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BattleTech Player Boards => BattleTech Roleplaying => Topic started by: Daryk on 26 January 2011, 21:30:23

Title: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Daryk on 26 January 2011, 21:30:23
Since I no longer have a good excuse to run my game in the Non-Canon Unit section, we'll pick back up here once we get a quorum.  I know Gorechylde and Failure16 have reregistered so far.  Anybody else?

Also, the consolidated TO&E and Fan Fiction version of Chapter 1 appear to be recoverable via the Google cache and new archives, respectively.  I'll eventually get those reposted, but the game between the start of Chapter 2 up til now appears to be lost to the ether.  I do believe this might be another opportunity for some of those "in between" vignettes Failure16, if you're game.
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Daryk on 29 January 2011, 18:38:08
Sorry for the delay in getting restarted.  Work got a little more interesting than planned this last week, and has spilled into the weekend.  We'll get moving again as soon as I can, but I expect that to be no earlier than next weekend.
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Daryk on 05 February 2011, 16:21:33
OOC: Through the Google cache, I was able to find some of the most recent posts, but not all.  I have #480-483, and #512-523, and the forum archive has everything up to #462 (before the start of Chapter 2, here (http://www.classicbattletech.com/forumarchive/index.php/topic,26628.0.html)).  I'll clean up the Google presentation of the recovered posts and attach them to this recap.  I'm not sure Comedian has made the transition to the new board yet, and I just spoke to Dr. Hawk to let him know things are back in working order.  Failure16 has drafted a post with Top Heravy grilling the troops about the wayward wrench, and I'm setting up the recap to account for that (Failure16: please post that when you have a chance; if you need or want another edit, just let me know).  For Gorechylde, please give Crowell a good turnover before heading out to do whatever is next on Croft's agenda.

ECV Full House
Outbound from Campoleone
Cargo Bay
HQ Jeep, Double Deuce Operations Center (DDOC)
1000 GMT

The time since the ship's dramatic departure had been far busier than anyone planned.  First, the mess created in the cargo bay by the hasty lift off had taken over two hours to complete, with exhausted troopers dragging themselves through the motions before being allowed to sleep.  The next eight hours or so were relatively quiet, except for the fact that Adept Thomas appeared to have suffered a heart attack.  That discovery had thrown the unit back into paranoid overdrive once again, with Adept Hopschnur assuming command, promoting Twilley to be the S-3, and debriefing Acolyte Mattis for the third time in less than 24 hours.  With Hopschnur otherwise engaged, Adept Croft was temporarily assigned as the Staff Duty Officer while Twilley reworked the schedule.  He had less than an hour of otherwise quiet duty interruptted by Acolyte Jiminez, the lead 'mech tech, presenting him an outsized wrench that had found its way into a bin of circuit boards during the clean up.  While that discussion was taking place, the unit's NCO network was busily passing the word to 'Top' Heravy, who was beginning his own investigation.  By 1000, things had settled down somewhat when Acolyte Crowell entered the Command Jeep with orders from Hopschnur to relieve Croft:

"Morning, uh, sir," Crowell said in an uncharacteristically tentative tone.  "The Commander said I should take the next shift as Duty Officer.  Anything going on?"

Looking up, Alex spotted Adept insignia on Crowell's collars that hadn't been there ten hours ago.  It appeared Alex was no longer the junior-most officer in the unit.

OOC: Failure16, I wouldn't be averse to inserting the conversation between Hopschnur, Heravy, and Crowell that resulted in her brevet promotion at some point.
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Comedian on 05 February 2011, 18:59:56
back.
Sorry RL troubled me somewhat
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Daryk on 05 February 2011, 19:35:45
OOC: Great, welcome back!  Croft left a message for Monchenigo in the old posts I attached above if you want to pick up where that bit of the story left off.
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Libertadkrieger on 05 April 2011, 14:33:49
I might be interested.  What is the style of this whole campaign, exactly?
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Daryk on 05 April 2011, 18:39:20
OOC: Thanks for the interest, but I seem to have lost most of the players to the board crash and real life.  The basic plot is an ex-ComGuard garrison unit on the run from the WoB just after the 3053 handover in the FWL (the unit's former CO had Explorer Corps contacts that are transporting them).  The first "chapter" of the game covered the unit's departure from their former garrison world, and was cleaned up a bit and posted in the Fan Fiction section of the archive here (http://www.classicbattletech.com/forumarchive/index.php/topic,74088.0.html).  I ran the game out of the Non-Canon Units section back then, as that's where it got started (if you feel the need to poke around the archive, I posted some deck plans and maps there).  Chapter 2 was going to be the transit to the next planetfall, and Chapter 3 would be the events that take place there (where I planned an opportunity to add new PC's not already part of the unit).  After reading over the story to date, please let me know what you think.  I might be able to drum up interest again if you're interested in joining.
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Libertadkrieger on 06 April 2011, 16:46:39
I seem to be highly interested from what I've read thus far, and I doubt that'll change.   :)
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Daryk on 06 April 2011, 17:20:44
OOC: Great!  I'll see who I can drum up over the weekend, and PM you about what role you'd like to play (i.e. someone in the unit already, or joining at the next planetfall).
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Libertadkrieger on 06 April 2011, 17:55:46
PM sent.
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Daryk on 23 April 2011, 05:11:02
OOC: All right, we now have LibertadKrieger up to speed.  So, is there any interest in playing out Chapter 2, or should I skip straight to Chapter 3 (where LibertadKrieger will join the unit)?  If we skip, I'll summarize Chapter 2 here in the next week or two.  Chapter 3 will bring the unit to Astrokazy.
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Daryk on 08 May 2011, 18:24:07
OOC Update: Failure16 has expressed interest in doing some additional storytelling in Chapter 2, and LibertadKrieger and I are hammering out his situation on Astrokaszy.  Most of the work is via PM and e-mail at the moment, but hopefully we'll have a post or two in the next week or so.
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Daryk on 29 May 2011, 09:49:08
OOC Update 2: Failure16 is being held up by real life, and I'm holding to hear further from him.  LibertadKrieger, please drop me a line via PM.  I have another idea for Astrokaszy.
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Maverick on 03 August 2011, 21:19:05
Is this game still ongoing, Daryk?  If it is, I'd be interested in joining up.
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Daryk on 06 August 2011, 18:10:06
OOC: Sorry for the delay, work was rough the last few days.  Unfortunately, I haven't heard from Failure16 in some time, but I'm always willing to bring on new players.  I've spent the intervening weeks converting the NPC's to the latest version of my spreadsheet, and cleaning up the deck plans of the Full House.  I had an idea or two for LibertadKrieger to fill the time on Astrokaszy (he's an infantry squad leader there), but I haven't heard from him either.  If you'd be interested in joining up on Astrokaszy, I can definitely work you in.  If you'd rather pick up an NPC aboard ship, it will be tricky, but I think we can do something with that too (possibly in an "Upstairs, Downstairs" way).  Just let me know, either here or via PM.
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Daryk on 08 August 2011, 18:05:47
OOC: Great news!  Failure16 is back up on the net after a bit of a hiatus.  I should hear more from him soon...
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Failure16 on 10 August 2011, 20:05:46
ECV Full House
Outbound from Campoleone
Cargo Bay
0908 GMT

NPCs


          “Well, I must say that I slept marvelously,” Acolyte Poul Stiles commented, stretching his arms languidly to take in the expanse of the cargo bay, cluttered as it was with all the gear the outfit had taken with them when they escaped Campoleone.
          “How…fabulous?” Leaf Martin replied, his eyes tightly shut as if it would make him invisible.
          “That too,” Stiles said.  “Say, how’s it going?”
          “You’re here, too,” Martin responded.  “You tell me.”
          “Well, I would say that you can see for yourself, but that is evidently not the case.”
          “Surely it isn’t?”
          Stiles harrumphed.  “Surly is right.”
          Martin shrugged without opening his eyes.  Around him he could hear the voices of the rest of the two infantry platoons in relatively close-proximity, though the sounds were muted by the proliferation of gear that drank their voices and the scuffles of equipment being moved and redistributed.
          “Suit yourself,” he said finally.
          Stiles reached down to thumb curiously at collar of his uniform tunic.  “On second thought, your little trick is working.”
          His partner cracked his left eye to stare.  “How so?”
          “Well, apparently, I’m invisible, Twigs,” Stiles commented, smoothing his uniform; it was impeccably tailored and curiously unrumpled, though neither of the pair could figure out how it remained so.  “See?”
          “I see nothing of the sort,” Martin challenged.  “Except maybe the fact that you are full of yourself.”
          “Tsk.  Full of you, perhaps.  Or not, as it were.”
          “Perish the thought.”
          “Wouldn’t dream of it,” Stiles said at last.  Then, “Say, what did Acolyte Tal want us to be doing, anyhow?”
          “Tall, eh?” Martin wondered.  “Can’t say, seeing as I only vaguely remember someone short trying to tell us something about an hour ago.”
          “Cute.  I thought you couldn’t see anything?”
          “Oh, it’s all very clear, now.  I think Tal—or short as it were—wanted us to clean our weapons.  Sounds familiar at any rate.”
          “How droll,” Stiles remarked.  “How is yours?”
          Martin made a show of feeling around and came up empty.  “Looks fine.”
          “So says you,” Stiles rejoined accusingly.
          “So say we all, not so?”

*     *     *
         
          “Bloody Hell,” Acolyte Gorodniy swore.  “Why we gotta stand around here like this?”
          “You got somethin’ better t’do, Rod?” Acolyte Harras  wondered from the head of the line of troopers stretching out away from Top Heravy’s makeshift office; the door had opened for a moment to disgorge one of J-2’s troopers, but the squad leader was still in the office and that meant J-4 was still cooling their heels outside.
          The jump-trooper shrugged from where he stood behind his squad leader.  “Can’t say that my bunk getting cold is any consolation, Acolyte.”
          “Hrmf,” Harras replied.  “Silly you, then.  If’n we weren’t standing around here, we’d be doing somethin’ else, right?”
          Gorodniy pursed his lips and looked away.  Behind him, the rest of J-4 was strung out in close order.  Rod was the senior trooper besides Harras, so he was followed by Tolbert, Jenkins, Moxley, and finally Talbas.  With the exception of the kid, none of the other troopers looked particularly worried about what was going to be asked of then in the next few minutes.
          “How you makin’ out, Talbie?” Harras asked his newest trooper.
          “Ah…okay?” the greenie replied, though his eyes and neck were working overtime in an attempt to take everything in at once.
          Harras grinned at him.  “No worries, right, Talbie?  Jus’ tell what we were doing and then we can all go on our way.”
          Acolyte Tolbert and Jenkins exchanged glances.  Moxley yawned and shook her head.  The door they were waiting for opened and shut almost immediately, though the squad leader of J-2 had appeared as if out of thin air.
          “That’s fine,” the rifleman said.  “But I can’t say why they think any of us did it, neither.”
          “Because we’re grunts, right?” Acolyte Avram Tal said after he had closed the door he had just exited.  He strode forward and stopped by Harras.
          “You ya doing, snake?” Tal asked.
          “Peachy, Avie,” Harras replied.  “What’s the sit?”
          Tal half-turned so he could regard the closed door for a moment.  “Can’t rightly say,” he surmised.  “Sounds like somebody broke a tool and now everybody’s up in arms about it.”
          Harras regarded his fellow squad leader critically.  “You serious?” he asked.  “Broke a tool?”
          “You got me, Joh,” Tal responded, looking past the stocky squad leader towards the row of expectant faces staring back with varying levels of interest.
          “So, what’d you tell ‘em?” Harras pressed.
          “Ah…the same thing you probably will.  The truth.  That me’n my boys were guarding the gate until we tumbled back aboard and prayed for the best.”
          “Eh,” Harras said; he was going to say more, but the door was opening and Tal was gone like the wind.
          “Next,” a voice said and Harras stepped off smartly.
          He entered the room and stopped short when he saw Adept Stoyka and Top Heravy crammed together behind a desk that probably wouldn’t have been suitable for either of them, but needs must…
          “Acolyte Harras, reports,” the squad leader responded after had had closed the door behind him—not as smartly as he would have desired since there wasn’t a Hell of a lot of room for him to scoot further into the enclosed space; the thin panel kept brushing his boot toes and heels while he maneuvered himself.
          “At ease,” the platoon leader said curtly, but she let the senior enlisted man handle it with a glance his way.
          “Morning, Joh,” Heravy said perfunctorily, his tone leaving no room for a reply.  “Got the rest of your chitlins out there, do you?”
          “Ah, roger, Top.”
          “Good.  Would you mind telling us your whereabouts since you boarded the ship last night?” Heravy asked, his voice as dry and rough as the gravel that had rimmed the road of the spaceport perimeter they had left far behind.
          Harras blinked despite himself.  “Ah, sure, Top; ma’am.  My squad was part of the reaction force that snatched the civs back from the HPG station perimeter.  We, eh, pulled security such as it was on the run back t’ th’ ship and then the ship lifted off…”
          Heravy cleared his throat, but his eyes never left those of the squad leader.  “And what did you and your squad do then?”
          “Well, Top, we helped get the civs aboard and into their couches,” he said, thinking back to the mass-confusion of those few moments before they had departed Campoleone, hopefully for good.  “It was pretty….crazy, I guess I would say, what with the Wobbers coming in hard’n’ fast an’ all.”
          “I was there, too,” Heravy replied while Adept Stoyka leaned back as far as she could—which wasn’t much—and crossed her arms over her broad chest.  “Did you, at any point, either assist—or detail any of your squad to assist—the ship’s crew in clearing the deck for liftoff?”
          The acolyte shook his head twice, very controlled.  “Negative,” he said firmly; long ago he had learned to answer such a question with minimal amplification, since guilty men often tried to couch their answers needlessly.
          Joh Harras had a lot of experience in being guilty, but not this time.
          Stoyka leaned forward suddenly.  “The reason we ask, Acolyte, is that a very expensive tool was damaged at some point since lift-off.”
          She pushed a flimsy forward and pointed to a spot on it; Harras saw when he leaned over slightly that it was a schematic displaying the cargo bay—and presumably the location of where the accident/crime/whatever had occurred.  The spot meant nothing to Harras—or probably any of the other infantrymen embarked aboard the ship.  The only thing he or his troopers cared about was the location of their bunk, the latrine, the chow hall, and the armory.
          “That in itself isn’t the end of the world, but with the tool went some very sensitive supplies—which are not, apparently, replaceable.  I suppose I don’t need to remind you that we are…operating…on a very thin margin for this operation?”
          “Ah, no ma’am,” Harras said quickly.  “Table stakes, got it.”
          Stoyka blinked up at him and Heravy let out a long, expansive breath, making Harras wince.
          “So,” Top said, regaining the floor.  “Once again:  did you or any of your troopers do anything—even by accident, which would be understandable, given the situation, if not perfectly acceptable—that could have led to this situation?”
          “No sir; ma’am,” Harras replied again.
          “Good,” Top Heravy replied.  “Do us a favor and call in your squad one by one.  Let’s all make this quick, shall we?”
          Harras smiled thinly and reached for the panel’s operating mechanism.  But he couldn’t resist the temptation brought on by the thought running through his mind after he’d talked to Tal so as he opened it he said, “One thing, though…d’ye think that one tool is goin’ t’be the only thing that’s gets broken on this op?”
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Daryk on 13 August 2011, 09:24:38
ECV Full House
Outbound from Campoleone
Mess Deck
0929 GMT

Acolytes Parker and Mattis were quietly drinking coffee with a smattering of other unit personnel scattered at other tables when Acolyte Paley found them.  He was, as seemed to be usual, breathless.  "A-Acolytes, the Commander requires your i-immediate presence in his stateroom," he said, visibly shaking.  Fortunately, it was a short walk from the mess, and Parker and Mattis quickly crowded into Hopshcnur's stateroom with Acolyte Bzerzinksi, the lead vehicle technician.  Hopschnur was seated at his desk, looking worn.  Once Paley closed the door and resumed his guard outside, the Commander nodded and said, "Go ahead Vaclav, one more time."
Clearing his throat, the older Acolyte said, "Uh, well it seems the doors and back hatch of 006 were tack welded shut.  Two tacks at the lower corners of the doors, and two on each corner of the hatch.  After the frame was torqued by the crash.  Did either of you hear anything while you were inside?  The Commander didn't."
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Failure16 on 14 August 2011, 16:16:49
ECV Full House
Outbound from Campoleone
Mess Deck
020929NOV53


Mattis   

         
          “Can we smoke in here?” one of the infantrymen lounging at one of the tables nearer the door asked loudly enough to make it a general question.
          “Shit, snake, spark it up,” another trooper at a table off to Mattis’s right replied.
          Steven exhaled a cloud of smoke toward the ceiling of the mess hall and pushed the pack towards Parker kitty-corner to him across the table.  The gunner pulled one of the cigarettes out and brought it to lips already quirked into a grin.  The momentary flash of his lighter reflected off his left eye—he had instinctively closed his right one against the glare.
          Mattis flicked a bit of ash into an upended lid of a coffee cup.
          Old habits die hard.
          “So, who do you think is going to walk through that door next?” Parker asked.
          “Probably the captain of the damn ship, knowing our luck,” Mattis groused, but he was still going to smoke his damn cigarette all the same.
          “Or Hops maybe,” Parker replied.
          He’d angled himself so that he could see the hatchway into the mess out of his peripheral vision after Mattis had pointedly taken the corner seat facing the portal.  A heavy handful of other personnel were sitting in various-sized clots at the other tables, their conversations making a gentle burble in the moderately sized compartment.
          They probably shouldn’t have been smoking on the mess deck, but even under the best of times that would have been but a mere suggestion to Steven Mattis.  After what had happened in the hour-plus since he’d awakened…
          Well, it was better than the alternative.  If a noticeable fraction of the other dirt feet within earshot of him decided to follow his lead, that was their own lookout.
          The sound of voices in the corridor caused a few of the junior enlisted men to drop their cigarettes down to their sides, out of direct sight of the entranceway, though what good that would have done was beyond the crew of 006.  Parker chuckled even as the quartet of infantrymen forced their way through the opening and sat down roughly at a table that had been—up until that moment—populated by a pair of the unit’s techs waiting to go on duty.  They got up with a grimace, but otherwise didn’t deign to notice the ground pounders who had so rudely disturbed them.
          The short, sturdy non-com leading them gave Parker and Mattis a nod before ducking his head to listen to a question from one of his troopers.  Mattis recognized him as Acolyte Avram, one of the infantry squad leaders in the Jump Platoon.  He wondered where the rest of the infantrymen were at the moment.
          “Eh?” Parker asked suddenly.
          Mattis looked over at him quizzically.  “I didn’t say anything.”
          The gunner blinked, nonplussed.  “Didn’t say you did, buddy…but you had that look on your face again.”
         Mattis pursed his lips and took a drag of his cigarette, wondering how to put into words the feeling of being alone in a room full of people—and not wanting to compound the feeling by filling the room with even more bodies.  He decided to say nothing and leave it at that.  If Parker wanted to press further… he let it pass when yet another trooper scurried through the doorway.  This time it was one of the newbies, the kid named Paley.
          He stopped in the doorway, looking around with short, choppy, birdlike movements until he say the two veterans nestled comfortably in the corner.
          “Well, here comes trouble,” Parker murmured out of the corner of his mouth.  “Damn it all…”
          “No rest for the wicked,” Mattis deadpanned, taking a last drag off his cigarette before wrinkling out the remaining bits of tobacco in the impromptu ashtray.  He looked up at the seemingly-permanent staff-duty runner when the kid approached.
          “What can we do for you, troop?” Parker asked when it was clear beyond doubt Paley was headed towards them.
          “A-Acolytes, the commander requires your i-immediate presence in his stateroom,” Paley said in his perennially breathless state.  He was visibly shaking and the crack in his voice had drawn more than a few looks from the crowd of troops now filtering into the compartment from wherever it was they had been hiding out.
          Parker took a deep breath and exhaled heavily.  Mattis ran his tongue across the inside of his lower lip while he studied the youthful trooper.  The gunner got up and crushed his cigarette out, waiting a few beats before turning to look down at the driver.
          “You coming, then?”
          Mattis blinked at Paley, who looked more agitated now than he had when he’d come in a moment before.  After a moment, Steven stood and gestured the runner closer to him.
          “You need to relax, kid,” he breathed.  “You’re making everydamnbody nervous, right?”
          “A-Acolyte?” Paley stammered.
          “C’mon,” Parker pressed, spearing Mattis with a glance that told the driver that enough was enough.
          Steven let it ride, but he hadn’t been joking, either.  His right hand brushed the small of his back in an unconscious movement that might have been—to the uninitiated onlooker—a concession to the torqueing his body had received last night.
          “Well, lead on, then,” Parker said to the younger acolyte, looking more and more flustered with each passing moment.
          “Make a hole, boys!” Parker intoned over the runner’s shoulder while they made their way across the quarterdeck to the commander’s cubicle.
          “Ah, here we, ah…are,” Paley said when they’d reached their destination; Mattis didn’t bother reminding the kid he at least had been here only a half-hour before.
          He wanted to, though, wanted to beat the kid down mentally and watch the wreckage self-destruct, wanted to watch him crumble and fall apart…but he wouldn’t.  Steven Mattis wasn’t a bully, but he had a lot of pent-up frustration at the moment—and it didn’t seem like he was going to find a way to release it in the next few moments.
          Piss on it, he thought.  None of it mattered, anyway…
          The panel was already open and a Double Deucer in a mechanic’s coverall was waiting inside the room.  Parker reached inside to knock and Adept Hopschnur barked his assent before the gunner’s knuckles had even made contact with the thin panel.  Mattis let the other trooper go in first and turned to look at Paley standing off to the side.
          “Kid, you should find yourself a bloody desk at least to sit behind so you can look official.”
          Paley looked back at him and blinked, conflicting emotions crossing behind his eyes.  Steven wondered idly if the trooper hated him, thought he was the King ******.
          Not that it mattered.
          Mattis kept his face blank as he crowded into Parker momentarily so Paley could close the door behind him.  He nodded to the other man but made no other effort to greet him; this was the Adept’s turf, and Steven didn’t yet know the rules…
          His nametape read ‘BZERZINSKI’, but Mattis knew him as “Zink”.  He was shorter and more sparely-framed than the driver of even the lanky Parker, but no one who had ever seen him boss his team of vehicle mechanics would mistake him for frail.  Mattis and he had gotten along well in their time in the motor-hole, but Steven didn’t suppose either of them considered the other a friend in an absolute sense.
          “Go ahead, Vaclav.  One more time,” Hopschnur stated without preamble.
          The older acolyte cleared his throat and compulsively wiped his hands on a rag hanging from his coveralls’ back pocket; he smelled of lube-oil and too many hours on duty.  None of that bothered Mattis or Parker, both of whom knew they’d all be smelling like that within the next few days.
          DropShip transits were rarely pleasure cruises, and that was without the extra civvies on-board.
          “Uh, well, it seems the doors and back hatch of 006 were tack welded shut,” the lead wrench started.  “That is, two tacks at the lower corners of the doors, and two on each corner of the hatch, you see.  After the frame was torqued by the crash, you understand, yes?  Did either of you hear anything while you were inside?  The commander did not.”
          He gestured toward Adept Hopschnur, who was sitting with his arms on his desk and his fingers tented before him.  He looked over the tips at each of his crewmen in turn as if the digits formed the V-notch of a weapon’s sight.
          Parker stirred uncomfortably.  “Er, you mean to tell me someone bloody welded the doors shut after we rolled over?  Sir?”
          Hopschnur nodded his chin towards Bzersinski.  “That’s what I am being told, gentlemen.  Now, what do you both recollect about the incident?  Mattis, you first.”
          Steven chewed on his upper lip for a brief moment to resettle himself from the cold funk where he’d been while his mind contemplated a universe where—potentially—his enemies had stood over him as he lay unconscious and helpless—help less—watching, waiting, chuckling, and there was nothing he could do about it.
          “Blazes, sir.  We were headed out from headquarters and came around that last curve—bloody Hell, I mighta been going too fast, but I never saw the spike strip ‘til were already bloody on top of it…the tires blew and then we were, we were…spinning, sliding.  Rolling, sir.” 
          He paused for a moment, his hands at his sides but nonetheless gripping the steering wheel that hadn’t been able to return control of his vehicle to him when it had happened for real, either.  He looked over at his friend and snorted.  “Thought it was curtains for Parker, here, too, up in the turret and all—but he’s the one that got me outta my seat afterwards.  Then I went t’check on you, sir.  I suppose you know the rest after that.”
          Hopschnur nodded, then turned back to Parker.
          “Ah, yes, sir.  I was up in the turret, manning the gun.  I thought I saw something in the road when we came around the turn so I said something over the intercom—I think.  I mean, I thought I did at any rate…”
          The infantry officer gestured the gunner to continue with his tale; both men knew it wouldn’t have mattered if he had or hadn’t called out a warning.  The trap had been too expertly laid.
          “Right.  The minute we ran over it, I was already inside the vehicle.  I just remember screaming, is all.  Tires blowing and skidding, maybe us—probably me, heh, right, sir?—whatever.  I remember hitting the roof, that musta been on the first rollover, and after that I don’t remember a damn thing.  Not until I woke up, upside down and crumpled like an accordion…”
          Parker looked over at Bzerzinski who was engrossed with the story, hearing it for the first time, or rather, hearing the version from those who were there and who had lived through it.
          “We were way off the road you see, and since the turret hatch was open and we were upside down, well, you can get a pretty good idea…right, sir, sorry.  Just by chance I happened to have my electric torch on me, so I used that to get Matty here outta his seat.  Then we went right t’work on you, sir.”
          Hopschnur blinked and licked his lips slightly before dropping his hands to the desk in preparation to speak.  “Well, if that’s the case, then I’m not sure how they did it…or even who ‘they’ are.  The net control station—that would be our very own Acolyte Paley out there—says we lost contact at approximately 2340 hours based on when we left the headquarters building and our, ah, approximate speed.”  He flashed tight, humorless smile to Mattis who replied in turn.  “Top Heravy and the convoy got to us at approximately 0020.  Unless one of you can give me an exact time about when you woke up, we might never know exactly how long we were out—or awake, as it were.
          “Just for the record, you two did your usual pre-op PMCS, correct?  Which, presumably, included checking all the doors and hatches?”
          Mattis felt his stomach tighten; not because he hadn’t done his job, but at the reasonable irritation when a professional’s performance of his duty was called into question.  “Roger that, sir.  I believe you can correlate that with Zink here’s copy of the CG4828 form…?”
          He turned to the mechanic who nodded his assent.  “Matty is right, sir.  Everything is in order, right up until the time he drove through the motor-pool gate.”
          “Long story, short, Vaclav, I’m not sure even I understand how it happened, then,” Hopschnur admitted.  He shivered and added, “And I can’t say I’m enthused with the notion of some dirty bastard sealing us into an overturned truck, either—and the three of us not waking up in the time it took them to do it, more to the point.”
          “Well, they did it from the outside, sir, if it’s any consolation,” the mechanic offered.  “After a wreck like the one 006 went through, well, I’m sure you all had other things on your mind, even if you hadn’t all been unconscious.”
          Hopschnur nodded, but his mind was clearly focused on something else, so the gesture was a distant one.  Mattis inhaled through his nose and out through pursed lips.
          “One thing, sir,” he said.
          “Spit it out, trooper.”
          “I think what we have to think about now is:  why is the Word of Blake playing us with kid gloves—such as it is?  Why  go through the trouble of assassination—a double assassination at that—and leave us sleeping peacefully in the middle of nowhere with no witnesses instead of killing us when they had the chance…and it was just as easy as not to do it?”
          “Well, not everybody is as willing to kick a guy when they are down, Matty,” Parker interjected.  “’Course, I am too.”  He smiled thinly.
          Hopschnur regarded both of the enlisted men carefully.  “I wouldn’t say that the BattleMechs rushing towards the flight-line were being operated with kid gloves, Mattis.  Would you?”
          “The point still stands, sir.”
          Bzerzinski shifted uneasily as the mood in the room had shifted its lines from a maintenance puzzle into a reality shaped by the killers in uniform that dominated it now even more than they had a moment before.
          “In that much you’re correct,” Hopschnur allowed.  He tapped on the desk as if to bring a halt to the interview.  “Well, Vaclav, let me know immediately if you find anything else.  As for you two, stand easy, but stay ready.  I presume you’ve already heard about the damaged parts ?  We’re not out of the woods yet.”
          The three enlisted men nodded as one and made ready to vacate the compartment.
          Hopschnur’s next words forestalled them.  “Oh, and Mattis,” he sniffed.  “For the moment, this is a no-smoking flight, I think you’ll find—at least on the mess deck.  Keep it in mind until we get it settled.”
          “Roger, sir,” Mattis replied, slipping through the door ahead of his companions.
          He instinctively checked the companionway, left-right-left, before stepping out into it, ignoring Paley’s stiffening to attention.  His hand again brushed the small of his back, making sure the hold-out pistol was still seated there against need.
          He had a feeling he would need it very shortly.

Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Maverick on 08 September 2011, 23:00:45
OOC: I thought I would introduce my character, currently aboard the JumpShip just hours after the Code Omega call.  The "Nova" call to the planet takes place during the time described here.  This story takes place chronologically prior to Failure16's above.

29 October 3053
SS Inside Straight
Nadir Jump Point, Campoleone System
Free Worlds League
1830 Hours GMT (0130 Hours Local)


Entering the bridge, Flight Officer Eric Maddox drifted easily towards the captain’s chair, where David Grayson was just exiting.  As the oncoming watch officer, Maddox received a quick briefing from Grayson about the Inside Straight’s current situation, including the “Code Omega” call that came through shortly after the afternoon watch started.  “Things are heating up, Eric,” Grayson stated, drifting toward the hatch as Maddox secured the restraints that would keep him from drifting across the bridge unintentionally.  “The Blakists seem to have a real hard-on for this planet, and little love for Evans’ unit.”  Eric nodded, giving a friendly wave as he acknowledged the situation and began reviewing the data collected during the previous watch.  The Code Omega call was hardly unexpected, given the current situation, but it was still worrisome.  Things were indeed heating up.  “Get some sleep, Dave,” he replied, watching Grayson drift through the hatch while Rebecca Broderick, seated at the executive officer’s station, transferred the oncoming watch officer checklist to the console on the captain’s chair.  Jennifer Rose—the third member of the watch team and Eric’s copilot on the Egret-class small craft Ace of Drax--remained at her post, seated at one of the other sensor stations scattered about the bridge.  Like Rebecca, she had been on duty for just over half an hour, and she was competently juggling several different duties from her own station at the primary sensor operator’s panel.  Eric turned to her and asked, “What’s our current status, Jennifer?  Is the jump sail safely stowed?  Are our wayward brethren making any suspicious moves?” 

“Jump furling checklist completed, Eric,” she replied, studying the sensor readouts on the screen before her.  “The ship is ready for jump at any time.  The WoB DropShip is maintaining standard acceleration and appears to be on-target for a 0730 local landing.”

“Keep an eye on them, Jen.  I have a gut feeling about this, and I’m fairly certain it isn’t Mitchell’s cooking.”

Broderick and Rose exchanged grins at the mention of the Inside Straight’s “adventurous” mess cook, and Broderick spoke up for the first time since Maddox took over the watch as she turned to look at the captain’s chair.  “I’m not so sure about that, sir, the soup had a definite unusual tang to it, and I’m feeling a bit queasy myself.”

Eric looked up, returning her dazzling smile with a tight one of his own.  “While I’m ALMOST convinced Mitchell isn’t a Blakist plant out to poison us, at least for the moment, I’m certain the uneasy feeling I have is related to whatever’s going on down on the planet to warrant an Omega call.  Keep an eye on things, and let me know the moment the situation changes.”  The next two and a quarter hours passed easily, with frequent routine status reports and all systems reporting green as the ship hung motionless at the jump point.  As the bridge clock approached 0340 hours local time, however, Jennifer turned to Maddox and said in a low, controlled voice, “We have a problem, Eric.  The Gauntlet is decelerating hard.  It appears they may have gained at least a half hour on their expected arrival time.”

“Sensor data confirmed,” Broderick reported from her own station, showing radiation sensors spiking as the WoB DropShip dumped additional reaction mass into its thrust chambers and temperatures and radiation readings spiked as a result. 

“Are we in danger?” Eric asked, switching the Captain’s repeater display over to a view of local space.  “Are there any more DropShips out there?” 

“Negative,” Rose replied, studying the local space around the nearly defenseless JumpShip.  “Our immediate surroundings are clear.”

“Very well,” Eric replied, slaving his screen to that of Broderick’s, so he could see the signature she was continuing to track.  “Keep an eye on the Gauntlet.  I’m calling the Captain; we need to let Mason and Evans know they’re going to have company sooner than expected.”  He checked the bridge chronometer, noted the time in the ship’s logs and recorded his instructions, the sensor readings from both Rose’s and Broderick’s consoles, and the outgoing communication he planned to transmit.  Then he paged Captain Hong, waking her and informing her of the situation.  “Very well, Eric,” she replied, the sleepiness rapidly leaving her voice.  “Send a warning, and prepare for jump.  I’m on my way.”  After acknowledging his instructions and sending a “Nova” message to the Full House on Campoleone, Eric turned back to Rose and Broderick.  “The rest of the watch should be interesting.  Jen, call Hastings and McCarter and make sure the Ace is pre-flighted and brought to Ready Five status.  I don’t expect we’ll need it, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.  Once they set up a watch rotation, they can bunk in the Ace for the next few hours.  When we’re relieved, you and I’ll join the rotation.  If we DO have company during our trip out, I want to make sure we have our best china out for them.”

“Roger that, sir,” Rose replied, splitting her time between watching the local space around the Inside Straight and the rapidly decelerating DropShip near Campoleone.  “We’ll have the Ace ready when needed.”

Eric nodded and turned back to study the tactical displays.  Not for the first time since being assigned to the Inside Straight, he wished for the comfortably cramped surroundings of a ship with more defenses.  A heavily-armed Vengeance-class DropShip would be very handy right about now, but even an Invader-class JumpShip would be an improvement over the practically-unarmed Inside Straight.  Until the Double Deuce—and more importantly, the Full House—boarded the ship, the only defense the priceless Scout-class Inside Straight had was the lighter-than-normally armed Ace of Drax, a modified Mark VII landing craft stored in the Inside Straight’s lone small craft bay.  It would have to be enough, and hopefully would be.  There were days, though, he wished more than anything to be back in an active combat unit.  At least there, he had weapons with which he could defend himself and his crewmates.
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Daryk on 02 February 2018, 21:01:00
While we finish up a few character creation details, here's a post mostly put together by Failure16 detailing Crowell's brevet promotion to Adept, not long before she relieved Croft as duty officer...

ECV Full House
Outbound from Campoleone
Main Deck, Senior Officer's Quarters
01 November, 0945 GMT

   Adept Karl Hopschnur let out a breath he had not even realized he had been holding in the minutes since the door to his stateroom closed behind his previous visitors. 
   He’d have to keep his eye on Mattis, without a doubt.  That one was crazy, and no less lethal because of it.  The real problem wasn’t that the trooper had a fragmentation grenade for an emotional and functional core, it was that Hopschnur wasn’t sure he’d be able to direct the blast when it inevitably came.
He let his hands relax and fumbled with his left hand for the latch to the drawer of the fold-out desk.  When he finally manhandled it open (of course the frame was torqued from Blake-alone knew how many liftoffs and landings), he slid the laser pistol he’d kept along the seam of his pants into it.
The tiny desk was the room’s solitary extravagance—beyond the fact that there was only one (fold-out) bunk, and one full-time occupant.  The stenciling on the panel facing the passageway read ‘COMMANDER, II/II’.  Not for the first time, Karl Hopschnur wished it wasn’t him.
But even that wasn’t entirely true.  Karl had never been one to duck a fight, nor a shy from a challenge.  He’d sweated blood and tears in a far too literal sense to get where he was today.  And he knew as often as not that in a line unit, promotions often came when the poor bastard in the next slot up got it in the neck.  The Lord knew he’d always insisted every trooper from the greenest Initiate on up to his senior Acolyte learn the task of the trooper above them.
But he hadn’t figured on inheriting command of a reinforced company, on its first off-world operation in years, in the middle of a literal schism of interstellar proportions, nor upon the death of its two previous commanders under highly suspicious but unprovable circumstances.
All within 48 damned hours.
The Double Deuce was a fine organization.  It had a core of hardened professionals, inured to privation and operating without significant external intelligence or support.  It was self-sufficient and ready for whatever mission was handed it.  It was also an order of magnitude larger than his infantry platoon; that was the truth.
And it was his jump troopers he now had to consider.  The way things were going, everyone needed as much leadership as they could get.  Hell, he was good enough proof of that, wasn’t he?
He pinched the bridge of his nose and leaned on the tiny fold out desk that formerly belonged to Demi-Precentor Evans.  It would be a damn sight easier if the enemy—whoever the bloody Hell that was—was shooting at them because at least then he’d know which way to maneuver.  The thought brought a mirthless chuckle to his throat, but it died stillborn when someone rapped three times on the door.
“Come!” he ordered sharply.
The panel opened swiftly and two burly infantry NCOs tried to slip in equally as fluidly.  Groundside it probably would have worked; in the strait confines of his stateroom, they managed to get in each other’s way as much as the chair and bunk-now-sofa did.  And Karl himself.
Hitching his chair closer to the desk, he gestured to his folded bunk and said, “Please, have a seat.”
Acolyte XIV Wilhem Heravy nodded his thanks and tried to make way for Acolyte XIII Hannah Crowell. Her ebony skin made the butterfly bandages over her left eye stand out even more than they might otherwise.  Heravy had been soldiering since some of the kids in the platoon were just getting out of diapers, and the scars told stories that echoed Crowell’s present status.
“How’s the eye, Crowell?”  Hopschnur asked mildly.
The woman sniffed and shrugged.  “I’ll live,” she replied, her eyes looking somewhere over the officer’s shoulder.  “The bastard just got lucky…”
Heravy grinned momentarily from the side.  He rubbed his side in remembrance of times’ past and said, “Hey, stun-batons hurt too, Cee.  You got your point across, never fear.”
Crowell sniffed diffidently, but let the subject drop.
Hopschnur took his cue.  “Thank you two for coming on such short notice.  I won’t belabor too much what we already know, but suffice to say we’re having a leadership…crisis…at the moment, and you two are an integral part of fixing it.”
Heravy and Crowell nodded slowly, precisely.  Heravy’s jocularity had been an act, masking a hard bitten professional too consciously tough to show the weakness of personal concern.  Crowell wasn’t too far different in temperament from the slightly older man, but the pain meds in her system likely softened the corners of the situation somewhat.
“It looks to me like you two have already mulled it over,” Hopschnur continued, marveling at his ascetic calm.  “I take it this will be a short discussion, then?”
The pair of non-coms exchanged glances.  Eventually, Heravy cleared his throat and said, clearly but quietly, “Ah, yes, sir.  We have.  We recommend Hannah get the first shot at being the next PL.”
Hopschnur brought his hands together and interlaced his fingers as he leaned back in his chair.  The decision wasn’t unexpected in the slightest, though he had secretly been wondering if Top would take his chance to break into the commissioned ranks.
“Top figured his place was with the kids, you know,” Hannah added.  “Figured he’d be, you know, of greater use right where he is, right?”
Hopschnur nodded somberly, but inside he grinned despite himself as the two NCOs, so unable to voice their own concerns or reservations, were able to do so for each other.
Karl let his grin show through and he rose to offer his hand to the pair in turn.  Heravy first as was his due for his position, and then Crowell, to whom he was welcoming into a family of infantry officers that was small enough even in the combat arms.
“My thanks, Top, for everything that you do and will undoubtedly continue to do,” he said first.  “And congratulations, Hannah!  Welcome aboard!  We will try to do something more official soon enough, but I’m sure you understand the present circumstances?”
“Ah, roger, sir,” she allowed.
“You’ll move in with Adept Stoyka for the transit.  She made the same transition you’re making, but I’m sure you’ll have your own ideas, too.”  Hopschnur paused while Heravy continued beaming as if he’d dodged an oncoming car.
Perhaps he had, in his own way of thinking.
“Any idea of your replacement in the platoon?”
“Avie Tal,” she replied immediately.  “He can stay in charge of Jump-Two, but he’s best qualified.  He has the other squad leaders’ full support.”
Hopschnur nodded, and so did Heravy.  At this point, it was all formulaic.
   The commanding officer of II/II-σ reached down into a drawer of his desk.  His fingers ghosted over the pistol within and came to rest on a small box.  He withdrew it and inspected the contents briefly, admiringly.  He cleared his throat.
   “Attention to orders!” he said crisply, but quietly, stepping towards Crowell to undo the rank tabs on her collar.  “The Precentor Martial, having reposed special trust and confidence…”
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Daryk on 01 March 2018, 21:15:34
ECV Full House
Outbound from Campoleone
Cargo Bay
04 November, 1430 GMT

It had been three days since the Full House made its dramatic departure from Campoleone.  The drama hadn't stopped after lift off though, as the unit proceeded to lose a second commander in a suspiciously similar way to their first, and various facts came to light.  That the doors of jeep 006 had been welded shut after the vehicle had rolled the evening of departure had only confirmed suspicions that dark forces were at work against the unit.  The concurrent discovery of a wrench in a bin of circuit boards had certainly raised concern, but after an exhaustive investigation, no one could be definitively blamed.  The troops had been exhausted after all, and it was likely whoever had carelessly deposited the tool where it didn't belong didn't even remember doing it.  Acolyte Jiminez obtained her revenge by simply distributing the work of repairing the damaged Wolverine among as many infantry troopers as possible.  After three days, the work was complete, and the general misery was increased commensurately.  The rest of the unit had a chance to breathe a bit easier for a day or two, though the S-3 and S-7 were busily putting together a training regime to keep the troops occupied.

By November 4th it was clear to the S-4, Adept IV-φ Sam Walden, that the troops would require a tobacco ration soon, so he directed his deputy, Acolyte III-φ Lana Seko, to conduct a pre-issue inventory of the tobacco rations.  Lana acknowledged the order with all the enthusiasm she could muster after more than a month of exhaustive work, planning for and actually packing the unit into the relatively tiny Full House, not to mention the stress of that final day.  Fortunately, Walden's "office" (which doubled as his sleeping quarters) was only one level up from the deck of the cargo bay, so Lana didn't have far to go.  Not that anyplace on the tiny dropship was far from any other.

She methodically operated the combination lock that secured the cargo container with potentially the most expensive material aboard.  Most of the unit consumed tobacco in one way or another, three years on Campoleone having had the expected effect on the troops.  The planet was a haven for retired spacers, and tobacco was a luxury most of them had been denied most of their careers.  The growers' collective and various manufacturers made sure it was a major part of Campoleonean life.  On Campoleone itself cigarillos were the most prevalent form of consumption, but off worlders often preferred cigarettes or chewing tobacco.  The container Lana was opening had a variety that ensured the majority of troops would receive their preferred method of consumption.

Lana sighed as a carton of cigarettes spilled out of the container when she swung the door open.  Bending down to pick it up, she straightened suddenly and shined her hand light into the container.  Whatever she saw made her eyes nearly pop out of their sockets, and she threw the stray carton into the container and slammed the door shut.  Her breathing was rapid as she spun the combination lock, and she immediately ran back the way she had come to Adept Walden's "office", heedless of who she ran into (or over) on her way.

By the time that story had made the rounds, Adept Walden had already stopped by the galley on the way to Adept Hopschnur's stateroom, his deputy in tow, her demeanor not much less calm than it had been.
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Failure16 on 03 March 2018, 00:43:32
ECV Full House
Outbound from Campoleone
Married Quarters
041412NOV 3053

          The deck vibrated slightly in tune with the DropShip’s transit drive.  For an instant, everything and everybody aboard seemed heavier than normal as the crew applied a touch more power before throttling back to their the single gravity of acceleration that had been the norm since they had lifted from the planet now unimaginably distant.  For a heart-stopping instant, gravity lightened to a feather’s touch as the engine labored to make the transition.  Outside the narrow confines of the shipping container that had become their temporary home within the overarching village of their bubble in space, the gentle burble of voices stilled, then resumed their gentle babble when normalcy reasserted itself.
          Marienda Krantzel’s brow furrowed in consternation when one of her daughter’s toys, a stuffed dragon, dislodged itself from its perch on her bunk and toppled unceremoniously to the floor.  For a split second, it had seemed to fly.
          Which is no more than the watcher was hoping she could do:  fly away from this dastardly place, with too many people in too small a space for all this confounded machine’s size.  The irony, of course, was that they were flying away—through space no less, though she had little enough information to internalize their destination and even less reason to be comfortable if she did know.
          The relative frequency of guns and trigger-fingers to civilians aboard gave her little comfort that where they were going was better than home, than Campoleone.
          The panel that functioned as the suite’s door opened and her husband, Jase, slipped through before shutting it behind him more roughly than he likely anticipated.  She regarded him coolly and he smiled back in return.  That made Marienda yet more irritated; at him, at the situation, but most of all for allowing herself to be a part of it.
           “Did you find a way off this disaster, then?” she asked, her tone a mixture of plaintive venom.
          Jase’s smile grew incrementally more brittle.  “Well, just walking around to see what there was to see.”  He paused.  “Aimee is playing with the other kids in the common area.  I figured we could pick her up on the way to dinner…?”
           “Of course,” she allowed.  “Who is she with?”
           “Ah, some of the soldiers, you know, were moving some gear around, and the other kids turned it into a jungle gym of sorts.  I figured—”
          Marienda could feel her eyes flash.  “You left our daughter with not only strangers, but soldiers besides?” she asked acidly.
          Jase looked stricken.  “Well, I thought you needed a little time to yourself,” he temporized.  “And she needs to wear herself out…”
           “I told you to take her out for a walk, and you come back saying she is playing with a bunch of professional killers,” Marienda started; she knew she was being unreasonable, but it was no more than had been thrust upon her at her husband’s urging.
           “Well, I’d hardly say that about the—”
           “Of course you wouldn’t,” she retorted.  “One wonders if you thought the present situation through any more than you did leaving our daughter with a bunch of people carrying guns around.”
          Jase opened his mouth, then shut it with a muted clop.  His right hand tightened on the latch to the door.
           “Oh?” she said.  “You thought our earlier discussion was over because we dropped it, did you?”
           “I kind of thought that we had sort of moved on, yes,” he answered.  “When we boarded the ship.”
           “Then you are a bigger fool than before,” Marienda returned.  “I am not mad so much that we are on this cursed, stinking, death-trap with our only daughter.  I am mad because you make arbitrary decisions with no thought towards the future.”
          Jase look of puzzlement had been slowly but steadily increasing, but now his face clouded over with repressed anger.  “Are you kidding?” he said with quiescent heat.  “I was thinking about the future when I got us away from those Word of Blake monsters!”
          Marienda leaned over and picked up the dragon and held it in her thin hands.  Her skin, darkened by her native sun, Campoleone’s primary, contrasted with the purplish plush fabric.  A sun that was by now far, far behind them.
           “Were you?” she hissed like a viper moving to strike.  “You were thinking about the next day, the next week, perhaps,” she allowed.  “But what about the rest of our lives?  What is your great plan now, Jase?”
          Again, he opened his mouth and closed it when he realized he didn’t have a suitable reply.
           “Exactly,” she plowed on.  “You never once stop to think about the future.  It is always ‘live for the day’ and ‘hope for the best’.  It will work out, right?”
           “It has so far,” he replied mildly.
           “For now,” she shot back.  “What about when it doesn’t?  Have you stopped to think about that?”
          One heartbeat.  Two.
           “Of course you haven’t.  You never do, I wonder if you ever will.”  She twisted the dragon in her hands.  “But you had better start, and start quick.  Because I am not going to let you ruin this family because you have the impulsiveness of a teenager.”
          His hand on the panel became mottled momentarily before he released it utterly and flexed his fingers against the palm.  He turned away and sighed.
           “Guess I’ll go check on her, then,” he said thickly.
          She stood up in sudden decision and strode towards him so quickly he probably thought he was being attacked.  Instead, she thrust the stuffed animal into his chest and deftly stepped around him while he was distracted.  “Don’t bother yourself, dearest.  I will go check on our daughter while you sit back and ignore the world around you.”
          She stepped out of the cubicle and shut the door haltingly behind her, ending the discussion without—as always—and resolution.  She was shaking internally, but mentally wiped away the tears that she knew were beginning to form in the corners of her eyes and the recesses of her mind.  She could have simply peered over the railing to see her daughter playing below, but she needed out of that little metal cubicle that was barely big enough for the bodies of the occupants.  Let alone their emotions, their hopes, disappointments.  Their shared past.
          Outside on the expanded steel decking that provided access to their container, the thrum of the transit drive and the burble of humanity within the envelope of the ship provided a susurrus that helped steady her.  It was at least her fault as anyone else’s’ that she was aboard it.
          The ship she was on continued to curve away from the only home she had ever known, bearing her and her only child away from the cradle of both their births, possibly forever.
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Failure16 on 03 March 2018, 00:45:46
ECV Full House
Outbound from Campoleone
Cargo Deck
041420NOV53

           “Would somebody shut the damn door?” a voice said peevishly in the time it took for Acolyte VI Pandajharmin to slip into the heavy armored personnel carrier that served as the Foot Platoon’s terrestrial transport and general base-of-operations. 
          He had entered through the personnel door inset into the primary rear hatch.  There was scarcely the room to drop the two-tonne ramp and in any event, its squeal would wake the dead, an attention that none of the occupants filling its formerly-cavernous bulk wanted. At the moment, it was filled with gear that was shapeless and anonymous in its profusion, making the dark, dank interior even more than normal.
           “Keep your knickers on, Joh,” Panda replied loudly as he labored to swing the panel shut behind him.  Then, waving at the miasma of smoke in the enclosed space—made ever-tighter by the dim lighting and splayed bodies within—“By Nanak’s Beard, how can anyone even see in here?”
           “Oh, simmer down yourself, Pan,” Acolyte Tuna, Foot-Five’s squad leader, replied tiredly from where he was draped on a roll of cable next to Foot-Four’s senior man, Braismith.
          The rooms the troopers of II-II had been given were converted shipping containers—conexes—that were barely enough to fit an infantry squad and their personal gear.  Their tactical vehicles had not escaped the need for space.  That made it a tight fit for the clot of infantry squad leaders forced into it at present.  Still, on a ship packed with all the gear it could hold—and a couple hundred people it probably shouldn’t have—space was at a higher premium than normal.  And space where they could talk more or less freely as peers and away from the prying eyes and ears of superiors and subordinates both was nearly nonexistent.
           “Ah, well, I see that we can now call the meeting to order,” Acolyte XII Avram Tal, squad leader for Jump Two and the most senior man in the compartment, intoned professorially.  “Sulieman and Helhake are on duty, so it’s just us.”
          Panda elbowed his way onto a crate of chemlights near the door, drawing sighs from Engels and Jackson of the Jump Platoon as they made room for his dense form.  He had been serious about not being able to see in the dim confines that made the cramped rest of the ship seem like an open prairie in comparison.
           “What’s anybody got?” Tal started, running a hand through hair that was dark and so closely cut that it made the fact it was thinning all the more obvious.  “Anything exciting?”
          Somebody blew a raspberry, eliciting a few perfunctory chuckles.
           “Well, I heard the cooks saying that we were gonna be on field rations for the noon-meal from here on out,” Acolyte V Joh Harras—Jump Four’s squad leader—started
          Panda wondered idly where if the squaddies knew they were all crammed in here.  Not that it mattered.  If the squad leaders needed to pow-wow, that was that.
           “That’s just because they want to stop us all up to reduce the latrine usage,” Sonja Engels threw out.  Normally she kept her blond hair tied back into a little bun, but now it was free, hanging down to her jawline in a ruff.
           “So how does that make it any different than any other field-problem any of us have been on?” Jeremie Braismith rejoined.
           “Well,” Tuna drawled, “I guess Joh will run out of shit to say then.”
          Good natured chuckles pranced through the group like fireflies signaling in a darkened glade.  Harras flipped his fellow a single-fingered gesture before opening his hands like a receiver waiting for a pass.  He caught the already crumpled pack of cigarettes tossed over in reply.  He lit one, regarded the pack for a moment then tossed it back. 
           “Well, two things,” he said through the blue smoke framing his features.  “First, how much bloody field-rats did we bring along, and second, are we that short of regular food that we have to be concerned already?”
           “Just so long as you bastards don’t run out of cigarettes,” Panda replied.  “Then we’d really be up a creek without a paddle.”
          Harras blew him a smoke-filled kiss from across the compartment.
          Avram Tal cleared his throat, forestalling any further replies.  He gestured airily in the dim confines of their warren, the motion drawing eddies through the smoke hovering above them.  Panda coughed to himself.
           “Look, Log-Section made sure we have enough grub for the trip,” he started, his eyes sweeping the group.  “As you all should damn-well know, because we all had to help load it at some point.”
           “Too damn right,” someone, Jackson maybe, breathed.
           “So let’s cut out the bullshit, shall we?” Tal continued quietly, stolidly, ever the mailed fist within the velvet glove combined.  “How are the kids doing?  Got any issues with the officers?  Speak up now, killers.”
           “Hell, the troopers are fine so far as I can see,” Panda said, snorting.  “’Course, we’re only a few days into this thing, aren’t we?”
           “Too damn right,” Jackson said again.  “Say, how long they say we gonna be on this barge anyhow?”
          Harras scrabbled around himself, probably looking for something to toss at the most junior of the squad leaders.  He came up empty handed.  “Bloody Hell, Jackson, you know how far we got to go, doncha?”
           “And don’t start asking if we’re there yet, either,” Tuna continued to gentle chuckles.  “’Cause I swear if they turn this bitch around…”
          Even Tal smiled, but it was just as easy to release tension that was as any other.
           “But so far as officers go,” Engels mused out loud, “It don’t seem like we’re gonna have too many left to worry about, things keep going like they are at present…”
          Nearly everyone present grunted some kind of assent.  All except Tal, who had his powerful hands steepled atop his chest.  It was not like anyone had been trying to keep it all a secret:  Demi Precentor Evans had died right before they left and the senior-most Adept, Thomas, had been found in pretty much the same predicament the day after they lifted.
           “Yeah,” he admitted after a time.  “That is so.  But our platoon leaders are solid, that’s the case.  Most of the other adepts are too—we’ve been together long enough, after all.”
          Joh Harras snorted and looked away, but that was to be accepted—
           “And now we got that bitch Crowell to worry about,” Harras inserted venomously.
           “That’s Adept Crowell to you, brother,” Tuna rejoined before Avie Tal could do the same.
           “That’s Adept Crowell to all of us,” Tal said with the forcefulness of a sheathed blade.  “Don’t matter if you don’t like her, it only matters that it’s the way it played out.  And she’ll be fine in the field.”
           “Better’n Hops?” Braismith asked with mild curiosity.  Both Crowell and Hopschnur were from the Jump Platoon.  The Double Deuce was way too small, especially its infantry contingent, for the peds and jumping jacks to be strangers.  But in the field, infantry platoons were often insulated to a very great degree from their fellows.
           “Damn well hope not,” Engels replied.  “He’s running the whole shebang, isn’t he?”
           “For now,” Jackson tittered.
          Panda reached down and dug his index and thumb into the pressure point just above the junior squad leader’s knee.  The younger man shrieked and doubled over.  But he shut up.
          Tal cleared his throat anew.  “Crowell will be fine.”  He was looking at Harras.  “Everybody plays the game, and the kids will follow, right?”
          Harras and Tal regarded each other for a moment before the junior man pursed his lips and looked away.  “Right.”
           “Hell, Avie,” Panda said, not knowing he was going to speak until the words had already started to tumble out.  “The kids’ll be fine.  I’m more worried about the civs, tell you all the truth.  That was a rough start for them, and I think they probably heard about 006, same as we did.”
           “The jeep, yeah,” Engels said, leaning forward.  “What kind of drek is that?”
           “Word on the street is that someone locked those bastards inside the truck after they rolled over,” Tuna responded, lighting up a cigarette and passing it over to Harras.  “Didn’t think of all the things that happened, though, that bastard Mattis would be the one to roll his damn vehicle, truth be told.”
           “Naw, I heard they had their tires blown out from under them,” Jackson interjected, massaging his knee.  “Ran over a mine or something?”
           “Or something.”  Harras took a drag from his loaned cigarette.  “And welded the bloody doors shut somehow.”  He handed the cig back to Tuna, before adding, “And then there was that bullshit about the wrench in the circuit board locker or whatever the Hell El-Tee Stoyka and Top Heravy were going on and on about.  And Thomas, of course.”
          The group was silent for a moment.  None of them had any particular love or dislike for Adept Thomas, not like they generally held for the late Demi-Precentor Evans.  But he was a Double-Deucer, after all…
           “Shit, yeah,” Tuna breathed.  “How many of us believe that Thomas had a heart attack like the docs said, huh?”
           “No proof to the contrary,” Avie Tal intoned.
           “No bloody proof it’s what happened, neither,” Harras shot back.
           “So what does all this drek mean?” Engels pressed.  “You mean we got some kind of Wobber kill-team on board?  Is that it?”
          There was silence that permeated the close confines of the room faster than the smoke had, and even denser.
          Panda blinked at the portal he had recently closed behind him.  He was still thinking about 006, a smoking wreck at the bottom of a road embankment, its wheels still turning lazily as someone quietly welded the doors shut in an attempt to entomb the three men inside.
          He wondered if he should have left it open after all…
           “It’s way too early to say that,” Avie cautioned.  “And way too damn early to say anything like that to our troopers, and especially the civs.”  He took a deep breath and let it out slowly to bring the temperature of the room down a notch.
           “Point of the matter is, lady’n gentlemen,” Tal ground on, “there is something…amiss, to say the least.  And it’s going to be up to people like us in here to hold it together.”
           “For as long as possible,” someone, any one of them, rejoined.
           “At a minimum,” Tal allowed grimly.
          Someone lit up another cigarette.  The flare of the lighter limned the features of the cabal yellow/orange, waking echoes of the likely future.
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Failure16 on 03 March 2018, 08:35:54
ECV Full House
Outbound from Campoleone
Cargo Deck
041430NOV53

