anxiety. If there was one thing that was always constant, it was that Major McShane liked to keep everyone off balance. So, with no further ado, Kevin launched into his speech.

“Well, I hope everyone has had time to check in with their techs, and have gone over their mechs. As you have been made aware of, we are heading for New Mars. Now, dealing with pirates and outlaws is no surprise to any of you, so you have some idea what you need to be looking for. Of course, the conditions on New Mars are not without consequence. So, look to your survival gear, rations, and your weapons, most of all. I am not saying you will working outside your mechs for any length of time, but you can’t trust pirates, you can’t plan for what they are going to do, and if one puts you down, well, I can’t guarantee that we will get to you right away.” Kevin rolled the cigar butt from right to left, and bit down on it, to keep it in place.

“I have met with the base commander, one Lieutenant General Regan, and he felt the need to size me up. Of course, he found himself lacking, and couldn’t even attempt to be the bigger man. That being said, you all will need to be on your best behavior while we are here.” Groans and rolled eyes, with a head shake thrown in for good measure from the company, and Kevin continued. “Judge, Stonewall, draw up a duty roster, and let’s get down to business. Duty section stands the watch, everyone works the drop ship, or runs errands. Liberty will be Cinderella liberty, that means it secures at midnight, or whatever passes for midnight in this system. We are waiting on our jump ship to return, at which time we will head out to meet it, and move to New Mars. After some discussion, it has been decided that we will continue to make use of the TSS KRASNY OCTYABR for this mission.” Cat calls and whistles, and a smattering of applause followed Kevin’s announcement.

“There are several different factions, each one believing they are the rightful rulers of their world. This could work to our favor, if we can exploit it. Of course, we will need to wait and see. On another note, Host and Reaper are headed out to the airfield. They are trying to find different forms of ordnance that they can use to help us disarm any opposition. Some times, the bigger the boom, the bigger the shock factor.” Kevin paused again, looking at each and every member of his company. Kevin held their gaze for a 3 count, before looking off at the next member.

“So, that said, we are all on a 3 hour recall alert. As soon as we know the jump ship has returned, we will button up, and launch.  I want to get a move on, and don’t want to linger here, any more than we have to. So, be prepared for some working parties. We are going to have ammo, armor plates and spare parts coming aboard. We will also be setting in a 90 day supply of stores. Food, beverage, staples, as well as all the other sundries. We are ramping up to get moving, and we need to get gone quickly, when the time arrives.” Kevin looked over at Captains Daniels and Stone. “That is all I have, unless either of you have something for the group?” At Judge’s headshake, and Stone’s ‘No Sir’, Kevin nodded. “Well, that’s it. Everyone, check in with your lance commander, and let’s get this show on the road.”

blackpanzer

  • Sergeant
  • *
  • Posts: 178
Outskirts of Township of Frozdale
West of the Harmakhis River
Northwest of the Fosenkov Forests
Boreum Plains
Borders of Akbar Dominion
Continent of Hellas, New Mars
Independent System
Lyran Alliance Anti-Spinward Periphery
31st December 3100
0805 hours local time


The peculiar looking vehicle crunched through the thick snow on its eight enormous wheels. As silently as anything weighing half a hundred tons could be, it slowed before stopping behind one of the many abrupt rock outcropping clusters that occurred rather frequently around these parts of the Boreum Plains. A pair of grabber style arms on its sides were folded and tucked inwards, with the lift hoist and mining drill that tipped either ‘Mech style arms unneeded for its current mission. What was unseen by the naked eye was the vehicle’s onboard mounted Beagle Active Probe sweeping the immediate area around it, as well as a full ton worth of communications equipment transmitting all information it gathered up to an orbiting QR 243 relay satellite. As part of the LACS’s overall mission, their Mammoth DropShip had quietly deployed the Clans developed piece of equipment meant for interstellar communications from orbit during its inbound trip into New Mars. In turn, the satellite would collect all transmitted data from the quartet of Lyran Alliance Civil Service exploration and scouting vehicles deployed on different locations spread across the planet before redirecting the encrypted data packages deeper into Lyran space through its twelve ton mobile HPG. Another component of the Lyran Intelligence Corps sponsored reconnaissance operations to New Mars, the Shackleton team assigned to the northern polar continent of Hellas was protected by a very small team of mercenaries deemed to be sufficient based on expected threats in that sector.

“What a way to spend New Year’s Day.” First Leutnant Wilhelm Heinrich snorted sullenly to himself.

SMALL would be a massive understatement given what they had seen of these mercenaries and their equipment thus far. While Heinrich understood that the hired guns could only deploy a fraction of their strength with the first convoy to Hellas due to limited logistics, he had at least hoped that they would add substantially to the Vindicator and Light SRM carrier when their main bulk arrived. Instead, what had linked up with them were a combat engineering team consisting of IndustrialMechs and engineering vehicles. On the one hand, these had proved invaluable in the establishing and shoring up of the LACS’s temporary field base. Yet, given that the two factions on Hellas had only recently engaged in open warfare with each other, these would be nothing more than speed breaks if hostilities flared up again and the LACS were caught in between. Heck, even though they made a very public show of announcing themselves as reinforcements for Gabriel’s Gatecrashers, even going as far as to spraying onto their equipment the Gatecrashers’ emblem of a BattleMech foot about to stomp onto a pair of gate doors, Heinrich was certain that they were most certainly NOT part of Major Gabriel’s setup.

The LACS officer and commander of the Shackleton lowered the high powered binoculars from his eyes and exhaled resignedly. Despite the threat of violence, coupled with local political uncertainties, New Mars was far from an exciting mission. Heinrich doubted that the local Warlords would dare threaten any LACS personnel, given how much the commerce and trade of the independent Periphery system depended on the goodwill of its powerful neighbour. Yet, the organization had thought that knowing who exactly provided food supplies to several of the Alliance’s backwater Periphery border systems important enough to dispatch send the LACS Explorer Expedition Team. It was not in Heinrich’s place, or his pay grade to question their orders. Still, if the LACS had set aside enough resources to mobilize the Expedition Team, Heinrich could not understand why they not had put in more effort to find and hire body guards of higher competence.

Wilhelm Heinrich looked at the BattleMech crouched beside his fifty ton Shackleton and sighed again in disappointment.

No ‘Mech had been more associated with the Capellan Confederation than the forty five ton Vindicator. A plucky machine from the old days – in an era way before Heinrich was born, it was well balanced against medium BattleMechs that the other states used, though it was seemingly designed with an eye towards the signature medium class workhorse of the Capellans’ most ancient foes in the Federated Suns – the Enforcer.

Unlike the famed Succession era fifty five ton trio of the Shadow Hawk, Griffin and Wolverine, the Vindicator was slower at a stately sixty five kilometres an hour despite it being a good ten tons lighter in weight. While its jump jets gave the MechWarrior mobility over rough terrain, it could be easily distanced by many others in the medium weight class, and even some heavier machines. One of its saving graces, and undoubtedly one of the core criteria of its design, was that unlike its contemporaries, the Vindicator was heavily armoured for its chassis. More notably, most variants were solidly armed and had enough heat sinking capabilities to make use of its arsenal – again a massive advantage over most other designs even in the present era.

Despite the technological renaissance in the 3040s, the Vindicator and its updated descendants were largely rendered obsolete with the coming of the Clans and the increasing proliferation of extra light engine technology.

Heinrich grudgingly admitted that the Vindicator had been, and continued to be a competent trooper ‘Mech. Without the need of cutting edge technology, it would serve as the backbone of the Capellan Confederation Armed Forces together with machines like the Raven and Cataphract furing the Succession Wars. Ironically, the greatest hindrance of these designs, and in particular the Vindicator – machines that saw the Confederation through the Succession Wars, was the Capellan Confederation itself. With Sun Tzu Liao’s ascension to the Celestial throne, Xin Sheng movement would see the Confederation turn to a new plethora of avatars of war with Chinese names and styling, exemplified by the post 4th Succession Wars generation of BattleMech designs like Tian Zong, Lao Hu, Men Shen, Jinggau and Yu Huang filling the ranks of the CCAF.

Heinrich had heard that these mercenaries were magicians when it came to refitting BattleMechs and other machines of war. He squinted incredulously at the unmoving machine with white grey shaded winter camouflage patterns. Perhaps they did some mind blowing overhaul to that ‘Mech? The dual boxed missile launchers on its left arm which also held a BattleMech sized sword certainly was unfamiliar and exotic looking to the LACS officer. If the refit they did for the Gatecrashers XO’s Cyclops was any indication to go by, the Vindicator that they ran could very well had been outfitted to shoot nuclear missiles out of its behind for all he knew.

Heinrich shrugged and he stoically returned his attention to the Akbar Dominion township in the distance. Being more than three hundred – nearly four hundred kilometres from the Isidis-Akbar borders, this was easily the deepest reconnaissance run into Akbar territory by his LACS Team since their arrival on Hellas. Based on local maps, the small population centre a couple of kilometres ahead was aptly named Frozdale. It was not large by any means of the imagination, reportedly holding a civilian population of about three hundred or thereabouts. However, Fronzdale had served as one of the last permanent staging areas within Akbar lands during their recent conflict with the Isidis Regions. While there had been no signs indicating that the Akbar Dominion Military might be gearing up for war again anytime soon, the First Leutnant had been ordered to scout out the area for their latest mission outing. Two days ago, Heinrich’s LACS Team had been informed by HQ that their satellite had detected a larger than usual group of Akbar Dominion patrol heading towards Frozdale. Heinrich had been instructed to shadow the Dominion patrol before they entered Frozdale. Heinrich had finally caught up with the Akbar force, immediately tagging a trio of BattleMechs leading the usual assortment of support that they had came to associate the Akbar Dominion Military with – tracked Bulldog tanks, a couple of classic light hover combat vehicles, crapload of infantry ferried by trucks, APCs and ATVs.

Maybe if they hurry this along… Heinrich’s musings stopped abruptly as he suddenly realized that not only was the vehicular column behind the ‘Mechs larger than usual, but it contained equipment previously not seen within Akbar ranks – machines like Po, Ontos and Manticore heavy tanks. Was ist hier los? There were also A LOT more motorized infantry than usual. What the heck is going on…

“Seeker Lead, Pisces One. You seeing this?”

Even muted, the sudden voice of Jiang Ziya over his personal comms nearly made Heinrich jump out of his skin. Cursing himself for his lack of self control, the First Leutnant hoped that the mercenary MechWarrior had been too preoccupied monitoring the faraway Akbar troops to notice his momentary lapse. “Roger that Pisces One. Do you have LOS on the end of that Akbar trail?” The LACS officer was hopeful that the electronics on Jiang Ziya’s Vindicator would see further than his high power binoculars.

“Quite a stretch back there.” Jiang evenly confirmed Heinrich’s suspicions. “Mostly trucks and snow terrain transports. A few indigenously jury rigged IndustrialMechs and a short lance of hover tanks holding the rear.”

“If the Akbar Dominion is moving this much hardware and personnel, you think they’re planning on renewing offences?” The LACS First Leutnant asked before cursing under his breath and biting his own lips. He was supposed to be the ranking officer, with the mercenaries nothing more than his bodyguards. If he were to discuss his speculations, connecting with the main LACS force back on Tharsis should be the way to go.

“The AFAD has traditionally used ‘Mechs to spearhead their assaults.” Jiang Ziya replied after a short pause. “With only a trio of BattleMechs in that group, it would seem to fly against their usual methods.”

Despite his earlier reluctance, Heinrich continued on. “We can’t discount the possibility that they’ve already shuffled in ‘Mechs into Frozdale earlier. And I’m sure that with the substantial DropShip assets the Akbar Dominion has, they possess enough transports to air lift over what they need in short order if they want to. The few ‘Mechs there might be acting as bodyguards for those non-BattleMech elements that their DropShips can’t ferry.”

“Possible.” Jiang conceded. “You might want to let your colleagues back in town know about this.”

“I’m already on it.” Heinrich agreed quickly, before he realized once again how much he sounded like an ignorant school boy thrilled to be praised by a teacher. Still, the veteran Mechjock was right. There might be any number of reasons for such a concentration of Akbar forces. His superior officers would be in a much better position to assess this intel, especially if it coincided with developments in other parts of the world. Climbing back onto his Shackleton, Heinrich quickly punched in the words onto the powerful communications equipment before sending them out.

“Seeker Lead, you might want to take a look at this.” Just as he dispatched out the report, Jiang Ziya called in again. “Stay at your comms, I’m patching visual through.”

Puzzled, Heinrich switched one of the several monitors to receive the visual feed from Jiang’s Vindicator. The column of Akbar troops had stopped several hundred metres from the outskirts of the township, all except the three BattleMechs consisting of a Griffin, an undistinguished and familiar looking twenty ton Locust light ‘Mech and… What the bloody hell is that thing? Instinctively, Heinrich keyed in to his comms. “Pisces One, do you know what’s that last Akbar ‘Mech?”

“The small chicken leg design? That’s a Gùn OmniMech.” Jiang Ziya sounded rather surprised himself even as he replied to Heinrich’s question. “It’s a Capellan design that’s not really that widespread since its main function was to support garrison infantry and battle armour. Twenty ton light machine, not particularly fast nor jump capable. Isn’t even well armoured for its class, but if my memory serves me right, two of its three configurations pack heavy guns – plasma rifle and heavy particle canon respectively. Even the one that’s outfitted as an electronics bird is armed with a large laser, extended version, so its not exactly shooting a pop gun either.”

“What the hell are they doing?” Heinrich wondered, out loud this time.

