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PostPosted: Mon Jul 03, 2017 3:53 pm 
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Oh God why am I doing thiaaaaaaaaaaargh.......

Chapter I

Grayson parked the cup in the magnetic holder provided for the purpose and bent the straw somewhat to keep the contents in before returning his attention to the terminal in front of him. The repoprt scrolling over the screen had been written by one of the techs tasked with making copies of what they had found in the Helm Memory Core. In the months since they had left Helm, they had done their best to distribute the copies with all those merchants, though taking care to keep a copy for themselves.

Having no idea if this would ever work still bothered him on occasion, but at least the report indicated that they had finally offloaded the last of those meant for distribution, and at least the engineers from one Free Worlds university or another had actually taken it and promised to look at it before deleting what was on the core. It seemed that rumours of the find had permeated through most of the Inner Sphere, but at the same time most people didn't believe the sort of rumour that went through the universe what seemed like once a week.

With a sigh he shut down the terminal and reached for the cup, considering his next options. His people would be able to handle the jump, so... he smiled to himself. Being in command had perks.

But before he could even get up and turn around, he heard someone knock on the frame of the open hatch. He turned and there he could see the object of his affections standing there with a triumphant grin on her face that made her look even more beautiful than she was to begin with.

“I cracked it!” she said for a greeting and Grayson raised an eyebrow. She crossed the room as fast as her mag boots would allow and hugged him tight. Grayson shifted his head so that he could kiss her. After doing so, he stepped back and looked at her.

“So what is it?”

She sighed. “I have to show you, because... I'm not sure what it is my self.” Stepping away from him, she produced a more battered, used version of the Star League data modules they had seen ion the facility. She'd found this one tucked away inside a set of the small amount of loot they'd gotten away with before the reactor had exploded. The way it had been hidden, to Grayson it had looked as if it wasn't meant to be found. For some reason it also wasn't compatible with the normal connectors that had been the standard of the Inner Sphere since before the Star League. It was similar enough that it fit into the same slots, but something about the internals made it so that normal computers refused to acknowledge that it was there, didn't supply it power and therefore made it unusable. Stubborn resistance by a piece of technology was not something that Lori could tolerate, so she had fudged some sort of interface from other LosTech components that had been non-functioning and eventually gotten the ship's computers to power the module.

Only to discover that the files on it, while written in the same language and with the same file formats as any other piece of software in the Sphere, it was heavily encrypted, and up to now, Lori had singularly failed to make any impression on the code that surrounded the files. More than once she had privately expressed her frustration and yearned for some of the things that had gone up in smoke on Helm, among them Star League computers that were literally fresh out of the box.

But since they didn't have any of those things, she'd had to make do, and in-between work done for the small short-term garrison contract they'd done for the Commonwealth shortly after Helm, she'd hammered away at it. Apparently with success at last.

She pulled out the adaptor she'd made, plugged it into Grayson's terminal and the module into a second slot on the backside of her creation. She powered on the terminal and almost immediately, the screen displayed rows and rows of what seemed to be some sort of code before settling into the command prompt of the base code instead of the GUI of the actual operating system.

There it stayed for a few seconds before displaying a 'loading....' line of text.

Once that was done, a short text came up on the screen.

Grayson stepped beside Lori. He placed one of his hands on her shoulder before reading out loud.

~**---**~

Most Secret/Level Alpha One Alpha

June 20th, 2764

Operation Groom Lake

Lieutenant Hayview, your report on the activities of the Department of Education and Information has been received and while we recognize that any sort of programme like suggested in the clues you found on Terra is something that clearly must be investigated, we consider it highly unlikely that Groom Lake ever went beyond feasibility studies, never mind into actual construction.

It is, simply put, beyond the budget of anyone but the SLDF.

Still, even the chance of there being such a project outside of the realms of the SLDF the runs the risk that it will eventually fall into the hands of either House Amaris or one of the others. On that basis alone this must be investigated, and therefore I hereby officially order you to pursue this further. Report in as soon as you can, Lieutenant. With things going as they are, the Star League might not be very long for this galaxy, so we must simply know if there are any contingency plans. The resources potentially put into something like this are immense. And if they are being siphoned off from our ongoing efforts, we cannot let that go unanswered. However, if you can continue or not under current circumstances is something only you can know, therefore you are free to act as you seem fit if you think the risk too large.

As requested, a decrypted copy of the map you sent us as been attached to this message.

Signed: Aleksandr Kerensky, Commanding General, Star League Defense Force


~**---**~

“Okay... this is... interesting.”

Grayson was aware that this was an epic understatement. This was insanely valuable for the sheer fact of being a Kerensky artefact, but the message told of something tantalizing indeed. The Legion was still very much under-equipped, and the plan had been to jump into Commonwealth territory and seek employment with the Steiners, but....

“Open the map, will you?”

“Of course, Grey.”

She typed in a few commands, and due to the nature of the code being used, they had to wait for a bit.

“Could this be a second memory core?” she asked, but Grayson shook his head. “You don't think so, do you?”

Grayson was more versed in late Star League history than her, so she was prepared to take what he said at face value.

“Honestly? I don't know. We'd be so lucky and find a second core this quickly. Or at all, really.”

He paused and reached around her shoulders, tugging her close to him. “As if we'd be that lucky. What's more, with Kerensky being who he was and what he did, he'd probably have stripped it down to the walls if he was aware of it...”

She grinned at the way he trailed off. “And yet, I think you are intrigued. Probably because you want to know how this thing ended up where we found it.”

“You know me too well.” Grayson replied with a grin and kissed her on the temple before noticing that the software had finished loading. “Let's look at the map first.”
B
What came up at the press of the famous 'any' key was a faux-3D representation of the Inner Sphere as it had been at the time the programme had been written and soon focussed in on Terra. From there it generated a red line from system to system, sneaking through Lyran Territory towards what had at one time been the Rim Worlds Republic, past most of it's territory before settling on what was marked as a surveyed unsettled star cluster but still at the very edge of settled space, though also very far to the Galactic north-west and near the border with the Free Worlds League.

As the map stopped, Grayson sighed. “You know, if there was some sort of hidden Star League facility out there, Amaris probably plundered it before the Lyrans took down the Republic.”

“But the cluster is marked as uncolonized, and we don't really know how much of the files he captured when he took Terra.”

“Yes, but would they be able to construct anything worthwhile without far too many people knowing about it? In the SLDF, you could just order them to keep their mouths shut.”

Now it was Lori's turn to sigh. “So what are we going to do now? Go to the FedComs as we planned?”

Grayson shook his head. “I didn't say that. We have funds and supplies enough to keep us going for a while, and you know... this... this thing intrigues me. Something about this. If there is even a chance of more LosTech for us to loot, then I'm all for it. There is no such thing as 'enough' mechs. Or firepower in general.”

“There is only 'Where is the ammo carrier?'.” Lori replied in a mock-solemn voice.

Grayson grinned. “I love you.”

Lori smiled in return before looking back at the map. “So...”

“I've always liked exploring, and a good treasure hunt.” Grayson replied with a grin. “I'll tell Tor to calculate a new jump.”






tbc

I couldn't find a full OOB for the GDL from the time period, so I'm going with a mix of one for the 3025ish era Mech component off an old geocities page and the 3039 one taken from sarna.net.

I went into the Star League sourcebook, but while it is a glorious 1980s artefact, in there it's never stated how the various ministers were appointed to their Departments. But since Jerome Blake was who he was, I'm going to work on the assumption that there was no legal requirement to be a noble for you to get the post. If anyone can point me at a place where I can find that information, please do so. I don't have much in the way of other sourcebooks, only a few I got from a LAN party some years ago.

