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Author Topic: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]  (Read 45029 times)

Daryk

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Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
« Reply #120 on: 31 March 2019, 09:39:37 »
Rabigh, Astrokaszy
1900 Local Time
15 November, 3053

As before, the returning convoy was quickly provided fresh crews, and as soon as the unloading was complete, it rolled out again for the oasis.  Croft escorted them in the repaired Wolverine, as agreed.  The rest of the Double Deuce contingent loaded the Phoenix Hawk and Mongoose into the two open 'mech cubicles for repairs.  The P-Hawk was only expected to need 3.5 hours of work, but the Mongoose...  Well, they had one spare leg they could install in about three hours, but the other would require considerably more time, and potentially parts they didn't have.

Several hours later, a truck unexpectedly arrived at the ship.  A red-sashed local stepped down from the cab and asked to speak to a technician.  Adept Devereaux strode down the ramp of the ship after a few minutes, wearing stained coveralls.  The local gave a slight bow and gestured back to the truck.

"My Master bids me to present you with the parts in the truck in view of the valor shown by your MechWarriors."

Devereaux stiffly returned the bow and said, "Uh, thank you!  Let's have a look then, eh?"

As the parts were unloaded, Dennis was relieved to see leg actuators.  That would vastly simplify rebuilding a leg for the Mongoose.  It might even be done before the ship had to take off!

Tracking down the local with the red sash before they left, Dennis said, "Thank you again!  Your Master is very wise in gifting these parts to us."

Smiling broadly the local merely nodded and said, "Of course he is wise!  That is why he is Emir!"

Tegyrius

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Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
« Reply #121 on: 01 April 2019, 21:11:26 »
Bronze Souq, Rabigh, Astrokaszy
2136 Local Time
15 November 3053


Cameron and Monchenigo wound their way through a festive crowd.  On a stage improvised from cargo pallets, a young fire-breather whirled and exhaled, spraying a gout of orange flame across a rather well-done paper-mâché effigy of a Victor.  The two-meter assault 'Mech caught fire and the fireworks packed within it began hissing and popping, drawing shouts of outrage from the nearest bystanders and laughter and applause from the rest of the audience.

Cameron finished his last skewer and dropped the greasy wrapping into an overflowing wastebin.  "That wasn't awful," he understated.  "What did she say it was?"

"Ufgan," Monchenigo replied around a mouthful of balkava.  He swallowed, grinned, and repeated, "Ufgan.  Reptile, red-orange, about a meter high at the shoulder.  We saw a herd in the pen by the salvage yard.  They're desert foragers.  Sort of the local equivalent of goat."

"Well, if that's the rations we loaded, the next leg may be more pleasant than the last one," Cameron grinned.  He adjusted his hood - both men were robed in the local fashion, and the night was cooling rapidly - and altered his course toward a pop-up stand selling various fruit sherbets, taking the opportunity to check his back-trail.  "Athnyn min fadlik. Liumun," he ordered.  He paid and turned away, handing one of the frozen desserts to Monchenigo.  "You see anything interesting?"

"Not yet," the scout reported.  "But it's still early."  He turned, ostensibly to watch a cluster of scantily-clad dancers, and scanned the crowd.  "Whoops, got an honor duel about to kick off, wait, no, friends are calming it down."

"Okay.  I'll check in, then let's do another circuit."  Inside his sleeve, Cameron squeezed the remote push-to-talk switch for the com adhered behind his left ear.  "NIGHTINGALE, this is SPECTATOR.  Ready for sitrep, over."

The return transmission opened on the tail end of a yawn from the duty NCO on Full House's bridge.  "SPECTATOR, NIGHTINGALE.  Go ahead with your sitrep."

"Team status green.  No indications of civil unrest or hostile activity.  Continuing patrol, over."

"NIGHTINGALE copies and will relay up the chain.  You boys have fun out there," the spacer concluded sourly.

"I don't think he appreciates being stuck in the port," Monchenigo chuckled.

"Yeah, but I also don't think he appreciates that we really are working," the S-2 said with a grin.

"True enough, but I've had worse --" Monchenigo broke off.  "Um.  I know that woman.  Blue cloak, group of four, moving past the sword dancers."

Cameron cursed and forced himself not to check the holster under his robe.  "Where from?"

"Algiers."  The scout slid smoothly into step at Cameron's shoulder, keeping the taller man between himself and the subject of their interest.  "She was an instructor at the technical archaeology schoolhouse."

"And you'd know if another Explorer Corps op was running on-planet, right?"

"Mm-hmm."

"Yeah.  Thought so.  NIGHTINGALE, SPECTATOR, we have eyes on a possible opposition team.  Four personnel, near the Sirrush Gate, moving toward the Emir's residence..."
Some places remain unknown because no one has gone there.  Others remain unknown because no one has come back.

Daryk

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Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
« Reply #122 on: 02 April 2019, 19:30:35 »
Landing Field, Rabigh, Astrokaszy
2137 Local Time
15 November, 3053

Adept Hopschnur was once again questioning why he'd let his S-2 talk him in to allowing a low profile patrol of the town while the unit waited to retrieve its 'mechs from the oasis.  He rubbed his temples.

"Get the QRF quietly loaded into jeeps," he ordered after the duty officer briefed him on the situation.  "And wake up Adept Asadi.  I may need her to deliver some news to the locals tonight.  I would much prefer their security forces deal with WoB infiltrators in their town."

Tegyrius

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Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
« Reply #123 on: 07 April 2019, 16:42:36 »
Even off Rabigh's main streets, foot traffic was heavier than usual, citizens and visitors alike drawn out by the victory celebration.  Cameron moved through the crowd with casual ease, pausing to inspect wares at pop-up stands - knives (a lone Bowie looking out of place amongst the traditional North African cutlery, but poorly-made upon inspection), coffee (coin changing hands, half a pound of the local beans disappearing into his robes), books (a 2760 edition of Delrane's Fighting Ships, tempting but too bulky and valuable to take into a potential fight right now).  Out of the corner of his eye, he kept tabs on the quartet of Blakists.  Out of the corner of his other eye, he kept tabs on Monchenigo, likewise circulating but hanging back thirty to fifty meters to avoid recognition).

The Blakists' body language was anxious, frustrated - wherever they were headed, the patience required to blend with the crowd was wearing thin.  Cameron smiled to himself and haggled over a scarf - Halle's colors, and he could infuriate her by legitimately claiming that buying it maintained his cover - as the team checked its backtrail again before entering a cabinetmaker's workshop.  Yeah, right.  He didn't think he'd been made, but just in case he was in their pattern analysis, he selected the most crowded establishment with a view of the place.

Twenty minutes later, Cameron exited back onto the street with a large package of baklava to go.  He strolled casually back the way he'd come, the picture of contentment.  Monchenigo was waiting around the corner.

"Hopschnur is practically chewing the mic," the scout reported.

"Couldn't be helped.  We needed to see if they were going to come out of there.  No activity around back?"

"Nothing.  If that isn't a safehouse, they're at least more patient than we are."

"Yep.  NIGHTINGALE, SPECTATOR."

"Go ahead."  The watch officer sounded distinctly more alert now.

"Targets have gone to ground in a woodworker's shop on the north side of the Bronze Souq.  No further activity observed.  SHOVEL and I are in position to spot, over."

"Stand by, SPECTATOR..."
Some places remain unknown because no one has gone there.  Others remain unknown because no one has come back.

Daryk

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Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
« Reply #124 on: 07 April 2019, 17:07:43 »
Landing Field, Rabigh, Astrokaszy
2350 Local Time
15 November, 3053

"Stand by, SPECTATOR... out" the radio tech relayed.

Nodding, Hopschnur turned to Halle and said, "All right, I think it's time to tell our hosts where the WoB is hiding in their city.  Take a jeep with as much of the QRF as you can fit aside from yourself, and inform the Emir's forces."

"Roger that, sir," the JAG said, adjusting her (own) body armor and turning to leave.

"SPECTATOR, NIGHTINGALE, maintain position, report all movement, over," the radio operator said.

Daryk

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Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
« Reply #125 on: 10 April 2019, 17:53:23 »
Rabigh, Astrokaszy
0020 Local Time
16 November, 3053

Adept Asadi was loaded for bear, or at least as loaded as a JAG ever was.  She had no idea how this conversation was going to go, but she was glad of both her body armor and security detail.  The jeep she was riding in rolled up to the gate of the Emir's compound.  Given the watch towers flanking the gate, "fortress" might have been a better description.  Oddly, the gates simply swung open as the vehicle approached, without even a challenge.  The reason for that was clear enough when the gates swung closed behind them before the second set of gates opened.  The jeep was now in a perfect kill box.

