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Author Topic: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]  (Read 50097 times)

Daryk

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Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
« Reply #60 on: 02 September 2018, 09:13:59 »
ECV Full House
Landing Field, Rabigh, Astrokaszy
1830 Local Time
12 November, 3053

As Astrokaszy's sun mercifully sank toward the horizon, the unit could congratulate itself on a full day's work.  The Commander's jeep once more had a straight frame, and all the vehicles blocking access to the offending cargo container were parked around the ship in as defensible an arrangement as possible.  Maneuvering cargo containers within the ship was for the night crew.  Convincing the initial handful of merchants to set up their stalls outside the perimeter had not been easy, and kept the JAG rather busier at the landing strip than she'd planned. In the end, they clustered as close to the "tower" as the guards there would let them, which was generally proportional to the size of the bribe they were willing to pay.

The miniature souk was an instant hit among the civilians, the heat notwithstanding.  The local meat-on-a-stick and date confections were popular with most (much to Doc Morrison's dismay), but everyone was delighted to be able to buy tobacco, even the harsh Astrokaszian variety.  The even better news was that the merchant in question was willing to take Campoleonean scrip, though at a steep discount.  He sold out twice during the day, and had sent his brother-in-law on to the next settlement to buy more tobacco.  As the big-tired jalopy bounced away from the strip, the troops on duty noted the number of armed guards riding in the back, children though they may have been.  The vehicle itself wasn't in particularly good condition, but every visible auto-rifle was well cared for, and the few blades that had been spotted unsheathed were bright and well-oiled.

The downside of the mini-bazaar was the change in security arrangements it entailed.  Even Adept Hopschnur couldn't deny the cooped up population the opportunity to stretch their legs this close to the ship, and there seemed to be no shortage of troops willing to do extra duty to "patrol" the two dozen (or so) stalls.  "Vetting" the merchants fell to the S-2, though he couldn't properly screen any of them before they had their stalls set up, and a few packed up and left when they saw him start asking questions.  It was probably just as well they didn't get to hawk whatever they were selling.

As night fell, the merchants began to pack up their wares, most giving reassurances that they would return in the morning.

Daryk

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Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
« Reply #61 on: 25 September 2018, 19:50:12 »
ECV Full House
Landing Field, Rabigh, Astrokaszy
0500 Local Time
13 November, 3053

Adept Hopschnur looked down the wardroom table at his staff.  He didn't actually have an agenda for this meeting, so he asked the first question that sprang to his mind.  Turning to Doc Morrison, he said, "So what's the damage, Doc?"

Sighing, the unit's doctor replied, "Well, everyone who tried the meat-on-a-stick from one particular merchant has aggressive dysentery.  The shawarma merchant made two troopers sick, and the date confections only brought down one child who ate too many.  I recommend banning the first merchant today, and I'll continue to warn everyone about food they're not accustomed to."

Hopschnur nodded with a grimace, and turned to Adept Walden, the S-4: "So how are we with getting the infested container off the ship?"

Walden inhaled deeply and said, "We got everything unstacked as planned last night, and the infested container is at the edge of the perimeter.  If the locals approve, I recommend taking it as far away as they'll let us, and incinerating it as thoroughly as possible.  Local fuel isn't too expensive, and both the Griffin and Wolverine have energy weapons to set it off from a safe distance.  The infantry have a handful of flamers to use at minimum safe distance from a PPC shot."

Hopchnur nodded again and turned to the JAG.  "Speaking of the locals, how's it looking Halle?"

Looking bright eyed and bushy tailed, likely due to the tall mug of coffee in front of her, the JAG replied, "I have a bad feeling, sir.  I suspect the locals are looking for mercenary support for some fight or other, and we look a lot like mercenaries right now.  The only leverage I see they might use is either disposal of the infested container, or that merchant that left yesterday to get more tobacco."

"Right," said Hopschnur.  He shot a glance at the S-2, but instead delved into the details of how security was working first.  The sick list had impacted rotations somewhat, but the unit had just enough depth to provide sufficient MechWarriors, vehicle crews and infantry to cover the gaps.  Of course, that meant dipping into the staff a bit, but it was enough to keep the more curious locals at a safe distance.

Daryk

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Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
« Reply #62 on: 20 October 2018, 06:48:03 »
ECV Full House
Landing Field, Rabigh, Astrokaszy
0530 Local Time
13 November, 3053

As the discussion of the duty roster wound down, the handset in the wardroom rang.  Doc Morrison answered it since he was closest, and said, "Captain Mason would like to see you on the bridge, sir.  It sounds urgent."

Nodding and standing, Hopschnur strode through the hatch just to his left and on through a second hatch to the bridge.  The design of the tiny ship put all the relevant crew spaces close together.  Captain Mason was bent over the shoulder of the on watch sensor operator.

The severe woman said, "Morning, Karl.  Looks like the convoy that left yesterday is coming back with a few more trucks, but the local authorities have also noticed."  She pointed to a secondary monitor with a feed trained on the periscope in the tower ruins.  It was pointed directly at the inbound convoy, and the sensor tech remarked it hadn't moved since the convoy came over the horizon.  Pointing to a third monitor, Mason didn't need words to convey the gravity of the situation.  At least half a dozen trucks loaded with armed troops and a Stinger Battlemech were setting out from the town on a vector to intercept the convoy.  The radio crackled with the reports of the on duty MechWarriors confirming what the DropShip was seeing.  The JAG sidled up on Karl's left shoulder, nodding to herself as at least one of her predictions seemed to be coming true.