For the record, I picture the data module like a larger, all-metal version of a zip disk, working sort of like the booter disks that were oh so popular during the early 80s.

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-Gene Roddenberry


Last edited by trekchu on Wed Jul 05, 2017 11:35 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Tue Jul 04, 2017 9:00 am 
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Well done.


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PostPosted: Tue Jul 04, 2017 9:26 am 
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Thanks!

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PostPosted: Wed Jul 05, 2017 12:50 pm 
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Waitaminute;

Unexplored cluster. Galactic south, beyond the border of the FWL.

Which direction was the Exodus in, again? They could be about to find far, far too many mechs...


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PostPosted: Wed Jul 05, 2017 11:34 pm 
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THe Galactic South bit is a typo/artefact from earlier draft and needs to be changed, but yes, that did cross my mind, even though the route was verry different, going by the clan occupation zone. Still, I think it's far enough away, and the cluster I have in mind is still only a jump or two beyond the outer perimeter of the Rim Worlds Republic.

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PostPosted: Thu Jul 06, 2017 1:04 pm 
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Nice job. Very good set up.

According to the Stackpole books the route left via the Combine and sorta fishhooked into Jade Falcon Space. But from what I gathered from some of the sourcebooks the actual path was more like a stream network to a point outside the Periphery upwards of the Combine and then a leapfrog as explorations took place. Which is why we get some of the odd ball castaways that some of the sourcebooks mention, ships can't make repairs and the flotilla command "Battlestars" them.


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PostPosted: Sun Jul 09, 2017 2:14 pm 
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Chapter II

Convincing the others of this had been hard, but eventually he had managed it after pointing out the fact that the Gray Death Legion was relatively flush with cash right now and could very easily afford the diversion. Their fuel tanks were full, their ammo bunkers likewise and enough cash to buy other supplies for at least the next year. Luckily they hadn't made any firm promises to the Federated Suns, meaning that diverting for a more immediate and present opportunity than vague promises by some minor flunky of House Davion.

Tor had however correctly pointed out that given that the Grey Death Legion and with it the Invidious were becoming ever more well-known throughout the Inner Sphere, people would wonder what they were doing out on the periphery. What was more, in the light of recent events, certain interested parties might wonder what else the GDL was looking for. The ship itself was non-descript enough, but the DropShips and all their 'Mechs, fighters and assorted vehicles sported the insignia of the Gray Death Legion, something that was bound to attract attention. Paranoia was the name of the game after the way the Houses had dealt with the Legion on Helm and since.

It had been McCall who made the suggestion. Re-painting all of their vehicles was as pointless as it was difficult, so they would re-paint only their most recently acquired DropShip and just stick with that, allowing them any space to ground movement they might need. Smiling at this rather obvious move, Grayson had approved of it and then briefed the others on the rest of what they had discovered. Factoring in everything, including at least one refuelling and re-provisioning stop, the journey would take them several months from their current location. And then there was the fact that the Legion was so visible these days that people would wonder where they had disappeared to if they didn't show themselves somewhere at some point people might start to wonder.

What to do about that? To that end, various members of the Legion had started various rumours, everything from the GDL founding their own pocket empire somewhere on the Kurita periphery to them planning to join ComStar in exchange for a home on Terra. One particular ridiculous one was that the GDL had agreed to represent Star League forces for a Lyran entertainment company.

Another thing they had to consider was that they still had to take care of their dependants. The Regiment may have been home for all of them, but going into the unknown like this when the plan had been to make a place for them to stay for the duration part of the next contract, but this was obviously not going to happen. It was a cold and calculating thought, but if they hadn't taken such horrible losses on Helm.... So they were tagging along, since what had happened the last time he had left them alone precluded it from happening again any time soon.


All this had been two months ago, and right now they were hovering at the jump-point of the Zvolen System deep in the Lyran Commonwealth, stopping to restock food and water supplies. It had only a single habitable planet, and aside from being almost right on the 250 light years mark from Terra, the only significant thing was a former Star League Naval Base that had been looted down to the walls early in the Succession Wars. Still, it was a semi-important stop-off points for someone going towards the border from the upper reaches of the Commonwealth, as several stars were within jump-range. Because of this and because the planet was near garden-world status, it was a good place to stock up on perishable supplies and news that had arrived via the HPG. Because of this Lori and Clay were walking around what passed for a capital city on the planet. As was usual, the newstickers next to the HPG station maintained by ComStar only told of the ongoing movements and skirmishes between the great houses, nothing that interested them.

Yet when Clay saw Lori come out of a bar while laughing hard enough to draw some funny looks, he couldn't help but wonder.

“What's the matter, Cap?”

She waved him away, desperately trying to get herself back under control. At least this managed to convey to Clay that it wasn't bad news by any means. Eventually she calmed down, and after taking a huge swig from her waterflask she explained what had been so funny.

“Apparently,” she said with a grin, “the Gray Death Legion has fallen into a time rift in order to travel back and take over Terra in an age before 'Mechs are invented.”

“I see.” Clay replied. “I can see why you would find that funny. Anything else?”

She sobered up somewhat. “There's the usual rumblings about the Commonwealth going to war against the League or the Combine. I think if anything the one with the Combine have more truth behind them.”

Clay would agree. “The Kuritas been making odd noises recently.”

“Not any more than usual.” Lori said before shaking her head. “If they really intend to push more than usual, the Commonwealth will be looking for any mercenaries they can get their hands on. Same with the Kuritas.”

“And people will wonder even more where we are.”

She nodded. “Luckily the drive is almost charged, so we can get out of here as soon as the supplies are stored.”

“Thankfully the Colonel didn't show his face down here.”

Since the events on Helm, Grayson's face was becoming far too well known, and even on a relative backwater that mostly served for people to charge up and get supplies, the chance that someone might recognize him was too large to take.

“True. But having said that, there isn't really much in the way of actual news we couldn't get from ComStar, certainly nothing that would interest us.”

“Then let's get back to the ship, Cap. Say what you want, something about this place is bugging me.”


~**---**~


The idea of impenetrable borders had gone the way of the dinosaurs when humanity left Terra. Aside from sheer logistics in an ever-declining human sphere, the sheer physics of jump drives precluded even the idea of border security, which was why the JumpShip called Kobayashi Maru in service to House Kurita had managed to cross into Lyran space without being detected, calling itself the Drinkwater for the purpose. Since doing so, they had used the generous funds they had been granted to buy their way through customs inspections and generally re-supply themselves. They were headed towards the former territory of the Rim Worlds Republic, but why they were doing so was a secret to all but the 'mysterious figure' that had come aboard, traded a few words with the Captain that had left him white enough for his face to almost be transparent. With all this and with the way his entire persona screamed 'Intelligence', no one was stupid enough to enquire any further. Citizens of the Draconis Combine knew better.

Just as they knew better than to question the way the holds of the ship had been crammed full with freight, up to the deck above and to the point where some crates were stacked in the cargo holds of the DropShips. Normally rumours would have abounded among the crew, but once more an almost pathological fear of retribution kept them silent. Because of this, the last few months had been hard on them, and that they hadn't been allowed any shore leave hadn't helped either.

Still, the man calling himself Fuchida had at least given them one little morsel of information, and that had told them that they would be stuck on this ship for at least another three or four months, but that in return they would be well compensated. Whatever meant, one way or another, it was at least a place where all this would end at.

