BT/Clancyverse Round Robin Story Thread.

Discussion in 'Creative Writing' started by PsyckoSama, Jun 30, 2009.

  1. PsyckoSama Ia! Ia! Kamina fthagn!

    Discussion Thread

    Earth Orbit, 400 km above Earth – October, 4th 1957

    Slowly it moved around on its orbit, the four long antennas slowly swinging out, even two hours after it had been served from the last stage of its R-7 rocket.

    Sputnik 1 followed along on its orbit, never even slightly noticing the slight changes around it as it speed over America. Far away from it stars changed alignments in such a way that while they appeared to be the same as always they weren't.

    ----------------------------------------------------

    Paranal Observatory, Chile – Monday May, 16th 2005 11.20PM UTC-4

    Martin Winters had to suppress a loud yawn as he leaned back in his seat in front of Antu, the first mirror of the VLT, waiting for the image to load up to his system.

    He would rather take a closer look to the Magellan Clouds for his latest project, but someone had gotten some time on Antu to do some IR images of an area towards the galactic pane.

    Winters sighed, why that was more important than catching some goo images of the recent supernova, he never knew.

    Slowly his small finger moved towards his nose, pushing into the right nostril to try and catch that booger that was annoying him for the last hours. As he picked his nose, his eyes fell to the screen and the display on it.

    He blinked a few times as he noticed something that shouldn't be there.

    His finger still in his right nostril, he leaned forward and looked at the hazy warm blob that was close to the edge of the screen where nothing should be, somewhere in the general direction of the Moon.

    His eyes narrowed as he pulled his finger from his nostril, having managed to catch the booger and his other hand moved to his mouse to zoom in on the warm blob that shouldn't be there.

    Slowly the image pulled up from the insane amount of data that originated from Antu.

    Winters blinked. Was that a white hot spot inside the blob?

    ----------------------------------------------------

    Norad Space Command, USA – Monday May,16th 2005, 9.21PM UTC-6

    "What the hell was that?" General David Mathews asked out loud as he glared at the display, while the technicians were working around him.

    Whatever it had been just had killed off two Keyhole satellites.

    "Looks like an EM Pulse," one of the technicians noted.

    Mathews looked over to the technicians and walked up behind him, before taking a glance at the display. It was showing a rather EM spectrum with a very large peak in the middle.

    "EMP?" he wondered and looked up at the large display that dominated the far wall of the control room, trying to make out anything that might have caused the Pulse.

    The technician nodded.

    "It came from the general direction of the Moon, sir."

    "Was there anything planned?" he wondered out loud." Did the Chinese try something with that Probe of theirs?"

    Only a few days ago China had launched a Probe to the moon, officially to take a few imaged for their lunar program, not that they any further than the USA.

    "Possible."

    Mathews frowned.

    "Keep me up," he said and patted the technician on the shoulder, before walking back into his office, trying to get some info from someone else.

    -------------------------

    Pirate Dropship Drakon
    Pirate point between Planet III and IIIa
    System S3-19570410
    16 May 3020


    “Holy mother of God,” Captain Burgess Hale whispered. Despite a religious upbringing, he didn’t believe in God. His former life as a Federated Suns officer and current life as a pirate had been one long hard scrabble struggle. If God existed, he obviously didn’t give a damn about humanity, let alone one disgraced former member of the AFFS.

    Only now it looked like God had decided to smile on Hale and his rag tag group of pirates. Here before him was the motherload every pirate dreamed of. Rich enough and heavily industrialized enough to that his people could actually be picky about what they took. And if the smattering of transmissions that they had sampled were anything to go by, primitive enough to be a cake walk.

    The only problem was a persistent sense of déjà vu. Hale couldn’t help but feel that he had seen this planet somewhere before. But that was impossible. He was in the middle of the Grantville Cluster, a cluster of stars over fifty lightyears across just off the Outworlds Alliance that everyone knew was devoid of any inhabitable worlds. This made the cluster a handy place for pirates to lay low between raids. And that’s just what Hale had been doing when they started picking up radio transmissions from this system. On a lark, he had decided to investigate, hoping for maybe some lost Star League cache.

    And it looked like he had hit pay dirt.

    “Prep for jumpship separation, boys and girls,” he told everyone. “It’s party time!”

    He took one last look at the planet’s image, still haunted by that nagging familiarity. He pushed it to the back of his mind. Whatever it was, it couldn’t be important.

    ----------------------------------------------------

    Paranal Observatory, Chile – Monday May, 16th 2005 11.30PM UTC-4

    Martin Winters all but stared at the display in front of him and the metallic shape in its center. At the moment he was pretty much locked in this location, unable to really think of anything he could do besides stare at it.

    The ship that was shown in the center of the image that filled the 22 inch display was cylindric in shape with a rounded bow and several spines extending from the rear. Right at the moment Antu had made the image, the ship had been firing its maneuvering thrusters, illuminating the hull even more.

    Next to the larger ship was a smaller object that looked more spherical, a bright glow from its end showing that some sort of engine fired to propel it towards Earth.

    "Hey, nice render," he heard a German accented voice behind him. " I didn't know that you're a Battle tech fan."

    "Wha?" was Winters intelligent response as he turned around to face Tobias Wamsler.

    The nerdy German smirked a little and patted his shoulder, before moving his facer closer to the screen.

    "Wow," he made." That's one realistic model of an Invader class."

    Winters blinked rapidly a few times and stared at the display, only to move towards Wamsler after a moment.

    "Hah?"

    Wamsler didn't seem to notice.

    "Hoooo," he noted." And that looks like a Union. Look at the battle damage. Wow..."

    He turned around to look into the disbelieving face of Winters.

    "You really need to tell me where you found it. DeviantArt?"

    Winters stared some more, before his hand automatically moved to his mouse, zooming the image out and showing it in the controls of Antu.

    Wamsler blinked. And blinked again.

    "You mean..." he began turning towards Winters, who simply nodded.

    "Oh frack..."

    -------------------------

    Washington DC
    United States of America
    Earth
    16 May 2005, 11:45pm EST


    President Jack Ryan Sir. fought a yawn as he sat in the situation room. Slowly his eyes glazed over the room, taking in his various staff members. He didn't know what was going on, but it had to be damned important. He'd just gotten back from a week long visit to China to normalize relations with the new, more democratic, government and was very tired. He'd never found it easy to deal with long flights, and after 13 hours of jetlag and a 15 hour flight to sleep of he'd asked everyone to let this sleeping dog lie. Part of him was annoyed, but he also knew that this was probably damned important. The Joint Chiefs all were dancing in their seats like nervous school kids and MP looked like she was about to pass a diamond. It could almost be described as funny if it wasn't so foreboding. Taking a deep breath he began the meeting.

    "Alright, tell me what we're looking at."

    "At 11.20PM Eastern Standard time NORD detected a massive electromagnetic burst at the Lagrange Point between Earth and the Moon," The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff began, "This has been is confirmed by the Paranal Observatory in Chile. They've also taken pictures of a pair of unidentified flying objects. The larger of which is a roughly cylindrical shape approximately five hundred in length. The smaller is a spherical craft eighty meters meters wide. It is expected to reach Low Earth Orbit in three hours.":

    "Wait a moment," Jack cut in. This better not be some kind of prank on the president. He knew that they'd never do such a thing, but even that seemed more likely than aliens. "Craft? Are you sure?"

    "Both shapes are obvious artificial. The larger of the two craft has hence deployed what looks to be a massive Solar Array while the smaller of the two detached from the larger and is making use of what spectrographic analysis has deemed to be a pure hydrogen fusion reaction for propulsion."

    Jack frowned and said the only thing that he could even think of in response. "Aliens."

    "Looks like it, sir, but it gets stranger."

    The PotUS smiled wearily. "I think that the only way that things could get any stranger if is the Second Coming of Christ walked through the Door and introduced himself like Fonzie."

    Muted laughter filled the room. "Sir, the images from Paranal are on your desk. We haven't received any others yet, but NASA says that they're putting the Hubble right on it, and its my guess that by the end of the night every telescope on the planet is going to be looking at it," the Chairman paused for a moment, "The people from Paranal attached several images that make things entire situation just that much more confusing."

    "Such as?"

    "Look for yourself sir."

    The President nodded and opened the file before him and looked through the file before him. The two UFOs seemed very familiar to him and he didn't know why. As strange as it seemed it was like he'd seen them before somewhere. Shaking his head he continued to look through the file until he reached scans from of all things, a war gaming book. One he'd once owned to be exact. Battletech Technical Readouts of the Union Class Dropship and the Invader class Jumpship. Two entirely fictional images that exactly matched the two ships now in High Earth Orbit.

    It has been years since he'd played the game. It was something he'd left behind once he'd been promoted in the Agency and no longer had time for. Jack Ryan looked at the others and nodded slightly. "Things have gotten stranger," He admitted. "Bring us to DEFCON 2." He paused for a moment, "And get Sally and Jack Jr. in here.'

    -------------------------

    Norad Space Command, USA – Monday May,17th 2005, 3.01PM UTC-6

    General David Mathews stared at the large situation room display. The smaller of the alien spaceships had just finished its second orbit around Earth and had yet to do more than just that.

    He shook his head, wondering what the heck the CIC was thinking. He couldn't actually believe that they were dealing with something straight out of science fiction, did he? Okay, perhaps this was a little science fiction, with a honest to god space ship just appearing close to the moon and a second one going into Earth orbit.

    Of course he had voiced his thoughts, when he heard about the CICs thoughts from the Pentagon. And someone had pointed out that according to the doppler radar, the spheric ship was moving at one Earth gravity.

    To Mathews that didn't mean much. That those aliens moved with a constant acceleration however did. It just showed how far advanced they were.

    "Sir," he was broken from his thoughts." The Dropship is breaking orbit."

    He frowned at the technician. After hearing what they were apparently tracking, they had taken to call it the 'Dropship', even if that just could not be.

    He looked up at the display again. At first he had hoped that it would go back to where it came from, but it seemed that it was going to deorbit over the Pacific.

    "Any idea where it will go down?"

    "Hard to tell," was his answer. "It could be nearly anywhere, with those engines they could take a longer flight at hypersonic speeds..."

    ------------------------------------

    Pirate Dropship Drakon - Briefing Room
    One hour to Entry
    System S3-19570410
    16 May 3020

    Captain Hale swept his eyes over the assembled. To his left, his "Intelligence Officer" and captain of the Drakon, Reynold Mamoto was still listening to a muted audio stream.
    On his right Mechwarriors Tony Denaro, owner of one Commando, and Ken, the Stinger pilot, the were playing dice with infantry boss Leutnant Irdon Koltan. The third Mechwarrior, Dana Zumross, was absent, probably tinkering with her Hermes II as usual. Just as well, so long as she got to burn something, she was happy.

    "Let's start, Reynold. You had 3 hours to find me some targets." Hales opened the briefing.

    "This world is heavily industrialised, but practically undefended. There are no orbital defense installations, no fortresses. I've found some militia installation, but there is no trace of a Mech base. We can just drop down and choose what we want.
    They use some exotic codecs, but we had a good deal of them on file. From the intercepted transmissions there are no signs they have noticed us yet or that rhey are even looking. They seem to have forgotten all about space travel.

    ------------------------------------

    Pirate Dropship Drakon - Bridge
    Low Orbit of planet III
    System S3-19570410
    17 May 3020


    “Man, look at all this junk,” Hugo Chin, pilot of the Drakon, said as he maneuvered the Dropship into orbit above the unnamed planet. “I’ve never seen so many satellites orbiting a rock in all my life. I don’t think even New Avalon or any of the other House capitals have this much stuff, not since the Second Succession War anyway.”

    “Big deal,” snorted sensors officer Jane Dietrich. “It’s all little stuff, com sats and stuff.”

    “You know, we could fill our holds with just the stuff sitting up here and still make a profit,” Chin speculated.

    “What, Hugo? And forgo the pleasure of having solid ground under our feet and something other than canned air to breath?” Captain Mamoto said as he propelled himself onto the bridge in the microgravity environment. “Besides, we’re not exactly well stocked with vac suits. Who exactly is going to do the EVA to grab a bunch of satellites? Our esteemed mechwarriors in their mechs?”

    Chin shrugged. “I was just saying, skipper…”

    “Never you mind that,” Mamoto said, ending the dialogue. “Jane, any signs that they’ve noticed us?”

    “You mean other than being pinged by several dozen radar sources practically since we detached from the Elephant?” Jane said sarcastically. “Noooo, none at all, skipper.”

    “Oh, good,” Mamoto said, completely oblivious to the sarcasm. “Okay, Hugo, take us down. We’re going with landing point C.”

    ------------------------------------

    NORAD Space Command
    United States of America
    Earth
    17 May 2005


    “No effing way,” muttered Lieutenant Thomas Warner as he stared at the first high resolution photographs of the alien intruder from the spy satellites in orbit. He had been hearing outrageous rumors about the alien spacecraft coming it, but he hadn’t believed them. The similarity of the alien bogey to any fictional spacecraft couldn’t be anything but a coincidence. Then he saw these pictures.

    The spherical ship looked beat up and worn, its paintjob scored with what looked like burn marks and minor cratering. But even so, Warner could make out the faded insignia painted on the side, a red and gold sunburst with an upright sword across it. On top of the logo was a more freshly painted black X that appeared to have been hand drawn. But what really drew Warner’s eyes were the blocky English style lettering and numbering adorning the hull.

    “General!”

    ------------------------------------

    Bridge
    U.S.S. Nimitz
    Pacific Theater
    Earth
    17 May 2005


    “They can’t be serious,” Admiral Roger Corman said as he stared at the printout of the message from PACCOM.

    “Sir?” Captain Ben Grayson, the Nimitz’s nominal CO, said. “What’s going on?”

    “We’re being ordered to prepare for a ground strike with heavy air cover in New Zealand,” Corman replied.

    “But that’s sixteen hundred miles away,” Grayson protested. “That’s barely inside the operational range of our Hornets. And why are we attacking New Zealand anyway?”

    “We’re not,” Corman said disgustedly. “According to this,” he waved the message, “New Zealand is about to be invaded by aliens and we’re the closest carrier group that can respond.”

    “No offense, sir, but this has got to be a joke,” Grayson said doubtfully.

    “Joke or not, we have our orders,” Corman replied. “Prep the strike, Captain. In the meantime, I’m calling PACCOM and confirming our orders.”

    ------------------------------------

    Cornwall Park
    Aukland, New Zealand
    Earth


    It was a beautiful and sunny day for the people visiting Cornwall Park that day. The first thing most people noticed was the distant roar not unlike that from a jet plane, if a little deeper than normal. Some people looked up and saw a brilliant spot of light that appeared to not be moving very much unlike most jets. But the light grew brighter, attracted more attention from people on the ground. And as the light and sound grew unbearable, a hot wind began to pick up and it slowly dawned on the onlookers that the whatever-it-was was descending towards them.

    At first one by one and then soon in a mass stampede, people began running away from the descending UFO. Most of them even survived.

    The Dropship Drakon landed in the park. The column of fusion fire underneath it brought the thirty five hundred ton vessel to a soft landing, its power digging out a crater in the dirt beneath it and utterly annihilating any living thing unfortunate enough to be caught there.

    ------------------------------------

    Dropship Drakon
    17 May 3020


    “Touchdown in thirty seconds,” Mamoto’s voice said over the intercom.

    “Why an island?” Mechwarrior Dana Zumross said suddenly as she sat in the cockpit of her Hermes II.

    “What?” someone else said, confused.

    “Why are we landing on an island,” Dana asked again. “Why not on the mainland near richer pickings? Why a rinky dink island in the middle of nowhere?”

    “Well, darling,” Ken, the Stinger pilot replied, “if you actually bothered to come to the meetings, then you’d know, wouldn’t you?”

    “Stuff it, dickwad.,” Dana told him, annoyed. “Just tell me.”

    “Twenty seconds,” Mamoto said.

    “It’s simple really,” Hale broke in before the two began squabbling. “Despite being a ‘rinky dink little island’, the target I have in mind has enough loot sitting in the open that we could stuff the Drak’s holds full and still not get everything.”