Adept Hopschnur's face was grave, but he only nodded as the drama unfolded.  As the two groups merged about ten kilometers from the ship, the inbound convoy rolled to a halt in accordance with the insistent hand signals of the Stinger.  The trucks from the settlement fanned out in echelon on either side, apparently to prevent any "runners".  Individuals from each group disembarked and walked toward each other under the guns of the towering BattleMech.  Even at this distance, the red sashes of the leaders could be made out.  Without sound, the Double Deuce officers could only guess what the wild gesticulations of the pair meant, but in the end, the inbound convoy turned away from the airfield and toward the town, escorted by the group from the settlement.

Without a smile, the JAG said, "Sir, I upgrade my earlier assessment.  The locals are definitely going to use that tobacco shipment against us in negotiations."

Daryk

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Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
« Reply #63 on: 04 November 2018, 20:33:15 »
ECV Full House
Landing Field, Rabigh, Astrokaszy
1045 Local Time
13 November, 3053

The Double Deuce jeep left a lengthening trail of dust behind it as it approached the landing field.  The wind was light, so the trail remained intact for some time.  Around the Full House, the two 'mechs on duty had lost interest as soon as IFF identified the jeep as one of their own, so only the bored sensor watch on the bridge continued to actively track it.

As the jeep rolled to a stop at the base of the cargo ramp, the near passenger door was flung open by a clearly disturbed Adept Hopschnur, who proceeded to slam the door shut behind him.  The JAG opened the opposite door and exited the vehicle somewhat more calmly, but hurried her steps to catch up to the Commander striding up the ramp.  Troops who saw the Commander quickly passed the word to the officers they liked, resulting in at least half of the Adepts already heading for the wardroom when the announcement was passed to assemble the unit's officers there.

Once they had all arrived, Hopschnur scowled and said, "It appears we have a choice.  Either we force the whole unit to quit cold turkey and repack the contaminated container, or help the local warlord beat up the town next door.  Haile was able to finagle food into the deal as well, but I have to admit I'm not entirely sold on this idea.  The good news is he's only asking for the 'mechs.  That leaves Jim's blowers and the infantry here for security.  I told him I had to brief the unit before accepting his offer, and he's given us until 1300 to give him an answer.  I'm not thrilled by the prospect of being branded 'mercenaries' in addition to 'heretics', but I'm willing to go with it if a majority of you are."

As discussion swirled, the handset rang.  "For you," one of the Adepts said to Cameron, offering the handset to him.  It was an excited and insistent Adept Monchenigo on the other end, babbling about something important he'd discovered in his predecessor's notes.

Daryk

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Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
« Reply #64 on: 12 November 2018, 19:41:55 »
ECV Full House
Landing Field, Rabigh, Astrokaszy
1057 Local Time
13 November, 3053

After more than ten minutes of inconclusive debate, someone finally asked the JAG the critical question: "Halle, can we even do this?"

Clearing her throat, the JAG replied, "There are regulations covering 'payment in kind' for necessary goods and services for ComGuard units in extremis.  I never would have brought this up to the Commander if there wasn't some legal way to make it work.  So, short answer, 'yes, we can do this'."

It wasn't quite possible to hear a pin drop in the room, because the handset pressed to Cameron's ear continued to buzz with Adept Monchenigo's unbridled enthusiasm.  Of course, no one else could quite make out what the Explorer Corps Scout was babbling about, but the S-2 at least didn't have to strain to make it out for a moment.  It had something to do with the Reunification War, and an SLDF engineer.

When conversation resumed, resistance had died significantly, and even the hold outs were at least willing to go along with the idea.  Seeing that, Karl nodded once and said, "All right, it looks like we're a go.  Sam, we're going to need the other two 'mechs unpacked.  Get that contaminated container destroyed as quickly as the locals will let us.  Cameron, please get Monchenigo up here to explain in person what's got him so excited.  As far as the Mechwarriors, work out among yourselves who's in charge of this mess.  Sharpe is still confined to quarters, so it's a toss up as to who's senior among you.  No, don't all take a step back at once.  Whoever that is can accompany me back to the final negotiations with the Emir to try to get more information regarding exactly what it is they need us to do.  Jim, Lisse, and Hannah stick around to go over security arrangements while the 'mechs are away.  Everyone else is dismissed."

Daryk

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Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
« Reply #65 on: 22 November 2018, 16:15:58 »
ECV Full House
Landing Field, Rabigh, Astrokaszy
1100 Local Time
13 November, 3053

When Adept Monchenigo entered the wardroom, Hopschnur was still discussing security arrangements with Jim, Lisse and Hannah.  The MechWarriors had taken their seniority discussion elsewhere after stern look from the Commander, so Cameron was the only other officer in the room.  Even he was surprised by Monchenigo's enthusiasm, now that he saw it in person.

The Explorer Corps Adept picked up right where he'd left off on the handset: "It's just like I was telling you!  We've been looking at the wrong coordinates all these years!  Astrokaszy was resurveyed during the War, and the Major used the old prime meridian in his letters to his wife!  We finally know where he hid all that gold!"

At the mention of gold, even Hopschnur looked up from his security discussion and down the table.  "Say that again, Alex?"