One heart-stopping moment later, the inner gates swung open, and a guard directed the jeep where to park.  Another guard led the JAG and her security detail to a low, blocky building.  Light spilled out when the door was opened.

A red-sashed woman greeted Halle as she entered.

"Mahir, what brings you to us at such an hour?" she said in the local dialect.

Halle replied in her typically flawless Modern Terran Arabic, "We've become aware you may have a security problem in Rabigh, and thought you should know as quickly as possible."

The other woman laughed and said, "You mean spies?  You should know the Emir's policy with regard to spies is what they do to each other is none of his business.  Unless their his spies, and from what you say, they clearly aren't."

Halle was immediately on guard, and her mind raced.  "So you know about the garrison's people?"

"Of course! How would we not know?  The people love the Emir.  Nothing happens in Rabigh without him knowing."

"So you know what happened to our man in Rabigh before we arrived?"

"Of course, don't you?  The garrison spies murdered him, but not after torturing him first.  Either he really didn't know what they were after, or his training outlasted his endurance."

The shock on Halle's face said it all.

"Oh, you didn't know.  Well, you do now.  I might take this opportunity to remind you that the Emir has NO opinion on what spies to do each other.  As long as their not his, of course.  I might also remind you that everyone in Rabigh will report what they see to us."

Recovering herself, Halle said, "Ah, thank you.  I think I need to talk to my Commander before anyone does anything else.  Peace be upon you."

"And upon you.  But not necessarily any spies in Rabigh," the other woman said.  Halle asked herself if that was a wink she saw.

The ride back to the ship was unusually quiet.  The security detail kept casting questioning looks at the JAG, but the emotions working across her face kept them from actually asking anything.  For her part, Halle was trying to work out how she'd present what she'd learned to Hopschnur.  It was a good thing the ride back to the space port wasn't short.

Daryk

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Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
« Reply #126 on: 21 April 2019, 12:58:24 »
Landing Field, Rabigh, Astrokaszy
0100 Local Time
16 November, 3053

Adept Asadi's jeep quietly rolled up to the loading ramp of the Full House.  Not that there was any other way a fusion powered vehicle without legs, tracks, or fans could approach. The JAG let herself out of the back and slowly walked up the ramp while the rest of the QRF briefly provided over watch, then piled back into the jeep once she was safely inside the ship and no longer their responsibility.  Whatever was going on apparently had the Commander sufficiently on edge to have them loaded and locked.

For her part, Halle was still debating about the details of what she would say to Karl even as she laid a hand on the latch of the door into the back of the Command Jeep.  As it swung open, an obviously tired Adept Hopschnur fixed his JAG with a stare and asked, "So, what do you have?"

Taking a deep breath, Asadi replied, "Well sir, it seems the locals already know who's in their town.  And know rather more than they've let on in general.  Apparently, we haven't been asking the right questions.  They claim the garrison's people tortured and murdered Acolyte Monchenigo's predecessor.  They were also very clear about not having any interest in what 'spies' do to each other in their town.  I suspect they were implying we were free to engage the garrison's element, and I think that would be to their advantage.  But I don't see how it would be to ours, and can't recommend that course of action."

Hopschnur sighed heavily, and cast about for a moment.  Finally, he turned to the communications watch and said, "Have Mattis relieve McCann on site, and bring McCann back here ASAP."

Turning back to Halle, he added, "The only one who can recommend that course of action is Cameron.  And yes, he's going to have an uphill battle.  Don't go too far... I want you in the room when we talk about this."

Daryk

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Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
« Reply #127 on: 28 April 2019, 11:12:24 »
Alleyway
Rabigh, Astrokaszy
0200 Local Time
16 November, 3053

"Friendly," came a low whisper behind Cameron.  Keeping one eye on the doorway he'd seen the WoB operatives enter hours ago, Cameron caught a glimpse of Mattis gliding up behind him.  Having had no radio contact about a relief, the Adept cocked an eyebrow in the Acolyte's direction.  Mattis was clad in local garb, much like he and Monchenigo.

"The boss wants to see you ASAP.  I've got the watch here, and I've already briefed Alex," Mattis continued in a barely audible whisper.  Motioning behind him, he added, "Exfil is one block straight back, then two left."

Tegyrius

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Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
« Reply #128 on: 30 May 2019, 21:20:15 »
Landing Field, Rabigh, Astrokaszy
0224 Local Time
16 November 3053


"Baklava."

"Had to maintain cover as a tourist," Cameron replied matter-of-factly.  "And it's got high energy density.  I didn't know how long we might need to stay out."

Hopschnur did not quite suppress an eye-roll but apparently decided to take his intel chief's dessert offering at face value.  "And?"

"They have a well-established safehouse.  The SATCOM antenna is well-disguised but it's been in place long enough to weather.  So they've been working out of Rabigh, or at least maintaining a base in case they had to, for a while."  Cameron closed his eyes and scrolled another mental checklist.  "The woman Monchenigo identified --" he nodded toward the scout without opening his eyes -- "is Marianne Bélanger.  Adept Tau, but cross-branched from Omega with a doctorate in Star League studies.  Not the sort who's typically assigned out here." 

"But she's in the town where the Blakists just assassinated the scout Monchenigo was supposed to relieve," Hopschnur stated reluctantly.

"Right.  Now, she could analyze data remotely.  There's no need to ship her to the hinterlands for that.  So she's likely on site for exploitation of a physical asset of some sort."  Cameron opened his eyes.  "Hitting a prepared safehouse has the potential to be noisy and messy.  The upside is that we might come away with intel on what they think the Explorer Corps found out here.  If we can disable their comms before they get a signal out, and if they don't purge the data, and if we can take Bélanger and put her in a talkative mood."  He glanced sideways at Monchenigo.  "I'll admit I'm curious, but my stronger argument is that this planet has been rumored to be a weapon testing site for time immemorial."
Some places remain unknown because no one has gone there.  Others remain unknown because no one has come back.

Daryk

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Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
« Reply #129 on: 31 May 2019, 17:03:47 »
Landing Field, Rabigh, Astrokaszy
0225 Local Time
16 November 3053

Hopschnur nibbled the offered baklava, and seemed impressed by its taste while he listened to the rest of Cameron's report and speculation.

"So... you don't think they were after the gold Alex's ancestor stole?  That seems like the simplest explanation to me.  It was rather a lot of gold," he said, just before taking a sizable bite of the tasty pastry.  Adept Asadi nodded in agreement, her mouth full of the same pastry, though she had known exactly what it was and had wasted no time indulging herself.

Tegyrius

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Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
« Reply #130 on: 30 June 2019, 20:52:41 »
"It's possible," Cameron admitted.  "Occam's Razor does apply.  But gold is simple to find, if not precisely easy to extract, when you have a star system with a belt and people who know how to work it."  He dipped his chin toward his chest, the Belter equivalent of a modest bow.  "So I'm back to asking what was worth taking Doctor Bélanger out of circulation - out of research or teaching - for a year's round trip.

"Also, we're operating at an intel deficit.  The garrison knows the Blakist version of our departure from Campoleone.  They have a team in town, so they know we've made planetfall.  We don't have any comparable sources on their actions or intentions."

Hopschnur leaned back for a moment.  Chewed another bite of balkava.  Glanced over at Asadi, who returned a head tilt and a raised eyebrow in Cameron's direction.

"You're right," the commander said at length.  "We're in the dark here.  The longer we're on the ground, the more likely it is that they'll raise the stakes."

Or make contact with whoever their agent in our crew is, Cameron thought loudly, seeing the same concern in Hopschnur's face.

"All right.  You have a green light.  I'll cut loose all of Juliet," a wry smile crossed Hopschnur's face as he tasked his old command, "and you can keep Mattis and Parker, because Blake knows I don't want to hear what Mattis will say if I cut him out of this.  Asadi, you're on liaison duty in case the locals get second thoughts about their implied carte blanche."

"Aye, sir."  Cameron unfolded from his chair.  "I'll just go find Crowell and make her evening more exciting..."
Some places remain unknown because no one has gone there.  Others remain unknown because no one has come back.