          “Is this a stairway or a ladder?”  Leaf Martin, one of Joh Harras’s Jump-4 troopers, asked generally as he navigated his way through the cargo bay towards the main deck and the galley which was his ultimate destination.
          His partner, Poul Stiles, clucked his tongue absently.  “Well, can there be stairs in a companionway?  Or just ladders?”
   “Ah, so it’s a stairwell after all, then?”  Martin replied
          “Actually, I think it’s a companionway.”  Stiles made way for a sailor going the opposite way on some errand or another.
          “Certainly; it is rather confining, you mean?” Martin clarified.  “Best to be friends, then, eh?”
          “I suppose friends should be close, that is so,” Stiles allowed, taking a straw out of his pocket to chew on. 
          After a moment’s reflection he paused, withdrew a short blade from his boot-top and cut the straw in two to hand a piece over to his comrade.  Martin looked at it quizzically for a second before tossing it over his shoulder. 
          “But about being mean, you said…?”  Stiles continued.
          “Well, I said it, alright, but I didn’t mean it,” Martin replied defensively.
          Stiles raised an eyebrow.  “You didn’t mean to say it?  Or you didn’t say that friends should be mean?”
          “Bit pedantic, aren’t you?”  Martin said disinterestedly.
          “See, there you go again.”  Stiles replied equanimously. 
          “Eh?  Come again?”  Martin rejoined as they turned onto Main Street towards the transfer point between decks.
          “Only if you are headed back this way; all this meandering in circles has made me rather parched, you see.”  Stiles gestured his partner forward when they reached a narrow spot in the corridor
          “Well, I see that this ship is certainly round, so I get the point.”  Martin continued.
          Stiles sniffed.  “Which is ironic, don’t you think?  I mean, it’s not a contest, after all.”
          “It is not even done yet!”  Martin exclaimed, half turning when Stiles came abreast of him once more.
          “What?” Stiles asked genuinely.  “The contest?  Or the point?”
          “There is no point, of that I assure you.  Incontestable, one might say.”  Martin made a show of examining his fingernails.
          “That is certainly a depressing thought,” Stiles allowed as they headed down the ladder towards the Main Deck.  “I can’t say I completely agree on that score, ol’ Twig.”
          “There you go again,” Martin chided.  “You haven’t yet.”
          “That is a bit unfair, wouldn’t you say?”  Stiles responded gently.
          “I would say the odds are definitely against us,” Martin concurred.
          “Won’t be the first time.”  Stiles demurred.  “One imagines it might be so on the last time, though.”
          “Perish the thought.”  Martin clucked his tongue disapprovingly before nodding.
          “Precisely.”  Stiles began to whistle tunelessly even as a fellow Double Deucer—this one from the Four Shop—Logistics, from her collar tabs—burst past them going the other way.
          Stiles and Martin flowed around her like water.  She didn’t speak a word, but her face was set as if she were being chased by demons.  One of the pair sniffed diffidently.
          “Looks like she has somewhere to be, not so?” Martin said in a stage whisper to his companion while they started down the ladder.
          “Oh, certainly,” Stiles replied.  “Just be glad we won’t be there to see it.”
          “Of course not; it looked terribly official,” Martin opined.  “We certainly don’t want anything of that nature around us, eh?”
          “Nature is usually terrible,” Stiles agreed morosely.
          “Make a Blake-damned hole!” the female trooper yelled somewhere behind them.
          Martin had a sudden thought.  He reached into his pocket and pulled out a straw, which he regarded for a moment as they entered onto the Main Deck.  He passed it over to Stiles who took it absently and tossed it over his shoulder after a moment.
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Failure16 on 06 March 2018, 21:54:31
ECV Full House
Outbound from Campoleone
Cargo Deck
041629NOV53


Mattis   


          “Well, this ****** thing is ******,” Acolyte James Parker said idly from atop the commander’s jeep.
          On the deck, Steven Mattis shrugged without looking up.  He steadied himself with one hand while he levered his body forward to hand the head mechanic the wrench they had both spent the last five minutes looking for.  Vaclav Brzezinski accepted the tool with a grunt and switched his head lamp back on.
          “Glad to see that you care so much about my plight,” Parker continued.
          “You good, Zink?” Mattis asked the mechanic buried under the heavy truck.
          “I’m…busy,” Brzezinski replied as a way of saying he didn’t need the driver’s assistance for the moment.  “Don’t go too far, no?”
          “Maybe just step outside for a breath of fresh air is all,” Mattis said quietly as he looked the mechanic in the eye.
          “A joke.  He jokes,” Zink snorted before returning his attention to the frame of the truck they had been working on since liftoff.
          The first day aboard had been effectively a stand-down period.  Given the rat-****** of the departure sequence, the Deuce had needed it, sure enough.  Since then, however, they’d been collectively taking a bite of the shit-sandwich they had all been dealt.  For Mattis and Parker—and poor Zink, of course and perhaps foremost—that meant literally straightening out the torqued frame of 006 following its high-speed rollover crash.
          In a moderately equipped automotive shop, that was a time-consuming but not particularly difficult job.  Aboard an overloaded spaceship with only the barest necessities, it had been very nearly a nightmare made flesh.  They had finally had to resort to a jury-rigged system of anchors, pulleys, and an exo-loader…
          Which had worked, or so they thought.  There was no way to see if it worked or not, not until they got dirtside.  Of course, Mattis knew, the way things were going they’d be hip deep in an op when that opportunity presented itself.
          Piss on it, Mattis thought both at the time when the thought occurred and now that he was remembering it for the umpteenth time.  We’ll make do.
          Mattis stood and stretched, as much a reaction to seeing Zink contorted in such a small space for the last hour as a physical need on his own part.  He reached into a side pocket and pulled out a pair of cigarettes, tossing them up to Parker before mounting the vehicle.  The gunner chuckled and lit them both, handing one to the driver when they settled roughly with their legs hanging over the passenger side door. 
          “I don’t know how we’re gonna get that bloody pintle mount back in operation, Mattie,” Parker groused, thumbing back to his hatch and the mount for the automatic weapon that normally rode there.  “Thing looks like a bloody-damn pretzel.”
          Mattis leaned back on his left hand and took a long, lazy drag from his cigarette.  He exhaled and watched the smoke stream upwards towards the ceiling.  Sighing, he said, “Well, I’m sure that Supply didn’t figure we’d need a spare base-plate for the pintle.”  He sniffed in sudden, dawning amusement.  “Must’ve thought that the pintle and truck itself would have the same lifespan, hey?”
           “Sure they thought that ‘bout the crew, too,” Parker replied, smiling back. “So far, so good.”
          Mattis pursed his lips while he mulled over a reply that wasn’t naturally forthcoming when he spied a haggard group of troopers tromping their way.
          “And who the Hell is this now, huh?” Parker said out of the side of his mouth.
          Mattis squinted, more for personal affect than strict need since the approaching clot of troopers wasn’t that far away.  “Looks like Helhake and Foot-Two, killer.”
          “Delf, eh?” Parker replied.  “Wonder if those snakes got the low-down on the latest?”
          “You mean, more than us?” Mattis asked. 
           “I figure since we got half the staff shops covered between the two of us, we’d know just about everything there is to know,” Parker responded.
          “Shit, killer, the only thing we’re covered in is grease and grit,” Mattis shot back gently.  “Same as them, close enough.”
          The pair atop the damaged gun-truck knew full well that infantry personnel had been seconded to the Maintenance Section to help repair selected items and machinery.  The Wolverine that had taken some damage during the retrograde and embarkation was a critical priority for the Deuce before they made landfall again.  So was 006—for its crew, with assistance as required or necessary.  The squad of legs headed past them looked like they’d been through the ringer alright.
          “Heya, Acolyte Helhake,” Parker said easily as the squad neared.  “How you snakes making out?”
          The short line was being led by Spencaire, the tall, thin brunette with piercing eyes and a still demeanor.  Mattis nodded at her as she came abreast of him.  She returned his gaze levelly for a moment before looking away.  Mattis blinked in sudden awareness and looked towards the squad leader who was ambling forward from his central position through his now stopped troopers.
          “Ready for this day to be over, Jimmy; Mattie,” Helhake grinned; his boyish face looked even younger when his smile cracked the streak of grime along his jowl.  “You two hooligans finish breaking this bitch yet or what?”
          Mattis slid down from his perch and felt the corner of his mouth raise in what he knew was a slight smile to most onlookers.  Two of the peds backed a couple steps to give the driver some room.  Parker followed.
          Mattis thumbed towards the undercarriage of the truck.  “Well, we got Zink under there taking a nap before he lets us take it for a test drive,” he said quietly.  More loudly, he continued, “Everything should be fine, right, Zink?”
          “Yeah, sure, fine,” the mechanics replied.  “Everything A-plus-plus.  Maybe tomorrow, yes?”
          Most of the troopers chuckled at Vaclav’s earnest obliviousness.  But they knew when they needed an automobile fixed, he was the man for the job, no doubt.
          “Maybe next week,” Parker replied jokingly.
          A few meters away, Spencaire stood uneasily, toying with an unlit cigarette in her hand.  Mattis would have offered to light it for her, but there was no way to do so without it becoming supremely awkward, so he ignored it.  The way she stood hipshot made her look uncomfortable without an armored vest and a rifle clipped to a patrol sling.
          Steven Mattis could well sympathize.
          “Hey, you two killers hear this drek about Seko?” Helhake asked after a moment.  “What the blazes is that all about?”
          “Eh…?” Parker temporized, looking over at his partner who merely raised a querying eyebrow.
          Half a dozen troopers had wandered by mentioning the deputy S-4’s panicked flight through half the ship in the last two hours.  Neither Mattis nor Parker had seen it first-hand—and besides, they had other things to worry about than a rear-echelon staffer with a bee in her bonnet.  But it had aroused everyone’s suspicions mainly because it was a change from the encroaching monotony of space travel.
          “Word on the street is that she went below to check out a conex and Bam!, a buncha Proserpina Crop Devils drops into her lap,” Lasskiy, the second-most senior trooper after Spencaire, chuckled.  “Bet that scared the bejeezus outta her!”
          Mattis cleared his throat quietly.  Blazes, that would scare the Hell out of him, too.  He’d run into ProCroDees before.  They probably wouldn’t kill a man—but they wouldn’t say no to it, either, if they got the chance.  He felt a chill run up and down his spine.
          “She’d be right to,” Mattis said finally, aware that he was being too harsh in what was supposed to be a lighthearted moment.  He tried smiling more broadly to take the sting away from his rebuke.  “They say what conex she was into?”
          “Hell, who knows?” Groummond, one of the junior troopers chortled.  “Prob’ly the liquor cabinet, knowing our luck!”
          “They got a liquor container?” Trooper Baumann asked suddenly, drawing spurts of amusement from the rest of the troopers.  Spencaire reached up suddenly and cuffed the rifleman by the ear.  He hunched his shoulders but otherwise accepted it with equanimity.
          “ProDevs, eh?” Parker mused.  “Those big crab-looking bastards, right, Mattie?”
          The driver nodded grimly.
          “Well, why don’t they just give us pistols and set us all loose?” Parker asked semi-seriously.
          “Guess they don’t want to have half the outfit out with bullets in their feet, Jimmy,” Helhake replied; he looked around thoughtfully.  “Or anything else aboard this tub.”
          “There’s that,” Mattis allowed.  “But, the thing is, if any one of those bastards gets out—and it’s gravid, which is at least an odds-on favorite—then we got the whole ship to worry about.  And then it really won’t be a joke, killers.”
          “So we set the whole shebang on fire then?” Spencaire asked suddenly.
          Mattis turned towards her like she was the rising sun after a long night of perimeter watch.  “Not a bad idea, groundside,” he allowed.  “Here, we either space it—and hope there’s nothing important in it—or seal it damn tight and make sure there are no openings that shouldn’t be there.”  He paused and his passionless eyes swept the rest of the group.  “I know which one I’d do.”
          “Well, ain’t you just a bag of sunshine?” Helhake said laughingly.  “Just so long as they aren’t in the smoking trailer!”
          The rest of his squad nodded their approval.
          Parker crossed his arms over his chest.  “I tell you what:  the bastards be in with our smokes, and someone is getting shot!”
          “Too damn right,” someone breathed.  “I’ll start shooting people just because if that’s the case.”
          More nods, but the time had come.  For Mattis and Parker to help Zink finish up, and for Fox-Two to keep moving on.
           “C’mon, snakes,” Helhake said with a tone of gentle command.  “Let’s get us on t’chow so we can hit the showers and the racks before the lines get too long.
          “You two wanna tag along?”
          Mattis looked at Spencaire and looked back to the squad leader.  He reached back and patted his truck.  “Negative; gotta bit longer with the ol’ girl here.  Catch you next time, roger?”
          “Roger roger,” Helhake said, gesturing his troopers forward.
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Daryk on 10 March 2018, 10:53:25
ECV Full House
Outbound from Campoleone
Cargo Bay
04 November, 1515 GMT

The 45 minutes following Acolyte Seko's discovery had seen quite a bit of activity.  The medics hung biohazard and quarantine signs on all the unopened cargo containers, while Adept Devereaux himself oversaw the welding of several pieces of bar stock over the doors and vents of the one with the tobacco.  The medics had hung their signs on every side of that container.  This of course sent the rumor mill into overdrive.

While all that was going on, Adept Hopschnur gave orders to assemble the Adepts (with the exception of Sharpe and the on-watch duty officer) in the ship's wardroom at 1515, and then went to see Adept Mason, the dropship's Captain.  Initiate Paley was the harried messenger that tracked down the unit's officers wherever they happened to be.  Fortunately, he didn't have far to go, given the ship's small size.

The wardroom was small, barely large enough to contain the ship's tiny crew, and only the first half dozen to arrive were able to sit.  As the chronometer on the wall rolled over to 1515, Adepts Hopschnur and Mason entered from the door opposite where the unit's officers had.  Their looks were grave.

Looking around grimly, Hopschnur said, "As you've all probably heard, it seems we have an infestation of Proserpina Crop Devils aboard.  So far, it appears they're only in the tobacco rations, but I've ordered all the unopened food containers to be sealed pending inspection.  Doctor Morrison believes the food rations were given closer scrutiny during on load, but we're not taking any chances.  We're a day out from rendezvous with the Inside Straight, and Adept Mason and I have decided to brief Precentor Hong after we dock to maximize security.  The tentative plan is to now make land fall at Astrokaszy, and can't risk the Word figuring that out ahead of time.  We were originally only going to recharge there, and deliver Mr. Monchenigo to his destination using the shuttle aboard the Inside Straight because the garrison has declared for the Word of Blake.  Land fall will allow us to offload the infested container, conduct a thorough inspection of the others, and obtain new tobacco and food rations if necessary.  S-1, find out what you can about what our legal status on Astrokaszy will be.  S-2, you have 48 hours to put together a briefing for the unit on what we expect to find, but you'll be part of selecting our landing site.  S-3, once the site is selected, you and S-5 will have a further 72 hours to develop a deployment plan to secure the landing zone.  S-4, you'll need to figure out how to off load that container in the least amount of time possible.  Since it's on the bottom of a stack, I know it won't be fast, but please see what you can do.  S-6 and Doc: please see if you can figure out a way to safely inspect the unopened containers, both underway, and once we're on the ground."

Karl let out a tired breath, looked around once more and asked, "Any questions?"
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Tegyrius on 11 March 2018, 13:42:20
Adept Cameron McCann slouched at the back of the wardroom, drawing calm from the steady vibration of the Full House's transit drive.  One foot was drawn up to rest flat against the bulkhead, his elbows tucked in, his hands were spidered around a zero-G drinking bulb, and his face canted slightly downward - his usual pose for avoiding senior officers' attention in meetings.  Or for emulating a stork about to spear an unwary frog.

Cameron took a long drag of StarGo!! sports drink - flavored and colored by a factory computer that might once have received a secondhand description of Concord grapes - and concentrated on his breathing and heart rate, still coming back to normal after burning through the last few sets of his workout.  A trickle of sweat rolled down between his shoulder blades.  He tapped the pause button on his noteputer to pause his music and peeled the bone-conduction speakers from behind his ears as the briefing began.

As Hopschnur handed out taskings, Cameron waggled two fingers in acknowledgement.  Behind his eyes, a checklist started to spool out, things he'd need to dig out of the ships' data banks - or out of crewers who might have touched dirt on Astrokaszy before.  He raised a finger again, crooked an eyebrow, waited for Hopschnur to notice.

"First thing - morale."  Cameron smirked slightly as the tobacco addicts around him twitched or frowned.  "No one's going to starve before we touch down but we can expect the troops to start hoarding immediately.  We need to let them know that their pogey-bait will attract croppies.  And we might want to secure the survival rations from the vehicles, too.  I don't think we want an infestation inside an APC."

He flipped out a second finger.  "Second item.  I haven't checked the load plan yet, but can we shift sealed containers into a lock and open them in hard vacuum or EVA?"
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Daryk on 11 March 2018, 14:13:46
Adept Sam Walden raised a hand to answer.  With Hopschnur's nod, he glanced at Doc Morrison, then turned to Cameron and said, "Inspections of all open cargo containers and vehicles are already underway.  A general health and comfort inspection will also be conducted of the living quarters.  We don't expect to find any Crop Devils, but it's the only way to be sure.  That will have to include the civilian quarters as well.  Doc Morrison and his medical team are all qualified inspectors, as am I and my deputy.  It's going to be a long day."

Chuckling, he continued, "If getting to that container and shoving it out of an airlock was an option, believe me, it would already be done .  It's on the bottom of a stack of four, right next to the Armory.  Even if we could get to it, there's no way to squeeze it past everything else to one of the two airlocks we can still use, and both of those have BattleMechs in them."
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Daryk on 18 March 2018, 10:40:20
Adept Hopschnur let Walden finish, then added, "An officer will accompany the inspectors.  Halle and Doc, I want the two of you to handle the civilian quarters.  Lisse, you have the lead for Gruntville, and can grab as many of the others as you need.  Dennis, you honcho the Main Street stack and the vehicles.  I'll handle the quarters on the Main Deck, and Captain Mason will take care of her crew.  Unless there are any saved rounds, we have work to do.  Let's get to it."
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Failure16 on 31 March 2018, 16:57:22
ECV Full House
Outbound from Campoleone
Cargo Bay
04 November, 1515 GMT

          Adept III-ι Lissea Stoyka, the Foot Platoon leader, continued lounging in her seat for an extra ten seconds longer than she needed to before gathering her booted feet under her and rising slowly to face the rest of the evening.  The commander’s dismissal of the assemblage had opened the floor to a dozen individuals and there were now at least that many conversations going on.  The ward room’s emotional temperature had warmed in the moments since Hops and Captain Mason departed; it was warmer yet with all the hot air being blown out nearly everyone’s flytraps.
          Stoyka glanced over to her right and sniffed in silent amusement.
         “Yeah, Hannah, you’re with me,” she said to the newly-breveted Jump Platoon leader.
          Crowell smiled beatifically and turned to the senior PL.  She had been a non-commissioned officer for years; longer than Lissea herself had been in the ComGuards.  But in all that time, even as she negotiated the ranks towards becoming a senior NCO, officers had been the ones who did Certain Things whilst she did Everything Else.  The change had been subtle, but the effects had been paradigmatic in scope.  Stoyka saw herself reflected in the stocky NCO’s uncompromising bearing.  As the newest junior officer in the Double Deuce—Hell, probably the ComGuards!—Hannah Crowell seemed to be channeling the middle-schooler that had to switch to a new facility halfway through the year.
          Lissea reached over to clap Crowell past her so she could see the officer that had been next to her, and hidden by her bulk regardless.  “Heya, Maurice,” she called out just loud enough to be heard by the intended recipient.  “You roll with me too, right?”
          Adept Druon, the compact, hirsute fellow who led the detachment of combat helos, pursed his lips and shrugged before giving the infantry officer a thumbs-up.  He strode over to her, crabstepping in the narrow footing, though the room was starting to thin out just a bit.  Maurice Druon was most at home whipping his gunship through a forest of ’Mech antennae—or chatting up a pretty girl.  That made him look and feel like peripheral fodder right now.
           She pointedly turned her head until she had Doc Morrison in her direct line of sight, then waited until Morrison’s subconscious registered the gaze.  “Which of your chitlins are we taking, Doc?” she asked, only having to raise her voice a little so he could latch on to the timbre of her words and let his mind fill in the blanks.
          Morrison blinked, clearly distracted, and made a fluttery gesture with his left hand while his right remained on his hip.  “Take, uh, take Carlee, will you?  She’ll be at the infirmary, with the rest of the medics.  And Munter and Aslett, too, though Carlee is senior.”
          Stoyka flashed him a tight-lipped smile in acknowledgment and turned to Crowell and Druon.  Carlee was fine; a combat medic who regularly deployed with the line platoons.  Doc Morrison knew his business alright.  The other pair were relative newbies who normally stuck close to the aid-station.  They would do in a pinch under Carlee’s relative presence and direction. 
           “Okay, we stop by and grab Carlee, Munter, and Aslett on the way to see the kids,” Stoyka said.  “Hannah, I want you to get the non-coms together and marshal the troopers outside their billets.  Maurice, get one of your trustworthy personnel to help square things up from the opposite end of where we start.  I’ll get Top Heravy setting things up from the start-point which is Stack One. 
          “On order, Maurice will take a medic and form a second inspection team.  If I deem that necessary, you’ll start from your end of the line and we’ll work towards the center.  Hannah, you’ll maintain crowd control because I know no one will screw with you, right?”
          Crowell and Druon nodded.  Stoyka wondered if her newly-promoted fellow platoon leader realized that she was being used as a public enforcer precisely because Stoyka didn’t want her in the rooms, raising hell about petty-ante bullshit.  And Druon would be a calming presence to the individual troopers because of his laid-back persona.  This situation, like life, was simply an exercise in connecting the right dots.
          “Good?”
          Crowell consciously moved her hands from the small of her back where she had been standing at a relaxed parade-rest.  She fiddled with them for the briefest of moments before hooking her thumbs into the pockets of her fatigue trousers to keep them occupied.  She was learning, but it would take some time to reformat the senior NCO into a junior officer.
          “Is this a pay-day inspection, or a contraband inspection, ma’am?”
          Stoyka snorted good-naturedly.  “The former; while we are looking for contraband in an absolute sense, we only care about croppies.”
          Druon shifted uneasily.  “And if we find, you know, other stuff…?”
          Stoyka reached over and clapped the flyer on his shoulder.  “Make a decision.  But I’m not in a mood to hear about pointless minutia this early into the voyage, right?”
          Crowell nodded, stone-faced.  She was probably wondering about how the next hour or three would go in her first publically official act as a platoon leader.  Druon smiled faintly and nodded to her.  Stoyka noticed one of the junior MechWarriors, Adept Jenks, standing unattached by the hatchway.
          “Holly,” she said, “You got an assignment?”
          She was relatively new to the Double Deuce, but bright and attentive.  Stoyka hadn’t worked much with her on an interpersonal in the past, but now was as good a time as any to start.
          “Fall in with us, will you?”  Lissea turned to her growing entourage and chuckled to herself; any longer in this damn room and she’d have half the officer corps with her.  “Well, come on, then.  Let’s get this insanity started, shall we?”
*          *          *
         “Sure thing, Top,” Delf Helhake was saying to Acolyte Heravy as he turned around towards the stacked billets.  “But crazy is as crazy does…”
         More quietly, to Tia Spencaire beside him, he continued, “And this is some bughouse bleeding crazy shit if I don’t say so myself.”
         “Which you do,” she murmured out of the side of her mouth as they threaded their way back to Fox-Two’s shipping container.  He fingers toyed with an unlit cigarette for a moment before she put it behind her ear to keep it out of the way.
         The Foot Platoon’s Second Squad was in the Second Tower, so they didn’t have far to walk from where Top Heravy had briefed the squad leaders and their senior troopers.  Unfortunately, it was three levels up, a good ten-plus meters or so.  Tia Spencaire was the type of person that got the job done, no matter the odds, no matter the cost.  But that didn’t mean she particularly enjoyed spending much of her day and most of her night waiting for her sleeping accommodations to come crashing down, crushing her in the process.
         But nobody had asked her, so there it was.
         “Which I do,” the squad leader finally agreed, stopping Spencaire at the ladder before she had placed her booted foot on the bottom step.  “Heya, slow down, eh?”
         She raised an eyebrow while reaching up to take hold of the cigarette and twirl it in her fingers.  “Yeah?”
         “The rest of the kids got anything hidden I need to know about?” Helhake asked pointedly but quietly; they didn’t have much time before the inspectors showed up.  “Or maybe that I don’t, hey?”
         Spencaire shrugged.  “Look, I love those idiots to death and all,” she started, “but the rest of the squad is a bunch of dorks.  I don’t think they’re hiding anything more serious than Mouser’s stash of pogey bait, do you?”
         Helhake started to smile, but the expression came out stillborn before solidifying into a grimace.  “Shitfire,” he breathed.  “Triple-damned Mouser…”
         Spencaire looked momentarily stricken.  “No damn way, Lucky,” she said.  “No damn way they’re looking for that drek.”
         “Hey, you heard Top same as I did,” the squad leader rejoined.  “Question is, what do we do about it now, eh?”
         “Look, Lucky, you don’t even understand,” she said with quiet and only barely restrained urgency.  “They start taking away shit like Mouser’s pogey-bait and we are going to have a real problem on our hands.”  The cigarette had stilled in her fingers.  “I am gonna have a Real Problem.”
         Delf snorted, but caught himself up short when he saw his senior trooper was serious.  “Look, Tia, it can’t be that ba—”
         “You are damned well right it can be ‘that bad’,” she shot back.  “You don’t have to put up with those guys twenty-four-seven.  Not like I do.”
         Helhake looked at her and looked away, then up the ladder towards home.  “Shitfire,” he said.  “Shitfire.”
         Spencaire shook her head and leaned up against the bulkhead to steady her thoughts.  She reached into a pocket, then another and another before she realized that wherever her minitorch was, it wasn’t on her person.  Motherf—
         “How’s it hanging, killers?” someone asked as they passed the two troopers idling at the base of the ladder.  “You ready for some real fun?”
         Spencaire spared a glance away from her personal misery and saw the crew of 006 striding by on some bullshit errand or another.  Her eyes lingered on the driver, Mattis, but only for a second.
         “Jimmy; Mattie,” Helhake said easily, reaching out to shake the hands of the pair as they continued to edge past, but at a considerably slower rate than they had been before.  “We in for it, or what?”
         Both enlisted men smiled, but Parker chuckled softly.  “El-Tee Stoyka will be here any minute, I’d gather, with Crowell looks like.  Sounds like a party to me.”
         The squad leader grinned back toothily.  “Never a dull moment, eh?”
         Mattis reached into his pocket and brought out a cigarette and his lighter.  He sparked it up but took a step towards Spencaire before he lit his own.  Off to the side, Jimmy Parker’s grin took on a different aspect, the way sunrise can warm a glade even before the temperature can change in full truth.
         “No rest for the wicked, killer,” Mattis replied, but he was looking at Spencaire who blinked back at him before they both looked away. 
         “And the righteous don’t need it, right?” Parker continued.  “Well, kids, we’d best be off.  They’re probably ransacking our quarters even now so we can play gopher for one of the officers.  What none of us needs is Asadi or McCann to be pissed at us because we’re off jerking around, huh?”
         “Sure thing,” Helhake said easily as they took their leave.  “If you two bastards find yourselves back in these parts, don’t be ****** about it, yeah?”
         “Roger wilco,” Parker said over his shoulder, pausing a half-step so Mattis could turn on his heel without his delayed departure being overly noticeable.
         Helhake watched them go, Mattis in particular silhouetted against Spencaire’s profile.  She raised the cigarette to her lips and inhaled slowly, luxuriantly.  The tip glinted off her blue eyes while she turned slightly to watch the vehicle crew stride purposefully towards the staff area.
         “Join me when you’re finished, eh, Tia?” he said, turning to mount the ladder in a hurry.  “I got a bad feeling about this.”
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Snimm on 02 April 2018, 19:22:40
oops wrong thread
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Snimm on 02 April 2018, 19:24:20
     Adept-I Eric Simmons sighed heavily as he plopped his wide but thin frame onto his bunk and ran his weather-roughened fingers through his light brown hair.  He rolled up the sleeves on his green camo shirt – he had little use for anything with any other color scheme - and pulled out his Swiss army knife from the pocket of his pants, preparing to give his go-bag the once-over yet again.  Years in the Explorer Corps had impressed upon him an urgent sense of the need to be prepared as often as possible and the well-worn backpack had plenty of pockets to hide things, not the least of which was his stashes of tobacco.  Whereas most of the unit preferred cigarettes, Simmons had forced himself to get used to leaf and chew, because smoking was a great way to get dead when scouting solo in enemy territory.  He also rationed himself strictly, often flirting with withdrawal sickness.  By the time the DropShip had lifted off Campoleone, he had managed to save up much of his rations hidden in several compacted packets hidden amongst his person, his bag, and the Mongoose at any given time.  It made for great trading material in a pinch, although he was not inclined to engage in such trading while in space; never knew how long you could be spacing, and Simmons didn’t want to have to start relying on the rations, especially in the wake of the crop devil infestation and resulting decreased supply.  The little bushwhackers had climbed into his luggage before, and he had learned to carry it with him more often and check all the hidden stashes for signs of damage that indicated a crab might have found one.  There were two sets of visible stitches on the bag, and a couple sets less so, to evidence his struggles against the forces of nature.

