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Author Topic: Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053] Astrokaszy  (Read 3798 times)

Daryk

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Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053] Astrokaszy
« on: 08 April 2018, 17:52:50 »
Shervanis City, Astrokaszy
ComStar Word of Blake Communications Center
01 November, 3053
1836 Local Time


Initiate VI-α Anant James-Mishra started slightly as the feed from Campoleone began to stream across his screen.  Looking over at his fellow communications technician and wife, he said, "Lisa... look..."

Initiate VI-α Lisa James-Mishra nodded to her husband, and began typing the urgent notification to the station's Precentor.  A rogue garrison on a neighboring world would be of keen interest to the station's leader.  Of course, it was also of interest to a certain pair of technicians who weren't particularly interested in working for the Word of Blake at the back end of nowhere, especially with a child on the way.  Not that Lisa was showing yet, but it had been more than a month since she and Anant had learned birth control failed.  If there was any chance that rogue garrison was headed this way, it might just be a way off this rock...

Shervanis City, Astrokaszy
Married Quarters, ComStar Word of Blake Compound
02 November, 3053
1130, Local Time


Acolyte III-ζ Jason Craig knocked on the door.  The air conditioning in this particular housing unit was a known problem, and he wasn't completely surprised to have received an urgent call today.  The predicted high was well into the 40's, and even now, half an hour before noon, it was already 39 Celsius.  The rush of cool air as Lisa opened the door told the older man all he needed to know.  Bustling inside with his tool box, he asked, "So what seems to be the problem, Ma'am?"

Replying as she'd been instructed, Lisa said, "Well, the unit seems to be blowing warm air again..."

Reaching into his bag, Craig activated the device he knew would foil the electronic eavesdropping equipment standard in all ComStar housing units, but said anyway, "Let's see what we have here..."

Nodding heavily when he saw the device display a green light, he proceeded to the A/C unit and started to unscrew the fasteners holding the access panel while Anant moved to hold it in place.  For the duration of the "service call", the pair briefed their handler on the situation on Campoleone, and their hopes for escape from Astrokaszy.  Smiling grimly, the "technician" reassured them that it certainly might be an opportunity, and that he'd do what he could to make it happen.  "That just might do it, I think," he said, shaking their hands as the A/C unit continued to blow cool air.  As the green light faded from the jammer, he added, "Call me if it acts up again!  Have a good day."

Shervanis City, Astrokaszy
ComStar Word of Blake Compound
02-04 November, 3053


Over the course of the following days, the rumor mill and Acolyte Craig passed the word to the rest of his network.  The entire facility was abuzz with discussion of the "heretics" from Campoleone, as everyone, Word of Blake loyalist and ComStar sympathizer alike, made sure others knew of their disapproval (if for different reasons).  Acolyte Corse's squad was away delivering the mail, and would have to wait to hear the news, but Adept IV-λ Walsh, Acolyte III-ι Richter, and Initiate VIII-η Jillani all received the word from Craig himself in those days.

Walsh was one of the garrison's VTOL pilots, all of whom were currently on a duty rotation as the ready pilots for the unit's sole functioning Ferret.  Parts for the Karnov were on back order, and the other two Ferrets had been cannibalized to keep the first flying.  The constant blowing dust of Astrokaszy was hard on all machinery, but especially the turbine blades and rotors of hovercraft and VTOLs.  Walsh was far enough along in his career that he knew if he wanted to keep flying, he needed to keep his opinions to himself.  That made the word from Craig no less welcome.

Richter was a squad second in one of the unit's platoons of Jump Infantry.  He'd cycled back to the jump troops after an unsuccessful bid to enter ComStar's Nighthawk program.  One of the instructors had taken a disliking to the big trooper, and it was mutual.  It didn't take too long for the former to find a reason to drop the latter from training.  Only advice from Craig and the fact that Acoylte Corse already had a full squad of malcontents had kept Richter in the regular duty rotation.

Initiate Jillani was a special case.  An idealist, he'd been brought to Astrokaszy to ostensibly teach Caliph Shervanis' youngest child proper Arabic and English.  ComStar, of course, hoped he might have a civilizing effect on the royal household.  The growing attraction between the barbarian princess and her language instructor wasn't exactly in anyone's plans.  Though dismayed by the Precentor's early declaration for the Word of Blake, advice from Craig kept his reservations private.  Craig wasn't entirely surprised by the younger man's determination to ensure the "woman he loved" was part of any plan to escape Astrokaszy, and actually thought it might be a particularly good way to make trouble for the Precentor and the Word of Blake in general.

Fatima Shervanis was the youngest daughter of the Caliph.  She'd grown up a willful child.  Most attributed this to her mother dying by an assassin's bullet meant for her father when she was six years old.  What she'd told no one else was that her mother's whispered last words were "!تفعل أشياء عظيمة" ("Do great things!").  Regardless of the reason, she'd managed to parley her position as her father's favorite into MechWarrior training, and to her father's delight, shown a particular talent for it.  Of course, this only made her less popular among her many brothers and sisters, and she knew it.  The possibility of escaping off world to build her own power base held a particular attraction.  That the pretty boy teaching her English and Arabic thought escape was his own idea only made the decision easier.  Hopefully that rogue garrison would in fact stop on Astrokaszy.  Fate had given her much so far in her short life, why not this?

Alleycat2112

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Re: Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053] Astrokaszy
« Reply #1 on: 09 April 2018, 23:20:31 »
Shervanis City,
Astrokaszy
Word of Blake Compound
05 November, 3053

"This is highway robbery!", Adept IV-λ Walsh stated in possibly too harsh a tone, he was trying not to get too heated. He'd read an e-book once on self-control, he just had a hard time recalling any of what it said anytime he got angry at exceptionally stupid people.

In a calm tone, which his face did not reflect, "I have received the same number of c-bills for over a year. It's not a hard concept, I just want the same pay for the same work I did last week."     

The slightly pudgy middle aged pay clerk sighed. Flyboys, tankers,and Mechwarriors were over paid hotshot stick-jocks at best. This jerk before him had yet to even reach 30 and still had a full head of black hair. He thinks he knows it all, including how the payroll should be run. "Sir, as you can see here on the screen, all deductions are accounted for," Peter Smitty made sure to emphasize all.

Walsh put on his best smile as one of the compound guards in his new WOB uniform started to take an unhealthy interest in his little debate over his livelihood. "Mr." Walsh needed to bend down to check the name plate, "Smitty. I understand my payroll statement. Comstar Reg 121.45a states that outside entities may be entitled to a maximum of 5% of your pay. If my math is correct, it is more like 15% of my c-bills have been deducted." Walsh smiled again towards the compound guard, who at least started to appear to look the other way.

Smitty, with an air of smugness which only comes from near total control of other peoples' pay, stated softly, "Adept as you know we are no longer members of Comstar. The World of Blake believes that each of your ex-wives is entitled to 5% each. With all due respect sir, might I suggest a new hobby. Next in line!"

Bill Walsh was furious, but thought to himself as he walked past the angry line at payroll, I just have to make it off this rock. Anything is better than these self-righteous orthodox zealots who won't last a year. They can't even run payroll right. 

Sebastian Llywelyn

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Re: Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053] Astrokaszy
« Reply #2 on: 11 April 2018, 21:17:48 »
Shervanis City, Astrokaszy
The Squealing Pig
06 November, 1834 Local


Acolyte III-ι Maximilian Richter was not religious at all, and the idea of having to adhere to the commands of a bunch of “overzealous, moronic, religious nut-jobs,” in his own words, was not very appealing to him, to say the least. However, the man chose to keep his lips sealed for the time-being, taking Craig’s advice and having learned during his time in the Nighthawk Program that it’s not always a good idea to voice your opinions when they’re opinions you’re superiors don’t want to hear. This was tough for him sometimes though. Because of his size, which earned him the nickname, the “German Golem,” and his indomitable attitude, Richter was a pretty intimidating individual, especially for some of his more cowardly superiors.

It’s been a long day for Richter though, and he’s been looking forward to getting some down time after his business with Adept IV-λ Walsh was concluded. Right now he was simply waiting for the man to show up at the pub they agreed to meet up at, and Richter wished he’d hurry up and show because he had been making eyes with a gorgeous blonde for the past few minutes.

“Bartender, another whiskey.”

Richter raised his hand as he called out to the waiter, so he could easily see who just spoke.

“And a water, my good friend.”

Another voice called out from behind Richter, who casually turned around to see who it was. It was Acolyte I-α Halley, a devout Blakist who at this point had walked up to Richter and put a hand on his left shoulder.

“Blake be with you my good friend.”

He said in a pious manner before sitting down at the bar to the left of Richter, blocking his view of the blonde he had so intently been admiring just moments before.

“Likewise.”

Richter replied rather unenthusiastically. Partly because the fantasies about the blonde he had been playing out in his mind had just been interrupted so abruptly, and partly because those same fantasies were interrupted by Halley of all people, a damned Blakist. The bartender quickly dropped off a water and a whiskey in front of where the two men were sitting and left to take care of whatever it is bartenders take care of. Now at this point Halley looked around the bar and then leaned into Richter’s direction.

“Have you heard?”

Halley inquired.

“Heard what, Halley?”

Richter retorted, but still trying not to sound too annoyed. Devout as he was, Halley was quite the gossiper, the man simply couldn’t keep his trap shut, and it frequently got on Richter’s nerves.

“Well... there’s word that a ComStar loyalist unit will be making planetfall on this baren rock very soon. I wonder what will happen. Do you think there will be a battle?”

Halley almost seemed excited at the thought, maybe because he himself had never witnessed a real battle.

“It’s hard to say, but it’s none of my concern.”

Richter then turned to Halley and conjured up a fake smile.

“I enjoy having these discussions with you, friend, but I’ve had a long day and would really appreciate it if I could just sit here alone and enjoy a few moments to myself.”

This was a lie, of course, but Richter didn’t think it would be a good idea discussing the incoming unit with a Blakist. Plus, he needed Halley to be gone by the time Walsh arrived. Luckily, Halley took the bait.

“I understand. May Blake watch over you till we meet again.”

The bastard said in that same pretentiously pious voice of his, and left. Not even having touched his water. Now with Halley gone, Richter could once more focus on the blonde until Walsh arrived. He looked over at the girl, but now she was talking to another man, he was making her laugh too. Richter looked back at his drink and contemplated how he was going to kill Halley before he left with the inbound ComGaurds.
« Last Edit: 12 April 2018, 02:01:56 by Sebastian Llywelyn »
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Sebastian Llywelyn

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Re: Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053] Astrokaszy
« Reply #3 on: 11 April 2018, 21:24:54 »
OOC: Is there a way to delete posts?
« Last Edit: 11 April 2018, 21:27:53 by Sebastian Llywelyn »
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Alleycat2112

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Re: Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053] Astrokaszy
« Reply #4 on: 14 April 2018, 23:17:01 »
Shervanis City,
Astrokaszy
The Squealing Pig
06 November, 1838 Local

Adept IV-λ William Walsh final found the local dump of a watering hole called the Squealing Pig. He didn't mind spending time in a bar, how else would anyone survive more than a week on God's Dusty Ball. Walsh however was accustom to the more up scale (cleaner)  Leaping LAM Tavern , however Blakist mechwarriors and pilots were not the company he was seeking. Acolyte III-ι Maximilian Richter was who he had come meet.

Bill's eyes adjusted to the shadowy bar interior which passed for ambiance. He quickly spotted Richter at the bar, the man looked like a human Battle Master! It wasn't surprising he was known as the German Golem. It's funny how they all look so small from the air, Bill mused.

Bill walked over to Richter, "Want to go over to that booth in the corner to chat in private?"

 

Sebastian Llywelyn

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Re: Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053] Astrokaszy
« Reply #5 on: 15 April 2018, 15:53:34 »
Shervanis City, Astrokaszy
The Squealing Pig
06 November, 1839 Local


"That would probably be best."

Richter replied, grabbing his drink before getting up.

As they walked over to the secluded booth, Richter smirked as he noticed Walsh looking around the pub with an almost nauseated expression. Richter deliberately chose The Squealing Pig to see how the fly-boy would act in an environment that was out of his "comfort zone." Sure, Leaping LAM Tavern was a pretty nice place... if you wanted to find a bunch of "girly-men" aviators.

"Well sir, what's the plan?"