    “Ten seconds, Nine…”

    “And besides,” Hale continued, ignoring the countdown, “there’s only the one militia base in the area. Now we can probably handle anything the locals can throw at us, but we’re not exactly drowning in spares as is, so I want the damage to our mechs minimized.”

    “…three, two…”

    “Gotcha boss.”

    “…touchdown!” Mamoto cried as the muted engine roar cut off.

    The mechwarriors could all feel the Drakon settle down gently… and then lurch violently to the side. Luckily, the mechs were all still in their cradles, so they weren’t tossed around like giant rag dolls. A few seconds of mass cursings filled the comm channels during which Hale noticed that the floor of the bay was now a thirty degree slope.

    “Mamoto, what the hell happened?” Hale demanded furiously.

    “Er, sorry about that,” Mamoto replied. “Apparently the ground isn’t as solid as it looks. I think one of my landing feet is in a sewer. But don’t worry! The doors are clear and we can take off again with no problem.”

    “We better,” Hale growled. “Okay, open the doors and let us out.”

    The mech cradle released Hale’s Hunchback, and he carefully piloted it across the now uneven floor to the opening hatch. As he stepped outside, Hale was followed by the rest of his lance. The ground and some of the nearer building appeared to have been damaged by the Dropship’s landing, but there were no militia forces to greet him. That was good.

    “Okay people, let’s do this by the numbers,” Hale said once the quick spot check was done. “The target area is roughly north of the LZ. Form up on me and…” The other three mechs of his lance dashed past him at their best speeds. “Dammit!”

    As he put his bigger and slower mech into a run after his errant pilots, Hale decided that he really needed to work on unit discipline. He was just glad that his choice of targets was unlikely to kill his people for their stupidity.

    ------------------------------------

    May 17, 2005
    Auckland, New Zealand


    "You know, this is absolutely the last time I volunteer for an easy Annual Training in a friendly country" Sergeant Tony Dansel remarked as he watched the Mechs stomp across the port facility while the detachment he had ended up in charge of cowered behind a building. "Oh, and all of you who have ever given me shit for what I read owe me a dozen drinks."

    "What, just because you read about giant robots?" Private Jim Johnson said snidely.

    "No, because I read about these giant robots. It's sure as hell not a publicity stunt or anything cooked up on Earth, because you could feel the ground shake when that thing touched down, and no one has anything that big that can do reentry like that. So the simplest explanation is probably some combination of an alternate universe and time travel. Well, maybe aliens with a perverse sense of humor" Dansel said, as he continued trying to dial anyone in his chain of command.

    "Simplest?!"

    "What do you know anyone today who has giant robots, with beam weapons like what took out that news copter, that happen to look like a kludge of two separate Japanese animation franchises that were used wholesale as the basis for a board game? Oh well, on to practicalities. Anyone manage to get through to higher?"

    A chorus of negative replies ensued with a sarcastic follow up "Nope, they said they're in a meeting holed up in the TOC before they left for the day. Of course, no one told them that isn't supposed to stand for Teenagers Only Club."

    "Naturally. And our weapons are still back at the barracks, without ammo, and wouldn't dent those things anyway. It's a shame really, these jerks are so spread out they can't really cover each other. Why couldn't this have happened next week when the Cav brigade would be here?"

    "You have a clue what's going on then mate?" A quiet voice breathed in Dansel's ear. He turned around to find a dozen men in urban camo, not quite pointing their weapons at his people.

    "Only about as much as your average intel puke probably. From their actions, they're hostile, from their numbers, equipment, and poorly painted over insignia, some kind of pirates, probably mostly independent. I don't suppose any of you are familiar with Battletech?"

    The smallest of the newcomers piped up "What, like that Mechwarrior computer game?"

    "Exactly. Giant Robots, distant future, sucks even more than usual to be
    infantry. Your best bet would probably be to use explosives on any leg joint you can reach. Only trouble is the whole getting spotted and dying bit. Well that, and my people don't have explosives, training, or a surplus of balls. Sergeant Dansel, US Army Reserve by the way."

    "Captain Lewis, Australian SAS. I think we might be able to provide the last three. Your bollocks shortage wouldn't extend to covering a distraction perchance?"

    "Well Captain, that depends on how much expensive equipment we can get away with breaking."

    ------------------------------------

    May 17, 2005
    Auckland, New Zealand

    Northern Motorway

    Gloria Freeman gaped at the sight of the sight of the soldiers grouping up alongside the side of the mptprway.

    "What do you think they're doing, Neddy?"

    He looked at them as they jumped over the edge of the edge, ropes trailing behind them.

    "I don't know. Training?"

    A loud bang emanated from beneath them.

    "Jesus," she swore. "What are they doing?"

    Looking out the window into the park, she swore again as she saw the giant robots in the park turning to look at the freeway.

    "Jesus!"

    One of them opened fire on the freeway, blasting holes through the road with its lasers, and reducing a car in front of them to pieces.

    "Jesus, Neddy!"

    She pressed down hard on the accellerator, trying to get away from the sounds of fighting as soon as possible.

    "Oh, Jesus!"
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  2. This should go before the scene of Paranal Observatory IDing the ships:

  3. PsyckoSama Ia! Ia! Kamina fthagn!

    May 17 2005
    Auckland New Zealand



    "Sky-eye here. He's moved as far as he probably will for area security. Initiate SCV rush. Over." SGT Dansel said into the walkie-talkie, as he observed from his perch 150 feet off the ground in the control box of a gantry crane.

    In the nearest motor pool, rumblings could be heard as the engines of ten, then twenty, then thirty massive vehicles started up in rapid succession. There had been locks on the gate, which had lasted seconds in the face of the bolt cutters the Aussie SAS kept with them as a matter of course. There had been locks on each steering wheel, which didn't matter, since the vehicles were already pointed towards the docks, and weren't meant to be steered in any case. There was a lock-out key for each vehicle secured back at the TOC that was needed to activate them, but anyone with three months of experience in the unit knew how there were never enough of them on hand, and that a bent piece of coat hangar would substitute. Their was fence around the motor pool, that was barely higher than the tires of each slowly accelerating juggernaut, and flattened to the ground without slowing the horde at all.

    'Corporal' Jankowicz was bored. There had been no resistance worth mentioning, and none at all in his sector. He couldn't even try to loot anything shiny for himself, the support personnel was taking care of that far behind him. So when his sensors lit up with anomalous contacts in motion, it was with an exuberant wordless shout that he moved his Stinger out to get a look.

    "Sky-eye to team 2, Initiate Pratfall. Bollocks Brigade, on your own intiative. Over."

    As he moved forward, Jankowicz belatedly remembered to report back to the Drakon. "Jankowicz here, I've got major movement in my sector, taking a look-see. Coming up on- Holy crap what the hell are those things?! There's a heavy armor battalion like nothing I've ever seen bearing right down on me with huge frakking cannon! Send everyone, or...... huh, never mind, some joker sent a bunch of frak-off huge support vehicles my way. That thing on the front just looked like a huge gun for a sec. Damn but they blow up pretty though." Entranced as he was with seeing how quickly he could tear up the targets, he failed to notice the minute figures between the buildings on either side of the road dumping out crates and barrels, then dragging cables across the path with hastily tossed ropes.

    "Jankowicz, get the hell back in position. Look sharp everyone, looks like someone was trying to draw our attention over his way. Jankowicz I mean Now!" Hale resolved at that moment that he was pulling that irresponsible jack-ass from piloting just as soon as they were off-world.

    "Yeah yeah, Cap, resuming position you butt residing anal monkey" Jankowicz muttered as he back pedaled, unwilling to leave the last two targets active. Playing his laser across both with a single continuous beam, he turned and accelerated down the road. He first noticed something wrong as the left foot of his mech started to slide forward, trying to compensate with the right leg, he felt something crunch underfoot as his mech lurched off-balance. As he entered an uncontrolled skid forwards, with commendable reflexes he triggered his jump jets to try to get clear. Unfortunately, his mech's feet had by then slid under the replacement cable for the gantry crane, turning what would otherwise have been a brilliant save into a headlong tumbling sprawl as the jumpjets scraped him into and along the asphalt.

    "Go go go go go" Dansel chanted, willing the commandos forward as he moved the gantry towards the fallen mech. Let's see that piece of crap get up with no legs and a forty ton container on its chest. The Aussies practically flew to the mech, each two man team flawlessly shoving their payload into the closest leg joint or seam. As they dived for what cover was available, a series of staccato bursts rang out as the improvised satchel charges detonated, momentarily obscuring the fallen war machine. As the smoke cleared though, it was apparent that though much the worse for wear, and in fact with one foot entirely detached, the mech was still functional, and in fact already rising from the groun "...Well drat. Oh drat it all to heck"


    One of the SAS pairs had drawn Murphy's ire, as randomly ricocheting shrapnel had been practically funneled towards them by the curvature of the mech. Even with the less wounded man carrying the other, they were still in the open, and entirely too far from any kind of concealment. Without conscious thought, Dansel did the three things he had been explicitly instructed never to allow anyone to do with one of those cranes, accelerating it to more than twice it's official top speed. Of course, to put that in perspective, it was still a pace that a running man could easily outperform.

    Jankowscki was in a foul mood, and more than a little dazed. On my first mission with a mech, these worthless shits tear the whole mech up! I'll be lucky if Hale just leaves me to die here. Oh hey, a couple squishies didn't make it away. That's right little bloodbags, try to get away from me, I'm going to.... what's that rumbling sound?

    As he turned his mech towards the noise, Jankowscki's first reaction was controlled panic at the F-ing huge monstrosity bearing down on him. His second reaction was barely controlled panic as he saw the container lovingly positioned at precisely his Stinger's head height. His third reaction was uncontrolled panic upon realizing that all of his leg actuators were flashing danger signals and that the thing was taller than his surviving jump jets could clear in time. His fourth reaction was hysterical sobbing as he realized that the container was actually correcting for his movements. His fifth, and least helpful reaction, was to fire everything he had as it bore on the thing as he continued to turn.

    A mobile dockyard gantry crane, even a relatively small one like this one, intended solely for lifting at most a forty foot container of no more than two hundred tons, was a massive structure. It's legs had to be solid, incredibly heavy metal just to support it's 200 foot height sitting still, much less while in motion, or still worse in motion with the boom lowered and a load suspended. It was over-engineered to withstand almost any plausible circumstance, up to and including hurricanes, because such a crane represented an immense capital investment that would have to survive for years to pay for itself, and preferably decades to allow for ongoing profit. However, when the designers had tried to cover their bases, hostile heavy weapons fire had been low on their list of crucial factors(though it must be said that most had idly speculated at some point on how to most efficiently undo all their work). Hostile fire by a directed energy weapon designed to slice through advanced armor composites like butter hadn't remotely crossed their minds.

    As such, Jankowscki's laser had nearly effortlessly sliced through the majority of the leg closest to him, and his heavy machine guns, while not nearly so dramatic in effect, still didn't do the integrity of the crane any good at all, a problem that was compounded as the crane continued to move forward, further stressing already critically damaged structure. As it began to buckle towards him, Jankowscki's spatial awareness and centers for logical analysis collaborated to belatedly inform him that there had been more than enough room under the thing for it to go by, and he could always have thrown up an arm to ward off the improvised projectile. This proved to be no comfort whatsoever as the structure descended upon his mech even as he tried to hobble clear.

    When the crane first started to buckle, Dansel had scrambled up the ladder from the underslung control booth fast enough to have set a world record had anyone been properly recording the event. Any hope of an open casket hero's funeral would at the very least require him not to be under the majority of the structure in an easily crushed space. As he reached the top-mounted engine room and paused for lack of a better idea, he briefly mulled over his options for an exit line Dramatic declamation?, A last laugh? Obscure geek reference? Guess I'll go with understated.

    As the rear legs of the crane tore off their rails and it accelerated towards the ground and the intervening twenty ton speedbump, the previously distributed hand held radios crackled to life. "It's been an honor gentlemen. Skye-eye, out."
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  4. Cast of Characters

    -Earth- Located in System S3-19570401 as listed in Battletech star charts

    Politicians:
    Jack Ryan Sr, President - President of the United States

    Military:
    Currently unnamed - Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
    Roger Corman, Admiral - CO of USS Nimitz carrier group
    Ben Grayson, Captain - CO of the USS Nimitz aircraft carrier
    David Matthews, General - Norad Space Command (CO?)
    Martin "Triple M" McMayers, Brigadier General - Air Force, not one of Joint Chiefs, plays Battletech
    Lewis, Captain - Austrailian SAS in Aukland, New Zealand
    Antony Winton, Captain - New Zealand SAS attached to Rainbow 6
    Michael Arrigo, Captain - New Zealand SAS attached to Rainbow 6
    Thomas Warner, Lieutenant - Norad officer, works with satellites
    Tony Dansel, Sergeant - US Army Reserve soldier on leave in Aukland, New Zealand, crane driver
    Jim Johnson, Private - US Army Reserve soldier on leave in Aukland, New Zealand
    John Clark - member of Rainbow 6
    "Ding" - member of Rainbow 6

    Civilians:
    Martin Winters - Astronomer at Paranal Observatory, Chile
    Tobias Wamsler - Astronomer at Paranal Observatory, Chile. German National, Battletech fan
    Gloria Freeman - Random fleeing civilian
    "Neddy" - Random civilian in Gloria Freeman's car
    Jack Ryan Jr - son of President Ryan, high school student, Battletech "expert"
    Sally Ryan - daughter of President Ryan, Battletech "expert"

    ???
    Arnold Van Damm - presumably works in the White House

    -Battletech-

    Pirates Lance:
    Burgess Hale, Captain - Lance leader, pilots Hunchback
    Dana Zumross, Mechwarrior - Hermes II pilot, likes to tinker with machines
    Ken Jankowicz - Stinger pilot
    Tony Denaro - Commando pilot

    Dropship Drakon Crew:
    Mamoto, Captain - Captain of the pirate dropship Drakon and "intel specialalist" of dubious ability
    Hugo Chin - Pilot of the Drakon
    Jane Dietrich - Sensors officer of the Drakon

    Other:
    Irdon Koltan, Leutnant - Drakon infantry commander

    Other Notes:
    * The first Pirate jumpship is an Invader class (~500 meters long, 3 docking collars) and has been refered to as "the Elephant", although this is not necessarily its full or even actual name.
    * The USS Nimitz is about 1600 miles from New Zealand, which is just inside its F/A-18 Hornets' strike range (presumably round trip). Anyone know how long it would take the Hornets to get there? (Speed of plot aside of course)
    * Edit 1: 1 July 2009 - removed "on leave" from US Army Reserve personnel.
    * Edit 2: 1 July 2009 - Tony Denaro and Irdon Koltan added to Battletech section
    * Edit 3: 2 July 2009 - added MacMayers, Rainbow 6 personnel, and the Ryan kids
  5. ObssesedNuker Resident Nuke Launcher

    The part with the crane was priceless.

    Massive thumbs-up, keep going with it.
  6. Warringer SPAAAAAACE!

    *points at the discussion thread*
  7. Ferguson’s Port
    Auckland, New Zealand
    Earth
    17 May 2005/3020


    Hale couldn’t see Jankowicz’s Stinger over the cornucopia of stacked shipping containers from where he was. That was part of the reason he had deployed him over there; to keep an eye on their blind spots. But Hale could hear his man scream in terror over the radio only to be abruptly cut off. And that the cut off occurring at the same time as the big crane that Hale could see coming down did not bode well.

    “Jankowicz! Status report!” Hale demanded as he negotiated his way around the stacks toward his location. “Jankowicz! Answer me!”

    “I’m… I’m okay,” came the Mechwarrior’s shaky voice. “Oh God, I’m stuck. Hatch is jammed shut and the damage board is a all red and yellow lights. I don’t think I could get the Stinger standing even if I weren’t buried alive.”

    “Buried alive?” Hale said incredulously. “What the hell are you... Holy shit!”