Daryk

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Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
« Reply #131 on: 01 July 2019, 03:40:40 »
Alleyway
Rabigh, Astrokaszy
0230-0345 Local Time
16 November, 3053

To Cameron's surprise, Hannah Crowell was actually eager for the mission, the hour notwithstanding.  Her troops were only marginally slower, even Harras and his crew.

Crowell proposed a simple forced entry, with one squad providing security for the vehicles two blocks away, and one on each side of the building.  This left McCann, Monchenigo, Mattis and Parker as cover for the squad doing the entry.  Oddly enough, Crowell selected Harras's squad for the job.

Harras let the assignment go without a snide remark for once, at least not where Crowell could hear him.  On the objective, he stacked his troopers to either side of the door, with Martin in the first position.  On the go signal, Martin tried the door handle, and found it unlocked.  Flinging it open, he plunged into the building with Stiles close on his heels.  After a few seconds, Cameron heard a muffled pop followed by a flash and completely unmuffled BOOM emanating from the building.  Martin and Stiles came flying out of the doorway into the street with a second, armored door still in its doorframe on top of them.

"What the hell was that?  Harras, report!" Crowell called over the tactical comm.  Harras himself flipped the armored door off his men, both of whom were clearly dazed.  Lights were snapping on up and down the street, as Harras and his other troopers dragged the two who'd been knocked for a loop out of line with the door.  Aside from smoke, nothing else was coming out of the building.

"Engel, bring the vehicles around, now!" Crowell ordered, also collapsing the rest of the platoon around the front of the building.

"It wasn't us!  Martin's mic is busted, but he says the door blew before he even he touched the door.  Talbas says we have a low... no... a NO O2 situation in there.  We're going to need respirators," Harras reported as the locals started to ululate.

As the vehicles nosed their way through the fortunately still thin crowds, a priority message came across the radio:

"All units, all units... be advised the Emir's forces are vectoring a battlemech on your position, likely with supporting forces."

The three officers on the objective received a second message on the command circuit in Hopschnur's unmistakable voice:

"Whatever you're going to do, do it fast and get out of there."

When the vehicles rolled to a halt, Acolyte Engel hopped down from the truck with a ruck in her left hand.  "Respirators," she said, holding it up.

Tegyrius

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Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
« Reply #132 on: 04 July 2019, 09:41:37 »
Cameron's internal monologue ground to a halt in a burst of Swedenese profanity as he processed the results of the aborted entry.  "Someone leaked," he said quietly to Mattis.  Then, keying his com to the command circuit: "SPECTATOR copies all, Charlie Mike."  One hand toggled his com to the tactical circuit as the other snagged a respirator.  "SPECTATOR to all Juliet elements.  Continue mission.  Watch for secondary devices.  Entry squad: mask up, go on air."

He pulled the respirator over his head, tightened the straps, cranked open the valve to the small bail-out bottle, and did a quick seal-check.  A glance around showed Monchenigo, Mattis, and Parker doing the same, with the uninjured members of Harras' squad a few beats behind.

Surprise was clearly no longer a factor and the clock was running.  Cameron plucked a flash grenade from the back of Martin's vest, then turned and lobbed it underhand down the metal stairs that the reinforced door had hidden.  He was already moving past the threshold as the sun-bright strobe seared the shadows from the basement.

A figure sprawled behind an overturned table, pistol in hand.  Cameron's shotgun punched a slug into the downed defender's abdomen before he consciously processed the blast and thermal injuries already present.  Enh.  Insurance round.  He pushed forward past a second corpse and through the shattered remains of an interior door, finding himself in a small bunkroom peopled by four more casualties.  Behind him, a crash signaled Harras' troopers kicking in another door.

"Clear," Harras reported, his voice muffled by his own SCBA.  "I count six."

"Yeah."  Cameron took another look around at the overpressure injuries and the scorch marks on every exposed surface.  "Someone popped an FAE."

"That's... not real smart."  Harras punctuated his assessment by kicking the nearest expired Blakist.

An absence clicked into place.  "It is if you're covering your tracks.  Bélanger isn't here and I don't recognize these guys from the team we saw earlier.  Mattis and Parker were on station, which means," he keyed up, "SPECTATOR, SHOVEL.  Need you down here to find another hidden exit."

He turned back to Harras.  "Grab the tech and anything else that looks interesting," he pointed to a mil-spec shipping case labeled MAUSER 1200 LSS , "and start loading up.  Tell Mattis I need him and Parker down here."
Some places remain unknown because no one has gone there.  Others remain unknown because no one has come back.

Daryk

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Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
« Reply #133 on: 04 July 2019, 11:41:19 »
Alleyway
Rabigh, Astrokaszy
0350 Local Time
16 November, 3053

"Roger, sir!" Harras said, motioning for his troops to start loading up the crates.

"What about the bodies?  Do we leave 'em or take 'em?  Sir?"

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Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
« Reply #134 on: 16 July 2019, 21:05:02 »
Cameron's first inclination was to leave the literal dead weight, but - "Take them last if we have time.  Mattis and I will do a first pass on processing them for ID."  The last was delivered as Parker preceded Mattis and Monchenigo down the stairs.  "Mach, see if there's another way out of here, please.  I'm paranoid."

Monchenigo nodded and moved to the nearest wall, pulling a sensor wand from his own belt kit.

Cameron stripped a slug out of his ammo loops and topped off his shotgun.  "Mattis, Parker, give me a hand with the dead guys."  He slung the shotgun and retrieved his noteputer.  "It's time for a little site exploitation.  Faces, ink, scars," he toed a sheaf of printed documents that the blast had blown into a corner, "fingerprints."

Mattis picked up the printout and glanced at it.  "Mox nix.  Capellan recipe exchange."  He stole a pen from a scorched desk, cracked it in half, and began messily inking the nearest corpse's fingerprints.

Parker and Cameron began rolling the corpses onto their backs and stripping their outer robes.  At the third, the only woman in the cellar, Cameron growled out a string of Japanese obscenities.  "Mach.  This isn't Bélanger."

Monchenigo turned.  "What?  No.  She was there."  He knelt over the corpse, swallowed heavily, and turned the woman's face to one side.  "Doctor Bélanger has a birthmark here.  I saw it tonight."

"Yeah, well, then they swapped out somehow," Mattis put in.  "I don't know when they would have done a shell game."  His tone was more frustrated than defensive or accusing.

"Doesn't matter," Cameron decided.  "There's enough superficial resemblance that they could have done it but we can sort that later.  We're on the clock.  Mach, anything in the walls?"

"No other ways out that I can see.  This is newer construction, and not that great."  The scout shrugged, grateful for the excuse to draw back from the dead woman.

Cameron switched back to Swedenese to vent his spleen again.  "Okay.  Finish getting IDs, see if anything else turns up, and then we need to be in the wind.  We're the last four out.  If we have to, we grab the least-damaged sets of robes, split from Juliet, and E&E back to the port."
Some places remain unknown because no one has gone there.  Others remain unknown because no one has come back.

Daryk

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Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
« Reply #135 on: 17 July 2019, 06:13:40 »
Alleyway
Rabigh, Astrokaszy
0355-0415 Local Time
16 November, 3053

Acolyte Harras nodded and said, "Roger, sir" as he and his troops carted the first crate up the stairs.  It was the Mauser crate, and it took all four of them to maneuver it.  The others made their way up the stairs in short order, followed by the body armor that had been hanging up.  Not long after that, two troopers looked a question at Mattis, to make sure he was done with the body, before rolling it into a bag and hauling it up the stairs.  The fourth body had just gone up the stairs when the tell tale vibrations of an approaching 'mech could be felt, even underground.

As Harras rushed down the stairs, a distant crackle and muffled local dialect indicated someone was addressing the crowd in the streets.  In urgent tones, the squad leader reported: "Sir, the local forces are here... they brought a Stinger and one APC.  One of those red-sashes is talking to the JAG... you might want to come up..."

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Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
« Reply #136 on: 04 August 2019, 03:41:11 »
Alleyway
Rabigh, Astrokaszy
0415-0420 Local Time
16 November, 3053

As Adept McCann and his team continued site exploitation down in the basement, the local forces arrived outside.  The Stinger battlemech had switched on various lights and the pilot was addressing the crowd.  The ululation died away as the 'mech waved them back into their homes.  An APC rolled up to the Deuce's truck from the opposite direction.