“Your guess is as good as mine.” Jiang would had shrugged in the cockpit of his forty five ton Vindicator if not for the heavy neural helmet sitting on his shoulders.

In the distance, the three ‘Mechs continued their stately advance towards Frozdale while the rest of their convoy waited. Before the reached the first buildings, a single vehicle sped forward from the small township. There were several figures on the open topped half track snow vehicle, which slowed as it neared to the leading BattleMech. The scene got even more strange, if it was at all possible, as the pilot of the Griffin exited from its cockpit, descending halfway down the chain ladder and seemed to converse with the passengers on the vehicle. The conversation went on for several minutes, before the MechWarrior made his way back into his fifty five ton ‘Mech. The vehicle started to turn around back towards the township when a wave of dull mechanical beats echoed in the distance.

“What’s that?” Heinrich whispered his question fearfully.

As the sound got closer, four quad rotor VTOLs swooped down from the grey winter skies. Painted in non-distinct winter camouflage commonly utilized by any number of militaries, the quartet launched rockets at the outer most buildings before spraying them with heavy machine guns.



A single pass. A solitary sweep of the township of Frozdale was all the modified Swiftran VTOLs took before withdrawing to hover above the Akbar convoy – still unmoving as it watched several of the Frozdale structures consumed by fire, razed and charred.

Unmolested by the Swiftrans’ assault, the vehicle that had started to make its way back to Frozdale turned around again to head back towards the three awaiting BattleMechs. It stopped mere metres from the foot of the Griffin, before the figure of one of the passengers cupped its hands over its mouth and shouted something up at the medium ‘Mech. Within short minutes, the entire convoy resumed its steady advance into Frozdale, led by the half track.

“Well, that was… interesting.” Jiang Ziya commented dryly after a while.

“You’ve recorded all this?” For some reason, Heinrich’s question was asked in a hashed whisper.

“Affirmative, Seeker Lead.” The mercenary MechWarrior reassured the LACS officer solemnly. “May I suggest we make our way out of here before we get discovered? I’m pretty sure we’re not on good enough talking terms with the Akbar Dominion to enjoy greeting each other with New Year well wishes if they catch us snooping on them.”

“That’s the best idea I’ve head all week.” Wilhelm Heinrich agreed fervently.



Lyran Alliance Civil Service Exploration Expedition Field Base
Security Detachment Sector
Clearing along Harmakhis River and Fosenkov Forests
Boreum Plains
Contested territory between Isidis Regions and Akbar Dominion
Continent of Hellas, New Mars
Independent System
Lyran Alliance Anti-Spinward Periphery
31st December 3100
1020 hours local time



“Come now, Captain,” Date Masamune insisted, “I’m not asking you or your people to renegade on your contract. In fact, you won’t even need to set foot into the Isidis Regions if you do not want to.”

Like many others, Masamune had been amazed after Wambach and Varane had showcased their mechanical wizardry a couple of days ago through their transformation of Captain Zenobia Artemisia’s Cyclops from an severely under-armoured and underwhelmingly armed assault class BattleMech to one that could now withstand against some of the most destructive modern ‘Mech grade weapons and giving back as good as it could take. Given his own fascination on ‘Mech engineering as well as the possible boost to his country’s military, he had been virtually begging Huo to allow Wambach and Varane to advice his armourers and engineers on how best to upgrade their BattleMechs, IndustrialMechs and fleet of military vehicles more efficiently.

“Even if I do approve – which I don’t,” Huo Qu Bing replied calmly, “I’m not sure the LACS will look kindly to me either sending my people to you, or allow yours into our base camp.”

“Why? You sent your people to the Gatecrashers’ outpost.” Masamune countered quickly, jabbing a thumb towards the quietly smiling Major Marcus Gabriel. Together with the three of them, Andre-Pierre Varane was merrily and wordlessly accepting the accolades that the Warlord and Major were directing towards him and Nadine Wambach, his partner in crime. “I don’t see the Elsies getting all worked up over that.”

“That’s because we are officially hired to reinforce them, but with providing close security to the LACS team as our primary mission.” Huo pointed out. “Any direct deal between the Isidis Regions and us will risk upsetting their delicate position as a neutral party on New Mars.” He had to give it to the man. The Warlord of the Isidis Regions was tenacious, to say the least. He shot a dirty look at the snickering Major Gabriel. Don’t think I’ll forgive you for hanging me out in the wind my friend.

“Fine, what if you hire astechs to help carry out servicing and maintenance works for Gatecrasher machines?” Date Masamune suggested after a pause.

“Major Gabriel’s machines do have some rather challenging issues to overcome.” Varane confirmed, before adding. “You’re too busy to give us a hand, and there’s only so much Nad and myself can do all by ourselves.”

“With some of his ‘Mechs down, Major Gabriel and his Gatecrashers have requested that the Isidis Regions Military loan him a lance of our MilitiaMechs.” Masamune nodded quickly with a sly twinkle in his eyes. “So officially, you’d be providing assistance to the Gatecrashers. Technically.”

Huo Qu Bing sighed. “I’m sure the Major has requested to loan several military vehicles as well?”

“Of course he did.” The young Warlord nodded gravely.

Marcus Gabriel finally spoke. “Of course I did.”

“I’ll have to discuss our schedule with First Leutnant Heinrich when he returns.” Captain Huo finally surrendered. “Wambach and Varane will only be available after they complete all their assigned duties and tasks.”

“I wouldn’t have it any other way.” A wide grin was plastered across Masamune’s face. “Isidis is not asking you to perform charity Captain. We will allow you unrestricted access to our workshops and armoury – not only to perform upgrades to our hardware, but to any of yours as well.”

“Oh?” Huo raised an eyebrow in surprise at the generous offer. While New Mars was a Periphery independent system, Date Masamune was known to eagerly pick up any advanced tech from black market dealers, gun runners and any other sources where such equipment might come from whenever available. “You might be giving us more than you’re getting, My Lord.”

“Actually Captain, I believe that you are the one who will be getting the short end of the bargain.” Masamune shook his head in good natured disagreement to Huo’s words. “What we are giving you in return for your assistance is a fish, a very big one, but just a fish nonetheless. You, on the other hand, will be teaching my people how to fish, which will set us for the rest of our lives.” He looked at Huo, his beam turning into a cunning smirk. “And for all you know, I might get my people to hide the best of what we have before allowing yours access.”

Huo was about to supply a retort when Wambach and Benavidez approached the four. Their expression gave no doubt as to the gravity of whatever news they brought.

“My Lord, Major.” The MechWarrior and Battle Armour trooper saluted the two before turning towards Huo. “We just received a transmission from Pisces One. Seeker Lead has similarly reported into Seeker Nest. You might want to see this.”

Huo nodded, all nonchalance and banter evaporated from his expression and tone. “My Lord, Major, duty calls. If my folks think there’s a situation urgent enough to interrupt us, I suggest you make haste back to your own people as well.”

It took only an instant before Huo’s words sink in to both Warlord Date Masamune and Major Marcus Gabriel. They exchanged salutes and handshakes before making their ways to a waiting VTOL to bring them back to Isidis Metropolitan, while Huo Qu Bing trudged back to their shared based with the LACS. The mercenary Captain was already reviewing the video footage of the recording from the outskirts of the Akbar Dominion township of Frozdale a second time, a troubled frown creasing on his face.

“What a way to spend New Year’s Day.”

blackpanzer

  • Sergeant
  • *
  • Posts: 178
Lyran Alliance Civil Service Exploration Expedition Field Base
Security Detachment Sector
Clearing along Harmakhis River and Fosenkov Forests
Boreum Plains
Contested territory between Isidis Regions and Akbar Dominion
Continent of Hellas, New Mars
Independent System
Lyran Alliance Anti-Spinward Periphery
31st December 3100
2235 hours local time



The mood of the small assembled group of hired soldiers within the prefab building was serene yet sombre as the gathered mercenaries poured over all available intel and maps in and around their current field camp, as well as notable geographic features along the Harmakhis River. Hours ago and earlier in the day, Jiang Ziya had fed them with video recordings of a sizable Akbar Dominion Military force that had appeared to intimidate and coerce their way into the border township of Frozdale. The event would not had been so strange if not for the fact that Frozdale was an Akbar Dominion settlement itself. It was not an everyday occurrence that one’s own forces attack one’s own settlement. The aggressive actions of the group could mean that Frozdale had declared independence from the Dominion, or even expressed their wish to surrender to the Isidis Regions, thus justifying the unit’s display of violence and subsequent entry into Frozdale. Another more outrageous reason being floated around might be that the unit itself, rather than Frozdale, was breaking away from the Akbar Dominion and they had decided to take Frozdale as their new base of operations.

Different groups were trying to decipher the confusing intel at the very moment other than Huo Qu Bing and his merry band of mercenaries – Warlord Date Masamune of the Isidis Regions with the members of his ruling committee including Major Marcus Gabriel in Isidis Metropolitan; First Leutnant Wilhelm Heinrich with the other LACS officers at other locations on New Mars linked via their satellite comms systems; and the Akbar Dominion’s Warlord Ramzan Kadyrov with his war council deeper in the Akbar Dominion.

“Anything more concrete from the LACS or Isidis Regions on the situation? Any updates?” Varane was asking. “Heck, maybe the Akbar Dominion themselves announced something over the planetary news network, or there’s some intercepted broadcast to their own people?”

“Nothing official I’m afraid. So as far as we know, our guess is as good as anyone’s at the moment.” Jiang Ziya replied. “There had been rumours previously – speculations which might just had been proven true, that there were still significant number of supporters against Warlord Ramzan Kadyrov, those who continued to back the vanquished lieutenants’ belief that the Akbar Dominion should rule over their neighbours, and eventually the entire New Mars by force.” The older mercenary explained quietly, as all eyes and attention in the room focused on him. The most widely travelled and experienced amongst them, as well as being the one from their group that had interacted most with the Isidis Regions Military, in addition to the most frequent participant of LACS recon runs into the Akbar Dominion, Jiang Ziya had the most first-hand data as well as feel of things on the ground here on Hellas. “If what we saw was indeed a group of the AFAD declaring their own sovereignty, the number of Akbar Dominion rebels would seemed to have spread most predominantly among the military. I would speculate that this would be especially prevalent among the lower and medium ranking officer corps who had grown up hearing about the glorious history of the all conquering Armed Forces of their forefathers, but felt that they were now nothing more than glorified militia and security guards now.”

“Who knows, maybe some other factions from the other continents played a role in stoking the flames of rebellion.” Varane suggested. “They might promise to recognize the legitimacy of the rebels, support them with resources, hardware, supplies, even send reinforcements and troops.” He leafed through some of the reports that showed Isidis and Akbar exports. “Both Isidis and Akbar boast of considerable commerce and trade revenue sources. Given New Mars’ highly volatile political and swiftly changing landscape, I wouldn’t be surprised if someone makes a play to pave the way for their penetration into the Hellas continent.”

“Or maybe the Dominion’s failed invasion of the Isidis Regions a couple of months ago provoked the rebels to mutiny against their Warlord?” Wambach conjectured. “I’m sure those that had opposed the new leader wouldn’t look kindly to a failed offensive, especially against an opponent perceived to be much weaker than they are. They might want to overthrow their leadership, but after the losses they suffered in the Isidis offensives, those rebels probably wouldn’t have enough forces to mount a coup.”

“At this point, let’s not bother ourselves with hypothesis we can’t confirm. What we need to do is to have our own tactics and strategies ready if those forces decide to pay us a visit.” Huo Qu Bing held a hand to forestall further discussion about the internal politics of the Akbar Dominion. “Or what we can do if we’re to carry the offensive over to them.” The mercenary Captain turned once more back towards Jiang Ziya. “What have we got on Frozdale.”





“Frozdale is one of the Akbar Dominion townships closest along the Isidis Akbar border. Located near the mouth of the Harmakhis River, the township is one of the major sources of water supply crucial to the Dominion for several reasons.” Jiang slotted in a data chip into the small holo projector sitting in the middle of the room, motioning for Varane to dim down the lights in the room. The machine hummed into life even as the illumination to the room reduced, before a greenish three dimensional projection of New Mars II shimmered into existence. Jiang next zoomed in onto the globe, enlarging the image to focus onto the northern continent of Hellas, before the sphere flattened out and the view swept over from the skies to pan out across the holographic surface to display a map of Frozdale and its surrounding terrain. “The township was built up near the site of a hydropower dam that not only produces electricity for several of the Dominion’s nearest population centres’ domestic use, but controls a reservoir from which water was drawn and processed for consumption for the same settlements. Of course, it is also part of the Dominion’s massive network of water supply for their off world export and sale business, what the locals term ‘water runs’.” The veteran mercenary had lightly punched in several commands into the holo projector’s control console, causing the image of the town to shrink in size while the view expanded to show the Harmakhis River as well as the dam that cut across the feature. “No matter if it was Frozdale itself breaking away from the Akbar Dominion, or the military force we detected declaring its independence, I’d say they picked a very good location as their home.” Jiang expressed his opinion with a nod of approval. “Frozdale itself is more than self sufficient in terms of power and water supply in lieu of the Frozdale Hydropower Dam and adjacent reservoir. In addition, unlike those other settlements deeper within the Dominion, Frozdale farmers have managed to plant beets, turnips and spinach in shallow soil on the outskirts of their township. They even set up a large enough greenhouse to grow enough carrots and tomatoes to sustain their small population. Their harvest isn’t enough for export, but they have more than enough for their own consumption. They also rare herds of sheep to supplement their small scale aquaculture for a sustainable, good, balance diet of meat, dairy, fish, fruits and vegetables.”