    The giant crane was an almost unrecognizable mound of twisted metal. Nothing under it could be seen. The only reason Hale could tell the Stinger was under there was that the very tip of its rifle-like medium laser was poking up from the wreckage. Assuming that arm was still attached to the rest of the mech, Jankowicz’s ride must be lying flat on the pavement with ALL that wreckage on top of him.

    Extracting the Stinger could be a problem. While Hale had no doubt that his own lasers could slice the tangle of structural supports like so much butter, he risked doing further damage to the other Mech. Mechs were goddamned expensive and Stingers carried ammo that would explode if it were hit. That meant that he needed to do this manually.

    “Jankowicz you dumb ass,” Hale growled as he started his Hunchback forward. “The repairs to that Stinger is coming out of your cut and… what the hell?”

    Hale brought his mech to a complete halt just as it started to lose its balance and managed to stay upright. Looking down, he saw that the ground was crisscrossed with cables suspended at ankle height. If he had been going at any speed, Hale almost certainly would have tripped and fallen. Movement out of the corner of his eye drew his attention.

    “Son of a bitch!” Hale yelled, firing his left arm laser at a man carrying a suspicious looking package. He missed, the man ducking out of sight and his laser blasting a hole in a nearby shipping container. Hopefully, shrapnel from the container nailed the guy, but Hale didn’t have time for that. “Koltan! We got enemy infantry in the area! What’s your status?”

    “Almost done, Burg,” came the instant reply. “You need my people to sweep the area?”

    “No, get back to Drakon with the loot,” Hale decided. Decisions, decisions. He couldn’t leave the loot unguarded, but he couldn’t dig Jankowicz out with an unknown number of infantry sappers in the area, and God only knew how many OTHER infantry might be laying in wait for the convoy. So he needed one mech to cover his PBIs and another to watch his back and help him dig out the Stinger. With the Stinger down, the only real anti-infantry weapon left in the Mech lance was Zumross’ flamer…

    Hale’s eyes drifted over the wreckage, and noticed what looked suspiciously like fuel leaking from what looked suspiciously like a fuel tank, creating a rather large puddle where the Stinger was probably lying.

    “Zumross, stay with Koltan and make sure he and the loot gets back to the Drakon,” Hale ordered as he took careful aim with his right hand laser and making damn sure that his target was nowhere near the spread pool of flammable fuel.

    “Will do, boss,” the woman acknowledged almost cheerfully. No surprise there; it wasn’t like there was any love lost between her and Jankowicz.

    “Denaro,” Hale continued as he cut one trip cable with a laser shot. “Your Commando has tow hands. Get over here and watch my back.”

    ”On my way.”

    Movement caught Hale’s eye. He lashed out with both lasers this time. He couldn’t tell if he hit what he shot at. Keeping one eye on the surroundings, he went back to cutting more cables while swearing under his breath.

    This was supposed to have been a no cost milk run. Now he was wondering if he were going to break even.
    Zephir likes this.
  8. Warringer SPAAAAAACE!

    White House Situation Room
    Washington DC
    United States of America
    Earth
    17th May 2005, 4.03am EST


    "I begin to understand why everyone say that CNN gets to everything first," Arnold van Damm noted dryly.

    The large plasma TV display on the far wall of the Situation Room was turned on, showing what CNN was transmitting just about now, allowing everyone on Earth to see what happened in Auckland, New Zealand. Wobbly and slightly grainy images taken by a hand camera were coming from the local Auckland CNN office, showing what was going on at Ferguson's Port.

    Next to the frame of CNN, was an overhead life feed coming from a redirected Keyhole satellite showed the whole scene from above.

    Aside from Arnie van Damm, Jack Ryan sr., Jack Ryan jr., Sally Ryan and the joint Chiefs of Staff were looking at the images. Jack jr, leafing through one of the many softcover books that littered the conference table of the situation room. Much like his sister and a good number of the Generals, he looked a little worse to wear from the unexpected situation.

    Grabbing a can of highly caffeinated sparkly deverage, he downed it in one go.

    "Okay, we can add a Hunchback to the list," he noted, shook his head clear, before rubbing his face.

    Part of him wanted to go to bed, while another part was glad that he had a watertight excuse for not going to high school at this day, and yet another being thrilled with the prospect of real life Mechs, through he was aware of the problems. It had its perks of being the son of the PotUS and being able to sniff around in military hardware books.

    But he didn't care much, as Mechs were cool.

    "That makes a Stinger, a Hunchback and a Commando," Air Force Brigadier General Martin 'Tripple M' McMayers said." That's what? Two light and one Medium mech?"

    McMayers wasn't in the Joint Chiefs, but he had come to the group as being someone who openly admitted to play Battletech in his spare time.

    "And a Hermes II," was Sally Ryan's addition after throwing her Battletech Sourcebook on the table.

    "Two medium and two light mechs," Jack Ryan sr. said finally." A scouting force?"

    "Could as well be pirates," McMayers said with a shake of his head.

    Most of the other people in the room looked at them the same way a normal user looks at computer geeks talking shop, even while some of them were working through the sourcebooks on the table.

    "What about the emblem on the Dropship?" Sally wondered." Its a Federated Suns dropship."

    "You can throw a stone into the Inner Sphere without hitting a Union..." McMayers noted," The same goes for the Invader."

    "The question is still open," Jack sr. noted. "Pirates or FedSun scouts."

    "The way they are hauling loot, I'd say pirates..."

    "Lets hope they are not burning down Auckland..."
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  9. Valiran Solidarity

    BRIEFING ROOM
    RAINBOW HOME BASE


    While Sally and Jack Jr. were working nonstop in the White House situation room, others were having their own problems with the universe. John Clark - along with the rest of the Rainbow team - was staring at the plasma tv in the briefing room in openmouthed astonishment and an incredulity level that felt like it was trying to achieve high orbit. Well, Ding and a few others were imitating landed fish, Clark settled for eyes that looked like they were in danger of rolling out of their sockets. Reality had apparently decided to take an unscheduled sabbatical, because of the many things he had expected to happen this week, an extraterrestrial invasion by giant walking tanks straight out of an incredibly successful series of games had not been one of them.

    One of the problems - if you could call it a problem - with being a highly effective counterterrorist unit was that the stupid terrorists died off quickly, and the smart ones knew better than to risk going up against someone who had a near-flawless track record of annihilating whoever they tangled with. This meant that Rainbow hadn't seen much action lately, and rigorous training exercises did little to keep them from getting very, very, bored.

    Of the various methods used to stave off the ever-encroaching fiend known as boredom, one of the most effective was prominently displayed in the rec-room. A long line of video game consoles with a vast assortment of games to go with them, and, as luck would have it, that assortment included several games with Mechwarrior in their title.

    After ten minutes of watching a group of honest-to-god Battlemechs rampaging their merry way through the Auckland port district, everyone present silently agreed that boredom was looking more preferable every passing moment. Especially with the two newest members of the team standing in the middle of the room, radiating a helpless fury that anyone with combat experience could feel throughout the building.

    Captains Antony Winton and Michael Arrigo of the New Zealand S.A.S had joined Rainbow barely three weeks ago, and were now watching the assault on their homeland from the other side of the planet, unable to do anything to help fight off the invaders. Even watching one of the 'mechs - a Stinger, according to some of the intel geeks - buried under a load of shipping crates and their accompanying crane was a cold comfort to them, knowing that dozens - if not hundreds - of the people they had sworn an oath to defend were being callously murdered.

    And just to put the icing on the cake - if one could call a steaming pile of maggot-infested shit cake - the attackers looked like they were hauling off anything that looked valuable, meaning this unprovoked attack was motivated by nothing more than the ugliest form of greed.

    Everyone in the room knew that this craven act would not be forgotten, and it would never be forgiven. The following decades would prove them right, as the soldiers of New Zealand became legendary for hunting down and killing anyone who backed pirate raids, no matter how rich, powerful, or important they were. An unstoppable tide that no amount of influence could protect you from, ANZAC became the monster that haunted the dreams of the corrupt, lurking in the shadows, waiting to turn dreams - into nightmares.

    <><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><>



    (Author Note - Hope I did good!:p)
    cvchiong and Zephir like this.
  10. A little heavy on the foreshadowing but not bad.
    Please cut that line break down by half though.
  11. antagonist Chant of Victory

    Need I say more? Please don't clutter this one, we do have a dedicated discussion thread as well.;)
  12. Death By Chains BattleTech Starfighter Analyst

    Small town,
    Manawatu region of North Island
    New Zealand
    Earth
    19:58 local (03:58 EST), Tuesday 17 May 2005/3020


    What’s the bird on-deck for tomorrow’s FotW, again? That’s right: the Issus. Another of those overgunned, under-armoured suicide sleds the Clanners run. He was already turning the basic stats of the ‘Fighter of the Week’ over in his head as he turned off the car and headed inside, a shopping bag hanging from one hand. Have to fire up HM:A to check out the fluff and turn the review into a story, rather than just stats....

    “Hey, Mum,” he nodded, heading through the kitchen to drop his groceries on the table. “So, what’s gone wrong in the world since I went to work?”

    His mother blinked her eyes open and sat up on the couch, reaching for the TV remote. “I don’t know, love, but we’ll see in a minute.”

    He came around the corner of the dividing-wall into the living-room as the familiar jingle of the CNN hourly news faded... and blinked hard as he saw the inset behind Ralitsa Vassileva, and the blazing banner headline {BATTLEMECH RAID IN PROGRESS}. What the - did someone hack their ticker, or something? The poor woman above that banner looked like someone had thwapped her with a carp when they handed her the latest pages.

    {“Welcome back to CNN and our continuing live coverage of today’s breaking news: an incredible occurence in Auckland, New Zealand, where a group of ‘BattleMechs’ are attacking the city’s extensive port facilities.”}

    An unopened bottle of soft-drink thudded to the carpet. “No. Fucking. WAY!” A fucking ’Mech raid - on EARTH in REAL LIFE?

    “Isn’t... isn’t that one of your...?” his mother gaped.

    {“The attackers emerged from a ‘DropShip’ which landed near Ferguson’s Port almost ninety minutes ago.”} The anchor and still-picture inset vanished, in favour of shaky live footage: a blocky ’Mech looming over a pile of twisted metal wreckage, pivoting and occasionally firing at something amongst the containers, the after-images of the beams from its arm-mounted lasers clear against the night. {“CNN has been unable to obtain any comment from New Zealand government officials as yet -”}

    Fucking Hunchback. Man, if someone’s hoaxing CNN.... “Yeah, Mum, I think it is,” he said slowly - and bolted for the house’s office, almost tripping headlong over his chair in his scramble to switch on his computer, snatch a trio of books and a sheaf of print-outs from his shelf, then dash back into the living-room. As he came back, other footage was coming up: the spheroid ship descending from the post-dusk darkness atop a bright column of fusion flame. “... Davions!?!?” he blurted.

    “What’s going ON?” his mother gasped.

    “Question of the day, that,” he murmured sardonically, flipping through the printouts, half-listening to the day’s now-second story as he hunted the reference he wanted. Dammit, I wish I had Handbook: House Davion! I need to compare these bastards’ insignia to the current Feddie OOB!

    - - - -

    Flight line
    Ohakea
    New Zealand
    Earth
    17 May, 20:03 local (04:03 EST)


    Squadron Leader James Garvey, 75 Squadron RNZAF, glanced along the line of parked, olive-drab fighters. I suppose I should be grateful that I’ve got as many as I do, but I’d feel better if I had more than six birds ready to fly when I’m going to be fighting these damned... “’Mech” things. He grimaced. I can’t believe I’m actually thinking that! It’s like being a character in some bad Japanese cartoon!

    In only slightly different circumstances, the RNZAF would have been out of the fast-jet business for several years by this time, but after the abortive war between the US and Japan, not to mention the subsequent Indian near-invasion of Sri Lanka, a combination of a more defence-conscious government establishment and substantial Australian pressure on their trans-Tasman cousins to ‘pull their weight (for once!)’ has seen 75 Squadron’s obsolescent A-4K Skyhawks replaced with a squadron of Saab JAS-39s. Marketed as the “Gryphon”, the Swedish-designed aircraft was in fact more advanced than the Australians’ F-18s, affordable, easy to maintain and, despite its compact size, capable of carrying only slightly less firepower than the ‘Plastic Bug’.

    Which was why eight of 75 Squadron’s eighteen airframes were currently in Australia for joint training with the RAN.

    Of the ten left at Ohakea, only six could be armed and crewed on such short notice. Mainly because New Zealand’s so far out of the way that no bastard’s supposed to be able to reach us without weeks of strategic warning. Nobody ever counted on giant robots dropping in from friggin’ space!

    On the other hand, the robots were about to get a lesson in air-power. It had taken almost an hour to get the Gryphons loaded - the WingCo had almost had a heart attack at the thought of bombing a New Zealand city, especially without direct orders from the government! - but now, the RNZAF was about to fly its first fighter-mission in anger for almost half a century. Four of the Gryphons were packing AGM-65F ‘Maverick’ missiles on their outer wing-pylons; the other two were carrying ECM pods and laser-designators; all six carried centreline drop-tanks and, on each inner pylon, a massive GBU-15 two-thousand-pound laser-guided bomb, to deal with the attackers’ damned spaceship and, if the Mavericks weren’t enough, to clean up the tin-men themselves.

    Can’t say I like the thought of that much collateral damage, either, but I will not see the first armed invasion of New Zealand’s shores go unpunished! “Control, this is Theseus Lead: ready to taxi, over.” And if the Yanks think I’m going to let their precious bloody ‘Aluminium Clouds’ have the pleasure of bombing Auckland, instead of me... well, that’s why the wingtip rails have live Sidewinders on them.

    James Garvey was, of course, a proud native of Christchurch.

    - - - -

    Operations, HMNZS Te Kaha
    Hauraki Gulf, north-east of Auckland
    Earth
    That same time


    “Engineer, any chance of more speed?”

    {“No more chance than when you asked ten minutes ago, Captain!”} was the hot answer over the inter-phone.

    Commander Barry Youngman winced: he’d deserved that. “Very well, Charge: best efforts.”

    As he hung up, he glanced about the compartment. Every officer and rating in sight was fully ‘smurfed up’ in their anti-flash gear and attending to their duties with a professional intensity honed in deployments off Afghanistan, the former UIR, and the pirate havens of Somalia. For an instant, he couldn’t control a small, brief smile of pride - then he brought himself back to the moment. “Nav?”

    The navigator glanced up from her display briefly. “Steady on course two-one-five and twenty-seven knots, sir: we should reach the outer harbour in fifty minutes.”

    “Pee-wo, time to firing range?”

    The Principal Warfare Officer had just finished updating his plot in anticipation of that question. “Estimate thirty-five minutes before the main gun can engage targets in Ferguson Port, sir. The Sea Sprite’s already orbiting the area, ready to observe fall-of-shot.”

    “Very well.”

    - - - -

    Small town, Manawatu region
    New Zealand
    Earth
    That same time


    ‘Trace Coburn’ hit ‘post message’, ignoring the ‘there have been 7 new posts in this thread’ warning to simply send the message through, absently hearing a car pull into the driveway as he did so. Ignoring it for the moment - since he lived in a cul-de-sac, lots of people used that gateway to turn around - he headed down the hall into the living room to check out the latest on Sky and/or CNN. “Anything new?”

    “Just what you see, love,” his mother shrugged, still looking a little dazed. Their aged, infirm Border Collie was sitting up against her leg with his head resting comfortingly on her thigh, despite the pain it had to be inflicting on his arthritic joints, and she was absently scratching his ears.

    Even as ‘Trace’ watched, another ’Mech jogged into frame by the Hunchback. COM-2D Commando, by the looks of it. With how battered and shabby those ’Mechs look, this has gotta be pirates... or a false-flag hit. And God, how fucking scary did the galaxy just become that I hope it’s “just” pirates?

    There was a rap on the door.

    “Are we expecting anyone?” he wondered aloud as he left the lounge. Opening the door, he saw... a pair of DPM-clad soldiers standing at the bottom of the steps: one his own age with three pips on his shoulder-straps, an older one with three stripes on his sleeve, both wearing MP brassards and - Oh, shit! - holstered sidearms. “I didn’t think I had the computer’s speakers turned up that loud!”