Adept Asadi instantly recognized the red-sashed woman who debarked first.

"Mahir!  I did not expect to see you again so soon!  I see your unit has lived up to its reputation," she said in the local dialect, grinning broadly.

Halle was caught slightly off guard, and asked, "And what reputation is that?"

"For excessive force, of course!  The reports from Campoleone were very clear about that.  I'm sure the investigation will reveal your breaching charges were more than the building could stand.  It's a shame we'll have to bulldoze the place.  Ah, here it comes now."

As if on cue, Halle could hear the clanking of a tracked vehicle approaching.

The JAG's jaw was slack as she glanced from the 'mech, to the APC, and the approaching bulldozer.  It was all too perfect.

The local continued amiably, "All is not lost, though.  My aunt will get a nice new villa out of the deal.  The construction crews here are quite efficient.  I expect the new building will be up within the week."

Nodding, Halle replied with resignation, "I'm sure."

"You'll of course be leaving shortly?" the local said, with a rather harder smile.

"Of course.  I believe our team is just wrapping up inside," the JAG said as the sixth body bag was loaded on the truck.

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Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
« Reply #137 on: 04 August 2019, 10:42:58 »
Al Seddah Oasis, Astrokaszy
0200-0430 Local Time
16 November, 3053

Jenks was relieved to see Croft returning with the convoy.  Having the only fucntional Double Deuce 'mech among a veritable sea of armed locals was unnerving at best, radio contact with the Full House and swapping off with Eric notwithstanding.  The local techs had been busy throughout the day, reattaching legs to the Valkyrie and Javelin, and drying out the Trebuchet from its dunking in the oasis.

Once the Victor and Orion legs were loaded aboard the recovery vehicle, the Emir gave the order to move out, ensuring he was the last to leave the field of battle.

The procession moved across Astrokaszy's desolate terrain at a deliberate pace, Ghada's moonlight glinting off various cockpits and window glass.  The Emir spoke to the Double Deuce mechwarriors on a private channel.

"Beautiful, is it not?  We call this area Al Kharab Al Jamil.  One day, my family will rule all this and more.  And you certainly played your parts, for which I thank you.  Perhaps when your labors for ComStar are complete, some of you could return, and take your places here.  Capable mechwarriors can go far in service to Rabigh."

Non-committal, but polite, responses greeted the Emir, but he seemed to have expected no less.

"Just remember my words.  You are all young yet."

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Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
« Reply #138 on: 04 August 2019, 16:30:02 »
Alleyway
Rabigh, Astrokaszy
0430-0900 Local Time
16 November, 3053

Site exploitation complete within the apparent time constraints, the troops and staff of the Double Deuce loaded onto the truck, and drove back to the Full House.  The road was rough enough, and her suspicions deep enough that Adept Asadi held off on debriefing McCann until they were safely back aboard the ship.  The two Adepts were in Hopschnur's stateroom, along with Adept Crowell.  To say it was crowded was an understatement.

"... so the only injuries were Stiles and Martin.  One broken nose, and two sets of bruised ribs.  The door hit them pretty hard," Crowell was saying.

"It was definitely a fuel-air explosive of some kind.  The lack of oxygen and the burn and blast injuries all point to that," McCann added.

"And the local authorities seem to have the conclusion of their investigation already written.  They were practically spring-loaded to tear that place down," Halle put in.

Hopschnur rubbed his temples as he took it all in.

Summarizing, he said, "So it's possible the Word agents were on to something the locals are hiding?  The sooner we get out of here, the better.  The 'mechs are expected back early this afternoon, and I want to lift before sundown.  You can all write up your reports once we're off this rock.  Get some sleep.  I can only imagine leaving isn't going to go as smoothly as we'd like, and I need you all to be full up rounds when we do."

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Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
« Reply #139 on: 10 August 2019, 08:53:25 »
Rabigh, Astrokaszy
1300 Local Time
16 November, 3053

The streets of Rabigh were lined with cheering citizens as the convoy returned to the town.  The Emir's Banshee was right behind the recovery vehicle carrying the Victor, and as he raised the 'mech's arms, the cheering redoubled.  The Double Deuce Griffin and Wolverine were part of the procession, just behind the limping Javelin piloted by Eric at the Emir's request.  Just "one march through town, then you can retire", he'd said.  The three mechwarriors did have to admit the adulation of the crowd was satisfying.

The crowds pressed right up to the gate of the Emir's fort, which closed behind the procession as it passed within.  Inside, the Deuce mechwarriors saw 'mechs parked practically on top of one another.  Apparently, the victory they had delivered was beyond Rabigh's wildest dreams.

The Banshee motioned to the two Deuce 'mechs as their radios crackled.  "This way my friends!  The food and tobacco you requested have already been delivered, but I have a little more I want to give you in light of your valor."

Kneeling the 'mech down, the Emir stood with large parts in his hands, and offered one each to Jenks and Croft.  One looked like a large ball joint, while the other was a long strut.  Stepping back he said, "I think you will find these of use.  Please take them with my gratitude."

With gifts in hand and pleasantries exchanged, the two 'mechs made their way back to the landing field.  Eric was driven back by the locals in their wake.

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Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
« Reply #140 on: 10 August 2019, 10:40:24 »
Landing Field, Rabigh, Astrokaszy
1330-1430 Local Time
16 November, 3053

When the two 'mechs at last returned to the Full House, there was delight on Adept Devereaux's face.  The hip joint was rated for a 25-ton 'mech, but the most amazing thing was the strut.  It was endo-steel, and exactly the length needed for a Mongoose leg.  A small wondering crowd of techs looked it over, and one found a Star League serial number right where it should have been.  Where the Emir could have possibly laid hands on such a thing was a mystery, but not one Adept Hopschnur was even remotely interested in solving.  Jimenez broke up the lollygagging, pointing out the scar in Jenks' armor.  Less than 30 minutes later, that damage was repaired.

While that work was going on, Adept Devereaux was lobbying Hopschnur to delay departure several hours to permit the techs to reattach the Mongoose's other leg.  The new parts brought in by Jenks and Croft were the final pieces needed, and who knew when the ship would next ground?  When Devereaux pointed out the work could indeed be done before sundown, Hopschnur relented.

With one leg reattached, the Mongoose had been packed back where it was originally, as it was the only 'mech small enough to share its cubicle with the tail of the Karnov.  While a team of techs assembled the leg, another team and Adept Simmons carefully maneuvered the Mongoose back out of that cubicle and into one of the empty ones.

Croft and Jenks swapped out with Preston and Sharpe for some much needed rack time.  Hopschnur had gritted his teeth, but felt having both the Wolverine and Griffin unpacked and standing guard was worth it, and he knew how long the other three had been in cockpits already today.  Two jeeps were also left unpacked to provide security.

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Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
« Reply #141 on: 11 August 2019, 11:15:30 »
ECV Full House
Landing Field, Rabigh, Astrokaszy
1730 Local Time
16 November, 3053

"Double Deuce, Double Deuce, this is Desert ONE on IDF, over."

The bridge watch aboard the Full House picked up the 1MC before the radio: "Captain to the bridge... Captain to the bridge."

Switching to the radio, the watch said, "Unit calling, this is ECV Full House, say again, over."

"ECV Full House, this is Desert ONE, I've got Shervanis City in the skip zone for IDF for the next 10 minutes... we're defecting, over."

Captain Mason caught the last of that transmission as she entered the bridge, and extended her hand for the microphone.  The watch handed it off quickly.

"This is Full House actual, state souls on board, over."

"Two souls: Adept Walsh and Acolyte Richter... we request asylum, over."

"This is Full House, copy, stand by, out."

"Roger, out."

Adept Hopschnur entered the bridge with Adepts Asadi and Devereaux in tow.  "What do we have, Captain?" he asked.

"Apparently, two inbound defectors.  Judging by their transmissions, they're coming in with some speed.  And they have enough comms training and sense to call us on HF when their garrison is in the skip zone," Mason said.

Hopschnur looked first to Asadi.  She said, "If they want to leave the WoB, I think we should take them in.  After Cameron has had a chance to talk to them, of course."

Nodding, he turned to Devereaux.  "Sir, we're almost done with the Mongoose.  It'll be packed away properly in 30 minutes or less."