“I’m surprised there isn’t more Akbar Dominion towns and villages adopting similar methods.” Huo commented at Jiang’s words. “At the very least, honest labour would take their minds off conquests and raids.”

“Taking the fruits of labour and hardship from others usually seem an easier task, especially if you have the guns.” Wambach replied dryly.

“Anyway, there have been disturbing new sightings of more DropShips and conventional transports landing near the township soon after the initial group secured Frozdale. A few were tagged as Dominion vessels, but easily two thirds of those were unmarked ships.” Jiang Ziya added. “It is not certain if these are reinforcements, and if they are, where they are from, and what they comprise of.”

“So I was right?” Varane interrupted. “Whoever is controlling Frozdale is probably getting outside help?”

“Yes, probably so.” Jiang nodded in careful agreement.

“Honestly, I don’t see what’s the fuss is all about.” Varane shrugged his shoulders nonchalantly. “Mutiny, ousted Warlord, all common occurrences in the Periphery. That’s about all uneducated Periphery poo-dung farmers, blood crazed bandits and raving pirates do all the time.”

“We’re concerned because finding out who the leaders are is part of our contract objective.” Huo Qu Bing reminded the MechWarrior. “Not our primary ones, but important nonetheless. How would the Elsies look if they had given us a sit-rep that’s totally different from what we encounter a month down the road after we touch down here on New Mars?”

“I’d say they look like idiots.” Warlock replied quickly, before realizing the reason for Huo’s question. “Oh, I see.”

“Glad we got that out of the way.” The Chinese man patted Varane on his shoulder before turning to address the entire room.

Wabmach was screwing through the consolidated reports on her personal datapad. “Your reports noted that there were hardware and numbers that were previously unseen. These formerly unaccounted forces, they weren’t brought in by these DropShips?”

“No, these made the overland trip with behind those ‘Mechs.” Jiang confirmed with a slight nod.

“So we have confirmation by eyeball….” Wambach recounted as her eyes picked out data as she focused back to her datapad, “A Griffin, a Gùn, a Locust, five militarized IndustrialMechs, at least four weaponized Humming Bird VTOLs, more than a mixed company of tracked tanks including Bulldogs, Pos, Manticores, Ontos, Scorpions and a lance of hover tanks made up of a pair each of Sacaren and Scimitar designs.” The MechWarrior, who was also one half of the engineering and mechanical wizardry of the “The Magic Infuse” Mech Repairs Workshop looked up at her colleagues. “With tons of foot and motorized infantry. If these guys are rebelling against the Dominion, they sure are a pretty substantial force, especially for a breakaway unit. And especially if they’re being reinforced by those DropShips even as we speak.”

“Best case scenario is the Armed Forces of the Akbar Dominion simply sent out a force to put down a township unilaterally looking to declare its sovereignty, and brought in more troops to hold and secure Frozdale.” Huo Qu Bing looked at a new addition to the projection of a table showing those forces that Wambach mentioned. “Worse case scenario is these forces are coming in for Isidis again.”

“Aye, ‘n dats’ jess da ground troops.” Roy Benavidez pointed out. “We dinnae count ‘em Aerospace ‘n conventional fighters tha’ ‘em Dominion military ez noted fer.”

“With the township closer to our location within the Isidis borders compared to any other key Isidis installations, I’d imagine that the chances of any Dominion aggression hitting us would be rather substantial – IF they decide to attack.” Huo farrowed his brows slightly with uneasiness. “Let’s keep our readiness level up and break the rest of our hardware from the Pallada’s hold, make sure everything’s prepped and green for action.”

“We be finally showin’ our toys to ‘em locals, eh?” Benavidez virtually yelped with delight, as the others around the room broke out in wide grins as well. “I’ve been missin’ me suit like crazy. Yer ‘ave any idea wha’ it’s like ter be frolicin’ around naked in da damn snow all these time?”

The mercenaries shared a laugh at the big man’s words. While it had been his own idea to carry out recon runs without his Battle Armour suit on, he had more than once loudly complained about suffering from direct exposure to Hellas’ frosty and wintery elements.

“Don’t get too excited though.” Huo warned the Battle Armour trooper with a slight grin and a slap on his massively broad back, before including the others in his words. “The Gatecrashers have previously ridiculed us for our lack of numbers. When we finally show them the hardware we have, we might collectively be derided for riding in hand me downs and cast off equipment.”

“Good!” Varane sneered with fierce glint burning in his eyes. “Let them and everyone else underestimate us. By the time they realize the errors of their ways, it’s going to be way too late.”

“Once again, I’m reminded that I work with kids.” Wambach rolled her eyes before addressing Huo. “On a more serious note, unless my calculations are very off, I doubt the LACS field base will be able to house all our hardware?”

“We’re not unloading everything from the Pallada yet, at least not for now.” Her CO assured her concerns. “Other than Jiang’s ride, the other ‘Mechs will stay to stay put in their ‘Mech bays. Same thing goes for the combat vees. We’ll continue to store the engineering machines in the base with their solitary Hetzer escort, but everything else stays on the Aurora.” Huo Qu Bing announced before finally turning towards Benavidez. “You sure you and your squad need your suits now? If any of our opponents manage to catch a glimpse of them…”

“Nah, we’ll jus’ make sure da’re all spruced up ‘n ready fer action like ye said.” Benavidez agreed. “I ‘ave ter agree with Varane though – I’d pay good money ter see ther’ faces when we bitch smack ‘em Elsies and Gatecrashers around, don’t ye know.”

“Wait, we’re not even going to break… you know, THEM out of the cargo holds?” Varane suddenly pointed out in genuine concern, pointing a finger to indicate at two particular pieces of military hardware listed on Wambach’s datapad. “I would’ve thought we’d want, no, I’d say we NEED to have them out of stowage, at least to make sure they can operate in Hellas’ thrice cursed temperature and climate, what with frost, snow, cross winds...”

“Unless absolutely necessary, no.” Huo Qu Bing confirmed with a firm nod of his head, cutting Varane’s sentence out. Noticing the drooping heads of several of his subordinates, he allowed himself a shadow of a smile before he added. “Nothing says we can’t test them in the middle of the night once we get them primed and ready.” He paused and shook his head as the faces of Varane and Wambach brightened visibly, recalling Wambach’s words about working with children. “I trust that you will make sure nobody, not even the LACS, Gatecrashers or any faction on New Mars find out about them?”

“Yes, Sir! I mean no Sir, of course not.” Varane assured his commanding officer solemnly.

“It’s not that I doubt your professionalism of course,” Huo continued with a hint of candid sarcasm in his voice, “but I know you’ve been spending quite a lot of time fine tuning the Isidis Military IndustrialMechs. I have to say this because I know how you guys are when you have new toys to play with.” The mercenary officer next addressed Varane and Wambach both. “But once we break out own stuff out, getting our own equipment online, readied and tuned is going to be your main priority.”

“Don’t worry Captain,” Wambach conceded with a dip of her head. “We know how to differentiate between our work and hobby.”

“Don’t get me wrong – I’m not stopping you guys from continuing to help them out.” Huo Qu Bing reminded the pair of them again sternly. “The Isidis and their Warlord ARE paying us with unrestricted access to their armoury for anything we might find useful for our own use after all. And any extra edge we can give them is extra help to our own course if it comes to open warfare eventually.”

“Roger and affirmative, Sir.” Varane and Wambach snapped to smart salutes in acknowledgement to Huo’s orders.

“Strategically, there’s really nothing much we can do on our end.” Huo summarized matter of factly as he cast his glance back at the holographic display of the map around their field camp. “We just have to make sure the LACS team we’re tasked to guard remains safe. And to report back to the Elsies whoever comes with bragging rights after all this mess.”

“You might want to hold that thought.” Jiang suddenly voiced out, as he seemed to be listening intently to the ear piece of his personal comms system. The veteran MechWarrior strode quickly to the holo terminal. He punched in a string of instructions which dissolved the map away, causing it to be replaced by a rectangular projected screen. It flickered into life to show a man in his forties.  Garbed in military winter wear and surrounded by several soldiers in uniform of similar style, he stood with the sight of the distinctive Frozdale Hydropower Dam in the background, the massive structure illuminated by strong beams of spot lights punching through the darkness of night. Above the news crawl scrolling across near to the bottom of the screen, a bigger fixed tag showed his name to be Dzhokhar Dudayez. “This is now being broadcasted on all news networks on New Mars, direct from Frozdale.”

“I am Dzhokhar Dudayez, formerly a Major in the Armed Forces of the Akbar Dominion and loyal subject of the late Warlord Akhmat-Haji Kadyrov.” The man in the screen started, looking intently at the camera. “Some of you might have heard of unusual incident that occurred outside of the Dominion township of Frozdale earlier today. I am here to clarify the doubts so that vicious and malicious rumourmongers do not take advantage of the confusion in any way possible.”

The man paused for a while, gathering his thoughts before he continued. “In the years since our Lord’s sons took power, we have watched as they destabilized our great country by downsizing and demobilizing our once mighty military, as well as colluding with other factions and off world infidels.” Dudayez clutched his fists fiercely as he continued his speech with unconcealed favour. “The current Warlord has turned a deaf eye to our concerns and a blind eye to the continued expansion and aggression of our neighours seeking to take advantage of our situation. If not for his blatant and injudicious obstruction to the gallant efforts of our military, we would have united Hellas under the banner of the Akbar Dominion months ago. Instead, we lost good men – brave men devoted to the vision of a great Akbar Dominion, killed and maimed by our own countrymen swayed by the manipulations of their leader.”

“We firmly acknowledge the importance and necessity that as citizens, we all must subjugate ourselves to our leadership, giving up certain rights and freedoms in return for peace, prosperity and well being for all.” Dudayez looked down, away from the camera as he seemed to struggle with the attempt in trying to calm himself. When he raised his head once again, his jaws were clenched tightly. “We believe that the Warlord derives his power and right to rule and govern from the consent of the ruled and governed. We believe that, should the rights of the citizens be wilfully and malignantly usurped, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish said leadership.”

“We do not take this course, or come to this decision lightly. Leadership long established should not be changed for light and transient causes. But when a leader displays the inability to lead, displaying a clear design to rip away the citizens from their rights and history, we will have to practise our right and our duty to throw off the yoke of such misplaced leadership.” Dudayez raised a fisted arm, his tone strong and firm. “We have decided that we can no longer tolerate the misguided leadership of Ramzan Kadyrov. Today, the township of Frozdale declares sovereignty and independence from the Akbar Dominion!” Those soldiers who stood behind Dudayez mirrored him, raising a fisted arm and roaring their approval. Joining them, a thunderous uproar of cheers boomed from beyond the screen.

“To signify a fresh beginning, to bring significance to our vision to bring us back to glory we once basked in, we have chosen this day – New Year’s Day as the day we declare our independence, and name our new nation Fiefdom of Mamluq. Our country’s name is a reflection of our freedom, as well as our background as soldiers and warriors freed from the slavery imposed upon us by our former lords.” His voice coarse from emotion but his energy clearly far from spent, Dudayez fixed his forceful gaze at the camera. “We invite one and all, not only those hailing from Hellas, but anyone from anywhere on New Mars to come join our fledging nation. Be part of a new chapter of something great, lend and unite your strength to ours so that together, we may build a country worthy of your dreams!”

Once again, deafening chorus of cheers resounded. This time, Dzhokhar Dadayez did not make any attempts to quieten them. Instead, he seemed to bath himself in the it.

“A most rousin’ speech, if I cannea say so meself.” Benavidez grudgingly admitted while Jiang muted the broadcast as the screen switched to some news anchor who no doubt was voicing her opinion on the matter.

“Oh well,” Varane sighed. “I’d say that sort of settles things than, eh.”

“Quite an orator for folks known as uneducated Periphery poo-dung farmers, blood crazed bandits and raving pirates, wouldn’t you say?” Jiang commented as he looked pointedly at Varane.

“Do we have anything on this Dzhokhar Dudayez fellow?” Huo glanced at Jiang pointedly.

Jiang Ziya shook his head. “No, but I’ll go do some digging.”

“Do it.” Huo confirmed. “This sheds light on what’s going on up there in Frozdale, but doesn’t really make a difference on what we have to do.” He looked at the others in the room. “We still have to get ready for action, and be ready soon.”

“Let’s get the show on the road than people.” Huo reiterated. “Our employers might not give us much time to prepare after that bit of news broadcast.”

The rest of the mercenaries nodded in concurrence.

“Oh, one more thing.” Huo Qu Bing called for the attention of his people who had started to gather their own belongings in preparation to leave the room as he straightened himself. “For all its worth, Happy New Year folks.”

blackpanzer

  • Sergeant
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  • Posts: 178
The story is obviously far from over.
Some of you might have noticed the different styles of writing, from different perspectives, and you'd be right. There are four contributors to the posts thus far. Mine is from the POV of the yet-to-be-named unit (thus the title, DUH!!).

Comments, derision, flaming, and requests to contribute all welcome!  >:D

blackpanzer

  • Sergeant
  • *
  • Posts: 178
Re: Btech Mercs: First Adventures of the Untainted Half Dozens
« Reply #22 on: 27 July 2020, 09:32:28 »
Hall of the High Lord
Capital City of Al-Hadr
Akbar Dominion
Continent of Hellas, New Mars
Independent System
Lyran Alliance Anti-Spinward Periphery
1st January 3101
0330 hours local time



Within the main council chamber of the Hall of the High Lord, where past Warlords of the Akbar Dominion had held assembly with his advisors for all major matters, Warlord Ramzan Kadyrov silently fumed. Before him, several of his officers and most senior advisors were debating on the course of action to be taken against the rebel forces that had taken the strategically important township of Frozdale. Due to the gravity of the matter, both Aslan and Makhmud Kadyrov, the Warlord’s younger brothers were present. Somewhat surprisingly, given her lack of previous participation and involvement in Akbar Dominion politics, was the presence of Khava Kadyrov, their sister and eldest surviving of the Kadyrov siblings.