Taking a deep breath, Monchenigo said, "Ok, I'll start from the beginning.  During the Reunification War, a Star League engineer managed to smuggle several tons of gold off Canopus, taken from their central bank.  Our research showed Astrokaszy was the last place he was stationed before he was killed in action elsewhere in the Magistracy.  He wrote letters home to his wife with encoded coordinates where he buried the gold, and the Explorer Corps has been looking for it for decades.  We scoured what we thought was every possible combination of coordinates, but we were using the wrong base line!  When a world is surveyed, the initial landing point is usually set as the prime meridian.  The thing is, Astrokaszy was REsurveyed during the War, and my predecessor finally discovered the original survey's prime.  So now we know where to actually look!"

Hopschnur looked around his officers grimly.  "Not a word of this goes beyond this room without my ok.  Clear?"

Nods all around allowed the commander to relax minutely.  "So, what are you going to need to recover this gold, Alex?"

"Well, the Ace of Drax, for one.  The coordinates are in the southern hemisphere, thousands of kilometers from here.  And I imagine at least one exoskeleton, though the Ace has one..."

Lisse offered, "He's going to need a security detail, sir.  One squad should do it.  I recommend Helhake.  He's solid, and less busy being the acting First than Pandajharmin."

Hopschnur nodded and said, "Cameron, I want you there too.  Take Mattis with you.  When we know exactly when the Emir wants to attack his neighbor, we'll know the window for the op.  It'll be easier to talk around it if he doesn't see the Ace fly away himself.  I don't want to be anywhere near this place if or when he finds out we're after gold."

Rubbing his temples, he continued, "I'm going to need to have another long talk with Halle over this, but it's clear to me we need to get that gold before the Blakists figure out where it is.  Cameron, you're in charge of this op."

Tegyrius

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Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
« Reply #66 on: 27 November 2018, 19:45:43 »
Cameron McCann's brain ran in checklists, a cognitive idiosyncrasy common to growing up in an environment that wasn't actively trying to kill him but didn't much care if he lived or died.  The one currently scrolling through the back of his head was not-quite-labeled "Things I Need to Do if I Leave During an Op."

"Lost germanium depository guarded by a battalion of Royal Marauders and the immortal Crown Princess of Brunei," he snarked softly as a conversational placeholder while his internal monologue ticked off contingencies already accomplished:

[X] Assessment of local conditions (up to date as part of HUMINT and SIGINT collection and analysis)

[X] Assessment of opposition (same)

[X] Indicators of hostile activity (same, with some recent additions...)

[X] METOPS briefing...


Cameron blinked, clamped down on the impulse to branch into a new list of tasks to accomplish for his new assignment, and met Hopschnur's patience-wearing-thin expression.  "Yes, sir.  Mach, you'll need to pull everything you can about construction, floor plan, active and passive security, and other possible assets at this site.  Also, it would be helpful to nail down a mass value more precise than 'several tons.'  Man cannot aviate on guesses alone."

He frowned.  "Bigger problem.  You found this in your predecessor's notes.  Your predecessor died under circumstances that I'd call suspicious even if I weren't paranoid as a condition of continued employment.  What are the chances that, (A), he was killed to suppress this information and we're in a race for that stash, or, (B), this is some hostile party's overly-complex set-up?"
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 #67 on: 27 November 2018, 20:36:13 »
ECV Full House
Landing Field, Rabigh, Astrokaszy
1110 Local Time
13 November, 3053

Flipping through the sheaf of notes he'd brought with him, Monchenigo said, "Ah, it looks like the Magistracy claimed a loss of 34 tons of gold from their central bank.  The Star League only validated nine tons, but we don't think the engineer could have gotten that many out.  If my predecessor was killed over this information, it'll likely already have been recovered by the garrison.  But if it hasn't...  I think it's still worth looking, yes?"

"Yes," Hopschnur said in agreement.

"OK!  That part of the planet isn't well populated to our knowledge.  My predecessor hadn't been down there yet.  At most, whatever settlement is closest might send a party to see what we're up to?  I wouldn't expect them to have space craft, but you never know around here.  The weather will be as awful in that hemisphere as this one.  Dust storms are pretty common all across the planet."

"Yes, yes... work it out with Cameron, please Alex.  I have to find out which MechWarrior stepped back the slowest and go see the Emir," Hopschnur said, standing up.

Tegyrius

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Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
« Reply #68 on: 01 December 2018, 19:35:20 »
ECV Full House
Landing Field, Rabigh, Astrokaszy
1112 Local Time
13 November 3053


"Sir," Cameron acknowledged abstractedly as Hopschnur stood to leave.  "Mach, I agree the competition already would have grabbed the stash if they knew what he'd found.  I'm thinking about an on-world faction, most likely whatever local sources he was using for his research.  It's been seven months, so running into them on-site now would be a hell of a coincidence, but you know what they say about coincidences..."

He frowned and began tapping at his noteputer.  "So, yeah.  I'm delegating research on construction and site security measures to you.  With apocalypse-proof Star League engineering, I expect something will still be working.  Also, see what you can dig up on geology and geography in that area.  Quietly.  We need to be ready to pull chocks as soon as the Emir decides to kick off his little op and we don't need any attention, so security takes precedence over accuracy this time.  I'll see what I can pull from what's left of the weather sats..."



1331 Local Time

Fox-Two was on the perimeter, which was both a good and an awful place for a conversation.  Good, because it was outside the bay and thus away from every idle ear in the Double Deuce and among the dependents.  Bad, because it was outside the bay and thus subject to observation from anyone who cared.  On balance, Cameron judged it a net positive... marginally.  With the wind picking up and the amount of debris going airborne, no one was likely to get more than one word in three from a laser or shotgun mic.