Mason said, "Sensors put them about 300 kilometers from here.  If that's a Ferret inbound, they can be here in an hour, and we'll need the crane to load them into the main deck airlock.  There isn't enough room in the cargo air lock, unless you want to short yourself a jeep down there."

Nodding again, Hopschnur made his decision: "All right, let's get the Mongoose finished up and packed, then pack one of the jeeps, but leave the other and both 'mechs out.  I want to be able to deal with any tricks.  Once the Mongoose is packed, rack out Jenks and have her relieve Sharpe.  This is could be touchy, and I don't trust his judgment.  The defectors put down on the tarmac opposite the Ace of Drax.  We'll have one of Maurice's people taxi the bird closer to the ship."

Mason simply lifted the microphone and said, "Unit calling Full House, contact Full House on ATC when within VHF range, out."

"Roger Full House, thank you... out."

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Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
« Reply #142 on: 11 August 2019, 12:25:05 »
Landing Field, Rabigh, Astrokaszy
1830-1840 Local Time
16 November, 3053

The Ferret had just grounded, and the rotors were spinning down.  The jeep bearing Asadi, McCann, Druon, and a full squad for security drove out to it while the Wolverine provided cover.  Mattis was behind the wheel, and Parker was on the machine gun.

As the jeep rolled up, Richter was piling his gear for inspection and made sure to keep his hands where they could be seen.  Walsh similarly set his go-bag on the tarmac and kept his hands visible.  Both knew personnel recovery protocol, and didn't want to be shot.

Raising his hands to shoulder level, Walsh said, "I'm really glad to see you guys, but you need to know there's a jeep full of other defectors inbound behind us, and the locals are chasing them."

While Cameron was processing that statement, Parker called, "Hey sir, there's a local jeep inbound our position.  Looks like they're in a hurry!"  Parker horsed the machine gun around to point at it.

As half the security detail reoriented on the inbound vehicle, the radio crackled with a report from the Full House.  Rabigh appeared to be mobilizing.

"Halle, you've got the locals, right?  I've got to report to the boss face to face.  Maurice!  Please get the bird taxied over to the ship," Cameron said while waving to get Preston's attention and pointing at himself.

The Wolverine strode over, and Cameron plugged into the jack in the huge machine's foot.  "John, I need a ride over to the ship ASAP.  Can you just pick me up?"

In answer, the 'mech started to bend down.  Cameron yanked the lead out of the jack, and climbed into the machine's hand.  Preston straightened up, and made sure McCann was secure before pounding quickly over to the ship.  Hopschnur was on his way down the ramp the instant he saw the maneuver.

Hopping down, Cameron said, "Sir, there's another jeep load of 'em inbound, and the locals are chasing it!  I didn't want to put that over the radio."

"Rog, that explains the vector the city's faster units are already on.  I expect that jeep over there is telling us to leave."

And indeed, a red-sashed individual was speaking animatedly with Halle out on the tarmac.  The short conversation over, the local hopped back in their jeep and raced away back toward the town. Things seemed to be in a bit of a hurry after that.

At the Ferret, Maurice was already taxiing toward the ship.  Halle made a perfunctory apology to the two defectors, but had them put in flex cuffs before getting in the jeep.  At least they were allowed to be cuffed in front.  Shortly, Mattis was squealing the brakes at the bottom of the ramp.

Asadi jumped out and said, "Sir!  The locals say they've been called up by their Caliph, and we need to leave!  The only reason they're not coming this way is they could see the Princess wasn't on the bird."

A tech team was folding the Ferret's blades and getting the crane attached while all this was going on.

Looking around him, Hopschnur took a deep breath, moved to board the jeep, and started barking orders:
"Right!  Cameron, get our guests aboard, debriefed, and settled.
Halle, grab your go bag and be at the bottom of this ramp ASAP.
Crowell, detail another squad, and have them, a crate of rations, and this squads go bags at the bottom of this ramp by the time I get back from the Ace of Drax.
Mattis, get me and this squad over to the Ace of Drax, NOW!"

The tires spun as Mattis instantly obeyed.

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Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
« Reply #143 on: 11 August 2019, 14:06:01 »
Astrokaszy,
Undesignated Coordinates
1910-1915 Local Time
16 November, 3053

The Ace of Drax settled on its landing gear, and immediately began lowering its cargo deck.  Two squads of Double Deuce troops spread out, while Parker manned the machine gun mounted on the jeep strapped to the forward end of the deck.  The aft half was clear, except for the mounting chains being placed by the load master and several troopers.  The ship's nose was point away from the inbound jeep.

Adept Maddox had instructed the incoming vehicle to have everyone stay inside while the jeep was chocked and chained and remain there until they were safely in orbit.  Even though the jeep had been on the run for hours, the ominous dust clouds of its pursuers were visible on the far horizon.  Just over the near horizon, Maddox knew the assembled forces of Rabigh were approaching as fast as they could.

Acolyte Craig didn't let off the throttle until the last possible moment, but brought the jeep to a smooth halt precisely where it needed to be on the deck.  Chains rattled as the jeep was secured, and there was a heart stopping moment when the Princess moved to open her door.  One of the armed troopers on that side shouted, "Stay in the ****** jeep!" and pointed his Mauser as the cargo deck began to rise.  Craig shut off the engine before the hatch sealed, and the relative silence was almost stunning.  Everyone of the Deuce troops in the bay sat down and strapped in as the momentary silence was replaced by the roar of the engines lifting the ship into the air.  Maddox angled the nose up, and everyone could feel the acceleration shift, pressing those in the jeep back into their seats.  The troops in the cargo bay were thrust sideways.

The instant the shaking stopped, the Princess opened her door and tumbled out.  "Please!"  she begged, "Just let me say good bye to my father!  I'll never see him again!"  A single tear slid down her cheek.  Oddly, it intersected a drop of dried blood.

Making an executive decision, Helhake, the squad leader, said, "All right!  Come with me." And escorted her past the other jeep, into the air lock and up to the cockpit.

"What the hell?" Garza, the co-pilot demanded as the pair came into the cockpit.

"She just wants to say good bye to-," Helhake started, only to be interrupted by the Princess with full waterworks this time.

"Please!  Please!  I'll never see my father again!" she cried.

Maddox, already tired of the drama said, "Fine, use that mic."

Sniffling, the Amira straightened herself a bit, and wiped her face with her sleeve.  Picking up the microphone, she started in Arabic.  Not the courtly language Jillani had been teaching her, but the local dialect:

"Father?  Father, can you hear me?  It's... Fatima.  I need you to tell my brothers and sisters something, father.  Tell them... that when I return to this world it will be to RULE.  And if they try to stop me, I'll BATHE in their BLOOD!  For I AM AL EASIFA-"

Maddox, a shocked look on his face and his finger on the switch that cut the circuit, turned and said, "What the HELL was that?"

Putting the microphone down innocently, the Amira smiled at Maddox and said in English, "Thank you.  I think that will do."

Switching to Arabic, Maddox repeated, "I SAID, what the HELL was that?"

Replying in the same dialect, the Amira said, "Oh, you speak Arabic?  How nice for you.  I'm sure our local dialect doesn't translate quite properly.  Nothing to worry about."

Keying the intercom, Maddox said, "Adept Asadi to the cockpit, please."

Turning to Helhake, who had a shocked expression of his own, he said, "Acolyte, please remove this... individual from my cockpit, and do NOT let her past the air lock again."

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Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
« Reply #144 on: 11 August 2019, 20:02:15 »
ECV Ace of Drax
Above Astrokaszy
Cargo Bay
1910-1930 Local Time
16 November, 3053

Down in the cargo bay, Mattis was in charge of administering personnel recovery procedures, with Acolyte Braismith and Parker providing security.  When Acolyte Craig stepped out of the jeep, the two men eyed each other for long seconds before deciding they might need to talk later, but didn't know each other at the moment.  Gesturing to where Helhake had taken the Amira, Craig said, "That probably wasn't a good idea."

Mattis nodded and replied, "I know, but not my call.  What is my call is debriefing all of you.  I think we should start with you.  Please have everyone unload and place their weapons on the deck over here."

At the back of the jeep, the turtleback lifted, and Lisa stepped out first.  Seeing Mattis giving directions at the front, she raised her hand and waved a bit to get his attention.  When Mattis looked her way, she said, "Um, I'm three months pregnant, and could really use a bathroom right now.  Could I please...?"

Sighing, Mattis nodded and directed Spencaire to take Lisa up to the head.