“What do we know of Dudayez and his people.” Aslan asked angrily, before immediately regretting his choice of words. By calling those who had mutinied Dudayez’s ‘people’, he had inadvertently admitted to them being a tangible faction. He quickly changed the direction of the discussion. “Didn’t we purged all of those against my brother’s leadership after their failed attack against the Isidis?”

“That was what we all believe, CAPTAIN.” Colonel Kou‘rosh Cambyses placed extra emphasis on the young man’s rank instead of his blood relation to the Warlord to remind him of his place. “Dzhokhar Dudayez had been cleared as per our protocol. He didn’t show any signs of discontentment against our Lord’s reign, nor were there any indication that hinted that he was organizing anything of such magnitude.”

Aslan either missed the Colonel’s barb, or simply didn’t care as he bulldozed on. “Surely he could not have pulled together two lances of ‘Mechs, over a company of conventional combat vehicles and an entire battalion of infantry with transport without anyone noticing?”

“Dudayez has always kept a low profile.” The Colonel straightened his back, his eyes ablaze with unbridled anger. Whether the younger Kadyrov missed the meaning of his words earlier, Cambyses certainly did not miss the unspoken implication of Aslan’s words. “We must not discount, no matter how unlikely it might be that the fact that he somehow managed to call to arms such a substantial force without our discern, that he might have been swayed by promise of wealth and power by parties outside of the Akbar Dominion.”

“The Colonel is right.” Khava Kadyrov interjected. “There is no point pinning blame on each other. There’s nothing much we can do now against Dudayez and his mob for the moment, but we have mobilized our entire military. Now that we have eyes all over Frozdale, we have at least contained them for now.” The eldest of the Kakyrov siblings turned towards the most senior officer within the Armed Forces of the Akbar Dominion officer corp. “Any idea at all where those DropShips and conventional transports came from?”

“Whoever planned this was rather clever.” The most senior of Akbar Dominion’s considerable flotilla of DropShips and JumpShips, DropShip Captain Joseph Laing of the ADS San Wenseslao usually involved in conferences of such importance. The unofficially recognition that a large number of long serving space Captains and their massive vessels were considered an integral part of the Dominion armed forces meant that no one ever questioned if their presence was inappropriate in meetings that concerned delicate and confidential matters of the state. “Those assets took a rather detoured route, coming in from Tharsis towards Isidis before turning up to Frozdale. Their initial course meant that we didn’t pay close attention to them, assuming they were the usual logistics into the Isidis Region. Once they reach Isidis, it was only a matter of minutes to turn from that route and touch down at Frozdale with the township’s close proximity to the border our two countries share.”

“We have broadcasted that any other vessels that attempts to leave or come into Frozdale, or within Akbar Dominion air space without authorization will be treated as hostile and treated as such.” Colonel Rawya Ateya announced to all present. The supreme commander of all of Akbar Dominion’s aerospace assets, Ateya herself had proven her own capabilities as an aerospace fighter pilot as well as commander of DropShip and JumpShip flotillas during raiding expeditions for the Akbar Dominion from the bridge of the Dominion’s only true combat DropShip, the Intruder class DropShip ADS Scimitar of Akbar. Despite her profession and position, Colonel Ateya recognized that as a country state in the Periphery, the Akbar Dominion could never hope to rely solely on DropShips and AeroSpace Fighters for its aerial and space needs. Taking a page off the innovation of her ground force counterparts in militarization of IndustrialMechs while working with both the ground forces and her own people to find out their strategic and tactical needs, Ateya supplemented her AeroSpace assets with Defender medium strike fighters, Bat Hawk heavy strike fighters, Raubvogel aerobombers, as well as Warrior combat VTOLs supported by weaponized Swifttran and St. Christopher transport VTOLs. “They didn’t seem to take our words serious at first though.”

“Oh?” Aslan raised an eyebrow on the Colonel’s statement and the shadow of a smile on her lips.

“At oh one forty six hundred hours, about two hours ago, we detected a pair of Longhaul cargo planes escorted by a flight of Cheetah aerospace fighters.” Colonel Rawya Ateya recounted. “We scrambled our ASFs to intercept of course, but our first assets on scene was a flight of Bat Hawk. Our fighters managed to catch them by surprise, and with their first pass shredded the wings of one of the cargo planes, causing it to crash into the Fosenkov Forests.”

“The other Longhaul broke formation and made towards Frozdale while the escorting AeroSpace Fighters mixed it up with our conventional aircraft.” Ateya continued. “Despite the enemy birds’ light weapons, they took advantage of our conventional fighters’ thin armour protection and quickly took out one of our Bat Hawk, whose pilot fortunately ejected to safety.”

“The surviving Bat Hawk managed to not only hold the pair of Cheetahs, but took one down with autocannon bursts and SRM strikes.” The overall commander of Akbar Dominion aerospace forces declared proudly. “When two flights of our Lucifer aerospace fighters arrived on scene, they blew the second Longhaul right out of the sky. Probably knowing it was a lost course, the surviving Cheetah high tail it out of there.”

“Bravo!” Aslan cried out. “We must reward the Bat Hawk pilot. I must meet him and shake his hand.”

Ayeta patted her hand on Makhmud’s shoulder, the wide beam on her face mirrored by Makhmud’s awkward grin. “Go right ahead.”

Akhi?!” Aslan’s eyes widened in amazement as he clasped his younger brother in a tight embrace before releasing Makhmud. “It was you? You rascal, you never told me!”

“It was my duty Aslan.” Makhmud replied humbly.

“My Lord,” Aslan turned towards their elder brother, “Surely, Makhmud’s bravery and skill cannot go unrewarded? A promotion to command one of our Aerospace Fighter flights?”

Like proud parents, the two oldest of the Kadyrov children beamed at Makhmud. Ramzan and Khava Kadyrov looked at each other, before exchanging nods. “We have discussed this with Colonel Ayeta of course. It seems that the Lieutenant was due for transferral to the AeroSpace Wing to lead his own Flight indeed.”

“Yes!” Aslan punched a right fist into the air as his left hand smacked Makhmud on the back in jubilation.

“Unfortunately, given the grim situation we find ourselves in right now, the transfer will have to be postponed.” Ramzan proclaimed, before the smirk on his face grew even wider. “To make up for that, we will be allowing Captain Makhmud Kadyrov his choice of fighter – as long as it is within the financial means of the country of course.”

“All of you have known about this and have been playing with me.” Aslan accused, before turning towards Makhmud. “Even you, little brother?”

“I had known about the planned transfer to the AeroSpace Wing, but not about the choice of machine.” Makhmud raised both arms in surrender. He cast his eyes first at Colonel Ayeta and then Ramzan. “Thank you, Colonel, My Lord. I will not disappoint your faith and trust.”

“I am sure you will not.” Ramzan replied before addressing the entire room again. “What else do we have on Dudayez.”

“Dzhokhar Dudayez is overall command of the mutineers and their military. He pilots a Griffin, but given that we have yet to see combat with their ground forces, we are not sure if he will continue to ride into battle given his newly elevated office.” Colonel Kou‘rosh Cambyses reported as he flipped through a clipboard holding a considerable stash of paper. “Pavel Grachev commands the tank forces and Shamil Basayez the infantry. Basayez enrolled the same time as Dudayez two decades ago and had served together virtually during that entire period. Grachev however was only posted to serve under Dudayez after the Isidis offensive, though they might have known each other previously.” He looked at the Warlord. “Our country and our armed forces, while impressive in relative to New Mars, isn’t all that big.”

“Noted Colonel, and don’t worry, no offense is taken if the words are merely stating facts.” The Warlord of the Akbar Dominion acknowledged the Colonel’s statement and his unasked question. “We have not received any official responses from Frozdale, Isidis or any other parties so far after that broadcast by Dudayez.”

“So, off the records, who has contacted you and what do they want to know?” Khava Kadyrov asked with a straight face.

“You always know me too well for you own good dear sister.” Warlord Kamzan Kadyrov sighed. “The LACS is alarmed at recent developments along the Isidis and Akbar borders, especially since this newly independent Fiefdom of Mamluq seems to be receiving assistance beyond our continent.”

“Which of course confirmed the function and purpose of that satellite they secretly deployed.” Ayeta snorted. “Seriously, do they think we’ve yet to discover fire?”

“Regardless, I suggested to them that since they have assets on Tharsis and with their recognized neutrality on New Mars, any forthcoming intelligence or peace talk negotiations they are willing to broker will be most welcome.” The Warlord rested his elbows on the table, bringing his hands together and stippled his fingers. “They countered that we might be able to shed some light on the origins of outside help if we check out the wreckage of that downed Longhaul.”

“A rather shrewd suggestion, I have to say.” Cambyses nodded grudgingly. “But they wreckage of that plane is about a couple of hundred kilometres in the contested territories between ourselves and the Isidis Region. And force we send out might be misconceived by them as acts of aggression.”

“And vice versa of course.” Kamzan added to the Colonel’s astute opinion. “The wounds of the recent war are still raw. Its been less than half a year after all.”

“Any friendly advice from our Lyran friends?” Aslan queried his Warlord and elder brother. “Since they were the ones who approached us, surely they would have some sort of contingency?”

“That they do.” Kamzan conceded. “Since both the Akbar Dominion and Isidis Region do not trust each other enough to allow either side to send in troops, the LACS proposed that they send in their mercenaries, if both sides agree that they would be allowed passage in and out of the crash site zone unmolested. They will share all investigations with us.”

“I still don’t get why they’re so interested in what’s happening here on New Mars?” It was Makhmud’s turn to raise the question now. “I understand all that about making sure the various countries, factions and Warlords on New Mars continue to kowtow to the mighty Lyran Alliance and supply them with our food produce and what not, but sending their mercenaries to help us out? That’s not very good business.”

“Of course not. Other than securing contracts and supplies, I imagine that they will also want to ensure that their enemies are deprived of the same said commodities from New Mars and her country states.” The Warlord smiled wryly. “And you have it spot on – the Elsies are not known to suffer unnecessary losses in any dealings, business or otherwise. The Isidis Region and Akbar Dominion will have to underwrite all expenses for the mercenary unit’s expedition.” Kamzan stated with a humourless chuckle. “They have sent over a prepared expense list, to be confirmed of course, but I would say we might actually be paying for these mercs’ entire contract fees for the Elsies.”

“They’re blackmailing us?!” Aslan spluttered in alarm.

“And we have not much alternative in the matter,” Kamzan declared with a slight shrug. “Especially since Warlord Date Masamune has agreed to foot Isidis Region’s part of the bill.”

Colonel Ayate shook her head. “So, we’ll go along with them for now, My Lord?”

“For now.” Her ruler nodded in confirmation. “We’ll continue to monitor Frozdale of course, and have all our troops on high alert. We’ll see what their mercenaries manage to sniff out.”

“There’s a possible silver lining to all of this of course. Khava added even as she nodded in agreement to her brother’s assessment. “With the Akbar Dominion and Isidis Region cooperating in any sort of undertaking for the first time in living memory, this might be the first step to us achieving true peace.”


Approximately 450 km South East of the Township of Frozdale
West of the Harmakhis River
Fosenkov Forests
Boreum Plains
Contested territory between Isidis Regions and Akbar Dominion
Continent of Hellas, New Mars
Independent System
Lyran Alliance Anti-Spinward Periphery
1st January 3101
0810 hours local time



Despite BattleMechs being hailed as the undisputed kings of the modern battlefield, with the avatar of war possessing the optimal mix of mobility, armour and firepower. Able to traverse all but the most rugged and inaccessible of terrain, there were still however, topography that even the mighty BattleMechs could not navigate. From the skies, the sprawling Fosenkov Forests might look sparse, but at several clusters that spanned hundreds of kilometres in area, things were a different matter altogether. With the trees naturally evolving over the years to resist against long periods of powerful snow storms and forced to stretch their roots deep underground to get to water sources, some of the leafless trunks could conceivably withstand physical abuse by the heaviest BattleMechs. Just as when armoured vehicles and tanks were first introduced to the of humankind’s warfare and declared the undisputed masters of the battlefields, the humble infantry remained indispensable in holding grounds, as well as possessing the ability to access and traverse terrain that even mighty BattleMechs could not.

That fact, however, did not mean that said infantry could not be brought closer to their destination by other means of transport before making the absolute last leg of the journey by foot.



The St. Christopher cargo transport was undoubtedly the weirdest VTOL design that Sergeant Roy ‘Hardcore’ Benavidez ever hitched a ride from, and that was saying a lot about the machine. The most common VTOL designs usually had a main rotor on the top of the fuselage, with a tail rotor at its rear end of the tail boom, usually together with the dorsal fin rudder. A smaller number of designs, far from uncommon, in order to achieve to achieve greater lift so as to enable heavier loading, had double rotors, usually located either one near the front and another at the ear, or sometimes in tandem on two stubby wings on the sides like the Karnov, Yasha, Tonbo and Kamakiri. In more recent years, the civilian sector had bought into the ‘more rotor equals greater lift’ principal to its ultimate evolution by having designs with quad rotors – machines like Swiftran, Bishop and the Humming Bird which were the machines Benavidez was told attacked Frozdale. There was even the Aeron strike VTOL which used a propulsion thrust vector system and did away completely with traditional rotors.