On the bridge of the ship, her Captain leaned over the shoulder of his navigator. The sensors were limited to passive systems by his mission orders, but the only other JumpShip in Hinckley at the moment was close enough so that, if there had been a window, it would have been visible to the naked eye as a small dot blinking station-keeping lights and thruster emissions. Cameras on the other hand could easily bridge the gap. The feed was piped to the console and showed a ship that looked like every other Merchant-Class ship in the galaxy, except of course for the identifying markings on the hull.

“Hmm, that's odd.”

Both the Captain and the Navigator nearly jumped out of their skins when they heard the deceptively soft voice of Fuchida behind them.

Being someone who prided himself with his professionalism, the Captain stepped aside and quickly pulled himself back together. “What is it, Fuchida-san?”

“That ship.” Fuchida said and pointed towards the display. “It is a Merchant-Class. Almost as common as dirt for a JumpShip. And while I haven't seen this particular one before, I have seen pictures of it.”

Seeing the frown on the Captain's face, Fuchida offered a rare smile. “Oh they have changed the markings, but this ship has been modified so much that it does stand out from the crowd. See that radar array there?”

He zoomed the picture and even through the now fairly pixelated feed, they could see what he meant. “That is not a standard array as fitted to the class. This particular one has been fitted to only one of them that we know of. The Invidious, working with the Gray Death Legion.”

The Captain frowned again. “But what are they doing here? If anything they should be ...”

“With the Steiner or Lyran forces, yes.”

Rumours about troop movements had been rampant in the border regions of both, and one of the few bits of information that the Captain had been told was that both the Lyran and the FedSun militaries were massing along their borders, and that their mission was even more important in case a general war actually broke out.

“So what are they doing out here? And why are they hiding their presence?” the Captain asked, knowing better than to doubt Fuchida.

That I do not know, but I wouldn't be surprised if they were on a mission similar to ours. Considering what's going on, it's highly unlikely that the Federated Suns have hired them, and they will never willingly work for the Coordinator. That leaves either the Capellan Confederation or the Free Worlds. There is a war brewing, and with how the sides will fall down... All of them could see an advantage in weakening the Commonwealth. Which is possible, but unlikely. Carlyle has a bit of a history with the Commonwealth.”

Fuchida continued to stare at the display for several minutes, until, that is, the other JumpShip began to fold it's sail and eventually jumped away.

“Well, that tells me what we have to do next. Captain, I require the need of one of your DropShips. How long to the planet?”

The Captain glanced down at a display. “About twelve days for the round trip, Fuchida-San.” he said and then anticipated the next question. “And we have to wait another five until the drive is charged.”

He didn't know how Fuchida's orders were formulated, only that he was to follow the man's instructions without question.

“Then there's no time to loose, is there?”




tbc:

I am re-reading Price of Glory for research purposes, just to get a handle on who was still alive by the end. As is, the Legion is mostly up to strength, but there are a few gaps still, especially in their 'Mech component. I had a serious WTF moment when I calculated the travel time from Helm to the nearest planet to my target on the online map I use and needed to re-work some things. BT FTL-travel
being what it is, I had to do those two time-skips. I'm not happy because this blows the pacing to hell and back.

That said, the book never states where the dependents that survived Helm were at that point. To book implies at least that they are aboard the ship a year after Helm (Home is the Regiment and no reference being made to the Legion having any sort of home port at the time), which runs into the Invidious being not the biggest thing out there. Considering how many of the dependants died, I'm just handwaving this for now.

Longer-term annoucement is that I've made a few assumptions in regards to some of the institutions of the Star League and the structure thereof, all things that to my knowledge (and the already mentioned SL sourcebook) have not been mentioned in BT lore. I've also decided not to try and ape the style used in the BT novels I've read, so you won't be reminded that everything is LosTech six times in each chapter. I'm also assuming at least semi-competent intelligence services for all parties involved.

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PostPosted: Mon Jul 10, 2017 10:51 am 
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Admission time: I screwed up the ending of the last chapter. I realized, after posting Chapter II, that going to the planet is not only counterproductive but would also be insanely stupid in regards to what Fuchida has in mind.

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PostPosted: Tue Jul 11, 2017 9:12 am 
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I
Quote:
'm also assuming at least semi-competent intelligence services for all parties involved.


But SAFE is the laughing stock of the IS...


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PostPosted: Tue Jul 11, 2017 1:10 pm 
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Maybe true, but so is the BND, and I wouldn't consider it to be beneath either to publicly project that image. Besides, from what I've read (admittedly only the sarna.net article) they would certainly fit my definition at least semi-competent. Utterly incompetent, that would be the Abwehr.

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PostPosted: Tue Jul 11, 2017 2:40 pm 
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At least according to the 3025 Sourcebook, SAFE was perceived as incompetent because they were less concerned with wholesale external threats, but threats which looked to fracture the union. In the Undercover Operations Sourcebook there is a negative applied to all roles if the players are operating outside of 10 ly of the FWL. And a further condemnation was that even the Clans thought their espionage efforts laughable. A prime example is they missed the whole Lyran/FS offensive to join, even ignoring Capellan briefings. They missed the Capellan attempt to prize the Andurian Confederation away from the FWL, but within days they were able to identify the key internal players and either neutralize or minimize their effect on Civil War.

So SAFE is really good at spotting or think they are spotting dissolution attempts but horrible at spotting attacks, and are pretty pointless operating outside of the FWL. Ie walk into a bar in Solaris and it would be likely if there was a SAFE agent there, there would be a sign pointed at him and blinking in hot neon purple letters.



Founding member of the FWL "Purple Turkey Brigade" MW:O


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I see, thanks.

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I had no idea what to fill the entire transit time with.


Chapter III


“Jump complete.”

The Invidious appeared back in the universe at the primary jumppoint.

“Anything yet?” Grayson asked, but got only shaking heads in reply. As the ship slowly began to position itself to re-charge the drive, Tor spared only a little glance at the readouts.

“Nothing yet, Colonel. If there is anything near us, it's playing silent, with engines down.”

This didn't mean much given that they had done only the most cursory search. There were plenty of ways to hide oneself inside a star system such as this one.

“What do we have here anyway....” Grayson moved over to where the navigator was seated and with a curt apology used one of the secondary displays to have a look at what parts of the system they could actually see from here. Two planets were within sensor range, a small and burnt-out rock barely larger than Sol's own Pluto, with little more than that until one entered the life-belt. There you had two planets, both roughly the size of Terra.

“So far it fits with our information.”

“It better well does. We need fresh water in a hurry.” Tor replied, referring to the malfunctioning purifier systems in one of the DropShips.

Grays snorted. “You can say that again.” He looked back at the readout and the small minicomputer that displayed the map Lori had extracted from the Star League module. “Now... according to this, the inner of the two planets in the life belt would be habitable if it didn't have an atmosphere with nearly eighty percent Argon and fifteen percent nitrogen. The other one though is a near carbon copy of Terra. The atmosphere is supposedly a bit different, but nothing we'd notice.”

“So how come this was never colonised?”

Lori piped up from where she had been studying the same readouts at another, unoccupied station. “Was apparently supposed to, but it never happened. Maybe it was part of the list when Amaris killed the programme.”

Like so many things, the exact circumstances under which the League's colonisation had died were lost to time. Knowing that they'd never find a satisfying answer, Grayson shrugged. “Doesn't really matter now. What we're here to do is to find out if we've wasted six months of our lives and most of our money.”

He sounded cheerful, but of all people on the Bridge, Lori knew him best and well enough to be able to tell that he was doubting himself even more than usual. It was a bad habit that she needed to break him from at some point.