Richter inquired, in that deep Germanic voice of his, while closely observing the man. Walsh seemed quite intelligent and capable, which put Richter at ease about the whole situation a little.
« Last Edit: 15 April 2018, 15:59:30 by Sebastian Llywelyn »
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Alleycat2112

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Re: Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053] Astrokaszy
« Reply #6 on: 15 April 2018, 20:54:03 »

City, Astrokaszy
The Squealing Pig
06 November, 1840 Local

Walsh, lifting his hand up from the sticky booth seat and looking at his hand for a second, he willed his imagination not to go there. Bill took off his regulation ComStar Word of Blake, red-tinted eye protective goggles. He would have normally taken them off when he entered the bar, but experience has taught him the value of respecting native culture. 

"Latest intel has them 5 to 6 standard days out. No idea yet where they plan on making planet-fall."

Bill sighs, "There is only one bird up and running, odds are good we get to be the welcome party."

Looking around again.

"Given the weapons and mechs we know this garrison has, we may have an in-flight emergency. You should be ready at all times for such an emergency. The main concern, of course, is the safety of your troops. I am sure you will help them to evacuate safely if anything like that were to happen. Are they all prepared for an emergency in flight jump, if needed? "
 
Walsh goes back to sipping his substandard third world beer, Red Stripe, they would never allow a beer this gross on Terra.   

Sebastian Llywelyn

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Re: Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053] Astrokaszy
« Reply #7 on: 15 April 2018, 22:45:10 »
Shervanis City, Astrokaszy
The Squealing Pig
06 November, 1841 Local


Richter finished his whiskey and started to casually picking at a callus on his palm that had formed from working out.

"My men are prepped and ready to go."

Richter suddenly stopped picking at the callus on his palm and looked up as if he just had an idea. Then he looked around the pub and leaned into Walsh and spoke in a very quiet voice.

"My men and I could potentially sabotage some of the battlemechs, we would have to prioritize the most dangerous ones that could deploy the fastest. I would also have to speak with Craig first to see if he knows anything that could make it less risky, and Corse to see if he would be willing to help. Regardless, it would be extremely high risk, but if it could be pulled off it would give us better chances of safely getting off this God forsaken rock. What are your thoughts?"

Richter took another quick look around the room and calmly sat back while he waited for Walsh's input.
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Alleycat2112

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Re: Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053] Astrokaszy
« Reply #8 on: 22 April 2018, 21:52:02 »
Shervanis City,
Astrokaszy
The Squealing Pig
06 November, 1842 Local

Walsh double checked his chronometer. The next duty rotation was at Oh, My God 0530.

In a very low voice.

"Craig was only planning on the two of us.  If you think some of your men are loyalist, Craig will want to evaluate them before trying to squeeze them a ride off this soon to be forgotten dustball.  Keep in mind there will be another squad flying with us also. We need to keep a low profile until the time is right. I think the last thing we need right now is one of your men being found messing around with a Battlemech.  I am sure they are some of the best in the business at not getting caught, but things can go south real fast."
 
"The plan is the VTOL will have inflight issues. The troops will have to "jump to safety". You and I will fake a crash behind a hill and fly on the deck to the drop ship.  We have two boarding passes for a deep space fight outta here."

"Are you good with the plan?"

Sebastian Llywelyn

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Re: Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053] Astrokaszy
« Reply #9 on: 27 April 2018, 11:19:56 »
Shervanis City,
Astrokaszy
The Squealing Pig
06 November, 1844 Local


"Oh I'm perfectly good with the plan. Craig also filled me in. It would be a waste of time to try to fit my squad on the transport though, they're all Blaksits. I have them pretty convinced that I'm also a Blakist so they will believe most anything I tell them, so it couldn't be too difficult to fool them into sabotaging their own comrades. You make a good point, however."

Richter allowed himself, for a moment, to be distracted by that thought. He relished the idea of tricking Blakists into attacking each other, and he imagined in that moment how it would play out. Then he imagined how it would play out if things didn't go as planned. Despite enjoying the thrill of a risk, he decided that that was not a risk he wanted to take; he wanted more than anything to get off Astrokaszy.

Snapping out of his daydream, Richter asked a couple final questions.

"Just a couple questions. The plan will just take place whenever the Comgaurd drop ship arrives. Correct? And do you need any help making preparations?
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truetanker

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Re: Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053] Astrokaszy
« Reply #10 on: 28 April 2018, 14:06:52 »
" Can't wait to hit the Guard for some payback, am I right sir? " growled an onlooker at the bar. Upon further examination, said onlooker was just another trooper with one of those nameless faces by association. Nothing stood out to shout any unwanted attention.

Walsh looked in the direction from where the voice came from and nodded.

TT

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Alleycat2112

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Re: Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053] Astrokaszy
« Reply #11 on: 06 May 2018, 19:15:47 »
Shervanis City,
Astrokaszy
The Squealing Pig
06 November, 1846 Local

As Walsh causally nods to the troop at the bar, his heart races. Cloak and dagger is not his forte, piloting a 'glass-cannon" he survived by knowing when to fly out of the hot zone.

Putting his flight glasses back on,

"I don't believe any further preparations are needed. When the Guard lands, be ready to go from standby to hot. The Guard only has a small force, so I am sure they will be little to no threat to the city. I believe we will be called upon for forward recon intel. Be ready to execute the battle plan as discussed."

Finishing his Red Stipe for appearance's sake only.

"If there is nothing further Acolyte III-ι Richter, I will see you and your team at the exercise tomorrow."

"Good hunting Richter"

Failure16

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Re: Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053] Astrokaszy
« Reply #12 on: 06 May 2018, 20:37:13 »
ComStar Cantonment Area
Outside Shervanis City, Astrokaszy
07 November 3053

          “Look, dammit,” Acolyte XIII-ζ Jason Craig said over the whine of the winch and its load—a powerpack for a heavy truck—dangling a meter over and forward of his head.  “I said bring the damn thing down slow, not after the bloody sun burns out, okay?”
          “Hey,” Clannery, the tech behind him, at the wall-mounted controls, groused over the complaining winch spooling ever-so-slowly downwards.  “I didn’t build the bloody thing, Chief.”
          Craig felt his lips purse in a firmer grimace than they were normally set to.  He held up his hand in gentle apology.  He was the senior mechanic on this shift—which meant that right now he felt like he was bossing people that were watching paint dry.
          A gentle breeze, waked from the setting sun beginning to slant through the overhead rolling door, drifted grit against the legs of his grease-strained coveralls and scuffed steel-toed work boots.  The wind was like a hot blanket that smelled of baked ferrocrete and lubricant, no less warm even though the heat of the day was beginning to subside incrementally.  The lighting was a ruddy-gold from the door that warred with the actinic lighting from the overhead floods.
          The rest of the seconded personnel, the ones still on duty at any rate, were clustered around the bay where the big stake-bed was berthed.  They were near one of the massive loading doors at the western end of the hundred-meter long building that served as the local ComStar garrison’s depot level maintenance shed.  Much of the shift had already been told off for the day; the ones still present just had to get the engine back into the truck and complete the basic hookups so they could hit the ground running tomorrow morning.
          But to do that, the bloody equipment had to bloody well cooperate.
          And, like anything and everything else on this blasted ball of dirt, that was just a bit too much to ask for…
          “You say something, Chief?” another of the mechanics, Terzel, asked from the side.
          Craig ran a dirt-encrusted hand over his balding head to feel the stubble growing there and along the back and sides.  Terzel was this team’s lead; at present, he was lounged up against the side of an armored jeep in the next bay over.  In his right hand he balanced a wrench with its socket head removed to make the act easier.  In his left hand, he flicked the ash from a cigarette of local manufacture and exhaled acrid smoke that made the senior tech wince at the sight of it.
          “Maybe nothing you weren’t thinking, T,” Craig allowed; the team leader grinned as he looked back to the winch easing downwards.
          “Why’n’t you take a break, Chief,” Terzel said easily as he finished his cigarette off and tossed the butt into one of the omnipresent coffee-cans filled with absorbent that functioned as drip-cans when the vehicles were parked.  He let the wrench collapse into his waiting palm.  “We got this.”
          His grey eyes flicked from the winch to the loading door to the tech and back.  He was a thin, sallow man that looked cadaverous in comparison to most of the men and women under his command who turned wrenches and hefted tires or five-tonne jacks for a living.  He reached for yet another cigarette as he judged he had at least another five minutes before he would have to spring into action and still be off before overtime kicked in.  Clannery redoubled his efforts at the controls to try to speed up the process while the other members of the team cursed, joked, cajoled, or prodded, depending on their temperament.
          Craig took the hint and snorted as he turned towards the door and the sight of Astrokaszy’s primary settling towards the distant horizon.  The stocky form of one of the security troopers stumped towards him, backlit by the unfolding sunset and the distant buttes and mesas going black against the horizon beyond the perimeter wire.
Thought I might get a rocket ride when I was a child.          We are the wild youth, 
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Failure16

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Re: Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053] Astrokaszy
« Reply #13 on: 06 May 2018, 20:39:17 »
(Continued)

             “Little bit late for you to be here, ain’t it, Corse?” he asked, stepping away from the immobilized prime mover.
             One of the junior mechanics stepped into his place as if she had been summoned to do so.  Which, judging by Terzel’s lifted chin, she had.  Of course.
             AdeptAcolyte IX-ι Randall Corse  Acolyte IXXIII Randall Corse stuck out his right hand and grasped the one the chief warranttechmechanic held out in reply.  As he released it, he raised the bottle held loosely in his left and spit a brown stream into it before replying.
             “No rest for the wicked, eh, Chief?” the infantry squad leader returned.
             Craig raised an eyebrow and gestured to the open loading door; his hands were on his hips in the comfortable mannerism of a man who was in charge of his surroundings.  “No drek, huh?” he breathed.  “You gotta leave the wire now?”
             Corse shrugged; he was in battledress, with a drop-holster on his right thigh, but his armored vest and rifle were absent for the moment.  He still wore his sunglasses, though, and he had a perennial five-o’clock shadow that mimicked Craig’s own, though the latter had been clean-shaven when he appeared for duty thirteen hours ago.
             “One of the outlying power-relay stations is having some kind of trouble so Ops tapped me’n the boys to take a smart team out to take a look,” Corse replied easily, spitting again into his plastic bottle.  From the way he held himself, he was may have been facing the master mechanic, but he was keeping an eye on the lowering power pack and his gun truck in the next bay over.  “You know the drill.”
             Craig sniffed diffidently.  Something’s about to be drilled, alright, he thought glumly.  Or somebody.  Aloud he said, “So, you just lucky or did you manage to piss off Adept Vannek again somehow?”
             Behind him, the waiting mechanics let out a muffled cheer as metal clanged together.  Terzel and his team went to work the way a swarm of ants dismembers a fallen beetle.
   The ComStar facility on Astrokaszy was not a military installation in a proper sense, though—given the local color and proclivities—it certainly skewed that way.  The hyperpulse generator station and the security detachment were in the same cantonment unlike most other postings.  Adept Vannek would have been termed the Operations Officer on a proper ComGuard base, but here he was the operations manager.  The short, fiery man was still the same thorn in Corse’s side regardless.
             Corse rotated his head the extra degree or two to prove that he was looking at the warranttech.  “Shitfire, Chief,” he said with a smile that was surely not on his lips.  “Probably both, hey?”
             He shook his head and rotated his glasses up and away from his eyes to rest where they blended with into the short but still unruly mass of wavy black hair.  He spat into his bottle and gestured with it to his gun truck.  “Seven-Eight ready to roll, or what?”
             Craig ran his tongue along the inside of his bottom lip.  “Yeah, Seven-Eight’ is fine.  Fluids checked, gas in the tank, tires filled.  A-plus service, you know.  Only the best finest for you line doggies.”
             Corse smiled for real, but it was a sardonic grin at best.  “You Third Shop boys are the best, I’ll tell the world.”  He made to head past the warrant tech towards the waiting vehicle.
             “Keys are in the ignition,” Craig said, making way for the infantryman to step around him.  That was a joke; military vehicles like Corse’s jeep didn’t use keyed ignitions like comparable civilian ones.  “Just do me a favor, Randy?  Try to keep the bitch outta my shop for at least a week, will yaou?”
             Corse clapped him on the shoulder as they passed.  “Only if you keep me in the shop fer a week, Chief,” he chuckled.
             One of the mechanics let out a triumphant shout and a hammer whanged once, twice, three times in quick succession.

             “Oh, hey,” Corse said, a bit more quietly, but not so secretively that it would have aroused suspicion.  “When I was in Ops getting my tasking, I overheard the CeeTees bitching about their air-con unit fritzing out again.  Guess you’ll be working late again tonight, too, hey?”
             Craig’s mouth worked its way into a moue.  “Good thing I keep my damn toolbag in my POV nowadays.  Seems like a regular occurrence…”
             “Eh, you wouldn’t know what to do with yourself if we didn’t keep you busy anyhow.”
             “Pfft,” Craig snorted.  Then, more wistfully, he said, “Ah, well, try to stay out of trouble, eh?”
             “Shitfire,” Corse replied muzzily.  “You too, Chief.”
Thought I might get a rocket ride when I was a child.          We are the wild youth, 
But it was a lie, that I told myself                                              Chasing visions of our futures.
When I needed something good.                                                One day we'll reveal the truth,
At 17, I had a better dream; now I'm 33, and it isn't me.        That one will die before he gets there.