The St. Christopher was designed and manufactured by Lockheed-CBM Corporation to rival the heavier and military grade Karnov. The twenty five ton machine’s use of civilian grade construction material meant that it was less suited to rugged battlefield conditions compared to the Karnov UR VTPL. Still, it was able to carry a heavier load, resulting in increasing use in the Lyran Alliance and favoured mercenary commands, allies and trading partners. What made the design unique was its triple rotor set up – one in front, a pair at the rear, giving the fuselage of the St. Christopher a triangular shape. The distinctive profile did provide a very stable ride despite of the strong blizzard and cross winds, enabling Benavidez the chance to only enjoy a surprisingly smooth trip with his squad.

“Tango One, Charlie Niner. This is as close as I can get.” The voice of the St. Christoper pilot sounded over the built in comms. Foreign Object Damage, of FOD, had always been one of the banes of aviation and aerospace technology, where article or substance alien to an aircraft system which could cause damage to the aircraft itself. “You boys will have to lug the rest on foot.”

“Charlie Niner, this is Tango One. Roger that.” Benavidez acknowledged appreciatively even as the interior of the fuselage was basked in flashing red light warning of their imminent disembarkation. Rather than land, the triangular shaped VTOL hovered at about ten metres above the snow blanketed forest ground below as its rear ramp door opened up. “GO! GO! GO!”

Without hesitation, the Battle Armoured leapt out of their ride in pairs. Like most heavier classes of Battle Armour, the Phalanx heavy suit did not come with jump jets, relying instead of group mobility. However, the militarized exoskeletons allowed the wearers extra strength and the ability to withstand shocks that would usually injure, if not outright kill an unarmoured human. In holovid movies and shows, superheroes tend to land kneeling on one bended knee. That was considered a ‘cool’ and heroic pose. It would also a sure fire way to blow out one’s knee. Instead, the six Battle Armour troops landed with both knees bent to absorb the gravitation force and weight of their landing. Without pausing the suited infantry fanned out rapidly, taking cover behind any sort of protection to form a rough circle, their assault rifles scanning their surroundings.

“Tango Team is in.” Benavidez reported. “See ye in a bit. Thanks fer thar ride, Charlie Niner.”

“Acknowledged Tango One.” In his VTOL’s cockpit, even though the pilot knew that the Battle Armour squad couldn’t see his action, the pilot threw a salute in their direction. “Good hunting. Charlie Niner out.”

As the St. Christopher pulled up and away, a whirlwind cloud of snow were kicked up and around the drop off site. The half a dozen suits of Tango Team remained motionless even as the snow settled onto the surface of their white and grey camouflage painted suits. A minute passed, followed by another.

“Tango Team, move out.” Benavidez finally breathed. As one, the Phalanx squad rose from their positions and made towards the crash site. Once again, the Battle Armour suits granted the six man squad the ability to traverse the distance at more than twice the speed of unaugmented foot soldiers, allowing them to reach the crash site within minutes. As four of the mercenary warriors covered their approach, Benavidez and one more of his squad member made deliberately slow and cautious way towards the still smoking wreckage.

The FB-335 Longhaul was a two hundred ton fixed wing cargo aircraft built to be rugged and able to take off and land from short and rough airfields – and the scene at the crash site showed. Despite reportedly wracked by weapons fire before crashing, the wreckage remarkably intact. The main fuselage had broken into three separate parts, with smaller pieces of the plane scattered over a wide area as was normal of any forced plane landing and crash. There were no signs of movement within and around the area.

“I wish Mother Hen was here to watch over us.” Lloyd Moussuau, the trooper who accompanied Benavidez to search the insides of the wreckage commented. Mother Hen was the Zugvogel Omni Support Aircraft that their command deployed when operating over battlefields and operation theatres where they possess aerospace superiority, or at least when their enemies did not. Powered with commercial fusion engines, coated with eleven and a half tons of military grade armour and with over seventy tons of pod space, the Lyran design can be configured for almost any role and mission. Serving the wide operational needs of their command, the unit’s Zugvogel had seen usage as a heavily armed gunship, command and reconnaissance headquarters, field hospital and mobile repair base. 

“Aye,” Benavidez replied flatly, “dat an’ me wish fer ye ter maintain comms discipline.”

“C’mon Sarge,” the unrepentant Moussuau insisted. “You gotta agree, her battery of IR and hi-res cameras to sweep the area before moving us in, or the weapons of her gunship configuration would come in handy right about now.”

“Thar Captain cannae break her out ‘cuz of thar nature of our contract.” The mercenary non-comm explained, it seemed for the umpteenth time. “I cannae remember wha’ were his exact words, bu’ ‘s got somethin’ ta do with restricted controlled air space ‘n such.”

“They just wanna pin us down and screw us around Sarge.” Moussuau whined even as they pair made their way carefully with hand held personal weapons raised and ready into the bowels of the Longhaul’s fuselage.

Benavidez signed with resignation. “If ye jus’ would shush yer trap up Lloyd, ye would’ve make one of thar bes’ soldiers ever.”

Unlike the scene outside of the wreckage, the interior was expectedly disordered and chaotic. Fortunately, there were no grisly signs of bloody and shredded bodies except for the pilot and co-pilot in the cockpit. The captain of the FB-335 had his neck twisted at an unnatural angle, while several sizable pieces of shrapnel had torn into the chest and legs of the co-pilot. “Homebase, this is Tango One. No signs of survivors.” Benavidez reported through the comms built into his Phalanx suit. Pilot ‘n co-pilot’s bought it.”

“Homebase acknowledge, Tango One.” Huo Qu Bing’s voice transmitted clearly back. “Yank the flight records and black box if you can, then check the rest of the wreckage.”

“Roger Homebase.”



While the pieces of the stricken Longhaul itself was relatively intact, whatever cargo it had held in its hold were scattered over a massive area, too wide for the Phalanx squad to cover. Many cargo had broek loose from whatever packaging them came in originally. A wide variety of items were sprawled all over the ground, from small arms, boxes of ammunition to clothes. Benavidez instructed his troopers to rummage through what they could find, strapping bundles of two to three or packages or boxes together to their armour suits, or in Moussuau’s case, a particularly single large crate.

“Tango One?” Moussuau called over the comms. “You got a minute? I think you might wanna check this out.”

Nearly a hundred metres away from where the front of the plane was, Benavidez found the ravaged tail end of the Longhaul where Tango Two was standing beside what looked like the remains of a BattleMech. Judging from its considerable size, it was probably a medium, if not a light heavy ‘Mech class. Ripped from restraints that had strapped it down, the motionless war machine was short an arm and leg, while its head had been caved in slightly where it had probably been thrown headfirst onto the bulkhead. What made the scene interesting was the sight of a Galleon tank stuck to its lower torso. The barrel of the Hellion-V medium laser on its turret had punctured through virtually right smack in the middle of its chest, skewering the BattleMech and punching right through to protrude and stick out on the other side from the hull of the Longhaul’s tail section.

“I don’t know about you good folks, but I’d say that’s something you don’t see everyday eh?” Moussuau asked no one in particular. “I’d say that’s an Apollo?”

“Maybe, bu’ it looks like a Galleon if ye ask me.” Benavidez countered with no hint of humour in his voice as he strode up to stand beside Tango Two. “Too bad we can’t haul those lil’ beasties back with us. Witch and Warlock would’ve loved tinkerin’ with ‘em, don’ ye know.”

Like BattleMechs and Aerospace Fighters, Battle Armour suits came with recorders as well. The mercenary squad took video records of the peculiar spectacle as well as from around the crash site. Satisfied that they had taken what they could after pulling out the flight recorder from the Longhaul’s cockpit and whatever documentation like cargo manifest and flight log that they could find, Benavidez motioned to his team. “I dinnae know about ye boys, bu’ I think I be close ta full meself, let’s beat it.”

blackpanzer

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Re: Btech Mercs: First Adventures of the Untainted Half Dozens
« Reply #23 on: 27 July 2020, 09:33:15 »
Randis Interstellar Space & Sea Port
Planetary Capita City of Randis
Continent Tharsis, New Mars
Independent System
Lyran Alliance Anti-Spinward Periphery
1st January 3101
1830 hours local time



First Leutnant Wilhelm Heinrich stepped onto the tarmac of the Randis Interstellar Space & Sea Port once again after more than a month in the northern polar continent of Hellas. Despite what would be considered wintery weather here on the continent of Tharsis, the seven weeks he had spent on Hella, with a considerable portion of that time out in the field meant that in comparison, he felt more like standing in nothing more than an air cooled and conditioned room. Making his way down the ramp of Zugvogel support aircraft, the LACS officer could not help but look back at the several mercenary officers as they similarly kept their sight on the Lyran. In the several hours since the sudden developments on Hellas, with the sudden declared establishment of the Fiefdom of Mumlaq, the taking down of an unmarked freight plane, discovery of some of the onboard cargo, and finally, the disclosure of the identity of the small mercenary command that he had worked with but known virtually nothing about for the last few weeks.

Heinrich%u2019s fingers closed and clutched the briefcase he held in his right hand tightly as he recalled the consolidated reports and assessments he had gathered. The main LACS team on Tharsis had felt the overall briefing too important to be carried out simply via telecommunications, instructing the First Leutnant to make the trip in person instead. Furthermore, for the first time in memory, the Isidis Regions and Akbar Dominion had agreed to an armistice tied in swiftly by a non-aggression pact. They had even bilaterally approved the LACS hired mercenaries to deploy their Zugvogel to convey Heinrich to Tharsis. The LACS officer strongly suspected that both countries did so more because they were loath to employ their own assets in the face of any unpredictable actions that the Fiefdom of Mumlaq might attempt. Still, if their concerns had any weight in them, the LACS might even green light the use of their Mammoth class DropShip to finally bring over the all of the remaining equipment that Huo Qu Bing still had stuck and stashed on Tharsis.

Based on retrieved cargo manifests from the crash site, the fleet of DropShips belonged to, or were chartered by Highpoint Traders. A small trading corporation old enough to have a Star League trading permit, Highpoint was on the verge of bankruptcy until the company was acquired by Corey Chang in 3020. Popular myth had been that Chang won control of Highpoint after the previous president Hugo Schmatz placed its ownership on the table during a high stakes game of Four-Card Drax at the infamous Cave on Kyeinnisan, and that Schmatz remains there to this day trying to improve his game and win his company back.

Thanks to a combination of hard work, a few called-in favours and some underworld contacts, Chang was quickly able to put Highpoint Traders back on its feet. A large reason for the dramatically improvement in the company's fortunes was the signing of Concord of Kapteyn which opened up substantial avenues of trade with the both Draconis Combine and Capellan Confederation. The company was deemed reliable enough to secure government contracts with House Marik, House Orloff and the Confederation's Sarna Commonality to carry passengers and freight on a contract basis. One notable example of this was in 3025 when Highpoint acted on behalf of Captain-General Janos Marik to purchase fifty new heavy BattleMechs including Marauders and Dragons from the Combine.

Despite this, the company's renewed success under Chang's stewardship was also reportedly due to its more shadier operations, with accusations of smuggling, operating unsafe vessels and even claims of outright piracy practised by Highpoint vessels operating in the Periphery and Chaos March. While never convicted, perhaps a testament to its CEO's cunning and ruthlessness, it had always been an open secret that the company constantly skirted the fringes of the law, with much of its post-Fourth Succession War expansion funded by smuggling goods into and out of the newly formed Federated Commonwealth. Another rumour was that part of the reported unwillingness of the League authorises to crackdown more harshly on Highpoint's operations was because SAFE used the company's vessels as a means of clandestinely entering foreign territory.

While the involvement of Highpoint Traders could simply prove once again of the company%u2019s shadier business, it did not in any way point any fingers at the Free Worlds League. Regardless, such momentous matter would be far above his authority, and pay grade. His job was to put together what he had found to his superiors. Heinrich knew that he was in no position to interpret and decipher the implied political machinations.

In fact, he had been more interested in finding out more about the mercenaries that had provided security to the LACS base and recon runs on Hellas.     

Formerly of the Word of Blake Militia, Karim Ansarifard was one of the millions of transplanted citizens who were given a new lease of life under the Word of Blake on the world of Gibson. Karim was one of the countless war orphans taken in by the Word of Blake Militia from hundreds of systems and indoctrinated into their mighty and massive organization. When the Covenant was accepted as one of provinces of the Free Worlds League in 3083, it was seen by many among them as a huge step forward towards legitimacy.

Trained, educated and raised as an Adept in the Word of Blake Militia, he was part of tens of thousands of what were essentially Word of Blake soldiers now renamed the Covenant Militia that participated in the massive military operation that carved out of what was to eventually become the Confederated Systems of Tikonov from 3089.

Despite the success of their grand operations, Karim and quite a substantial number of Militia comrades grew increasingly disillusioned as the Covenant seemed to be nothing like the saviour of human kind as extolled by their leaders. Rather than being the beacon of light for the teachings of Blake, Karim Ansarifard and his brethren had instead fought and died in tens of worlds and systems to help another political faction take control of Terra, the cradle of humankind.

Karim quietly left the Covenant military in the aftermath of the chaos which saw the United Leadership of the Tikonov Republican Armies %u2013 ULTRA and virtually the rest of the Inner Sphere once again mired in conflict as the other Succession States tried to wrestle back worlds lost to the Free Worlds League backed faction.

One of many deserting Covenant soldiers, Karim drifted across the Inner Sphere, looking for a place to start life afresh. Like many who chose to continue life as mercenaries, Karim had settled on Herotitus. The fact that like most other mercenary hiring halls of note like Arc-Royal, Galatea and Northwind, the Confederated Magistracy world, was a highly polarized backwater system that was a mixing pot of people of all nationality, race, religion and culture meant that no one bothered to check up on him or his background. No one had even batted an eyebrow at him. Karim doubted if anyone even noticed his existence.