    “We’re not here about a noise complaint, mate.” The Captain smiled thinly, opening a notebook to refer to something. “Do you post on the ‘Classic BattleTech’ forums under the screen-name ‘Trace Coburn’? Do you, in fact, write a weekly column there under the title ‘Fighter of the Week’?”

    Ah, shit. I think my smart-arse mouth just wrote a cheque my fat-arse can’t cash. “I’m... not going to be posting an article tomorrow night, am I?”

    The sergeant snorted a laugh. “Probably not. The government would like to... avail itself of your expertise, sir. Would you mind coming with us?”

    Would saying ‘no’ do me any good? “Where, and for how long?”

    “We’ve been asked to convey you over to Palmerston North, sir: it’s the nearest place with the video-conference facilities we need for you to speak with the Prime Minister.”

    “What does Don Brash want with - Oh.” ‘Trace’ felt very foolish for a moment as it hit him. “You’re kidding, right?”

    Both red-caps shook their heads seriously.

    Bloody Nora - welcome to the big leagues, rookie! “Should I pack a bag, or do I just need to grab my CBT books?”

    “Just the books, mate,” the officer smiled. “You can have the rest sent over later: our orders say ‘utmost dispatch’.”



    Author’s notes are in the discussion thread, at the bottom of the ‘test’ post.
    FWIW, the thing about Garvey being from Christchurch and wanting to bomb Auckland? Imagine a Bostonian F-22 pilot who got the chance to shoot missiles into Manhattan or the Bronx. :p
    cvchiong and Zephir like this.
  13. Pirate Convoy
    Cornwall Park
    Auckland, New Zealand


    Ping!

    Leutnant Irdon Koltan ducked and cursed inventively as a bullet ricocheted off the transport truck’s armored skin less than a meter from his head. Almost the entire trip back to the Drakon had his people be harassed by sniper fire. And the trip itself was taking far longer than it should have, what with the roads being choked with abandoned civilian vehicles that needed to be cleared out of the way, the need to fetch those of his people who had decided to do some private looting, the need to take an occasional detour, and fighting off the occasional band of irate but stupid militia. But now they were almost home.

    Ping! “ARGH!!!”

    “Zumross!” Koltan shouted into the radio as one of his men collapsed. “Have you found that sniper yet?”

    A staccato pounding filled the air as the Hermes II mech fired its autocannon at a building. The building promply collapsed, but thankfully the debris didn’t fall into the convoy’s path again.

    Ping!

    “Damn! Missed,” came the mechwarrior’s reply. “Sorry, sir. My sensors aren’t showing squat, and I think there’s more than one sniper anyway.”

    “Well that’s just perfect,” Koltan muttered as he shut off the radio. He raised his voice. “Okay, people, I can see the Drakon now! Let’s double time it…”

    Ping! “ARGH!”

    “…right now!” Koltan finished. “Go! Go! Go!”

    Dropship Drakon
    Cornwall Park
    Auckland, New Zealand


    A grounded Dropship on a raid really didn’t have much to do. Oh sure, there was the whole “watch out for a counterattack” thing, but that was why Captain Mamoto had a crew. No, Mamoto had more important duties. He was the pirate band’s intelligence officer after all, so he was gathering intelligence, mostly by watching the local news stations even if the indigs were so primitive that they only broadcasted in 2D.

    The local news stations were of course full of the story about the Hale’s raid. One station had people speculating on who the raiders were and mentioned something about a game based on mechs. Mamoto concluded that they must have some memory of Battlemechs, but that clip of a crudely animated mech didn’t look like any Mech that Mamoto had ever heard of. Their memory of mech designs was obviously deficient. Seriously, who had ever fielded something that looked like a bastard child of a Marauder and Catapult?

    “Skipper!” Jane called, interrupting his enjoyment of the locals’ reactions. “We got incoming aircraft.”

    “What?” Mamoto said, a little alarmed. His Drakon wasn’t exactly in the best shape for fending off fighters. “How many? Where from? Are they headed toward us?”

    “I read six rising from several kilometers away in the northwest,” Jane reported. “I think there’s an airfield over that way.” She paused. “I think they’re pure air breathers.”

    “Six planes,” Mamoto said nervously. “Hugo, fire up the engine and begin preparations for lift off.”

    “What about our guys on the ground?” Hugo asked.

    “They either make it back in time or they don’t,” Mamoto told him. “Now do what I…”

    “New contacts!” Jane shouted. “More fighters coming in low over the ocean to the northeast. They just popped up over our horizon. I estimate about half an hour to forty five minutes before they arrive. Count is… holy shit that’s a lot of fighters…”

    Ferguson’s Port
    Auckland, New Zealand


    “…incoming aircraft!”

    “Roger that, Drakon. We’ll be there in plenty of time,” Hale replied, then cut the connection. As if they didn’t have enough problems. “Any chance of AA support?”

    “What?” Mamoto said, his voice tinged with a curious mix of outrage and fear. “And risk my hi… ship?”

    “Oh, of course, can’t risk that,” Hale said sarcastically. Although truth be told, the Dropper really was too valuable to risk, but Hale valued his own skin more. Still, there was no use worrying about it right now. “Denaro, how’s it coming?”

    “Almost done here, boss,” Denaro replied. While Hale had been busy keeping the local explosives wielding infantry at bay, Denaro had been busy using his Commando to slowly and meticulously pry the tons of wreckage off the Stinger one small bit at a time. So far, no sparks had ignited the puddle of fuel under the pile.

    “Thankyou, thankyou, thankyou…” Jankowicz started babbling.

    “Shut up, Jankowicz,” Hale growled as he started scanning the skies. There, he could see six specks with white contrails. They were still pretty distant, especially for a mech not exactly designed specifically for AA duties. Just on the off chance that he might hit, Hale fired off both medium lasers. Missed. Hale supposed that he was going to have to wait until they started strafing runs before he had a decent chance to hit them.

    A warning light that Hale had never seen before popped up on his display.

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  14. Since consequences didn't bother to post this here, I though I'd do it for him. He wrote all this.

    ********************************************************************************

    Ferguson’s Port
    Auckland, New Zealand
    Earth
    17 May 2005/3020


    On taking fire, the incoming planes went evasive and broke for the deck, now definitely moving towards the convoy. Hale blinked as the warning light vanished, taking a few more shots with his lasers, but not apparently hitting anything at the range and angle he was firing at before they ducked out of his line of sight. With a mental shrug, he went back to covering Denaro's back.

    ************************************************************



    The first thing Sergeant Dansel consciously noticed when he regained awareness was pain. While wrapping the mattress and bedding supplies stowed in the room around himself had made the collapse survivable(along with a good guess as to where he wouldn't be squished, and more than one lifetime's worth of luck), it hadn't made it in any way pleasant. The second thing he noticed was a fair bit of weight upon him, putting uncomfortable pressure on various of his bits even through the padding still covering him, gradually decreasing to the accompaniment of clattering as he worked his way out from under what felt like every loose article of everything that had been in the room. The third was the complete and utter lack of light, which implied that the doorways into the compartment had collapsed, or at least been blocked. The fourth was the sound of metallic tearing and banging from directly above him. The fifth was the insistent ringing of his cell phone.

    Bemusedly, he pulled it out to check, finding that it was actually the alarm going off. Oh, right, final formation's in five. Wonder if I'll get an Article Fifteen for missing it? This set off a fit of hysterical giggling, as he used the light from the phone to get a grasp of his altered surroundings, determining that he was sitting on the storage and tool lockers that had occupied one wall of the room next to the engine, and that the other wall was now remarkably close to his head. While he continued to hunt for a flashlight, he pulled the walkie talkie from his cargo pocket, and said into it "Sky-Eye here, requesting status update, over."

    Silence stretched on interminably, making him fear that either the transmitter was busted, or that everyone was dead. Finally, a voice came on "Whoever this is, this is a fucking shitty means of taking the piss."

    "Sky-eye to teams, sorry to disappoint, but apparently Hell was full and I've been returned to feast upon the brains of the living. Ugghhh. Brains. No, not Johnson, I said brains. Over." By putting his back into it, Dansel was able to pry open the first locker, after realizing he shouldn't put his weight on the thing.

    The long suffering voice of Private Johnson wearily said "Sorry to disappoint everyone, but that's Dansel all right. Still making the same crap jokes after four years too. Sarge, you've got about a million tons of metal overhead since the boom kind of snapped backwards, and one of those robot things digging down towards its buddy while the second keeps watch. Uhh, over."

    "You know the deal, I'll come up with new material when you come up with my money. Sorry to be imprecise though, I meant the status of everyone else, specifically the two Bruces that I know I saw get hit before I barely failed to earn a Darwin. I was pretty sure mine sucked, but thanks for the details. Over.Let's see, hardhat work gloves flashlight, all good, unwashed coveralls potato chips of dubious provenance no thanks, and oh awesome, Porn! Now cheerfully contemplating getting caught masturbating by the pirates when they got to him, Dansel moved on to the next locker.

    "Bollocks Six to Sky-eye. I've got four down so far, none dead yet. And I'll have you know my mother was named Bruce. Over.

    "Copy. Any contact with higher? Over." doodeedoo empty locker empty locker, hey tools! now I can figure out a way to get free if they get bored and go home! Hmmm, how does one use a cutting torch properly anyway?

    "Johnson here. Turns out the MPs are still holding Blankov because of his little incident last night, and left him his cell phone. Sergeant Flake's been talking to their commander, but they don't seem to be taking it seriously enough. I think his exact words were, 'If some fat-ass reservist forklift driver can take one down, we'll have them all in lock-up within the hour'." The sound of a muffled slap carried over the still open circuit. "Oww, over, sheesh."

    "Bollocks six, please try to convince my country's official military S&M squad of the seriousness of the threat. Emphasize if you could the fact that they're going to need .50 caliber machine guns and anti-tank rockets in serious quantities to make any kind of impression in a direct fight, and they'd be best able to continue breathing by engaging at long range and immediately changing positions to give demolition teams a chance to rush from cover in immediate proximity to the mech and hit the joints. Over." Hey, there's the first aid kit. Mmmmm, pills glorious pills.

    "Bollocks Six, roger. Any additional practical advice or instructions for us? Over."

    "When in doubt, go with your motto, and at least double up whatever you were using in the demo packs earlier, try to get any arm mounted weapons too. Battery's fading, I'll try to find the most survivable hide I can. If I don't make it, I want one of you to make up some suitably stirring last words for me, because I'm fresh out of anything that isn't obviously stolen. Sky-eye, out." Now, where would I be most likely to survive a pirate mech carelessly smashing his way through rubble, when he's probably going to deliberately squish me if I'm spotted?

    Inevitably, only one real possibility presented itself. Great, I'm the jock shoving the nerd in the locker, and the nerd being shoved in the locker. Now all I need are some gender identity issues crossed with narcissism, and I can be the unattainable dream crush of the nerd who's completely into the jock. Damn, but those were some good pills, guess they weren't really Tylenol after all.

    An interminable length of time passed, during which Dansel determined that he really didn't have room to try to play a game on his cell phone, as the crashing and tearing noises grew closer and louder. Eventually, a tearing noise came from all around him, followed by an immense sense of vertigo as he banged around the interior painfully despite the sleeping bag he'd used as a liner. With a bone jarring crash, all movement stopped, followed perversely a few seconds later by the locker door popping open of its own accord.

    Ah, fresh air at last, cursed burning Daystar, I shall eventually snuff your foul blight from the heavens. Gee, I didn't think I was that close to any metal columns, it certainly didn't feel like I was in the air that long. Huh, there's another one, wonder what they're here for....... oh for fuck's sake. With mounting horror, Sergeant Dansel stared up, and up and further up at the mech towering over him. Minutely raising his head to glance all around, he noted that the closest significant cover was, in fact, the wreckage that the second mech was rapidly tearing into, flinging debris carelessly in all directions.

    Hmmm, die like a bitch, die running like a bitch, cower in fear hoping not to die like a bitch, or blatant suicide. Put that way, there was really only one choice, at least to his drug-addled mind. Taking a swig from his canteen and another couple pills, he checked to be sure that everything was secured to or in his web gear, for once blessing his unit's inane policy of requiring full battle rattle for every damned thing. Then he waited for the next significant chunk to be tossed in his direction.

    As it crashed to the ground nearby, Dansel sprung out of the locker and dashed straight toward the thirty-five foot war machine as it continued to minutely turn from side to side. Leaping forward, he grabbed the highest projection that he could, and began the laborious process of trying to climb the mech. Only two things made this remotely possible. First, that he'd had to climb two hundred plus feet of crane multiple times per day for the last week, to the point that he could easily delude himself into thinking that thirty feet of robot was no big deal. Second, he had drugs, rage, and adrenaline all lined up on his side, along with a pair of work gloves that provided a really fantastic grip.

    Eventually, he reached what looked like a rear access hatch, and set about using the cutting torch he'd brought along. What the hell, it has to lead somewhere, and if their designers weren't complete puddings, or utter bastards, they'd account for the possibility that a mech might end up on its face with no arms.

    At this point Dansel unknowingly won his third metaphorical Luckiest Bastard on the Planet award for the day. A Star League vintage mech would have the hatch literally seamlessly integrated into the armor, so that only someone with deep familiarity with the design would have been able to find, much less attempt to open it. A House unit, even in the current era, would have the hatch made from the same material as the armor, so that it would have scoffed at the efforts of a 20th century man portable torch. A militia unit or personal machine of a feudal lord would at least attempt to run a full check at regular intervals, to determine if any degradation in function had accrued from action or simple wear, and if some kind of repair or jury-rigged fix was needed.

    Unfortunately, Captain Hale's machine, unbeknown to him, had suffered serious damage before he was assigned it, necessitating a jury rig of the rear hatch, followed by the tech in question being killed before he could properly update his records. His tech of the time, also unbeknown to him, had had a tendency to simply sign off on the fiddly details that didn't directly impact combat effectiveness, since simply maintaining some semblance of combat effectiveness was so difficult. After he had absconded with the mech, the pirate mechanic he had to rely upon had a tendency to simply sign off on the combat critical functions unless constantly ridden, and as a result deliberately shunned all of the small details that generally escaped a Mechwarrior's eye out of pure spite.

    Dansel cut through the access lock, felling the pilot with one punch to the jaw. Yanking the neurohhelmet off his head he kicked the pathetic pirate out of the mech, sneering as he bent the mech to his will. Stomping up to the dropship, he manfully kicked the door down before punching straight up to the bridge and forcing the crew to pilot him to the jumpship. Taking control, he formed his own pirate gang, which swiftly grew into a nation, as he brought the Inner Sphere and then the Clans to heel. Oh yeah, and he totally made Katherine Steiner-Davion and Isis Marik his personal sex slaves, and made them wear skin-tight leather outfits, and...

    Sergeant Dansel shook himself slightly to dispel the pleasant daydream, as he devoted his full attention to cutting through the lock. Who knew that jacking a mech would take so long, or be so damned boring? The mech he was on raised its arms and started firing its lasers at something in the distance.Not my people I guess, unless they've decided to get on their own cranes, but still, sucks to be whoever that is. Hey visible color change, that's progress.




    Still, the materials were tough, and burn-through took quite a lot of time. And, unfortunately for Dansel, the internal sensors of Hale's Hunchback were in fair shape. So while he'd maintained watch over the surrounding area, taking the occasional potshot at suspicious movement and making damned sure the planes didn't come back into view, Hale gradually noticed the heat gauge in a very localized spot start to shoot upwards. After running a quick diagnostic, in a voice of preternatural calm, he said "Denaro, please check the back of my mech and make sure there isn't one of these little bastards sitting on me. If there is, get over here and remove it by hand." He tried to get at the gnat with his own mech's arms, but the design of the Hunchback was sadly incapable of reaching around far enough, and the heat gauge hadn't quite risen enough for him to start slamming his mech into things, much less try shooting himself in the back with his own weapons.