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

Failure16

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Re: Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053] Astrokaszy
« Reply #14 on: 06 May 2018, 20:44:18 »
ComStar Cantonment Area
Outside Shervanis City, Astrokaszy
07 November 3053

           “Okay, okay,” Acolyte Corse groused good-naturedly, spitting into his bottle.  “Settle yourselves down and curb your enthusiasm.”
          The three troopers sitting on the individual piles of their tactical gear had pointedly failed to get up when bumper number Seven-Eight had emerged from the maintenance bay.  They had at least managed to nod when he stepped out of the vehicle now purring at idle and into their presence. 
          Corse had shrugged into his gear before driving out of the bay.  He took the time now to get it properly settled, which was no small task given how much of it there was.  Last but not least, he hit the quick-release tabs of his thigh-holster and reattached it in a cross-draw position on the left side of his armored vest.  That way, he could access it while in the vehicle.
          Small victories, Corse supposed, were better than no victories.  Which was itself a comment on Astrokaszy in particular, and perhaps life more generally.  Not that Corse nor few enough people on this rotten dustball were likely authorities on life…
           “Just happy to be here, Acolyte,” Acolyte V Elizabeth Hamm, the senior-most of the squad’s riflemen, responded from the pool of shadow in Seven-Eight’s lee.
          Hamm was a hydroponic farmer’s daughter from far-off  Venus with short, tough fingers and a mind and temperament as sharp as her mother’s pruning shears. Her fair skin and temperate upbringing had conspired to make her ill-prepared for her present posting on Astrokaszy.  In sharp contrast, Eric Jones’s childhood in the High Desert of Terra’s North American continent made him rather less home-sick or feeling like an alien interloper.  The third of the troopers, James Goodwin, stretched out on the still-warm but cooling tarmac crossed and uncrossed his booted feet at the ankles before settling with them heels together.  His fingers, long and hard even three years removed from his industrial mechanic’s labors after seeing the ComGuard flyer, tapped out a rhythm on the receiver of his carbine.
          Corse’s squad found themselves operating from almost exclusively from their vehicle, or in the close quarters of the local bazaars as a personal security detail.  The heavy Mauser Assault Systems that served as the standard small-arm for ComGuard infantrymen was great in theory and decent in practice…just as it was totally unsuited to their typical areas of operations.  So, to keep things simple, they had gone local and procured bog-standard carbines for daily-use while the Mausers stayed in the truck against need.
           “So I see,” Corse sniffed while his tone hardened nearly imperceptibly.  He spat again into his bottle.  “Well, don’t all get up at once, heroes.”
          Liza, as befitting her relative rank and position, was first to move.  She rolled upwards into a sitting position and squeezed the bridge of her nose as if to hold it in place.  Her dark hair was tied up into a tight bun that fit into a space in her helmet’s padding.
           “Well, you heard the man,” she said sharply towards her two lounging erstwhile comrades.  “We get to be bleeding heroes again, so shake a leg.”
           “Well, to be honest, I’d rather leave the bleeding to someone else,” Jones sniffed reaching into the gathering darkness for one or the other of his comrade’s packs of cigarettes.
           “And it rather depends on who is showing some leg, eh?” Goodwin continued, tenting his legs at the knee.  “Or is that not what you said?”
          Hamm reached out with a long leg and kicked him in the back of a thigh, drawing out a muffled curse.  “That enough leg for you, sweetie?  Good, then get your asses in gear.  Both of you.”
          She reached down and hefted her body armor vest on to her shoulders, rocking herself until the twenty kilos of gear found their least uncomfortable riding position.  Jones withdrew a cigarette from Goodwin’s pack then, upon seeing that he was still unable to rise since he’d been dead-legged, took another as a spare and tossed in onto the prostrate trooper’s belly.  Goodwin massaged his leg until Hamm reached down and helped him bodily to his feet.
          “Who’s driving?” she asked generally as she crossed paths with Corse, who was busy ridding himself of the wad of chewing tobacco he had pouched into his lower lip.
          “Oh, anybody’ll do,” he replied.
          The squad leader opened the front right door and ducked inside to rearrange the gear he had tossed inside before he drove out of the maintenance bay.  Behind him, Jones and Goodwin jostled each other in a farcical argument.  Hamm ignored them and mounted Seven-Eight from the rear bumper and over the armored turtle-back.  She settled into the turret and let her hands play over the heavy automatic weapon mounted there until she was satisfied that it met her unyielding specifications.
          The fusion unit that powered the gun-truck could easily handle nearly any energy armament that could be fitted to the vehicle.  But, as with the squad’s personal carbines, weight of fire meant far more here on Astro-Krazy than did the concentrated punch of a beam weapon.
Thought I might get a rocket ride when I was a child.          We are the wild youth, 
But it was a lie, that I told myself                                              Chasing visions of our futures.
When I needed something good.                                                One day we'll reveal the truth,
At 17, I had a better dream; now I'm 33, and it isn't me.        That one will die before he gets there.

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

Failure16

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Re: Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053] Astrokaszy
« Reply #15 on: 06 May 2018, 20:47:09 »
(Continued)

          Corse sat down heavily into the truck-commander’s seat and clipped his carbine into the retaining clasp near the central console.  Goodwin climbed into the driver’s seat next to him while Eric, chuckling at his good fortune, flowed into the open seat behind him.  Corse reached up and levered the safety restraints across him and latched them into place.  He slammed his door shut but it was so heavy that it merely thumped solidly.
          “Seat belts, children,” he called out and Goodwin muttered a curse.  Then, into his helmet’s integral microphone, “Commo check.”
          “Gun, up,” Hamm said quietly, followed by Goodwin’s “Driver, up”. 
           “Jones, up,” Eric said while he closed his door.  He dropped the bullet-proof window and levered his carbine through the opening, drawing narrowed eyes from his squad leader.  He pulled the stubby weapon back inside and shrugged as much as he could in his body armor in a gesture of contrition.
          The post commander had a standing order about driving around with weapons pointing out the windows, which was funny because there was a mother-huge automatic weapon pointing over the hood.  But the post commander didn’t leave post much, either.   Well, such was life.
          “Let’s get this bitch on the road, shall we?” Corse said generally over the intercom.  “Goodie, swing by the head-shed and we’ll pick up our package for tonight’s drop-off, will you?  Everybody, listen up:  tonight, we’re taking a couple power-techs out to OPS-Two-North.”
          That elicited a couple muffled curses.
          “So that means keep your eyes peeled and your minds sharp.  We will take Route Red out and Yellow back.  It’s just us—”
          “Naturally,” Jones interjected.
          “Naturally,” Hamm agreed, taking a half step to tread accidentally on the fingers of his right hand he had splayed carelessly on the central pedestal where she stood.  He yelped while she turned to face the squad leader, dropping down into a crouch inside the vehicle.   Corse felt the corners of his mouth twitch upwards minutely.
          “—so we can move quick and stay agile,” the squad leader continued to a snicker or two from his crew.
          Standard operating procedure on Astrokaszy was that no ComGuard—now Word of Blake—elements or personnel left the perimeter solo.  Corse’s squad never seemed to leave the gate except by themselves.  It was kind of their thing, dubious a distinction as it was.
          “We drop off the techies, pull security while they do technical things, and head on back here for a night-cap, right?” Corse asked.
          “And wake them bastards Denman and Neil up for missing out on all the fun,” Goodwin said.
          “At ease,” Corse admonished lightly.  “If you had the same rolling crud those two have, you’d want the night off, too…or would you rather be cooped up in this tiny-ass box with their vomiting all over everything?”
          “Fair ‘nuff,” the driver replied.  “You ready t’roll, boss?”
          “Let’s do it,” Corse replied.  “And try not to break anything this time, eh?  I don’t need any more drek from Chief Craig.”
Thought I might get a rocket ride when I was a child.          We are the wild youth, 
But it was a lie, that I told myself                                              Chasing visions of our futures.
When I needed something good.                                                One day we'll reveal the truth,
At 17, I had a better dream; now I'm 33, and it isn't me.        That one will die before he gets there.

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

Failure16

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Re: Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053] Astrokaszy
« Reply #16 on: 06 May 2018, 20:48:46 »
(Continued)

          Goodwin dropped the five-tonne vehicle into Drive and rolled over to the operations annex where the commo techs worked.  The knobby tires grumbled over the sand-strewn expanse of pavement that covered the majority of the installation in a tawny veil.  The fusion engine that powered the armored vehicle purred happily, as if in anticipation for being uncaged in a matter of minutes.
          It was long enough after close of business hours that the building looked deserted.  There were no vehicles parked outside, at any rate.  Corse couldn’t imagine that the techs he was here to pick up had walked from their billets, which were further away than even a distance runner would consider a reasonable jaunt.  Up in the dorsal hatch, Hamm cursed in a low but audible voice.  Corse didn’t bother to reprimand the senior trooper since he was presently trying in vain to imagine a future that did not involve him extricating his form—festooned with more gear than any reasonable human being needed—from the strait confines of the gun-truck.
          “Jones,” Hamm said abruptly.  “Get your ass moving and go see if anybody is home, right?”
          “Roger,” the rifleman said, popping out of the vehicle as if he had expected the order.
          He was back in under a minute.  “Door’s locked, guys,” he said, thumping his armored door shut.
          “Think this means the mission is scrubbed?” Goodwin asked generally while he inspected the nails of his hand not holding the wheel.
          “Think your girlfriend’s sleeping alone tonight?” Hamm responded amiably.
          “I think you all are giving everyone else too much credit when pure inadequacy is a sufficient answer,” Corse said thickly.  “Goodie, get us over to the ops building and make it snappy, eh?  If someone wants to play games, they can do it on their own time.”
          Goodwin didn’t bother answering verbally.  He stepped on the accelerator and the Omni-25 fusion pack responded happily.  There were marked roads within the encampment, but time and the harsh, unforgiving environment had conspired to make the ghostly traceries of traffic control mere suggestions.  The driver cut across an expanse that could have landed a DropShip comfortably instead of taking the circuitous track around it.
          On the other side was the Operations Center.  No one had ever been able to satisfactorily explain why the operations annex and the primary operations center were separated by a several-hundred meter wide gulf of featureless ferrocrete.  Corse sniffed silently.  There were a lot of things on Astro-Krazy that didn’t make sense.
          They started making even less since that freak-show Precentor-Astrokaszy Lomidze had declared for the Word of Blake.  But that was neither here nor there.  For now, he just had to get everyone aboard the truck back to base alive.  As for the techs?  Well, they had best get aboard the damn truck…
          Goodwin coasted to a stop in front of the main door to the ops center, a drab, nearly windowless edifice that did nothing to convey ComStar’s magnificence to the casual onlooker.  Corse bit off a curse and began to exit the vehicle.  His hands were attaching his carbine to the clip on his armor by rote.
          He’d rather have sent Jones in, but if the techs had been pulled from their usual duty location to where the staff-duty adept was, it meant he was being baited. 
          Randall Corse didn’t send one of his troopers into a trap if he had a choice.
Thought I might get a rocket ride when I was a child.          We are the wild youth, 
But it was a lie, that I told myself                                              Chasing visions of our futures.
When I needed something good.                                                One day we'll reveal the truth,
At 17, I had a better dream; now I'm 33, and it isn't me.        That one will die before he gets there.