The squad was facing out, doing their jobs, but Lasskiy was keeping an eye on their backs.  He rose to call a challenge just as Cameron pulled the locally-procured shemagh away from his face.  "Oh, hey, Adept," he said with a head-bob.  "Delf, the Two's here."

"Lasskiy," Cameron acknowledged.  "What's the word?"

"All quiet," Lasskiy reported, then qualified it with, "mostly.  Got an OP in the three-story gray brick building, Charlie side, second floor.  The window with the blue lampshade."

"Got it," Cameron noted without turning his head.  "What're you seeing by way of activity?"

"Mark-One Eyeball only," Delf Helhake joined the conversation.  "Three local males.  They're dressed kinda middle-class for here."

"Roger that.  Noted and thanks."  Cameron tilted his head.  "Acolyte Helhake.  Walk with me."

Twelve paces away, in the lee of another off-loaded cargo container (not the one that had precipitated this whole detour), Cameron turned to face the squad leader.  "The boss handed you and me a job.  When you come off this post, clean up, grab chow, and get your kit squared away for a remote deployment.  Minimum three days, max a week.  Weather and terrain will be about like this but ten degrees cooler, worse at night.  We'll be operating out of the Ace."

Helhake eyed Cameron, considered what little he'd seen out of the S-2, and decided he could get away with a small amount of sass.  "Gonna tell me what this is about?  Sir?"  The pause was intentional.

Cameron raised an eyebrow and held it for a moment before cracking a hint of a smile.  "Spook business, Acolyte.  The deepest, blackest spook business.  Can't say more for now, but I'll brief in full as soon as we're skids-up.  Which will be about half an hour after the 'Mechs move out, whenever our beneficent host decides that is.  Oh, and we're bringing Monchenigo and Mattis, too..."
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 #69 on: 01 December 2018, 20:50:31 »
Landing Field, Rabigh, Astrokaszy
1332 Local Time
13 November, 3053

Helhake rolled his eyes when the Adept mentioned Mattis' name.

"Roger, sir... just so you know, Mattis and Spencaire have been makin' eyes at each other for a while now.  I don't think it's gone beyond that, but I thought you should know.  This spook business wasn't his idea, was it?"

Helhake obviously had a grip on his troops, which was probably why Stoyka had volunteered him.

Daryk

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Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
« Reply #70 on: 02 December 2018, 11:16:47 »
ECV Full House
Landing Field, Rabigh, Astrokaszy
1520 Local Time
13 November, 3053

Once again, the Double Deuce jeep bounced back toward the ship.  As it pulled up to the ramp, Hopschnur got out first and strode up the ramp.  He didn't seem quite as irritated as last time, though no one who saw him would have described him as happy.  The JAG and all four MechWarriors clambered out of the jeep in his wake.  They still hadn't settled who would lead the lance, so Hopschnur had dragged all four of them to see the Emir.

Seeking out Cameron, Hallie handed him a folder of notes from the meeting with the Emir.  They outlined the allied and expected opposition forces, and the Emir's plan to use the "mercenary" lance to best effect.
Code: [Select]
Allied Forces (Rabigh):
Emir's Banshee, modified with a Blazer Cannon and AC/2
Marauder with experimental Gauss Rifle (Silver Bullet) and PPCs (Light models)
JagerMech with experimental (extended) LRM launchers (10 tubes each)
Whitworth with experimental (extended) LRM launchers (only 5 tubes each)
Valkyrie with experimental (extended) LRM launcher (only 5 tubes)
Vindicator with an ER PPC and experimental LRMs (ammunition, not launcher)
Panther with a Large Pulse Laser and Streak SRM-2

Expected Enemy Forces (Al Mazrea)
Enemy Emir's Victor with an Artillery Cannon (Long Tom) in place of the AC/20 and some of the secondary weapons
Orion with upgraded weaponry and heat sinks (Streak SRM-2s in place of the SRM-4, LB-10X)
Rifleman with upgraded weaponry (LB-10X and UAC/5... only one Large Laser)
Centurion with an experimental (Light) Gauss Rifle and (extended) LRM launcher (only 5 tubes; captured from Allied forces in the last clash)
Charger with Rocket Launchers (10s) and Spikes
Hunchback with an Artillery Cannon (Sniper) in place of the AC/20
Trebuchet with experimental Mortar systems in place of the LRMs
Javelin with 2 Streak SRM-2s and a Medium Laser
Vulcan with a Small Pulse Laser in place of the Machine Gun

If Cameron had to guess, he'd have said the local Emir was generally testing Free Worlds League gear, while his neighbor was evaluating Federated Commonwealth equipment.

The Emir's objective was to simply drive the opposing forces away from the Al Seddah Oasis, though he stated recapturing the Centurion would be "beneficial".  His plan was to approach the oasis from the southeast (the usual route) with his own force broadcasting the usual challenges, and have the "mercenaries" stick to wadis on a separate but simultaneous approach from the southwest "quietly".  The terrain surrounding the oasis was quite broken, trending from wadis in the south to steep ridges east and west of the relatively flat oasis.  Several low hills were due south of the oasis, between the depressions to the east and west.  Jump off was scheduled for 0800 the next day, for a roughly 1300 arrival at the target, some 250 kilometers away.  The Emir was also going to bring a recovery vehicle and security for it, but they would bivouac well back from the battle.