     As his fingers worked over the bag, knife at the ready for a surprise crab attack, his mind ran over the events of the past week, a moment of sadness crossing his heart as memories of serving in the Explorer Corps under Evans rose unbidden to the fore of his consciousness.  The man had been an able commander, teaching him the ropes of scouting work and later in their careers having the wisdom to leave Simmons to his own devices once he was given a mission to fulfill.  Simmons was approachable enough, but he prided himself on being resourceful in the field and disliked being given too many specific instructions on how to accomplish his goals.  He was passing familiar with the footsloggers, understanding their value better than most Mechwarriors due to his covert work in small scouting cabals, but nobody would accuse him of being overly familiar with any one of them.

     He knew he was supposed to leave the go-bag for the general inspection, but Eric Simmons didn’t let anyone but Eric Simmons touch his backpack if he could help it.  Verifying the bag was empty of life forms and that he also had his field binoculars, his Mydron auto-pistol and ammo clips, and multi-purpose tool, he finished his lookie-loo and stood up, pocketed the knife, and slipped his arms once again through the straps of his backpack.  He always traveled this way, as lightly as possible and as close to his person as possible, until his feet were on Terra Firma again – or in this case, Astrokaszy Firma.  He figured he’d better go make sure one of the techs or other MechWarriors hadn’t found one of his hidey-holes in the Mech, or that one of those fragging devils found their way up to the cockpit.  Nothing was sacred to those little terrors, it seemed…
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Daryk on 03 April 2018, 18:21:09
As Eric shouldered his pack and opened the door to the tiny stateroom he shared with John Preston, he found himself looking at Adept Hopschnur across the narrow passageway.

"Eric!  Nice of you to make things easy on Sam... he's just finishing up Jim's quarters, and will be with you in a moment," the older Adept said with a pointed glance at the younger man's pack.

It struck Eric that Twilley's stateroom was the other side of Croft and Sharpe's from his own.  Sharpe, of course, was confined to quarters, so it made sense to do it last among the three.

OOC: The billeting is laid out in the spreadsheet, and on the deck plan, though you may have to zoom in to make the text legible...
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Tegyrius on 03 April 2018, 19:45:02
Cameron McCann considered the hatch to Halle Asadi's improvised quarters, chuckled at the cautionary note in neatly-penned Arabic, and banged gently on the steel with his left elbow.  The hatch emitted a muffled growl and three footsteps before cracking to reveal the JAG officer's right eye.

"Would you really do that?" Cameron asked, tilting his jaw to indicate the warning.

"Swear to Blake, next person who interrupts," Asadi's tone smoothly shifted as she inhaled, "oh blessed art thou, bearer of the elixir of life, enter and be welcome in my home."  She muscled the hatch open and gestured Cameron in.  The S-2 grinned and obeyed, handing Asadi the spill-resistant mug in his left hand.  A thin contrail followed the movement.

Asadi sipped tentatively and her eyebrows spiked up before she closed her eyes in bliss.  "This is the good stuff."  Her eyes popped open and she regarded Cameron warily.  "This is the good stuff," she repeated with a different inflection.  "This is bribery."  She inspected the ship's crest on the mug.  "Also, this.  This is stolen."

"Yep," Cameron confirmed cheerfully as he moved a noteputer out of the way and folded himself, uninvited, into Asadi's spare chair.  "I think the statute of limitations has expired, though."

Asadi hmphed noncommittally and sank into her own chair behind her desk.  "Don't try to change the subject."

"You're the one who accused me of theft."

"Accused?  You?  I just observed this thing's provenance."  Asadi hefted the mug and sipped again.  "Sounds like you have a guilty conscience."

"You'd be amazed at what I can rationalize away."

"Not really."

Cameron chuckled.  "No, I don't suppose you would."

A companionable silence fell for a moment as the two contemplated their respective mugs.

"So, not that I'm ungrateful..."

"... but we both have homework."  Cameron extracted a data chip from his sleeve pocket.  "Want to compare notes?"

"Hm."  Asadi placed the mug on her work surface and slotted the chip.  "Well, since Terra seems to have failed to assign us a civil affairs officer, I guess that's on us.  Again."

"For certain definitions of 'civil.'"  Cameron paused for effect.  "And certain definitions of--"

"Do not go there."
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Snimm on 03 April 2018, 20:17:15
OOC:  I guess I have absolutely no idea where I am, actually. :P  Which ship plan should I be looking at?  I'm on the Command Deck of the Manatee?
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Daryk on 03 April 2018, 20:20:30
OOC: Yes, the Command Deck... and you discovered why Hopschnur said HE would supervise the inspections there... :)
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Snimm on 05 April 2018, 11:47:09
Grimacing inwardly, Simmons gave Adept Hopschnur a "Yes, sir, can't hardly wait" with poorly disguised sarcasm, and leans up against the bulkhead of his stateroom door. 

Guess someone else was going to touch his backpack this time; it couldn't always be avoided.  The last thing he wanted was the others suspicious of his comings and goings when on reconnaissance; he might not be the friendliest soldier in the unit, but the he didn't want his loyalty to the unit questioned.  He'd put in too many years of blood, sweat, and long field hours.
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Daryk on 05 April 2018, 17:52:33
Sam Walden was quick but thorough with Eric's bag.  With Eric holding it open and rifling through it, he didn't even have to touch it himself.  He was similarly quick with Eric's room, and gave his fellow officers a thumbs up when he was done.  Nodding in response, Hopschnur said, "You may want to give Dennis a hand with White Knuckles, Eric.  I can only imagine what you've got squirreled away in that thing.  Now it you'll excuse us, we have to inspect the last room up here..."

Hopschnur wore a sour look as he faced Sharpe and Croft's quarters.
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Snimm on 06 April 2018, 08:43:15
Simmons gave Hops a small smirk behind his back.  "Yes, sir.  I like how you think."

With that, he gave a sloppy, quick salute - Simmons was always less than formal about military formalities - shouldered his bag and made a moderately hasty getaway down the stairwell to the Mech bay level.  He wasn't afraid of authority or anything; he just wanted to find a moment of space and peace in the cockpit of the Mongoose.  Maybe even liberate one of his stashes into his mouth before someone else did.  All this search made for a jumpy tobacco addict...
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Failure16 on 11 April 2018, 21:51:09
ECV Full House
Outbound from Campoleone
Cargo Bay
04 November, 1600 GMT

          “Well, it won’t be bad just so long as you got nothing to hide, right?” Acolyte XIV-ι Wilhem Heravy drawled to Acolyte V-ι Joh Harras, the squad leader for J-4.
          Joh grinned expansively in reply, but that only meant he had taken the time to hide whatever it was he wasn’t supposed to have more carefully than usual.  “Hey, Top,” he said with his hands spread before him.  “You know I’m always clean as a whistle!”
          The senior non-com frowned slightly.  That meant the poor bastard next to Harras just got set up unknowingly as a fall-guy.  But while Joh Harras was a bastard alright, he was a right one.  He wouldn’t blue falcon one of his fellow squad leaders, or their troopers by association.
          “Best be getting back to your billet,” Heravy warned at last.  “Inspection team’ll be here any minute…”
          “Roger, roger,” Harras replied.
          But before he could move towards the ladder that served the tower of shipping-containers-turned-living spaces, a different voice boomed out, “And just what, pray tell, are you doing down here instead of standing outside your hole, Acolyte Harras?”
          Harras and Heravy winced in unison, but because of the angle of the speaker to the recipients, the former couldn’t see the gesture.  Heravy could sense the younger man’s spine stiffen, but there were no outward signs of reaction to the barbed interrogative.
          Instead, the squad leader snapped to parade rest—not attention.  “Ah, yes, Adept Crowell?  I was talking with Top here, but we’d just finished up.”
          The newly promoted infantry platoon leader came to a halt a meter from the squad leader, facing him squarely; a caged bear fronting a rangy mountain lion.  “I see that,” she said quietly, turning on her heel to face the billets and blank Joh Harras’s existence out of her immediate universe.  “Top, when you’re done with Acolyte Harras, please have him stand by his billet at the head of his squad.”
          Heravy gave Harras a minuscule gesture with his blue-skinned chin as a form of gentle dismissal and stepped forward to come nearly on-line with the new PL.  Harras winked above lips pursed into a thin line and stepped out of the way, nearly brushing Adept Crowell.  His hands might have fanned out as he rotated away from her on his way to the ladder leading Level Three, Tower Three.
          That out of the way, Crowell stepped back, just missing the departing squad leader, and used her parade ground voice to address the gathered soldiery around and above her.  Most of the enlisted personnel were on the catwalks outside their billets and thus were peering down at her from two, three, or four levels above the deck where she stood arms akimbo.
          “Okay, troopers, I am sure that you have been briefed by your squad leaders.  Let me reiterate that this inspection is to look for an infestation of the pests known as Proserpina Crop Devils.  It is for your own health and safety, so everyone stand easy and let the inspection teams do what they are here to do.  Then you can get on with your regularly scheduled entertainment.  Carry on!”
          Harras raced up the ladder and had turned about face when Heravy’s confident, gravelly voice boomed out, “Group, Atten-SHUN!” as Adept Stoyka and the rest of her inspection team filed into the area.
          He might have been smiling.
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Failure16 on 11 April 2018, 21:52:31
ECV Full House
Outbound from Campoleone
Cargo Bay
04 November, 1610 GMT

          “Are there really bugs in here, Mamá?” Aurelio Gutierrez asked loudly in a way only a four year-old could or would.
          “Sh-sh-sh, mijo,” the boy’s mother, Lula, said in an effort to stem the endless questions that couldn’t be ignored by the small mass of civilians milling around them.
          Marienda Krantzel felt the corners of her mouth twinge upwards because for once it wasn’t her own little girl that was drawing attention to herself.  Little Aimee was sitting on the blanket that the two women had spread out on the deckplates and playing with two of her dolls and the purple dragon who, at the moment, was a bad witch.
          “Well, there had better not be,” huffed a portly, slightly older, gentleman by the name of Gregoire.  “Or else I’ll demand a refund.”
          “Oh, shush yourself, Maximiliano,” his wife Yetta tut-tutted placing her own pudgy hand atop his tweed-covered forearm.  From her tone she was sure of her husband’s winking jocularity without needing to look up from the dog-eared paperback she habitually carried.  “You’ll get everyone all worked up.”
          “But the army lady said they were looking for them!” Aurelio protested.  “She saidso!”
          “Mijo…” Lula said with a thin veneer of restraint.
          Marienda leaned forward into the boy’s sight-line, her hands contorted into claws or pincers.  “And if they find them, Little Leo,” she said, thrusting towards him until he squealed excitedly.  “Then what?”
          The boy ran off laughing, into a circle that encompassed the seating area that the majority of the civilians had occupied in the common area around their living quarters.  In those living quarters were the inspection teams, led by the Personnel Officer, a tiny, thin-featured and dark-skinned woman.  Her husband Jase was in there too—they had asked for volunteers to accompany the inspection teams and of course his hand had shot up first.
          It was just as well, she recognized.  Lord knew they needed a break from each other after being cooped up in their tiny stateroom for days…
          “Thanks,” Lula murmured out of the corner of her mouth.  “I love him to death but sometimes…”
          Marienda nodded at the younger woman, so much younger, that had become her friend over the intervening hours and days since the ship had blasted skywards, spacewards.  “I know the feeling,” she murmured back, tapping her daughter’s rump with the toe of her shoe.
          Aimee giggled, then said, “Stop it, Mommy!”  Her dolls had formed a conga-line behind the dragon—no longer a bad witch, but apparently now a fairy godmother.
          Marienda smiled back.
          Lula clucked her tongue.  “Oh, spare me,” she responded dryly.  “Your little girl is so good—”
          “Oh, she just has you and everyone else fooled,” Marienda replied.  “Spend twenty-four hours with her and you won’t be her biggest fan.”
          “Deal,” Lula rejoined, leaning back to stretch and luxuriate for even two minutes without adolescent interference.
          Aimee’s thin little shoulders had hunched over as she maneuvered her dolls.  Something moved in front of her where it shouldn’t have—
           Marienda had one of her slip-ons in her hands and brought it down like lightning in front of Aimee.  The movement alone startled everyone in the immediate vicinity, but it scared the daylights out of the little girl.  Seeing that her mother’s shoe had just crushed what she was playing with elicited the first burbling cries, however.
          “Oh, good Lord,” Max Gregoire said, leaning over heavily to peer over his glasses at the deck.  “Is that a, you know…?”
          “Heavens me,” Yetta said breathlessly, her fingers by rote trying to find the page she had lost in the sudden commotion.
          Marienda was afraid to look, afraid to contemplate was what crawling towards her daughter.  She leaned down and scooped he little girl up to silence the bawling which by now had drawn everyone’s vague disinterested attention whether they had seen the catalyst or not.
          Lula laid a thin hand across Marienda’s, crossed in front of her daughter as they were, and reached down to the floor.  She came back up with what might once have been some sort of caterpillar or beetle, before it had been completely and irrevocably smashed flat.
          “Yech,” she said good-humoredly.  “Arturo bought some of these for Aurelio before we left.”
          Aimee was still blubbering as the residuals of fear worked their way through her system.  Marienda held her close and mumbled an apology as she tried to make sense of what Lula was saying from beside her.  Around them, the rest of the civilians had gone back to doing whatever it was they were doing before something promised a blissful interlude from their developing boredom.
          “They are little, I don’t know, bugs of some kind,” Lula said, working through her thoughts in the Standard English that was not her birth-tongue.  “But fake, you see?  Toys, only.  They build up a charge from, ah, movement, yes?  Like when Aimee moved the, ah, blanket, yes?”
          Lula handed her friend the squashed toy.  Marienda was no engineer, but she supposed the little toy used—used to use!—some element of piezoelectricity to engender a peristaltic response.  It certainly looked real enough…
          Marienda must have looked sufficiently stricken that Lula reached out surreptitiously and squeezed her hands clasped underneath her quiescent daughter.  Her little boy skidded up to her.  She released her friend to keep him from tumbling headlong into all of them when his feet caught the blanket along the floor.
          “I, I’m so sorry,” Marienda stumbled.  “I didn’t mean to break one of your son’s toys…?”
          Lula waved her concern away.  “No worries, Mari,” she chuckled, then winked conspiratorially.  “I hated those things anyways.”  She turned with practiced focus to Aurelio.  “Now, mijo, where are the rest of these bugs your father gave to you?”
          “Oh, man!” he exclaimed when he saw what had transpired.  Lula snapped her fingers once to regain his attention and center him.  “I, ah, I…I gave Aimee a couple and, I…”
          Lula tilted her head down to look her son in the eyes.  “Did you leave them somewhere, Leo?” she asked sternly.  “Because if you did, they are gone forever, you know.  We can’t get any more.”
          Now it was the four-year-old’s turn to look stricken; Aimee shifted in her mother’s arms, but she had quieted down at least.  “Oh, man!” he repeated.  “Oh, man!  I was playing with them, but I, but I must have left them.”  Tears were beginning to form in the corner of his eyes.  “I didn’t mean to lose them, Mamá!”
          Lula clucked her son reassuringly, hugging him before releasing him.  “Well, I am quite sure someone will find them,” she said generally.  “On a ship this small, where could they go?”
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Daryk on 15 April 2018, 07:15:18
ECV Full House
Outbound from Campoleone
04-06 November

Aside from mild excitement upon the discovery of a number of insectoid toys among the civilian children, the inspections went smoothly.  No further Crop Devils were found, and the inspectors and techs spent the following day devising a way to inspect the sealed food containers.  That effort consumed the entirety of the 5th of November, but ensured Captain Mason and Adept Hopschnur had as much good news as possible to tell Captain Hong when the ship docked with the fully charged Inside Straight on the 6th.

Unsurprisingly, Captain Hong refused to open the air lock until the infested container was offloaded.  She did, however, concur with the plan to make landfall on Astrokaszy.  The calculations for an appropriate jump point in the Astrokaszy system added several hours to the time spent in zero-g, with all the attendant issues.  More than one parent among the civilians learned the hard way about zero-g bathroom use.

Once the complex calculations were complete, the warning klaxons sounded throughout both ships at the usual intervals of 10 minutes, 5 minutes, 1 minute, 30 seconds, and 10 seconds.  Despite the several briefings provided by the ship's crew, there was still wailing from the civilian quarters, both before and after the docked ships vanished from the Campoleone system.
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Daryk on 15 April 2018, 07:28:05
ECV Full House
Inbound to Astrokaszy
06 November, 1348 GMT

The jump went smoothly, or as smoothly as they ever do.  The usual percentage of personnel experienced nausea, headaches and all the rest.  Oddly, the infants among the civilians seemed to take it the best.

Seconds after arrival, Hong's expert crew declared the immediate space clear of hostiles, and preparations were made to undock.  The maneuvering alarm sounded, and the Full House was shortly underway again, much to everyone's relief after nearly five hours in zero-g.
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Tegyrius on 15 April 2018, 10:13:24
ECV Full House
Inbound to Astrokaszy
08 November, 0901 GMT

The Manatee's galley wasn't the best briefing room Cameron McCann had to work with, but it wasn't the worst, either.  It was also a larger audience than usual, but it would have been impractical (and probably bad for morale) to clear the ship's largest common space for just the officers.  After six days under boost from Campoleone and another two inbound after the jump, the air recyclers were struggling to keep up with the funk of shipboard minimalist hygiene.

The S-2 took a sip from the microgravity beverage bulb (constant 1G thrust be damned, his parents taught him not to contribute to the mess from unexpected drive cut-outs) in his left hand.  Only foreknowledge of the alleged coffee's foulness kept him from flinching.  At least it was strong, which meant the caffeine content was higher than the percentage of machine shop contaminants.  With his right hand, he cued the holoprojector placed on the centermost table.  A planetary system map flickered to life.  Revolving playing cards marked the positions of ECV Full House and ECV Inside Straight and a red arc picked out the DropShip's trajectory.

"Good morning, troopers," he said, pitching his voice to carry.  The assembled adepts and senior acolytes within the projector's sphere of light-scatter turned toward him expectantly.  In the shadows beyond, most of the troops also hushed.  "Welcome to your pre-planetfall briefing.  Depending on what SIGINT we develop between now and landing, there may be an update forthcoming.  All of this intel will be available in electrons.

"We're inbound to Astrokaszy III.  Current ETA is just under three days, and our ride will be recharged before we make planetfall."  Countdown clocks appeared next to both ships' icons.

"Bottom line up front: there’s an HPG compound on-planet, though it's only been there about fifty years.  It's a Class Bravo relay on a ten-day transmission period, located here, in the nominal capital of Shervanis City."  The countdown clocks minimized to the top of the display as the system diagram zoomed down the DropShip's projected course to center on a gray-orange planet with a single pockmarked moon.  A gold pentagonal reticle pulsed around the indicated city.  "However, we will not be landing there because Precentor Astrokaszy, Marika Lomidze, has declared for the Word of Blake."  A red Blakist broadsword joined the reticle, its point stabbing through the icon's center.

"As of last month's force update, the planetary garrison was the III-Omicron 'Saber and Sirocco.'  'Sirocco,' for you grunts, is your vocabulary word of the day.  It's a southeasterly windstorm from the Terran Sahara desert.  The nickname is appropriate because this unit is optimized for the planet's dominant environment.  More on that in a few minutes."

A TO&E sidebar unscrolled beside the planet's image.  "The garrison is so big because the local threat environment is so active.  The Saber's forces of record begin with two 'Mech Level IIs.  Command elements are fast heavies, the rest are mediums or high-end lights."

Saber and Sirocco III-O

Damascenes II-α
Ostroc OST-2Cb
Sentinel STN-3L
Crab CRB-27
Kyudo KY2-D-02
Dervish DV-6M
Thorn THE-N

Heat Lightning II-α
Lancelot LNC25-05
Phoenix Hawk PXH-2
Night Hawk NTK-2S
Mongoose MON-66
Talon TLN-5W
Talon TLN-5W


"Those are backed up by three Level IIs, each split between vehicles and infantry.  Two of those are motorized with recon tank support."  The TO&E began to expand with wireframe icons of 'Mechs and low-slung eight-wheeled armored vehicles.  "On paper, the third is assault boxes with dismounts," another set of slab-sided vehicles materialized, "but the leg guys have bought local horses and have been training as dragoons in the classical sense." 

Fennecs II-ψ
Chevalier
Chevalier
Chevalier-BAP
Motorized Level I
Motorized Level I
Motorized Level I

Dune Rippers II-ψ
Chevalier-Speed
Chevalier-Speed
Chevalier-BAP
Motorized Level I
Motorized Level I
Motorized Level I

Blake's Bulwark II-ψ
Turhan
Turhan
Turhan
Foot* Level I
Foot* Level I
Foot* Level I

"The last element is an air cav recon unit that was recently transferred in.  On paper, they're the garrison's QRF for anything less than 'Mech-scale.  In reality, their mission readiness sucks due to poor airframe maintenance.  However, if they can get their birds working, they are the force most likely to show up to check us out.  I suspect they're running their Ferrets as slicks to have enough lift for all their troops but I don't have confirmation on that."

Speed of Heat II-π
Karnov UR Transport
Ferret Light Scout VTOL
Ferret Light Scout VTOL
Ferret Light Scout VTOL
Jump Level I
Jump Level I


"From reports, it looks like the usual ground patrol is an ad-hoc Level I with two recon 'Mechs, two vehicles, and two infantry platoons in jeeps or on foot at fixed points."  He paused and smiled grimly.  "Of course, we don't know what reinforcements may have arrived.  Consider all of this a baseline.

"Additionally, there are irregular planetary forces.  The ruling class here is descended from a mercenary unit that led re-settlement in the 2890s.  They had a planetary government until the Marians wrecked it in 3035, but since then it's been a low-grade warring states situation.  Typical strength for any given faction is up to a company of 'Mechs, a good number of light and medium tanks, and anywhere up to a battalion of militia infantry.  Most of the heavy equipment is in the hands of nomadic family groups that claim control over the population centers but don't actually like to live in them until they're too old to travel with the herds." 