    "See if there's a what on your who? Umm, yeah boss, there's a guy on your ass with a cutting tool working on your rear hatch. Let me get myself extricated and I'll be right over and he's looking at me, and he's grinning. Why is he grinning boss?" The answer to that question came a moment later, as with two sharp cracks the satchel charges just placed in the Commando's knees went off. As Hale spun his mech around to see his subordinate crash to the ground, two more of the seemingly never-ending stream of bastards on this planet lunged forward and shoved yet more satchel charges into the arms of his mech. Triggering his lasers, he saw both of the late comers go down, but the cold comfort that provided was spoiled by the sudden feel of a draft in his cockpit.
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  15. The AGM-65F Maverick was designed as a bunker-busting weapon and carries a three-hundred-pound high-explosive warhead. Granted, the chemical composition of those warheads was somewhat less advanced than those found in the larger BattleTech universe, and they were never meant to defeat BattleTech’s super-science ablative armour, but even so, they were more than enough to hit a medium ’Mech like the Hermes II like thunderbolts from the hand of Zeus.

    Two of the missiles caught the Hermes in its ‘spine’ and right ‘shoulder-blade’, shattering the armour on those sections and wrecking most of the underlying structural members, to boot. But it was the other two missiles that struck the crucial blows: hammering into the ’Mech’s left flank, they pulverised its armour completely, obliterated the underlying endo-frame... and touched off the autocannon’s remaining ammunition cassettes.

    A colossal series of explosions tore the ’Mech apart like a toy stuffed with firecrackers, and Dana Zumross shrieked in agony as feedback overloaded the circuits of her neurohelmet, spearing through her temples like white-hot chisels. The agony smashed her into unconsciousness even before the Hermes’ computer triggered her command couch’s ejection sequence.

    The rocket-powered seat obligingly carried its ’MechWarrior soaring high into the air to descend on a parafoil. It neither knew nor cared that its passenger was already comatose.

    - - - -

    Hale’s already foul mood was not helped by seeing Zumross’ green icon vanish from his display and replaced by a simple yellow triangle: the emblem for an ejected pilot. “Oh. Fuck. THIS!” Forgetting his unwanted passenger for the moment, he shifted his aim, tracking on one of the fighter-pairs that had just made its run, and mashed his TICs again, this time thumbing the control to the Hunchback’s primary weapon as well.

    Both laser bolts flashed past the Gryphons’ noses like lateral lightning, spectacular but harmless; Hale had given them too much ‘lead’. But Theseus Four’s luck ran out an instant later, when he flew into part of the burst from the Hunchback’s colossal Tomodzuru Type 20 autocannon. Caught by firepower that could stagger an Atlas, the Gryphon’s frail airframe - and pilot - were simply crushed out of existence, leaving only a splash of burning fuel and metal confetti scattered across the sky to mark their passing.

    - - - -

    HMNZS Te Kaha
    That same time


    “The Air Force is engaging now, sir,” the XO reported. “They’re asking that we not fire on the robots, so we don’t spoil their aim.”

    “Right, then.” Youngman smiled thinly. “That leaves us with the big target, then, doesn’t it? Peewo, how’s the feed from the Sea Sprite?”

    “We’re all set here, sir. That spaceship of theirs almost looks like a travelling roadshow for bloody FIFA.”

    And really: nobody brings a soccer ball to the park unless they want it to get a thorough kicking. “Five-inch, sustained fire, at the spaceship.”

    “Five-inch, aim of target!”

    “ENGAGE!”

    - - - -

    Drakon
    That same time


    Reynold Mamoto’s already profane monologue on this FUBAR raid was a crescendo now, his cursing and his agitation reinforcing each other by the moment. “Hale and his fucking ‘soft target’! Why did I ever -?”

    God kicked Drakon. And he was wearing steel-capped boots.

    What the fuck was THAT?” Mamoto screamed, the last word almost lost in another explosion.

    “Artillery from something” WHAM! “to the north-east!” Dietrich reported, her hands massaging the controls for more data.

    “That’s” WHAM! “out to sea, dammit!” Mamoto blinked. How the hell could they have artillery -?

    “It” WHAM! “must be a surface warship or something,” WHAM! “Captain! It’s probably got three” WHAM! “guns, because I’m reading a” WHAM! “shot every three seconds!”

    “Okay, fuckWHAM!this! Chin, close the” WHAM! “doors and get us skybound, we” WHAM! “are LEAVING!”

    “What about Hale?” Dietrich wondered, mostly for form’s sake. WHAM!

    FUCK Hale!” Mamoto snarled, flinching as another shell exploded against Drakon’s armoured shell. He wanted to find the motherlode: now, he can friggin’ well take his time looking!

    - - - -

    In all honesty, barring a minutes-long barrage or incredible luck, Te Kaha’s five-inch gun was unlikely to destroy Drakon outright: its HE shells were lighter than those of even the smallest of Star League artillery pieces, the ‘dinky’ 150mm Thumper, and each round could make little impression against the Union’s well-armoured hide. But that didn’t mean that those shells couldn’t do damage in other ways. ‘Misses’ that landed on the grass outside the DropShip sent shards of shrapnel brutally slashing into the ‘Mech- and cargo-bays through the open doors, ricocheting from bulkhead to bulkhead until they spent their energy or were ‘caught’ by something - like the fleshy bodies of exposed personnel, or crates of supplies, or loot.

    Or control runs.

    - - - -

    “Captain, I’m not getting” WHAM! “any response from the bay doors!”

    WHAM!WHAT?” Mamoto screeched.

    I can’t close the bay doors!” WHAM! “If we try to break atmo, they’ll be” WHAM! “open to space!”

    - - - -

    Of course, the more times you shoot at something, the better the chances you’ll fire that infamous ‘Golden Bullet’ - a freak hit in the right place, at the right time, to cause catastrophe for the foe. The ur-example of a ‘Golden Bullet’ is the appalling fate of HMS Hood.

    In Te Kaha’s case, one of her five-inch shells landed almost squarely on Drakon’s Turret One, which covered the ship’s ‘bow’ arc in flight. ‘Almost’, because it found the slightest seam in the ship’s poorly-maintained and already-battered armour, punching through into the turret’s guts, where it detonated amongst a cluster of laser-projectors, autocannons, and missile launchers - and their magazines.

    - - - -

    Reynold Mamoto blinked, trying to focus blurred eyes. Why am I face-down on the deck? And why can’t I hear anything? I feel like I got stepped on by Hale’s damned Hunchback, or something....

    After a moment, Drakon’s deck trembled under him again, and he blinked again, rolling onto his side. Now he was looking at the flight station, where Hugo Chin was still sitting in his chair, but there was something strange about Hugo. Something terribly wrong.

    It took him a long while to figure out what it was.

    Oh, that was it: Hugo’s arms were gone.

    Poor Hugo: he’s so proud of how well he plays his guitar. He’ll have a hard time doing that without his arms.

    Then reality came swimming back into focus.


    [/QUOTE=Death By Chains;4156470]



    Pirate Dropship Drakon
    Auckland, New Zealand
    Earth
    17 May 2005


    Fear gripped Mamoto the instant he realized that Chin was dead. Adrenaline pumping through his veins, he leapt for the pilot’s station. Luckily, the controls were mostly intact if blood splattered. Not even thinking about the fact that he wasn’t strapped in, his hand slammed down on the engine ignition button.

    ***

    Holy shit! Koltan thought as he picked himself up off the deck of Drakon’s main cargo bay. He and his people had just boarded with the majority of the loot when the bombardment had begun. Then something made the 3500 ton vessel ring like a bell. We’re being shelled by artillery!

    “Secure the loot!” he ordered his shaken people and deck hands. “Move it fast people! We still have to go back for…”

    A familiar rumbling from beneath his feet started, interrupting the infantry commander. It was the Drakon’s fusion engines starting up. Koltan’s eyes went immediately to the door he and his people had just come through. It was still wide open to the open air.

    “Oh, hell no!” he shouted. “CLOSE THE BAY DOOR!”

    “We can’t!” a tech shouted back. He could barely be heard above the rising din. “We can’t retract the ramp! And the outer door won’t close while the ramp’s extended!”

    “Then close the inner door!” Koltan ordered. The bay doors of course were actually airlocks sized for use by mechs.

    The noise was near deafening now. Outside, Koltan could actually see the ground falling away. A heavy wind was blasting through the bay forcing the pirates to grab anything they could secure. If the Dropship broke atmosphere with that door still open…

    “That inner door doesn’t work in ages!” the tech replied, voice now completely drowned out. Koltan was glad he could read lips.

    Then he thought about what the tech had just said.

    ***

    “Surface ship sighted!” Dietrich shouted, eyes locked on her readouts. Hugo had been her friend, and now he was gone. But she couldn’t deal with that right now. She had more immediate concerns right now, like not dying herself.

    “Kill it!” the skipper screamed, his voice raised several octaves by obvious terror. “Kill it now!”

    “Gladly,” Dietrich muttered as her left hand played across the weapons controls. Her right wasn’t responding to her commands and was sending off a lot of pain signals. A little analyst in the back of her mind said her right arm was probably broken. But for this, her left was more than sufficient.

    The side of the Drakon erupted in fire. A particle projection cannon, two medium autocannon, and twin long ranged missile launchers fired a single volley at the HMNZS Te Kaha. Traveling at near light speed, the PPC bolt arrive first and missed, passing across the ship barely above head height just aft of bridge superstructure. Autocannon shells arrived next, streams of shells strafing across the bow and stern of the ship and smashing bulkheads and sending splinters of metal scything across any crew unfortunate enough to be near the impact points.

    The LRMs arrived last. But their flight was interrupted by a wall of bullets thrown up by the Te Kaha’s single Phalanx CIWS. While autocannon shells could brush through the hail with ease, the more fragile missiles could not. Many of them were swatted aside, but many more were not. There were simply too many of them. Eighteen missiles were knocked out of the sky. Seven more missed the Te Kaha and plunged harmlessly into the water. The remaining fifteen scattered across the entire remaining surface of the frigate, gouging out craters from steel, smashing exposed equipment, and scouring the entire exposed deck of any remaining crewmembers. One lucky missile went right through the bridge window.

    The surviving planes of the RNZAF buzzed impotently below the rising Dropship. Their missile load out had been configured for ground attack after all. In the distance, the approaching flight from the Nimitz watched the brilliant light that was the Drakon race for space, too far away for them to do anything. A few tried anyway, sending air to air missiles at that fantastic heat source, but the alien vessel simply rose above them.

    ***

    The howling air was definitely racing out the open bay door. Koltan could feel his ears pop as the pressure dropped.

    “We need to use the manual override!” he shouted at the tech. “Where is it?”

    The tech looked at him wide eyed. Then hiss eye drifted over to the open airlock door, just in time to see an unlucky soldier lose his grip and sail through it, screams lost in the noise.

    “Bloody wonderful,” Koltan muttered to himself. “Of course it’s in the airlock.”

    Taking a risk, he took one hand off the pipe he had been using as an anchor and reached for his utility belt. It was a silly and expensive thing he had bought in his pre-pirate days on a lark, but it had some useful gadgets on it. Among them was a grappling hook with nearly three hundred meters of light, spider silk cable complete with powered winch.

    Koltan attached the hook to his anchor… and then let go. He flew towards the open bay door, and was brought up just short as the governers kicked in. Then he let the cable play out slowly as he spelunked inside the open airlock scanning the interior for the manual release.

    It was getting hard to breath.

    There it was! A heavy lever surrounded by faded black and yellow stripes. Koltan made his way carefully over to it. Something big and heavy flew past Koltan as he did; it nearly hitting him. But it didn’t, so he paid it no mind.

    An eternity later, his hand fell on the lever and Koltan pulled with all his might. The lever moved with great reluctance born of poor maintenance and accumulated build up, but move it did. There was a flash of light and suddenly the boarding ramp was fluttering away into the atmosphere. Koltan couldn’t watch it long because the great outer doors smoothly slid shut.

    Koltan collapsed to the still rumbling deck as soon as the air stopped moving outwards, ears still ringing. He lay there exhausted for long moments.

    “I’m going to kill Mamoto,” he growled eventually.
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  16. consequences Solidarity

    Hale's Hunchback
    Auckland, New Zealand
    Earth
    17 May 2005


    A voice sounded from behind Hale: "Oi, motherfucker! Power down the mech and peacefully exit via the front, or burn to death! Do the words 'Molotov cocktail' mean anything to you you piece of shit?" The voice was accompanied by the smell of something reminiscent of ICE fuel, and the sound of liquid sloshing and a low intense burning sound.

    Hale sat paralyzed for a second, as he did indeed remember the meaning of the words from his long past officer training. As his lips moved soundlessly while he tried to form a reply, the sight of the newly scarred Drakon lifting steadily into the sky crushed what last hope he'd held. "Awww, did da widdle piwate's fweinds weave him to die? Now, dipshit, the only reason you aren't roasting yet is because the smell of burning flesh takes forever to wash out of a cockpit."

    "I'm, I'm, I'm powering down now, I'm kneeling so I can exit, just give me a second" How could this have all gone so horribly wrong? The Hunchback assumed the standard position for field disembarkation, some long-forgotten designer having put more than a little thought into making each mech capable of letting a pilot out on flat ground without laying flat down on its ass. Popping the cockpit, he began to descend by pure reflex.

    "All right, if someone could please take custody of the murderous idiot and call the MPs, I'd appreciate it! Kindly refrain from administering superfluous kickings, the last thing I need today is the ACLU on my case! I'll be down in a sec after making sure he hasn't booby-trapped anything!" Booby trapped hell, if anyone thinks I'm not taking my chance to be the first Earther in a mech cockpit, they've been taking better pills than I have.

    A minute later, Sergeant Dansel descended from the front of the mech to find two of the Aussies covering the kneeling prisoner from behind and either side. Walking up to Captain Lewis he quietly said "Your men captain?"

    "Fitch and Mckay didn't make it. Cassell, Bourke, Allwood, Hutton and Smeaton are all down and being looked after, and your internationally accredited bondage team is on its way, but they took a hell of a beating, so they'll be a minute. I have to say, I'm disappointed mate, I thought you were going to take the ship as an encore."

    "Guess they just heard their mothers' calling Captain. I'm just going to do some shameless gloating to break down this schmuck's will." Walking around in front of Captain Hale. With great ceremony, he produced a quite filthy rag from one cargo pocket that smelled heavily of gasoline, triggered the cutting torch briefly, then took out his canteen, sloshed it around, and took a healthy swig. "I'm guessing since you had the heaviest mech, you were in charge. So, for the most important two questions of your life, Colonel, General, El Supremo Commandante, or whatever the hell you call yourself, How did you find us, and what year is it?"



    ****************************************************

    White House Situation Room
    Washington DC
    United States of America
    Earth
    17th May 2005, 7.48am EST


    "Mr. President we have our senior man on the ground ready to teleconference." At Ryan's nod, he activated the communications link, and a harried looking and visibly sweating Colonel appeared.

    "Colonel, what do you have for us?"

    "Mr. President, at roughly 0300 hours your time, Ferguson's Port experienced an extra-terrestrial pirate incursion. Cooperating with Australian forces present for the upcoming exercise, and New Zealand's armed forces, we were able to neutralize the pirates' combat element, but unable to prevent their transport and support personnel from effecting their escape."

    "Colonel, I have all that in the official report. It also says that a Sergeant Dansel was instrumental in the destruction and capture of the attacking forces, is there a reason he is not there with you as requested?"

    The increasingly pale colonel replied "Mr President, Sergeant Dansel is heavily involved in tactical training exercises and familiarization regarding the new threat. We're getting him here as quickly as possible."

    "'Tactical training exercises and familiarization'. Colonel, would this have anything to do with the report I have received from the New Zealand government regarding an armed Hummvee taken from your MP unit, apparently crewed by five Australians and one 'loud bloody yank', tearing around Auckland, patronizing at last report, a local game store, an express dry cleaning facility, and an electronics store? As well as briefly vandalizing the New Zealand SAS barracks with pirate paraphernalia?"