Daryk

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Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
« Reply #71 on: 02 December 2018, 12:48:38 »
ECV Full House
Landing Field, Rabigh, Astrokaszy
1600 Local Time
13 November, 3053

Monchenigo still had his sheaf of notes in his hand when he found Cameron.  Pointing to a grainy satellite photo, he said, "I think we're looking at a box canyon here, but I'm not sure.  The quality is really lousy.  Hey, think we could use 'satellite maintenance' as the excuse for the Ace to fly away?  As for security measures, who knows what the Major built for himself.  My guess is that we'll be looking at what appears to be bare rock from a distance.  We do have his id tag, so that might help."

Tegyrius

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Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
« Reply #72 on: 04 December 2018, 20:02:14 »
Landing Field, Rabigh, Astrokaszy
1333 Local Time
13 November 3053


Cameron blinked, forebore mentioning that Mattis had better taste than he'd expected, and chuckled dryly.  "Negative, Acolyte.  This particular crazy comes to you courtesy of the good idea fairies in the Explorer Corps.   Mattis isn't briefed yet - he's my next stop.  Though I do appreciate the heads-up..."



ECV Full House
Landing Field, Rabigh, Astrokaszy
1525 Local Time
13 November, 3053


"This is more mad engineering than I'd expect this far out on the rim," Cameron commented as he scanned through Asadi's notes.

"Not mad science?" the JAG replied, trying futilely to get rid of the crick in her neck she'd developed from being wedged into the jeep.

"Nope.  Mad science is theory.  Mad engineering is implementation."  The S-2 pulled out his noteputer and began tapping.  "Okay, this is going to be fun.  Not.  The nominally friendly side has long range and the nominally opposing side has longer range.  Guess who's going to get stuck closing inside the artillery duel?  And this is awfully detailed info on the other side's hardware.  Did the Emir say anything about sources and methods?"

Asadi shrugged eloquently.  "A cousin married into the other clan.  He'll likely be in the Vulcan, by the way."

"Huh.  So should I assume the Emir wants us to try to not kill him?"

"He was oddly unspecific on that point."

"Duly noted..."



ECV Full House
Landing Field, Rabigh, Astrokaszy
1602 Local Time
13 November, 3053


Cameron ran a final spell-check on his briefing for the MechWarriors and looked up.  "I like 'satellite maintenance.'  There's no traffic control authority on-world, so we won't get flagged for deviating from a flight plan we didn't file."  He squinted at the satellite imagery.  "Yeah, this is pretty awful.  It's actually awful enough that I'm tempted to do some legitimate satellite maintenance, and that's dangerously close to real work."

He flipped to the next hardcopy image.  "Okay.  Here's the nearest settlement.  Terrain between there and the target is good for guys on foot sneaking up on us but bad for vehicles.  Broken high ground to the west.  We can do a few passes with MAD, and if that's inconclusive, wait until after dark and repeat the pattern with thermal to see if new construction is cooling off at a different rate than local geology..."
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 #73 on: 05 December 2018, 18:13:37 »
Rabigh, Astrokaszy
0800 Local Time
14 November, 3053

The streets of Rabigh were lined with citizens wishing their Emir well on his expedition, but no locals were yet at the Landing Field where the Double Deuce 'mechs were assembling.  A communications plan had been agreed, and the frequency in question crackled to life just as the Emir's Banshee took its first stride down the main street: "May Allah bless your steps as my own.  Move out."

Even over the less than clean frequency, the Emir's voice was deep and conveyed authority.  Cameron's brief had indicated he'd ruled Rabigh for over 20 years, after his father was killed in battle against the neighboring community they were about to fight.  Bad blood seemed to be common on Astrokaszy, so this wasn't particularly surprising.  The Emir wasn't the only local with a blood score to settle, either.

The land between Rabigh and Al Seddah Oasis was hundreds of kilometers of broken terrain, and the Emir had determined widely spread approach vectors for the two forces in an attempt to split the defenders attention.  Only time would tell how that strategy would work.

Daryk

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Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
« Reply #74 on: 15 December 2018, 16:39:13 »
Landing Field, Rabigh, Astrokaszy
1005 Local Time
14 November, 3053

It was just over two hours since the Emir had departed, and Adept Maddox was satisfied with the pre-flight checklist.  A quick call to the Full House put things in motion.  Adept Asadi hopped in a waiting jeep and drove to the "tower".  Five minutes after that, she waved toward the Full House as she climbed back in.

"Ace of Drax, you are cleared for launch," came the voice from the drop ship.

"Roger, launching," Maddox said, then, switching to the internal circuit, he added, "Buckle up, we're green for launch."

The ungainly craft slowly rose into the air, more smoothly than the Full House had so far managed.  As Maddox rolled the thrust control forward, the thrusters angled and the Ace gained forward momentum.  In no time at all, the ship was hurtling forward and climbing steeply.  The crew and passengers had been briefed on the particulars of sub-orbital flight, specifically, to stay strapped into their seats and/or bunks for the next hour or so.

Specified Coordinates, Astrokaszy
1100 Local Time
14 November, 3053

Reentry had been a little rough, but again, nothing like what the Full House usually went through.  The Ace slowly circled the box canyon, looking for a place flat enough to land.  Boulders strewn along the bottom of the canyon made it impossible to put it down there, but there was a flat enough spot near what looked like a foot path.  The path had about a dozen switch backs, and was certainly too narrow for a jeep.

