Transcript for FW-OR-02-04 Objective Raid Telos IV

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Transcript for FW-OR-02-04 Objective Raid Telos IV

Postby DeputyDirector » Tue Jan 17, 2017 5:01 am

Registered Contract: FW-OR-02-04
Region: Free Worlds League
System: Telos IV
Galactic Coordinates: X: 44.34 Y: 40.68
Days to Jump Point: 4 days
Planet: Telos IV
Primary Planetary Climate: Arid
Approximate Population: 2.440 Billion People
Capital City: Triumph

Contract Type: Objective Raid
Primary Operational Terrain: Badlands
Contract Duration: 2 Months (30 Days in REAL TIME) negotiable

Employer: Draconis Combine
Employer Contact: Tai-sa Elizabeth Carrols, CO of the 15th Dieron Regulars
Command Rights: Faction Command
Forces Recommended: A Company Strength Detachment
Supporting Forces: None.
Enemy Forces: ULTRA Assets

Supplement Contracts Offered: Planetary Assault
Bounty Per Word: 1,000 C-Bills
Minimum Bounty: 7,000 Word Transcript
Bonus Salvage Bounty Target: 42,000 Word Transcript
Bonus Salvage Category: Type-E Salvage


PLANETARY DETAILS:

Cursed with a weak ozone layer that lets in more than the average amount of solar radiation, Telos IV is a warm, dreary world of continual rainstorms and freak tornadoes that ravage all four of its island continents in the middle latitudes. Surviving despite these hazards, the people of this world have developed a reputation for being stubborn and fiercely independent, a reputation that has caused them no small share of problems over the centuries when dealing with the greater realms.


Shiro Kurita, founder of the Draconis Combine, manipulated the people of Telos IV into joining his growing state through guile and political trickery. When the deceit was discovered, the Telosians revolted, which prompted the first Coordinator to invade the planet as a demonstration of the Combine's superiority. In the years that followed, the population remained stubborn. Though suppressed for a time, the Kuritas found the Telosians difficult to deal with, as they resorted to passive resistance instead of outright rebellion.


Since Telos IV lacked significant mineral or agricultural wealth, the Combine willingly ceded the world to the rising Terran Hegemony, hoping its dissident population would give the Camerons as much trouble as it had the Kuritas. At first, the Telosians did just that, but Hegemony efforts to improve relations with the planet, which included placing several storm inhibitors (similar to those employed on Bryant) in Telos IV's orbit, helped win over the locals. This amicable relationship helped during the Amaris Crisis, when the Usurper, finding little of value on Telos IV, abandoned the world after demolishing the storm inhibitors and planetary defense network.


Kerensky's forces found support on Telos IV when they arrived and easily advanced on their campaign of liberation. Returned to Kurita rule after the fall of the League, the Telosians resumed their attitude of passive resistance, which prevented the Dragon from exploiting the planet's modest resources to the fullest, even centuries later. However, this attitude underwent marked improvement after the reforms enacted by Coordinator Theodore Kurita.


The capital of Telos IV, Triumph, is located on the large northern continent of Dulles. Telos IV's other three continents - Rustov on the equator and Fellin and Haranshire in the southern hemisphere - are home to a scattering of large cities and mining towns.


Socio-Industrial Levels

Technological Development: World of moderate advancement; average educational systems and medical care; microelectronics can not be manufactured.

Industrialization Level: Basic heavy industry at level of 22nd century; fusion engines possible but no complex products (including BattleMechs).

Raw Material Dependence: World/system produces all the raw materials needed and occasionally exports a small surplus.

Industrial Output: World has a moderate industrial base that produces a few different categories of products, exporting some of the output.

Agricultural Dependence: World is agriculturally poor and must import much of its food to supplement what is grown.


EMPLOYER SITUATION REPORT:

Telos IV is not a particularly valuable world. Dreary and rich in neither agricultural means nor mineral wealth. But it is strategically important in proximity to the line of recharge stations on the route to Terra from the core worlds of the Combine.


The planet is protected by a planetary defense network that would cost us a lot more to take the system. A unit is needed to temporarily disable this system to allow the invasion force to make approach without the extra risk. It is an orbital system that was a relic of the Star League days, equipped with capital-grade weapons to defend against approaching fleets or invasion forces bound for the surface.


You will be under the direct command of Tai-sa Elizababeth Carrols of the 15th Dieron Regulars, the unit that will spearhead the assault on the system once you have disabled the defense system. Once they arrive, you may be ordered to participate in the invasion at the Tai-sa's discretion.


PRIMARY OBJECTIVES:

1) Disable the orbital defense system of Telos IV.

2) Ensure the system remains disabled until the invasion force has reached the planet's surface.


SECONDARY OBJECTIVES:

1) Collect any intel if the opportunity arises.

2) Destroy any targets of opportunity in advance of the invasion.


SYNOPSIS:

Waiting in Dieron’s Orbit since Christmas of 3093 after being ousted from the planet by Governor Paolo Verellas for damage to Dieron’s Spaceport’s Infrastructure in their final confrontation with the ULTRA 15th Luczenko Battalion; until their contract expired March 1st 3094, the Ronins’ finally enter into new contract negotiations. The Ronins’ were not hired by the Governor so there was a dispute on his authority in ordering them to leave world so Onishi remained in Dieron’s Orbit until their contract’s conclusion date and there was still a dispute at the MRBC.


The Ronins’ were ‘given’ an Overlord Class DropShip by a local Dieron Yakuza family. She dreads what her ‘acquiesce’ for the Yakuza gratitude might be. The Overlord had a squadron of AeroSpace fighters docked on board owned by an out of work Mercenary Outfit. Onishi brought them on board too as Ronin. And when her Razan’s Ronins arrived at the JumpPoint, they put an Invader class JumpShip that had just concluded a five year long contract on their payroll as well. The Ronins then jumped to the Terran System to pick up an Aurora Class DropShip, other military hardware, and a Black Market Fortress Class DropShip before heading to Telos IV for their next contract; an Objective Raid.


Telos IV is strategically important in proximity to the line of recharge stations on the route to Terra from the core worlds of the Draconis Combine. The planet is protected by a planetary defense network that would cost the 15th Dieron Regulars a lot more in manpower and hardware than they are willing to risk to take the Telos system. That’s where the Ronins come in. Razan’s Ronins are needed to temporarily disable this system to allow the invasion force to make approach without the extra risk. It is a BattleSat System Defense Station that was a relic of the Star League days, equipped with capital grade weapons to defend against approaching fleets or invasion forces bound for the surface.


The Ronins’ devise a plan to jump a single JumpShip, Hydra’s Bane, into the Telos IV system at a pirate point and to send one of their small Oo Suzumebachi crafts to ferry three battle armor squads close enough to launch through space to the BattleSat Station. The Oo Suzumebachi approaches under the guise that it is a derelict suffering from damage. The BattleSat Station dispatches a rescue team to investigate and board her, and the Oo Suzumebachi high tails it out of range back to the Pirate Point. Meanwhile after a brief firefight, the Battle Armor Strike Team successfully disabled the BattleSat Station and subdued its crew.


The rest of the Ronins’ Jump into system and head for the planet’s surface unchallenged. Onishi puts a team together of conventional forces to perform a HALO drop to verify that her Ronins are not dropping into some sort of an elaborate ambush. Once verified, she brings the rest of the Razan’s Ronins in and establishes a beachhead on the northern continent of Dulles. After unloading their cargo, Onishi dispatches both of her Aerodyne DropShips, a Gazelle and an Aurora Class, with a squad of battle armor onboard back to separate JumpPoints as well as a JumpShip to each JumpPoint. With the BattleSat Station off line, her forces will act as an Early Warning System and a Rapid Response Team via the use of Pirate Points.


After several missed opportunities of reaching conflicts, planet wide - a little too late, one of her rapid response teams catches a break and receives a distress signal from Luthien Armor Works manufacturing and refining facility on Dulles and actually reaches it while hostilities are in progress. The Ronins still reach Luthien Armor Works too late to prevent the wholesale slaughter of the entire bases personnel but they do arrive in time to successfully neutralize the attackers. They uncover valuable intel from the attacking forces corpses. The intel and evidence points to an Identity cover up, so whoever betrayed Luthien Armor Works would be presumed dead with all the others. That person could assume a new identity and live off the profits of their crime with no chance of repercussions. What Doctor Haney (the identity someone try to cover up) didn’t count on was Razan’s Ronins forensics.



A vehicle Lance from the Ronin’s Steel Dragon Battalion, launches an operation to capture an independent scientist, a one Doctor Haney. After navigating through a city in full blown rebellion, a battle between the 15th Dieron Regulars verses ULTRA Assets, and various mercenary units; Shadow Platoon captures Doctor Haney and turns him over to Tai-sa Elizabeth Carrols.