~**---**~

Half a Terra-standard AU away from the Invidious, an old Star-League era buoy had constantly swept the coordinates of the jump-point since being placed here more than three hundred years ago. Had the computers aboard been aware enough to have the thoughts, they would have found it amazing to be still functioning after such a long time. As it was, they merely detected that a ship had jumped in and duly activated programming routines that hadn't been used since an unknown vessel had used the system to recharge itself some forty years ago. They stood at the software equivalent of attention and when two DropShips separated from the new contact, even older code that hadn't been used for centuries activated itself. The systems that code activated hadn't been used in anything but status and function tests since a Star League ship had dropped them off. Two sets of Laser-based communications gear activated themselves. One aimed itself at the ship, expecting a datacode that would never come, not that the computers on board of the buoy could know that. The other aimed itself at a relay station that floated “above” the orbital plane most of the nine planets followed. It sent off a short databurst which was in turn relayed to one of several satellites floating above the habitable, unnamed planet. From there yet another signal was aimed at a receiver cleverly hidden among the towering mountains that ran along the tectonic line that ran straight through the largest continent. From there it ran through positively ancient but still functioning fibre-optic cables into yet another computer, which in turn activated twelve of ten-thousand identical machines.

~**---**~

One good thing about this system was that due to the somewhat weaker star at the core of it, the transit from the [I]Invidious
to the planet took them only four days. Upon entering orbit, the two DropShips refrained from landing immediately, primarily because the Deimos almost smashed into an ancient, powered down navigation satellite in a high, geo-stationary orbit. To Grayson the presence of an extensive was both a vindication of what he knew some in the regiment saw as a folly and an indication that there had been things going on after the message had been recorded.

Eventually, after an orbital scan of the world that was as detailed as they could make it revealed exactly nothing, conversation turned to where to land. “A large source of fresh water!” was the only suggestion Tor had made before the DropShips had departed. With a mental shrug and nothing better to do at the moment, Grayson had decided to follow that. Three days ago the three vessels were clustered along a fantastic tropical beach that would have been right at home on any of the tourist trap planets that dotted the Inner Sphere. Though Grayson had to admit, even through the electronic filter of his Marauder's systems it looked extremely beautiful. Since this particular beach was located on the shores of an inland sea on the largest continent with no connection to the nearest ocean, it was no surprise that the water turned out to be perfectly drinkable, if with a somewhat larger mineral content than was standard on Terra.

The scenery was so beautiful that Grayson considered having one of the jump ships on a constant shuttle runs so that the crew of the Invidious but the fuel consumption was horrible, even if their supplies hadn't been so limited. Still, at least the forty-something members of the Regiment and their families weren't stuck in the insanely cramped conditions aboard the ship any more. One of the factors why he had decided to land even without any sort of lead had been just that. Even by leaving their wounded and their dependants behind on Galatea, the number of people they had carried was still borderline for any sort of extended travel, never mind six months. The speed with which they had quite literally pitched their tents along the shore spoke volumes, as did the distinct lank of snarky remarks that had been so common when they thought he couldn't hear.

Yet he was still worried, because in the end they didn't have a clue where to go next. He'd ordered recon patrols, but they had discovered nothing but a site where an old satellite had crashed about twenty years or so ago. Grayson was convinced that something was here. Even during the times of the StarLeague no one would waste satellites on a planet with not even the bombed out remnants of any sort of settlement.

But where was whatever those birds were supporting?

“Gray One One, this is Gray One Two... Grayson, you need to come and see this.”

Grey One Two and One Three were Lori and Clay on a recon sweep about twenty kilometres to the east, up towards where a wide bay with a narrow entrance protected by what looked like sandbanks and hills just high enough so that the bay would have been just about the perfect protected harbour during Terra's Age of Sail. Two more teams from the Recon Lance were doing the same elsewhere, towards where the

As it would still be something of a trip even if he pushed his Maurauder to the stops, he asked the obvious question.

“This is Gray One. What have you found?”

“I... I don't know. As far as we can tell it's a...some sort of base. Gray, there's prefabs and ferrocrete buildings everywhere, all of it mostly overgrown or hidden by the trees.”

“Which is why we didn't see it from the air.” Grayson replied. He scratched his forehead just below his helmet, trying to think. In the end there was no real choice. He knew that he would have to look at what they'd found, and that Kahled was able to keep an eye on things, as it wasn't as if there was a great chance of them getting attacked by the local fauna and flora, at least in this area of the planet. Twenty miles wasn't much of a run either, though he held off on taking the Engineers, since having them run around before he knew for certain that there was something for them to break open...

Thirty minutes and twenty kilometres later he leaned against the left foot of his Mech in the middle of what had to have been a smaller but still fairly substantial settlement. Everything was overgrown, and it was easy to see that they would have had to hover directly overhead to notice anything. He ran a hand through his newly short-cropped hair. His Mech's head was about even with the average treetop and everything was so dense that even on what was probably the 'main street' of the settlement he'd had difficulties in parking it anywhere without running into tree branches. He'd ended up parking it in the middle of an intersection.

Around him nature was slowly reclaiming the buildings. However sturdy ferrocrete and colonial pre-fabs might be, without any sort of maintenance even those would eventually be overtaken by weather and vegetation aggressive enough. Around him the town was in the advanced stages of this, and even the Mech repair facility at the far end of the street he faced down had a massive pine-like tree growing through what had probably once been a window with it's massive trunk slowly but surely demolishing the structure. Directly to his side a smaller tree of the same species had half-collapsed a pre-fab where faded letters over the door denoted the building as a former bar of some sort, and generally everywhere shrubs and trees of all sizes grew in and around buildings and even had begun to crack through the ferrocrete plates that made up the streets themselves.

“Impressive. Like one of those old 2D movies I've seen.”

Lori had walked up next to him and looked at the same repair bay. Complete nuclear annhilation was disturbingly common as the Legion knew all too well, but a place that seemed to have been plainly abandoned was probably not all that rare given the stories about lost and forgotten colonies, but those were by definition rarely visited. It was peaceful and disturbing all at the same time.

“I know.” Grayson said. “Have you found anything?”

Lori shook her head but grinned. “Nothing like on Helm. But if there's anything more than this, it's probably somewhere in the hills.”

She paused for a second. “What we have found is a road going nowhere and a few wrecked construction vehicles. The road just sort of stops there.”

All of a sudden Grayson was excited. “Nothing else? That is... odd to say the least.”

With a shrug Lori turned and looked towards where the others were waiting for her return. “It's the best lead we've had so far.”

“Let's have a look then.” Grayson sighed.

As the two Mechwarriors mounted up again, neither of them saw the camouflaged and almost invisible drone hanging high over the area, nor the figures in camouflage specially designed for the environment that followed their every move.


tbc


Contact is imminent!

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PostPosted: Sun Aug 06, 2017 6:06 am 
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Oh, crap

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PostPosted: Thu Sep 07, 2017 4:42 pm 
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Chapter IV


“Tracer Six-One Actual, this is Command One-One. Report.”

Sergeant Samuel Martinez, Star League Defence Force Special Forces Command, clicked the throat microphone built into his helmet.

“Command, this is Six-One Actual. Our guests are moving towards the vehicle pool now.”

“Roger that, Six-One. Continue to observe and report. Command out.”

Martinez had already copied all this to the rest of the team, so there was no need to risk any more transmissions. Maybe their guests were monitoring the usual SLDF frequencies. Turnabout was fair play after all, since Martinez had spent a fascinating hour since waking up, getting his checkup, into his armour and then out here listening in.