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

Failure16

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Re: Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053] Astrokaszy
« Reply #17 on: 06 May 2018, 20:49:27 »
(Continued)

          The squad leader hunched his shoulders to settle his armored vest and adjusted the hang of his carbine on its patrol sling so that it hung muzzle down and not across his torso as it normally would.  He squared up his helmet and stepped off towards the beckoning door.  The door of Seven-Eight stood open behind him.
          The doors swung open as he neared them.  The motion was sudden and happened when he was already reaching for the right-most panel, forcing him to stutter-step to avoid crashing into the panels.  He felt his hands scrabbling for his carbine and forced them back to his sides.  Three figures—no, four—awaited him in when he crossed the threshold into the atrium of the large building.
          For all its size, the ops center felt close inside.  The staff-duty desk, more properly a reception area on this post, stood off to the left in a windowed cubby.  Ugly but functional seating—a couch, loveseat, and two chairs—filled out a waiting area to the right.  The hallway and a T-intersection led back to the staff offices.  Images of the chain of command, local up through the Precentor Martial, covered the walls in the darkened hallway.  Given the recent shake-up, Corse didn’t recognize nine in ten of the faces; even the handful he did identify wore gaudy robes that were a bit much even for the ComStar that was only a memory of itself.
          Adept Vannek, the Operations Manager, waited with his arms folded.  He was a short, wiry, red-haired man with sharp features and a perpetual leer that gave him the cruel air of a bully.  To either side were two techs wearing field coveralls under their robes.  The fourth individual was the staff-duty runner standing at parade rest beside his desk.
          “I see you finally decided to join us, Acolyte Corse,” Vannek started with oily, unctuous warmth.  “Blake Bless us all now that we are in the company of your grace.”
          Corse came to attention, but didn’t bother presenting arms.  Vannek’s proclivities towards skewering helpless victims didn’t extend to a considerable knowledge—or care—of military courtesy.  It was just as well.
          “There must have been a mix-up, Adept,” Corse replied just as easily.  “My apologies if I inconvenienced you, sir.”
          It was all a lie, of course.  Corse could pull up the order he’d been given.  He kept a copy of the original transmission against the chance someone wiped the transmission log clean and resubmitted an amended file.  And that wouldn’t matter either, if it came down to it.
          “A True Believer does not make excuses for his failures,” the adept continued his predetermined pontification.  “Indeed, a True Believer, guided by the Will and Hand of the Blessed Blake, will never err, not so?”
          Corse knew where this was going, but he had to let it play out along the shortest route possible—for his own sanity as well as the consideration of his troopers in the vehicle waiting behind him.  The animal part of his mind wondered if anyone would notice if he loaded his carbine, shouldered it, and fired a quick two rounds into the center of the puffed-out robe facing him across a gulf in time and space that was far greater than a few meters of polished linoleum.  The clinical part of his mind knew that it would take more than two rounds to clear the room…
          “Perfection is a goal, not always a reality in a world of frailty, Adept,” Corse replied, willing his hands away from the pistol grip of his carbine.  He really must be losing it to be so close to the edge like this.  “I am sure a guardian such as Blake could find it within himself to make allowances for a poor servant such as myself?”
          Vannek regarded him with cool distaste.  “Indeed,” he replied absently.  Instead of continuing on with a more detailed harangue, he urged the two technicians forward by taking a half-step backwards, so smoothly it was if he had never moved.
          “Krychek, Albas; go now with Acolyte Corse and attend to your responsibilities,” Vannek said to the two technicians.  “Blake’s Blessing be upon you in the performance of your duties.”
          Corse thought they looked rather younger than he would have imagined would be sent out on their own.  Chronological age was not, in and of itself, a limiting factor or indicator of competence—plenty of nineteen year olds could lead an assault party satisfactorily, after all.  But these two looked like they were scared of their own shadows.  The tool bags they hefted swung too easily to have been packed with the tools that Corse imagined would be necessary for the job ahead…though it occurred to him that he had no idea what the job  was.
          Well, it was Vannek’s ass, not his, if they dropped a wrench in the wrong place—or said the wrong incantation, as it were.  He smirked, drawing Vannek’s instinctive and visceral disdain.  Blake had an ass, too; he was just as glad that it was Vannek’s lot to kiss it and not his.
           “P, peace of Blake to you, A, Adept,” one of the pair, Krychek, Corse thought, mumbled.
          “In this and all things, my children,” Vannek replied, turning to shut himself of the affair.
          Corse turned on his heel, not bothering to see if the technicians were following him.  The emotional temperature within his soul had gone from uncomfortably warm to shockingly cold in a matter of moments.  That was disorienting as anything else in a universe that had his galaxy-wide organization splintering at the seams.
          In the gathering darkness outside, a skirl of wind blew a veil of dust between Corse and the waiting jeep.  It might have been simple chance that caused Elizabeth Hamm to have the cupola’s automatic weapon pointed in the door’s general direction.  Corse grinned back at the technicians who he could sense if not hear at his back as he neared Seven-Eight.  The gun truck purred welcomingly.

« Last Edit: 06 May 2018, 20:51:29 by Failure16 »
Thought I might get a rocket ride when I was a child.          We are the wild youth, 
But it was a lie, that I told myself                                              Chasing visions of our futures.
When I needed something good.                                                One day we'll reveal the truth,
At 17, I had a better dream; now I'm 33, and it isn't me.        That one will die before he gets there.

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

Failure16

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Re: Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053] Astrokaszy
« Reply #18 on: 06 May 2018, 21:52:11 »
(Continued)

          “Okay, Krychek, Albas,” the squad leader said while he turned around, loud enough to be heard by his troopers inside the vehicle and not just the two kids staring at him slack-jawed and wide-eyed.  “Strap your kit on the side and hop in the crew compartment.  We’re off to see the wizard.”
          Corse indicated the welded loops on the corners and sides of Seven-Eight’s armored turtle back.  Krychek, evidently the senior of the pair though Corse still wasn’t sure that his acolyte’s rank tabs hadn’t been sewn on over those of an initiate, opened his mouth further to balk.  Corse held up his hand to forestall him.  This whole business with pick-up had delayed him—and his troopers!—well longer than he had any right to expect.
          “Oh, I know, I know,” he allowed, putting a callused hand on the rim of the armored panel that revealed his seat.  “Blake’s disciples should never be separated from their tools so they can be defiled by unbelievers…”
          To their credit, the troopers inside the truck stayed as quiet as angels—or cats waiting to pounce.
          “That is correct,” Krychek mumbled, more as a temporizing gesture than one of placation, rebuttal, or even agreement.  “And I must, well, you see, insis—”
          “The good news,” Corse bulled ahead, acting as if the younger man had not spoken aloud, “is that no one will be able to even dream of defiling them, and they won’t be needed until we get to the power relay, not so?”
          Albas was nodding, dumbfounded.  Krycheck blinked in what might have been consternation or anger, and was likely a mixture of both.  Corse patted his own carbine slung across his armored chest and thumbed back with his free left hand to indicate his senior trooper behind the heavy automatic in the cupola turret.
          “The better news is that my squad and I are here to guard you with our very lives.  But room is tight in the truck just now, so if you value your own lives, tie up your gear and get in the bleeding truck, heroes.” 
          The final command, voiced just the same as the bantering words before it, hit both the technicians like a pair of gunshots.  They sprang apart as if Corse had ended his monologue by rolling a grenade between them.  The squad leader waited until he saw their bags strapped to the gun truck without being opened and the two kids had seated themselves behind him. 
          He looked up at his senior trooper, faceless behind the shield of her commo-helmet.  “Say, Liz,” he called out.  “I think it’s Eric’s turn to get his face in the breeze, don’t you?  You’re always standing up; why don’t you take a break tonight?”
          Hamm snicked her visor up and blinked down at him.  The pole-mounted lights shadowed her face from the tip of her nose up but he could feel her eyes boring into him.  He stared back expectantly as if everything were cool.
          “Hell, yeah,” she said almost happily.  “Jones, get your ass up here and let me take a load off, huh?”
          Inside the crew compartment, the rifleman looked startled at being given control of the turret but he didn’t make a fool out himself or his two seniors by opening his mouth.  He fumbled for the door latch and tumbled out.  Hamm had already vacated the cupola and met him on the other side of Seven-Eight.  There was a moment’s pause before they both remounted the vehicle opposite from where they had been a minute before.
          Hamm grinned at the two newcomers who had already settled in next to her seat.  The harsh lighting turned it into a devil’s leer.  Albas was staring straight ahead, rigid as a statue.  Krychek, nearest her, turned away.  Corse turned on his heel and slid into the truck-commander’s seat more smoothly than he imagined he could have. 
           “Buckle up, kids,” he said, resettling his helmet and talking loudly enough to be heard by the technicians that didn’t have commo-helmets.  Then, to Goodwin, “Onward, Jeeves.  And don’t spare the horses, either.”
Thought I might get a rocket ride when I was a child.          We are the wild youth, 
But it was a lie, that I told myself                                              Chasing visions of our futures.
When I needed something good.                                                One day we'll reveal the truth,
At 17, I had a better dream; now I'm 33, and it isn't me.        That one will die before he gets there.

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

Failure16

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Re: Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053] Astrokaszy
« Reply #19 on: 07 May 2018, 20:17:14 »
(Continued)

          “Your wish is my command, sir,” the driver replied congenially, letting Seven-Eight roll forward immediately; it might have been sitting in gear this entire time.
          The gun truck rolled through the quieted encampment toward the gate.  The guards passed the vehicle wordlessly, since there was no call to check outbound vehicles, let alone stop them.  The acolyte running the checkpoint saluted the vehicle disinterestedly. 
          “Okay, crew,” Corse said over the intercom, reaching for his carbine and into a magazine pouch simultaneously; the pistol in its holster was always loaded and ready, no matter what Precentor-Bloody-Station had to say about it.  “Permission to go Red.” 
          He inserted a magazine in the well, seated it properly then charged the weapon before double-checking the safety.    Behind him, gentle clacks assured him Jones was doing the same.  The truck slowed when Goodwin handed over his weapon to his squad leader before placing it back in its cradle.  Above them, the heavy automatic weapon clunked reassuringly as Jones racked the bolt open, locked it, and ensured a linked belt was spread over the feed-tray before slapping the cover closed again.
          As they neared the end of the access road that led to the cantonment’s front gate, the pylon-mounted lights thinned out then disappeared.  Eventually, so too did the hardtop.  Goodwin kept the speed down to a manageable forty kilometers per hour because they were still running blacked out and even ComGuard night vision gear had its limitations when it came to depth and field of view.
          Corse slapped the release for his seat restraint so he could turn—awkwardly, thanks to his armored vest—to bring his guests into view.  The compartment was as dark as only an armored box rolling through the desert of a third-rate planet could be.  The only relief was the thready illumination provided by the muted displays of the instrument panel and commo suite.
          “So, Krychek,” he said conversationally over the thrum of the tires on the track that was considered an improvement over the surrounding terrain only because it was the route most traveled.  “How long you been on-station here?  I haven’t seen you around.”
          The acolyte—the squad leader couldn’t bring himself to call him a trooper—looked back at him, his face barely visible until Corse shifted so the light from the commo screen fell across it.  “Not too long, Acolyte,” he admitted.  “Albas here and I, ah, came in the last draft aboard the Heavenly Grace.”
          There might have been fear there, which was only to be expected for someone who had only been on planet long enough to hear stories on what went on outside the wire.  But there was a defensiveness that Corse felt uneasy with, given how he felt when addressing such a senior member way back when.  And angry confusion, surely that.
         “Is that so?” Corse said while Hamm, sitting next to the senior-most of the pair, blinked at him in bemused appraisal.  “Been through orientation yet?”
          In the driver’s seat, Goodwin blew a raspberry over the intercom and Jones up in the turret chuckled.  Not wired in or even wearing commo helmets, the pair of technicians couldn’t hear the gently derisive gibes.  Corse grinned despite himself.
          “We been released to work details!” Albas exclaimed suddenly, drawing an arched eyebrow from Corse who had up until that moment thought of the kid as a piece of furniture.
          “So I see,” the squad leader replied, “and evidently quite good to be running around on your own so soon,” he allowed graciously.
          Krychek regarded him distastefully.  Corse returned the gaze levelly, waiting for a rebuke but none came.  Krychek was a cool customer, alright.  Corse didn’t know precisely what game Vannek was playing, but he was quite sure that he—and assuredly the pair before him—wouldn’t like how it played out.
          But Randall Corse did not plan on going along with the script on this one.
          “What do you have planned?” he asked suddenly of the pair in general.
          Stony silence greeted him.  He wondered if he should push, try to precipitate whatever it was that was afoot.  Perhaps he was being paranoid, but Corse had been an infantryman for too long to ignore a dangerous situation staring at him in the face when he’d been immersed in an equal but more drawn out one for so long.
          “Heads up,” Elizabeth Hamm said over the intercom, suddenly all business; she’d been eying the sensor-readout screen in the central console and caught the anomaly before Jones up in the turret.  “Vehicle in the road up ahead.”
Thought I might get a rocket ride when I was a child.          We are the wild youth, 
But it was a lie, that I told myself                                              Chasing visions of our futures.
When I needed something good.                                                One day we'll reveal the truth,
At 17, I had a better dream; now I'm 33, and it isn't me.        That one will die before he gets there.