Onishi is considering the supplemental contract for her Ronins: A Planetary Assault.


FW-OR-02-04 #01


Draconis Combine/ULTRA Contested

Dieron Prefecture

Dieron Military District

Al Na'ir Province

Dieron

Nadir JumpPoint

Overlord Class DropShip

Heaven Scent

Deck Three

‘Officer Country’

Tai-sa’s Office

Sunday March 4th 1000 3094


Tai-sa (Colonel) Onishi ‘Rough Ryder’ Razan sat alone in her office aboard the Overlord Class Heaven Scent, pouring over the Razan’s Ronins financials, requisition orders, supply request, and personnel dossiers among other things. Well technically she wasn’t really alone, the Regiment’s Control Officer Chu-i (Lieutenant)Akita ‘Kuma (The Bear)’ Fujinaka was seated catty corner across the office from Onishi but for all his interaction and/or conversation for all intense purposes, Onishi was alone. Chu-i (Lieutenant) Fujinaka was diligently working on scheduling. Scheduling security patrols, scheduling class room training, scheduling sim time, scheduling every member in the Regiment for a five day leave. That numbered in the several hundred already; four hundred fifty nine to be exact. Onishi had ‘ordered’ every Ronin to take their schedule leave before they went stir crazy with cabin fever after being cooped up in a DropShip for the last sixty some odd days. Razan’s Ronins were ‘asked’ to leave Dieron two months before their contract had expired by Governor Paolo Verellas for damage to Dieron’s Spaceport’s Infrastructure in their final confrontation with the ULTRA 15th Luczenko Battalion. She doubted the legality of his request since he was not their employer but since the 15th had already retreated off world she could not see the harm in appeasing this petty diplomat’s request. In the interim; however, the MRBC has held up the unit’s compensation while they conduct an investigation into the matter. Whatever.


Onishi had begrudgingly become more adept at managing and delegating these ‘back office’ task than she had been three years ago. She still wished that she could delegate the entire kit and caboodle but that’s exactly how mercenary units went belly up. Too much delegating left far too much room for these mundane task to fall through the cracks or simply be pushed to the back burner. As much as she dislike the paper trails they still needed to be traced back through to their logical conclusions.


Coming on board were more than a hundred combat personnel, engineering troopers, Aerospace pilots, Vehicle crews, Battle armor pilots, and JumpShip MidShipMen. And with them came requisitions and supplies. Everything from toothbrushes to large bore autocannon shells. There were promotions to review, promotions to give out, and recruits from the DMM to bring on board or either hire someone from outside the Department of Mercenary Mangement. And then there were the losses of men a machine that she was required to review, write bereavement letters for, and get repaired or replaced. This past contract had been particularly hard on the Razan’s Ronins in the way of personnel. Machines, Onishi did not mind replacing but the lives of the men and women under her command would never be replaceable. It didn’t matter how much money she threw at the families of the deceased, this part of the job never got any easier. If it ever did, she would know it was time for her to retire.


The Razan’s Ronins had also purchased a Fortress Class DropShip from an unsavory character in the Free Worlds League. Unbeknownst to the Razan’s Ronins commanding officer she was a derelict. It’s docking collars had been damaged by a runaway aerospace fighter and was bleeding atmosphere into deep space. It was already an expensive venture getting her back to a dry dock just to get her hull repair say nothing about the repairs themselves. And then she had to get a seasoned Captain from the hiring hall as well, and not only a competent crew to man her but a competent maintenances slash repair team to keep her up and running too. And these were the hardest to find because she wasn’t a spacer so she was totally at the mercy of Sho-sa (Light Commodore) Johnny Yee.


Thinking of Yee brought back painful memories of her first Black Ronin’s captain and crew, Wesley Wyatt. He’d been with the Razan’s Ronins for the past ten months when they had purchased their very first DropShip back when they were still classified as a company by the Department of Mercenary Management. Onishi stood and stretched and walked around her Spartan office. Her mind was drawn to the hostage situation back on Chara. The crew of the Black Ronin and their civilians had been taken hostage by members of the ULTRA's Alentova Division. When ULTRA learned that there were members of the Razan’s Ronins DEST Team on the outer hull of the Union Class DropShipShip they had blown her core taking their own lives and those of the Razan’s Ronins. She also recalled her terse words to Tai-shu (Warlord) Isoroku Kurita. She still could taste their bitterness on her palate.


Enough reminiscing. She needed to get back to work.


Looking over Akita's left shoulder at his data terminal, “Uh-uh ‘Kuma’. You’re going to have to reschedule that. He’s married to that tanker in Steel Dragon’s Infantry Support lance, what’s her name? You know, that Blakenship woman. Kenya. Yeah that’s it. Kenya Blakenship. I’m sure that they’re going to want to share their time off together.”


“Onishi-san, let ‘Jesse’ rob this train, will ya? You do know who Jesse James is, don’t you?”


Onishi backed away from Akita with her hands held high in the air as if she were being stuck up at gun point.


“If you must know, Mister Blakenship specifically requested that I schedule his time opposite his wife’s. They have a four year old and one of them needs to be present to watch her lest they cut into the child’s College funds.”


“Oh. I see.” Onishi said as she sat down but did not begin working at her terminal just yet. She rocked back in her chair and stroked her chin with her left hand as she was deep in thought. Then suddenly she began typing keystrokes as she pulled herself upright in her chair. After several minutes Onishi blurted out, “ ‘Kuma’, contact our human services section and have them establish a twenty four hour day care for all eligible Razan’s Ronins school aged children. Make it available for all combat, repair, and civilian dependents free of charge, billed back to my personal account.”


“Ma’am, yes Ma’am. I’m all over it.”


Onishi was looking at the Razan’s Ronins Profit and Loss statement. She was still a little bit more than miffed at the economic sanctions imposed by the Director General of the DMM. It wasn’t the director so much as Governor Paolo Verellas. He had attempted to entangle her Razan’s Ronins Quartermaster in a classic company store fiasco. Sho-i (Junior Captain) Harold Fairbanks, with Onishi’s approval of course, had went outside of the specified contractors authorized by the DMM and started procuring their ammo, replacement parts, and consumables from the black market. Verellas had been spying on them via a camera in their command compound and had released the holo-vid to the powers that be back on Outreach. Well by the time Onishi had arrived on Outreach to present her case to the JAG court officials she was railroaded into a more than a half billion C bills worth of fines for damages to Dieron’s SpacePort Infastructure. No recourse, no deposition, no representation. Onishi hadn’t thrown in the towel however, but that siphoning off of her funds had really hurt the Razan’s Ronins first quarter's bottom line. It was just this line of thought that she was on when she heard a rap at the cabin portal.


Before she could even answer, the cabin portal swooshed open and in saunter Sho-ko (Master Sergeant) MyKayla ‘Siberian Starr’, Regimental Training Officer.


She donned the regulation Razan’s Ronins Duty Uniform in a non-regulation fashion. The tunic’s double breasted flap was fastened with merely the lowermost two buttons leaving the top part to fold down displaying a ample amount of cleavage. The bottom half of the tunic was shorn off to make it a ‘shortie’ top. Underneath it MyKayla donned a full Body Stocking that appeared to be ‘painted’ on her curvaceous body. Where as it was mild compared to Sroyadin’s or Deborah’s, three wrongs don’t make it right. Onishi was almost certain that her Body Stocking was ordered a size too small, deliberately. And she had swapped out her magnetic black boots from some tennis shoes that were a perfect match to the color of her tunic. But her most striking feature lay in her dark chocolate full lips. Onishi shook her head and thought to herself ‘Really?’ She didn’t need this distraction right now. She Didn’t need this distraction EVER.


“ ‘Rough Ryder’. Have you been watching the news feed from Dieron? Look who’s on the News-Vid.” She sashayed over to her desk and grabbed the remote and clicked on the tri-vid. Tiny holograms sprank into sharp relief against the festive back ground.


Onishi tried to tune her out. Onishi was busy. She didn’t want to be rude and tell MyKayla that she had other more pressing issues on her plate. Ones that she could actually do something about. MyKayla turned the volume up on the tri-vid and competed with it.


“ULTRA has already made deep in roads into the Dieron Military District. All evidence of the involvement Paolo Verellas had in the conflict with the Razan’s Ronins has been buried with John Mendez. At least that's how it appears on the surface. You know in your heart, Tai-sa (Colonel), that Hohiro should have disavowed the Governor. Hmph! Well at least he didn’t hold a grudge against the Razan’s Ronins for the havoc we wrecked on the SpacePort. And he did go to bat for us in the MRBC hearings. But how is he just gonna up and station the 2nd Benjamin Regulars ARC on Dieron too. Like they are his own personal Razan’s Ronins' watchdogs, under the guise of protecting the valuable resource the Mech factories represent. The very nerve of the Coordinator. See, ‘Rough Ryder’, now if I were you . . . “


As hard as she tried to, Onishi could not block out the blaring tri-vid news broadcast nor Sho-ko (Master Sergeant) MyKayla. Onishi was struggling with telling MyKayla that she had interrupted her and asking MyKayla to leave or taking her noteputer and retiring to her personal quarters. Onishi was on the verge of breaking when she stood up and reached over and flipped the switch on the tri-vid player to off and watched the miniature holograms dissipate into the air.