Something bothered him about all this. It wasn't the town being completely overgrown, he'd expected that. It who their guests were, or rather weren't. They had arrived in a civilian ship for starters, not one that was SLDF or any of the houses. Their DropShips and their vehicles, Mechs and otherwise, wore no markings that he recognized, and the deaths head insignia hadn't been in the Computer either. Their vehicles were battle-scarred and seemed, if not worn, but like they had seen extreme use, but still well taken care of. Their wheeled stuff used honest to god internal combustion engines instead of fusion cores it seemed. Long story short, who were those people?

They knew the name of their commander from the intercepts, though that no Colonel Carlyle was in the computers was to be expected.

By now, the rest of his team had packed up what little deployable equipment they'd had the chance to take out of storage, and soon they were making their way to the vehicle pool. As the road was in an absolutely terrifyingly awful state and the terrain hadn't changed much in however long they'd been underground, they reached their destination earlier. Their guests had left most of their Mechs behind, under guard of course, and only a battered-looking Stinger provided overwatch as their people fanned out to inspect the remnants of the vehicles that had been left behind when the facility had been sealed.

“Command, this is Six-One actual. In position at the vehicle pool. Our guests are inspecting what's left of it. One Stinger is providing overwatch.”

“Six-One, are you in danger of being discovered?”

He checked the passive scanners again. No one was coming their way and the Mech was observing the sky over the mountains. It seemed that the absorbant coating of the armour they wore held up against whatever scanning devices those people had in use.

“Negative, One-One. Sir, they are fairly close to the main entrance. What am I supposed to do if they find the marker?”

“Continue to report, Six-One. Command is still putting itself together.”

The military version of 'call again later' it was then. He only hoped that by the time those people stumbled over the entrance marker someone was around who was willing and able to decide something. This whole mess was so far away from the standing orders they'd all been briefed on after the facility was sealed. With a wry grin that no one could see behind his faceplate, he reminded himself that either way recon-team Tracer Six-One would have a front-row seat to the spectacle.

“Roger that, One-One. Six-One, out.”

He knew that whoever was awake by now would be watching the data-feed from his helmet camera, so he took care to not dip his head too much as he visually scanned the vehicle pool.

Two of them, the man they had identified as Colonel Carlyle and a blonde woman stood slightly to the side, like officers were wont to do while others worked for a living.

“So what do you think, Sarn't?”

“Beats me, Goldstein. Could be from one of the houses, I suppose.”

“Naa, I dunno, Sarn't. Don't look like any House unit I'm familiar with.”

Martinez couldn't help but grin. Goldstein prided himself about his encyclopedic knowledge of the private armies the various houses maintained, and him not knowing this one increased the chance that they were something like a mercenary unit. But how? If things had gone really pear-shaped....

“Six-One, report status.”

“No change so far, One-One.”

He couldn't help but wonder why they asked this, given that they had a live video feed....

“Roger that, Six-One. Be advised, you are hereby authorized to initiate peaceful contact when you judge them to be close to discovering the marker. Command, out.”

“Acknowledged, Command. Six-One, out.”

So the General was finally up and about. Good. At least if things went wrong now, he'd have someone to plead his case before he was thrown into the deepest hole this **** planet could provide. Oh happiest of days, as he could see that these people seemed to know what they were doing by the way they methodically searched the wrecked and overgrown construction vehicles and machinery. True, outwardly the marker was little more than a manhole cover with the Cameron star on it, but still, if someone drove up the road for another mile, they stood right on top of it. If they inspected it any closer than at a glance, then finding the entrance to the facility would only be a matter of time. Though nothing happened for more than an hour.

“Sarge, y'all should listen to this.” another team-member said over their private channel.

Within seconds Martinez had switched to the frequency their 'guests' used.

“--- nothing here, Colonel. We've gone over most of the vehicles that can still be called such and we found nothing. We can maybe scavenge a few more durable parts, but all their fusion engines have been removed and generally the cargo holds are empty of anything we can use.”

“Load up what you can use. That road doesn't go anywhere, but I want to check out the area anyway. They were constructing something, and if this is anything like it was on Helm, we should be fairly close.”

“Will do, Sir.”

“That's it then, ladies and Gentlemen. I think we are about to make contact with them.”

He switched channels to the command frequency.

“Command, this is Tracer Six-One. Our guests are getting close to the marker.”

“Acknowledged, Six-One. Feel free to act as needed.”

Martinez let out a sigh of relief he didn't know he'd held in. It had been the voice of Colonel Haas, the senior military officer in the facility, one of the members of the council and generally someone who cared for his people, so much in fact that he had forsaken a promising career with the 308th BattleMech Divison to join the project. If things went pear-shaped now, it would be naught but his own fault. In the end he decided not to wait. Better do this here, where there was a relatively open space. So he advised his team accordingly and then keyed the command frequency again.

“Command, Tracer Six-One is initiating contact.”

“Good luck, Six-One. Out.”

“Tracers, turn everything off and holster your shooting irons. We don't have anything bigger than a pop-gun, remember...”

With that, Martinez took off his helmet, clipped to the side of his armour in the spot provided for the task and rose to his feet. His rifle was left behind and he raised both his hands as he stepped beyond the treeline and onto the grassy, partially overgrown parking space.

~**---**~

“Contact, south!”

Grayson didn't know who had yelled like that, but from his position he could see both his people rushing into cover, including their metal guardian training itself towards the threat, and the contact itself.

“I am unarmed, I want to talk!”

The figure was wearing... some sort of power armour by the way he moved. It was painted in a set of woodland camouflage he was unfamiliar with, but as the soldier, for he clearly was one, stepped closer under the watchful eyes and guns of the Legionaries, Grayson could see what was a low-visibility iteration of the Cameron star on the upper arms of the armour his counterpart wore.

“Who are you?” Grayson asked, careful to keep his hands visible and away from his gun.

“Sergeant Martinez, SLDF Special Forces Command.”

Lori snorted. “And I'm the heir to House Kurita. There hasn't been a Star League in three centuries. Who are you, Mister?”

He seemed to be genuinely surprised by this, shaken even. Martinez, if that was his real name, closed his eyes for a second and

“You should probably wait---”

Martinez was interrupted, likely by someone on his radio.

“Yes, Sir. I think that we have a Code Andromeda.--Yes, Sir, I am certain.”

The supposed StarLeague soldier looked at them with a sad look on his face that told of someone who was in the process of having his fondest hopes dashed.

“Who the hell are you, and what is going on?”

“My Commanding Officer can explain this a lot better than me, Colonel...”

“I won't follow you anywhere. And do you really think you could make me?”

For the first time, Martinez grinned. “I have no intention of forcing you anywhere. Both because you have a Mech pointing his laser at me, and because it would be against my orders. But what makes you think I was alone?”

His hands still raised, Martinez made a two-fingered wink and seconds later four more figures in the same type of armour came walking in from the treeline, weapons pointed at the ground and helmet-visors open.

“Colonel Carlyle, may I present you the rest Team Six of the Royal Rangers?”




tbc

Okay, some minor housekeeping is in order. Now, this is all stuff that will be worked into the story eventually, but I'm putting this here now both so that you know and that I don't forget.

Basically, as far as the Inner Sphere is concerned, the GDL disappeared without a trace. This caused quite a few ripples. Between some trying to find out where they went (since by now they are fairly well-known in certain circles) and because of increased intelligence activity others trying to discover if their plans have been made 'public' and shuffling their forces around, the Fourth Succession war, wile inevitable, has been delayed into 3029. Not very far, think early march. This will be a factor later on, but for now we'll concentrate on what's going on with our favourite Mercs.