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

Failure16

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Re: Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053] Astrokaszy
« Reply #20 on: 07 May 2018, 20:18:39 »
(Continued)

          Corse faced front and scrabbled for his seat restraints before even his weapon.  That wasn‘t strictly out a sense of self-preservation as it was one of a realization of the risks.  The tribes that populated the outlands around Shervanis City liked to use improvised explosive devices to announce their presence when they spotted prey they thought was worth their while.  Seven-Eight was not a mine-protected vehicle in a conventional sense, but the crew seats were shock-cradles that would help them in the event they ran over something they shouldn’t.
          “Okay,” Corse said softly over the intercom.  “We roll up nice and slow.  Everyone watch your sectors.  Liz, you watch our backs, right?  Hit ‘em with the lights when we’re fifty meters out.  If I give the word, Goodie, you step on it and damn-all whatever’s in the way.  Roger?”
          His crew rogered in sequence.  Seven-Eight rolled onwards, a bit more slowly than before, but not by much.  Hamm and he dropped their armored windows and stuck their carbines through them, though the truck would be passing on their left and his action was merely precaution.  Jones traversed the turret a quarter turn to the left to keep the approaching vehicle muzzle-on. 
          “It could be just a broken down vehicle,” Albas said out of the blue.  “You know, a family or something…?”
          “Kid, there an’t no such thing on Astro-Krazy,” Hamm said out of the corner of her mouth.
          “Eric, keep a clear eye up there,” Corse warned.
          Up ahead, road flares blazed in a short path to the disabled vehicle taking up a third of the roadway.  A figure shadowed the rear passenger wheel as he labored—evidently unsuccessfully—to remove it in favor of a spare.  At least one other individual lingered near the front of the vehicle, in relative darkness because there were no flares on that side of the road.  The loose embankment to either side of the track prevented the vehicle from pulling off the right-of-way completely, just as it partially blocked the lane of travel.  The desert beyond was as black as sin, and equally promising of possible excitement.
          “Well, isn’t this just a convenient coincidence,” Goodwin murmured as they neared the scene at thirty kph.  Seven-Eight seemed to pause, coasting forward, for a moment when the driver took his foot off the accelerator and let it hang over it and the brake pedal both.
          No one else said anything, even the pair in the back.  Every nerve and fiber of Randall Corse’s being was screaming for attention and relief.  Over the intercom, someone uttered a fragmentary prayer.  He had been in firefights with less internal tension…
          The individual struggling at the rear wheel jumped up when he heard rather than saw the approaching vehicle, a white hillock looming out of the darkness towards him.  He started waving his arms immediately in an effort to get them to stop.  The vehicle behind him was a rugged civilian 4x4, festooned with personal gear and as many different types of jerry-cans as there were present.
           The nearly hidden figure at the front of the vehicle turned suddenly, shielding the bundle that he—she!—held.
          Corse frowned.  Nothing about this situation seemed right.  But he was a ComGuard infantryman, sworn to protect his fellows whether they wore the white shield of his organization or not.  If he drove on by and learned in the morning that marauders had massacred a family on the side of the road, how could he live with himself?
          “Goodie, pull over—” he started to say before something flashed in the corner of his right eye.
          He didn’t know what was happening, but he knew that his life was over if he didn’t call it right, and right now.
          “GUN IT, GOODIE!” he shouted.
Thought I might get a rocket ride when I was a child.          We are the wild youth, 
But it was a lie, that I told myself                                              Chasing visions of our futures.
When I needed something good.                                                One day we'll reveal the truth,
At 17, I had a better dream; now I'm 33, and it isn't me.        That one will die before he gets there.

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

Failure16

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Re: Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053] Astrokaszy
« Reply #21 on: 08 May 2018, 20:38:43 »
(Continued)

          In the turret, Eric bellowed wordlessly out of anger and impotence.  In the same instant, Elizabeth Hamm triggered a burst from her carbine that must have cleared half the damn magazine.  Goodwin had already dropped the accelerator to the floorboard, but it took even a fusion bottle a few seconds to get five tonnes of ceramic, alloy, and diamond monofilament moving.
          Corse still hadn’t fired his weapon because his sector was clear, but his eyes had spotted a greater danger on the way.  Up ahead there were headlights bouncing wildly down the track towards them.
           “GRENADE!” Jones cried.
          Well, all danger was relative.
          An explosion split the night, a white light that seemed to split the universe, consuming the vehicle and everyone inside it.  What might have been a second blast, or merely an echo of the first confirming Randall Corse’s descent into Hell, slammed the vehicle forward.
          Seven-Eight continued rolling forward and then to the left when the driver’s hands slipped from the wheel and the pedals for the few seconds it took before Corse was sure he wasn’t dead.  He dropped his carbine and reached over to grip the wheel and horse it over sharply to the right to avoid rolling up the left embankment and turning turtle.
          “I got it!  I got it!” Goodwin called out suddenly and he did, so Corse let go of the wheel.
          “Shit!” Hamm called out mightily; Krychek cursed in a muffle.  “Shit!  Eric’s down!”
          Corse spared a glance over his shoulder.  Jones was crumpled atop the technicians; no telling how badly he was hurt, but that didn’t matter right now.  The headlights were rushing towards them still, growing closer with every passing second.
          “Get that damned gun up, Liz!” he yelled.  Then, to the technicians, “Take care of Eric, you two bastards!”
          He thought he caught a glimpse of Albas’ tear-streaked face over his trooper’s bunched form as Krychek struggled to free himself from the dead weight of a gangly man wearing thirty kilos of gear.  Hamm screamed in frustration as she tried to extricate herself from the morass.  Corse heard himself curse softly.
          He turned front, his hands reaching for wherever the Blazes it was that his carbine had gone off to.  The headlights, two pairs, were way closer than they had been a few seconds ago.  To his credit, Goodwin wasn’t shying away from them.
          Well, no one said that Corse’s squad was going to go down without a fight.
          “Gun up!” Hamm called out suddenly.  “Contact front!  Two vehicles!”
          Corse peered through the windshield.  The air in Seven-Eight smelled like burned metal.  But it ran fine as Goodwin brought it up to speed.  Something clanged near the rear of the truck, but it must have been a rock caught in the wheel-well by the spinning tires and not a shot from that unexpected quarter.
          The trucks bearing down on them were open-topped jeeps with heavy roll-bars and pintle-mounts in the open beds.  Well, that settled it.
Thought I might get a rocket ride when I was a child.          We are the wild youth, 
But it was a lie, that I told myself                                              Chasing visions of our futures.
When I needed something good.                                                One day we'll reveal the truth,
At 17, I had a better dream; now I'm 33, and it isn't me.        That one will die before he gets there.

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

Failure16

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Re: Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053] Astrokaszy
« Reply #22 on: 08 May 2018, 20:39:29 »
         Hamm opened up without needing to be told at the same time a spark of light erupted from the rear of the lead vehicle.  The fire crossed within a meter of each other on reciprocal courses.  Randall Corse was willing to bet Elizabeth Hamm against anyone else when it came to hip shooting when it counted.
          Her golden tracers arced out and into the lead truck’s cab while the missile screaming in towards them flashed past to crater the roadway behind them.  The gun’s thumb-thick rounds flashed through the thin sheathing of the onrushing truck in a shower of sparks that limned the tubular framing.  Hamm kept her weapon’s heavy barrel down as she poured in fire at cyclic, sure to burn out the barrel.  If they lived that long.
          The lead vehicle turned sharply to the right and rolled over, starting its disintegration even before it touched the ground for the first time.  A great cloud of dust and debris erupted around the tumbling wreckage, trailing the path of destruction like a comet’s tail.  The gunner in the back was briefly recognizable as he or she flew away at a tangent from the devastation.
          The second vehicle slammed on its brakes momentarily and power-skidded through the ruin of its fellow.  It miraculously avoiding the crumpled chassis even before the wreck blew itself up after it had come to rest.  Puffs of dirt erupted when the vehicle’s driver put his foot down on the accelerator hard.  Goodwin let out a bloodthirsty cry as he bore down on the chaos.
          Hamm and the gunner of the second jeep didn’t give each other much chance.  Elizabeth barely left off the heavy machine gun’s butterfly trigger as she horsed the turret around to bear on her second target.  A flash illuminated the crew compartment.  The vehicle slowed noticeably but continued to roll forward.
          The opposing gunner’s opening burst was low, but Seven-Eight’s forward motion brought them into the stream of fire.  Heavy rounds thock-thock,WHAMed onto the nose of the charging gun-truck and a final round starred the windshield in front of Corse.
          Hamm’s golden rope of tracers hosed into the cantering vehicle as they closed on it and flashed past.   She slammed the turret rearward and opened up again on the stalled vehicle in a long-wracking burst.
          “Bring us around, Goodie!” Corse ordered.
          The gun-truck slowed and power-slid into a reversal of course.  Hamm brought the turret around yet again and opened up a third time.  This time, finally, a secondary explosion [/i]whump[/i]ed in the distance.
          “Cease fire,” Corse croaked, putting his own, unfired, weapon on Safe.  He hit the release catch of his restraint and tried to turn around, unsuccessfully at first because the draining adrenaline made him logy and thick-fingered.
          Goodwin slowed the truck to a halt.  He turned off the headlamps without being ordered and let out a long, wracking breath while he consciously took his hands off the steering wheel.  Flames lit the cratered, debris-strewn roadway.
          “****** sonsabitches,” someone in the back grumbled.
          “That you, Eric?” Hamm asked gently, peering down from the turret she was unwilling to leave, even now, to help a potentially injured friend.
          “****** hope so,” Jones replied tiredly.  “But I’m taking tomorrow night off, see if I don’t.”
          Corse could feel himself grinning broadly despite himself as he moved to reach back and steady his trooper into a seat instead of across the laps of the technicians.  Albas was babbling nearly wordlessly, while Krycheck, spattered with Jones’ blood, sat stonily as Eric crawled off of him.
          “It’s, ah, it’s just a flesh wound, I think,” the senior-most technician said, dumb with repressed shock, to Corse.
          “Says you, ******, who didn’t have a ****** grenade go off next to his head,” Jones shot back weakly.  “I’m taking the next week off.”
          Corse grasped his trooper before letting him go.  “Glad you’re okay, killer,” he said to Jones.  Then, “Shitfire.  How’s the truck look?”
          “Seems to drive okay,” Goodwin said, putting in reverse for a few meters before letting it roll back to where he had started.  He lit up two cigarettes and handed one back to Eric behind him. 
          The injured rifleman mumbled a curse in thanks to the driver.
          “Chief’s gonna be pissed,” Hamm said after a few moment’s reflection.  “Say, you two new guys, what was in those bags again?”
          Krychek looked up in irritation from where he had looking at his no quiescent partner.  “Why?” he asked sharply.  “What now?”
          Hamm bent down and shrugged under her armor.  “Hope it wasn’t expensive.  ‘Cause it’s a bloody crater now.”
          Krychek looked suddenly crestfallen.  Corse clapped him hard on the shoulder.  “Welcome to Astro-Krazy, buddy.  You’ll get used to things not working out as planned!”
          With that, he turned around and sunk heavily into his seat.  In a moment, he would spark up the commo and report their contact, and the fact that the mission was scrubbed.  Until then, he dug out his can of chewing tobacco.
Thought I might get a rocket ride when I was a child.          We are the wild youth, 
But it was a lie, that I told myself                                              Chasing visions of our futures.
When I needed something good.                                                One day we'll reveal the truth,
At 17, I had a better dream; now I'm 33, and it isn't me.        That one will die before he gets there.

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

Failure16

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Re: Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053] Astrokaszy
« Reply #23 on: 08 May 2018, 22:54:50 »
*          *          *

          “So what was in the damn bags, then?” Acolyte Craig asked, taking a long pull from the flask that Corse had offered him.  “And how’d Lizzie take bein’ off the gun?”
         “Who the Hell knows?” Corse shrugged while he took the flask back and drank from it himself.  “But whatever it was, without it, those two kids couldn’t do their jobs.  And Liz, well, I needed her in the truck to…take care a’ whatever needed to be taken care of behind me.”
          They were back in the maintenance bay, though now it was utterly deserted other than the two of them.  Dawn was still a couple hours away and the only sounds other than their voices was the gentle clink of hoist chains rubbing together and the more random ping of metal adjusting from the heat of the day.  The air smelled of grease, lubricants, and coolant, a mixture which made the footing below an omnipresent item of mild concern.
          “Which was…?” Craig prompted in a low voice that a result of their cathedral-like surrounding as much as a realization that their voices carried more greatly in the stillness than it would have if a maintenance crew was working in the next bay over.
          “Fix a power relay?” Corse replied facetiously.  When he saw Craig look back at him sharply, he raised his hands in bar and continued, “Shitfire, chief.  I dunno.  If Vannek thought that pair was going to put paid to us by themselves, he’s a bigger fool than I would have thought.”
          “But?”
          “But Hell,” Corse said, spitting into his bottle.  “They might’ve been enough to put the knife in our backs if the timing was right.  But they didn’t count on Liz--or Eric taking a hit, maybe.”
          Jones would be okay.  In a week, he probably wouldn’t have any visible scars.  Much to his chagrin.
          Craig stared at the squad leader, a man who had plucked Death’s own hand off his tunic just a few hours before.  The blackened truck before him bore mute testimony to that.  “That’s big, Randy.  Big.”
          Corse shook his head and turned bodily away.  When he turned back, it all came out in a rush.  “Shitfire, Chief!” he exclaimed in a hushed tone.  “Whaddya want me to think about that shitstorm we just ran into out there?  You think it was a bloody coincidence that there was some grenade toting reject that had broken down at the same time some random recon team toting rocket launchers and machine guns were blasting down the road.  And we just happened to get a FRAGO sending us out tonight with a contact-team consisting of brand-new initiates carrying not so much as a screwdriver?”
Thought I might get a rocket ride when I was a child.          We are the wild youth, 
But it was a lie, that I told myself                                              Chasing visions of our futures.
When I needed something good.                                                One day we'll reveal the truth,
At 17, I had a better dream; now I'm 33, and it isn't me.        That one will die before he gets there.