“ ‘Sy-Berian Starr’. What I need for you to do is to make arrangements for every single member on the Razan’s Ronins payroll to receive an additional one thousand dollars in their paycheck under Holiday Bonus. With an additional stipend of five hundred bucks for each calendar year they’ve been a member of the Souls. Could you do that for me? Please?”


“Huh? Yeah . . . uhm . . . Yes Ma’am. I could do that. I'll hop to it right away. Thanks Santa!”


WORD COUNT 1875


Name: Onishi Razan

Callsign: ‘Rough Ryder'

Rank: Tai-sa, Commanding

Hardware: Naginata NG-RO1

Company: Ronin Legion

Lance: Fire Dragon

Assignment: MUCO

Unit: Razan's Ronins

HOUSE: DRACONIS COMBINE







FW-OR-02-04 #02


ComStar

Terran Defense Force

Sol System

Mars

Zenith JumpPoint

Invader Class JumpShip

Hydra’s Bane

Grav Deck

Sunday March 11th 18:15 Local 3094


It had started with a card game and a conversation about ones’ preferred sex, as most radical changes in one’s life did, in Chu-i (Lieutenant) Jason ‘Fury’ Grantz’s experience. As usual, it was a friendly game between comrades with nothing of actual value changing hands; just community bragging rights. Like most things of monumental importance, if began with a simple, innocent question.


“Uh, this is a … er, friendly game, right guys?” asked Go-cho (Corporal) Hyung Fukui, a new guy Tai-i (Captain) Ka Cheong 'Ghost' Chan had picked up on Dieron as a Battle armor suit pilot, as Grantz was an unexpected addition.


“Heh.” Go-cho (Corporal) Gerald ‘Scratch Proof’ Brand grunted. The laconic MechWarrior from Ronin’s Legion’s Fire Dragon Lance was a good friend of Gunsho (Sergeant) James 'Cujo' Jimenez, and had the best poker face in the room. Or so he thought. But he also thought his shit didn’t stink especially when compared to PBI’s feces. Yeah right.


“Obviously you’ve never played cards with ‘Fury’ ”, Gunsho (Sergeant) Robert 'TeeCee' Smith lamented. “He’s vicious.”


Grantz grinned, but protested. “Come on, mate! Have I ever taken your money?”


The Comms-Tech from Glaive Company Mobile HQ’s Swiftwind Scout Car shook his head. “No,” he allowed “but I’ve got another eight days off 'Bones’ shifts thanks to you.”


“Don’t bet with another man’s credit, ‘Ronin’.” Support Sho-i (Junior Captain) Harold ‘Bokor’ Fairbanks, the Razan’s Ronins unofficial chief purser and quartermaster grinned.


“Well, it’s just I … I need money, you know?” Fukui admitted.


This drew general amusement from the table. After a moment, Fairbanks pulled out a pack of chewing gum and added, “Don’t we all; that’s why we started playing for shifts, bags of snacks, and the like. Stuff no one really needs, mind you, just bragging rights.”


“Oh.”


Grantz pushed back from the table with a, “Deal me out, ‘Scratch Proof’. The new guy can have my spot.”


‘Scratch Proof’ grunted, the started shuffling the cards. Smith blinked hard, then said, “You can’t be serious.”


“I am as serious as a coolant leak.” Grantz replied. “Fukui can have my stake, and I’ll sit next to him and advise. The guy has got to learn some time and…”


“Yeah,” Fairbanks agreed. “I get you fine, ‘Ronin’. One of us might not be around next time we sit to deal.”


Grantz and Fukui traded places while Smith continued to look on incredulously. Quietly, Grantz asked Fukui, “What is the money for, Hyung. May I call you Hyung?”


“Nah, but ‘Shooter’s okay. Hyung makes me sound like I’m in trouble, and Mr. Fukui makes me look around for my dad.”


Grantz nodded. “I’ve got a stake here that should keep you awhile so long as you do not go ‘all in’.”


Fukui frowned “What does that mean?”


"It means you should pay attention to me. Fairbanks has his eye on that model Aerofighter collection of yours.”


“How did you…?”


“Never mind that, ‘Shooter’,” Grantz said in a tone that reminded Fukui sharply of one of his elder sisters. “You need to focus on what is in your hand, on the table, and most importantly, the remaining cards. You need to do this all in your head, because that is what is what your opponents have in their hands, as well as hope for future draw. It is like kay eff navigation, but with only fifty two variables.”


‘Scratch Proof’s heavy lids widened a millimeter, “You do that in your head, ‘Fury’?”


Grantz shrugged. “The navigational computer helps a lot, but it can be done by hand if you have the time.”


“Okay,” Fukui said. “Just as long as I don’t lose any of the money I’m saving for Bella’s ring.”


That night Grantz gained a new friend. Unfortunately, he also lost his considerable stake, and was stuck on maintenance duty for eight days.


WORD COUNT 695


Sho-sa (Lieutenant Colonel)

Tanaka Kintaro

callsign: ‘Iceman’

CO Infantry Command Squad

CO Heavy Jump Infantry DEST Platoon

CO Infantry Draconis Elite Strike Team

Shadow Platoon

DEST

RAZAN’S RONINS MERCENARY REGIMENT




FW-OR-02-04 #03


ComStar

Terran Defense Force

Sol System

Mars

United Sphere Incorporated

MRBC Castle Brian Complex

Civi-Land

Coffee Shop

Outdoor Patio

Tuesday March 20th 0445 Local 3094


The predawn air was nice; cool, crisp, and clean. For Mars anyways. It should be. It was manufactured underground and pumped into the dome. High above the smoke and smog, Tai-sa (Colonel), Onishi ‘Rough Ryder’ Razan quietly enjoyed coffee while gazing at the horizon beyond. Here above the noise and pollution of the massive Complex, she could sit and enjoy the view and tranquility the sight brought her. Located on the outdoor patio of a coffee shop, she waited for the sunrise.


Placing down the cup, she stared out towards the mountains, remembering photos of mountain ranges her parents had taken from the planet she was born on. She had no memory of it save for those photos. They'd only spent a short while there before moving on with their lives. Such was the life of a mercenary.


"So what brings you out here at this hour ‘Sunshine’?"


Onishi needn't turn around to recognize that drawl. "Still calling me that?" Onishi asked, calling over her shoulder.


"I still think it suits you," the raven haired woman opined. Gunsho (Sergeant) Sonja Tagert sauntered up next to the Ronin’s commander. That grin of hers had yet to leave.


"I could easily call you Amazon."


"Yeah…but it doesn't have that same ring to it, ya know?" Sonja chuckled as she watched Onishi's eyes roll. "So, what ya doin' 'ere?"


"And you?" Onishi returned, while indicating the seat next to her with a slight nod of her head.


"Don't mind if I do." Pulling out the chair, Sonja slowly sat down, mindful to accent her hips and chest. "I come 'ere to enjoy the sunrise."


The dark blood red-haired woman chuckled as she drank. Onishi didn't have to answer right away. It was her time, and she could easily ask Sonja to leave. Even if she did wait for her expectantly. But she eventually decided to answer. "Same reason as you."


"Finally, someone who actually appreciates a good sunrise!" she exclaimed, throwing her arms into the air. "Enjoys one of nature's greatest gifts! Not that crap down there!"


Onishi nodded in agreement. "Humans on the whole prefer the new and exciting. Not the mundane and common."


"Twits, that's what they are," Sonja drawled, setting down her cup. She stood up, suddenly riled up. "Hard ta enjoy something that can be seen on any planet, eh?"


"And yet…it's always different. Even on the same planet." Onishi slowly sipped her coffee, savoring its flavor, while enjoying a completely different view. Gunsho (Sergeant) Sonja ‘Widow Maker’ Tagert was extraordinarily beautiful. She held a confidence not often seen in people. Onishi liked that aspect of Sonja.



"Like what ya see?" Sonja looked over her shoulder with a knowing smirk.


Onishi shrugged indifferently. It wasn't her business to know.


"That's fine if you dun wanna answer," she said, accepting the silence. "But, I know I'm liking what I'm seeing.


"So you say…"


Sonja slowly approached, and leaned forward until she was merely a hair's breadth from Onishi. "You know what I think?"


Onishi raised a thin brow.


"I think you're sexy." Without warning she leaned in, planting a light kiss before pulling away. "And I plan to make you mine."