Secondly, I'm not yet sure how the Clans will react to all this, but the Fourth Succession War is taking the attention of what intelligence assets they have and what happens on this world will get lost in the shuffle for a while. Oddly enough, ComStar will be the first ones to notice something odd, for reasons that will become apparent soon(ish).

Thirdly, that unit is entirely my own creation.

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PostPosted: Fri Sep 22, 2017 6:35 pm 
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Chapter V

Seconds later, the other troopers in the team that pretended to be part of the Star League were standing there, clearly unsure what to do with themselves.

“Rest assured Colonel, we won't take you anywhere against your will. What I want you to do is to listen to my commander when he arrives. If what we fear is correct then we can't expect you to take our word at face value, even if we are wearing Star League uniforms.”

It was blatantly obvious to anyone there in that moment that Martinez felt very uncomfortable at having a considerable amount of firepower aimed at himself. It was something Grayson could understand in a fellow soldier and since the Mech alone could pulverize their new acquaintances, he had his own people lower their guns. He had never drawn his own pistol, but now removed his hand from the holster.

“So how long will we have to wait?” Lori asked with a voice that betrayed little emotion, but by the way she held onto Grayson's hand behind this back told him that she was, at best, worried where all this would go. Grayson had no idea what the hell was going on here, or who these people really were. He returned the pressure of her hand as reassurance as they waited.

“Not at all, Ma'am. My CO is willing to meet you at the entrance.”

Grayson and Lori exchanged a glance. “Entrance to what, Sergeant?” After all, these people had to come from somewhere. His bet was still on a ship parked somewhere where his own overflights hadn't seen it. They had only mapped a fraction of the planetary surface so far. But given the gear they seemed to have, why not simply ambush the GDL? Why would they reveal themselves like that?

“The entrance to... Well, it's best if he told you. You wouldn't believe me unless you could see it. Corporal Taylor here and the rest of my men will stay here... as collateral.”

Instead of saying something, Grayson looked Lori who in response squeezed his hand and nodded in acceptance. She was visibly unhappy about his going off alone, but she knew that he would depend on her to look after their people if something happened to him. She leaned over and kissed him on the cheek before whispering: “I trust you, Gray. Don't you dare not coming back to me.”

He smiled and was about to turn away when she added “I love you.” to that.

“I know. Tell the rest of our people to be on alert.” he replied with a grin.

Martinez led him further up the partially overgrown road and stopped at a small ferrocrete bridge that was almost groaning under the weight of one of the massive trees that had fallen on it at some point during the last few decades. On the other side he could see a manhole cover. A small river, maybe five to six metres wide, flowed beneath the bridge, and Grayson guessed that it probably fed into the lake where they'd first landed, tunnelled over or just hidden from sight by the vegetation. Either way, Martinez revealed a small control panel on his lower left arm. He tapped a few buttons and then Grayson watched with awe.

A hundred metres or so away from the bridge on the far side of the river from where they were standing, Grayson could see a waterfall coming from a cliff-face high enough and then some for an Atlas to take a shower underneath it. Up on the cliff, the river was divided by a rock of some sort.

Just beside the waterfall, there was a large, flat rock that looked like it had broken off the cliff at some point. Directly above it, there was a almost sheer wall. Except that said wall now opened up to reveal a dark, gaping black hole, one that instantly reminded from the entrance on Helm. When the massive gates stopped, the gap was wide enough that any two Battlemechs Grayson cared to name could easily walk through side by side.

“My team used a different entrance to get out earlier, but this it the main access point.”

Before Grayson could say anything, he could see a man walk out of the looming darkness of the cliff and cross over to them.

In spite of his not very conventional childhood, Grayson had enjoyed a varied and in-depth education, something that had of course included galactic history. Between that and the last year of his life, he could easily see that the man was wearing the uniform of an SLDF General complete with the sword, though there were some non-standard parts. For one, he was missing the sash that would normally have denoted his planet of origin or the military school he'd gone to, for two he was wearing a distinctly non-standard black beret with some sort of silver insignia Grayson was unfamiliar with over the right eye. Other than those things, he could have stepped out of any history book.

The General came to a stop in front of them, hand extended in greeting. “Colonel Carlyle, I presume? I am General Edward John Hackett.”

“Grayson Death Carlyle, Gray Death Legion.” He took the hand that was offered, also taking the time to study the man in front of him.

By his estimation, Hackett was late forties or early fifties, and at roughly two metres tall, his slightly greying hair, chisled face and stark blue eyes he cut an impressive figure. By the way he carried himself, Grayson could see that the man had seen his fair share of combat action. Here was an officer who had risen through the ranks the hard way. Dad probably would have liked him.

Hackett looked at Grayson with an inquiring look. “That is not a unit I'm familiar with, but from what Sergeant Martinez tells me, our information is somewhat out of date. A Code Andromeda was a codeword. It means that we were in the facility for longer than the fifty years it was supposed to last.”

Grayson internally debated what to say next for a while, but eventually he decided to answer the unasked question.

“Obviously I can't decide when exactly you cut yourselves off from the outside world, but the year is 3029. The Star League fell in 2781.”

Hackett visibly fought to keep his composure. “How?”

After quickly outlining the events of what had happened, Grayson could almost see Hackett age ten years before his very eyes.

“This... project was meant as a nucleus. When we went in...” he swallowed. “When we went in after Kerensky took the Rim Worlds Republic, the idea was for us to help rebuild what remained of the League. Now...”

He had to be pulling himself back together, because he flashed an obviously fake grin. “It seems that we have a lot of things to talk about Colonel.”

“I'd say, General. Just what do you have down there? And who are you people?”

The General replied with a barking laugh. “I think the Director would be happy to give you a tour. She designed most of all four facilities after all.”

“Wait? FOUR?” Grayson couldn't fanthom four facilities like the one on Helm on the same planet.

The General grinned. “This one is by far the largest, the other three are effectively... storage if you will. This one does that too, but it holds all the other facilities we're sure going to need in the not too distant future. Director Jackson can explain all this a lot better than me, but she is overseeing getting the rest of the maintenance and medical staff out of cryo first.”

“Just.... how many people do you have down here?”

“All together?” Hackett asked, “Assuming that not too many of the pods have failed, around forty thousand. Technicians, scientists, agriculture specialists, soldiers. Everything you need--”

“To establish a colony.”

“Perhaps even more than that.” Hackett added, obviously not minding the interruption. “The people, the equipment and then some.”

Grayson couldn't help but wonder what exactly those people had stashed away down there. “So, what are your intentions towards my people? How do I know I can trust you?”

Hackett grinned. “To be fair, you can't, not really. I'd rather you just did anyway, but if you want an answer..”

The grin faded. “All our plans depended on the Star League still existing in some form. I would never have expected that Kerensky would abandon humanity like he did.”

The history geek in Grayson couldn't resist asking. “You knew him, General?”

“Not that well, but I did a tour on his staff a few years before the Amaris Coup. He was always quite convinced of his own wisdom. It didn't help that he was really, really good at his job, so there was some merit to that.”

Hackett grunted and glanced down towards where the forward party was waiting.

“Colonel, your unit... you don't belong to any military unit I'm familiar with and unless one of the Great houses has died out, you don't use any of their insignia. Mercenaries?”

Grayson nodded. “Yes, though we are here on our own bill. No one paid us to come.”

“I thought as much.” Hackett replied with a nod. When Grayson gave him a quizzical look, the General elaborated. “We've taken the liberty and listened in on your comms traffic. That and other... characteristics of your unit make it somewhat obvious.”