Once the Ace was on the ground, Maddox unbuckled from his restraints and went aft to talk to Cameron and Monchenigo.

"You know, if I were to deliberately place boulders to prevent a landing, I don't think I could have done a better job of making it impossible than what we're looking at down there.  It just seems too perfect, you know?"

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Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
« Reply #75 on: 16 December 2018, 08:52:09 »
Nowhere of Consequence, Astrokaszy
1100 Local Time
14 November 3053


"Defensive landscaping," Cameron nodded.  "Okay.  This looks suspiciously promising, but there's no sense in offloading the heavy stuff before we know we're in the right place." 

He carefully straightened to his full height, mindful of banging his himself on the ceiling of the compartment.  "And on that note.  Mach, let's go poke around.  Mattis, Parker, with us."  He hid a smile as he caught the poorly-restrained enthusiasm of Maddox's ground crewer.  "Maddox, if I can borrow Herriot in case we need an air liaison, I'd appreciate it."

Turning to Helhake, he continued, "Fox-Two's got security for the LZ until we know what we have.  I'll check in every fifteen minutes."

He unclipped his shotgun from the weapons rack beside the hatch, then slung it and hefted his helmet.  "All right.  Let's go commit archaeology."
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 #76 on: 16 December 2018, 09:16:31 »
Specified Coordinates, Astrokaszy
1100-1120 Local Time
14 November, 3053

Acolyte Helhake nodded and said, "Roger that, sir.  Since it looks like we'll be staying a bit, we'll unload the jeep to cover the ship's six.  It's only eight tie-downs if we have to move, and it'll give us a better field of fire if any of those cybernetic bears pop up."

With arrangements agreed, the floor of the cargo bay descended with a squeal.  As it slowly dropped, Initiate Stojanovic rigged the ladder up to the air lock.  Five meters was a bit far to climb without one.  Once the floor cleared the outer hull, scorching air rushed into the cargo bay.  It didn't take long for Astrokaszy's harsh environment to fully assert itself.  Initiate Herriot took a gulp of water before moving out of the shade provided by the ship.

Picking their way down the apparent foot path, Cameron noted the switchbacks were remarkably uneroded.  There wasn't a single wash out along the length of the path, though there were plenty of loose rocks.  Granted, Astrokaszy didn't see much rain, but there should have been something.

Alex Monchenigo followed along, the long-dead Major's ID tag dangling in his hand.  Cameron caught a glimpse at one of the switchbacks and was startled to see the letters "Monc..." on it.

It took relatively little time to make the bottom of the canyon, but looking back up, the group could tell the climb wouldn't be pleasant.

The bottom of the canyon was relatively flat, save for the boulders scattered along its length.  The path had dumped them out approximately 500 meters from the head, which from this distance looked like a sheer wall of rock.

Coming even with Cameron, Alex asked, "So, the box, or the boulders first?"
« Last Edit: 23 December 2018, 15:46:58 by Daryk »

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Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
« Reply #77 on: 25 December 2018, 13:55:05 »
Cameron surveyed the area and took a drag from the hydration bladder affixed to his pack.  "Boulders, but let's not spend too much time on them.  Unless there's a Lostech antigravity boulder-mover around here somewhere, they're a moderately-interesting obstacle."

He paused and raised an eyebrow.  "Unless that, or the gold is inside them, hidden under a thin layer of fake rock."
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Daryk

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Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
« Reply #78 on: 25 December 2018, 14:05:22 »
Specified Coordinates, Astrokaszy
1130 Local Time
14 November, 3053

Moving among the boulders gave Cameron a feeling of unease.  As Maddox had said, they seemed to be placed deliberately on a large scale, but up close, there was no indication of that.  Mattis seemed to be on edge as well, but was silent as usual.  Herriot and Parker looked bewildered, but Monchenigo was cheerful.

As they group crept around the umpteenth boulder, a low chime sounded.  Five weapons pointed at the source of the noise.  It was the boulder itself.  Monchenigo lowered his weapon and waved the id tag he'd been carrying at the rock.  The chime sounded again.

Cameron had a chance to read the full name off the tag now that Alex was standing there grinning like an idiot with it in his hand in front of a chiming boulder.

It read:
Monchenigo, Michael R.
Major, Star League Defense Force

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Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
« Reply #79 on: 25 December 2018, 14:38:23 »
"Huh."  Cameron found someplace safe to point his shotgun and stepped closer to the boulder.  "I stand corrected.  That is now a very interesting terrain obstacle."

He raised an eyebrow at Mattis and nodded to the tag, then paused to give the other man time to read and process the engraving.  After a moment, he cleared his throat.  "So, Mach," he said with elaborate casualness.  "Since you've clearly been thinking about this for a while, what's the next play?"
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Daryk

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Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
« Reply #80 on: 25 December 2018, 14:50:17 »
Specified Coordinates, Astrokaszy
1130 Local Time
14 November, 3053

Still grinning, Alex said, "I-I'm actually not sure.  My grandmother was always very insistent I should carry this thing with me, and told me to look on Astrokaszy, but nothing beyond that."

Turning back to the boulder, he waved the tag with one hand and pressed on various flat spots, trying to find the controls.