"Did you just…" she asked, as she lightly touched her lips. The Tai-sa (Colonel), didn't know whether she should be shocked or angry, "No you . . . Did you . . . WHAT JUST HAPPENED!!! " Shaking her head in disbelief.


Sonja grinned at her. "Damn straight."


She could have the young Gunsho (Sergeant) kicked out of the unit. Letting out a sigh, she leaned back into her seat, slowly sipping her coffee as she looked over the rim of her cup. She couldn't help but grin. Sonja was lucky that they were off base or else the Tai-sa (Colonel), would have been forced to discharge her on grounds of unwanted sexual advances. "Don't you EVER pull a stunt like that again. EVER! Because the 'Rough Ryder' don't swing that way, Sista. Capiche?"


The game was afoot.


……………


ComStar

Terran Defense Force

Sol System

Mars

United Sphere Incorporated

MRBC Castle Brian Complex

MHB Depot Compound

Mercenary Ward

The Barracks

Guest Offices

Wednesday March 21st 0745 Local 3094


Tai-sa (Colonel), Onishi 'Rough Ryder' Razan groaned as she awoke, her head feeling two sizes too small for her skull. Her mirrored shades were at an odd angle and legs were in desperate need of a shave. Lifting her aching head off of her desk, she looked out of her office window to see Mars' distant sun just start to rise above the domed cityscape.


Confused memories of the night before started to filter through her hanger over, as well as the dread that she had each morning since the Dieron incident when she remembered just how badly her life was going since the MRBC had been called in to investigate her Razan’s Ronins conduct on that contract.


It had sounded like the perfect job when she'd first arrived on Mars, her unit having been mangled by the 15th Luczenko Battalion’s Lambda and Kapa Companies on Dieron. All she had to do was recruit a band of Tankers and tech's willing to go up against United Leadership of the Tikonov Republican Army and other forces within the Marik’s Free Worlds League.


The thing that worried Onishi the most was she'd never met the people who were putting up the cash and owned the contract: her only contact was a Kurita Liaison Officer named Korto, who refused point-blank to tell her just who was calling the shots. She realized it was the House Kurita Government and that her contact was Tai-sa (Colonel), Elizabeth Carrols, CO of the 15th Dieron Regulars. But that still didn’t answer Onishi’s question.


Whoever the owners were, they had more money, influence and contacts this side of God, and didn't ask too many questions, as long as the job was done.


Recruiting had been a pain in the ass here on Mars away from the Razan’s Ronins regular pool of resources back home in the Draconis Combine: despite having as much money as she needed to flash around, Onishi had found it almost impossible to hire anyone with good combat experience. Even units with a low Mercenary Review & Bonding Commission ratings found it easier to find recruits than a unit currently under investigation by the MRBC and with their assets frozen by ComStar.


Korto insisted on vetting every potential recruit to keep SAFE or some other potentially hostile agency from slipping an agent in. This grated on Onishi's nerves, but she had to admit that the Liaison Officer had an almost superhuman ability to smell a rat.


A loud thud and a string of curses from the outer office woke Onishi from her daydreaming, and she went to investigate.


A low groaning came from a lump on the floor, and Onishi finally remember why she'd gotten so drunk the night before: one of the few potential recruits who'd been worth investigating.


Nicolas 'Buckshot' Tupak was a former student at the prestigious Sun Zhang MechWarrior Academy who'd joined a pro-Star League resistance cell at the start of the 5thSuccession War that was threatening to rip the Draconis Combine apart. A skilled technician and chemist, Tupak had been making bombs and bobby-traps since he was a kid, only now they tended to be deadly rather than just harmless jokes.


But New Samarkand had become too hot for Tupak, and he'd been smuggled off world, finally ending up on Mars with nothing but a duffle-bag and his ‘Mech, a battle-worn Guillotine that he'd picked up somewhere between the Kurita capital and the Mercenaries world.


Onishi had at first intended to just trick him out of his valuable Mech, but had changed her mind after seeing Tupak in a bar brawl: despite his rather bookish persona, the former Kurita agent was like a rabid wolf when cornered, completely unconcerned with his own safety when it came to a fight.


A quick jab with a stun gun had ended the fight when Onishi finely decided to intervene. The look in Tupak's eye when he realized that someone had involved themselves in his fight without permission was worrying, but the sound of approaching Razan’s Ronins Ailette PA(L) security officers proved that Tupak was also surprisingly quick on his feet when he needed to be.


Onishi offered to buy the still fuming ‘MechWarrior a drink at another bar, never letting on that she knew his story from the file Korto had given her at their last meeting. As soon as Tupak had said that he was looking to sign on with a Mercenary unit, Onishi had offered him a place with her unit.


Tupak had almost laughed at the name, and Onishi regretted choosing the name 'The Razan’s Ronins’ in an attempt to goad his employers into showing their hand.


Despite Onishi's best efforts, Tupak had at first turned her down flat, but several hours of hard drinking later had dissolved the Kurita's resolve, as well as robbing him of the power of speech and the ability to walk. One rather scribbled signature on a contract later, and Onishi had another recruit.


"Get up!" Onishi kicked Tupak, "Time to get to work…" A bloodshot eye opened, and Onishi found herself looking down the barrels of a saw-off shotgun.


"What the hell?" Tupak blinked, stretching his other arm as he yawned, "Who are you?"


"I'm your new CO, Tai-sa (Colonel), Onishi Razan." Onishi pulled Tupak's contract out of her pocket and dangled it in front of a pair of half open eyes, "Now get up and get cleaned up before I throw you in the brig."


"I don't do brigs." Tupak groaned, the shotgun disappearing back into his long black trench coat, "Is there any coffee?"


"Yeah: downstairs with the rest of the unit."


"You managed to get some other losers to sign up to this circus? I'm impressed."


"Don't be: they're just like you, Ronin."


"That explains you." Tupak dragged himself to his feet, swaying slightly, "How much did I drink last night."


"Don't ask me; I was drunk." Onishi led the way to the door.





ComStar

Terran Defense Force

Sol System

Mars

United Sphere Incorporated

MRBC Castle Brian Complex

MHB Depot Compound

Mercenary Ward

The Barracks

Guest Offices

Wednesday March 21st 1000 Local 3094


The huge warehouse was packed to overflowing: ‘Mech-bay after ‘Mech-bay was full with one manner of BattleMech or another, making the space feel even smaller than what it actually was. The lighting in the room came from a hundreds of dirty skylights, but row after row of fluorescent bulbs hung from the high ceiling.


Onishi stuck two fingers in her mouth loosing a shrill whistle and the lights flashed on, several bulbs exploding in a shower of sparks. The increased lights reviled a number of BattleMechs standing in the bays nearest the doors.


Tupak did a quick mental inventory: a Naginata, a Battlemaster IIC, a Shadow Hawk, a Warhammer, a Shiro, a Puma, and a Hitotsume Kozo. The Naginata looked like it was half way through a major overhaul, while the other ‘Mech's were in various states of disrepair. A platoon of Narumkami assault tanks and a platoon of heavily customized hover Firestorm APC stood in the very corner, and were surrounded by what looked like a shantytown.


"I was hoping that the others would be up by now…" Onishi took of her glasses and rubbed her eyes, "You'd better come meet the command of the unit."


"You call seven BattleMechs a command unit?" Tupak raised an eyebrow as they made their way down the metal staircase to the ground floor, "What is this, a reinforced ComStar Level II?"


"No, but two of them are former Clanners." Onishi rapped on the side of the fifty ton, wheeled, Daimyo mobile HQ, "Commanders, c’mon out and meet our newest Guillotine pilot!"


There was a chorus of complaints from inside the vehicle, but finally three men and three woman, rather sharp looking to say the least, in a crisp looking Razan’s Ronins duty uniforms sauntered out into the daylight.


"Ok guys and gals, this is Tupak, call sign ‘Buckshot’, our newest recruit." Onishi smiled, "This is Sho-sa (Lieutenant Colonel) Owen, formally of Alshain Avengers. He goes by the call sign ‘Kestrel’, and he rides the Battlemaster IIC and commands our assault lance, Dragon Sword. The Warrior next to him is Sho-i (Junior Captain) Sroydin Tang, callsign 'Cha Cha' our other resident Canister-Mopper, she’s an ex- 17th Galedon Regulars member and commands our Strike Lance, Dragon’s Claw. She pilots the Shiro. Then we have Tai-i (Captain) Terri Sicoe, call sign ‘Dragon Lady’. She's in the Warhammer and commands our Mobile Lance, Black Dragon. Yeah her Warhammer does have jump jets. The fox on the end there prefers her call sign, ‘Lil Bit’, and she's in the Shadow Hawk, commander of our ambush Lance, Red Dragon. The blonde haired beauty that looks too hot to handle, trust me - its not an act, is Sho-sa (Lieutenant Colonel)Shannon Parrish aptly nicknamed, ‘ Crone’. She is the head of the Ronins Kiridashi Company. She masters the Hitotsume Kozo. Last, and by no means least by any stretch of the word, callsign ‘Tiger’, and he IS man’s best friend and my right hand man, Chu-i (Lieutenant) Tushio Sakai. He commands our Recon Lance, Dragon’s Eye, from the cockpit of the Tessen. That Naginata is mine, but she's down until we get the parts we need."