    "Mr President, Sergeant Dansel, during the course of his exploits, ingested a drug that he initially took to be Tylenol. One of the MP medics unknowingly administered a medication which caused an adverse reaction, triggering a hyper manic state. At last report I have, he is currently simultaneously refereeing a 'Grand Melee' and starting up a mechwarrior rpg group, while utilizing what breaks occur to participate in the ongoing LAN party and take his turn at the karaoke machine with a variety of Australian themed songs that none of us have ever heard of. I was, frankly, stalling in an attempt to give him more time to wind down before you saw him."

    "Colonel, your loyalty to your troops does you credit. Now get him on the line" Ryan said, manfully ignoring his Vice President as Robbie Jackson was utterly failing to restrain his laughter. Shortly, Sergeant Dansel stepped in front of the camera, in a perfectly pressed uniform, with a rigidity that approached rigor mortis, if not outright fossilization. "Good evening Staff Sergeant, at least the dry cleaning facility now becomes clear. At Ease."

    "Mr President." Sergeant Dansel relaxed minutely, but seemed unwilling to volunteer further comment.

    "You don't have any comment about a promotion implicitly approved by your commander in chief son?

    "Mr President, my only two concerns are that I am in fact currently flagged by weight control so as to be ineligible to receive promotion, and that even with a waiver, said ineligibility makes it more likely that due to a paperwork problem payroll will take another two years to notice and correct my pay rate up to my current grade, much less my increased rank."

    If anything, the interview got more surreal from there.
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  17. Dropship Drakon
    Earth-Moon Lagrange Point 1
    17 May 2005/3020


    The Drakon broke atmosphere, reoriented itself, and then began thrusting at a leisurely one gravity towards the Jumpship White Elephant.

    “Elephant, this is Drakon,” Mamoto said tiredly into the radio, “We’re coming in. Have a docking collar ready for us.” Mamoto had never been a stickler for procedure, but right now, it was extremely comforting.

    “Jesus, Mamoto,” relied the Elephant’s captain. “What the hell happened to you guys down there?”

    “Hale’s ‘milk run’ turned out to be a damned trap, Benson” Mamoto replied. “He got swarmed by militia and aircraft. We barely got out alive.”

    “Shit, you got no loot at all?” Benson asked.

    “Didn’t you hear me? They’re dead!” Mamoto said, his voice tinged with hysteria. “They’re all dead!”

    “THE HELL YOU SAY!” a new voice roared. It didn’t come from the speakers but from behind Mamoto. Mamoto’s head whipped around to see a bruised, bloody, and enraged Koltan charge into the bridge.

    “Eep!” Mamoto squeaked as the other man grabbed him by the lapels of his jumpsuit with one hand and shook him.

    “WERE YOU OUT OF YOUR BLOODY MIND?!” Koltan roared into the Dropship captain’s face. “YOU TOOK OFF WITH THE BLOODY BAY DOOR OPEN TO SPACE, YOU MORON! YOU COULD HAVE KILLED US ALL!”

    Mamoto babbled something about saving the ship.

    “SAVE THE SHIP, MY ASS!” Koltan roared, shaking Mamoto some more. “YOU WERE SAVING YOUR HIDE! NOW TURN THIS SHIP AROUND! WE GOT PEOPLE TO PICKUP!”

    “Um, excuse me,” a soft, feminine voice said.

    “WHAT?” Koltan demanded, his ire turning to the speaker.

    “Not that I mind if you strangle the skipper,” Jane Dietrich said told the infantry commander while cradling her right arm. “But there’s not much point in going back. Not unless you can fight through that.”

    With a nod, she indicated a bank of screens showing what looked like the local news. Each screen showed something different. The most relevant ones had the pirates mechs. One had the Hermes II being nailed by streaks of fire in the back and exploding. Another had the fallen remains of the Stinger and Commando. A fourth showed Hale’s Hunchback, but in shutdown position and local militia standing around and on top of it. Other screens showed fighters flying through the sky and obvious wet navy ships at sea, one of whom look mauled. All in all, it didn’t look good.

    “Well, damn,” Koltan said mildly when he finished taking the images in. “I guess Burg’s on his own.”

    “Can you let me go now?” Mamoto choked out.

    “Sure,” Koltan replied, releasing the Dropship captain.

    “Than…” Mamoto began.

    He was interrupted when Koltan’s other hand came up in a fist and punched his lights out.
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  18. Dropship Drakon
    Earth-Moon Lagrange Point 1
    18 May 3020


    “Move it, people!” Koltan barked, his voice echoing off the bulkheads of Drakon’s main cargo bay. “We’re almost at the jump point and I want everything secure before we go into free fall again!”

    “C’mon, sir,” one of the soldiers helping with tying vehicles and cargo containers around complained. “Wouldn’t this be easier in free fall?”

    “Why, Griffin, are you volunteering to be our next ‘accident’ victim?” Koltan asked loudly, making sure that everyone present could hear him. He threw a significant look at a red splotch with the consistency of strawberry jam that decorated one bulkhead. That poor bastard had been caught by a shifting cargo container during the clusterfuck of a liftoff.

    “Sir! No, sir!” Griffin replied with alacrity as he went back to strapping helping move a crate into position.

    “Sir?” a hesitant voice spoke.

    “What is it, Burns?” Koltan asked, turning to the speaker. Maria Burns was the Drakon’s chief engineer, and much to Koltan’s surprise when first meeting her, looked to be fairly competent at her job. “The vehicles are secure?”

    “Yes, sir,” Burns replied, nodding. “Vehicles at least can move themselves. I was just wondering what was in those.” She pointed at one of the cargo containers being strapped down to the deck by the Koltan’s grunts.

    “Don’t know, and right now, I frankly don’t care,” Koltan replied. “Right now, I’m feeling lucky that we got away with anything at all. They could all be filled with copies of old Immortal Warrior serials for all I care.”

    “You’re not even curious?” Burns asked, surprised.

    “Burns, we’re stuck in this system for the next six days or so until the Elephant is ready to jump,” Koltan told her. “We really don’t have enough people left to knock over a grade school, never mind make another raid on that hell planet down there. And beyond that, we’ve got several weeks of travel time before we get ‘home’ such as it is. We have plenty of time to see what we made off with.”

    “If you say so…”

    Burns was interrupted when the PA squealed an ear shattering feedback. Well, Koltan would have considered it ear shattering before that cockup of a lift off.

    “Leutnant Koltan, please report to the bridge.”

    “Fantastic,” Koltan said, eyes rolling in exasperation. He had left explicit instructions to only be called in case of an emergency. “More problems.”

    ***

    By the time Koltan reached the Dropship’s bridge, the gravity was gone. The Drakon had reached the pirate point and had come to rest relative to the Jumpship White Elephant. Koltan was surprised to find only Jane Dietrich present. The corpse of the dead Hugo Chin was gone and the majority of his blood was mopped up. Captain Mamoto was nowhere to be found.

    “Where’s Mamoto?” Koltan demanded as he floated in.

    Dietrich shrugged, careful not to jar the makeshift cast encasing her right arm. “Last I heard, he was in the sickbay hopped up on tranquilizers,” the woman answered indifferently. “No big loss. It’s not like he did more than give idiotic orders anyway. Anyway, that’s not why I called you up here.”

    “Okay them,” Koltan said patiently, barely holding on to his frayed temper. “What’s the problem?”

    “The Elephant is refusing to let us dock,” Dietrich answered.

    “What? Why?”

    In reply, Dietrich just held out a headset. Growling, Dietrich took them and put them on.

    Elephant, this is Leutnant Koltan,” he said immediately. “What’s this I hear about you refusing to let us dock?”

    “How do I know that you’re really who you say you are?” Captain Benson’s voice came back immediately. “The Drakon could have been captured by the locals for all I know. You could be Koltan, but you could also have a gun pointed to your head saying what I want to hear.”

    “Oh, you have got to be shitting me,” Koltan groaned.

    “You could have a ship full of soldiers ready to storm aboard my ship and kill us all,” Benson went on. ”Don’t come any closer! I’m armed, you know!”

    “Yeah? Well so am I,” Koltan replied. “And you know what? Despite the crappy condition of this Dropship, I still have more than enough armor to take whatever you dish out. You on the other hand, can’t take what I can dish out. So you can either let us dock, or we can blow you out of space!”

    “You wouldn’t dare!”

    “You’re right, Benson,” Koltan said quietly. “I wouldn’t dare.”

    “Hah! I knew it!”

    “I said that I wouldn’t dare,” Koltan continued. “But if the locals have really boarded and captured the Drakon, then I wouldn’t have any say on weapons control. They on the other hand would dare. So if you don’t let us dock, they are more than willing to destroy your precious Jumpship. Understand me?”

    “Uh….”

    “So the question you have to ask yourself is, ‘Do I feel lucky?’” Koltan told him. “Is the Drakon full of hostile locals enraged at the attack on their world? Because if the Drakon is, Benson, then you’re dead if you don’t let us dock. If you do let us dock, then there’s a chance that you get to live as their prisoners. Now, if the Drakon isn’t full of locals, then you have nothing to fear because we’re all friends here.” Koltan’s voice dropped some more into a low growl. “We ARE all friends here, right Benson?”

    “Right,” Benson agreed reluctantly.

    “Okay then, Benson,” Koltan said, his voice warming slightly. “Now ask yourself, ‘Do I feel lucky?’ Well, do you feel lucky, Benson? Do you?”

    There was silence at the other end of the connection for several long moments.

    “Docking Collar Two is nearest to you,” Benson finally said. “Don’t dent it to much now.”

    “Will do,” Koltan replied. “Drakon out.” As he handed the headset back to Dietrich, he noticed the woman staring at him with a funny expression on her face. “What?”

    “Are you… busy later?” Dietrich asked, a bit breathlessly.
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  19. consequences Solidarity

    National Training Center
    Fort Irwin California, United States
    May 20 2009/3020


    Fort Irwin already hosted the largest concentration of spec ops ever assembled in the history of mankind, and yet more troops were arriving hourly, interspersed with scientists, more conventional troops, and civilian writers. Major Domingo 'Ding' Chavez wasn't sure what exactly the US had given New Zealand in order to gain custody of the captured machines, but the presence of what looked to be a substantial portion of the entirety of New Zealand's armed forces, along with the very obvious US led exercises now taking place in and around New Zealand nearly a week ahead of schedule, hinted that the concession hadn't come free.

    Physical Training, under the conditions, was a pure bitch to coordinate. Beyond the simple matter of keeping the Hunchback under cover while the pirate ship was overhead, it was also necessary to keep anything looking like large groups of troops from exercising in the open where they theoretically had no business being. Indoor training facilities were at a premium, and as a field grade officer, he barely made the cut for being able to pick his own timeslot. However, there are exceptions he mused to himself, as he lapped Staff Sergeant Dansel again.

    Staff Sergeant Dansel at this point frankly looked one step away from death, in the wrong direction, sweat practically pouring off of him as he staggered towards the finish line. At one side Captain Lewis ran backwards pacing him, on the other side Lance Corporal Hutton did the same, while Private Allwood, missing most of his left leg below the knee, actually did circles around them in his wheelchair. However, rather than the usual malice and contempt this might imply, this was actually a security detail, after the third kidnapping attempt by the NZ SAS in the last day. The words 'cheeky yank bastard' were still visible in permanent marker on the back of his neck from the last time he'd made the mistake of being caught alone. Rumor had it(correctly) that he'd suggested the wording himself when the New Zealanders who'd cornered him seemed unable to agree on what to do, and that he'd provided the marker himself(incorrect in this case).

    As he passed the finish line for the final time, and slowed to a walk, Captain Lewis wordlessly passed Dansel a bottle of water and a pair of salt tablets. Swallowing them and draining the bottle in one go, Dansel held out his hand allowing Hutton to fill it with another bottle, that he emptied at a more sedate pace. "Sir" he said to Major Chavez , swiftly catching up now that he was able to set a walking pace.

    "Staff Sergeant. Got any tips for when I get my crack at Quasimodo?" The Hunchback had immediately received its new name from the troops upon arrival at Fort Irwin, and had been found the following morning when the hangar was opened to begin training with its new moniker painted on along with a stylised Disney hunchback on its chest, a broken bottle of champagne on the ground next to it, standing twenty feet from where it had been carefully placed the day before, with its tracks all over the hangar. Unsurprisingly, the guards that had been posted in the hangar had developed acute cases of short-term amnesia, made even more suspect by overheard conversations to the effect of 'dude it was awesome!' The fact that Staff Sergeant Dansel had volunteered to command the first guard duty shift may have had something to do with why the matter was quietly dropped.

    "You just have to feel the path the machine wants to take, and shape it to work for you. Sorry to get all mystical sir, but if I had anything concrete, it would be part of the briefings." Part of the purpose for everyone being at the Center, in addition to familiarization with Battlemech capabilities and interminable class work, was to run everyone they possibly could through their paces on the machine. With only one functional Battlemech, Earth, or at least the allied nations currently actively cooperating, had no choice but to attempt to find the best instinctive pilot they possibly could in the event Quasimodo's deployment became necessary. No one knew exactly who had first popularized the term 'synch ratio' as an easy shorthand for the aggregate test results. However, Dansel's results were easily the highest for the official time anyone had been able to spend in the cockpit.

    "Too bad mano. Can you at least fill me in on which of the rumors about you are completely made up? Like the thing with the GP medium?" Some of the things being said simply couldn't possibly be true, and his physical performance in training was generally unremarkable at best. But it was an undeniable fact that First Sergeant Vega, possibly the strongest member of Rainbow Six, had nearly hurt himself when he tried to casually lift one of Dansel's duffel bags during the inevitable baggage clusterfuck at the airfield, said duffel having turned out to be entirely full of books.

    "Well sir, for a start, it wasn't a GP medium tent that I singlehandedly threw on the back of a truck, it was just a small. Is it true that your lot had a part in what went down in China with the nukes?" Speculation about that had run rampant in the military community, and more than a few members of Dansel's unit had stayed on friendly terms with assorted SOCOM personnel after their deployment down to Fort Bragg, and heard some juicy tidbits about the 'Men of Black'.

    "Officially, I have no knowledge of what may have occured in China that night to stop all but one of the nukes from launching. I certainly couldn't say anything to confirm or deny that the demolition of fueled nuclear missiles by hand is almost as insane as one of your stunts. What about the thing with the truck tire?" That night was still the stuff of nightmares for Ding, with the simple pressure of a life or death operation to save millions compounded by never knowing which missile might explode catastrophically to kill you even if you succeeded.

    "Well sir, then I unofficially owe you a beer and a beatdown, since the one missile you may or may not have been anywhere near when it launched headed close enough for my home for me to watch the fireworks. The tire thing, man I thought no one actually was paying attention to that. Don't know what I was thinking, but when it started bouncing towards me, instead of just stepping to the side, I just moved back and caught the thing just as it was running out of momentum. Looked a hell of a lot more impressive than it really was probably, but still in my top twenty dumbest things I've ever done."


    The two continued to trade anecdotes and good-natured ribbing as they walked once around the track. "Well sir, I'm not out of breath at all, so it looks like it's time for me to embarrass myself some more. Have a good one sir." With that Sergeant Dansel began running around the track again with his escorts, Captain Lewis pausing to give Major Chavez a gimlet stare. This wouldn't be the first time the damned Kiwis had tried impersonation to gather intel or effect a snatch after all.
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  20. Death By Chains BattleTech Starfighter Analyst

    Albion rental apartment complex,
    Palmerston North,
    New Zealand,
    May 20 2005/3020


    ‘Trace Coburn’ had spent a lot of time in Palmerston North before, but never in accommodations so flash. Not that he’d really noticed, or particularly cared; so long as he had a decent bed, room to spread out his books and papers so he could read and work, and a high-speed connection for the new laptop the government had bought him to support his ‘consultancy work’, he was pretty much oblivious to everything outside of the screen and the data he was combing through.