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Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
« Reply #81 on: 25 December 2018, 15:03:11 »
"Hm," Cameron replied noncommittally.  He watched Monchenigo for a moment before stepping closer to the boulder himself.  "Herriot, give us an extra pair of eyes here."  He saw Mattis nudge Parker before both men turned outward, pulling security while the rest of the team searched for the - well, whatever they were looking for.

Slinging his shotgun and taking a knee, Cameron leaned close to the base of the boulder and started working his way around counter-clockwise, probing for any further indication that the rock was anything but a natural formation.
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Daryk

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Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
« Reply #82 on: 25 December 2018, 17:07:37 »
Specified Coordinates, Astrokaszy
1130-1140 Local Time
14 November, 3053

Mattis and Parker pulled slightly away from the others to give them room to work, and to avoid being in the same blast radius.

Herriot slung her weapon and helped Monchenigo feel around the side of the boulder.

As Cameron probed into the sand around the huge rock, he quickly struck more rock about 20 cm down.  Curiously, it was consistent all the way around.

Just as he came that conclusion, Monchenigo and Herriot were coming to a different one.  They'd found the crack where the chime seemed to be coming from, and were now concentrating their search around that part of the rock.
« Last Edit: 25 December 2018, 20:33:26 by Daryk »

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Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
« Reply #83 on: 25 December 2018, 20:29:58 »
"Got a thing here," Cameron said evenly as he stood and dusted off his knees.  "There's a rock layer at about twenty cee-emma."  He paused.  "Walk that back.  There's a solid layer.  I am done making assumptions about local geologic composition."

Monchenigo chuckled.  "Probably a good plan.  Come around here.  I think this is a seam."

Cameron rounded the boulder and peered at the indicated crevice.  "Yep.  Definitely louder here.  Will your tag fit in there?  A proximity reader or keyhole, maybe?"  He stepped back and eyed the boulder critically.  "I'm starting to wonder if this is the top of an elevator or something."
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Daryk

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Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
« Reply #84 on: 25 December 2018, 20:44:52 »
Specified Coordinates, Astrokaszy
1140 Local Time
14 November, 3053

"Oh, I didn't think of that!  Let's see..." Monchenigo said, raising his ancestor's ID tag to the seam.  It slipped right in, and a familiar warning beep started up, sounding just like a piece of heavy machinery backing up.

After a few seconds, the entire boulder began to hinge open, the beeping continuing while it was in motion.  A puff of air blew the accumulated sand of centuries from around the lifting rock, and Cameron could see a ring of solid metal, looking more like a hatch on a ship.  As the boulder lifted further, he could see a matching sealing ring embedded in the underside of the rock.  The hydraulic ram doing the lifting became visible as well.  When the beeping finally stopped, the boulder was almost 90 degrees from where it had previously rested, and a set of wide steps proceeded down from a nearly three meter wide opening.  There was almost a meter of boulder surrounding the "lid" on all sides.  Lights strung along the wall started to flicker on, illuminating the stairs.  They looked wide and deep enough to support an industrial exoskeleton, and appeared to be solid rock.

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Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
« Reply #85 on: 25 December 2018, 21:36:45 »
Cameron stepped back reflexively as the rock began to move, then made the conscious decision to keep stepping back in the face of a potentially-hazardous atmosphere.  "Don't breathe that," he warned his companions - unnecessarily in Monchenigo's case, but Herriot threw him a startled expression as she belatedly skipped back to stand at his shoulder.

"CROSSBOW from SPECTATOR," he said, keying his radio mic.  "We're at phase line LIMA, over."  Technically speaking, calling the stages of a combat archaeology mission "phase lines" was a minor violation of doctrine, but it was a usable framework and any eavesdroppers would likely process it as overland movement reports.

"SPECTATOR, CROSSBOW TWO copies LIMA," Garza responded promptly.  "Say your intentions, over."

"We'll need to assess environmental conditions before proceeding," Cameron told the copilot.  "Advise CANARY -" Initiate VI-ι Fletcher Munter, the MedTech assigned to the operation - "to move to our position, over."

"Copy.  CROSSBOW clear."

Cameron turned to his companions.  "Okay.  Let's back off and stay upwind until Fletch gets here and gives the all-clear.  Herriot, once he's done that, I want to know if this is running on improbably long-lived batteries or if there's a working power plant down there somewhere.  Mattis, I'll take input on dispositions for Fox-Two.  I don't want to leave the LZ completely uncovered but I'd feel better with more eyes and guns down here, too."
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Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
« Reply #86 on: 26 December 2018, 06:58:11 »
Specified Coordinates, Astrokaszy
1220 Local Time
14 November, 3053

Mattis simply suggested moving the unloaded jeep closer to the edge of the canyon where the gunner could see both the ship and the canyon floor.  The support machine gun easily had the range to cover both from there.  Looking up at the edge of the canyon, Cameron could see Helhake apparently had the same idea following the radio call.

The medic arrived with Mouser for an escort, and set about preparing to test the air.  First, he donned a respirator, then broke out the Draeger kit.  Taking a few tentative steps down, he squeezed the bulb and checked the device.  Seeing nothing, he ventured a few more steps down and tested again.  After the third time, his voice, muffled by the breathing mask, came up from below: "Holy..., sir!  You gotta see this!  Oh, and the air looks OK too."

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Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
« Reply #87 on: 26 December 2018, 11:04:24 »
Cameron raised an eyebrow at Munter's declaration.  "Good air does suggest a stable power source," he commented to Herriot, "but see what you can figure out anyway."