"And my name is Ethan Korto." A new voice called from across the room, and a tall, balding man in his late forties walked over, "I am the benefactors liaison on Mars, and any problems, quirks and the such come to me. I have already arranged for your Guillotine to be moved here from the spaceport, and paid off your bill at the hotel you were staying at."


"Yeah, thanks Korto." Onishi glared at the older man, "Any more new recruits?"


"Several: I suggest that Lance leaders handle the interviews." The Liaison Officer handed over a stack of files, "I believe that Mr Tupak will be a member of the new Scimitar Section?"


"Yeah, probably." Onishi handed out the folders to Shannon, "Anything else?"


"Only that your first mission has been arranged." Korto started to walk away, "The DropShips lift off at noon on the 22nd. Be there."

WORD COUNT 2451


Name: Onishi Razan

Callsign: ‘Rough Ryder'

Rank: Tai-sa, Commanding

Hardware: Naginata NG-RO1

Company: Ronin Legion

Lance: Fire Dragon

Assignment: MUCO

Unit: Razan's Ronins

HOUSE: DRACONIS COMBINE




FW-OR-02-04 #04


ComStar

Terran Defense Force

Sol System

Mars

United Sphere Incorporated

MRBC Castle Brian Complex

MHB Depot

Mercenary Ward (M Ward)

Razan’s Ronins Compound

Mess Hall

Wednesday March 21st 2045 Local 3094


It had been a long day already. Sho-ko (Master Sergeant) MyKayla ‘Sy Berian Starr’ had put her huge Daboku through its paces for six hours without stopping, keeping Sho-sa (Lieutenant Colonel) Owen ‘Kestrel’ Callaghan and Tai-i (Captain) Terri ‘Dragon Lady’ Sicoe, in their assault-class and heavy ‘Mechs respectively but more maneuverable jump capable ‘Mechs on the hop. Though they had almost gotten through her guard a couple of times, she had managed to hold them to a three-way draw.


Given their abilities, MyKayla was rather proud of that. She would like to try the same sort of practice with Tai-i (Captain) Kevin ‘Skywalker’ Lendar, but in his present mood, she knew better than to ask. He was so touchy these days.


Unwinding at the computers afterward, testing her wits against Terri's, MyKayla had again managed to come out appreciably ahead. This was becoming a regular thing, and Terri grumbled that MyKala must have reprogrammed the system to give herself the edge. Terri was joking, of course. MyKayla understood the Officer too well to take offense, though others sometimes bristled under her heavy-handed humor.


Sitting in the common room, the two MechWarriors had talked of the growing rumor of a Kurita counterattack against ULTRA and the Marik’s Free Worlds League Captain General Agatha Rousset-Marik, who had seized both Lambrechtand Kervil near the Draconis Combine border. The loss of those worlds had set the mighty Kurita’s Dieron Military District on its ear, and everyone in the Dieron DistrictMilitia was on edge. Something would have to give soon, MyKayla knew.


"Tai-shu (Warlord) Isoroku Kurita must act," Terri had said. "He can't afford to hold back...There are too many powers watching his reaction. If he shows signs of weakness, we’ll have others besides Agatha Rousset-Marik at our throats. Even the Rasalhague Dominion isn't above a little polite planet-snatching, given the chance."


"Not to mention the Clan Snow Raven and Outworlds Alliance out in the Periphery, just waiting to dart in and grab whatever they can catch," MyKayla put in. "I wonder if that is the reason the New Samarkand Internal Security College is working so hard at a new security system?"


"New security? I'd have thought our old system would stand up to anything."


"Well, it might, but last week I was drafted into a team assigned to try breaching all the systems in the palace. A couple of times, we almost succeeded. The ISC observer kept nodding and making notes and muttering into a comp. Maybe she found out what she needed to know."


Now, after freshening up in her quarters, MyKayla was thinking about that conversation while making her way to the mess hall. Something was in the wind. Every MechWarrior on Mars was antsy, edgy. Even Kevin, who was usually so reserved, had snapped at his men more than once.


She entered the big hall and looked to the corner where she, Kevin, Terri, Owen, and Tushio usually supped together. The others were already in place, full trays in front of them.


Terri raised a hand and beckoned to her, then pointed to a laden tray at an empty spot beside her. Bless the woman! She'd picked up her supper as well as hers, saving her a lot of standing in line. MyKayla grinned, knowing Terri would take her toll. MyKayla never ate a whole trayful, and she would get to clean up anything she left.


She slid onto the bench beside Terri and smiled across the table at Kevin. When he didn't return the smile, she looked around at the group, realizing that they all were unusually grim.


"All right, what’s up?" MyKayla asked, looking straight at Kevin.


He dropped his gaze, fiddled with his fork, then raised his eyes to hers.


"I have been transferred," he said, voice low and gruff. "I asked for it. Things have been...getting to me lately. It was time for a change."


MyKayla felt a hot lump rise in her throat, but she swallowed it back down with grim determination. She quickly took a taste of soup, which burnt her tongue badly enough to excuse the tears that rose to her eyes.


"Whoof!" she panted. "Hot!" She breathed deeply, cooling her mouth and throat. In those few moments, she had gotten her emotions under control again. "It is what you have wanted for a few months now," she said. "I hate to see you go, but I know how it is. Some ‘Mechwarriors can stand Inner Sphere service, and others find it unbearable. After three years here, I admit it has been a nice ‘rest’ But a day will come when I’ll want to get back into the thick of things, too."


"Yes, but it’s good to be part of a Regimentas well off as the Razan’s Ronins, which is the service everyone hopes for, if they're good enough," Owen interjected. "I'd hate to leave it...now. Though I suppose the time might come when I get bored with battles, too, where we have all this support, mobile artillery, air, armor, hell we even have long Tom bombardment capabilities." He looked thoughtfully into the mixture of vegetables and meat on his plate.


"I’m not bored," said Kevin, his tone dry. "I’m . . . No, better not to talk about it. Let’s just say that the time has come for me to move on to something else. I wasn’t cut out for life in the Inner Sphere. Or in government. Or around politics. Leave it at that."


MyKayla took a bite of something tasteless, chewed it carefully, swallowed, took a sip of wine. She wished desperately that that there were something light and funny to say. The atmosphere at their table had become thick enough to cut with a vibroblade.


Besides, she knew what was eating Kevin, having seen his increasing dissatisfaction with policies the Tai-sa (Colonel), was putting into effect among the worlds ruled by Tai-shu (Warlord) Isoroku Kurita. She had never really understood what it was that so distressed him, though. Treaties that kept a system out of war were good, no matter what it took to get them ratified.


MyKayla took another bite of food, but it could have been desert rat or seaweed, for all the flavor she found in it. To save her, she couldn't think of anything to say except things sure to irritate Kevin even further. The new security systems, for one thing. Kevin thought a leader should be completely and openly available to his people. That might be a wonderful theory, but she wondered how many of those who'd tried it in millennia past had ended up dead in the midst of all that access. At least four that she could recall from Inner Sphere history tapes popped into her head.


No, it was best not to mention security. Nor the war. Nor the Tai-shu (Warlord) probable intentions with regard to House Kurita.


Tushio saved the situation. "You know, the strangest thing happened today. My ‘state-of-the-art’ MechWarrior Coolant Suit just conked out. While I was frying away in there, my throat mic began malfunctioning, and my earphones began picking up beeps from the biofeedback system."


Kevin chuckled. Terri grinned, and Owen choked on a bite of food. MyKayla smiled, too, thinking how often similar things had happened to her in her ‘jinxed’ Daboku.


"Anyway, there I was listening to my blood pressure, stewing in my own sweat, and trying to talk to my left toe, and I happen to look up to see ‘Dragon Lady’, here, about to take off my legs. Don't tell me comfort isn't necessary to a MechWarrior! You get distracted, and you're dead. If that had been a real battle situation, I'd have been dead, for certain."


Pushing back his now empty tray, Kevin grinned. It made MyKayla glad to see that it was not the false and strained version he'd shown earlier.


"I will remember that when I get out to the Periphery," Kevin said. "After all, those Clan Snow Raven ‘Mech-jockeys will be playing for keeps. Somehow, here on Mars, it is hard to forget that the 'Mech you are sparring with is piloted by someone you would protect with your own life in a real battle. It does make a big difference." He drained his glass and stood up.


"Anyone want to take a walk to settle dinner?" he asked with elaborate casualness.


MyKayla felt her heart thud solidly against her ribs. She stretched and stood.