    Upon reflection after the fact, he was a little surprised that he hadn’t been more nervous about his briefing of the Prime Minister and his Cabinet beforehand or during... but the fact that he and they had had half an eye on the live coverage of the raid throughout the video-conference had probably kept him from internalising the situation until it was over. (The fact that he rarely invested much emotion in politics or politicians had probably helped.) Once it was done, the red-caps had handed him a brand-new Dell laptop and a burned DVD and bustled him off to Ohakea, where he’d been crammed into the rear seat of a Gryphon trainer like too much stuffing into a chicken and flown up to Auckland for a first-hand look. He might have derived more pleasure from getting his first-ever ride in one of Earth’s newest fighter-jets had he not been frantically trying to re-assess his entire world-view. On the other hand, even with his shaky grasp of social nuance, before he’d climbed the ladder into the JAS-39D he’d remembered to thank his pilot for the lift, offer condolences for the lost man, and congratulate the squadron for killing the Hermes... which had turned into a brief conversation in which he, and then his ‘driver’ had been exceedingly thankful the pirates hadn’t had access to a Rifleman. Or worse yet, the pair of aerospace fighters a Union normally carried.

    He’d almost spit-taken on the HUD when he’d gotten a look at the DVD’s contents during the flight: someone had downloaded every single CBT-related .pdf BattleShop offered, so he’d have access to all of his references (and more besides) while he was away from his own book-collection. It had occurred to him to wonder if the government had actually paid for those .pdfs; after all, what FASA/Fanpro copyrights meant in this situation was anybody’s guess! (It had also occurred to him, with his usual vein of cynical humour, to ponder BattleShop’s stability. Between the journos looking for reference data for their stories, intelligence agencies trying to update their threat-assessment files, and gamers and regular citizens looking to figure out what the FUCK was going ON!?!? in the wider universe, he fully expected that BattleShop’s servers had been running almost red-hot trying to keep up with an unprecedented surge in new accounts created, files downloaded, and money rolling into its coffers. Whatever financial troubles Fanpro might’ve had up until May 16, from May 17 they’re probably set for the next decade or so. Legally, though? I’d bet that’s another story!)

    When more government minders had shown up at his hotel-room door at seven the next morning, they’d brought him into the restaurant to meet several other CBT posters, mostly fellow Kiwis or travellers who’d thought to contact the authorities when they saw the news; every one of those ‘mere’ posters deferred to the ‘PTB’ in their midst, one of Fanpro’s freelancers, a middle-aged expatriate Canadian who’d been yanked out of his Melbourne home by the Australian Federal Police and put on a trans-Tasman flight. However, while he was their recognised ‘senior man’, he was also the most shell-shocked: he’d been in the game since its release in the ’80’s and knew the most about its backstory - not to mention having spent several years helping to craft Fanpro’s future products. To be fair, I can’t say I blame John for being a little sickly: reading and writing about the Word of Blake Jihad was incredible fun, but the idea of seeing it at close quarters is seriously fucking scary!

    Of course, John’s agitation might have had something to with the fact that he’d been hauled away from his wife and teenaged daughters in the middle of the night... or that he had a minder from the Aussie government: a muscular fellow in a suit with an ill-concealed sidearm and a wolf’s eyes. ‘Trace Coburn’ fully admitted that he wasn’t particularly astute when it came to people, but even he was pinging the minder as Aussie SAS. Which begs the question: is he there to look out for John... or keep an eye on him?

    Now, here he was: self-appointed fan writer of ‘Fighter of the Week’, which had now turned him into the Brash government’s Instant Expert on all things BattleTech and aerospace. Moreover, with John under a cloud, that meant the ‘junior’ posters deferred to his judgement, also making him the effective leader of the New Zealand government’s CBT think-tank! And now I know what Herb meant about ‘herding cats’! he thought half-sourly, not wanting to contemplate what awaited him in his e-mail account.

    Which explained was why he was sitting in his hotel-room, typing frantically: after another long, wide-ranging brain-storming session, on top of writing a preliminary threat-assessment for 75 Squadron’s Gryphon-drivers, he also had the responsibility of condensing the group’s wild and woolly ideas into a coherent form for presentation to the bureaucrats. I wonder what they’ll make of my writing style? I can’t say I’m the best-organised joker out there, and I’m not sure I could manage a formally-structured report if I tried, but at least I try to write documents that are entertaining to read!

    Still, I thought the Prime Minister was gonna choke when he saw our recommended additions to the terms he’d give the Yanks in exchange for signing the isorla over to them, he smiled thinly, his hands and hind-brain not needing supervision to type as he remembered that conversation. But, hey, they were waving a blank cheque at us: what were we supposed to do, think small?

    “Miz Liz” and her creator in Seattle have thoroughly convinced me of the merits of economic power in warfare - not to mention how commerce is attracted to the infrastructure to support it - so why not get in on the ground floor? If those pirate bastards come back - and if they got any of our computer tech like the spooks think, they’ll be back as sure as a T-800 - and we can take their DropShips intact, Earth’s first commercial spaceport will be built by the ANZUS alliance in the Australian Outback and operated by “South Pacific Spacelift”, a company jointly held by the Aussie and Kiwi governments. Tack on the subsequent port fees and duties on off-world imports and materials mined throughout the Sol system, and we’re already looking at what is technically referred to as ‘a fucking fortune’. Add that to a solemn agreement that Kiwi scientists will be equal partners in the reverse-engineering of all captured technologies and that we’ll have an inalienable (if non-voting) five-percent share in any and all commercial applications and ventures stemming therefrom - including the fusion-based power generation industry - and we’re in line to become a friggin’ superpower!

    Heh: I always thought
    das Wünderkind Jack Ryan and his people were long overdue to have someone pull a fast one on ’em. Who knew it’d be the New Zealand government, acting at the prompting of a bloke who was working in a supermarket the day the ’Mechs landed?

    Of course, we need to be able to mallet the bastards if they come back to Godzone, so the Government’s immediate demands will be more use in the short-term. It looks like our weapons can get the job done against ‘Mech-grade armour after all - unless they bring a lance of assault-’Mechs or something, but that’d fuck anything short of a mechanised brigade from a major nation anyway - so between the joint exercises and the U.S. footing the bill for another squadron of JAS-39s and emergency bulk supplies of Mavericks and JSOWs, the next bunch of Blackbeard slime-mould motherfrakkers who try their luck here are gonna rue the day their momma-slimes ever oozed ‘em out....

    But enough woolgathering. I need to get back to work on this: 75 Squadron’s lost one man already, and I will NOT see any more of our lads die because I didn’t give them a good sense for the threat.
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  21. Dropship Drakon
    Earth-Moon Lagrange Point 1
    20 May 3020


    “Morning, Jane,” Irdon Koltan said as he sailed onto the Drakon’s bridge in microgravity. He found her sprawled in the Captain’s chair, Mamoto having apparently overdosed on tranquilizers. The Drakon’s formal captain was comatose in sick bay. Either that or he was hiding under his bunk. Irdon really didn’t care which.

    “Morning, Irdon,” Jane replied. She was watching a bank of monitors showing the various transmissions from the locals. Most of the screens appeared to be tuned to news or talk shows. The common topic of all them of course, appeared to be the pirates themselves. “No missiles with nuclear warheads being shot at us yet,” she added conversationally.

    “That’s good to know,” Koltan replied in the same tone. Like Mamoto, the Elephant’s captain seemed to have gone off the deep end. He seemed convinced that the locals had nuclear capability and were more than willing to use them. Thus, Captain Benson insisted that both ships maintained constant watch with weapons ready to shoot down any missiles sent there way. Both Koltan and Jane remained unconvinced; but they found it just easier to just humor the guy’s paranoia even if it took away from their… personal time. “So, learn anything interesting?” Koltan asked, nodding at the monitors.

    “Oh yeah,” Jane replied blithely. “Did you know that Comstar has a secret conspiracy to try and drive the Inner Sphere into a new Stone Age and that they have a secret stash of combat Jumpships? Not only that, Katrina Steiner is going to marry her daughter off to Hanse Davion and combine their realms into a new super Successor State to dominate the Inner Sphere, only to have it ripped apart when their kids start a civil war for the throne. And then thirty years from now, the decedents of General Kerensky and the Star League army is going to come back to try and conquer the Inner Sphere only to fail miserably trying. And oh yeah, Wolf’s Dragoons are really Star League army spies.”

    “Uh, what?” Koltan said, confused.

    “Seriously, that’s what they’re talking about,” Jane insisted with a laugh. “Someone has been feeding these guys a bunch of bad action stories for the past twenty years. They seriously thought that we and the Inner Sphere and everything was all make believe before we landed. Hell, they think the year is 2005 instead of 3020.”

    “That’s… weird,” Koltan said. “But anything about our guys?”

    “Aside from confirmation of their capture? No, not really,” Jane replied. “Their government is playing things pretty close to the chest. They’re just letting out enough info to keep the public calm, I think.”

    “They’re probably concerned about us eavesdropping,” Koltan mused. “God knows, I’d suspect a trap if they told everyone where our people were being kept. Anything else?”

    “Well they’re still trying to reconcile our existence with the fiction,” Jane told him with a shrug. “The most popular and plausible theory so far is that we had a misjump and have either gone back in time or into an alternate universe.”

    There was a pause in conversation.

    “Er, we haven’t had a misjump, have we?” Koltan asked nervously. The thought of not having a home to go back to was unnerving, especially since that would make the only possible place to go was the planet that he and his people had just ticked off.

    “Not so far as I know, no,” Jane reassured him.

    “Oh, good,” Koltan said, slightly relieved. “Anyway, I came up to invite you to the loot party. We’re going to be opening the first containers soon. Wanna see what we got?”

    “Sure!” Jane said, shutting down the monitors. “Let’s go!”
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  22. Dropship Drakon
    Earth-Moon Lagrange Point 1
    20 May 3020


    The surviving members of the Drakon’s pirate company – as well as select officers from the Elephant’s officers – had gathered in the Dropship’s main cargo bay. They surrounded four containers secured to the deck in the middle of the bay. Three of the containers were anonymously boxes of sheet metal. The fourth was like the others except that it had wheels attached to one end and jacks extended at the front.

    “About time you got here,” Captain Benson said crabbily when Koltan and Jane arrived. “Can we see what the take is now, or is it too soon for you?”

    “Sorry, Captain,” Koltan said, his tone not at all apologetic. “I just wanted to make sure everyone was up and out of sick bay before we started. You know how nasty things can get if someone thinks that they’re not getting their fair share.”

    “Yeah, yeah, whatever,” Benson said dismissively. “Jumped up gropo…” he muttered, not quite under his breath. He wasn’t quite unheard.

    “Hey, show some respect!” one Koltan’s infantryman shouted angrily. “You wanna talk shit, YOU jump out of an open airlock and see if you survive.”

    “Now, now, people,” Koltan said to his people with good humor. “I’m sure the good Captain here is just impatient like the rest of us.” He pointed to the wheeled container. “Let’s do this one first.”

    Obediently, Maria Burns and a couple of techs floated themselves over to the designated container’s access hatch. There was a keyhole in the handle, and a quick tug by Burns on the handle confirmed the hatch’s locked status.

    “Well, darn, I can’t get it,” Burns said melodramatically. “Whatever can I do?” She made a show of thinking hard. “I know, how about…”

    “Get on with it already!” Benson barked. “Ow!” Someone had slapped him on the back side of his head. His eyes whipped around furiously, but the only person behind him was Jane Dietrich looking utterly innocent with her cast bound arm was nearest to him. It didn’t seem possible that she could hit him with her good arm and get into that position with him seeing her move.

    “Wow! That was easy,” Burns exclaimed, drawing Benson’s attention back to her. Burns was waving around an electric cutting torch dramatically. “I guess the owners of these things made them out of shoddy materials.” She handed the torch back to one of her assistants. “Hmm, maybe there’s nothing worthwhile here.” She turned to her audience. “Are you sure you guys want see what’s in here?”

    A chorus of “yeses” bombarded the engineer as well as inarticulate cheers and whistles.

    “Okay then,” Burns said. Grabbing the still hot edges of the hole that she had cut .with a gloved hand, she braced herself with her legs on a convenient ledge built into the container hatch. “And behind Door Number One we have…” She tugged open the door and it slid up without resistance. “…canned goods? Um, it looks like stacks of canned beans, vegetables, fruit… Ooh! Strawberries!”

    “What? We grabbed a bunch of groceries?” Benson complained, outraged. “Who picked this thing?”

    “I did,” Koltan replied evenly. “It was just outside the LZ, so I decided, why not?”

    “But what good are groceries?” Benson persisted.

    “I don’t know about you, Captain,” Koltan said, “but I’m sick and tired of standard rations. But if you want to give up your share, hey, more for the rest of us.”

    “Uh, wait a minute…” Benson stammered, backpedaling furiously… or trying to anyway.

    “You heard the Captain, boys and girls,” Koltan shouted to the crowd. “Let’s get all this to the Drakon’s galley! There’s gonna be some good eating tonight!”

    “But…” A jubilant cheer drowned out whatever Benson had been about to say.

    * * *

    “And behind Door Number Two, we have… a bunch of anonymous wooden boxes,” Burns was saying.

    “Aw…” chorused the crowd in disappointment.

    “But wait!” Burns said dramatically. “Could there be something in the boxes?” The container was practically stuffed full with crates, barely leaving any room on the sides. Burns held out a hand. “Crowbar, Alex! And can I have some volunteers from the studio audience?”

    Much grunting and manual labor later, one crate had been extracted from the container. Once that feat was accomplished, Burns popped its lid with the crowbar. The contents were… unexpected to say the least.

    “Plush toys?” Burns said, bemused by the little blue humanoid with white hat and pants in her hand. “Hmm, kinda cute though.” She turned it over and looked at the little white tag on it. “’Made in China’.”

    “No way,” one of the sweaty volunteers griped. “This thing has way too much inertial mass to be just plush toys, there’s gotta be something else in there!”

    Several minutes later, the air of the cargo bay was polluted with clouds of cute plush dolls floating everywhere. Some of them had fallen apart at the rough treatment given to them by the pirates, and now fluffy white stuffing was also added to the pollution.

    “Hey, this thing has a false bottom!” Burns announced, her lower half sticking out of the now empty crate. Her words were followed by the crack of wood being splintered and torn. “Check this out, guys,” she said as she exited the crate. In one hand was the crowbar, in the other was a weapon that hadn’t been there before. “I think we grabbed someone’s contraband.”

    “Another Kalashnikov clone?” Koltan said, somewhat amused as Burns handed him the weapon. On close examination, it was indeed one of the endless variations of the ancient AK-47. The venerable design had been in production as a cheap and easy to make infantry weapon for over a thousand years.

    “And magazines,” Burns added. “And plenty of ammo…” Her eyes played over the container and the crates within, her mind running some quick math. “If all the crates in there are like this one, you could probably outfit a small army.”

    “Nice to know I don’t have to buy arms for new recruits,” Koltan mused. He looked around the cluttered air and found he could barely see the far walls or ceiling. Something tickled his nose as a bit of fluff floated by. “Okay people!” he shouted. “Let’s get this mess cleaned up before…before… ATCHOO!”

    * * *

    “Behind Door Number Three, we have… two ground cars?”

    The third cargo container had two vehicles inside, civilian model ground cars. The first was a sleek black sports car with a slit cut in front. The second car was painted orange and more primitive looking, but had some kind of flag painted on top of its roof and numbers painted on its doors.

    “Hmph, not much here,” Koltan said eventually when it became clear that the cars were all the container had. He shook his head in disappointment. “I suppose we could give them to some self-styled pirate king as a gift.”

    “Yeah, we don’t exactly have lots of open road in space,” Benson agreed, equally disappointed.

    “Eh, they can’t all be winners,” Koltan said. “Okay, let’s lock it back up people!”

    As darkness closed back in on the cars again, the slit in the sports car’s hood lit up. A pulse of red light bobbed back and forth across the length of the slit several times before shutting back off.

    * * *

    “And finally, behind Door Number Four, we have… more boxes. And wonders of wonders, there’s a manifest here.” Burns took a sheet of paper that had been put in a plastic folder on the inside of the container’s hatch door. “Let’s see now… flat screen monitor, DVD player whatever that is, radio… hey, I think we hit the jackpot!”

    “What?” “What is it?” Eager pirates crowded around Burns.