Surprisingly, not only did the crew of his Demon had opted to follow him, so did several other soldiers from the Covenant Militia.

"Just stickin' around until a better deal comes along,%u201D his tank driver had explained. Karim had smiled grimly at those words. The fact that they had %u2018stuck around%u2019 with him for nearly half a decade had meant that either they had given up hope on finding greener pastures, or that they did not dare venture beyond their current comfort zone.

Still, a couple of years was a long time to wait for things to happen. Given the wild and wide mix of mercenaries found on Herotitus, they did not have to answer many questions regarding the origin of their sixty ton wheeled combat vehicle. Karim and his people had hired themselves out as freelance tank crew to various assorted mercenary outfits from time to time to make ends meet, and truth be told, to satisfy their combat itch. Each time, they had carefully elected not to pick signing up with more prestigious units who would no doubt probe into their past affiliations. While the fight against the Word of Blake might have been over, the Word's presence and actions had never really gone away from people%u2019s minds. Karim was no fool. He knew that there more than a couple of people out there who had lost their homes and loved ones to the Word of Blake Militia, Free Worlds League or the fancifully named Confederated Systems of Tikonov who would want nothing better than to make things difficult for him and his people. Still, their decision had made the chance of finding a mercenary outfit that they could sign up for the long shot extremely difficult.

Over time, it was virtually inevitable that Karim%u2019s group of soldiers would run into other former members of the Word of Blake and Covenant Militia. The Toyama Sect, True Believers, Counter-Reformists, Shunners were but some of the largest splinter ComStar and Word of Blake cells. Even discounting other smaller factions, sub-groups existed within the biggest of the factions. Slowly, and in some instances painfully, Karim%u2019s group grew. The most radical Blakists were rejected, though even those who seemed the most tolerant and even-tempered ones might turn out to be as extremist and fanatically. In the years since they left the Covenant, Karim%u2019s small group expanded to form two understrength Level II of combat vehicles. However, mindful of the suffering of civilians in the fields of war which they had experienced, Karim and his fellow warriors had made a conscious effort to provide humanitarian aid and assistance whenever possible. In fact, two of the contracts they picked up were to assist local and regional relief efforts to civilians whose world experienced destructive earthquakes, with a fair number having them providing assistance to local emergency and paramedical forces in clean up actions after wars and natural disasters. For that reason, they had put together a unit with substantial search and rescue as well as combat engineering capabilities, especially considering the small size of their combat arm.

It was on Herotitus that Karim Ansarifard met Jiang Ziya. Like Karim, Jiang was a former Adept who led a small detachment of former Word of Blake soldiers. Unlike the tank commander, Jiang Ziya and his similarly small group were MechWarriors. Pooling their resources, their like-minded vision was further cemented as their camaraderie was forged in contracts that saw them participate in contacts in the firestorm that engulfed the Inner Sphere as the offensives of ULTRA were retaliated in extreme prejudice by the other Great Houses. Once again signing on as reinforcements for larger units, the two warriors led their troops in action, frequently against fanatical enemies with no quarters asked or given. By merging the strengths of the two small commands together, Jiang Ziya and Karim Ansarifard leveraged on the tactical and strategic flexibility afforded by their combined arms setup. It was during these real live trials of combat that their shared combat doctrine and training were put to excellent use, on numerous occasions overcoming enemy forces greater than their own. In the brutal fight that pitted the mercenaries against other forces, Karim and Jiang lost both machines and warriors.

When the Black Stars eventually set up a new mercenary hiring hall in the Periphery system of Erdvynn, Karim and Jiang led the remnants of their tattered forces there to recuperate and rebuild. It was on Erdvynn that they encountered Morgan Chan, a grizzled and retired mercenary who had inherited a substantial network of goodwill over his many years of soldiering, including that of Baron Zhao Zi Long of Erdvynn. Karim, Jiang and Chan hit it off almost immediately. In exchange for providing the seed funding for the rebuilding of their forces, Karim and Jiang agreed to take in a young Huo Qu Bing under their wings. In the five years since, Huo had worked his way up to eventually lead the still small, but by no means insubstantial mercenary command. While still part of the unit, Karim Ansarifard and Jiang Ziya were content being the advisors to Huo and the new generation of warriors.

Other than possessing organic S&R and combat engineering assets, the unit%u2019s combat arm had retained the Word of Blake military organizational structure of basing their forces on multiples of six. Other than affording them flexibility in reorganizing themselves when necessary depending on mission requirements, it was also due in no small part to the continued deployment and success of machines equipped with Improved C3 computer systems that had proved a massive force multiplier. The downside was that the unit had been forced to channel resources so as to maintain an extremely high level of mechanical and technical competency within its members in order to keep these machines operational. On the other hand, it resulted in a self-sufficiency that benefitted the mercenary command in the long run in its ability to be self sustainable. Of course, for obvious reasons, they had changed their personnel and rank structures to adhere to that of more common mercenary commands. Given the usual operational theatres they found themselves in, the small but capable mercenary command developed a higher than usual proficiency for fighting in urban environment and close quarters, as well as developing a knack for defensive missions.

To honour the origin of the unit, as well as to reflect their military command structure, the unit had been christened the Untainted Half Dozens. For their unit emblem, they conceived a design that depicted a sword in a nod towards their Word of Blake origin, crossed with an olive branch to symbolize their placement of equal emphasis on the non-combat roles of their command.

The last contract of the Untainted Half Dozens saw them spend over six months providing assistance to local emergency forces that had to clean up after the furious fighting between Federated Suns and Confederated Magistracy forces along their shared borders. The Untainted Half Dozens were literally acting as a fire brigade, jumping from system to system to help rescue civilians from shattered cities, provide reinforcements to overwhelmed medical corps, even acting as deterrents against civilian looters and bandits from off world seeking to take advantage of the exhausted local defences.

With much of their combat equipment still under repairs and refurbishment on Erdvynn after more than half a year in the field, there were not enough hardware ready to join the mercenaries for their mission to New Mars in time. Left without much of a choice, the Untainted Half Dozens were forced to draw on the goodwill they accumulated with the Baron of Erdvynn through Morgan Chan. Requesting for a loan of hardware, Zhao Zi Long had allowed the Half Dozens a surprisingly generous selection of equipment list to choose from. Eventually though, the fact that the members of the Half Dozens voted unanimously to deploy in their own hardware as far as possible, coupled with the conjuncture that encountering intense combat operations would be unlikely in the New Mars contract saw the Half Dozens loan a Vindicator medium %u2018Mech, a pair combat vehicles consisting of a massive Crusher SH cannon armed Hetzer and a Ceres Arms Model T autocannon equipped Po heavy tank. The Half Dozens also chartered an Aurora DropShip through the Black Stars%u2019 Sharp Shooters sub-unit to help deploy their delayed forces for their subsequent deployment.

Heinrich would had snorted if not for the gravity of the current situation. That did not, however, prevent him from thinking that given the current situation on New Mars, the Untainted Half Dozens were probably regretting their rather optimistic projections.

If the choices of the Half Dozens%u2019 loaned equipment were any indication, the LACS officer doubted that their actual hardware would be anything impressive. It was not that the Vincator, Hetzer and Po were bad designs. It was just that they were too%u2026 unexceptional. Far from it, there were all very utilitarian machines that were used by any countless numbers of military all over known human space for hundreds of years.

What was I expecting? Wilhelm Heinrich shook his head as he chastised himself. Orbital bombardment by Tiamat and Interdictor DropShips preceding combat drops consisting of Celestial series of OmniMechs and Demon series of Battle Armour? Approaching the building where the LACA had made their temporary headquarters, Heinrich cleared his head one final time and checked himself once more.

Time to make an impression.
« Last Edit: 28 July 2020, 03:46:39 by blackpanzer »

blackpanzer

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Re: Btech Mercs: First Adventures of the Untainted Half Dozens
« Reply #24 on: 27 July 2020, 09:48:26 »
So yeah... I finally have a unit name! The Untainted Half Dozens.

I know its be bit cheesy and cliché, but I've always loved the idea of having a unit made up of WoB Militia troopers who didn't care much for all the atrocities.

Using 'Half Dozens' is a reflection of how they still use the ComGuards/WoBM multiples of six set up. I was struggling with a suitable adjective to use in front for quite a while. 'Unsullied' seems very GoT-ish. Words like 'Pure' and 'Cleansed' sounds a bit too religious for my liking. Again, any suggestions are most welcome.

As for hardware, I've gone for a total of 2 a Level II made up of: a pair of Battle Cobra OmniMech (Inner Sphere version), Helios 6X variant and the most WoB-ish 'Mech the unit possess, a Grand Crusader, with a squad each of Kobold and Phalanx rounding out the Level II. The unit is far from max-min-ed, and I don't think it'd be too far from reality.

I'm still trying to think of which C3i machines can be more easily found IC-ly....

As for conventional vehicles, a pair of LB-10X VS-large laser armed Zhukov, a WoB LRM carrier, a 103 variant Galleon and a pair of HGR variant Demon. Again, I don't think this set up will come of as overly munchy.

The idea is that over time, some of these will be replaced once the techs run out of spare parts (C3i computers obviously), or that they will have to grow the set up with non-C3i machines due to their scarcity. On the other hand, there might still be some lower tech C3i equipped hardware around that the unit can pick up along the way.

Please do let me know your thoughts.
« Last Edit: 28 July 2020, 04:43:32 by blackpanzer »

blackpanzer

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Re: Btech Mercs: First Adventures of the Untainted Half Dozens
« Reply #25 on: 29 July 2020, 03:57:54 »
Ducal Palace
Planetary Capital City of Craiova
Continent of New Brunswick
Alarion III
Alarion Province
Lyran Alliance
5th January 3101
1030 hours local time



The capital of Alarion Province was not settled until after the formation of the Lyran Commonwealth. Before that time, the region was simply a part of the Protectorate of Donegal. The first settlements, however, were nearly doomed when their arrival inadvertently decimated local wildlife and half the colonists succumbed in a veritable crossfire of terrestrial and native diseases. To salvage the colonial effort, the then young Commonwealth imposed strict regulations on further human development of this world, aimed at strengthening the local ecology as well as encouraging sustainable commercial and industrial growth.

Despite the strict quarantine and settlement directives that remained in effect, Alarion had become a heavily industrialized world and a provincial capital, boasting a major JumpShip manufacturing facility as well as aerospace and BattleMech factories, plus a host of commercial industries. Very little of Alarion’s two continents — New Brunswick and New Jordan — or its many tropical islands remains unsettled in the present day. In addition, the Alarion system also boasted of Port Sydney, one of the Alliance’s few precious naval shipyard capable of producing and servicing WarShips. The planet itself was furthered ringed with satellite facilities that support the shipyard as well as the surface factories of Bowie Industries on the New Jordan continent. As a testament to Alarion’s naval and aerospace tradition, the planet had also long been the home to the Alarion Naval Academy, the Lyran Alliance’s newest military training school. Craiova, Alarion’s capital city with a population of five million was located on New Brunswick, and also included the planet’s largest spaceport outside of the Bowie Industries factory complex.

With nearly a hundred planets in its territory — around half a hundred score interior and another near similar numbers within the Timbuktu military theatre — Alarion was the largest of the five provinces that today form the Lyran state. Yet as a whole, this province may arguably be House Steiner’s least developed region, the interstellar equivalent of a vast frontier, with resources waiting to be tapped. In much the same way, many of the region’s people seemed like frontiersmen, leading somewhat simpler lives than their fellow Lyrans on the majority of their worlds, many of which maintained subsistence level economies or better through trade with the rest of the Alliance and, to a more controlled extent, with the small Periphery realms that border the Alliance’s anti-spinward reaches.

Alarion Province had always been the largest single part of the Protectorate of Donegal, historically blessed with abundant resources for its relatively small population. The region, bordering the Free Worlds League and the Periphery, had seen its fair share of combat over the centuries, yet its people remained friendly and largely non-violent, historically favouring peaceful negotiations with interstellar neighbours rather than brute force. Its denizens hailed largely from a mix of German, Italian and Eastern European roots, whose star faring ancestors found the wide expanse a haven for their various cultures. Also included in the region are many former Rim Worlds planets, whose ethnicities were far more varied.

With so much inhabitable territory to explore and exploit, the people who settled this area of space frequently founded breakaway settlements whenever disputes in administration or planetary government became a divisive issue. This explained both the region’s rapid settlement and it’s generally freewheeling local leaders, as well as its peoples’ centuries-cultivated respect for their own sovereignty, which they readily extend to others. Simply put, the people of Alarion tended to see the universe as vast enough for everyone, and while they will fight just as hard to defend their homes, most Alarions in the Estates General fervently resist any effort to thin out their defenses, no matter how bad the economic hardship, they favour the tools of diplomacy and trade over armies of BattleMechs.

The majority of peoples on this region speak German and English almost exclusively, though Italian, Polish and Czech are also common tongues. Planetary governors and other public officials in Alarion Province seem typically laid-back, yet are fairly impatient with red tape, often putting the concerns of their constituents above those of the Alliance at large.

Opulently decorated, not only were the floors of the office of Duke Anatoly Serfass laid with massive slabs of marble, but any square inch of the walls not used for windows or doors were similarly clad. Those walls not sheathed in marble or display terminals had massive clear windows that looked out at wafts of clouds that hung in the Alarion skies – a view few would ever had the privilege to behold given that the Duke’s conference room was located over sixty levels high. Crystal chandeliers hang from the ceiling as well as corridors outside of the room and main lobbies on every level of the building, with ancient Germanic styled coat of arms as well as suits of armour lined the walkways.