"Might as well." She took her tray and followed Kevin to the racks where the soiled utensils were stacked for later cleaning.


Turning to look at their other three chums, she asked, "Anybody else?" Her expression, however, her famous, or infamous, ‘I wish you WOULD’ stare promised instant annihilation to anyone who volunteered to come along.


Three heads shook solemnly. "Too full of food," said Tushio. Owen sighed and rubbed his belly. Terri dabbed her lips with a napkin and shrugged.


"Fine," said Kevin. "Come on, MyKayla. We will walk out to the lake and back. Just the right distance to get the kinks out."


Walking out of the mess hall beside him, she wondered if he would say anything ... then she knew he wouldn’t. No more than could she. They were Ronin, first of all. Warriors second. Anything else was best left unsaid.


They headed for the lake, which was inside the military compound that included the Mansion’s grounds as well as the building where the Council sat when in session. In the context of their times and their history, it was best to keep everything as protected as possible.


They moved in silence until out of earshot of the other men and women strolling in the twilight. Then MyKayla turned to look at Kevin.


"I think you are wronging our Commander and Chief, Onishi Razan," she said. "She does what she must. You know what a good person she is ... one of the best Leaders in any of the systems. We just do not have all the information to understand everything she does, Kev."


"She has compromised her ethics," he said bitterly.


Though MyKayla wanted to reach out and shake him, she continued reasonably. "Look, it’s a different thing for a Leader. She has to work with matters we never even think about." She tried to think of a way to bring the issue into focus for him.


"You are a sword, Kevin. Straight forward. Sometimes lethal, sometimes painful, but always honestly what you are, impossible to conceal, sharp and ready for action, no matter what comes. Do you understand that?"


"Of course." He sounded puzzled.


"The Tai-sa (Colonel), is a dagger. A dagger in a sheath beneath the sleeve of an elaborate garment made to impress as well as to conceal. All smoothness and beauty on the outside, lulling to anyone who might try to challenge her position and power. And you know that some have tried."


Kevin nodded grudgingly.


"She has to have defenses that do not show. She must possess power that others can’t see, hidden in the sleeve of her charismatic character. There is nothing evil about a dagger, Kevin."


"Perhaps not. But there can be evil in the way it is used."


"Also in the uses of a sword, Ronin. A sword drawn in evil cause is no more virtuous than a dagger used likewise." She stopped, faced him, and placed one hand on his arm. "Can you seriously believe that Onishi is evil?"


Kevin leaned against the straight bole of a tree and gazed across the water. After a moment, he bent to pick up a pebble and skipped it across the smooth expanse.


"No, not really. But misguided ... that I can say. Seriously so."


MyKayla sighed. A real hardhead was Kevin Lendar. But at least she had given him something to think about. She skipped a pebble of her own.


"After you have gone," she said softy, "if there should ever be need, call for me. I will come, no matter where it might be. I have a feeling, Kevin. Something is in the wind. Something strange. Take care."


He nodded without speaking. They stood together and watched the light fade from the sky, leaving the lake a black mirror studded with stars.


WORD COUNT 2099


Sho-ko (Master Sergeant) MyKayla

Callsign: "Sy Berian Starr"

'Mech: Daboku

Ronin Legion Battalion

Katana Company

Dragon Sword Lance

Daboku DCMS MX92

RAZAN’S RONINS REGIMENT






FW-OR-02-04 #05


ComStar

Terran Defense Force

Sol System

Mars

United Sphere Incorporated

MRBC Castle Brian Complex

MHB Depot

Mercenary Ward (M Ward)

Razan’s Ronins Compound

Auditorium

Thursday March 22nd 0845 Local 3094


Tai-sa (Colonel), Onishi ‘Rough Ryder’ Razan walked into the auditorium amidst a tumult a raucous applause. She couldn’t stop the smile that spread across her face. She was so proud of what they had built the Razan’s Ronins into. ‘They’, referred to her High Command Staff that awaited her arrival upon the stage. She had to rent more chairs because the Razan’s Ronins did not have a enough on hand at their compound at the Mars Castle Brain Complex so that they could seat all the four hundred plus members of the Regiment. There were an additional six hundred or so temporary AsTechs employed by the Ronins as well as another forty member skeleton crew still up at the JumpPoint here in the Terran System manning their JumpShip’s Naval Assets at the Zenith JumpPoint.



Tai-sa (Colonel), Onishi Razan stood on stage prepared to address the four hundred plus members of her Ronins that had assembled for their next briefing on their contract. The security precautions were all in place just as they had been five months ago. Tai-i (Captain) Duane Johnson and his squad of DEST Agents from Shadow platoon were responsible for her personal security much to the Tai-sa’s (Colonel) chagrin, posted at key positions inside and outside the building, securing the perimeter. Daikyu Squadron’s, Deathwing Flight, was flying combat air patrol missions outside the dome over the complex, Blue Dragon Flight was on Mars Orbital Patrol, and Black Raven Flight was Early Warning from Mars’ moon. The Invader class JumpShip, the Red Storm was at the Nadir JumpPoint and their sister ship, the Hydra’s Bane, was stationed at its Zenith JumpPoint. Both the Dragon’s Lair ‘Mech were suited and booted running over watch patrols through their compound with Sho-sa (Lieutenant Colonel) Callaghan’s Assault Lance idling in the nearby hanger on alert ready five status. Considering that ninety seven percent of the Razan’s Ronins Mercenary Regiment were all in the same location at the same time, her security staff figured it was better to be safe than sorry.


Onishi looked resplendent in her spit polished, black boots, her immaculate dress black trousers, with a crease so sharp they could cut through ‘Mech-grade armor, and her starched blood red, tunic. Onishi nodded as she sauntered past Duane Johnson in full dress DEST suit. Duane was in charge of Onishi’s personal safety. He had a DEST Agent stationed at each one of the entrances. And because of Mars’ location, in the center of the Marik Terra Military District, he’d also requested that the Mars Garrison Third Lance, patrol the perimeter around the dome.


Onishi walked upon the stage and approached the podium. If it was possible the applause increased in crescendo as the Razan’s Ronins stood to give her a standing ovation. She enjoyed so being honored this way, maybe it was due to the recent two months vacation, with pay, that she had authorized in everyone’s paycheck and an accompanying Holiday bonus, $1,000 per year of service or $100 per month for anyone with the Mercenary Unit for less than a year, but she’d like to think that it was due to the fact that she genuinely cared about each and every member in her Regiment and that this was their way of returning their gratitude.


She raised her arms and signaled for them all to sit down and for the applause to stop. It didn’t.


She turned to acknowledge the command staff seated behind her on the stage and saw the reason why. All of them had also stood and were clapping their hands. The four Combat Command heads, Chu-sa (Jr Lieutenant Colonel)Reece Kimura over the Tank Battalion, Sho-sa (Lieutenant Colonel) Tanaka Kintaro heading up the Draconis Elite Strike Team, Sho-i (Junior Captain) Daniel Taylor in charge of the VTOL Squadron and Tai-i (Captain) Torri Nashiro the head of her AeroSpace Wing. As well as her three non combatant Commanders, head of the Human Services Section Tai-i (Captain) Reid Mediate, Chu-sa (Jr Lieutenant Colonel) Petre McIntyre over the DropShip Wing, and Chu-sa (Jr Lieutenant Colonel) John Dryden of the JumpShip Wing. The rowdy applause went on for a full three minutes before it started to subside.


The two rows of officers behind the Tai-sa (Colonel), took their seats first before the audience took theirs. Most of them had smiles, or at least pleasant grins, on their faces with the exception of Sho-ko (Master Sergeant) MyKayla. Those single name people were always an enigma to the venerable Onishi.


“We Love you Onishi!” Some young male NCO shouted, causing a respite of laughter.


“I love all of you, too.” Onishi quickly answered and was greeted by another round of laughter. “Thank You. So, did you all enjoy your vacations?”


A chorus of affirmations rang out mingled with shouting, whistling, and more applause.


“Good, good. That’s good because you all deserved it. Now let’s get down to the reason I’ve called you all here today. Unit Expansion, Promotions, and our next contract. With the Coordinatorl's preoccupation with rebuilding our beloved nation in the wake of this ULTRA conflict, we have been summoned to Telos IV by the Ambassador herself, Tomoe Katsuie. When I say we I mean all of us. She even requested that I max out our DropShip ‘Mechs capacity at the Dragon’s expense, and bring them along. But in good faith to her and our own families I had to deny the last part of her summons. That would have resulted in too much growth, way too fast.”


“She wants us to participate in operation Sunrise with other Regiments and ACRs. They are headed to the Dieron Military District region. We will be participating in War Games on our journey to Telos IV. Yes I know. Operation Sunrise tends to lend credence to the rumors that there is civil unrest in the Marik’s infant Terran Military District. I can not confirm or deny any such rumors. I am merely offering our regiment to reclaim Kuritan lost worlds.”