    “Hold on,” Burns told them. They appeared not to listen and crowded in even more. “Hey! Back off and give me some light. BACK OFF I SAID!!!” The last words were a shout and the pirates reeled back as Burns brandished her crowbar threateningly.

    “So,” Koltan said, completely unfazed by Burns. Then again, he hadn’t been one of the ones crowding in. “You said something about a jackpot?”

    “Yeah, this thing’s full of what looks like consumer electronics,” Burns replied.

    “Okay, that’s valuable,” Koltan said thoughtfully. “And I suppose it’ll sell, but why ‘jackpot’? The number of people who actually have the money to buy this stuff out here in the Periphery isn’t all that great.”

    “Well according to this,” Burns said, waving the manifest, “there be computers in here.”

    That got everyone’s attention. Computers of any kind were rare. They were essentially lostech, with only primitive mainframes still being manufactured on a few select worlds deep into the Inner Sphere. Out here on the Periphery, the only computers still in operation were the minimum required to run Dropships and Jumpships, and of course the ones that had to support pirate mech operations. If any of those died, then there were absolutely no replacements except what you could salvage or more likely, steal from someone else.

    “Okay, this I gotta see,” Koltan muttered. “Which boxes are they in?”

    Burns turned back to look at the container. It was stuffed with boxes of all shapes and sizes, like some demented riddler had decided to create the ultimate three dimensional jigsaw puzzle. She threw Koltan a look that practically screamed, “Isn’t it obvious?”

    “Right,” Koltan said. “Okay, people! Start emptying this thing!” He paused then quickly added, “CAREFULLY!”

    * * *

    “This is a computer?” Koltan said skeptically, handling the briefcase sized box; it even had a little plastic handle on the side. Real computers were mainframes. The smallest ones were typically the size of a desk. Most were the size of refrigerators or larger and massed tons. The little thing in his hand couldn’t be more than a dumb terminal, which were damned useless without mainframes to connect to.

    “That’s what it says on the box,” Burns said doubtfully handling her own box of dubious computer hardware.

    “I suppose that worse case scenario, we could use these to replace some of the broken terminals around the Drakon,” Jane mused, examining her own box. She did a double take. “Hey, Maria, check the stats on the back of the box.”

    “Huh, fifteen quotation mark monitor,” Burns read aloud. She looked up, confused. “What’s the quotation mark supposed to be? And why is there only one?”

    “Keep reading,” Jane insisted.

    “One point seven gigahertz processor?” Burns read, disbelievingly. “Five hundred twelve megabyte ess dee arr ay em, whatever that is.”

    ”I think that might be random access memory,” Jane told her.

    “No way!” Burns disagreed, her eyes not leaving her box. “A sixty gigabyte hard drive? Jane, this has got to be a hoax! It’s impossible.”

    “I don’t think so,” Jane said thoughtfully. “This is stuff being bought and sold on the planet here, right?”

    “I guess. We just grabbed containers at random,” Koltan admitted. “What’s the problem?”

    “The problem is that you simply can’t fit computers this powerful into packages this small!” Burns told him. “It’s simply not physically possible!”

    “Why?” Koltan asked, mystified.

    “Because computing power reached the maximum miniaturization in the late twentieth century,” Burns said. “There was simply no way to get mainframes any more compact without losing functionality some where. Anything smaller simply had to become special purpose machines, kinda like the computer systems in mechs for example. And even then you couldn't fit this much computing power in this tiny a package!”

    “I dunno,” Jane mused. “The Star League were rumored to have some awesome stuff. And maybe these things were purpose made for something.”

    “How do we determine what for?” Koltan asked.

    “Only way to do that would be to open the box and turn it on,” Jane said. She wiggled her cast bound, broken arm. “Um, one of you guys is going to have to do that.”

    Several minutes later, a box was opened. The “computer” inside was smaller than expected; a good half of the box’s volume was taken up with accessories, pamphlets, and some kind of foam padding.

    Burns turned the unfamiliar device over and around, examining it at all angles. “How do you turn this thing on?” she asked plaintively.

    “I got a better question,” Jane said, holding up something that looked like a torture device. “Where do you plug this in?”

    Koltan shook his head in bemusement, then grabbed what looked like a little plastic book floating past his head. He read the title. “Pirates of the Caribbean?”
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  23. Dropship Drakon
    Earth-Moon Lagrange Point 1
    23 May 3025


    “All hands,” Captain’s Benson’s voice said over every speaker on both the Drakon and the Elephant, “standby for jump in T minus five minutes… mark.”

    “Jane,” Koltan said as he sailed onto the Drakon’s bridge. “Everything secure up here?”

    “Mmm-hmm,” Jane replied absently, her eyes glued to the screen in front of her. But it wasn’t one of the bridge monitors. It was an odd looking device that looked something like a keyboard attached to a monitor. It took a moment for Koltan to recognize the thing as one of the looted “computers”. Small pamphlets and booklets floated around her.

    “I see you managed to figure out how to get it working,” Koltan commented, his eyes tracing a long cable running from the computer to a convenient power outlet where an adapter had been used to get it plugged in.

    “Hang on a sec, Irdon,” Jane told him, eyes not leaving the screen.

    Irked at Jane’s inattention and curious about what she was working on, Koltan peeked over her shoulder. The most obvious thing he could see was a gray grid that dominated the screen. Most of the grid squares were filled with an array of multi-colored numbers. Some squares were blank and dark gray. Other blank squares were a lighter grey, though not very many; Koltan had the distinct impression that the light gray squares were raised above the elevation of the other squares, a neat trick for a 2D screen.

    Jane did something that moved a pointer over a light grey square. With a tap, the square turned an angry red with a black circle thing in it. Other squares did the same. A happy face above the grid changed into something less than happy.

    “Nooooo!” Jane wailed in despair. “I almost had it!”

    “Had what?” Koltan asked, concerned. “Was it something important?”

    “Yes! No!” Jane said angrily. She seemed to search for words“Ah, you wouldn’t understand.”

    “Okay, if you say so,” Koltan said slowly, deciding not to push. He looked for a safer topic. “Why is this thing duct taped down?”

    “Microgravity,” Jane replied. “This thing has moving parts.”

    “Moving parts? In a computer?”

    “Yeah, it gets pretty warm after a while,” Jane told him grumpily as she did something to make the grid disappear. What replaced it was some picture of a rolling meadow. “I think there’s a fan in there to keep it cool. I dunno what other than the screen could be generating the heat though, but it’s definitely not just the screen.”

    “T minus one minute,” Benson announced.

    “Wait, back up a moment,” Koltan said. “What do moving parts have to do with duct tape?”

    “Action and reaction of course,” Jane said, as if it were obvious. “Fan spins one way; the rest of the machine wants to spin in the other. And in microgravity, the machine will spin unless secured to something. I already broke one of these things discovering that little fact.”

    “Broke?” Koltan echoed. “How?”

    “It spun itself into a bulkhead,” Jane answered. She shook her head in wondering contempt. “These things are way more fragile than any computer has a right to be. And it looks like the operating system is optimized for single users only, however much sense that makes. It looks like Maria was right; the locals did compromise to get all this computing power in such a tiny package.”

    “T-minus ten seconds.”

    “So what were you doing when I came in?” Koltan asked. “Cracking some esoteric security code?”

    “Five. Four…”

    “Ah…” Jane stammered, folding down the computer’s screen. It seemed like she was trying to evade the question.

    “Three. Two…”

    “Jane,” Koltan began, annoyed. “Don’t make me…”

    “One. JU…”

    * * *

    The Jumpship White Elephant and attached Dropship Drakon vanished in a globular cloud of electromagnetic static that radiated from the low end radio bands to the middle of visible spectrum. The bubble lasted for some thirty seconds before vanishing, leaving nothing behind to indicate that anything had ever been there.

    Around Earth, dozens of satellites watched the event. A good many belonged to intelligence agencies and had powerful cameras whose mission had been switched from watching the Earth below to the mysterious interloper from beyond. Dozens more belonged to various scientific agencies, powerful sensors retasked from observing distant astronomical phenomena to observing the energy output of advanced technology. Finally, there were the numerous civilian satellites, streaming video to curious people the world over.

    Five minutes after the pirates’ departure, the video of their jump was on YouTube. Less than an hour later, YouTube crashed due to the sheer number of users trying to accessing this one video on the website.
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  24. Richardson Solidarity

    //25 May, 2005, Classified Location, US//

    The cockpit of the... err, aggressively reaqqured Hunchback was quiet as it's test pilot paused, to listen to the radio and
    civilian chatter from the new communications equipment hastily retrofitted into the back, waiting. He had asked to get this slot
    specifically so that he could be the first to fully test out Earth's first taste of 'advanced technology'. Advanced juryrigging,
    sure, technology, probably not so much.

    He had never seen so much duct tape in all his life. It seemed to hold up half the guages and alert light banks, silvery tendrils
    of it's unshakable grip twisting across the corrugated metal of the small deck space below him. "Is it gone, yet?"

    "Negative. Stand by." The grainy radio transmission burbled over the headset, which had been strapped to the neuro-helmet, the
    Army Seargent leaning back, feeling the slight shift of the mech below him. At least it was responsive as it was supposed to be.
    He flicked at one of the boxes, watching a low ammo light flicker. Meh.

    "Standing by Roughrider Mike." Seargent Andre Davis scuffed at the concrete floor of the warehouse hanger, listening to concrete
    scraping under the rough heel of the Hunchback's foot. He tapped what he figured must have once been the thermal imager controls,
    grumbling as he flicked carefully at a wire that was protruding out of a connection socket. The small panel of indicators above
    the set of knobs flickered for a moment, cutting back out. He scribbled down a note on his pad, warily watching the armtip. He
    tapped the thermal imaging controls again, before picking up his 'mechanical pursuasion', and thumping the box with the side of
    his adjustable wrench, watching the lights jump back on, glowing a greenish amber in the dark cockpit. A few more scribbles
    followed.

    "This is Roughrider Mike. Skies are now clear. You are clear for extended test." The sound of the command post was a welcome
    one, as he gingerly wobbled forward, the clear night echoing with the sound of a medium mech finally back in the hands of people
    who would actually look after it.

    "Hell, 'bout damn time." The lurching of the cockpit was surprisingly gentle, as he began tenatively taking a more easy gait with
    the mech, feeling it responding naturally to his thoughts.

    "What was that, Bandit 60?"

    "Nothing, Roughrider mike. Taking the perimiter trail." Davis let it lope further out, having gotten off the main roads, and out
    into the woods, carefully taking it into the sparse pine. A careful swat found a thick gnarled tree pushed half way out of the
    ground, as he piloted his way through the maze of 3rd and 4th growth trees.

    He didn't even want to consider what nefarious purposes the ungainly and ugly vehicle had seen over the years, as his mind picked
    up on instinctive repsonses that the mech wanted out of him. It was... surprisingly intuitive, as he swept his gaze across the
    control board, the thermal nightvision lighting up the night. It was amazing that it even worked. Chalk one up to the
    reliability of IS tech.

    "Bandit 60, spotters show you moving into the woods, do you have optics?"

    "Rodger Roughrider Mike. The thermal nightvision needed some pursuasion." The feeling of the mech staggering as it tripped over
    an old logjam threw the seargent off for a moment, as he grabbed onto the nearest big tree with the mech's stubby hand. He
    proceeded to self-note to check the ground more often. Handled like a drunk on a dingy in the middle of Hurricane Ivan, if one
    wasn't careful.

    He shook his head, before turning around in the thick woods. Probably best to hang off on difficult piloting classes 101 and 102
    until he figured out how not to do the twostep bellyflop. Pirates could pilot, he'd have to give them that. Cracking wood noises
    filled the air, as he shoved aside a young, flimsy tree, listening to it whipping back against the hunchback's hull. The sudden
    neardarkness was far less welcome, though.

    "Joy." He tabbed the talk button on the SINGARS, as he brought his mechanical pursuasion back out, thumping the thermal box again,
    unhappily noting that it failed to work this time. "Roughrider mike, returning to the nest. Thermal imaging has failed. Clear
    the road." He grumbled as he killed his mike, reaching up to turn down the cockpit lighting a tad more, as he looked up through
    the windows into the oddly... menacing night sky. The unfamiliar night sky. None of the constelations were right anymore. Why?

    "Oh, that can't be good. We are in soooo much trouble."
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  25. Projection room
    Unidentified Research Institute
    May 19th, 2005


    Dr. Mallard was led to a seat and given a folder by one of the ever present minders. When he arrived this morning at the lecture hall for "Materials Engineering 402", the dean was already waiting for him. While that was most assuredly strange, the three suits with shades and ear pieces were stranger still.

    He knew they talked, rather cordially, but details were vague. He vaguely recalled the dean saying he, Mallard, was now on loan to the US government and not to worry, he would keep his chair and everything was paid for. In fact he should be proud for the chance and for bringing the university a new wing. Everything after that passed by in a blur. A short stop at his home to collect an over night bag and he was bundled on a plane to this place. Mallard still didn't know what chance the dean was talking about.

    When he was seated, a rather clean cut middle aged man started speaking at the front of the room.
    "Now that everyone is here, let me welcome you. I am Major Khalid McDonald," the man identified himself. On the screen a few scenes of some science fiction show started playing. It looked really well done, even if the giant robots were a bit over the top.

    "If you followed the news, you might already recognize some of these images. Let me assure this no hoax or PR gag for a new show. As far as we can tell at this point, it was a genuine pirate raid. We were able to repel the raid, but they managed to abscond with numerous shipping containers."

    "The day after tomorrow the two damaged machines will arrive here and be available for study. That is why you were invited. All of you are distinguished experts in materials science." At this point Mallard looked around and recognized most of the faces. Others doing the same reassured him, he was not the only one overwhelmed by this invitation.

    "We need more information about their capabilities, because there will be a next time. And we might not be as lucky again. My assistants have distributed paperwork detailing the terms for our research group. Be sure to read and sign them by tomorrow if you want to join this project. I hope to see you all again day after tomorrow."

    ---------------------------------------------------------------
    Office of Colonel Reynard
    Unidentified Research Institute
    June 9th, 2005



    Khalid McDonald entered the waiting room to the office of Colonel Fergus Reynard.

    "You can go right in. Colonel Reynard is expecting you."

    Once Khalid was through the door he was greeted by his superior.
    "At ease. We are waiting for the representative of the Joint Chiefs. Have the civilians settled finally in?"

    "Well mostly. Now they are only twice as bad as our own researchers. I always thought riding herd on ours was bad, but you wont hear me complain about them again." McDonald answered.

    A knock on the door interrupted further conversation. On Reynard's "Enter" an unknown Brigadier General entered. "At ease. My name is Robert Shanks. Timmons had a nasty break, so i am here today for the weekly report. I am on a tight schedule, so give me an overview for the last week."

    At a look from Colonel Reynard, Major McDonald started.
    "The armor work group gave their preliminary report yesterday. It is a very good ablative armor. And compared to ours incredible resistant to piercing. It is essentially a big sandwich, you understand, like Chobham armor."

    At McDonald's inquiring look, Shanks provided. "I am familiar with the concept. How soon can we make the armor in numbers? We can make it, right?"

    "The report estimates about three to five years till we can make a copy in meaningful amounts. And how well our home produced variant will stack up against the real deal is still open. Unless we make some breakthroughs or find a source on their production processes, it will definitely be worse. The good news is that we should be able to start enhancing our armor for heat resistance in the next 9 to 15 months."

    "Forgive me, but what exactly hampers our copy?" Shanks interrupted.

    "First there are some alloys we can't yet produce in the quality present in BT armor. The bigger problem are the carbon nanotubes. We can't consistently make the required lengths in bulk. And we don't know how produce the kind weaves found in our samples. We will have to use bulk nanotubes for that layer." McDonald finished.

    Reynard continues, "That is all the new developments. The other groups are still slowly advancing. It would help immensely if the intel pukes, pardon my language, would finally give us access to the woman, Zumross. The interviews suggest she is the most technically inclined of the group and she is already awake for two weeks."

    "Send my office a catalog of questions and problems and i will see about getting your access. If that is all? I will be on my way."
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