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

Failure16

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Re: Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053] Astrokaszy
« Reply #24 on: 08 May 2018, 22:55:35 »
(Continued)

          Craig sniffed and reached for the flask hanging in Corse’s fists in an effort to break the other man’s internal tension as much as it was because the mechanic needed the release it would offer in its own way.  “Well, put like that, I can see your concern.”  He raised an eyebrow towards the infantryman.
          Corse stared back at him with a building rage.  Suddenly, it evaporated and he took a pull from the flask before handing it over willingly to the maintenance chief.  He looked up at the ceiling of the maintenance bay and laughed aloud.  “You’re a crazy bastard, Chief, but you’re my kinda crazy bastard.”
          He sobered and squared his shoulders.  “Look, I’m not asking you to believe me, Chief.  But I’m not selling you anything you can’t see yourself, either.  Normal people can’t live around these freaks now, and it ain’t gonna suddenly get better as time wears on.”
          Craig nodded, drawing the other man on.
          “Vannek is…Shitfire, yesterday I woulda said he hated me, sure, but now he is trying to get me and my people killed for real.  And no, I can’t bloody-damn prove it, so stop giving me that ****** look, right?  So we gotta move, Chief, and we gotta move damn fast, before something bad happens.  You with me?”
          Craig held up the flask and took a nip before formally handing it back to its owner.  “Always, Randy.  But you already knew that.”
          Corse reached out and took the other man’s hand in lieu of the flask.  “I just had to hear it, my man.”  He paused and looked around conspiratorially, which made Craig wince inwardly by reaction.  “You hear anything interesting in your travels?”
          Craig ran a callused hand over the stubble atop his head.  “You know, Randy, I learned today that if you’re patient, sometimes good luck drops your way.”
           “You did, didja?”
          Craig nodded before jutting his chin towards the wounded Seven-Eight.  It had endured an explosion—two, actually…Corse had been right that Vannek’s pair of heroes had probably been insurance of some kind that the detail would meet with an unfortunate tragedy, though no one could tell for sure if they were supposed to have become martyrs for the cause or not.  The burst of machine gun fire up the front was mainly cosmetic, though the windshield would have to be replaced and the powerpack would have to be inspected since the armored hood might have been holed after all.  The rear turtle-back where the explosions had occurred would have to be rebuilt, but that was just a matter of cutting and reattaching armor plate.
          There was an opportunity, here, he thought idly to himself, remembering the load of advanced armor and power-train spec electrical components that had been deposited in the warehouse just this last month.  With Seven-Eight in such a relative shambles, it being taken out of service for a few days would give him just the time he would need…
          “I did.  I’d love to tell you about it over a game of cards, too, but right now lemme see how much you screwed up the rest of my day, eh?”
Thought I might get a rocket ride when I was a child.          We are the wild youth, 
But it was a lie, that I told myself                                              Chasing visions of our futures.
When I needed something good.                                                One day we'll reveal the truth,
At 17, I had a better dream; now I'm 33, and it isn't me.        That one will die before he gets there.

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

Failure16

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Re: Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053] Astrokaszy
« Reply #25 on: 08 May 2018, 23:07:06 »
Synopsis:

Acolytes Craig and Corse are disaffected members of the Astrokaszy Word of Blake garrison--they are ComStar functionaries in a sea of True Believers.  In absolutely literal terms, they have managed to keep the true extent of their machinations a secret--evidenced by their continued ability to move and breathe freely--but Corse in particular has a reputation for being a malcontent with possible separatist leanings.

His infantry squad has been filled with similar hardcases, and it draws the most onerous duty.  Unbeknownst to the local powers-that-be, this allows Craig and Cpprse to maintain extensive and surreptitious contact.  On the night in question, the duty includes taking two technicians out to an outlying power-relay.  But nothing with the WoB is ever as it seems, and Corse senses that the game is changing.

On the way out to the relay-station, they are ambushed.  This is nothing new to the team, but it is not precisely expected, either.  There is considerable concern on the part of Corse that the two technicians were nothing of the sort--that they were, in fact, some sort of kill-team or suicide bombers--but the manner in which the events played out precluded the veracity of those concerns being realized.

But now Corse and Craig know that the stakes are higher than ever before.  As Corse remarks that normal people can't live amongst these fanatics, he must also come to realize that it may not be survivable trying to get away from them, either...
Thought I might get a rocket ride when I was a child.          We are the wild youth, 
But it was a lie, that I told myself                                              Chasing visions of our futures.
When I needed something good.                                                One day we'll reveal the truth,
At 17, I had a better dream; now I'm 33, and it isn't me.        That one will die before he gets there.

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

Failure16

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Re: Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053] Astrokaszy
« Reply #26 on: 05 August 2018, 11:23:55 »
As-Sūq al-Hurr
Shervanis City, Astrokaszy
11 November 3053

          Jeep Eight-Eight glided along the main boulevard through town towards the palace.  The thrum of the fusion plant and the gentle whine of the converters transferring power to the four wheels crunching over the cracked ferrocrete roadway was lost in the bustle of the morning rush of the capital’s grand bazaar.  It was early yet; the planet’s primary still had yet to rise over the crenellated tops of the surrounding buildings.  In the pink predawn light, it was still cool and the air smelled like baking lavash or sangak, not baking rock.  Street peddlers thronged the boulevard, arguing over the same spots they had probably inhabited for a decade or two per individual, whille potential customers started to filter in from the thronged hovels outside the city center.
          Acolyte XIII-ζ Randall Corse surveyed the scene through the thick windshield of the loaner vehicle he’d been given—however dispiritedly—by the operations staff.  His beloved Seven-Eight was still in the shop, though he imagined she would be road-ready in a few days at most.  His window was down and his pistol was resting in his lap, held loosely in his left hand.  In his right was his spit-bottle.
          “Ease up a little, Harry,” John Denman said over the intercom from his place in the cupola atop the vehicle.  “Got a little bit of a traffic jam up ahead.”
          The driver, Harry Neil, rubbed his left hand along the stubble lining his jawline and took his foot off the throttle.  “Can’t see how that’s different from being stuck behind these two donkey-carts for the past fifteen mikes, Den,” he grumbled.
          “Aw, quit bitching,” the gunner quipped.  “I thought you liked staring at asses.”
          “Hell, no,” Neil replied as Eight-Eight coasted to a stop.  Reaching for a cigarette from the compartment on his left bicep, he continued around the cylinder, “I’m a breast-man myself.  How ‘bout you, Jillani?”
          Corse smiled despite himself, but he didn’t bother looking over his left shoulder to glance at the decidedly unmilitary man racked out across the back row of seating.  Initiate VIII-η Kashif Jillani was one of the ComStar civilians assigned to the base staff’s civil affairs office.  He probably had some sort of official capacity, but Corse and his squad knew him as an interpreter and liaison to the palace—and the tutor of the Caliph’s youngest daughter.
          When Jillani didn’t stir, Denman nudged him with the toe of a boot.  “Hey, Kash, Harry asked you a question, stud.”
          “Mmmrr-umph,” the civilian mumbled without opening his eyes as he eked his way out of slumber.  “Sure, sure, Neil.  No problem.”
          The three infantrymen chuckled to themselves.
          Ten minutes later, no one aboard was laughing since they hadn’t moved more than a meter a minute and the sun was starting to peek over the buildings fronting the boulevard.
          “C’mon, you blasted Krazies!” Neil called out savagely.  “Make a decision and stick with it!”  He slammed his palm down on the horn to punctuate the outburst.
          “We gotta move, Acolyte,” Denman said over the intercom.  His booted feet had been circling ceaselessly since they had come to a halt.  “Been here too bloody long already…”
          Corse dug the plug of tobacco out of from behind his lower lip and took a swig of water from a bottle jammed into the radio mount.  He spat the water in a thin jet into his spit-bottle and reached for his carbine after holstering his pistol.  “What you got, gunner?”
          “Well, so far as I can tell, what started out as an argument between two of the Krazies is now more like ten, including the bastards with the carts directly ahead of us.”
          Corse cursed mildly to himself.  He began to swing his heavy door open.  “C’mon, Jillani, you’re with me.”
          “Er, Acolyte?” the interpreter replied, sounding decidedly unconvinced.  “Out here?  Now?”
          “Time to cough up cab fare,” Neil said, frustrated, but glad for once someone else was having to do their share of the dirty work.  “Nobody rides this bitch for free.”
          Corse stepped out onto the street and secured his carbine to the take-up reel clipped to his body armor’s right shoulder.  His eyes reflexively scanned the roof tops and street level in a complete 360 while he did so.  After a few moments, the rear passenger door opened and Jillani tumbled out.  The interpreter was dapper to a fault: tall, thin, and toned in a way that was different to Corse and his infantrymen, and clothed in robes that nonetheless seemed tailored.  He looked woefully out of place in the crowded bazaar, amongst throngs of scruffy, coarse-robed working men and veiled housewives, nestled between smoke-colored donkeys and the lowering bulk of the gun-truck.
          The squad leader shouldered his way through the morass until he got to the scene of the disturbance.  By the time he got there, the itch between his shoulder blades had grown into a sharp ache.  It was okay to walk around this town, but ever since the other night…
          He trusted Denman to keep a sharp overwatch, but he was still uncomfortable to be out here alone in the midst of a crowd of agitated locals.  Anything was possible now and—as he suspected—the roadway to the tantalizingly close palace was mostly clear past the clot of jumbled people and carts.  The people around him crowded him only until they saw who—what really—he was.  Then they shifted away like oil on a hot griddle.  Their clearing a space only increased the lizard part of brain’s detached anxiety.
          “Okay, Jillani,” he said, stopping between the two bearded men he had identified as the focal point of the disturbance without needing to be directed by Denman back atop the truck.  “What do we have here?”
          The interpreter let out a string of the local dialect as fast as a machine gun.  Corse had sleep-learned the local tongue, but it didn’t work too great out on the street, where the locals used a particularly horrible patois of Arabic, English, and what might have once been Italian or even Farsi.  Like so much else on this blasted dirtball, even the language was a disaster.
          Jillani turned to the squad leader.  His reticence at entering the developing crowd from moments earlier was gone now that he had a clearly defined duty to perform.  “Apparently, these two gentlemen were trying to occupy the same stall at the same time.”  He pointed to the carts that had become inexplicably joined at the axles when their wheels had become interlocked.
          Corse raised an eyebrow.  “And?”
          Jillani returned the gesture, more quizzically.  “And now they’re stuck.”
          Corse eyed the two carts as if they were a nail he was about to drive home.  As a matter of fact, he could simply clear the roadway and have Denman chop the spindly carts into kindling with the heavy machine gun.  He couldn’t imagine the local constabulary, such as it was, would mind or even consider a substantially different course of action.
          But then he’d have to write a report.  And talk to Vannek.  Be debriefed by Vannek.
          Instead, Corse ducked his right shoulder downwards and to the left, swiftly, so that his carbine swung over his back, muzzle-down.  “Get as many of these bastards ringing us to lend a hand, will you, Jillani?” he said.  “Thanks.”
          The interpreter started haranguing the onlookers, gesturing then with pointed looks or hands to come forward.  Once Corse estimated he had enough help, he smiled at the lined, bearded faces staring back at him.
          “Okay, get these mothers in two groups,” he said loudly while he surveyed his dragooned helpers, but speaking to Jillani.  “One group will be with me; we will lift this cart here as high as we can go while the second group pushes the first cart out from underneath it.  Any questions?”
          Jillani responded with a string of auditory abuse that went on much longer than Corse’s simple instructions.  The hand gestures were tenfold as well.  His helpers turned to him with the uncomfortable smiles of people who don’t completely understand or believe in a task they are nevertheless about to perform.
          “Okay, on three,” Corse said, bracing himself at the rear of the cart after positioning the two clots   of helpers as best he could.  “Waheed, ithnaan, thalaatha!”
          Surprisingly, it worked on the first try.  The two street peddlers swore good naturedly at each other while ignoring the squad leader.  Neil brought the gun truck up to the dismounted members as the road cleared.
          “You done standing around, Acolyte?” he said when Corse opened his door.
          Corse gave him the finger.
          Neil continued on through the rest of the town toward their objective.  Once they cleared the bazaar proper, it was smooth going.  Before long, they were turning into the palace grounds.  A high, thick wall surrounded the palace itself, but the grounds given over to it were several times greater than that encompassed within the protective enclosure. 
          The truck rolled slowly past the checkpoint in the palace’s outer wall after the guard passed them through.  Given the proclivities of the average Astrokaszian, allowing an armed and armored truck into the presidential compound didn’t seem odd at all.  Still, security at the palace seemed a little lax in Corse’s eyes—but that in itself was a cultural construct, or at least a concomitant of social mores.
          For all the weaponry that the average citizen flaunted on a daily basis, no one was going to murder the sitting caliph in his bed, or knife him in the halls of his own palace—or detonate a truck bomb in the courtyard.  Instead, they would assault the city conventionally, and let history attend to itself if they won.  For all that, the present caliph’s wife had been shot down by an assassin some years before, or so the official record went.
          Maybe snipers—even piss-poor ones—got a free pass.  Who knew on Astro-Krazy?
          Neil guided Eight-Eight towards the service entrance instead of the grand entrance with its steps and vaults and pillars.  The members of the ComStar station and garrison were treated well, but no one on either side of the equation wanted to make these frequent visits official state business.  Which is what they would necessarily would have to be if the public entrance and its greeters and fancy-uniformed guards were used.
          Jillani had his door open even before the truck had coasted to a complete halt. 
          “Easy, killer,” the driver said.  “Careful now.”
          “How long is this session?” Corse asked the interpreter, meaning, when should we be back?
          “No more than two hours,” Jillani replied, pushing his door shut and stepping forward to look the squad leader in the eye.  “Normal.”
          “Roger,” Corse said.  “Good luck.”
          Neil let the vehicle coast forward before applying power to the wheels.  “Don’t let the bed-bugs bite!” he caroled as they rolled away, back towards the gate they had entered.
          In Corse’s wing-mirror, Jillani’s thin form turned stiffly away.