Over the planetary image, a vid window opened, showing robed figures on horseback riding over dunes alongside a vast herd of shaggy, six-legged beasts with branching antlers.  In the background, a Locust and Javelin strode along, leading a convoy of vehicles with immense low-pressure tires on articulated axles.  "In terms of deployment, the heavier 'Mechs tend to be guard forces for the population centers while the lighter ones are outriders for the nomad groups.  A lot of the hardware is ex-Marian thanks to that poorly-planned adventure in '35 and the consequent Marik intervention."

"What all this means on a tactical level is that the locals are really, really good skirmishers with superior reconnaissance and maneuver skills but lousy command and control."  The vid window shifted to a small-scale battle on the outskirts of a domed town.  The tactical overlay identified it as footage from a Dune Rippers reconnaissance team, shot a year ago.  "What little shock capability they have comes from their 'Mechs, but they use those to hold attention while the infantry moves to flank rather than relying on them to carry the battle.  They don't like to risk their infrastructure in urban fighting, so the local convention is that a town surrenders if its wall is breached.  This means that they're collectively not great with CQB tactics against peer opponents.  They are, however, pretty good at putting down slave revolts, for which they prefer cold steel.  On an individual basis, bladework is pretty much the second local religion for the warrior class - swords for women and men, and knives as fashion statements, even for kids.

"The infrastructure is mainly subsistence level.  The tech profile is a double-Foxtrot - no planetary mega-industry to speak of.  Power generation is wind and solar, water comes from deep wells.  There's a little bit of resource extraction and refining for minerals and fossil fuels.  Minimal electronics or high-energy manufacturing, and most of the city-level industries are military.  Note that this makes our gear rare and precious to the locals.  You know what that means out here.  Outside of the usual folk art, the only exports are gems, a small amount of food to neighboring worlds, and hard-assed nomads willing to sign on as mercenaries if it gets them off-world.

"Being an inhabited world with a small agricultural surplus and no central government means Astrokaszy is also a haven for traders who have trouble coloring within the lines of legal behavior.  It's a transshipment point for arms heading to all the Periphery states on this side of the Sphere, and the tribal rulers are always looking for new ordnance and luxury goods to one-up the neighbors.  That also means the mercenary market is fairly strong... for the region.  The only permanent market is in the capital, where we aren't going, but there are floating bazaars that spring up every time a DropShip makes planetfall elsewhere.  We can expect to need a heavy and obvious security presence around the DropShip when we land.

"By the way - possibly because the planet has some excellent desert if you like desert, or possibly because it's in the middle of nowhere, there is unconfirmed RUMINT that one or more of the Great Houses is using the planet for advanced weapon systems testing.  Occasionally, interesting scraps have shown up in the capital bazaar that have been too advanced to be locally-produced and too new to be Star League relics.  The Com Guard garrison has been pretty diligent about grabbing those to keep them out of," his voice grew sardonic, "the wrong hands.  If there was any follow-on analysis, I couldn't find that compartment."

He ran a hand through hair that was encroaching on non-regulation length.  "There is one other local economic cornerstone that I only mention for the sake of completeness.  That is treasure hunting."  The vid window cleared and the planetary image revolved as a speckling of blue Cameron Stars twinkled across the main land mass.  "Astrokaszy was first colonized during the 2600s but was abandoned after the Exodus because of a plague outbreak.  Natural, not a bioweapon.  There are ruins of League-era settlements and facilities across the planet.  A lot of these are the foundations for the current communities.  They've been stripped to the bare architecture, but people keep coming here because there's a legend of a lost germanium depository guarded by a battalion of Royal Marauders and the immortal Crown Princess of Brunei."  He smirked and shrugged. 

"Allegedly, the Star League established a network of precious metals vaults on-world during the Reunification War in case it needed to infuse the Marik Periphery with ready cash.  I guess the Diplomatic Corps didn't tell the SLDF because the legend says they failed to clean out the vaults before the Exodus.  Now, I said 'allegedly' because the Explorer Corps checked the place out before the HPG went in, and w-- they did a resurvey in '44.  Nothing turned up that was worth the trip's fuel costs, but that hasn't stopped the prospectors.  The locals don't discourage them because they're happy to take trade goods for supplies.  Or just to take your gear off your body.

"That brings me to the human terrain.  Guys in the back, keep your eyes open.  This is how you play nice with the local recreation providers.

"The unit that resettled this place was ethnically Mosiran Muslim and they still dominate the culture.  Most of them speak standard English but they use Arabic and Italian at home.  They are a low-trust society outside the family and tribal group, and 'tribal' identity descends from the mercenary regiment's company identities, so it is very much a martial society.  They're generally nomadic until they have grandchildren, at which point they hand off the roving lifestyle to the younger generations and settle down in whatever town the band controls.  This means every town tends to be run by the tribal elders, who also sit at the top of the economic pyramid... so their compounds can be pretty swank, if not straight-up decadent.  The rest of the town populations are farmers or the tradesfolk who support them.  Direct descendants of the mercs wear red sashes or red sickle lapel pins.

"Big local taboos: because everyone wears eye protection outdoors, naked eye contact is reserved for social intimacy, so look at the other guy's mouth when you're talking to him, no matter how nasty his dental work is.  Alcohol made from anything that grows from a vine or tree is taboo, but fermented grain is acceptable.  Don't go off alone with a member of the warrior class who doesn't have children yet... unless you intend to marry them and stay on-planet, in which case see Adept Asadi for legal counseling after this briefing."  He grinned at the rude gesture Halle flashed him from under her noteputer.  "If you offend one person's honor, you offend their whole family's honor, so do not go getting us into unnecessary fights, especially because those smart-mouthed kids with red sashes are probably related to the local powers that be.  Finally, don't spit on the ground: offering the water of your body is a sign of fealty.  That includes those of you who prefer to ingest your nicotine in solid form - carry your dip bottles with you, you filthy bastards.

"Finally, let's talk planetology for a moment.  You’ll note that the garrison includes no hover assets.  This is because the local sand tends to trash rotors, turbines, fan nacelles, and other precision hardware that spins at high RPMs.  Blower drivers - please take note of that and watch your gauges.  For you rotorheads, you’ll remember I already mentioned the abysmal state of maintenance for their choppers."  He shrugged apologetically.  "Maintainers - all I can say is 'sucks to be you.'  Sorry, guys."

The vid window reopened, this time showing Shervanis City in the grip of a fierce sandstorm.  "Grav and atmo are pretty close to Terran normal and a ballistic calibration data package is available on the ship's computer.  Astrokaszy is arid and windy, with the exception of the polar regions and some valleys on the lee side of mountain ranges.  Daytime highs in the inhabited areas are in the mid-50s to mid-60s, and it doesn't get much below the twenties at night.  High winds occur daily, with the worst hitting during local afternoon.  Planetary life is well-developed, on par with Terra, including several species of megafauna - that's 'big animals' for the grunts - that have no problem stalking and eating humans."

McCann closed the vid window, leaving the planet revolving over the projector.  "At present, the command staff is looking for a suitable settlement at which we can land for resupply and information-gathering.  We'll keep you updated as that develops.  Questions, comments, snide remarks?  Do note that snide remarks will be graded for originality and content..."
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: truetanker on 07 May 2018, 21:55:38
* One of the galley's air duct fans turned on automatically, as such was the design, it's bent fan blade making a small high pitched, but small droning ring sound in the background just as McCann was saying " ...develops.  Questions, comments, snide remarks?  Do note that snide remarks will be graded for originality and content..."

Annoying as it was, it did it's duty of trying to help recycle recycled air. The auto-odor eliminators could only work so fast and they were so ancient, they smelt like they were freshly installed since before man left Terra back in the day. Years of old greases and lubricants hung lightly on the tongue, only to be washed away by stale and old coffee, even if it was a fresh pot. *

TT
( Peanut gallery posting... trying to keep up with the story without messing around to much... )
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Failure16 on 13 May 2018, 08:08:54
ECV Full House
Inbound to Astrokaszy
08 November, 0905 GMT

          Adept III-ι Lissea Stoyka shifted in the shadowed silence after McCann opened up the floor to the assembled officers.  The mess-deck was probably the next-largest venue after the cargo hold.  With all of the personnel present, it was quite filled but not as closely confined quarters as another similar spot aboard the cramped ship would have provided.  While a general silence pervaded the galley, a hundred or more bodies packed together provided a susurrus that underlay the thoughts of those gathered.  Rigid and regimented personal hygiene shifts aside, the air in the room was becoming closer with every passing minute even after only half a week in space.
          Seated at the table around her was the newly promoted Crowell and Top Heravy who was as much a part of any O-Group as Hops himself was.  The addition of the bulk of the common troopers made her job easier by virtue of the fact that when she and her squad leaders went over it again in the next few hours or days that it might settle into their minds.
          Speaking of which, Hopschnur would assuredly release an oporder soon enough which would answer most of her questions.  McCann’s briefing had certainly been comprehensive enough that a landfall on the blasted armpit of the Human Sphere that Astrokaszy promised to be was an incipient reality as opposed to simple rumor.
          “Wonder if there’s gonna be any local support, eh?” Heravy murmured out of the side of his mouth.  Hannah Crowell shifted in wordless agreement.
          Stoyka sniffed and raised her hand, clearing her throat as she did so in a conscious effort to draw the S-2’s attention to her.  When he looked her way, she spoke loudly and clearly enough to be heard by the rest of the troopers in the room.
          “Are there any friendly elements on the ground on this one?” she asked. 
          Even as the words left her mouth, she wondered if she should have parsed the thought a bit further, between local tribes that could become auxiliaries and exo-planet regulars—such as they themselves were—that would be amiable for however long they were on planet.  But she had already spoken and couldn’t afford to look like she was dithering in front of the boys and girls in back.  The same went for Crowell next to her…who was about to learn real-quick what it meant to pin those Adept tabs on her collar.
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Tegyrius on 15 May 2018, 20:25:21
McCann nodded at Stoyka's - Top Heravy's, really - question.  "Officially, no.  There was an Explorer Corps scout on-world but he was reported dead in late April of this year.  The report is oddly incomplete and I may make some discreet inquiries once we're close enough to eliminate the lightspeed lag.  Acolyte Monchienigo, who's traveling with us, is assigned as that scout's replacement.  A good chunk of the cultural and political background material came from the read-ahead packet the acolyte was kind enough to share with me."  And you can place your own bets on how likely Alessandro is to trade our company for the Blakists'.

"As far as the locals go, there are no extant political factions we can call on for support.  The local culture of honor ensures that mercenaries generally stay bought but we don't have a purchase order at this time."

He cued the projector to halt the planet's rotation over the capital.  "Unofficially, it's statistically likely that there are 'unreformed,'" he smiled grimly, "elements within the Blakist garrison.  Blakist SOP is to keep politically-unreliable elements under close watch, so any such personnel will likely be at the HPG compound rather than in the field.  We won't be landing closer than a thousand klicks from there to give ourselves ample stand-off distance in case of any sortie against us.  Therefore, it's unlikely they'll make contact if they do exist.  Still... keep an eye out for requests for help and pass any messages up the chain for evaluation, bearing in mind that any request for our help could be a false flag op."
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Daryk on 27 May 2018, 14:11:45
ECV Full House
Inbound to Astrokaszy
08-12 November, 3053

With no further questions on offer, the briefing broke up and the unit returned to its shipboard routine of training, maintenance, and more training.  The remaining four days until planet fall ticked down anxiously as the troops steadily burned through their hoarded tobacco stashes.  At least one trooper decided to quit smoking, and auctioned off their stash to the highest bidder.  Hopschnur quickly put an end to that kind of transaction by confiscating the money to "hold in trust" until rations were back to normal, with the rationale that gambling was already enough of a problem.  The trooper in question didn't object, confident they'd eventually see their money, and bolstered by Doc Morrison's encouragement that it was the right thing to do in any case.
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Daryk on 12 June 2018, 13:18:22
ECV Full House
Above Astrokaszy
0800 Local Time
12 November, 3053

It had been a long 11 days in space for Adept Hopschnur.  He'd grown so accustomed to Campoleone over the years, he'd almost forgotten how wearing DropShip travel could be.  Almost.  Space travel was like riding a bicycle.  It all came back quickly, but that didn't make the time pass any faster.

For the umpteenth time, he reviewed the landing and debarkation plans he and his staff had hammered out.  Rabigh was one of the seemingly innumerable secondary settlements created as the Crimson Reapers disintegrated over the decades since they fled the Succession Wars for Astrokaszy.  It's proximity to one of the tiny inland seas dotting the planet meant fuel would be relatively easy to come by, and its 1,600 kilometers from Shervanis City would mean plenty of warning should the Word of Blake decide to pay a visit.  And, of course, it was Mr. Monchenigo's destination.  The Explorer Corps scout that preceded him on Astrokaszy had based his operations here, but had met an untimely end some months before.

The tiny local space port was several kilometers outside of the town proper, though calling the dusty patch of ferrocrete a "space port" was a bit of a stretch.  There wasn't even a tower, though the overhead imagery showed the remains of one.  A short strip of ferrocrete ran alongside the single landing pad, though the Ace of Drax wouldn't actually need it for either take off or landing.  The Explorer Corps craft was designed for VTOL operations, after all.

On grounding, Croft and Jenks would debark the Wolverine and Griffin to set up an initial perimeter, while the main cargo door and ramp opened to allow the one convenient Jeep to debark.  The Jeep would set up a defensive position covering both the main cargo ramp and the ramp for the Wolverine's cubicle, where Twilley's tanks would emerge, while the Griffin's door simply closed.  With four heavy combat units on the field, the Ace of Drax would land nearby, but remain buttoned up until contact was established with the locals on short range circuits, or in person.

Sam Walden already had a plan for offloading the minimum amount of cargo to reach the infested container, but that would have to wait until arrangements were made with the locals.  Security was going to be a nightmare.
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Tegyrius on 12 June 2018, 19:50:42
The extra 3% of a G the ship's crew had added to the deceleration burn in preparation for planetfall wasn't actually perceptible after the inbound flight, but it still pressed down on Cameron McCann's spine and shoulders.  The intel officer stretched, feeling his vertebrae crackle, then resumed his casual slouch against the railing on the Number One 'Mech bay's maintenance catwalk.  Before him, the unit's Griffin sat, cockpit open, awaiting its pilot.

Unlike most of the rest of the unit, McCann was in civilian attire: battered steel-toed boots, utility pants with microgravity closures on the pockets, and an oil-stained Timbiqui Spirits promotional T-shirt.  A baseball cap bearing the logo of the recently-defunct Luthien Leopards perched atop his non-reg hair.  At his feet, a flight jacket festooned with JumpShip and corporate patches was draped over a well-abused spacer's kit bag.  The down-on-his-luck itinerant astech cover was a familiar legend.  Save for a chance encounter with a recruiter, it might well have been his life path.

Cameron narrowed his eyes and squinted at the 'Mech bay's closed hatch, visualizing the world beyond it.
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Daryk on 13 June 2018, 07:23:41
ECV Full House
Above Astrokaszy
0815 Local Time
12 November, 3053

As Cameron squinted at the 'mech bay door, he heard footsteps approaching from behind.

"Ah, there you are Adept!  I see you're planning to do some exploring as well," Alex Monchenigo said.  The Explorer Corps scout was clad in what appeared to be local Astrokazian garb, with loose robes over barely concealed body armor and a blade conspicuously tucked in his belt.  The full beard he'd been working on for the last few months completed the disguise.  "Did the Commander authorize anyone else to roam?" he asked with a raised eyebrow.

Before Cameron could answer, the 1MC blared to life with Captain Mason's voice: "All hands, prepare for atmospheric insertion and planet fall in 15 minutes.  Final maneuvers will include periods of variable and zero gravity as we make our approach.  Security details prepare for debarkation.  All other passengers are to remain in their quarters."
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Tegyrius on 16 June 2018, 18:30:31
Cameron turned and offered the scout a fistbump in greeting.  "No rank when we're both in civvies, Mach."  He paused, weighing Monchenigo's question and whether to answer it, and decided jointness was preferable to compartmentalization.  "I'm waiting on--"

He broke off as the 1MC cleared its throat in a crackle of static, cocked his head, and nodded as Captain Mason closed the channel.  "Heh.  I'm waiting on him to make a final decision.  I asked him if I could borrow the infantry squad that's the biggest source of problems with contraband and gambling, on the principle that those are the best recon troops for something like this."  At Monchenigo's raised eyebrow, he expanded: "They know how to find the locals who have connections."

"I can't argue with that," Monchenigo agreed diplomatically, though his expression suggested some reservations he wasn't willing to voice despite McCann's dismissal of rank considerations.  "And if they find trouble?"  Or if I do, went unsaid, given the political environment into which the scout himself was deploying.

McCann flashed him a brief, sharp-edged grin.  "Well, I also asked him to put another squad on standby in case we generated a direct action tasking.  And I asked to borrow Mattis to ramrod it."
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Daryk on 16 June 2018, 19:35:00
ECV Full House
Above Astrokaszy
0816 Local Time
12 November, 3053

Grimacing at the mention of Mattis' name, Alex replied, "Ah, yes.  I can't think of a better ramrod.  I've heard he drives very... aggressively.  Best of luck with the Commander.  He was hesitant to even allow me to carry on with my duties.  I'll be sure to call if I find out anything useful to you."
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Failure16 on 15 July 2018, 12:34:56
Chronologically, the following post occurs around the timeframe of Post #48 above, some time after Adept McCann's briefing...

ECV Full House
Inbound to Astrokaszy
Mess Deck
09 November 3053, 2100 GMT

           “Look, don’t be an ****** about it,” one of the infantrymen to the packed table off to Mattis’ left nearly snarled.  “Just deal me the ****** cards, right?”
           It was double-packed, the equivalent of two squads of dismounts.  This, despite the fact that they had managed to remove an adjoining table from its floor-mounting brackets and jammed them together to widen the playing area for the ceaseless game of Campoleonian-variant four-card drax that had probably been going since shortly after liftoff.  Lord knew when and how they managed it, making Mattis sigh, knowing they would hear about it eventually.
           “Bloody two, is it?” another voice replied.  “How ‘bout all four, huh?”
           “I said don’t be an ass about it,” the first voice returned, developing a lowering edge.  “And I ain’t gonna fold outta this damn pot, neither.”
           “No one made you boss, Kheda,” a third voice intoned.
           “Blazes, Del, you want a piece a’this, too, do ya?” Kheda said bitingly.  “Best let Talbas here fight his own battles…”
           So it was Braismith’s Fox-Five this time, Mattis surmised, getting into it with one of Joh Harras’s newbies.  Mattis felt his face ghosting into a smile when he looked over at Parker.  That’s a mistake.
            The squad leaders as a rule stayed out of the messhall after the evening meal was concluded until at least 2200 or so.  The common troopers needed somewhere to decompress en masse.  And the middle management needed a break—and some culpable deniability, one might say.
            “Bloody Hell, Kheda,” another voice interrupted; probably Halperin from Jump-Four.  “He’ll fight his own battles, sure—and then you’ll be havin’ words with the rest of us, see if you don’t.” 
            “Shit, you people really just want to turn this night into something, doncha?” yet another trooper said peevishly.  “Just deal the bastard his damn cards and let’s get this fracking hand sorted before we hit Canopian space, okay, Talbas?”
           Mattis detected movement with his peripheral vision; the speaker tossing something onto the pile in the middle of the table.  The troopers had forgone C-Bills, Campoleonean scrip (useless as it would have been now, but it was mildly better than dried beans) or any other betting medium in favor of cigarettes.  And that made an otherwise innocuous game into something worth, literally, fighting over.
           The gunner sniffed from where he lounged with his feet across the chair catty-corner to his.  That in itself was an anomaly as well as an extravagance worthy of note in the crowded compartment.  Mattis couldn’t tell whether he and Parker were ranker than everyone else, or if he was simply that unfriendly. The thought made him smile outwardly.
           The ship and its complement wasn’t that bad—yet.  Give it another two weeks and let one of the water main junctions go on the fritz so no one could conduct proper personal hygiene.  Then it would be field rules.  The civs would love that one.
            “Gonna be a fun trip, Matty,” Parker said quietly enough that it wouldn’t penetrate the principals involved in the incipient fray.  He had his hands braced behind his neck and his eyes were slitted as he contemplated a nap.
           The driver’s smile became less tiger like, more real.  “No one’s paying us to take it easy, Jimmy,” he replied, but his visual attention was evenly split between the events behind and beside him and the hatchway to the compartment to his front.
           It would have been easier if he had been a Terran iguana, but one had to make do with the gifts God provided…and Steven Mattis had, by God, even if wasn’t the sort of work an angel would own up to.  But that was for another time—
           Mattis felt the muscles in his face loosen, almost assuredly, imperceptibly when a clot of troopers eased their way through the portal.  His back stayed tight, as Kheda and Halperin continued making noises towards each other and the universe in general.  But the reddish-grey fog that was gathering at the edges of his mind started to recede when he saw Tia Spencaire leading the rest of Foot-Two into the compartment.
           Steven lifted his chin just enough to catch Parker’s eye then looked down at the chair his booted feet were resting on and winked.  The gunner stole a quick, nearly invisible look behind him and dropped the boots to the deck.  Mattis caught the team-leader’s eye but he made no overt move to draw attention to himself for the moment.
           Spencaire let his gaze drift over the collection of troopers relaxing in various ways and to degrees in the relatively expansive compartment.  The air-handlers overhead sighed, evening out the dozens of individual and group conversations into a comfortable susurrus.  The deck under-boot trembled slightly as a fuel feed to the main drives chuckled.
          Without managing to look at either of 06’s crewmen, she strode towards the empty seats they had managed to hoard.  The riflemen of her squad followed her without question, spreading out to take the seats flanking Parker.  Spencaire blinked down at Mattis in the split second it took for him to rise unconsciously.
          She sat down in the seat opposite him and he too regained his seat.  His face hurt making him wonder if he was grinning like a schoolboy.  Hell, that didn’t matter, did it?
          “C’mon, then,” Baumann was saying.  “Let’s not take all night, Mousie.”
          “Oh, don’t get your knickers in a twist,” Groumond replied while the third trooper scrabbled in one of his fatigue’s cargo pockets.  “We just got here a minute ago.”
          “Feels like an hour already,” Baumann grumbled, running his hand over his closely-shorn blond hair. 
          He was the biggest trooper in Fox-Two—Hell, in the Double Deuce—but at most times it seemed like his intellect had an inverse relationship to his physical size.  He eyed the package that the rail-thin Mouser brought out of one of his side pockets, then blinked greedily at the next one the other trooper produced.
          “You want some?” Mouser asked, offering him the still-unopened package of Ewie-Chewies.
          “Oh, no, thanks,” Baumann responded sheepishly even as Lasskiy, the next senior-most trooper after Spencaire, reached over and opened the package unasked.  He popped one of the sugary treats in his mouth and appropriated another before tossing the package back to its nominal owner.
        Groumond in turn took hold of the other package and opened it, purposefully letting the contents spill out onto the table amongst them.  Mattis rotated his head laconically at the motion.  It looked like…well, he didn’t have the slightest clue what it looked like, actually.
          In the midst of it, Parker reached down and picked up a tiny sealed bag full of little black-and-white counters. “Eh…?”
          “It’s a game,” Lasskiy said around the spongy confection he was savoring.  He reached over and unfolded a sheet of plasticard into map covered in hexagons and what appeared to be images of craters over half of it.
          “Oh yeah?” the gunner replied, eyeing Mattis sidelong.  “What’s it all about?”
          Groumond produced a pair of six-sided dice from a hip pocket.  “Basically, one side gets a tank—”
          “A special tank,” Mouser interjected.
          “A special tank, right,” Groumond allowed.  “The other sides gets a bunch of conventional units and has to stop it.
        “A tank?” Parker asked with a raised eyebrow.
        “A special tank, okay?” Lasskiy replied, licking the tips of his right index finger and thumb in turn.  “Big; bigger than any ’Mech.”  He paused.  “It’s an old game, right?”
        “Older than chess,” Baumann said suddenly, causing half the table to look at him.
        “Really.”  Parker didn’t sound convinced.  Tanks hadn’t been special for a millennia.  And he didn’t think tanks were older than chess, but Baumann’s primary focus in life was being able to drop a man-sized target on the horizon with his Mauser, not discuss historical evolution of humanity’s leisure pursuits.
        Mattis quirked an eyebrow in Spencaire’s general direction, but she was already rolling her eyes.  The corners of both their mouths twitched upwards in unison.
          “Who knows?” Groumond said after a few moments.  “You want in?”
        Parker shrugged while he reached for a side pocket where he kept his cigarettes.  Coming up empty, he grimaced before breaking out into a beatific smile.  “Sure, killers.  Er, ah, deal me in, right?”
        Mattis felt himself tense a split-second before someone jostled him and his seat from behind.  Spencaire speared a look past him, nearly through him, before forcing herself to look away.  Mattis continued looking at her with renewed interest.  She looked like he felt…she just didn’t have the amount of practice that he did in internalizing and diffusing it.  Of hiding it, at least.
          “Look, you little shit,” Kheda nearly exploded.  “You been dealing me drek-all fer cards al damn night and now you wanna pawn this bullshit off on me?  You gotta be bleeding crazy—”
          “You know what, Kheda,” Halperin said loudly.  “Quit bein’ a bitch about it and piss off, okay?”
          “You better siddown, lawn-dart,” the Foot-Five trooper returned, his voice dangerously low.  “Before I make you—”
          The chairs in the messhall were attached to the tables on swing-arms so they weren’t a potential obstacle or missile when the ship was out of acceleration or during action.  Mattis backed his seat with a slight flex of his knees, causing it to strike the seat of the trooper standing behind him.  That in turn rapped the man hard behind his knees, dropping him heavily back into the chair.
          He’d been primed for a fight though, and he was ready to drive his right elbow into the face of his unseen assailant.  Mattis had merely pivoted at his waist, bringing him around under the curving strike and shoulder to ribcage of Kheda in what looked like a friendly if awkward embrace.  Parker, behind him, was fully on his feet, and so was half the table now facing him.  [/i]Hell, of course they were[/i], he thought blandly.
          “Thought that was you, Special K,” Mattis said loudly—too loudly, probably, but Bloody Hell, all their adrenaline was up, wasn’t it?  “I was just thinking about that time we were rappelling on South Rock…”
          “Screw you, Mattis,” Kheda hissed incredulously, trying to sidestep away from the driver; but to no avail since Mattis had his weight lower and braced up against a hitherto unsuspecting victim.   “What’s that got to do with—”
          “And when your damn carabiner popped open, it was, who?  Hell, Halperin and Yates, I think, right, you two?  That rap-jumped down and nabbed you thirty meters up?  Wasn’t it?” Mattis continued liltingly, before Kheda could say something unrecoverable, like accusing the other players of cheating.
          Kheda looked away and Mattis let him go in stages as the bigger rifleman’s body relaxed over the next two seconds.  He reached toward his waistband and saw several of the troopers facing him tense anew until he withdrew a crumpled cylinder from a pocket.  He offered it to Kheda who regarded it coolly for a heartbeat or two before accepting it with near contrition.
          “Just thinking that it’s good to have friends, right, Kay?” Mattis said, stepping away and behind Kheda in a move only minimally complicated by the twin chairs, but necessary nonetheless if the squaddie decided to change his mind.  “And it’s better to smoke ‘em than play with the damn things.”
          The comment drew some chuckles or even outright laughter from the troopers relaxing over the gulf that was receding between them, more from the release of tension than any inherent humor in the quip.  It was always good to remember the ones you walked away from.
          Steven Mattis turned around with a hint of a smile, but found an empty chair gaping at him.  He felt his face heat up, felt Parker’s eyes on him; felt the rest of Fox-Two either looking at him, or the now empty seat itself.
          He flipped his gunner a quarter wink no one else would be able to recognize and stepped away from the table.  Jamming one hand in a hip pocket of his fatigues so that he didn’t square his shoulders and draw himself unconsciously to his full height, he made his way out of the mess.
          Cursing himself for a bloody fool, a damned show-off, he headed into the packed quarterdeck with its jeep surrounded by shipping crates.  At first, he was going to the ladder-well leading down to the Cargo Bay and likely his quarters.  He paused at the head of the treads, wondering if he could get lost amidst the stacked shipping containers.  Ignoring the unaccustomed despondency, he headed down the ladder.
          His left hand clenched and relaxed rhythmically, resisting as he was the urge to lash out at the side-wall to ease his frustrations.  Maybe if he hadn’t turned around, maybe if he’d just known what to say to Tia Bloody Spencaire instead of grinning like a schoolboy every time he saw her.  Maybe, Hell…maybe what?
          Maybe she’d tell him to shut the Hell up, like she did everyone else in the Double Deuce.  And she was right to do so; no one in their right mind pissed in the water they had to swim in if they had a choice.  Maybe he’d know what to say if—
          He stepped off the last tread and headed off past the conexes immediately to his left.  That was home, but there was no way he was hitting the rack now.  He turned a corner and headed past the jeep parked up against the external bulkhead.  He nearly had to dodge Spencaire, leaned up against the front quarter with her left boot up and her right boot stuck into the aisle to steady her.  He blinked at her, noticing by rote that she was tensed but not startled.  Her body relaxed when she made eye-contact with him and saw who it was she had heard bumbling down the passageway towards her.
          “Hey,” he said dumbly.
          “Hey,” she replied, looking down and away. 
          Her long fingers toyed with an unlit cigarette.   Instead of a pristine one that was waiting to be lit, this was a crushed veteran that had seen better days.  Well, Steven could sympathize.
          Very slowly, he reached down and plucked the cigarette from her fingers and reached up to place it behind her right ear.  They were face to face now and he could feel her warmth emanating across the space still between them.  Moving only his right hand, he scrabbled very briefly in his pocket and withdrew a pair of cigarettes and his lighter.
          Stepping back, he lit both and handed one to her.  She accepted it warily, but without noticeable derision or misgiving.  He moved to her right side, closer to the side of the jeep which he had just rounded blindly, and leaned up against the cool, faded quarter-panel.  Without thinking about it, he eased himself up onto the hood of the vehicle then reached down and helped Spencaire scamper aboard. 
          The lights shining down on them were harsh, broken up more severely by the towering conexes around them.  The divisions between light and dark seemed no less stark than the terminator on an airless moon.  The air smelled like clammy metal, sweating plastic—and the soap that Spencaire had recently used.
          “Aren’t you generous tonight?” she said after a moment.
          “Just with my friends,” he replied with mild irony, not knowing how long she had stayed in the mess.  He didn’t feel the need to tell her about the cartons he and Jimmy Parker had stashed in 006.  It was their truck, after all.  And no one had found it during the inspection, so mum remained the word.
          “Oh, okay,” Spencaire said, not wholly convinced.  “Is that what you are right now, a friend?”
          Mattis took a drag from his cigarette and exhaled slowly through his nostrils, letting the menthol wash over his sinuses.  I am whatever you want me to be, a voice in the back of his mind said, but even that wasn’t the full truth.  Another part of him hated himself for thinking it.
          “Tonight, I’m just a guy,” he returned, not knowing the right answer, and he was sure there was a right answer.  But he couldn’t lie to this woman.   God Help him.
          “Oh?” she challenged, but her voice was soft, almost playful.  But so are tigers and tabiranths.  “Not a regular tough guy?”
          Mattis sniffed diffidently.
          She paused, smoking intently for nearly half a minute.  “I thought you were trying to start a fight with Kheda.”
           “Oh, I can think of better things to do with my time, can’t you?”
          She paused again.  “Not that it would have been uncalled for,” she said as if he hadn’t spoken.  “But then you wouldn’t be here.  Right now.”
          He turned his head to face her, willing his left hand not to reach out and touch her right arm.  Their elbows were already meeting.  The overhead lights limned her perfect features like a gilded statue.
          “Right here, right now,” he repeated.
          Neither of them moved for a long time. 
          But the ship they were on continued its voyage through the black gulf between the stars, towards a future that was infinitely harder, if equally uncertain.
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Failure16 on 15 July 2018, 12:36:36
ECV Full House
Above Astrokaszy
0820 Local Time
12 November, 3053