Corse and his troops set about stripping their weapons of power packs and grenades with a minimum of grumbling.  Really, they were just glad to be OFF that rock, momentary inconveniences not withstanding.

A flushed Helhake and the smug Amira passed Spencaire and Lisa on the air lock stairs, while Asadi crossed from the troop compartment to the cockpit above.

To get some kind of separation from the group, Mattis led Craig around to the front of the Deuce jeep secured at the forward end of the bay.  The conversation was a little stilted, but Craig was able to convey the key information without making it obvious he knew Mattis from a previous tour.  At the end, Mattis said, "All right, we'll process Corse and his troops next, then the Communications Techs, the Language Teacher, and the Princess last.  Please head up to the mess deck with Groumond here, and sit tight.  You know the drill.  There's water and snacks up there, too.  We'll get bunks assigned after we've done initial interviews."

As Craig headed to the air lock, Helhake approached Mattis and asked quietly, "Matty, what does 'yasta-himu-fi-dim-a-yi-him' mean?  The Princess said that on the radio a few a minutes ago, and Adept Maddox seemed pretty excited about it.  My Arabic's not that good..."

Mattis just stared at Helhake for a moment.  "It means 'bathe in their blood'.  Did she really broadcast that?  No wonder Maddox summoned the JAG..."

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Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
« Reply #145 on: 07 September 2019, 11:26:49 »
ECV Full House
Outbound from Astrokaszy
0859 Ship Time
17 November, 3053

Acolyte Richter was about to give his first round of training to a squad of Double Deuce troopers on the Mauser 1200-LSS.  He had no idea where the unit had come by the crate of 1200s the students would be using, but he knew his had come in a shipment to Astrokaszy a few months ago, ostensibly for "field testing".  The squad was eagerly looking over the weapons before them, chatting among themselves until things got rolling.  And of course, there was a collection of Adepts and senior Acolytes standing at the back of the space.  Richter knew they were evaluating him, so he just plunged right in.

Elsewhere aboard the tiny ship, Adept Walsh was about to conduct some training of his own.  The handful of other VTOL pilots aboard were looking over "his" Ferret with looks ranging from pure boredom to mild interest.  For his part, Walsh was trying to NOT think about the hard vacuum just the other side of the airlock door inches from the nose of the helicopter.  Surprisingly, Adept Hopschnur himself was also in attendance.  That might have been why Adept Druon seemed to be one of the most interested in the briefing he was about to give.

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Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
« Reply #146 on: 15 September 2019, 21:01:11 »
ECV Ace of Drax
Outbound from Astrokaszy
Troop Compartment
2130 Ship’s Time
16 November 3053
           
             “So,” Acolyte Delf Helhake grunted, his right arm arcing out to encompass the bunk room he and his two companions were ducking into. “This is home.”
            Acolyte Randall Corse grinned at the crowded compartment. It was lined sides and rear with bunks ranked three high. The center was given over to what appeared to be lockers bolted to the deckplates. They looked to be just big enough to cram in a rucksack’s-worth of personal gear. The lights set into the ceiling were bright enough, but with half of them hidden by the sleeping racks, the room seemed considerably darker than the cargo bay had been. It smelled like old metal and new paint, but only for the moment. Pretty soon that would change.
             “Looks great,” the newly-arrived squad leader replied jovially; in his mind’s eye he was still imagining the dusty, rat-infested billets his troopers and he had been shuffled into when the winds of change blew in.
             “Oh, five-star accommodations, you betcha,” Acolyte Jeremie Braismith replied. “Only the best for the Double-Deuce.”
             “Home is where the heart is, not so, buddy?” Helhake said, turning to face Corse more fully.
             “You said it,” Corse answered, looking directly into the other squad leader’s eyes. “And call me Randy, right?”
            Helhake, the senior enlisted trooper aboard this tub, sniffed. Because of that, he’d been tasked with assigning billets under Adept Maddox’s gentle guidance—which had been damned little all things considered. But the vessel’s captain had enough on his mind that he wasn’t too concerned about where his cargo slept.
            On Corse’s other side, Braismith stood with the same degree of relaxation that a spring under gentle pressure exudes: willing to jump into action, but only if nudged. Between them, Randall Corse felt like a buried pressure mine, hoping he didn’t have to explode.
             “That’s us over there,” he said, tabling Corse’s request for the moment while he angled his right elbow to the craft’s port side. “But we were planning on Braismith’s Fox-Five moving over to the starboard side, weren’t we?”
            Beside Corse, the other squad leader straightened despite himself. “Ah, roger that,” Braismith said oddly.
             “So we can filter in your own squaddies in with us, there, to the stern,” Helhake ground on, almost obliviously. Almost. “I figure we can put the civs, clerks, and jerks amidships starboard. You good with that, Corse?”
            Randall shrugged, still wishing that he was wearing his armor. He didn’t know these two from a hole in the ground—and because there was no ground underneath his feet, that only meant he had nowhere to go. Not for the first time since careening up the ramp aboard the space-borne deathtrap, he cursed Chief Craig for getting his people and him into this mess.
            Not that there had been a choice groundside, not really. All that was left there was a blaze of glory and a short interment. And Randall Corse had seen enough of life in general and Astro-Krazy in particular to know that there was no glory to be had there.
             “Don’t matter, I guess,” he replied after a while. “Hell, just so long as we’re headed away from that dustball.”
             “Too right,” Braismith agreed, drawing a glance from the senior man in the compartment to which Corse could only feel the psychic shrug of apology.
            Helhake pursed his lips. “Well, I guess you boys risked a Hell of a lot to make it to us, didn’t you?”
             “You ain’t kidding,” Corse returned. “Not that we had a choice.”
            He paused, a long, hard silence that hung in the air like the dust raised by a roadside bomb. He looked over at Helhake and for a moment he let his guard down despite himself. He was here now, and his troopers were down below, and they only had each other to depend on, no matter what happened…
            When he spoke anew, he had to clear his throat from the coating of suppressed fear, fatigue, and hope welling up had left behind. “You guys had to live with those Word of Blake bastards much?”
             “Long enough,” Braisith murmured from the side, causing Corse to turn and nod.
            When he faced back around, Helhake was nodding in agreement.
             “You guys, your, ah, unit?” Corse pressed on. “You’re really making a break back to friendly lines?”
            Helhake shrugged, but that was enough to break the tension in the same way that lowering a revolver’s hammer manually doubles the amount of pressure needed to fire it.
             “Yeah, snake. We’re doing our level best.”
            Corse exhaled a breath he hadn’t even known he was holding. “Well.” He stopped, unsure of how to proceed. Screw it. “I heard you had some of your boys hurt along the way. That true?”
            Helhake ran the tip of his tongue along the inside of his lower lip. “Yeah. But they’ll be okay with a little downtime.” It was his turn to pause. “Could say the same about some of yours, hey?”
             “Shitfire,” Corse said. “Sorry to hear that. But yeah, we had an interesting last couple days, true.”
            He drew himself up and offered his hand to the senior squad leader. “I’m real glad to hear that, then; that they’ll be okay. And I just want you to know, now, that my troopers, the rest, and I thank you for…doing what you did.”
            Helhake and Braismith exchanged a glance over Corse’s shoulder. Helhake grinned with the spreading warmth of the rising sun and grasped Corse tightly. “Welcome aboard, Randy. I’m Delf, and doofy over here is Jeremie. I got Fox-Two, and he’s boss of Fox-Five. That is to say, Second and Fifth Squads of the Foot Platoon. Not sure where you and yours will slot in, but when we get back with the main body, I’m sure they’ll find you all a spot.”
             “Glad to have you with us,” Brasmith said, shaking Corse’s hand when Helhake had freed it.
             "Glad to be with you," Corse returned.
             “Let’s go round up the kids,” Helhake grunted around a smile, gesturing the other two non-coms before him. “I bet half of them are asleep already.”
« Last Edit: 15 September 2019, 21:27:21 by Failure16 »
Thought I might get a rocket ride when I was a child.          We are the wild youth, 
But it was a lie, that I told myself                                          Chasing visions of our futures.
When I needed something good.                                            One day we'll reveal the truth,
At 17, I had a better dream; now I'm 33, and it isn't me.        That one will die before he gets there.