She paused a moment to allow her words to sink in.


“Moving on to unit expansion. We have acquired a full squadron of AeroSpace Fighters Pilots, with their own fighters, for the Ronins. They all are of MHB manufacture. I was presented with a deal too good to be true. It was a steal. It came with a condition however. It was conditional that I allowed the mercenary commander to remain in command. So I gave her command of two of our established flights and moved her two flights up under our tried and true commander, Torii Nashiro.” Onishi turned up on the stage slightly until she made eye contact with Torii and nodded. “As you all may, or may not, know is we’ve been ‘gifted’ a Overlord Class DropShip and took under contract a second Invader Class JumpShip. We’ve stopped here in the Terran System to pick up a Minion Advanced Tactical Vehicle, a Chaparral Missile Artillery Tank, a Thumper Artillery Vehicle, a Mobile Long Tom and a Teppo Mobile HQ to form an Artillery Lance. The Staff hasn’t decided yet on we intend to use the Teppo. Either to augment the Mobile HQ lance or as an Artillery piece. We’ll work that dilemma out soon. We’ve also acquired several VTOLs; a Cavalry VTOL Infiltrator, a Cobra Transport Command VTOL, three Cobra Transport MASH VTOLs, a BattleMech Recovery VTOL and a BattleMech Hover Recovery Vehicle. The last two will grant the Ronins some flexibility when recovering disabled military hardware from the battlefield instead of dragging it back to our Bivouac with our one Jifty 100. The Cavalry Infiltrator will be under direct control of the DEST team for Infiltration Ops and air support. However, the DEST Commander tells me, that if a DEST unit requires air support then they’ve already failed.”


This brought several chuckles from the assembled Ronins.


“The Command Cobra will obviously go to the HQ Lance. Our new Human Services coordinator requested the three MASH Cobras. His argument was one needed to be under direct control of our MASH Lance so they can make decisions based on triage priority and the other two, along with two more MIT 23 MASH Unit we purchased need to be grouped together in an EMS Lance for general emergencies. Makes sense to me. We also picked up a GESV MASH vehicle with four full operating theaters for Doctors Mariana Cross, John Kumar, Jamie Simmons and Roy Pena. The Ronins will be onboarding a full combat engineering platoon along with a Buffel Engineering Support vehicle and two Apocalypse World Rovers as well. These additions will be mostly used for establishing entrenchments, defilades, and erecting bivouac defenses along with our platoon of exoskeletons. They will all be group under the Ronins new Human Services Section along with all of our non combatants, ie our MASH units, our repair and recovery teams, our bunkers, etc. Last but not least, the Ronins have also come into possession of an Aurora Class DropShip and a derelict Fortress Class DropShip. It’ll take some work to get the Fortress back into operating condition but once we do it gives us room to expand with an additional mixed battalion. The Fortress can transport a company of ‘Mechs, a company of vehicles, and a company of infantry, AND it comes complete with an integral Long Tom Artillery piece to boot.”


“I’ve taken it upon myself to do some reorging too, based on our performance in our last mission. I’ve swapped lances with the Kimodo and the Panther. It made more sense for the Kimodo to be in the Ambush Lance where they all have the same movement profiles, max speed 55kph and jump capability of 150 meters instead of it slowing down Pursuit Lance, who without the Kimodo has a lance speed at well over 80 kph. The Panther can keep up. I also moved the Tessen from Pursuit to Recon. “I” felt like its powerful Bloodhound Active Probe was wasted in Pursuit. Pursuit’s main role is to ‘Chase’ em down once an enemy is Already located. Maybe its just me. I kept all the personnel the same. I didn’t want to tamper with unit cohesion; just changed out the hardware. I also made another executive decision. I swapped out the Packrat with the Swiftwind to the Scout Lance from HQ. I wanted all my Scout vehicles to have an edge in the form of an Active Probe or a Bloodhound. And I want all my HQ vehicles, to likewise, have an edge with enhanced comm devices. Quickly rectified by this flip flop. The Swiftwind dedicates two tons to communication devices and the Packrat has a Bloodhound, an ECM, stealth armor and a whole bunch of other ‘stuff’ that makes this change a no brainer. ”


“In addition to this growing pain, the command staff and I have been forced to go to a new naming convention of our combat assets with our company names. Each BattleMech company will now be known by a bladed weapon name. Each vehicle company will be named after a pole weapon and each aerospace fighter squadron shall be named after a ranged weapon. Companies short on hardware will be referred to as a section. For instance, my Company name is Katana Company, Second Company is now referred to as Scimitar Section, and Third Company; now know as Kiridashi Company. Armored companies, Trident Company, Halbred Section, and Glaive Company. AeroSpace Fighter Squadrons are Daikyu Squadron and Hankyu Squadron.”


“You should all be familiar with this new naming convention already as it was drilled into you for the last five weeks. And for those of you who have not grown accustomed to it as of yet, don’t worry. You will. You have a one week to make it second nature. And if that doesn’t convince you, then this will. You’ll need to know it because your lives and the lives of the men and women under your command depends on it.”


“With the advent of Regiment status there were several officer spots that became available. Hence, the OTC training and the monetary incentives the Razan’s Ronins have offered over the past two months. I want to personally thank everyone of you who participate and congratulate you on your promotions. We of the Razan’s Ronins Command Staff have learned a very valuable lesson. Our promotion practices leave a lot to be desired. Due to the sudden influx of green officers it will water down our experience pool. Hence we lose our rating as a veteran mercenary unit down to a regular one. However, we won’t let that stop us now will we? I would like to announce at least three new officers while I still have every one’s attention. Sho-sa (Light Commodore) Ramon Richards, Captain of our Aurora Class DropShip, Sho-sa (Light Commodore) Lorean Mathijssen Pilot of the Hydra’s Bane Invader Class JumpShip and Tai-i (Captain) Reid Mediate our lead over our new Human Services Well Being & Development Section. See your battalion commander to receive your stars and stripes.”


“We boost in four hours people. As always, if you have a conflict of interest, ie, your home world is involved, recently married, child on the way, whatever, you are most welcomed to, almost encouraged, to remain on Terra. You will be provided with a first class flight to anywhere in the Inner Sphere. There will not be a blemish placed on your MRBC Dossier. You will be awarded a full honorable discharge. But make no mistake about it Ronins, we will be leaving the Terran System today at noon, with or without you.”


WORD COUNT 2325


Name: Onishi Razan

Callsign: ‘Rough Ryder'

Rank: Tai-sa, Commanding

Hardware: Naginata NG-RO1

Company: Ronin Legion

Lance: Fire Dragon

Assignment: MUCO

Unit: Razan's Ronins

HOUSE: DRACONIS COMBINE






FW-OR-02-04 #06


Draconis Combine/ULTRA Contested

Dieron Prefecture

Dieron Military District

Al Na'ir Province

Telos IV

Pirate Point

Invader Class JumpShip

Hydra’s Bane

Oo Suzumebachi Small Craft

Battle Armor Bay

Sunday April 1st 0552 3094


*** Eleven Days earlier. ***


The battle for Dieron had been hard on personnel and equipment. The regiment had barely recovered when they accepted a follow up mission to raid another planet but this time it was an objective raid aimed at disabling a BattleSat Station. Tai-i (Captain) Cheong ‘Ghost’ Chan knew he needed a change so he requested a transfer from Razan’s Ronins Shadow Platoon to the Battle Armor section of the Ronins. He would be working for Sho-sa (Lieutenant Colonel) Tanaka ‘Iceman’ Kintaro, whom he had worked with on a couple operations and that suited him fine. He was surprised when informed he would be the executive officer but then it made sense with his training and doubly surprise when the Tai-sa (Colonel) named the Battle Armor platoon after him. Ghost Platoon.


The meeting had gone well and he was introduced to his teams he would be over. Shujin (Staff Sergeant) Chris ‘Tank’ Ridgley in charge of Razan’s Ronins first squad of Gray Death Scout Armor. Gunsho (Sergeant) Ralph ‘Stack’ Ibrahim over the second squad. Gunsho (Sergeant) Natasha ‘Cha-Cha’ Stetson commanded the Kishi Armor. Sho-i (Junior Captain) Mya ‘Barbie’ Vu was over the Kanazuchi Assault Armor. Sho-i (Junior Captain) Felix Ndang ran the Raiden Battle Armor. Kashira (Talon Sergeant) Taneja ‘Red’ Scott headed up his Oni heavy armor. And Shujin (Staff Sergeant) Chun ‘Chunlei’ Li was in charge of his Zou Heavy Armor. They had packed up and were ready to move when the orders came down.


The battle armor they had captured from the ULTRA forces was nice but took a bit to get used to. It marveled Chan that it mimicked the abilities of his DEST uniform but in battle armor form. Once given the choice, he would choose the KAGE Armor for operations where he couldn’t use his DEST uniform.