          The ship rumbled slightly as the bridge crew fired a bank of thrusters to align it with the reentry window.  The deck trembled slightly as the main drive flared momentarily, bringing gravity back to the ship after the gut-wrenching fluctuations of the past few minutes.  Then, for the moment, the ship itself was quiet; silent even.
          A hush had fallen over the ship’s complement as if the crew and passengers were afraid to tempt fate by calling attention to themselves.  Most of the personnel had shipped across the stars enough to accept the risks blithely.  Some, notably a handful of the civilians, had never traveled to another world, let alone aboard a military ship landing on a potentially hostile world.  But even the veterans knew that this wouldn’t be just another landfall…
---          “Kee-rist, but I shoulda pissed when I had the chance.” Parker complained laconically from where he was strapped into 006’s open turret.  His gloved fingers beat out a muffled rhythm on his machine gun’s receiver.
          “Screw it,” Mattis replied, letting his lighter drift upwards from his open right palm; his left remained on the wheel before him, though his shock harness would keep him securely at his station no matter what happened.  “Just go right now.”
          Parker thought about it for a moment.  “I dunno, Matty.  I’d hate for you to have to clean it out…”
          “Hell, I meant out the window,” Mattis replied, snatching the lighter and thumbing towards one of the passenger-side doors.  “In ten mikes, ain’t no one gonna notice shit around here.  You’d have to wash out your own pants, thanks.”
          And ten minutes after that, there might be a whole lot of people that might be messing themselves, but Mattis didn’t bother saying that.  He was eying the squad of jump-troopers that was secured to a series of tie-downs just out of his peripheral vision.  But his mind was on a squad of light troopers somewhere behind him, since they wouldn’t be deploying forwards with the initial security element.  On one of the troopers, at any rate.
          “Huh,” Parker temporized.  “You think things might get real, do you?”
          “Don’t you?” Mattis replied.  “I mean, Asadi didn’t have you double-check our beneficiary forms for nothing, right?”
          “Well, eventually, sure,” Parker shot back.  “I don’t think we’re so slick we’re gonna waltz in and out of this burg without someone getting shot in the face.  But I meant right away.  You know.”
          Matttis shrugged, more of a mental accommodation or conciliation to his friend than a physical gesture that would have been hidden under the double burden of body armor and crash-harness.  “Fair enough,” he allowed.  “Well, I figure that the bridge’ll be able to spot anything too pressing to give us some warning.  But after that…”
---
          “…The big trouble will be in those little disasters they call villages,” Acolyte Joh Harras was saying to his squad.  “A million and one hovels all crammed together—and you just know they’ll expect us t’clear through each one a’them.”
          “You serious, Acolyte?” Talbas asked in a small voice.  “You really think they’d make us do that?”
          Beside him, Halperin chuckled.  The whole squad was secured to deck tie-downs, leaned back against their heavy and bulky jet-packs with the massive bay door stretching up over them like a giant readying itself to strike.  To Talbas’s other side, Yates snorted.  Further down the line, Martin and Stiles regarded their squad-mates blandly whi;le they muttered to each other.
          “Just the ones with bad guys in them, Fish,” Halperin said gently, almost wistfully.  “Of course, that might be close to that million mark, not so, Acolyte?”
          “Just so, Hope,” Harras replied sagely.  “But Talbie, the only thing you gotta remember is that you follow Halperin, and Halperin follows me…”
---
          “So who do we follow?” Leaf Martin asked his partner at the end of Jump-Four’s line.
          “Eh?” Poul Stiles asked.  “Were you saying something?””
          “Oh, come now, do keep up.”
          “Well, in that case, I suppose I’m following you, for a wonder.” 
          Martin made a moue.  “Well, that’s disturbing.”
          “That I’m following you?” Stiles returned, sounding perplexed.
          “No,” Martin replied peevishly.  “That you expect a wonder out of all this.  I mean, I wouldn’t even know where to begin.”
          Stiles was silent for a moment.  “Now that’s disheartening.”
          “You said it, not me,” Martin bristled laconically.
          “Perhaps,” Stiles allowed.  “But you started it, not so?”
          Martin stilled while he regarded the bay door before them.  “Well, it’d be nice to get it over with…”
---
          “Oh, you say that now,” Adept Lissea Stoyka murmured to her companion from where they sat in the midst of the Cargo Bay.  The deck trembled as the drives flared on yet another course correction.  “But you’re not seeing the Big Picture, girl.”
          The 1MC crackled to life:  “ALL HANDS, PREPARE FOR RENTRY.  STARTING INSERTION AND DESCENT IN THREE, TWO, ONE, MARK.”
          The deck began to shudder and weight returned to the passengers and crew aboard the Full House
          Adept Hannah Crowell looked over at the senior platoon leader sidelong.  She had to turn her head slightly so she could see past the rim of her combat helmet.  Both women were in full combat gear, but Crowell was weighed down by the jump-pack that nearly doubled her effective bulk.  Stoyka, by contrast, merely had the weight of her armor and the thin blade of the Intek laser rifle slanting across her plastron to constrain her.
          “Oh, pray tell,” Crowell grunted as the buffeting began to increase.  Rightfully they should have been sitting anywhere but here, but infantrymen—infantry officers—had a habit of taking calculated risks simply because it was a habit.
          Stoyka regarded her levelly, drawing the older but nonetheless junior woman’s gaze.  “Look, Hannah,” she started gently.  “Right now is the best single moment of peace you’re gonna get on this deployment.  May as well enjoy it.”
          Crowell snorted.  “Oh yeah,” she challenged.  “How’s that?”
          Stoyka smiled with a grin that unfolded in stages.  “Ever since we got the FRAGO, then the OpOrder, you’ve been running around like you had to do it all.”
          “And?” Crowell shot back defensively.
          “And you have some of the best squad leaders in the ComGuards to take care of all the bullshit,” Stoyka replied.  “But even so, all that is passed.  Now there is nothing to do but wait it out.”
          Crowell shook her head as if she were trying to clear a fly away.  “You got it wrong, Adept.  There’s always something to do—”
          Stoyka held up her hand in bar.  “Sure—for your non-coms.  There’s always a battery pack to charge, a canteen to fill, a code-word to remember, a battle drill to talk through.  That’s stuff your squad leaders and senior troopers had better damn well be handling—which they are, because you were bossing them directly a couple weeks ago.”
          Crowell looked away and grimaced.  “It’s not that damn simple, ma’am—”
          Stoyka chuckled as warmly as she knew how.  “Oh, Hannah, it’s exactly that simple.  Remember, when you were an NCO, your troopers were looking up to you.  Now, all of your troopers are simply looking to you.”  She paused to drive the point home.  “For everything, all the time.  You have to make it look so easy they don’t even think about it.”
          “So screw it.  Sit back and relax for the few minutes God and the captain gave you.”  Stoyka nudged Crowell conspiratorially.  “Soon enough, you’ll be able to shoot whoever gives you a hard time, right?”
          Crowell sighed and reached over to grip Stoyka’s hand in thanks.  “Sure.  Why…”
---
          “…D’ye think it’s called Astrokaszy?” Baumann asked generally amidst the cluster of Foot-Two’s troopers.
          Someone groaned and Spencaire stared at the trooper blankly.  Acolyte Helhake sighed and paused wiping his Mauser down with a rag that had been in the ComGuards exactly as long as he had.  It might have been blue once, but only he knew for sure. 
          “You know, B-Man, that’s a damn good question.  Maybe once things get settled, you can go ask the Two.”
          The big rifleman regarded his squad leader carefully, wondering which part of the statement to ask about first.  A light went on behind his eyes.  “I thought we were Two.”
          Spencaire forced herself to breathe slowly and not cause her fingers to clench, thus crushing the incipient life out of the cigarette she was twirling between her fingers.  Beside her, Lasskiy shifted to cuff Baumann but Halhake forestalled him with a sharp glance.
          “No, man,” Mouser said around the pretzel-rod he had sticking out of his mouth like a cigar.  “He meant Adept McCann.  You remember.”
          Baumann blinked back at the thin trooper.  “But not now, right?”
          Helhake grinned despite himself.  Spencaire felt the corners of her mouth twist upwards slightly as she imagined the big galoot staggering through the ship to find and corner the S-2.  That would be a sight.
          “No, not right now,” the squad leader said lightly as he returned his attention to his weapon.
          “Hey,” Groumond asked generally.  “Do you think they’ll let us back into our billet after we make landfall?”
          “Why the Hell would you want t’go back in there?” Lasskiy wondered.  “The last two weeks weren’t enough for the time being?”
          Groumond pursed his lips.  “I forgot something, okay?”
          Spencaire turned her head to look him over despite herself.  He had all his gear on, so whatever it was, it didn’t concern her. 
           “All your gear not strapped to you is secured to your bunk in your A- and B-Bags,” she said.   “Who knows when you’ll see that next.”
          For her part, she was glad they were out in the open bay, even as crowded as it was.  Some of the troopers had cursed when they learned they would be spread out in the bay and not strapped into their bunks like the civs were.  Spencaire didn’t know what she would have done if the situation had been reversed.  There was no way she could foresee herself being able to sit in a darkened shipping container while the ship trembled and bucked amidst a fireball of its own creation as it braked from orbit.
          “Yeah,” Mouser said around his third pretzel.  “What’s up with that?  We’re all packed up like we’re leaving and not coming back, hey?”
          “Yeah?” Spencaire challenged while Helhake continued to caress his rifle.  “The Jumping Jacks did the same thing we did, so no one got off easy.”
          “And spent all yesterday packing and repacking our drek,” Groumond snorted.  “And going through inspections, brief-backs, and battle drills…”
          “Settle down,” Spencaire said tiredly.  “The only thing any one knows for sure is  outside that ramp is sand and heat.  Do we have to put up with the hot air inside here too?”
          The ambient noise began to rise as the ship dipped deeper into the atmosphere.  The 1MC crackled out a warning or instruction that the infantry troopers ignored since it didn’t mention them.
          The brief-backs of the OPORD hadn’t taken long at all, since the plan was apparently there was no plan.  Well, that was nothing new to the line doggies.  She might be worried if they knew more about this shithole than they had let on.
          “Well, what about Mattis and Parker, hmm?” Lasskiy asked without looking at her.  “You’d think those two would know.”
          Spencaire felt herself stiffen, felt her fingers threaten to break the thin cylinder she held across her finely-boned knuckles.
          “What?” Lasskiy responded in mild embarrassment to the mild look of Acolyte Helhake.  “I mean, they’re staff monkeys, aren’t they?  I mean, I’m sure they hear things we don’t is all I’m saying.”
           “Mattis and Parker are alright,” Helhake said.  “But they’re just mutts like the rest of us, roger?”
          Spencaire ran her free hand over her auburn hair, tightly pulled back to fit under her helmet.  She wondered what Mattis was doing right then; what he was thinking.  She regarded the cigarette in her right fingers and smiled inside herself.
          Mouser cleared his throat; the sound inside the ship would never reach the screaming thunder like it did in the holos, but he had to speak up to be heard nonetheless.  “Well, anyways…”
---
          “I hope you’re happy,” Marienda Krantzel hissed through gritted lips as the ship bucked and leaped through the thickening atmosphere.  Her arm and shoulder ached because of how she had to contort herself to hold her daughter’s hand.  “You should have let me strap her with us.”
          Jase shifted, but there was a limit to what he could do.  There was enough play for either of them to pop the restraints open, and the ship’s crew had shown them what to do in the hurried preparations for landing.  But he couldn’t sit up without releasing them.
          “Look,” he murmured.  “The sailor said that would be dangerous because the straps wouldn’t fit either of us or her.”  He paused.  “Look, baby, she’s fine.  She’s as tough as they come.  Isn’t that right, sweetie?”  He raised his voice as he addressed his daughter in the bunk opposite their own.
          Marienda bit of a curse in her native tongue.  “Don’t you ‘baby’ me,” she nearly subvocalized.  “Not while our daughter is terrified and I’m strapped into a bed next to you.”
          She could feel Jase shake his head quickly, then again, more slowly. 
          “Fine.  Fine,” Jase replied.  “Just because you’re terrified, don’t take it out on me—or her, okay?”
          Marienda turned her head to stare at her husband; he was turned straight ahead to stare at the ceiling of their cubicle.  She knew that it was her that was terrified; but her little Aimee was scared all the same.  Her tiny hand was an icy claw inside her own.
          “You’re an ******,” Marienda said calmly.  “I’m scared; but I’m no star-trotting hero like you are.”
          Jase snorted and cleared his throat.  “Oh, piss off, Mare.”
          He had shipped aboard DropShips before.  Plenty of times.  But he’d never faced a landfall quite like the one they were hurtling towards now.  Marienda knew that, but she didn’t care.
          “Maybe I’m scared too,” he allowed.  “But I don’t think making an issue out of it is going to help, either.”
          Marienda was scared alright, but more than half of that fear was because if something went wrong, the resulting catastrophe would take her daughter as surely as it took her…
          She felt the tiny hand in hers squeeze firmly; she returned it gratefullly, instinctively.  “Mommy?”
          “Yes, mi princesa?”
          “I’m scared, too,” Aimee admitted.  “But it’s going to be okay.”
          The ship’s damnable intercom opened with a warning and the noise beneath them built to a throaty roar as the thrusters flared for touchdown.
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Daryk on 15 July 2018, 14:34:48
ECV Full House
Above Astrokaszy
0830-0900 Local Time
12 November, 3053

Those accustomed to interplanetary travel noted the insertion was a little rough.  For those not so accustomed, it felt like the ship could shake apart at any moment, and the scattered cries from the civilian quarters reflected that.  At least all of the cargo stayed where it was strapped this time, unlike the hasty departure from Campoleone.

As soon as the roar of the main thrusters began to die away, the two 'mech bay doors started to rise, quickly revealing the debarking Wolverine and Griffin, followed by Adept Twilley's blowers.  Once they were clear, the doors rapidly cycled closed again.  The bridge of the ship was a beehive of activity, with every crewman strapped to their station.  The weapon turrets on the hull reflected the gunners' search for targets, while others scanned radio traffic and visuals both near and far.  Satisfied, Adept Roepke, the XO, reported, "Captain, no immediate hostiles.  Recommend opening the main cargo bay door."

The deployed MechWarriors and tankers made similar reports over the Double Deuce's command channel as they patrolled around the ship.  Just as Adept Mason was about to give the order, Acolyte Bellini, the Chief Gunner, called out, "Movement! In the tower ruins... looks like... a periscope.  No obvious weapons."

Down in the Deuce's Command Jeep, Adept Hopschnur vectored the 'mechs to provide over watch in preparation for the door to open.  The periscope in question did nothing but swivel back and forth, but another crewman on the bridge noted a transmission from the ruined tower.  It wasn't encrypted, but the Arabic dialect in question bore little resemblance to the Modern Standard taught on Terra.

Satisfied with arrangements for the moment, Mason gave the order, and the main cargo bay door squealed open as the ramp lowered the eight meters to the ground.  The one convenient jeep, carrying Adept Asadi and a full security detail, drove carefully down the ramp as the gunners of 006 and the Command Jeep provided high cover in addition to the rifles of the two squads further back in the bay.

The jeep drove at a moderate pace across the dusty ferrocrete toward the ruined tower, Asadi's voice audible over the jeep's jury rigged loud speaker.  If the machine gun atop the vehicle wasn't intimidating enough, the two BattleMechs not too far away certainly were, and the two hover tanks further out couldn't be ignored either.  From the ship, the troops in the bay could see Asadi dismount behind her security detail, and the bridge was piping the video feed to other key personnel.  Eventually, a tall figure with a red sash emerged from the tower, and negotiations were apparently underway.

Half an hour later, the all clear was given, and the Ace of Drax made her own, somewhat less dramatic approach, touching down 100 meters from the Full House, on the side opposite the ruined tower.  One of the smaller trucks was offloaded to supplement patrols and help stake out the cargo off-load area.  This left just enough room for Mattis to squeeze 006 into the Wolverine's cubicle where its bent frame could be straightened by Acolyte Brzezinski and his team.  Hopschnur's uneasiness kept Twilley's tanks deployed for several hours beyond the original plan, but things seemed to be under control.

Acolyte Monchenigo had accompanied Adept Asadi in the first jeep to make contact, but hung back during the negotiations.  His duties didn't involve the local authorities, at least not if they were executed properly.
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Tegyrius on 28 July 2018, 17:46:52
Previously...

ECV Full House
Inbound to Astrokaszy
07 November 3053, 1530 hrs


For once, Adept Cameron McCann's hands were empty.  The meeting wasn't one for which anyone was going to desire a written record.

Adept Erik Roepke leaned back in his gimbaled chair and fixed Cameron with an expression not quite a glare.  "Help me understand why I should sign off on this paranoid fantasy."

Cameron tamped down his reflexive urge to roll over and display his belly to a ship's XO ("one step short of God, if God existed," as one of his fathers was fond of saying) and reminded himself that Roepke was (a) younger, (b) not accustomed to thinking in intelligence terms, and (c) only possessed of three more years in grade than himself.  His pulse slowed somewhat.  He carefully did not look to the compartment's third occupant, Adept Karl Hopschnur, for support.

"Because there are multiple indicators of a Blakist agent operating aboard ship."  He raised a hand to halt the outburst building in Roepke's eyes.  "Most likely in the unit, not the crew."

The hand went down and a finger extended.  "First, Adept Thomas' alleged heart attack.  In a man thirty-five years old, in fighting trim as a MechWarrior, with no prior personal or family history of cardiac problems, yes, sir, of course I cracked his medical records.  Respectfully submit patient privacy does not apply in counterintelligence investigations, nor to casualties.  Ample legal precedent for that, sir.  Point being, however, the incident is anomalous in isolation.  Immediately following Demi-Precentor Evans' strikingly similar death, it is statistically improbable.  I'm aware," the medical database was aware, at any rate, "of fourteen toxins usable to induce cardiac arrest without signs detectable by the unit's organic medical capabilities."

A second finger came up.  "Next, we have the infestation.  I did some reading on the Crop Devil life cycle.  A lot of the biology is above me but I did learn that nicotine gives them mild neurological issues.  All the consumable stores containers were loaded side-by and simultaneously.  If there'd been Crop Devils present while we were loading, they'd have infested all of the containers - and, by preference, any container but the one they are in.  That strongly suggests they were introduced after we sealed everything up."

Cameron deployed a third finger.  "Then there's the wrench.  I asked Jimenez exactly which circuit boards it was dropped on.  Those were the new encryption boards for the vehicle and 'Mech radios that we hadn't yet installed because they came in the day after we received our movement orders.  There wasn't significant damage, but if there had been, our only crypto now would be a decade old and subject to compromise.

"Can I give you detailed forensic records and a root cause analysis?  No, sir.  But the pattern is strongly suggestive of deliberate action taken to compromise unit morale and create further security vulnerabilities."

Roepke eyed Cameron speculatively.  "All right.  You have my attention.  Karl, you're backing this?"

"He's convinced me."

"And why shouldn't I assume you're the Blakist plant?  Cui bono, right?" Roepke asked Hopschnur.  His tone was that of a man framing a serious question as a jest to allow the audience to laugh it off if they so chose.

"Because I did his last CI screening," Cameron answered, "and I'm gambling on having done it right."  He shrugged apologetically at Hopschnur.  "Also, once he placed himself in command by killing his two predecessors, further action would have been too risky.  As CO, his presence in either targeted area would have been noted and remarked upon by any member of the unit, and with his position, he wouldn't have needed the Crop Devils or a crypto failure to compromise us."

Roepke massaged his temples.  "All right.  Your shipboard comms tap is approved.  Set it up.  I'll arrange for you to get into the portside avionics bay undisturbed.  This goes no farther than the three of us and the Captain."  He looked up at Cameron.  "You realize this won't do you a damned bit of good if your agent takes leave once we're dirtside and simply makes a local comm call."

"No, sir."  Cameron smiled ferally.  "I have other intercept measures in mind for that..."
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Daryk on 28 July 2018, 19:15:33
ECV Full House
Above Astrokaszy
1130 Local Time
12 November, 3053

Adept McCann reviewed the logs his tap had generated, but saw no evidence of unauthorized transmissions, just like the previous five days.  If there was indeed a WoB plant aboard ship, they weren't talking to anyone off board.  Log review wasn't particularly rewarding, but at least killed the time until he could debark.  In theory, he was authorized to accompany Adept Asadi on her second trip into town for negotiations with the local authorities.  The first had so far yielded permission to remain at the defunct landing field for as long as necessary to unload the contaminated container.  The locals had deferred negotiations for replacement tobacco rations until "later".  To Cameron, that suggested political implications.