But I'd think of something better if I could
                           --E. Tonra
--A. Duritz

Failure16

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Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
« Reply #147 on: 17 September 2019, 21:37:51 »
ECV Ace of Drax
Outbound from Astrokaszy
Cargo Compartment
0130 Ship’s Time
17 November 3053
           
           The small vessel was quiet, the muted roar of the transit drive the only sound. The last of the troopers had cycled through the showers in the truncated heads an hour before. Their exhausted minds had finally caught up with their bodies and everyone but the flight crew on duty had managed to drift off to sleep, fitful or unbroken according to the sleeper, but well-deserved regardless.
            Almost everyone.
            Steven Mattis reclined on the hood of 006, his back up against the thick windshield before where he normally spent most of his time groundside. The position left just enough space that the hold-out pistol clipped at the small of his back didn’t dig into his body and his booted feet were wedged against one of the thick staples  that allowed the sturdy vehicle to be slung-load  under a helo or craned aboard a waiting DropShip.
            His left index finger toyed absently with a small divot in the hood underneath him. The round had left a faint semi-circle of lead to cool when it had glanced off the armored panel. The rest of it was several thousand kilometers behind him, lost forever in a trackless desert on a world in the middle of nowhere. The bastard who had loaded and fired it was probably in the same state.
            The surface of his mind wondered idly if he could reach the pack of cigarettes in his pocket of his left sleeve without disturbing his recumbencyrecumbence.  The animal  part of his brain whirled in a slow-motion montage of images and sounds that would take a lifetime to unravel—which was fine, because he’d be glad to take the time. Assuming.
            His eyes stared ahead at nothing at all.
            Something clicked in a recess of his mind where experience melded seamlessly with training. The rest of his brain cleared; he willed his body to remain in abeyance but ready for whatever came next.  There were a lot of options at a time like this, but he had long ago learned that sometimes waiting for the other fellow to make his move was the right move in the first place.
            “Thought I might find you here,”  Tia Spencaire said quietly when she emerged from the ladderwell off to his left.
            She hadn’t , almost whispereding, even amidst the relative silence of the bay, but that was the effect. T;  the growl of the thrusters beneath them was omnipresent, but almost felt rather than heard---until one had to speak over it.
             “Thought you might find me here, too,” Steven replied, equally quietly.
            He still hadn’t moved. After a heartbeat had passed, he turned his head  and gave her a ghost of a smile, which was pretty much all the ghosts had left him at this time of night.
            She gave him a smile back that was more in her eyes than her face. She looked tired, wrung out, haunted. The tepid water from the all-too-quick shower earlier had managed to wash away the grit of the planet they had left behind, and the seat and stink of fear and exertion.  But in its place lay exhaustion and memories of a time and place that was so different as to have been a different world—
            Which it was, of course, and the literal truth to the statement made it no less absurd or easy to come to grips with psychologically.
            Mattis started to shift and offered his right hand to her when she looked as if she were ready to climb aboard. She ignored it and clambered up anyhow, using the passenger-side front wheel as a step.  Instead of vaulting aboard like she might normally have done, she instead moved with the care of a drunk that who knows what how much they’ve htadken .
            “I’m not going to lie,” she said, settling in next to him; close but not so close as to give the rumor-mill anything more to work with. “You sure can pick a Hell of a place for a first date.”
            Mattis sniffed.  “Only for a Devil of a good time.”
            She glanced at him sidelong. “Huh. Quick on your feet, too.”
            He shrugged, glancing back at her. “Not as quick as when I’m on my back.”
            Spencaire sniffed. “Don’t be coarse,” she chided,  letting the silence drift back over them like the aftermath of a sunset.
            They sat like that for a long time; unspeaking, unmoving. The jeep swayed minutely when the flight-crew made a very minor course correction and the ship heeled over slightly when the maneuvering jets fired over. Mattis used the break in the mood to reach over and drag two cigarettes from their case. He lit them both and passed one over to his guest. Their hands touched in the process but neither of them broekbroke the contact any sooner than necessary.
            “And they said chivalry is dead,” she said.
            “I think it’s more of a latent gene,” Mattis allowed. “Or you could just blame my parents.”
            “And where would they be?” she asked, turning on her left elbow to more properly face him.
            “Nn-hmm?” he deflected, not willing to lie to this woman. And not that he would specifically have to in this instance… no one looking for Mister and Mrs. Mattis was going to find them, after all.
            But training, damn it all to Hell, could be even more telling than Truth. In its own way.
            She continued to study him, but let the matter drop, for the moment.
            Mattis cleared his throat. “You, ah, did real good back there, Tia. Real good.”
            Spencaire looked away, almost savagely, as if she were going to spit out something bad she had eaten. After a moment, she calmed down and took a drag from her cigarette. The tip glowed as a reflection to her mood a second before.
            “I just did what I was trained to do,” she replied lamely.
            Mattis clucked his tongue softly. “Negative, Tee,” he snorted. “The rest of your squad did what they were trained to do. You did real good.”
            She was silent for a long time, and Steven let her be, until she was ready. When she was, she spoke quietly, but the words came out with the certainty of a flood.
             “Not good enough,” she started venomously. “Lasskiy got hit, and even Baumann got a piece.”
             Her right hand worked unconsciously as if she were reloading the grenade launcher slung under the receiver of her Mauser. “I keep thinking that if I’d taken one more bloody shot, or dropped my second there instead of here…”
            Mattis smoked almost invariably with his left hand, cupping it out of ingrained habit. She was his mirror image, but instead smoked it daintily, as if each one were her first.  His right hand found her left without conscious volition, but she didn’t draw it away like he would have expected if he’d thought about it
             “You can’t think of that, Tee,” he intoned, equally quietly, though he knew he was wrong even as he said it. He stretched out his arm to full extension and rolled the filter of his cigarette to drop the glowing embers to the deck beside him. Things being what they were, most of them glanced off the side of the hood due to the vehicle’s width. “It is what it is.”
            Sometimes people stand up into a round, he bloody well knew. Sometimes they trip and stumble into a mine that was nowhere near where they were going to step next. And sometimes some bastard pulls the trigger when he shouldn’t have, because the shape inside the doorway—or across the alleyway—was some ****** of a civ that was too stupid to hit the ground instead of running towards the sound of the bloody guns—
             “Yeah,” she allowed, unbelieving.  “You say that now, but it doesn’t bloody matter, does it?”
            Mattis pursed his lips and looked away. Hell, he knew he’d screw this thing up seven ways from Sunday. Known it all a-bloody-long…
            But she hadn’t moved, hadn’t even accused him. Not really.  Not at all. Her grip on his hand was as tight as a vise, and he’d never let it go.
            “Tia…” he started slowly, his mind searching for the words to say in a manner he never needed when he had a steering wheel or a weapon in his hand and all that mattered was what he did next. “The only thing that matters is that Lasskiy will be up to his old tricks when we get back to the ship. And the big guy is just fine right here, not so?”
            Mattis hadn’t noticed anything wrong with Baumann, but even the big galoot was probably none the wiser, whatever it was that had happened. And because of that, it really didn’t matter, except to Tia Spencaire, Fox-Two’s foster mother.
            “He’d better,” she replied, smiling despite herself.  Then, more distantly, “But I wish I’d got more of those wog bastards—and faster than I did.”
            She craned her head away from Mattis. He wondered what was going on in her head, but, Hell, he already knew it. He’d seen it before, hadn’t he?  A montage of blasted, blood-spattered rocks and screams that she’d hear in the silence when everyone else was asleep.  But that was in his own head, and it had precious little to do with Astrokascy, all things considered.
            He wanted to tell her that you didn’t get them all, not every time. And that wasn’t always a bad thing, though the truth was one ghost was the same as ten.  Or a hundred. But the words wouldn’t come to him.  And it wasn’t like she wouldn’t get the chance to try again on this trip, anyhow.
            “Well, I don’t think Mach is complaining,” he said with an air of lightness, mostly for her benefit; but maybe for himself, too. And Lasskiy got off cheap at the price, he added, but only to himself.
            She stubbed out her cigarette and murmured an apology because she had used 006’s armored hood.  Then, she used her freed hand to rub her eyes forcefully before pinching the bridge of her nose hard enough to snap her back into the present.  Eventually, she detached her hand gingerly from Mattis’s own. 
            He let out a breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding.  He debated offering her another cigarette, but decided against it. She shook her head and closed her eyes for long enough that he thought she’d fallen asleep.
            When she opened them, she could feel his gaze on her and she smiled in sheepish acceptance before drawing herself back up and together mentally.  “Blazes, what bloody time is it?”
            “Late enough that first call is going to feel like last call, trooper,” Mattis rejoined.
            She nodded lazily.  He sat up and sighed heavily, then rolled off the side of the truck to his feet. His boots thunked quietly to the steel decking. He half expected her to follow him, but instead she picked her way to the floor of her side with the quiet precision of a cheetah dismounting an outcropping.
            Mattis gestured her ahead of him around the back of the truck  towards the ladderwell on the passenger—the craft’s port side, now behind him.  When she had rounded the rear bumper, Spencaire stopped short and Steven straightened.  She turned and stared him directly in the eye. Her look froze him, the way a searchlight freezes men when it erupts out of nowhere to pin them in place even when they know that to run is to live.
            He opened his mouth as if to speak, but she said, “Don’t talk,” in a dangerous tone to which obedience was the only reply.
            She kissed him, long and hard, a dry mashing of lips and noses that left him frozen long after she had departed to patter up the ladder to the troop compartment and her waiting rack.
            Mattis finally blinked and half-turned to collapse against the sturdy nose of his truck. He scrabbled numbly for his cigarette carrier and withdrew one. He regarded it blankly for a moment before he allowed his mind to marvel at its cylindrical perfection. It was a slim constant in a world gone mad.
            He placed it behind his right ear, filter forward, and withdrew another, which he lit without a second thought. He didn’t know what had just happened. But he knew that he was smiling. And that Tia Spencaire was going to be just fine. 
« Last Edit: 19 September 2019, 18:14:23 by Failure16 »
Thought I might get a rocket ride when I was a child.          We are the wild youth, 
But it was a lie, that I told myself                                          Chasing visions of our futures.
When I needed something good.                                            One day we'll reveal the truth,
At 17, I had a better dream; now I'm 33, and it isn't me.        That one will die before he gets there.