A man in his late sixties sat at the far end of the table that dominated the room. Dressed in finely cut military uniform with tons of medals hanging off them, the man’s jet black hair was slickly combed back. A concern frown creased his face, while the wrinkles that lined the man’s face and an anxiety in his eyes that gave easy hints to his true emotions. Duke Anatoly Serfass was surrounded by his aides and closest confidants as they poured over the reports and intelligence that the Lyran Alliance Civil Service had provided from their sources on the Periphery system of New Mars. They were in an enormous conference room where one wall was lined with equally large screens, no doubt to conduct teleconferences, while another was decorated with liveries of honour, military colours, holopics and portraits depicting House Serfass forebears in suitably and dramatically heroic poses. Despite the independent backwater world being more than two hundred light years award from Alarion, it was of significance due to the fact that it was the sole source of food and water for some other his Province’s most far flung worlds. The LACS had been dispatched to ascertain the situation in the system, and for the most part, what they had gathered was more or less what the Lyran Alliance had suspected all along.

With nearly a dozen Warlords leading separate factions on New Mars, each playing to their own strengths and against the weakness of others, the political climate had always been volatile. Over the years, many of the Warlords had toned down piracy and engaged in trade and commerce instead. However, the precise fact that there were that many factions meant that New Mars would not be spared from the usual soap opera of mutiny, military coup, rebellion, one faction invading another and similar forms of shenanigan. In fact, the latest reports confirmed of such an occurrence just over the New Year.

“Any recommendations from Leutnant General Amitage Regan?” Duke Serfass was asking. “I understand High Command wants our recommendations on the matter before they make their final decision.”

“From what we understand, the original idea was to simply have identify the most powerful faction and ensure that it is willing to pledge it's loyalty to us. Given the situation on New Mars, it should be easy to pinpoint the faction that was supposed to be one of the strongest ones around with whom we could work with.” Ronald Geobbels, his Chief Minister of State explained. A bespectacled balding man garbed in a smartly pressed dark blue business suit, the man was a sea of calm. “Sadly, it seems like the LACS stereotype them as uneducated backwater savages like all Periphery states, but found out along the way that they can be just as politically, militarily and socially advanced and even brilliant than any one of us.”

“Not the first time,” The Duke snorted, turning towards his son, “And I doubt it’d be the last.”

Seven years ago, Mykyta Serfass, then a fresh Leutnant and the only son of the Duke, had led a small crew to Calvados, another Periphery system in the backwater of the Alarion Province as part of their ongoing efforts to organize expeditions to rediscover and reclaim systems that had disappeared off the star charts. The mission run into trouble from the very beginning, as the Alarion funded unit were ambushed the moment their DropShip landed on Calvados by local bandit forces. The Duke’s son led the survivors into the wild, living off the land before eventually being rescued by the Black Stars mercenary command. Eventually, not only was the heir of the Alarion Province evacuated safely, but the Black Stars managed to convince the leader of system and the largest pirate group – the Calvados Cutthroats, to swear allegiance to the Lyan Alliance, becoming a vassal to House Steiner. Much like with Calvados, the Lyran Alliance seemed to be repeating the mistake of underestimating Periphery forces, this time in New Mars.

“There seem to be several proposals and end game proposals from various agencies.” The Alarion Chief Minister of State continued. “The first one which seemed to garner quite some support is for the Lyran Alliance to help establish some sort of New Mars council where every factional leader has a say or vote. This has precedence on New Mars itself, as their planetary capital of Randis is essentially controlled and administered by a New Mars Mercantile Union staffed by merchant guilds that drew representatives from a dozen or so of the most prominent factions on New Mars.”

Geobbels allowed the others some time to digest that bit of information before going on. “The second is to prop one of the more powerful faction that display affinity towards the LA as the New Mars Overlord over the other Warlords. We strengthen said faction sufficiently but make sure that they will rely on us sufficiently that we can just deal with one party and let the locals settle their own domestic problems.”

“How about developing New Mar through unifying the factions?” Colonel Helen Johannes, commander of the 1st Alarion Jaegers suggested. A woman with a solid military stance, she was decked out in Alarion Jaegers uniform with the distinctive insignia of a hunter’s recurve longbow suspended before a purple moon set against a sunburst bearing a five sided shield. “Rather than creating a council with ALL factions represented, maybe a council with representatives from each of the five continents. We keep it independent, slowly fostering support for alignment with the Lyran Alliance through educational and technological incentives.” One of the most senior of all Alarion officers mused over the idea. “The world is already geared towards agriculture that trades not only with us, but with the Free Worlds League and other Periphery factions. Propping up one Warlord through encouraging reliance on us over the others may not be beneficial in the long term since New Mars will probably not provide political stability. They can easily ask the Leaguers to provide what we offer and cut us off completely.” The Colonel placed several printed pictures of the Apollo and Galleon taken from the crash site, as well as retrieved flight logs. “These, and confirmation that the logistics provider to the newly independent Fiefdom of Mamlaq is from Highpoint Traders of course do not prove the official involvement of the Free Worlds League, but given Highpoint’s background and loyalties, they do hint at a very strong possibility.”

“I'll chip in with a couple of reasons why I would prefer the suggestion of having a main leader for New Mars, who can still be head a council, rather than a pure council headed governmental structure.” All attention in the room refocused on Hauptmann Mykyta Serfass as he voiced his opinions. In the years since Calvados, Serfass Junior had proven himself in several battles, nuances of tactical and strategic abilities displayed in those days solidifying to couple with personal charisma and political astuteness that saw him raise in rank to command a full reinforced company of the rebuilt and expanded Alarion Swords.

“Firstly, given the fractured nature of New Mars, it would be virtually impossible to establish a council that will be viewed as representative of most, if not all the factions on New Mars.” The young man who has yet to turn thirty of age looked at each of those around him. “Have every faction represented by a single vote in the name of equality? I doubt that will work.”

“Which leads to my second point. Even if we somehow browbeat the various factions to sit together and set up a council, who do you think will be able to easily convince the others in times of voting and decision making?” Mykyta Serfass asked. “Probably the strongest and more militarily and commercially powerful factions. There's a reason why the Star League failed twice, and why each of the interstellar factions are ruled by a leader, and that most, if not all nations governed by any political system and structure will always have a first among equals.” The young Alarion officer reminded everyone.

“Third, by establishing one leader answerable to the Lyran Alliance, we will know who to go after when things go pear shaped again. Whether New Mars like it or not, we will be stuffing accountability down their throats.” His attention rested on both Geobbels and Johannes. “Whether the Lyran Alliance will want to make sure that the leader and council adhere to civilized methods in the running of New Mars or not is something High Command can decide. The most important things is that the figurehead and the council will collectively be forced to ensure everyone falls into line, most likely through mutual benefits for one and all rather than with an iron fist. Similarly, the smaller factions can probably contribute to the overall good in exchange for a share of whatever goodwill the LA deem fit to bestow upon New Mars.” He shrugged his shoulders. “There's probably reasons why the smaller factions managed to survive after all these years.”

“I also am in favour of a one leader system,” Duke Anatoly Serfass added as he looked proudly at his son. “As Mykyta pointed out, it gives the Lyran Alliance someone to hold accountable. If the warlords want to establish a council, above and beyond what we do, all the better. But they will understand they are subordinate to whomever we post as the higher command and officer in charge on site. With the HPG spy Satellite in orbit, the LACS will be able to continue to keep tabs on them.” The Duke of Alarion Province pointed out. “We can also arrange for an ambassador to be posted there, to report back on all matters.”

“Seems like we have a coconscious than, My Lord?” Chief Minister Geobbels asked.

“I believe so, Mr. Geobbels.” The Duke nodded his head. “Will you see to it that a write up on our views and points are put together for our final review before submission to High Command?”

“Of course, My Lord.” The Alarion Chief Minister of State tipped his back slightly in acknowledgement.

“Chief Minister Geobbels, a moment of your time please.” Mykyta Serfass called out to the man, holding the older man back with his words while the others except for the Duke filed out of the room. “Any instructions or further intel on the mercenaries in theatre? I heard that the Black Stars might be somehow involved in New Mars.”

“We have combed through the LCAS intel Hauptmann.” Geobbels replied as he shared a knowing smile with Duke Anatoly Serfass standing slightly to his son’s rear. “While there’s a unit that last embarked from Erdvynn before making their way to New Mars, the Black Stars have confirmed that said unit, calling themselves the Untainted Half Dozens are neither a sub-unit of the mercenary collective nor a proxy of any of the existing commands. Given that Erdvynn has become an official mercenary hiring hall, it is not surprising to have any number of merc commands hailing from the landhold of the Black Stars .”

“Oh, I see.” The disappointment on the young officer’s face was obvious. “I thought that since New Mars is right next to Erdvynn, and given the Stars’ ongoing assignment in recovering independent Periphery worlds…”

“Erdvynn and the Black Stars ARE a part of the Alarion Province.” Geobbels reminded his young liege. “I’m sure the opportunity to work with them, or beside them will come soon enough.”

“Of course.” The commanding officer of the Alarion Swords nodded in agreement. “I hope you will forgive me for my childish indulgence, Mr. Geobbels. I had hoped to meet up with the Baron again after these many years.”

“I totally understand My Lord.” Geobbels bowed slightly again. “I’m sure you will.”

blackpanzer

  • Sergeant
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  • Posts: 178
Re: Btech Mercs: First Adventures of the Untainted Half Dozens
« Reply #26 on: 04 September 2020, 05:08:53 »
Lyran Alliance Civil Service Exploration Expedition Field Base
Security Detachment Sector
Clearing along Harmakhis River and Fosenkov Forests
Boreum Plains
Contested territory between Isidis Regions and Akbar Dominion
Continent of Hellas, New Mars
Independent System
Lyran Alliance Anti-Spinward Periphery
6th January 3101
0730 hours local time



With nearly full disclosure of their background and assets, coupled with the increasing likelihood that they might be called into action soon, the Untainted Half Dozens had broken out all of their hardware on Hellas out of storage. They were not jaw dropping in any sense of course. In fact, most of the machines deployed by the mercenaries would not look out of the ordinary since they were in general common enough pieces of military hardware used by any other numbers of commands all over known human sphere. However, some of the details of the debriefing prepared by the LACS by First Leutnant Wilhelm Heinrich had somehow leaked out, revealing the intricate and interesting specifics ‘under the hood’. The presence of quite a few pieces of equipment of obvious Word of Blake origins had raised a number of eyebrows and pique more than some interest in them.

“You have been holding back on me Lieutenant.” Major Marcus Gabriel accused, although there was no sign of bitterness or ire in his tone. The pair had just finished their regularly scheduled fortnightly meet up in the Half Dozens’ temporary office, where they were both going through and updating each other of their troop deployments. “Or should I address you as Adept? You could have told me you know. At least I’d have known that we won’t need to drop everything the Gatecrashers were busy with to hurry here at the drop of the hat since you and your folks will be able handle things for a while – short of an orbital bombardment.”

“Lieutenant will do fine, Major.” The veteran mercenary MechWarrior replied wistfully. “Our orders were to keep the LCAS contingent placed under our charge safe, that and providing non-combat related reinforcements and additional technical needs to the Gatecrashers.” Jiang Ziya gave the commander of Gabriel’s Gatecrashers an apologetic smile. “With the flippant political climate here on New Mars, we thought it best if we withheld our true strength unless we had no choice but to do otherwise. I do not think even Heinrich knew of what we actually have on our TO&E until Captain Huo submitted his detailed briefing about a week ago.”

“So, let me get things straight. Those Po and Hetzer tanks don’t actually belong to the Half Dozens, and that Vindicator isn’t your actual ride?” Gabriel asked as he allowed his imagination to take him to the newly revealed hardware that were being serviced in the workshops, one of several buildings assigned to the Untainted Half Dozens within the LACS compound.

“No, they are not.” Jiang confirmed with a nod. “We leased them from the Black Stars on Erdvynn for our mission here on New Mars because our own couldn’t be ready in time.”

“Why the Po and Hetzer?” Gabriel asked again. “And Vindicator? I’m sure the Black Stars have a crapload of other equipment for you guys to pick from.”

“First off, the Vindy, Po and Hetzer are all reasonably low tech but dependable and solid machines.” Jiang Ziya explained about the unassuming forty five ton Vindicator that had served as his ride for the past two months or so, considering the answers to the Major’s questions. “Despite Baron Zhao’s goodwill, we did not think it wise to go all crazy and scramble for some of the most advanced and technologically complex pieces of hardware they have. It wouldn’t have reflected well on us.”

“So you chose what you chose because you’re afraid of looking greedy and losing face?” Gabriel asked in disbelief.

“In a way, yes. However, it is not simply a matter of respect and dignity.” Jiang admitted before further explaining himself. “We do not want to owe the Stars or anyone else too much of a favour that we might find difficult to return.”

Gabriel nodded firmly. “Ah, that I can understand.”

“Second, those machines are also rather similar to what the Half Dozens have.” Jiang Ziya continued. “Of course, what we have are equipped with Improved C3 computers, and can easily be seen as more advanced versions of the leased items.”

“For BattleMechs, the Half Dozens have in our set up an Excalibur, Battle Cobra and Helios, in additional to a squad each of Achileus and Phalanx Battle Armour. We also have a Zhukov, Demon heavy tank and a Hetzer wheeled tank.” Jiang blinked as the two men stepped out from the relatively dimness of the Half Dozens office into the bright morning sunlight. “All these in addition to our combat engineering vehicles and IndustrialMechs of course.”