In any case, the open cargo bay doors had allowed the temperature inside the tiny ship to climb.  Most of the civilians had taken refuge on the mess deck, while the majority of the unit was stuck working in the increasing heat.  Acolyte Brzezinski and his techs were busily straightening out 006's frame in the Wolverine's cubicle with assistance from Mattis and Parker, while those that weren't pulling security helped the S4 team move vehicles and cargo containers.  The unit's industrial exoskeletons made things go faster than relying on the ship's overhead crane alone, but that didn't mean it was going "fast".  Quite a bit of expanded metal decking had to be removed from around the stack of cargo containers the infested one was at the bottom of before they could be removed, and that process was at best 30% complete.  Adept Walden's plan was to have the unloading complete by the end of the day.  Only time would tell if that plan survived contact with Astrokaszy...
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Failure16 on 13 August 2018, 21:13:45
ECV Full House
Landing Field, Rabigh, Astrokaszy
1345 Local Time
12 November, 3053

           “You got the con, Spencaire,” Acolyte Helhake said as he levered himself upright and reached back down to grab his helmet and rifle.
           “We’ll try not to melt in your absence,” she replied without looking up from the focal lens of her Intek laser rifle she was polishing.  She had it shot-gunned open so she could reach its delicate innards, but able to close it and put it back into action within seconds.
           “Roger,” the squad leader said over his shoulder.  “The rest of you kids, be good!”
           He disappeared up the ramp into the ship’s interior, leaving his squad under the ship and its blessed pool of shadow.  Now that things had quieted down, the squad leaders were going to have a pow-wow.  Fox-Two was going to take it damn easy after sweating it out on perimeter–gate guard for the past few hours.  It was Fox–Three’s turn in the hotbox for now, while F2 spent the rest of its duty-window in Ready-Five status.
           Not far from where Spencaire and her troopers were nestled, a team of sailors from the ship manhandled a portable field-emission microscope into place.  Their leader, an adept with a nametag that read Myers, stood off to the side while a senior acolyte bossed them in real truth.  They were in the process of inspecting the bell thruster nozzles a bare two meters over their collective heads.  She didn’t know how long they had been at it, but this seemed like their last one.
           “Better watch out, youse guys.  Got people doin’ real work over he-ah,” the acolyte said liltingly. 
           When Tia glanced upwards, she caught the tail-end of a wink.  She could feel the eyes of half the work crew on her, but she was used to that, even if she could never quite understand it.  She can’t have been the only female infantry trooper they had ever seen—and no one was attractive after sweating out two kilos in an hour. 
           It was telling that her troopers remained quiet at the outset.  It was too hot in all this armor to breathe, let alone talk.  None of them had even looked up initially.
           “Better you guys than us,” Mouser said after a moment.  “Say, whatcha all doing anywho?”
           “Checkin’ these muthas fer stress-fractures, ya know,” the sailor replied proudly.  “Ev’ry landfall, we got the time.”
           “Huh,” Groumond snorted.  “Seems excessive.”
         “Wazzat?” the crewman rejoined incredulously.  “You see one a’these crack fer real on liftoff, you gonna have a real bad day, you betcha.”
           “A real bad day, shit,” Lasskiy chuckled.
           Spencaire folded her weapon back together and seated the retaining pins.  She began to do a functions-check by rote without even being consciously aware of it.  “Probably just a real short day, is all.”
           The sailor looked down at her and looked away.  His detail was finishing up whatever scans they had come to take.  One of the junior members was opening up the container the FEM nestled into.  The adept took the piece of equipment nd started to stow it wordlessly.
           “Well, Senior Trooper,” Groumond started to say.  “I mean, are we lifting off and exploding on a Friday evening, say?  Or a Monday morning?”
           “What’s that got to do with it?” Baumann rumbled obliviously; from him it was a real question.
           Mouser chuckled.  “Well, how bad has the week previously been?” he pressed.  “I mean, if it’s been a drek week, I guess I’ll be pissed if I buy it right at the end.”
           “Well, what if you buy it at the beginning of a great week?” Lasskiy challenged.  “What about that?”
           Mouser pursed his lips in consideration.  “Well, how would I know it was gonna be a great week?”
           Tia Spencaire laid her rifle across her lap and reached down to pick up the worn cigarette from where it had been tucked into her helmet’s padding.  The Explorer Corps crew was beginning to move off.  The senior acolyte spared a sheepish half-glance back in her direction.  She rotated her head to face him squarely, but that was only to draw attention to the fact that she’d had him in her peripheral vision since he’d sidled up to her.
          He looked away suddenly.
           She wondered what Steven was up to, just a few decameters above her head…

***

          “Are you clear?” Acolyte Vaclav Bzerzinksi called out peevishly in the tones of a man all-too used to working beside non-professionals.  “Stand clear!”
          Well, non-professional mechanics, maybe, Mattis thought, smiling inwardly.  Beside him, Parker took an unconscious step back nonetheless.  Mattis’s eyes were on the senior mechanic and not the tie down two-plus meters away that secured 006 to the DropShip’s deck.  The winched straps and chains were already beginning to speak complainingly amongst themselves as the towering presence of the 55-tonne Wolverine leaned back in careful increments.
           “Should we take cover?” Parker asked his partner, eyeing the tie downs suspiciously.
           “Probably,” Mattis agreed, but he didn’t move.  He was too tired, just like the rest of the troopers gathered around the developing drama.  Besides, 006 was his girl; she wasn’t going to kill him just yet.
          Sweat was dripping off all them in literal rivulets.  The band presently involved in straightening the gun-truck’s tortured frame had stripped down to their fatigue trousers, and even those were soaked through.  Few of the troopers spoke, and when they did it was in minimalist grunts and sighs.
          The actinic light of Astrokaszy’s primary filtered in through the open bay door, but it was approaching zenith and the rays of light were not burningly direct.  The air itself was scorching to breathe and there was no breeze to speak of.  The bay smelled of hot metal and hotter sand and rocks, overlaid with wet humanity and the byproducts of heavy machinery at work.
          The bay sounded like just what it was:  an overly large enclosure packed to overflowing with gear, people, and machinery where all of the contents were involved somehow or other in shifting each other from one place to another.  Outside the bay door, it seemed enticingly quiet.  And even blazingly hotter than it was just inside or under the grounded vessel’s ovoid bulk.
          Acolyte Helhake trudged up the ramp and past them.  He nodded tiredly, but neither party bothered saying anything.  He had his helmet dangling by its strap, but all of the rest of his thirty kilos of patrol gear was still in place.  From the look on his face, the climb up the ramp in this heat was enough to murder the need for meaningless banter.
          The tie-downs holding 006 in place shifted infinitesimally when the BattleMech started bodily pulling on it.  Zink gabbled into the hand-held pickup he used in lieu of a proper commo-helmet, or even an ear-bud and boom-mike.  The MechWarrior controlling the Wolverine hunched the machine down a notch and continued pulling straight back.
           “You think it’s gonna work, Mattie?” Parker asked side-long.
           Mattis really wanted a cigarette.  He wanted it more than nearly anything.  But he and Parker both had to be a bit stingy when others were around, since they were officially almost as low as everyone else.  So instead of reaching for one—they were stashed in his tunic and armor off to the side anyways—he clasped his hands together and squeezed. 
           “It had better,” he replied after too long.  He indicated the scene beyond the curve of the open bay door with his chin; the movement made sweat drip toward the deck.  “We got a whole world out there to see, after all.”
           Parker sniffed.  “See new worlds, meet interesting people, and kill them?”
           “You got it, snake,” Mattis replied laconically.  “That’s what the recruiter told me anyways…”
***
          “Want me to shut it up, Tal?” Sonja Engels said, speaking loudly enough to be heard from the driver’s station at the nose of the heavy APC.
          Avram Tal chewed on his lower lip for a moment, lost in thought before he grimaced as if awakening too early.  “Yeah, Engels.  Close the bitch up if you would.”
          No sooner had he spoken the second syllable had the jump squad leader thrown the handle above her head to cause the rear ramp to squeal upwards.  None of the squad leaders were particularly worried about attracting attention now, not with the madhouse of activity the DropShip had become since they made landfall.  And, as during the voyage, the squad leaders having a little professional development time of their own wasn’t beyond the pale.
          As the heavy ramp whined upward to thump solidly closed, the assembled non-coms sighed gratefully and released the catches on their body armor.  Engels had engaged the fusion-bottle to raise the ramp and left it on, so the air-conditioning unit was running.  If this meeting was going to last longer than ten minutes or so, Tal might have left the ramp down and had them tough it out, but, Hell, they had to think.
          “Christ’s Bleeding Wounds,” Delf Helhake groaned as he tried fanning the heavy flaps of his armor.  “What a bloody disaster this landfall is turning out to be.”
          “Hell, buddy,” Sulieman grinned from the bench where he languidly draped.  “You only been here half a day.”
          “You say that like it’s going to get better,” Tuna said from the side, the sarcasm tinged heavily with irony.
          “Or worse,” Jackson said from where he sat near the head of the APC.
          Engels muttered a mild curse as she hunched through the hell-hole, the passageway that accessed the driver’s compartment and the troop-bay past the fusion-bottle and the dorsal turret machinery.  She had her gear on and something or other had managed to snag in the tight space.
          Suilieman looked over at the junior squad leader in puzzlement.  Across the compartment, Braismith grinned toothily.  “Always a day late and a C-Bill short, eh, Jackson?”
          Engels shrugged as she plopped down next to Braismith.  “Short a’something,” she breathed, but Tal cleared his throat, cutting the byplay off before it got out of hand.
          “Okay, killers,” he started.  “We got a few minutes in here while we proof the powerpack, so let’s get down to business.  Anybody got problems with their squads?”
          Harras’s Jump-Four and Pandajharmin’s Foot-Four were on duty outside the ship.  He would get with them separately.  The rest of them were technically all on duty as well, but the two infantry squads in conjunction with the heavy elements could handle anything short of a major catastrophe for the couple of minutes they would need to get out on the ground.
          Helhake snorted.  “Other than all of us dying from heatstroke, I’d say we’re all four-plus.”
          Tal smiled at him.  On the other side of the aisle, Sollie dragged out a crumpled pack of cigarettes and lit one, smiling at it longingly before he lit it.  He took a drag and handed it off to Braismith who took a drag and handed it to Engels.
          “Well,” Sulieman intoned.  “What’s the word on refurbishing our tobacco rations?  We wait much longer and I ain’t promising we can keep the lid on…”
          Tal held his right hand up to forestall the rest of the squad leaders adding their voices to the chorus.  “All I can say about that is I’m sure the adults are doing their best.  Just gotta give ‘em time is all.”
          Engels harrumphed.  “Sure, sure.  They can take all the time they need.  In the meantime, we’ll just pretend everything is just great.”
          Tal nodded, not in agreement with her acerbic remark, but as a method of drawing them along his developing train of thought.  “You’d better,” he said with velvet-shod iron in his otherwise mild tone.  “I hear you professionals are fomenting rebellion and we’ll talk about it in individual cases.”
          The squad leaders chuckled simultaneously in monolithic need to diffuse the tension.  Avie Tal wasn’t generally known for his humor.  He had a certain reputation for being able to deal with problems caused by men and women used to using violence as an institutional framework, however.
          “Say, Acolyte,” Jackson said suddenly.  “What’re we doing here?  I mean, for real; not sitting here on the ship?”
          Engels regarded her fellow almost sourly while she handed back the cigarette to Sulieman.  “Did you miss the last week-plus of transit, Jackson?”
          The junior squad leader furrowed his brow.  “You know what I ****** mean, Engels.”
          She raised an eyebrow in challenge, but Tal cut her off.
          “Simmer down, you two.  So far as operations go, ideally we just sit on our collective asses and get suntans.  Anything pops, we get a call and deal with it.”
          Sulieman and Braismith exchanged glances.  “Okay, fine,” Sollie allowed.  “The grown-ups decided what types of operations we might be expecting at least?  I mean, bloody hell…”
          Tal shrugged.  “You all got the same brief I did—” he started to say.
          “That’s what scares me,” Braismith interjected.
          “—so we all know that security is the name of the game,” he continued unabated.  “That means at the ship and possibly as personal security details for any principals leaving the dropzone.”
          They all knew Joh Harras’s Jump-Four had been told off to work with the Two, and Tuna’s squad had been out with the One since they had landed.  The command group had elected to go with sensor watches to maintain the perimeter; none of the infantry troopers believed that was the best plan, but with only fifty or so shooters on the ground, they wouldn’t be able to do much beyond provide the barest listening and observation posts.
          “Okay,” Engels pressed.  “What about patrols, dismounted or otherwise?”
          “On call,” Tal replied tiredly.  “Just like running LP/OPs, which I am quite sure we will be conducting before local EENT.”
          That drew some muttered curses.  No one had said as much, but none of the assembled squad leaders believed that they wouldn’t be standing watches in real truth once the primary began to set.  Well, that was why they and their troopers were paid the big bucks.  So the sailors and MechWarriors could sleep securely in their racks.
          Tal smiled for real.  “Come on, now, killers.  Let’s lose the sad faces, hey?  We are finally getting paid to do the jobs we’ve been paid to do.”
          Helhake sat up.  “Oh, sure.  You say that now.  But wait until the Word tries to float a probe across the sensor perimeter and then ain’t no one here gonna be joking.”
          “Shit, yeah, Avie,” Sulieman agreed.  “I heard that briefing, same as you.  You think the Wobbers’re gonna sit there pretty as they are without sending someone our way?  They gotta lot of combat-power just sitting in their motor-pool soaking up dust…”
          “And?” Tal challenged levelly.  “If it happens, it happens.  And then we deal with it.  Until then, it’s low-intensity ops.”  He let his eyes drift purposefully around the group, letting them meet his fellows squarely before moving on to the next.  “So take the time now to get your squads worked up.  I want each and every one of us taking whatever down time we do have—and that means even on QRF, or five-minute stand-by, or moving out to sentry-duty, let alone getting ready to jerk off in our racks—to be drilling your boys and girls about what we are doing now, and what we may be doing tomorrow.  Got me?”
          Every one of the squad leaders responded in the affirmative.  Hell, they all knew it, but sometimes even professionals needed to hear it from someone else.  Nothing wrong here.
          Engels stretched her neck from side to side, her blond ruff swaying with the motion.  “Okay, okay.  No problems, there.”  She paused while her mind searched for the words her brain was still trying to formulate.  “But what about the…other issue, eh?  NO one wants to talk about that, I gather.”
          “Sone, we got nothing to back that up…” Braismith said in the tired tones of a man who’d had a conversation too many times before.
          “Except those ProCeeDees, sure, Braismith,” she retorted neatly, waving towards the memory of the cigarette that Helhake had already stubbed out.  “And everything that happened before.  You know.”
          “Well, could the Wobbers have a infil-team on board?” Suilieman asked.  “Sure, why not?”
          “I think the question is why wouldn’t they?” Helhake asked.
          “And what else could they do they haven’t done already?” Jackson continued.
          “At ease,” Tal said cuttingly.  “As Braismith already noted, we have no proof of anything.”
          “Just a series of convenient coincidences,” Engels gibed.
          “Oh, you are right on that score, Sone,” Tal continued mildly.  “And maybe we can talk later about just how much I believe in coincidences,” he added lugubriously.  “But the best we can do is to keep our ears and eyes open.  You see something, you bring it up to me, and I bring it up the chain.  Nobody better start something stupid and public until we all get the word together.  Right?”
          The squad leaders sat silently while they mulled over what he had said.  The air-conditioning unit sighed longingly.  After a time, Helhake cleared his throat.  “Okay, we’ll all play along, no worries.”  He paused again, before speaking wistfully.  “But, you know, Avie, we got a lotta people along on this op, and we barely know half of ‘em…”
          The senior squad leader sat back and steepled his powerful fingers before him.  “I seen worse odds, Delf,” he rejoined before lurching upright.  “Okay, break’s over.  Let’s get back out there and show the other half that we don’t know so well how to get shit done properly, hey?” 
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Daryk 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.
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Daryk 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.
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Daryk 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."
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Daryk 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.
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Daryk 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."
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Daryk 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."
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Tegyrius 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?"
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Daryk 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.
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Tegyrius 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..."
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Daryk 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.
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Daryk 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.
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Daryk 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."
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Tegyrius 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..."
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Daryk 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.
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Daryk 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?"
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Tegyrius 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."
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Daryk 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?"
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Tegyrius 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."
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Daryk 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
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Tegyrius 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?"
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Daryk 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.
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Tegyrius 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.
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Daryk 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.
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Tegyrius 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."
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Daryk 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.
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Tegyrius 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."
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Daryk 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."
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Tegyrius 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.
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Daryk 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.
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Daryk 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.
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Daryk on 28 December 2018, 12:56:09
Al Seddah Oasis, Astrokaszy
1301 Local Time
14 November, 3053

The Rabigh Marauder drew tremendous fire from the enemy 'mechs for over a minute, even after being knocked to the ground, but ultimately stopped moving when its gyro gave out.  The smoking hulk only had a single limb remaining when it finally laid still, the pilot unable to get any response from his controls.

Simultaneously, the Panther and Banshee closed the hill sheltering the Orion.  The Banshee maneuvered to avoid giving the lighter 'mech a chance to kick him, but the Panther was less wise, and shortly found an Orion foot buried in its left chest, followed by the explosion of its SRM ammunition.  The feedback knocked the pilot out, but the machine miraculously remained on its feet due in part to the CASE protecting the ammunition bin.  When it started moving again and successfully hit the Orion, the Victor took note, and spent a single round on the pounded machine that resulted in its surviving limbs scattering while the ejecting pilot went a fourth direction.

With help from two of the Deuce 'mechs, the Emir pounded the enemy Orion, the Blazer Cannon ultimately finding an ammunition bin in the smaller machine that ripped it in half.  Being an Orion, of course, this didn't stop it from soldiering on with its single remaining Medium Laser.

In the enemy's rear, Simmons was coursing around with the Mongoose, preoccupying the enemy Javelin in a hopeless chase, and distracting the Trebuchet as it maneuvered to avoid attention.  His expertise with the light 'mech's advanced sensor suite paid off repeatedly, resulting in several hits against the Javelin and its mates hiding in cover.

While the center was nearing a climax, the Valkyrie tried to the follow the Vindicator's example on the far right flank, but drew the Victor's attention just long enough to have a leg removed.

Seeing things going south for his force, the Rabigh Emir drove for the enemy Rifleman that had been pouring out a steady stream of effective fire.  Turning toward the incoming assault 'mech, the Rifleman pilot jammed his triggers home, only to be greeted with an alarm from the Ultra Autocannon firing circuit indicating a fault.  His other weapons fired, but that couldn't save him from a well placed back shot from Simmons that touched off a bin of ammunition.  The ejection seat was barely ahead of the expanding fireball, but a chute eventually deployed.

As the planned target of his kick evaporated, the Emir shifted to the left and exchanged kicks with the Orion.  Both 'mechs absorbed the damage easily, and remained standing, but combined weapons fire shortly reduced the lighter 'mech to a pair of legs and an ejection seat.

On the other flank, the Victor had finally noticed the Jagermech and began tearing it apart, starting with the right arm.  After the smoke cleared from the first round, something was clearly wrong with the right shoulder, and the LRM launcher in that arm ceased to function.  With supporting fire from the closing Centurion, the second round removed the right torso entirely, while the third mirrored the damage to the right arm on the left.  The Jagermech ran for its life, trying get out of the massive weapon's range.
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Daryk on 28 December 2018, 20:26:27
Al Seddah Oasis, Astrokaszy
1302 Local Time
14 November, 3053


The Charger finally rejoined the battle in the center, but too late to save the Orion or Rifleman.  Croft and Preston continued to pour fire into its back, causing sparking and arcing with each shot.

Seeing a perfect opportunity, Simmons ran right behind the Trebuchet, tearing up its back armor and landing a solid kick that stripped the armor on one leg and damaged the hip.  Unfortunately, this put him within the Charger's reach.  Despite having maneuvered to the best of his ability, the Charger landed a devastating kick that removed the Mongoose's left leg.  Eric was able to avoid injury as his 'mech toppled, but the machine itself wasn't so lucky.  Seeing an opportunity for revenge, the Javelin zoomed in and removed the lighter 'mech's other leg with suprisingly accurate weapons fire.

At this point, the Emir and all the Deuce 'mechs turned their full attention to the Charger and managed to knock it down before it could kick the Mongoose again.  The assault 'mech struggled back to its feet to make another attempt, but was put down for good when its engine abruptly gave out.  All the damage the Deuce mechs had been pouring into its back finally destroyed enough electronics that the massive engine just quit.

The Vulcan, Javelin and Trebuchet took this as their cue to pull back, though the Trebuchet was severly hampered by heat and hip damage.  Seeing the stripped leg armor on the Trebuchet, and its position right next to the oasis, Preston walked right up and gave it a push.  The Trebuchet pilot screamed over an open channel as the 'mech toppled into the water in a cloud of steam.  The bare leg twitched and sparked for a brief moment before freezing in place.

While that was happening, Croft jumped next to the Javelin and despite not doing much damage with his weapons, proceeded to rip a leg off the lighter machine in revenge for what it had done to the Mongoose.

Seeing what Preston and Croft were about to do, the Emir finally turned his attention to his principal foe, and took careful aim at the Victor.  His support lance had steadily worn down its armor to the point that when the Blazer Cannon hit bullseye, it removed all the remaining armor and caused a tremendous amount of arcing and sparking in the other 'mechs center torso.  He added insult to injury by putting every single autocannon round in the exact same place.  Still sparking, the Victor toppled over with a destroyed gyro.  The enemy Emir ejected out of spite, seeking to deny Rabigh as much salvage as possible.
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Tegyrius on 28 December 2018, 20:53:24
Nowhere of Consequence, Astrokaszy
1300 Local Time
14 November 3053


"Huh.  'Elevated oxygen levels.'  As in, 'elevated risk of combustion?'"  Cameron lifted an eyebrow at Munter.  He raised his voice slightly to address the whole party.  "All right, listen up, and pass the word to everyone who comes down here.  If I catch anyone smoking in or near this compartment, I won't waste my urine putting them out when they ignite.  Secure all flame sources and don't jack around with spark-producing tools until the air in here has a chance to vent."

Relenting, he turned to Herriot.  "Nice job.  Take a close look at the exo, see what you can figure out.  When you're satisfied, head back with Mouser the doc and brief the folks topside on what we have.  You and Aquila are on tech detail for that exo unless the pilots need you on something more urgent.  I want Stojanovic working out a load plan based on six tons of heavy metal plus whatever equipment we can strip out of here.  We won't be able to get the jeep down here so this is going to be an all-hands evolution but there may be ways we can be creatively lazy to reduce the workload."

He turned to Monchenigo.  "Mach, I'm sorry to treat your family legacy casually, but I've got a crawly feeling that says we don't want to be on the ground here a moment longer than necessary.  If you need a few minutes to get holos for the family," which I'm sure you'll be able to share with your great-grandchildren when all this is declassified, he added silently, "take 'em, but we'll need to move with a quickness."

"Okay, people.  Floor's open for input.  None of us alone is as dumb as all of us together, or something like that.  What am I missing?"  He turned in a circle, surveying the rock chamber again.
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Daryk on 28 December 2018, 21:20:16
Specified Coordinates, Astrokaszy
1300-1315 Local Time
14 November, 3053

Fletch raised a finger when Cameron made the point about "elevated risk of combustion".  "Uh, sir?  It's not that significant... just on the high side of nor...mal."  Catching the S-2's look, he added, "But roger no smoking!"

Herriot just nodded and moved to the exoskeleton.  Her finger followed a cable from the skeleton to the battery bank before she hit any buttons, so she wasn't surprised when it powered right up.  The safety harness squealed horrendously when she started to open it up, so she stopped.  Turning around, she said, "Yeah, going to need some grease before we move this thing, sir.  All the electricals seem to be just fine though, and I bet the myomer is OK too."

Monchenigo busied himself with some pictures, though he knew it would be at least years, if not decades, before he could show his family.  When he finished and the others had left, he said, "This could be a useful bolt hole if we ever do more operations down this way.  Maybe we could leave the power unit?  I don't see a use for the furnace, though."

Seeing a question starting to form on Cameron's face, he added, "I'm curious as to what the good Major's unit was doing down this way.  He couldn't have kited off too far from whatever they were doing for the SLDF, right?"
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Tegyrius on 29 December 2018, 08:01:06
Cameron grinned humorlessly at Munter.  "Valid, but humor me, please.  I grew up in habs.  High O2 makes me as paranoid as low O2."

He leaned against a wall and folded his arms, making himself momentarily unobtrusive while the rest of the team got on with business.  At Monchenigo's question, he nodded slowly.  "The furnace might be useful if we need to, ah, reformat the gold again.  And yeah.  I've been wondering the same thing.  This would have been a non-trivial time and work investment, even for the League."  He lifted his chin to broadly indicate the chamber and its fittings.  "Did your predecessor's files have anything on the primary project?  I know the Corps looked for a precious metals depository back in '44.  Not to understate this, but it's kind of small for the level of rumors and effort we've seen expended here before."

He furrowed his brow in thought.  "Are there any League-era settlements near us that weren't recolonized after the plague?  One of those might have been support and dependent housing for wherever the Major's unit was based."
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Daryk on 29 December 2018, 08:46:15
Specified Coordinates, Astrokaszy
1315 Local Time
14 November, 3053

Monchenigo shrugged and said, "Not that I've seen yet.  I got a little excited when I found the bit about this place.  I have a LOT of work to do here.  It won't be a boring three years!"

While Cameron and Alex chatted, Herriot set about disconnecting the nearly empty water bottle and headed up the stairs with it.  With the bottle removed, Cameron spotted an open case of SLDF rations.  It was half empty, leaving six ration pouches in the box.
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Daryk on 29 December 2018, 08:52:52
Al Seddah Oasis, Astrokaszy
1303-1315 Local Time
14 November, 3053

With the Emir's victorious shout, the Centurion suddenly found itself too far forward to escape from its jump capable foes.  The Vulcan, on the other hand, despite having taken a lucky shot from Jenks that destroyed a jump jet, ran for its life.  The Emir seemed unconcerned about its escape, saying, "Let it go.  They can carry the word of the defeat here today."

He had rather more and different words for the Centurion, and other MechWarriors trapped in effectively immobile machines, but they paled in comparison to what he and the enemy Emir exchanged once the Banshee had climbed the mountain.  The enemy Emir continued to engage the Banshee with his side arm while it climbed, but the sparks off the  'mechs armor didn't slow it in the least.

Simmons was able to break out Arabic spoken by the Emir over the Banshee's external speakers, but even the Mongoose couldn't pick up an unamplified human voice at that range.

"You die facing me, and were a worthy foe.  But it ends here, now."

The response Eric could pick up was another pistol shot that ricocheted off the Banshee's windscreen.

"Discourtesy aside, I grant you a Warrior's death."

The Blazer Cannon flashed out one last time, and there was no pistol shot in return.

The Centurion, Javelin, and Hunchback pilots were relatively quickly talked out of their machines after that, though the Trebuchet pilot took a bit longer as that 'mech's head was underwater.

The Emir's salvage team was called forward, and shortly the field was crawling with technicians and their infantry escorts.  The ejected pilots from both sides were rounded up.  The enemy pilots were mostly well treated, though after a brief fight the Charger pilot was stabbed to death by the Marauder pilot.  Apparently there had been some kind of blood feud.

After the remaining enemy pilots were firmly under guard, the friendly ones eagerly discussed who would pilot what back to Rabigh.  The Marauder pilot claimed the undamaged Centurion, while the Panther pilot opted for the Trebuchet whenever it was mobile again.  That left the Javelin, which the Emir asked Eric if he would be willing to drive back to Rabigh once minimal repairs were made.  He left unsaid that the Mongoose was immobile.
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Tegyrius on 08 January 2019, 21:00:56
Nowhere of Consequence, Astrokaszy
1544 Local Time
14 November 3053


With a grateful sigh, Cameron locked the exoskeleton's joints in their travel configuration, powered the machine down, and began unstrapping from the unit.  He accepted a water bottle from Herriot with a grateful nod and downed half of it before disengaging his feet from the loader's leg restraints.

"Stojanovic."  At the sound of her name, the dark, wiry loadmaster turned toward Cameron.  "You happy with the rigging on the loot?"

Jelisaveta Stojanovic rotated her head without rising from her kneeling position beside the last pallet of gold.  Reflections of the cargo bay's overhead lights cast rippling amber bands across her face and forearms.  "I'm not happy about taking on anything this dense.  But I think the cargo nets will keep it contained."  She reached out to crank in one more click of tension on a ratchet buckle.  "I'd feel better if we had crates but..."  She trailed off and gestured eloquently at the vacant desolation beyond the open hatch.

"I hear you.  Trust me, no one who's seen one wants to see another load shift, ever."  Cameron shared a tight smile of solidarity with the Venusian woman.  "Okay."  He killed the water bottle and tossed it into the trash bag tied to the bulkhead.  He contemplated his body armor with a glare and reluctantly pulled on the vest rather than fight the overly-tight radio pouch to retrieve his comm gear.

"SPECTATOR to all units.  We are at phase line HOTEL."  The prearranged code for everything's loaded, let's go.  "Break.  Fox Two-One, SPECTATOR, perimeter status check, over."
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Daryk on 08 January 2019, 21:09:34
Al Seddah Oasis, Astrokaszy
1400 Local Time
14 November, 3053

Within an hour of the last shots being fired, a hasty convoy was organized.  The Charger and limbs of the Panther were loaded aboard the recovery vehicle, and the Emir asked the Deuce to send the Wolverine to escort it, along with what was left of the Jagermech, the escorting Striker and APC with the prisoners.  The Heavy APC that had been part of the salvage escort was remaining on the field as a base of operations for the tech teams.