The General seemed to ponder something for a while.

“You probably looked at looting an unmanned supply depot, didn't you?”

With a sheepish grin Grayson could only agree. “We did that on Helm.”

Hackett looked up, obviously there was a story to be had there. But before Grayson could ask, he shook his head.

“Since that's certainly not going to happen, don't you want an alternative?”

“So what do you propose?

“You work for us. Despite the size of the project, our military force is small, and we can use any additional defence.” Hackett replied, “Something else would be that you would bring us up to speed on the Galaxy.”

Grayson nodded and turned into the Colonel of a Mercenary unit almost desperate. He certainly wasn't going to pass up an opportunity to salvage something from the mess he'd led them into that had wiped out what funds they'd had. “The Star League Dollar is entirely worthless now, so some other form of payment would have to be arranged.”

“Director Jackson will probably complain about this, but would you accept spare parts and generally logistics support? Effectively anything we can do to help your unit in return. And Colonel, given what I've seen of your BattleMechs, you need it.” Hackett sighed again. “Beyond that... we will have to come to some sort of agreement, but I think I can offer you... if what you told me is correct, the inner sphere would be a prime market for factory-spec Mech components. We have enough parts of every kind here to build a small army. Stuffing a JumpShip full with them barely scratches the surface. Beyond that... I'm certain we will find something that will suit you.”

The Star League General looked on as the Mercenary Colonel as the younger man thought about the offer he'd just been given. Within seconds, Grayson had visions of factory-fresh Mech parts, fusion engines and fresh coats of paint. As someone who had dealt with lacking spare parts and lostech all his life, he couldn't refuse. Yet...

“I'll have to discuss this with my people first.”

“Fair enough, Colonel.”

Not entirely sure if what he was about to do was a good thing, Grayson raised his radio. “Allow me, General.”

“Grey One to Two. Lori, I think we've made ourselves some friends.”



~**---**~


'In summary. the first meeting between Grayson Death Carlyle and General Edward John Hackett was one that would end up having massive repercussions in the Inner Sphere and beyond. It's impact has often been compared to, somewhat ironically, the complete collapse and disintegration of the Lyran half of the Federated Commonwealth during the Clan invasion, or the Blakeist terror attack on the Liverpool conference. Even though both these are somewhat improper comparisons, the impact the meeting would have on the settled galaxy as a whole cannot be understated, especially when one considers the reaction of some elements of the Clans once they became aware of the remnant's existence. In any event, March 30th, 3029 has certainly earned it's place in the history books.

From the trash heap of history – The Star League Remnant Volume I

Samuel McCall, Black Pawn Publishing of New Providence, 3147


~**---**~





tbc

In case anyone is interested, the General is wearing a replica of this thing on his head. That said, while the headwear is unashamedly rule of cool, for the rest there is a method behind my madness. Though why a set of uniforms supposedly designed for efficiency doesn't seem to include something as pedestrian as a nametag on even the most basic on-duty wear I'll never understand. (In-universe at least. Out of universe.. the designers clearly weren't military persons.) Oh btw, I'm using the US spelling for names and stuff, but in flowing text, I will apply the Queen's English.

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PostPosted: Fri Sep 22, 2017 7:53 pm 
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Too bad the General's name wasn't Lethbridge-Stewart :lol:

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I have to admit, I considered doing that. But I'm going for a more serious bent with this so I went for another British General fairly well known around certain parts.

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Chapter VI


Six hours after he'd been unthawed, four after he'd gone out to meet Carlyle and he'd already managed to land himself in the doghouse and called to the principal's office.

“Holy sweet Jesus on a pogo stick Ed, you certainly take 'better to ask forgiveness' to a whole new level!”

Hackett had been in the military long enough to not find it difficult to stand at parade-ground attention in front of a small, one metre sixty woman whose anger had turned her skin a handful of shades darker than it was to begin with. It helped that he respected her as a friend and a superior, but right now he wished she was a lot less no-nonsense. For all her background made her experienced, sometimes you just had to be there, and by the wobbly way she'd walked in, she was still fighting off the last of the thawing sickness.

“You hired them? What the hell were you thinking?” she yelled and before he could answer, she sighed and raised her hand to stop him from answering. “Don't tell me, I don't want to know.”

She looked up from the datapad on the desk in the slightly larger cubicle office and stared at him.

“Ed, strictly off the record, I'd probably have made them the exact same offer. Hell, I didn't go back on it, did I? But you know as well as I do we are all that's left of the League and until we get everything up and running even a one by one piece of armourplate is irreplaceable.”

“I saw the opportunity and I took it.”

She sighed and slammed her fist down on the table. “Damn. Now I know I would have acted the same. The other problem here is that we don't really know if we can trust them.”

“I think so. Grayson and Kalmar strike me as people who stick to their contracts and who really care for their people. Not the sort of mercs who would stab their employers in the back. Same goes for their people.”

“Ed, I really hope you're right.”

She sighed again and then assumed a formal pose. “General Hackett, as Director of the Mount Pleasant Facility as well as Project High Rise, and as Deputy Star League Minister of Education and Information I hereby officially approve of their employment with the project.”

“Yes, Ma'am.”

“Just... just don't hire anyone else without talking to me first.”

“I'll try, Sarah.”

She grinned and leaned back in her chair.

“So, how are our new friends doing?”

Hackett's humour faded a little. “To be honest, I'm not sure what to think. It's hard to say who's more amazed, our people because the Carlyle's people use parts that are decades, if not centuries old or they because we toss parts that they apparently scavenged from their defeated opponents.”

“Does that really surprise you?” Jackson said quietly.

The General shook his head. “Not really, Sarah.”

Neither of them spoke for a while. The mercenary Colonel and his XO/obvious significant other had given them the rundown on what had happened in the Inner Sphere during and after the Amaris Civil War, and for both Jackson and Hackett it had been far worse than they had expected. He knew a handful of people that would pic Carlyle and Kalmar's brains about events later on, but what they knew could only be called a full-on apocalypse. The brutality of the succession wars didn't surprise either of the two leaders that had been unthawed at that point, and they could both remember some of the Executive Board had shed real tears when they had been filled in on events as they were known so far.

“I mean we expected that it would be bad, but somehow I hoped against hope...”

“You and me both, Ed. Even our most pessimistic projections showed that a core League would persist in the Terran Hegemony. But then... we made most of those before the Amaris Coup.”

“Thinking about it now, that probably was why we cut off the HPG and went in without getting the order.”

She snorted. “Maybe it was. Jesus Ed! What Kurita did to Helm.. if he was willing to do that because of a supply depot, imagine what would have done to get his hands on our toys.” Jackson paused, steepling her hands under her chin. “Those Succession Wars really showed the worst of humanity. Small wonder the Sphere has... what did they call it? LosTech?”

Hackett nodded. “That, yes. It explains a lot. But Sarah... you realize this makes our mission entirely impossible, do you?”

“The thought had occurred to me, yes. Still, what do you expect us to do? Go back in and hope that the Inner Sphere fixes itself in another three centuries? No.” she replied, shaking her head emphatically. “Giving up is not going to happen. Now, re-defining the mission on the other hand.”

“What as? Some sort of lost colony?”

“Well, my dear General Hackett, that depends on what our guests can tell us. What we need most right now is information.”

“But you have some ideas already, don't you?”

“Maybe.” she replied with a grin. “But that all depends on what the Gray Deaths tell us.”

“The one question I really want an answer to they can't help us with.”