*          *          *
          “So, what, you think pretty boy is schtupping you-know-who?” Denman said smilingly with the tiny mug of thick coffee held before his lips.
          “Oh, don’t get me wrong,” Harry Neil replied, hands splayed in mock contrition from the opposite, driver’s, side of the gun-truck’s hood.  “I’m sure its true love and all of that.  You know.”
          Corse pretended not to hear his troopers’ byplay from where he leaned up against the nose of Eight-Eight.  The truck itself was parked beside the little kafyh just off a side street from the main drag.  The central minaret of the palace was easily visible over the eastern rooftops.  The little mug of coffee was still blazingly hot in his hands, but its remarkably sweet bitterness was refreshing despite its warmth bolstering the rising heat of the day. 
          But they weren’t exactly making it easy…“Maybe let’s not worry about things that will get everyone shot if the right words reach the wrong people, m’kay?”
          Denman and Neil cleared their throats.  “Sure thing,” Neil said. 
           “Sorry, Acolyte,” Denman responded.
          Corse let it pass.
          “So, what’s on the agenda for the rest of the day, Acolyte?” Denman pressed.  “We got some wonderful mission, or we get some downtime with the rest of the squad?”
          “Everything is subject to change,” Corse started.
          “Of course,” Neil interjected.
          “—But it should be stand-by and cool down,” Corse continued with only a mildly brief glance towards his present driver.
          If any of the trio was planning on saying anything more, they were forestalled by the local jitney crunching to a halt next to their truck.  Corse was ready to toss his mug at the driver’s door in a dual effort to give the other bastard something to worry about in the split-second he needed to clear his gun-hand.  Neil already had his hand on his own carbine’s pistol grip and Denman was obviously thinking about dropping to the ground if any of his squad mates made an iota more of movement—
          “Friendly coming out,” a voice said over the clatter of the local engine; but the thing was louder than normal only because the engine itself had been bored out past what its original designers had likely thought possible.
          But then, they hadn’t met Acolyte XIII-ζ Jason Craig, either.
          “Damnation, Chief, we almost sent you to hang out with that harem of virgins the Krazies are always nattering on about,” Neil sputtered.  “What’s the big idea?”
          Craig was wearing his duty coveralls.  Stained with five different types of oil, at least two of coolant, and the grime of a man who cannot stay out of the maintenance bays, he fit right in with half the people still wandering the streets even with the heat of the day beginning to press down.
          Corse turned around fully and reached out a friendly hand to the maintenance chief.  “Shitfire, snake,” he said when the balding man took his grip firmly.  “I thought things were about to get real there for a second.”
          Craig smiled as he nudged his goggles onto his bare forehead.  “Great,” he exclaimed.  “Then you can buy me one of those and apologize profusely.” 
          “And they let you off post all by your lonesome?” Denman wondered aloud. 
          Core sized up his friend and thumbed the other two back inside the kafyh.  “Go get us another round, boys.  We got some time left yet.”
          When they were alone on the street, Craig took a moment to ease up next to the Corse.  “I was just kidding about the coffee, you know.”
          Corse shrugged.  “S’all good.  Vannek’s paying for it anyways.”
          Craig looked over at him; Corse shrugged.  “I got my ways,” he half-explained.  “And it’s not like the bastard don’t owe me—us—anyhow.”
          Corse had figured out early on there was a slush fund on the post’s books, in the operating budget.  He figured certain people audited it, but they were likely looking for inaccuracies within reporting of those authorized to use it.  Bureaucracies were like that, sometimes.  This post was worse than most in that regard.  Well, most regards…
          “So, I was just out and about to pick up some hardware for some aircon repair I have to make later today,” Craig said without further preamble.  “What about you?”
          Corse crossed his arms, but managed to thumb towards the palace.  “Out taking pretty-boy for a ride.  The usual.”  He paused thoughtfully.  “Say, how’s my truck doing anyhow?”
          Craig sniffed.  “My truck, for the time-being,” he said haughtily.  “But she’ll be yours again soon.  Maybe a couple days, then she’ll be ready for a test drive, or a mission.”
          “That soon, huh?” Corse breathed.  Out of the corner of his eye, he could see his troopers emerging from the gloom of the coffee-shop.
          “Well, it mighta been sooner,” the mechanic admitted.  “But that last piece of the puzzle we’ve been waiting on is about to show up, probably sometime tomorrow.”
          “You don’t say,” Corse said wistfully.  “Well, I’m glad it’s finally coming together.”  He paused.  “Shitfire.  It’ll be good to be back home.”
Thought I might get a rocket ride when I was a child.          We are the wild youth, 
But it was a lie, that I told myself                                              Chasing visions of our futures.
When I needed something good.                                                One day we'll reveal the truth,
At 17, I had a better dream; now I'm 33, and it isn't me.        That one will die before he gets there.

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

Daryk

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Re: Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053] Astrokaszy
« Reply #27 on: 23 November 2018, 08:02:10 »
Shervanis City, Astrokaszy
Married Quarters, ComStar Word of Blake Compound
13 November, 3053
1530, Local Time


Acolyte Craig could barely suppress the smile creeping across his face as he read the decoded transmission from his source in Rabigh.  The rogue garrison was on world, and being delayed on the ground by the local Emir.  It was too late to pull out today, but tomorrow could work.  He had to brief his network, and finish the last modifications to Corse's jeep tonight.  The alert rotation had be verified as well, to make sure Adept Walsh and Acolyte Richter were on call at the appropriate time.  Things were finally coming together.

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Re: Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053] Astrokaszy
« Reply #28 on: 02 December 2018, 13:01:07 »
Shervanis City, Astrokaszy
Single Quarters, ComStar Word of Blake Compound
13 November, 3053
2300, Local Time


Acolyte Craig could barely contain his frustration.  He'd been unable to contact Jillani, Walsh or Richter today, so he'd have to delay the extraction and hope the rogue garrison was sufficiently delayed to allow him to get his entire network out.  The local garrison had changed something in the watch rotation system too, so arranging the schedule was going to take more time than he thought.
« Last Edit: 05 December 2018, 19:16:31 by Daryk »

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Re: Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053] Astrokaszy
« Reply #29 on: 05 December 2018, 19:16:19 »
Shervanis City, Astrokaszy
Maintenance Facility, ComStar Word of Blake Compound
14 November, 3053
0930, Local Time


Acolyte Craig breathed a sigh of relief.  That Rabigh was going to attack their neighbors employing the rogue garrison gave him rather more breathing space than he expected.  He knew his timeline was still short though, and it was critical to contact his whole network today.  Tomorrow was going to be the day.

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Re: Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053] Astrokaszy
« Reply #30 on: 10 January 2019, 20:16:18 »
Shervanis City, Astrokaszy
Maintenance Facility, ComStar Word of Blake Compound
15 November, 3053
0930, Local Time


The traffic from Rabigh indicated an overwhelming victory, but one that required significant salvage efforts.  That was good.  That would likely delay the rogue garrison's departure, giving Acolyte Craig and his network time to extract from Shervanis City and make the 1,000 km plus transit.  With luck, Adept Walsh and his Ferret (with Acolyte Richter aboard) would be able to make to it Rabigh soon enough to delay them long enough for Acolyte Corse's jeep to arrive.

He'd already managed to alert most of his network tomorrow was the day, with only Jillani still in the dark (he'd left word with Corse to convey to Jillani that he should have an "urgent" air conditioning problem tonight).  Hopefully his "lady love" would be able to depart without too much drama on short notice tomorrow.  Craig was sure there would be plenty of drama, he just hoped it was after the Amira was aboard the departing jeep.
« Last Edit: 10 January 2019, 20:27:50 by Daryk »

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Re: Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053] Astrokaszy
« Reply #31 on: 27 May 2019, 10:23:10 »
Shervanis City, Astrokaszy
Maintenance Facility, ComStar Word of Blake Compound
15 November, 3053
2230, Local Time


Acolyte Craig put his tool box down with a sigh.  The conversation with Jillani had been as complicated as usual, but the older man was reasonably sure the young idealist was able and willing to do what had to be done tomorrow.  At least he knew the other members of his network would be where they needed to be when they needed to be there.  Even the QRF schedule had finally bent to his will, and Walsh and Richter would be on the response bird as planned, along with the smoke grenade that would provide Walsh the pretext he needed to get the rest of the QRF to bail out.  Corse's people were probably the easiest to arrange, even with stuffing himself and the James-Mishras into the jeep with Jillani.  Checking his watch, Craig calculated he had just enough time for four sleep cycles before things kicked off tomorrow.  He knew it was going to be a long day no matter what happened.

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Re: Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053] Astrokaszy
« Reply #32 on: 04 August 2019, 07:28:32 »
Shervanis City, Astrokaszy
Married Quarters, ComStar Word of Blake Compound
16 November, 3053
0615-0900, Local Time


Initiates Anant and Lisa James-Mishra returned to their quarters after their mid-shift.  Their last mid-shift on Astrokaszy.   As arranged with Acolyte Craig, the pair loudly complained about the "heat" in their apartment for the microphones, and called the maintenance line.  Craig's phone rang less than a minute later, and he told the help desk, "That's it!  I'm replacing that unit completely!"

Later, at the James-Mishra's apartment, he dragooned them into helping him unload the large box from the truck.  The "new unit" was of course an empty metal enclosure in a cardboard box.  While Anant and Craig set about making "air conditioner replacement" noise with a hammer and a drill, Lisa placed their packed bags into the enclosure.  She and Anant had told each other "no regrets", but it was still hard to pack what little of a life they had made together and would fit in the 50 kg Craig had allotted them.

If the trio struggled a little more with the "old unit" than they had with the new, no one watching them would know, nor did it seem particularly odd that the pair would accompany the technician back to the shop while the "new unit" cooled their apartment.  Major repairs often required major paperwork.

Back at the maintenance facility, Craig pulled the truck into the far end of the bay Corse's jeep would return to shortly, having delivered Jillani to the palace for the Amira's daily language lessons.  Then it would be a simple matter of transferring the James-Mishras and their luggage into the back of the jeep.  Under the turtleback, they wouldn't draw notice from the palace guards when they picked up Jillani in the afternoon.