Croft had easily taken the most damage aside from the Mongoose, and was the logical choice for an early return to the repair bay.  Hopschnur approved the plan when it was relayed to him.
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Daryk on 08 January 2019, 21:18:42
Specified Coordinates, Astrokaszy
1544 Local Time
14 November, 3053

Cameron had no sooner keyed his microphone than shots rang out outside the ship.  Fortunately, Parker had been wearing his body armor, and quickly brought 006's heavy machine gun to bear, retunring fire.  His ribs hurt, but there was no tell tale stickiness of bleeding.  Score one for body armor.

"Contact!" Parker shouted, keyed mic or no.

Helhake's troops hit the deck and searched for targets.  More fire was coming in from other points around the perimeter.  Stojanovic dove for the ladder further up into the ship.

From the cockpit, Maddox exclaimed into his mic, "The sneaky bastards waited for us to load, we gotta close the hatch!"

Lucky for Cameron, the floor of the cargo bay didn't move immediately.  He figured he had a few seconds at most to countermand the other Adept before it did, though.  The ominous hum of a medium laser told him that at least some of whoever was shooting at them was in front of the ship, where the Ace's wing mounts could target them.
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Tegyrius on 14 January 2019, 18:22:13
"Belay that, we're not locking the troops out," Cameron yelled back.  "Feed us targets and we'll collapse the perimeter back on board if we can't see them off."  He glanced at Stojanovic, who was now peering back into the hold.  "Might want to gun up.  That pallet looks like good cover."

Suiting deeds to words, he snatched up his own shotgun and dashed out the cargo bay, finding cover next to Helhake.  "Whadda we got?" he asked, prudently not sticking his head up to check as he clicked off the safety on his weapon.
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Daryk on 14 January 2019, 18:36:04
Specified Coordinates, Astrokaszy
1545-1550 Local Time
14 November, 3053

"Still figuring it out, sir!" Helhake shouted over the incoming fire.  Keying his radio, he said, "Mattis, get over here and provide cover for the rest of us!"

The jeep rolled slowly into place, picking up additional troopers as it went.  Shortly, the whole squad had the ship on one side, and the jeep on the other.  Return fire was as sporadic as the incoming, but the occasional hum of a medium laser seemed to be making an impression on the other side of the ship.

A warning klaxon that would normally indicate the floor of the cargo bay was coming up instead warned the troops the rest of the ship was coming DOWN.  Stojanovic halted the fuselage a meter and a half from the deck, then came back down, armed as ordered, and took up position behind the pallet McCann had directed her to use.  She had excellent cover.

As the two forces exchanged fire, popping in and out of cover as necessary, Cameron heard over the radio, "A little help here?  This is Monchenigo, and I'm pinned down in the canyon..."

Ignoring the call for help, Helhake started to direct grenade fire where the enemy was shooting from.  Return fire started to slack somewhat after that.  The veteran squad leader was working from right to left, as the edge of the canyon was the right.

What little Cameron could see of the enemy consisted of flashes of tan robes and gun barrels.  Probably locals, not WoB.
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Tegyrius on 30 January 2019, 20:52:07
Cameron cursed, popped up from behind his rock, punched two slugs in the general direction of an enemy muzzle flash, and dropped down as return fire began to spall stone chips next to his face.  "Keep your head down, we're coming to you," he not-quite-yelled into his helmet mic.  "Helhake!  Gimme an element for support!  I'm going for Mach!"

Fox Two's leader responded with an equally-vehement string of profanity.  "Spencaire, Mouser, you're with the S-2.  Everyone else, keep pressure on the left and flush 'em!"

Another slug through the loading gate brought the shotgun back to capacity as Cameron tensed himself to push toward Monchenigo.  Spencaire dashed to his rock, ducking into the leeward side next to him.  "Loading!" she yelled, and, a moment later, "Set!"

"Moving!" Cameron shouted, digging a toe into the rocky ground.

"Move!"  Spencaire leaned out and opened fire.

Cameron tucked his weapon in close and sprinted to the next boulder, ten meters closer to the head of the trail down.  "Set!"

"Moving!"

"Move!"
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Daryk on 30 January 2019, 21:08:14
Specified Coordinates, Astrokaszy
1550-1555 Local Time
14 November, 3053

While McCann, Spencaire and Mouser leapfrogged to the canyon, Helhake kept up the pressure on the attacking force.  Fortunately, they didn't seem to have anything heavier than small arms.  With two troopers otherwise tasked, the veteran squad leader ordered Mattis out of the jeep and into action.  The grim driver brought a Mauser out with him, and proceeded to snipe attackers as they showed themselves.  Everybody knew Mattis was a dead shot, but the display was still impressive, no matter how busy they were firing their own weapons.

As Cameron led his support element down the switchbacks and into the canyon, he could see rounds ricocheting off one particular rock.  That had to be Monchenigo's cover.  It was two rocks away from his ancestor's hidey-hole, which was now sealed and looked like any other rock in the canyon.  Whoever was shooting at Monchenigo apparently hadn't noticed the trio coming down the path, as they drew no fire once they were over the lip of the canyon.

At one switchback, Spencaire held up her fist then motioned to Cameron to come closer.  In a low voice, she said, "I think I spotted one of the snipers, sir.  I think we can get 'em from here next time they pop up..."

Spencaire was carrying a Mauser, while Mouser had one of the Intek sniper rifles.
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Tegyrius on 01 February 2019, 13:56:01
Cameron hefted his own combat shotgun, chosen with the expectation of having to fight inside a much larger Star League complex, and sighed.  "Yeah.  I guess that means you need them to pop up, right?  That was rhetorical."

Spencaire's thin smile and Mouser's blink told Cameron which of the two understood his intent.  "Never mind."  He keyed up.  "SHOVEL, SPECTATOR.  We're coming to get you.  Hold position and we'll start clearing from the top of the canyon down."

"Okay," he said, addressing his companions again.  "Let me know when you're set and I'll get their attention."  He pointed with his weapon's muzzle.  "Next step is the rock on the right with the big crevice along the top.  After that, the switchback with the red seam running at head level.  I'll keep working my way down to Mach."
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Daryk on 01 February 2019, 16:28:04
Specified Coordinates, Astrokaszy
1555-1600 Local Time
14 November, 3053

"Roger that, s-" was as far as Spencaire got before her target popped up to take another shot at Monchenigo.  Twin hums and the target falling forward told Cameron both laser rifles had found their marks.  There was some shouting in the peculiar Astrokazian dialect, and the body was dragged back behind the rock.

"Oh ho..." Spencaire said to herself, chambering a grenade.  A faint beep told Cameron the Mauser had found the range, and then there was the sigh of the launcher.  The explosion behind the rock was followed by some very satisfying screams, and more shouting.  Mouser dropped another one that popped up to return fire, and then it sounded like the attackers were starting to withdraw.

"Keep up the pressure, or let 'em go, sir?" Spencaire asked, chambering another grenade.
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Tegyrius on 05 February 2019, 19:03:42
"Don't save the ammo, we brought extra for a reason," Cameron decided/ordered without conscious consideration.  A moment's thought while he topped off his shotgun's tube again brought the issue into clearer focus.  "We want them running, not regrouping to hit us in the back as we're boarding the shuttle.  Which reminds me... CROSSBOW, SPECTATOR, status check, over."

While waiting for the shuttle's crew to respond, he leapfrogged his ad hoc team another few dozen meters closer to Monchenigo's position, keeping fire on the opposition to prevent them from maneuvering in return.
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Daryk on 05 February 2019, 19:14:07
Specified Coordinates, Astrokaszy
1600-1605 Local Time
14 November, 3053

The grenade launcher sighed again before Spencaire hastily said, "Roger that, sir!  Mouser, stick with the Adept while I keep these guys on the run."

Mouser just nodded, and resumed leap frogging with McCann.  Down in the canyon, Monchenigo noticed the drop in fire aimed at his position, and started working his way toward the path up.

"SPECTATOR, CROSSBOW... looks like they're on the run, but we're keeping up the pressure to make sure, over," came the reply over the radio.

After the last few minutes, the rendezvous with Monchenigo at the base of the path was anti-climactic, heavy breathing on the part of all three notwithstanding.  Spencaire was still providing covering fire from higher up.
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Tegyrius on 11 February 2019, 08:35:56
"SPECTATOR copies.  We've linked up with SHOVEL and are headed your way."  Cameron released the PTT switch and looked over at Monchenigo.  "You good?"

"Yes."  The scout looked himself over to make sure, nodded once, and managed a ragged grin.  "It's not something I care to prolong, though."

"Yeah, copy that."  Cameron drew a long breath and nudged Mouser with an elbow.  "Okay.  Back the way we came.  One man moves, two cover."  He switched back to his radio.  "Fox Two-Two, SPECTATOR.  We're moving.  Watch your flanks in case they try to circle on you, over."

Spencaire didn't bother to speak, just double-clicked her mic.  A moment later, another small eruption of rock splinters and an anguished cry from downrange indicated another persuasive near-miss.
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Daryk on 11 February 2019, 18:07:15
Specified Coordinates, Astrokaszy
1615-1630 Local Time
14 November, 3053

Leapfrogging back up the path turned out to be a prudent call, as the occasional stray bullet drove home.  As the trio ascended, they could hear the volume of fire dropping.  By the time they rejoined Spencaire, she was down to one grenade left.  With four, they could leapfrog in pairs, and that made getting back to the top much faster.

When they reached the cover of the jeep, Helhake reported, "I think we're about as secure as we're going to be, sir.  There might be a sniper or two left out there, but we can pile in the jeep, drive it into the ship, and secure it after we raise the floor back into the hull."

A bullet ricocheted off the jeep's armored hide, and was answered by a burst from Parker's machine gun and a grenade from one of the other troopers.  Spencaire was busily reloading her launcher with several grenades bummed from someone else.

Helhake continued, "What do you say, sir?"
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Tegyrius on 24 February 2019, 20:35:51
Cameron leaned into his shotgun and punched a full magazine of slugs in the general direction of a pair of hostiles trying to sneak around the flank.  One dropped, but he was still moving energetically when his buddy dragged him into cover; Cameron wasn't sure if a round had connected or if the opposing skirmisher had just fallen over in surprise at a near-miss.

"All aboard," he replied to Helhake, shoving rounds from his swiftly-diminishing reserve through the shotgun's loading gate.  He keyed his mic.  "CROSSBOW, SPECTATOR.  We're loading the jeep and will be coming aboard with haste.  Clear the bay and have the loadmaster stand by to direct hasty cargo tiedown."  A corner of his mouth twitched as he imagined the flight crew's response to securing down a multi-ton armored vehicle with anything like "haste."

"SPECTATOR, CROSSBOW copies," came the reply, overlain with resigned tension.  "Bring it in."

"All right, Delf, count 'em off," Cameron said.  "Mach!  Find a seat!  Parker, don't save the barrel!"

Under an umbrella of suppressive fire, the troopers of Fox-Two fell back on the jeep.  A ricochet whacked Baumann in the back of the helmet and the beefy rifleman stumbled, but stayed upright with Mouser's hand on the drag handle of his armor.  Lasskiy, less fortunate, cried out in surprise and shock as a laser cut a collop from his Achilles tendon.  Helhake cursed and lunged forward, dragging the wounded man into the jeep with McCann's assistance as Spencaire erased the shooter with a grenade salvo.

"All aboard!" Helhake yelled as Groumond swung the heavy hatch shut.  "Mattis!  G--"

The squad leader's command was cut off as Mattis, primed for the order, released the brake.  He'd kept the engine at revs, and 006 leapt forward.  Unsecured in the troop compartment, Cameron and Monchenigo tumbled into the rear bulkhead along with most of Fox-Two.  The driver ignored the chorus of obscenities as he lined up on the shuttle's drop-ramp, lifting off the accelerator and toeing in on the brake as the front wheels made contact with the metal.  The compression reversed itself against the forward bulkhead to more cursing and bruises but a whir of hydraulics indicated Stojanovic had already been poised with a hand over the Close button.

"Via, Mattis," Helhake coughed as he elbowed himself up from the pile.  "Everybody off the bus.  Lasskiy, out of the way.  Everyone else, fall in on Jelly and grab a chain."

Monchenigo pressed himself against the side of the troop compartment as the more heavily-armored infantrymen exited, then assisted Lasskiy out of the hatch.  "Adept?" he said to Cameron as the S-2 moved to join the troopers.  "Ah, is there any chance we can do a low pass over the canyon as we leave?  The exhaust should blow our footprints away..."

"I like it."  Cameron grinned and keyed up again.  "CROSSBOW, when we lift, SHOVEL recommends a low pass over the site to hide the evidence..."
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Daryk on 24 February 2019, 20:57:55
Specified Coordinates, Astrokaszy
1630-1640 Local Time
14 November, 3053

Lasskiy was still grumbling about "where the **** did those jerks get a laser rifle?" when the jeep slammed to a halt in the Ace's cargo bay.  Stojanovic was indeed quick with the CLOSE button, but that didn't prevent a few more ricochets from coursing through the bay, a few pinging off the jeep's armor.  The second the hatch sealed, all aboard could hear the engines rev up.  Helhake's order wasn't a second too soon, as the second chain was still being tightened when everyone could feel the ship lift.  Not all the pinging was thermal stress on the hull.

"Roger that, SPECTATOR... hang on!" was the reply Cameron got through his headset.  Troopers continued securing chains to the jeep as the craft rose and turned in a wide arc.  When the last chain was reported secured, Maddox opened the throttles, and everyone aboard could feel the ship dip sickeningly.  The acceleration increased as the nose came back up, flattening everyone against the nearest deck or bulkhead.  After a heart stopping minute, the ship levelled out and normal gravity returned.

Over the ship's internal frequency, everyone could hear, "Stojanovic, double check all those chains and get our passengers secured before we go sub-orbital."

The load master's perfunctory reply was largely ignored by the troops trying to help Lasskiy get situated in the jeep.  It didn't make sense to make the man climb a ladder he'd only have to descend again in a few hours.  The first aid applied to the wound would likely see him through until the Doc could get a proper look at it.

The relatively minor injuries couldn't stop Cameron from calling the mission a success, even if the locals now had a rough idea where the gold had been.  It wasn't there any more.
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Tegyrius on 27 February 2019, 19:20:20
"That," Cameron observed to no one in particular, "is an obscene amount of gold, even in a universe with asteroid mining and two thousand inhabited star systems."

He turned away from the strapped-down load and made his way to where Munter was re-bandaging Lasskiy's leg.  "Hey, Ski.  How's it going?"

Lasskiy tried on a grin.  "Not bad now that I can't feel it, and Doc says I've got at least two weeks of light duty."

"At least," confirmed Munter without looking up.  "That depends entirely on you staying off it.  Even if you can't feel it."

"Right-o, Doc."  Lasskiy leaned back and closed his eyes.  "Wake me up when we're on the deck."

"You'll probably have to carry him off," Munter confided in Cameron and Helhake as they moved away from the already-snoring trooper.  "The primer shot for the quick-heal itches like fire for about eight hours, so I dosed him to keep him asleep through the worst of it."

Helhake unconsciously dug a knuckle along his ribs.  "Yeah, I remember.  Is he gonna be able to return to duty?"

Munter nodded.  "He should.  We may have to splice in a few cee-emma of myomer replacement for the tendon but he'll be as good as new in a couple of months.  If he doesn't aggravate it," he added, glancing back at his patient.

"Yeah, copy that.  We'll make sure he stays off it."  Helhake looked around the cabin, suppressing a facial twitchwhen he spotted Mattis hovering near Spencaire.  "The sooner we're back with a bunch more friendly guns around us, the better I'll feel."

"Yeah.  And do me a favor: pass the word that this op did not happen," Cameron replied in a cautionary tone.  "One local finds out about this and every one of them with a knife and two brain cells will be working on an angle to get it.  I'll have that conversation with the flight crew now..."
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Daryk on 16 March 2019, 12:43:51
Landing Field, Rabigh, Astrokaszy
1800 Local Time
14 November, 3053

Given Lasskiy's injuries, Maddox took it relatively easier on the return sub-orbital flight to Rabigh.  By 1800, the ship was back on the deck on the opposite side of the Full House from the "tower".  The ship had passed a full SITREP of the battle at Al Seddah oasis, so spirits were even higher among those who weren't knocked out by pain medication.  Lasskiy was snoring lightly in the back of the jeep, completely unaware of his surroundings.

The pallets of gold were completely covered by tarps, and absolutely zero communications had been passed about them, encrypted or otherwise.  So it was no surprise to Cameron that Adepts Hopschnur and Asadi were waiting as the floor of the cargo bay descended to the tarmac.  Hopschnur levelled an even gaze at his S-2 and asked, "So, how'd it go?"
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Tegyrius on 24 March 2019, 19:13:42
Cameron shuffled through his menu of responses, caught Asasi's millimetric warning head-shake, and selected the professional one.  "Sir.  One WIA, light resistance, no significant property damage, and we secured the objective."

Hopschnur frowned.  "Who's hit, and how bad?"

"Lasskiy took a light-gun to the right Achilles tendon.  It's fixable but Munter has him medicated to keep him from fidgeting and aggravating it."  Cameron anticipated the next question.  "No indications that security was compromised.  From all evidence, it was a random encounter with a local tribe's territorial patrol.  The laser that popped Lasskiy was the only one we saw; everything else was chemical slugthrowers.  No heavy weapons, no 'Mechs or armor."

"And the objective?"

Cameron nodded to Monchenigo, who was not quite hovering on the conversation's periphery.  The Explorer Corps specialist took a deep breath.  "Ah.  The, uh, my map data was correct.  The site wasn't extensive - just large enough for what we brought back.  My, it, was probably purpose-built just for that.  It was well-concealed and I think we closed it up before the local people arrived."  He gestured to the cargo hold.  "If you'll follow me?"

"I wouldn't miss this," Asadi murmured to Cameron as she fell into step beside him.  She waggled her noteputer.  "I checked the price of gold on the major exchanges.  The data's about two months old but it's not usually all that volatile."

"Prepare to do large maths," the S-2 replied in a similarly low tone.  More conversationally: "Mach, how much did that weigh in at?"

With no sign that the revelation had been prepped and rehearsed, Monchenigo grasped a paracord loop at one corner of the first pallet and pulled.  The dusty-green canvas rolled up, revealing the shimmering haul.  "Four hundred eighty bars at twelve-point-five kilos per, six tons even."

"Well."  Hopschnur exhaled slowly.  "Now we have an interesting problem."
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Daryk on 24 March 2019, 22:53:24
Landing Field, Rabigh, Astrokaszy
1805 Local Time
14 November, 3053

Quickly replacing the covering, Monchenigo continued.  "Yes sir, even more interesting than that.  Some of the bars still bear the stamp of the Canopian Central Bank from before the Age of War.  Only a relatively small portion, though."

Adept Asadi looked up from her calculations and said, "We should talk this over with Precentor Hong."

Hopschnur shook his head.  "Not on the radio.  It'll have to wait until we dock.  In the mean time, please dig up those 'in extremis' regs again.  I don't think we can safely use any of this stuff while we're here, but it's a long way to Hellespont."
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Tegyrius on 28 March 2019, 19:14:00
Cameron rubbed his chin, feeling the grit and sweat-salt crackle under his fingertips.  "There was also a small smelter.  If we needed to, we could melt down some of it and reformat it into something we could use locally.  Which, ah - now that we've given the Emir what he wanted, what else do we need to do to resupply and lift?"
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Daryk on 29 March 2019, 03:36:26
Landing Field, Rabigh, Astrokaszy
1806 Local Time
14 November, 3053

Hopschnur cracked a smile and said, "Get our people back from the battlefield.  The food and tobacco were delivered two hours ago, and Walden has been getting everything packed since.  Unfortunately, Simmons lost both of the Mongoose's legs, so it's going to be a while.  Tomorrow at the earliest, the day after if not.  Croft is on the way back with the first convoy now, and it's slow going. His ETA is after midnight.  We'll send a truck and two jeeps to retrieve the Mongoose back to the oasis with the Emir's convoy."
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Daryk on 29 March 2019, 18:55:31
Rabigh, Astrokaszy
Midnight Local Time
15 November, 3053

The convoy arrived around midnight, and fresh crews were quickly put aboard, along with spare legs and other repair parts for the techs in the field.  Hopschnur had negotiated to allow three Deuce vehicles to accompany the returning convoy: a 15-ton truck and two jeeps for security.

The Wolverine went straight into the repair bay.  Acoltye Jiminez looked from the 'mech to Adept Croft and back twice before asking, "What did you DO to her, sir?  That's going to be at least 10 hours of work..."
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Daryk on 30 March 2019, 09:02:29
Al Seddah Oasis, Astrokaszy
0700 Local Time
15 November, 3053

The returning convoy prompted a beehive of activity at the oasis, unloading the repair parts and packing the next tranche of salvage for shipment back to Rabigh.  Eric was slightly disappointed to see what remained of his Mongoose fit on a 15-ton truck, but Acolyte Jiminez consoled him with, "Speed was the main consideration, sir.  The heavy truck just can't keep up with the local's beast. And don't sell the 15-tonners short.  They can pull their weight and then some.  Heck, if you were missing just one leg, it could haul you."

The Emir directed the remains of the Marauder and Hunchback be shipped next, and offered to let the Deuce rotate the Phoenix Hawk back for repairs, as long as the Wolverine was ready to return to the field of battle.  Adept Hopschnur again approved the local proposal, still surprised they were showing so much sense.

The Emir intended to accompany the 'mech of his vanquished foe back to Rabigh himself, and was determined to leave the field of battle last.
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Daryk 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!"
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Tegyrius 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..."
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Daryk 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."
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Tegyrius 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..."
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Daryk 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.
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Daryk 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.
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Daryk 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."
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Daryk 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."
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Tegyrius 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."
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Daryk 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.
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Tegyrius 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..."
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Daryk 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.
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Tegyrius 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."
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Daryk 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?"
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Tegyrius 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."
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Daryk 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..."
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Daryk 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.
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Daryk 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."
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Daryk 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."
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Daryk 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.
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Daryk 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.
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Daryk 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."
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Daryk 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.
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Daryk 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."
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Daryk 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..."
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Daryk 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.
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Failure16 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.”
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Failure16 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. 
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Failure16 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.
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Daryk 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.
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Daryk on 06 October 2019, 18:23:01
ECV Full House and ECV Ace of Drax
Outbound from Astrokaszy
17-25 November, 3053

The remaining six days of transit to Astrokaszy's proximity limit (the Inside Straight having repositioned to a pre-determined pirate point from the normal Jump Point) were consumed with training and watch standing for the majority of personnel aboard both craft.  Aboard the Full House, Richter's primary job was training ALL of the Double Deuce's troops on the 1200 LSS.  With only seven of the weapon available, this meant one squad at a time, then the other personnel in groups of six.  The techs were probably the least interested students, but the staff officers were easily the most challenging to keep focused.  The latter kept asking more and more specific questions, slowing down the overall delivery of material.

Aboard the Ace of Drax, it was only the second day out from Astrokaszy that the Princess had been caught with her hands on a bar of gold.  Adept Maddox was beside himself, but hid it well as he described in explicit detail the extra security he needed the embarked squads to provide until they could disembark the gold, the Princess, or both.  The only person aboard the tiny craft apparently unperturbed by events was "Chief" Craig.  When the situation was shared with him, he'd merely raised an eyebrow for a brief instant before shrugging.
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Daryk on 20 October 2019, 13:43:41
SS (ECS) Inside Straight
Orbiting an uninhabited system one jump from Astrokaszy
1247 Ship Time
25 November, 3053

Precentor Hong rubbed her temple as the situation was explained to her.  Adept Maddox was perhaps a little more excited than he should have been, but the grim expressions on Adepts Mason's, Hopschnur's and Asadi's faces didn't make it any better.  The Astrokaszian contingent appeared to be legitimate defectors overall, but the Amira... she was something else.  While the recovery of the Canopian gold would be useful as they transited the Magistracy, the unstamped ingots were a bit of a dilemma.  The Explorer Corps in this sector had been starved for cash since the invasion, and though the unidentified gold was probably Canopian, there was no sure way to tell.  The Canopian government would likely accept it cheerfully, but it could certainly be put to better use in ComStar's hands.

The Amira also had several unstamped pieces of gold in her possession that she claimed were hers.  Only the gemstones she also had lent any credence to that story.  Who knew what unmarked plunder was available to the favorite child of a bandit kingdom the size of a planet?  Maddox was just getting to the part where he explained a complete inventory hadn't been conducted before the Amira was aboard his craft.  The poor boy was actually sweating.

With a patrician nod, Precentor Hong said, "All is well, Adept Maddox.  Relax.  Since no inventory had yet been conducted, it's entirely possible the Amira is telling the truth.  Personally, I don't think there's any chance of that, but legally there's no way to prove otherwise.  Let her keep the, what, five pieces of unmarked gold?  It's little enough to us, and honestly her too.  Those rubies and diamonds she has are probably worth more.  We will return all of the stamped gold to the first Canopian authorities we meet.  The unstamped gold will be transported to Hellespont where the Sector Chief can make a call.  Until then, the unstamped gold will be moved to the Inside Straight, AFTER a full inventory, while the stamped portion remains aboard the Ace of Drax for ease of transfer.  The Amira will be confined to the Full House, with no access to either.  Since most of the passengers and crew of the Full House are similarly 'confined', I don't imagine this will be a problem.  Any questions?"

Mason and Hopschnur looked to Asadi, who shrugged and gave a brief nod.  Even Maddox relaxed.  The weight of responsibility for the gold was now firmly on Hong's shoulders, and not his.
Title: Re: The Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053]
Post by: Daryk on 21 December 2019, 08:38:17
ECV Full House
Docked to SS (ECS) Inside Straight
0900 Ship Time
26 November, 3053

The wardroom was small, but adequate for the current meeting.  Captain Mason was at the head of the table, with Adept Hopschnur at her right hand, with Adept Asadi to his own right.  An unhappy Acolyte Jiminez was opposite her commander on Mason's left.  Adepts McCann and Morrison and Acolytes Mattis and Craig filled out the remaining seats.

Mason began, "All right, this Amira has been aboard less than 24 hours, and is already causing trouble..."

Jiminez interjected, "Trouble, ma'am?  That's an understatement."

Frowning, Mason continued, "Be that as it may, I am formally requesting Adept Hopschnur provide extra security to keep people out of sensitive areas of the ship.  I understand this may complicate training and maintenance schedules, but I think we can all agree it's necessary."

Nodding, Hopschnur said, "Training schedules are flexible, and while maintenance is less so, the technicians will also contribute to the security presence."

Jiminez inhaled, ready to object, but a hard look from Hopschnur changed her mind.

Doc Morrison raised his hand halfway to be recognized, then said, "I'm also requesting a suicide watch for Jillani.  Acolyte Craig was absolutely right to have instituted one aboard the Ace of Drax on the way here.  I would prefer to minimize the change in personnel for that, if possible.  He's currently sedated in sick bay while I read up on treatment protocol."

Hopschnur took a note and nodded.  "Shouldn't be a problem, Doc."

Turning to Adept McCann and gesturing at Mattis and Craig, he continued, "Cameron, I want you and your team to provide as close an escort for the Amira as possible.  Additional security watches are going to be posted at every exit from the cargo bay and main deck, and around the more sensitive cargo, like the armory.  No more relying on just locked doors."

Cameron replied, "Roger, sir.  Can I keep Helhake's squad for that too?  They have the most familiarity with her."

Hopschnur considered for a moment, and nodded his assent.  "All right, any questions?"