Jackson looked at him, and he knew that she could make an educated guess as to what that question was. He asked it aloud anyway.

“Hayview made it back to the Inner Sphere and to wherever Kerenski was by that time. We know that he decoded enough information that the Legion could find us centuries later. We know that Kerenski had to be aware of our existence more than a decade before he turned tail and abandoned the Inner Sphere. As far as I can tell, his route wasn't that far away from here either. So why didn't he come and loot the project clean?”



~**---**~

Said Mercenaries could, for the most part, not decide what to feel. This also went for their fearless leader, and as he watched a mixed group of Star League and Gray Death techs crawling all over their Mechs and ripping out components and parts that had been lovingly maintained by whatever owner for decades. Off to the side a seemingly never-ending stream of spare parts was wheeled in. Mech components brand new in box weren't exactly unknown, but for a Merc outfit like the Legion it was like birthdays and christmas coming together. He had spent the last few hours getting everyone settled in and accquainted with their new employers, to the point of sending one of the DropShips back to the Jump-point to inform the Invidious of recent events. He had been so busy that he'd never seen more of the facility than the entryway, the massive Mech hangar off to one side and a few offices. But even that had given him a good idea of how they had managed to construct the facility. The bedrock of this area of planet was of a volcanic origin by the looks of it, and the Mount Pleasant Facility had been constructed in and around a naturally occurring cave system.

He'd also spent an hour being shown through the more publicly accessible parts of the facility, from the gigantic geo-thermal power plant that fed the facility to the endless rows and rows and rows and rows of storage containers to what was called a 'small' war-room that was still beyond most if not all command centres in any of the great houses. What had impressed him the most was the one of the massive hydroponics areas. A hall, large enough to fit any two DropShips he'd ever seen, with room to spare and stacked to the ceiling with frames due to hold vats that would grow vegetables and fruit enough to quite literally feed an Army. Beyond that, terrestrial animals that had been seeded out during construction and that had far longer to multiply than originally expected would feed them until a far more regulated and reliable source of those particular nutrients could be established by the agricultural experts.

They were still in the process of waking up those that they needed to run the facility and feed the population, giving last priority to those that were not required to keep the rest of them alive. The people behind the project had done their homework, down to a suspiciously even split between the two halves of humanity in the population. From what he'd heard, they had also recruited from all over the galaxy, how exactly the composition there was he didn't know. What he'd seen so far suggested that they all saw them as citizens of the Star League first, to the point where the military personnel, in itself a concept that he still could only barely comprehend on an emotional level, seemed to have abandoned the wearing of planetary and school sashes on their uniforms.

While growing up he'd seen his fair share of Holovids set during the Star League era, and he really felt as if he'd been transported back into one of the kind where the League was presented in a favourable light, something that very much depended on where and when the Vid had been made. The difference now was that he'd asked Lori to pinch him three times, and he hadn't woken up yet.

“Colonel Carlyle?”

The speaker turned out to be someone who could have been Grayson's older brother at the very least but wore the rank insignia of a Lieutenant. Towards Grayson and Lori he had spoken and then saluted with far more traditional military decorum than could be expected from any of the Legionaries, something that didn't fit with the standard response regular military types tended to have for mercenaries. Still, respect returned was respect shown, so Grayson returned the salute.

“Yes?”

“Lieutenant Anderson, Sir. I command the 3rd Recon Lance.”

“Of course, Lieutenant.
“Lieutenant-Colonel Park would like to see you, Sir.”

Now there was someone who lived and breathed Star League as much as Hackett did, aside from having the military disdain for mercenaries. But if there was one thing Grayson knew about these people it was that they had all been selected because they were professionals who were very, very good at their jobs. Even though they were no insignia beyond those of the Star League, their accents alone gave away that they had been recruited from all over, and to Grayson it was odd beyond measure to hear someone with a slightly dated Luthien accent trade friendly barbs with someone from Tharkard.

In fact Park spoke with a pronounced Luthien accent. If his emotional reserve stemmed from his upbringing and cultural background or from his dislike for mercenaries, Grayson didn't know, but he knew that even a Star League officer who had been a popsickle for centuries could fall victim to his own preconceived notions. Especially if he'd dealt with the sort of people the Legion weren't. Not everyone had Grayson's standards after all.

Even then, Park was the consummate officer and at least offered Grayson a seat. Mechwarrior to Mechwarrior. Grayson knew next to nothing about the background of any of the military men in the base, something that he wanted and needed to change, but from the way Park had given the Legionaries a measuring look with only the faintest hint of approval showed him that whoever had recruited him for the project had known what he was doing.

“Colonel Carlyle, do not get the notion that I approve of your.... status, but orders are orders”

'Wow, what an opening.' Grayson thought. Out loud, he said: “I wouldn't dream of it, Colonel.”

“However,” Park continued as if Grayson hadn't spoken at all, “you and your... unit can and will be useful to us as a source of information, among other things.”

“I'll be happy to help, I really am. But I have to say that I can speak of the poilitical realities in the sphere in very general terms. For one, someone like me isn't told anywhere near everything of what's going on and the Gray Death Legion is... or maybe was too far down the totem pole to have the sort of access some of the bigger Merc outfits would have. And of course whatever I do tell you will be very outdated by now.”

He was unaware of how true that was, but that was something he wouldn't find out for several months. What he discovered far more quickly was that Park was someone who appreciated being told the straight facts, because a hint of approval shone on his face.

“And,” Grayson added with a wry smile, “I also know that you will be at the first of our history lessons. So I do wonder, what do you really want?”

Park acknowledged his ploy being discovered early.

“As I said, merely information, at least right now.”

“Ask away then.” Grayson replied and leaned back in his chair.

“First, you must understand that my primary duty is military intelligence, but my other... hat so to speak is a free remit that was added only after you woke us up.” Park paused, trying to choose his words carefully. “When they heard what had happened to Lieutenant Hayview, what little you could tell us as well as what you told us already about the Exodus, I was given the task to try and discover why Kerensky chose to leave us aside, when he plundered so many even minor SLDF posts.”

“That's a tall order if I've ever heard one, Colonel. I'm not sure what I can tell you, except that given the route he took, maybe he felt that it was too far out of the way. Though why he chose to take the route he did, is something I'd like to ask him. Could be that he wanted to use the bases on New Samarkand as a final stopover or that he wanted to piss off the Kuritas one last time... It certainly wasn't a least-time course to the periphery, then and now. Hell, we don't even know where he wanted to go in the end.”

Best not tell Park that much of this was quoted from an old school report that he'd written during one of his father's longer contracts.

“Or... could he have not wanted t take your people against their will? Maybe he believed that your mission was doomed to failure but at the same time did not want to hinder it?”

Park nodded. “This is about what General Hackett told me.”

“So why ask me?”

Grayson had a pretty good idea why, but under the circumstances he didn't mind being tested. These people were alone in a galaxy full of people descending from those who had destroyed everything the members of the project had dedicated their lives to. Paranoia was something to be expected, and he didn't mind them that. Still...

“Because I wanted to know if you are as perceptive as he made you out to be. With all due respect to the General, I wasn't offered this post for taking things at face value.”

“Fair enough,” Grayson replied, shaking his head side to side. In your position I would be acting the same.”

“And I'll tell you this, it doesn't mean I trust you. You will have to earn yourself that.”

'How in hell am I supposed to earn that then?'




tbc

I wrote myself into a bit of a corner with this, but I think I have a way out now.

_________________
“Ancient astronauts didn't build the pyramids. Human beings built the pyramids, because they're clever and they work hard.”

-Gene Roddenberry


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