“I’m quite acquainted with the Excalibur and Helios,” Gabriel remarked as Jiang Ziya ticked off the Half Dozens’ equipment list. “And the Zhukov and lighter Hetzer of course since they’re in such widespread use all over. I seem to recall the Demon being an old Star League era heavy wheeled tank armed primarily with a gauss rifle? But I’m totally unfamiliar with the Battle Cobra.”

“ComStar salvaged a sizably large number of mostly operational Clan Battle Cobra in the aftermath of the brutal conflict against the Steel Vipers during the Battle of Tukayyid.” Jiang Ziya elaborated. “As part of their efforts to reverse engineer and develop their own OmniMech, the Com Guards selected the Battle Cobra as one of the platform for such a focus – much like how the Draconis Combine based their first generation of OmniMechs on captured Smoke Jaguar machines. The Sunder was based off Loki and Thor, while the Avatar was essentially a reverse engineered Clan Vulture.

“The Com Guards version of the Battle Cobra OmniMech was constructed based on Inner Sphere quality endo steel and ferro fibrous armour, but mounts a lighter 200 rated fusion engine for a reduced speed compared to its Clan counterpart to make up for the heavier Inner Sphere equipment and weapons.” Jiang Ziya continued. “A fixed C3i computer was installed in the centre torso, allowing armourers fifteen tons of pod space to play with.”

“Quite a capable machine eh?” The Major commented. “So, you were saying about finding stand ins for those pieces of equipment for your actual ones?”

“Obviously, it’s not like for like replacements, but generally, the Vindicator is sort of a stand in for the Helios, and the Hetzer for the Demon.” Gabriel and Jiang fell in stride to each other as they started to make their way towards several buildings in the distance that the Half Dozens used as their ‘Mech and vehicle repair bay and workshop. “We selected the Po as a temporary replacement for the Zhukov but unfortunately, the latter didn’t manage to make the trip from Tharsis.”

“That sorts of make sense.” The CO of Gabriel’s Gatecrashers sniffed in the chill morning air, before he laughed at a thought. “And here I was, thinking that perhaps you are a former Cappie Warrior House nut who deserted with one of their TSM augmented and sword wielding Vindicator. Though, I’d say a stock Zhukov or paired large laser armed Brutus would have been closer to the machine you have, give its paired VSP large lasers and missile launcher.”

A product of post Fourth Succession War, the Capellan designed Po was powered by a rugged internal combustion engine and armed with a Ceres Arms Model T Class 10 autocannon. Two machine guns, one of each mounted in the turret and front served as secondary weapons. Ten and a half tons of standard armour plating gave it similar protection to the twenty ton heavier Demolisher tank, notorious as a close range knife fighter. Simplistic to the core, the sixty ton tracked tank packed a hefty punch using economic and sturdy parts. Boasting the same maximum speed as the Po despite its heavier weight, the Word of Blake variant of the Zhukov that the Untainted Half Dozens has was also plated with heavy ferro fibrous armour as well as CASE system that gave it and the crew much better protection. Relying on a pair of high tech variable speed pulse large lasers as its main weapons, the Zhukov would not be reliant on limitations of ammunition supply, although the two tons of supply for its seven tube multiple missile launcher would not be bottomless. Like all other front line combat machines in the Half Dozens TO&E, the heavy tank came equipped with an Improved C3 computer, common in many Word of Blake designs.

Like the VND-6L Vindicator that Jiang Ziya had piloted while he was on Hellas running escort to the LACS Shackleton, the HEL-6X variant of the Helios that was on the Untainted Half Dozens’ TO&E had its man-made muscles replaced with triple strength myomer types. While the slightly better armoured Vindicator came armed with a plasma rifle, double extended range medium lasers and two racks of rocket launchers, the main gun of the Helios was a hard hitting and powerful heavy particle projectile cannon, trading heat inducing properties of the plasma rifle for outright damage. Similar to the VND, the HEL also spotted a pair of ER medium lasers. Replacing the usual short range missile racks on other Helios variants, the HEL-6X has in exchange installed a pair of variable speed medium pulse lasers, one on each of its side torsos. Losing out on the Vindicator’s stealth armour and Guardian ECM suite, the Helios instead came equipped with the Word of Blake Militia’s signature Improved C3 computer linking it to the rest of the Level II it belonged to, as well as a slightly faster base top speed before the triple strength myomer kicked in. Compared to the other official variants of the Helios, the HEL-6X retained the ability to hit hard augmented by its ability to engage in physical melee combat when its TSM was activated, but did away with the need for ammunition.

The combat vehicle that most resembled an advanced version of the one that the Half Dozens leased from the Black Stars, the Word of Blake modified Demon was a bigger and more powerful [/i]Hetzer[/i] in every sense of the word. Also built on a wheeled chassis like the forty ton Hezter, the Demon was half heavier in weight and similarly lacked a turret. While the basic model of the very widely employed Hetzer has a massive front mounted autocannon as its sole weapon, the designers of the Demon installed a heavy gauss rifle that weighed nearly the same as some light ‘Mechs. In addition, the six pack SRM launcher of the original Star League era Demon was swapped out for a heavy Streak version of itself, while the side facing medium lasers were replaced with extended range versions. More technologically advanced than its predecessors, the weapons systems were all enhanced by a targeting computer, while an Improved C3 computer further augmented targeting resolution among the machine’s Level II mates. Finally, the Word of Blake manufactured Demon was also powered by an extra light fusion engine and protected by a whole near coating of heavy ferro fibrous armour plating.

“Well, we make the best of what we have.” Jiang shrugged nonchalantly in reply to Gabriel’s comparison between a Brutus and a Zhukov as they finally reached the entrance to the Mech and vehicular bay. “Third, if you realize, we actually have more MechWarriors and tank crews than we have machines.”

“Now that you’ve mentioned it.” Gabriel stroked his chin as he replied as he swept his gaze over the LACS field base as well as the interior of the Half Dozens workshop. “I know yourself, Varane and Wambach are ‘Mech jocks. Benavidez runs the Battle Armour troops. I haven’t seen your armour commander, but you do seem to have quite a number of tankers around.”

“Right.” Jiang Ziya motioned Gabriel to move himself as a cargo hauler with three small trailers laden with loads of ammunition and parts drove through where they were standing. The two mercenary officers made their way deeper into the workshop, where machines were being serviced, maintained and checked over by groups of astechs, mechanics, technicians and their own crew. “Our tank commander is Karim Asarifard, and he’s stuck with the remaining of our hardware on Erdvynn. Even though Captain Huo managed to charter the ‘Pallada’ …” Jiang paused as he noticed the slight look of confusion on Gabriel’s face. “The Aurora DropShip.”

“Ah, got it.”



“So, the Captain brought in some of our hardware on the ’Pallada’, but it wasn’t large enough to bring all our equipment over.” Jiang continued as the pair of soldiers stopped in front of a pair of BattleMechs. He raised a hand to indicate the first machine. “That Excalibur is Varane’s ride and Wambach usually pilots a Battle Cobra.”

“I know none of the ‘Mechs were sent out into the field except for the Vindicator you have been piloting in. That means that Wambach’s ‘Mech isn’t here yet, which also means that the Helios is yours?” Gabriel’s mentally tagged the two ‘Mechs, the first a seventy ton Excalibur and the machine beside it a Helios heavy ‘Mech. His question was answered by a nod from Jiang. “So what does Captain Huo goes into battle in? Another ‘Mech that’s still mothballed on Erdvynn with Asarifard, trying to out the Vindicator to see if you folks intend to purchase it off the Black Stars, or one of the tanks?”

“Well, Huo is trained to operate all three ‘Mechs the Untainted Half Dozens have actually.” Jiang continued to explain. “So if Wambach, Varane or even myself is unable to operate our ‘Mechs, or if he is needed on the field more than us, he will take command of one of them.”

Major Gabriel looked at Jiang in surprise. “He doesn’t have his own ‘Mech?”

“Actually,” Jiang coughed awkwardly. “I was the one who dispossessed him.” Seeing Gabriel’s surprise’s expression changed into one of total confusion, the veteran MechWarior chortled lightly before he proceeded on with his explanation. “I was piloting a Highlander when it was shot out under me so badly that even the Witch and Warlock couldn’t patch it up at least for a couple more months. We were negotiating to bring in another ‘Mech, another C3i equipped machine that was supposed to be available from one of the Erdvynn black market dealers. Unfortunately, they had the audacity to swindle the Baron of a couple of million c-bills in a deal gone bad, so His Grace had the black market placed under lock down and investigation.” Jiang Ziya stroked his chin thoughtfully. “Thinking back with hindside, a Grand Crusader going for twelve and a half million c-bills does sound too good of a deal…”

“Anyway, the Captain thought that having me in the field was more important since he could still command out of a ‘Mech from the Zugvogel, or from back here if we are allowed access to the LACS satellite link.” Jiang Ziya took a deep breath and blew out a cloud of thick, white mist from his mouth. “Also, since quite a few members who joined over the years came in with machines that would be very difficult, if not impossible to repair, or without any of their own rides at all. After some consideration, Captain Huo decided to cash in and sell those hardware in poor condition.”

“Therefore more manpower than available machines.” Gabriel concluded on Jiang’s behalf with understanding.

“Indeed. Since the Half Dozens place great emphasis on our ability to maintain and repair on own machines, half our soldiers are assigned to undergo training, or carry out servicing and repairs when they are off front line combat duties.” Jiang Ziya waved his hands forward, indicating to Gabriel towards a group of figures huddled around a Demon tank as an example. “Even though the Aurora has very flexible and configurable cargo bays, we could only bring over two ‘Mechs, one of our heavy tanks, two of our Battle Armour squads and the Zugvogel.”

“You guys might be small in quantity, but definitely not lacking in quality eh? You have here with you two squads of Battle Armour, the Excalibur and Helios supplemented by that Vindicator.” Gabriel commented with just a trace of jealousy in his voice. “And you have that heavy gauss rifle totting Demon plus a Po and Hetzer to keep it company.”

“We make the best of what we have.” Jiang repeated again modestly.

“Well, I’m just glad to have you guys on our side.” Marcus Gabriel stomped his feet as the massive yawning Mech bay doors allowed the chilly gusts of wintery wind to blow their way into the building. “By the way, how’s the deal with refitting those machines of the Isidis Regions Military on Warlord Masamune coming along?”

“Surprisingly well actually, if Wambach and Varane’s words are to be believed.” Jiang beamed at the sight of Wambach waving a large wrench threateningly at one of the astechs, her expression one of obvious exasperation. “The crew that the Warlord sent to understudy those two come with some incredibly knowledge in the first place. They’re willing to learn and hard working – a dream to teach, according to Varane. The truth is, Wambach and Varane didn’t expect to find much in the Isidis armoury in the first place. To their pleasant surprise, they found sufficient stockpile of spare parts worth their efforts and time. Wambach even claimed that there’s enough components to outfit an entire variant for her Battle Cobra.” Jiang suddenly paused in his musings and looked at Gabriel. “Please don’t tell me there’s something wrong with that Cyclops refit they did for your XO.”

“Oh no, nothing of the sort. Captain Zenobia Artemisia loves her new configuration.” Gabriel waved Jiang’s unfounded concerns aside. “In fact, the rest of my people were wondering, once this is all over, will the Half Dozens be willing to help retrofit a couple more of our machines. Also, since you guys seem to go for only C3i and high tech stuff, if there’s salvage that you might wish to dispose of we’ll pay to get them off your hands.”

“We’d be glad to help, especially if appropriate compensation can be negotiated.” Jiang winked at Gabriel and raised a hand to allay the fears of the Gatecrashers’ CO. “I believe Warlord Masamune will be requesting for us to stay, offering us rather some rather unique contract conditions after we fulfil our obligations with the LACS for basically more or less the same reason.”

“The Warlord does seem ridiculously indifferent about the current situation doesn’t he?” Gabriel remarked.

“I’m not surprised.” Jiang Ziya replied calmly as yet another cargo hauler rumbled pass them with several crates of ammunition in tow. “Whoever factions it is that’s backing this Fiefdom of Mamlaq, they have pitted themselves against the combined might of both the Isidis Regions and Akbar Dominion, and upset the Elsies to no end I believe. With the Dominion cutting off all outside reinforcements, Frozdale itself might be self sustainable in terms of food and water, but whatever armed forces it has isn’t going to last long.”

“There’s been talk in and around Isidis Metropolitan.” Gabriel smirked in agreement. “The common consensus seems to be along the lines of – wait them out, and let them starve in to death. Quite a large group within the Isidis Regions Military seems to be in the view that they’ll be able to just kick back and wait for the Armed Forces of the Akbar Dominion to smoke out the rebels. Once the latter comes crawling out of the snow to surrender, it’s a simple matter of picking them off.”

 “Tell that to the civilians, miners and farmers out there that will be pillaged and raided in the meantime – I’m sure it will be of great comfort to them.” Jiang snorted in retort. “As long as the main continent of Tharsis prevents any incoming off world supplies to the Fiefdom and the Dominion interdicts anything in the skies coming in from any other New Mars location, it’d be a matter of time before they wear these rebels out.” The grizzled MechWarrior sighed deeply. “I just hope this Dzhokhar Dudayez doesn’t gets desperate when cornered and use the civilians as human shields.”

“I hear you.” Gabriel’s head bobbed in approval. “We can all hope things turn out well for everyone in the end.”

“Not everyone.” Jiang Ziya objected quickly.

Gabriel raised an eyebrow. “Oh?”

“I’m sure we’d want this Dudayez guy and his fellow collaborators to pay for their actions, no?”

 

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