He keyed up again.  "CROSSBOW, SPECTATOR.  We're at phase line MIKE -" the prearranged code for making entry.  "Fox Two-Four will remain in place for comms relay, over."

"Okay, Mach.  Let's do it."  He gestured to the open stairwell.
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Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
« Reply #88 on: 26 December 2018, 13:54:45 »
Specified Coordinates, Astrokaszy
1220-1255 Local Time
14 November, 3053

Monchenigo nodded and led the way down the stairs.  Herriot followed the pair looking at the string of lights on the way down.  When they joined Fletch at the bottom, there was indeed a sight to behold.  Pallets lined one wall, with short stacks of gold bars.  The bars on the nearest one still bore the original stamp of the Canopian Central Bank with various dates from the early 2500s.  The others were all completely blank.  On the other wall, a small fusion unit hummed next to a battery bank on one side, with an electric melting furnace and scale on the other.  But the most interesting piece of equipment was the industrial exoskeleton parked on the far side of the battery bank.

Herriot went straight for the humming fusion unit, but had to tear her eyes from the gold sitting on the other side of the room.  After a few minutes, she nodded and said, "It's a clever set up sir.  When the batteries get low, the fusion unit kicks on and recharges them.  Looks like one cell has gone bad, but the others are still holding up.  They sure don't build 'em like this anymore.  I bet this 100 liter bottle over here used to be full of water..."

Fletch interrupted at that point with, "Oh, that explains the slightly elevated oxygen levels..."

Herriot nodded and continued, "It also probably explains the delay before the door opened.  The unit had to kick on to power the hydraulic ram.  That 'skeleton will need Aquila to take a look at it.  I'm sure it needs at least lubrication."

Turning back to the gold, Cameron counted six pallets with 80 bars each.  Assuming the bars were "standard" 12.5 kg bricks, each pallet was a ton.  On the far side of the melting furnace was a pallet of brick molds, obviously used to recast the bars.  All the equipment was on casters, even though none of it had moved in five centuries.

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Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
« Reply #89 on: 27 December 2018, 19:34:50 »
Al Seddah Oasis, Astrokaszy
1300 Local Time
14 November, 3053


The four Double Deuce MechWarriors listened to the radio chatter as they walked their 'mechs along the wadi to the southwest of the oasis.  The two local forces were insulting each other in a steady stream of the local dialect.  Even though it wasn't perfectly understandable, the tone made it clear.  The S-2's briefing had revealed these two communities had been fighting for almost their entire history.

To the southeast of the oasis, the Emir's forces were moving as fast as they could, kicking up a tremendous amount of dust in addition to the constant radio calls to their enemies.  It certainly fit what the Deuce had heard of the Emir's plan, in that they were as distracting as they could possibly be.  As they approached within a kilometer of the oasis, enemy 'mechs started to maneuver to meet them.

That's when the Deuce 'mechs emerged from the wadi, roughly a kilometer to the southwest.  The enemy Charger and Hunchback vectored their direction, but the rest of the force remained focused on the Emir and his 'mechs.

Largely ineffectual long range fire started immediately as the forces closed each other.  The Deuce 'mechs reached their foes first, and within 30 seconds, the Hunchback was on the ground thanks to a heavy barrage and solid kick from Croft.  It struggled back to its feet only to have a leg removed another 30 seconds later.  Two well placed back shots resulted in gyro damage that kept it on the ground for the rest of the battle, without its artillery cannon.

For its part, the Charger spent the first minute of the battle trying to come to literal grips with any of the Deuce 'mechs, something none of them were willing to oblige.  It launched a wildly inaccurate rocket barrage early on, which was answered by Croft zeroing a large laser in on its rear armor.  A satisfying heat spike resulted, but the assault 'mech easily vented the additional load.  The Charger then settled into chasing Jenks, who handily evaded it on the way to a pinnacle of rock the assault 'mech simply couldn't climb.  Before breaking off in favor of returning to the main battle, it managed to scar her torso armor with a single small laser.

On the other side of the battle, the first 30 seconds saw the enemy Emir perch himself on an even higher pinnacle than Jenks had found.  Swinging his heavy cannon to bear, he proceeded to pound his enemies, starting with Rabigh's Marauder.  In return, Rabigh's fire support 'mechs commenced a steady rain of LRM fire that slowly ate away at the Victor's armor.  The previously captured Centurion, lacking jump jets, took a bit longer to get into action, but tracked its
leader's targets to the best of its ability.  The Rabigh Vindicator fearlessly closed the Victor until the heavier 'mech took notice, and directed a barrage its way.  Barely keeping its feet, the Vindicator leaped for the cover of a nearby cliff where it could still see the center, but denied line of sight from the Victor.

In the center, the enemy Rifleman, Orion, and Trebuchet jockeyed for position.  The Rifleman quickly parked itself in the heaviest cover available, while the Trebuchet danced back and forth in the surrounding lighter cover.  The Orion, seeing the approaching Rabigh 'mechs, plunged forward into the hills to the south.  The enemy Vulcan alternated shooting at the center, and what it could see of the flanking Deuce 'mechs.  The Javelin simply maneuvered to cover their flank.

For Rabigh's part, the Marauder led the charge, with the Emir's Banshee just to the left, and the Jagermech and Panther following.  Heat quickly bogged down the Jagermech, and it ground to a halt just inside a depression.  Fortunately, its weapons had the reach to make that position workable, at least until the Victor noticed it.