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Re: Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053] Astrokaszy
« Reply #33 on: 10 August 2019, 09:11:31 »
Shervanis City, Astrokaszy
Maintenance Facility, ComStar Word of Blake Compound
16 November, 3053
0936, Local Time


Acolyte Corse sighed as his jeep was backed into the maintenance bay.  He could see Craig's truck pulled in to the farther end.  His gear, and all of his troopers' gear, was already packed in the jeep.  Their go-bags had been a little more tightly packed than usual, but few paid much attention to the misfits, and certainly no one in the barracks that morning had.  The routine run to deliver Jillani had gone as smoothly as usual, which was to say there had been the usual horrible traffic.  Jillani had been perkier than usual this morning, at least until Corse told him to cool it.  The energy was still there, but at least somewhat more restrained.

As Goodwin pulled the parking brake, the others spilled out of the back.  Denman moved to close the overhead bay door, ostensibly to keep the heat and dust outside.  The temperature was already above 35 degrees, and climbing under Astrokaszy's harsh sun.  Of course, the door would also hide the cargo transfer that squad was about to conduct.  Acolyte Craig emerged from behind a shelving unit and gave a thumbs up as the door sealed shut.  James and Lisa followed him with tentative looks on their faces.  They'd never met Corse or his troops before.  Craig made introductions all around:

"Anant and Lisa James-Mishra, may I introduce Acolyte Randall Corse, and his troops, Elizabeth Hamm, John Denman, Harry Neil, James Goodwin, and Eric Jones."

Randall shook the two communications techs' hands and said, "Thank you... we couldn't be doing this without you."

Lisa smiled and replied, "Well, there certainly wouldn't be any 'this' without you either, so thank you too!"

Opening the turtleback, Craig said, "All right, let's get this thing loaded up.  I've got containers for spare water, just in case.  Elizabeth, would you be so kind as to instruct Lisa on how to use the other end of that business?"

Grinning, the trooper picked up a red container and led Lisa back behind the shelving again to avoid overly embarrassing her.

Truth told, there wasn't that much to load.  The troopers' gear was already aboard the jeep, along with Jillani's, and Anant and Lisa's luggage was relatively light.  Only the extra water and rations were any work at all.  While the bags were being transferred, Corse relayed the 'bad' news.

"Just one hitch, Chief.  Ops laid on another mandatory indoctrination training for two hours, starting at 1000.  Apparently, he thinks we need the distraction to keep us out of trouble.  We should be back a little after 1200, which should give us enough time for lunch before we have to fetch Jillani."

"No problem, then.  Enjoy training..." Craig replied, shaking his head.

"Oh, sure..." Corse said, gathering his troops.

After the troopers had left, Craig offered a place between some shelves for the James-Mishras to nap until they left.  It was going to be a long day.

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Re: Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053] Astrokaszy
« Reply #34 on: 10 August 2019, 11:16:54 »
Shervanis City, Astrokaszy
Air Field, ComStar Word of Blake Compound
16 November, 3053
1130, Local Time


Adept Walsh was conducting his pre-flight checks prior to assuming duty as the on-call pilot for the garrison's Quick Reaction Force.  Stowing his only slightly bulging go-bag in the cockpit, he began his walk around.  As he ducked under the Ferret's tail boom, he slapped a hand on its underside.  What no one else saw was the small magnetic device (provided by Acolyte Craig, and containing a smoke grenade) that he left behind.  The fob to set it off was securely in a pocket of his flight suit.  Today was the day.  With him flying, and Acolyte Richter "helping" his fellow jump troops bail out when the "in flight emergency" happened, the pair of them would escape the Word of Blake, and Astrokaszy too.  They only had to ditch the rest of the QRF, and fly 1,000 kilometers to Rabigh.  With the Ferret's speed, that would only take 3-4 hours.

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Re: Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053] Astrokaszy
« Reply #35 on: 11 August 2019, 07:12:01 »
Shervanis City, Astrokaszy
Maintenance Facility, ComStar Word of Blake Compound
16 November, 3053
1400, Local Time


Corse and his crew were in high spirits after their last indoctrination class.  They'd managed to keep the comments to a minimum during the class itself, but even that level of push back had earned them an extra hour of droning lecture.  Back in the maintenance bay, they wolfed down their lunches and cleaned up.

After waking Anant and Lisa, Craig went over the plan one last time: he'd join the pair under the turtleback for the trip into the palace to pick up Jillani, then swap into the driver's seat two blocks away before driving around to the side of the palace where'd they'd pick up Jillani's "student".  From there, it would be drive hell-bent for leather toward Rabigh and the rogue garrison from Campoleone.  The WoB garrison's airborne QRF would be "taken care of" by other means.

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Re: Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053] Astrokaszy
« Reply #36 on: 11 August 2019, 10:17:44 »
Shervanis City, Astrokaszy
Palace
16 November, 3053
1500-1515, Local Time


Acolyte Corse waved at the guards as the jeep left the palace as usual.  He gave no indication they were now on the clock.  If Jillani had passed the word correctly to his "student", they had 10 minutes to depart "normally", and come back around the side of the palace.  The young teacher had been almost bouncing when they picked him up, and even a stern word from Craig hadn't wiped the grin off his face.  That was why his skinny frame was wedged between Neil and Jones in the third row of seats.

Several blocks out, the jeep made its normal turn, but a block after that, Goodwin made another left on to a side street.  Easing the jeep to a halt, he smoothly got out and crossed in front while Craig opened the turtleback, and Hamm exited from behind Corse in the truck commander's seat.  Craig slid into the driver's seat and buckled in while Goodwin got in behind Corse, and Hamm took Craig's place under the turtleback.  The jeep was back underway in under a minute.  Jillani laughed at the precise execution of the swaps.

Craig's driving wasn't noticeably smoother than Goodwin's in the city, but Corse had gone with the Maintenance "Chief" on more than one test drive over rough terrain, and took the older man's word for it that his training was the best among them all.  As the jeep rolled to a stop on the side of the palace, Corse noticed there were no guards on the top of the wall.  The reason became apparent soon enough.

A rising female voice, punctuated with gunfire, could be heard, even through the armored door the jeep was parked next to.

"I am" <BLAM>
"Fatima" <BLAM>
"SHERVANIS!" <BLAM> <BLAM>
"And you" <BLAM>
"WILL" <BLAM>
"OBEY ME!" <BLAM><BLAM>

An instant later, the armored door swung inside, and a slight local woman wearing a red sash over an armored jacket, and bearing a smoking assault shotgun, emerged.  A pack was slung over her shoulder.  Goodwin reached over and shoved the door of the jeep on that side open.  The princess handed the shotgun in first, as if handing it to a servant, then firmly closed the door behind her.  With a hard smile, Craig hit the accelerator, not waiting for her or Goodwin to buckle in.  Goodwin quickly made sure the shotgun was empty, then passed it back so he could strap in.

Jillani's eyes were wide, and his jaw was slack.  Jones shoved the shotgun into Jillani's hands while he unlimbered his own rifle.  The young teacher just stared at it, the enormity of what they were doing finally beginning to dawn on him.

For his part, Craig was fully focused on driving.  He'd gathered most of his network into this one vehicle, and they were all depending on him to get them out.  He nimbly dodged around anything that failed to get out of his way, occasionally fishtailing the five-ton vehicle like it was a sports car.  Denman, manning the machine gun, hung on for dear life, and was extremely glad of his safety straps.

Guards reappeared on the palace walls just as Craig rounded a corner to break line of sight.  After another minute or two of brisk city driving, a klaxon finally began to wail from the palace.  By the time the jeep was bouncing over open desert, disorganized pursuit was in chase, but the organized kind had yet to materialize.  Corse could hear confused radio chatter on the garrison's channel, so at least the QRF hadn't been mobilized yet, even if the locals were requesting assistance.

Daryk

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Re: Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053] Astrokaszy
« Reply #37 on: 11 August 2019, 10:53:35 »
Shervanis City, Astrokaszy
Air Field, ComStar Word of Blake Compound
16 November, 3053
1527-1545, Local Time


The local authorities had finally made their problem clear to the garrison, and the sirens were wailing on the airfield.  Adept Walsh was of course the first one in his bird, and had the rotors spinning by the time the two squads of jump troopers spilled out of their own ready room.  Acolyte Richter was among them, and strapped himself into his designated seat.

The Adept leading the infantry gave Walsh the thumbs up, and the Ferret lifted off.  The radio provided a vector to chase the rogue jeep, and Walsh pulled the nose around at speed.  The jeep in question had apparently made good time once it was in open country, and was a good 20km outside of the city.  The Ferret wouldn't take long to cover that distance.  The troopers in the back were busily checking their weapons to insure the hasty boarding hadn't knocked anything out of alignment.  While powerful, the new Mausers issued to the garrison seemed a bit more finicky than the older ones.

Walsh could see a panoply of local vehicles churning up a huge cloud of dust in the near distance.  A few kilometers beyond that, he saw the smaller cloud trailing a speeding jeep.  He could also see the low ridge that was part of his own escape plan.  Pressing the button on the fob Craig had given him gave him just enough time to get both hands back on the controls before a loud BANG sounded from the rear of the Ferret.  Swearing into the intercom, Walsh switched to the radio and said, "Mayday!  Mayday!  Quebec Romeo ONE going down!  Lost the tail rotor!"

Smoke was pouring from the bird's tail, and Walsh was letting it start to spin "out of control".  Keying the intercom, he said with real urgency, "Bail out!  I don't know how long I can hold it!"

Without a second thought, the Adept in charge ordered the troops out of the Ferret.  Richter, as a squad second, was helping the troopers to his left and right disengage their safety harnesses, and shouting "Go! Go! GO!".  In no time, a lazy spiral of 11 jump troopers was headed for the ground on pillars of jump pack thrust.  As the Ferret passed over the low ridge, Richter unlimbered the package of explosives secured under his seat, pulled the cord, and kicked it out of the bird.  As Walsh recovered from the spin and began flying just a few meters over the deck (below the level of the ridge), the package detonated, providing a very convincing smoke cloud where the Ferret "crashed".  By the time the rest of the QRF reached the top of the ridge, Walsh and Richter were over a kilometer away, behind another hill, still flying nap of the earth.

The Adept in command ordered his men down the ridge to look for the wreckage, but called an abrupt halt when the lead trooper encountered quick sand.  Walsh grinned from ear to ear when he heard the report of himself and Richter being KIA.  That would give them some extra time, not to mention Craig and his crew.  Not even the garrison's Hussar would be able to catch that jeep with its ever growing lead.

Daryk

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Re: Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053] Astrokaszy
« Reply #38 on: 11 August 2019, 12:38:23 »
Astrokaszy
Just Shy of 2.5 Hours Outside Shervanis City
16 November, 3053
1735, Local Time


Corse smiled with his hands pressed over his headset, the scratchy HF transmission was hard to hear, but not impossible.  Turning to Craig, he reported, "Sounds like Walsh just got the greenlight from the Deuce!"

Craig just nodded, his eyes fixed forward for the next terrain feature requiring negotiation.

Turning a bit further and raising his voice so those in the back could hear, Corse said, "Our friends in the chopper just talked to our ticket out of here... sounds like we're a go!"

Given the noise, most only smiled and nodded.  Hamm, in the far back, thrust her hand straight in the air with a thumbs up.

Daryk

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Re: Double Deuce II/II-σ [3053] Astrokaszy
« Reply #39 on: 11 August 2019, 13:50:43 »
Astrokaszy
Just Shy of 3 Hours Outside Shervanis City, and 2 Hours Outside Rabigh
16 November, 3053
18001900, Local Time


As Astrokaszy's sun sank for the horizon, no one could miss the twin pillars of fire ascending into the heavens.  Corse's jaw dropped as he saw his ride leave without him.  Craig just kept driving.  As Corse was trying to work out what this meant for the little band of defectors, Walsh's voice crackled on the radio:

"Desert TWO, Desert TWO, this is Desert ONE, over!"

"Go ahead, Desert ONE, over."

"Monitor ATC for further instructions, out."

Relief started to seep into Corse's brain, but he was still worried.  What happened to the plan of picking up their ride in Rabigh?

Ahead, the smaller pillar of flame began to curve toward the speeding jeep while the larger continued boosting for orbit.  Well, that probably explained that.

"Looks like they're going to pick us up early!" Corse shouted over the noise.

EDIT: Had to change the timestamp, as I forgot to shift time zones...
« Last Edit: 11 August 2019, 14:23:13 by Daryk »