But I'd think of something better if I could
                           --E. Tonra
--A. Duritz

Failure16

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  • Better Days
Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
« Reply #148 on: 17 September 2019, 21:38:47 »
ECV Ace of Drax
Outbound from Astrokaszy
Cargo Compartment
0830 Ship’s Time
17 November 3053

             The Lower Cargo Bay was alive with the sounds of the Drax’s present complement  of troops getting to business, underlain by the thrum of the landing craft’s main drive pushing them towards the jump-point. The air smelled like hot, dusty metal from the trucks that dominated the enclosure, having been driven aboard without the chance to cool down nor be cleaned prior to embarkation.
             At the rear of the compartment, near the main ramp stern where there was more room than anywhere else, a non-com shouted an order. Two of the embarked infantry squads, Fox Two and a mixed-bag from Fox Five and the new squad— a team was now on duty at all times in the airlock standing guard over the precious cargo stowed there, with another team in a rest-cycle—were clustered together around one the new long-arms the defectors from the Astrokazian garrison had brought aboard. The squad leader of that band, Corse, cleared his throat and began to detail its finer qualities.
lse, the embarked infantry squads  were clustered together around one the new long-arms the defectors from the Astrokazian garrison had brought aboard. The squad leader of that band, Corse, cleared his throat and began to detail its finer qualities.
              At the head of the bay, Steven Mattis knelt by 006’s right front wheel, checking the tire pressure manually. Parker was standing at the rear of the group, filtered in with Fox-Two. Mattis probably should have been back there as well, too, but he’d seen the revamped Mauser system before.
             Not that anyone aboard would—or should—know that. He sighed to himself and replaced the cover to the tire’s air-stem before willing himself to his feet and back to join his gunner. He did so slowly. Off to his own rear left Behind him, the ladder-well leading up to the troop compartment and flight-deck burbled with voices of people having their own discussion .
             In that case, it was more heated than Corse’s levity and the easy animation of a teacher delving into a familiar and comfortable subject. Most of the conversation was in Arabic, but the pilot, Maddox, would interject every so often with exasperated Standard. The Princess, on the other hand, knew that better than she let on, so her continued use of her mother tongue was simply a means to an end.
             Mattis could imagine most of those endings, and barely any of them were positive.
             He tensed internally when he felt someone getting close, cursing himself for a fool for having been so focused on what he was doing that he let his guard down in a tactical sense.
              “Not too interested in laser rifles, eh, Chief?” Mattis asked conversationally when the mechanic rounded the gun-jeep’s passenger-side bumper.
             “Eh, I seen one once before,” Craig replied congenially. “You too, I gather.”
             Mattis eyed him speculatively. He inclined his head in a nod to his vehicle. “Me? I just drive this thing is all.”
             “Huh.” Craig leaned his right shoulder up against 006’s front passenger-side door, far enough away to give Mattis room but not so far away they couldn’t talk. The way he tilted his head, it brought his left ear in line with the ladder-well and the rising timbre of the voices there.
             “Boy,” he smiled slyly. “That girl is a pistol, lemme tell you.” His smile hardened almost imperceptibly. “Or a shotgun.”
             “I would have said a grenade,” Mattis replied, tapping his air-gauge in the palm of his hand as a placeholder.
             “That too,” the mechanic allowed. He craned his neck as if to stretch, but the movement allowed him to clear his visual dead-space to his sides and rear. “Say…Mattis? Did we ever meet on— ”
             “Shiloh?” Mattis replied quickly, quietly. “No, Chief, no Mattis was ever  on Shiloh. At least not back in ’49.”
             Craig maintained his lazy grin while he processed the data. “My mistake, then. You must have one of those familiar faces, eh?”
             Steven grinned back. Not shark-like, but more as a cat that was willing to play, until it wasn’t. “No worries. I get it all the time.”
             Above them, the voices subsided as suddenly as they had arrived; the Princess had likely stomped off, but even her armored MechWarrior boots were too delicate to thump on the thick flooring laterally dividing the cargo bay into two horizontal compartments .
             “Well, I was thinking that maybe—seeing as you are the only other wheel-jockey on board—you might be open to us helping each other out getting our rigs back in order,” Craig suggested.
             Mattis mulled it over for a second.  “Always willing to lend a hand,” he replied. “Me, I was figuring to crawl under this bitch and see what the clicking sound when I reverse hard right is all about.” He paused and let his eyes drift towards the stern and the gathered infantrymen. “You know. When they get finished up there.”
             “Right, right.” Craig rubbed his chin with his hand while he straightened. “Sounds like it could be a misrouted breakbrake-line, but…?”  Mattis regarded him coolly.  “Or not.  Guess we’ll figure it out in a few, yeah?”
             “Roger that,” Mattis replied.
             Spencaire stood next to Parker, her arms crossed in front of her. From this angle and distance, with their backs to him, the only distinguishing feature between them was her hair, tied up to keep it off her collar. Not for the first time, Steven Mattis thought that no matter what happened over the next-however-long, those two people were the ones he would save if he could do so for anybody at all.
             But some of these newcomers might help with that, when it came to it.
             Which it would.
« Last Edit: 19 September 2019, 17:58:49 by Failure16 »
Thought I might get a rocket ride when I was a child.          We are the wild youth, 
But it was a lie, that I told myself                                          Chasing visions of our futures.
When I needed something good.                                            One day we'll reveal the truth,
At 17, I had a better dream; now I'm 33, and it isn't me.        That one will die before he gets there.

But I'd think of something better if I could
                           --E. Tonra
--A. Duritz

Daryk

  • Lieutenant General
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  • The Double Deuce II/II-σ
Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
« Reply #149 on: 29 September 2019, 09:55:34 »
ECV Full House
Outbound from Astrokaszy
1204 Ship Time
17 November, 3053

Acolyte Richter thought training had gone well.  The students had all been attentive, and seemed to appreciate the differences between the 1200 LSS and the standard Mauser 960.  Best of all, "Top" Heravy was approaching him with a smile.

"Great job there, Richter.  I think you're going to fit in just fine.  I'm sure Acolyte Wilson will be relieved to hear you'll be taking her place as Fire Team Leader in Jump-6 so she can get back to being Armorer full time, especially with these new weapons in the mix.  Adept Crowell will be your new Platoon Leader," he said with a smile.  Or was it a smirk?  Adept Crowell flashed a scowl at Top before smiling broadly to Richter.

"Welcome aboard the Jump Platoon, Acolyte Richter!" she said, extending her hand.

 

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