The word had come down the food chain and his guys had a mission, neutralize the BattleSat Station at the Zenith Jump Point to minimize the 15th Dieron Regulars casualties when they follow on into the system. Chan called his eight battle armor teams together to brief them on this mission. It was important to him to insure it went off without a hitch as the entire regiment depended on him and his people.


“Listen up! We have an important mission ahead of us.” He stated to the assembled teams. “We’ve been tasked to neutralize the ULTRA BattleSat Station at the Zenith jump point. We’ll have a ONE hour lead in before the regiment jumps in. We have 11 days to get the plan down and we’ll have to practice on the fly. Any questions so far?” Chan asked.


“Do we know the size of this station and any intel on the OpFor?” asked Gunjin (Lance Corporal) Joy Winn of the Kishi Battle Armor Squad.


“Small and we know they have aerospace fighters stationed there but as far as who or what is guarding the station, no clue on that.” Chan answered honestly.


“Hour isn’t much time.” Kashira (Talon Sergeant) Jhonave Pascual spoke up. She was a member of the Raiden Tsunami Squad. Rumor has it she was as mean as a rattlesnake and twice as ornery.


Chan hunched his shoulders. “It’s all we have unless something changes.” He retorts.


For a couple hours they toss out ideas on how to take the station and finally settle upon a plan. The Teams will try to use a ruse involving a small craft to get close enough to put a team on the outside to take care of the comms array, a back up team to storm inside if that fails, and a Recon Team for scouting. Once they decide on which three teams are going to go, the Ghost Platoon started drawing up mock ups of the station’s exterior and interior and going over it in minute detail. It was decided that during the multiple jumps it would take to get from Terra to Telos IV, Ghost Platoon would all practice their zero G maneuvers and handling capabilities as much as possible. Using the outside of the Overlord Class dropships surfaces to practice storming the comms array. Stealth would be of paramount importance and the KAGE should excel in that arena and if not the Oni Heavy Battle Armor Squad would storm the BattleSat Station.





*** Four days earlier ***


“SO . . . what do you think?” ‘Tank’ said over his coffee cup. ‘Tank’ was Chris Ridgley callsign and he was the lead of a Squad of Grey Death Battle Armor.


“About what, you know I try not to think,” laughed the Oni heavy armor squad leader, Kashira (Talon Sergeant) Taneja ‘Red’ Scott.


“The new Captain, what are your thoughts on him?” prodded ‘Tank’. ‘Tank’ wasn’t called Tank for his immense size. He’d been given that moniker because when he had something on his mind he wouldn’t allow anything to deter him. He’d keep on going like a . . . Tank


“He is ok, he has been about and he seems solid enough,” ‘Red’ says taking a drink.


“He is the one who came up with that wild scheme on Dieron for the drop isn’t he?” ‘Tank’ asks.


“Yeah, jumped it too. So shows he has some guts. Look ‘Iceman’ vouches for him and that is all I need, unless shown otherwise.” ‘Red’ says picking up a doughnut.


“But THIS plan is crazy.” ‘Tank’ says softer.


“Not getting scared on me these days are you?” ‘Red’ giggles through her hand.


“Have you ever seen me scared? Wait. No don’t answer that.” He growls “But we shall see.”


“That we will my friend, that we will.” Gloats ‘Red’.







****24 hours out ****


“We’ve practiced this and I know we are ready.” Chan says “Remember the success of the Ronins’ missions rest on us.” He says pausing for emphasis “We have to take that BattleSat transmission tower out.”


The assembled eleven troopers stare at him as he continues to go over the assignments for each team. ‘He is thorough ir nothing else.’ ‘Red’ thinks.


“Tomorrow we jump in and fate will determine if we are the ones to win the day.” Chan stresses. “I have my full confidence in your abilities or else you wouldn’t be here. If there are no questions or comments make sure your gear is ready tonight because tomorrow it’s a go.”


The eleven men and women stand up up silently from the table and march out followed by Chan. Though he’s had 11 days to get use to his new battle armor, he still likes to make sure everything is in tip top shape.







*** Mission day April 1st 3094***


**** Klaxtons going off *****


“Secure Stations, Jump in Progress” the mechanical voice says. “Jump in FIVE minutes.”


The Teams had arrived earlier this morning to the Oo Suzumebachi small craft and were already safely buttoned up inside their battle armor, awaiting the jump that will bring them to their destination. Soon the waiting would be over and the rush of adrenalin would take over. “Hurry up and wait.” A voice floats over their internal systems and they all chuckle.


Aboard the Hydra’s Bane Sho-sa (Light Commodore) Lorean Mathijessen keyed open a communicator set into the arm of her command chair.


“Tai-i (Captain) Chan? We just got the word, ‘Commence Operation Sunrise’.”


“Hai, Captain, whenever you’re ready,” Chan replied. Lorean could hear the pride in the Ghost Platoon’s commander’s voice. She felt it herself. After the Draconis Combine had lost scores of their worlds to the Free Worlds League, after nearly a year of waiting, they were finally going to take revenge upon their tormentors.


“Chu-i (Lieutenant) Zarina,” Lorean barked out to the Engineering officer. “Charge the Drives!” And to Tai-i (Captain) Jorgen Pallesen she yelled, “Navigator, lock course into navigation computer.”


The Captain’s commands were repeated even as her men leapt to comply.


“Captain,” the Hydra’s Bane’s chief engineer, Sho-i (Junior Captain) Bjorg Velle, called. “The ship is ready for jump.”


“Very well. Jump.”


In the blink of an eye, the universe turned itself inside out as the powerful Kearny-Fuchida drives buried deep inside the Invader’s armored hull ripped a hole in the fabric of space, catapulted the JumpShip and her fragile human cargo through the rent, then slammed the portal shut behind them. Lights, colors, and sounds, none of which had a name, assaulted the senses of everyone aboard. Time stretched out around them until it seemed that Lorean could see the beginning of Creation, the end of Armageddon, and every possible future and past displayed at once in the space of a single heartbeat.


Then, just when it seemed that she might go mad from the sights and sounds before her, the universe snapped back into its proper order. Strange stars burned in the air above the vessel’s small holotank. “Navigator...” Lorean began.


“Captain, we are right on target. Pirate point, 4Alpha674368Tango.”


“Communications, begin transmitting our Merchant IFF code,” Lorean ordered. Even before she finished speaking, the technician manning the Hydra’s Bane’s main communications panel replied that the ship was broadcasting the false Identify Friend and Foe signal provided by Ethan Korto.


“Run a full sensor sweep. Report all contacts. I want to know if there are any JumpShips out there that aren’t supposed to be here.”


“Aye, aye, commencing sensor sweep.”


“Captain! Damage Control hear. We jump into a debris field. I’m showing slight damage in two armor locations.”


“Aye, aye Damage. Stand by.”


“Damage Standing by Captain.”


Moments later the report came back. “Captain, my sensors show no JumpShips, just a single BattleSat System Defense Space Station. Her bay door is rigged out, but there are no DropShips attached to her docking collars.” the tech paused.


“Rig out the sail and begin routine charging operations. My people will make final preparations for breakaway. When everything is ready down here, we’ll detach and make our attack run,” interjected Chan.


“Hai,” came the reply. “Rigging out jump sail. Report when ready for breakaway.”


“Damage, Captain Mathijessen here. How severe is our armor damage?”


“Not hardly. It’ll take a repair team 30 minutes to an hour, tops; to have it fully repaired.”


“Roger that Damage. Then get an Ailette Team started on the repairs pronto.”


“Aye, aye Captain.”


Thirty minutes later, Chan reported through the Oo Suzumebachi’s commander, Sho-ko (Master Sergeant) Renn Rothwell, that all was in readiness. In response, a series of thick steel bolts slid back, freeing the massive clamps that locked the Oo Suzumebachi Class Small Craft to the Hydra’s Bane’s armored spine. As the clamps retracted, a faint shudder was felt throughout both vessels.


“Clamps unlocked and retracted,” a crewman reported. “Oo Suzumebachi is free to maneuver.”


“Roger. Oo Suzumebachi copies free to maneuver,” Rothwell answered. With a deft touch on the Small Craft’s controls, the pilot gave her just enough thrust to pull away from the Hydra’s Bane. A dull, heavy clunk, more felt than heard, ran through the ship. The deck canted sharply as Rothwell aimed his ship at the faraway Space Station.


“Breakaway, breakaway,” Rothwell called. “Oo Suzumebachi is free of the docking collar. We are heading towards the Zenith JumpPoint.


There was nothing they could do to stop the systems defenses from picking the incoming small craft so now they had to hope the ploy would work.


“Copy, Oo Suzumebachi,” Lorean said. “Good luck. We’ll see you when this is over.”


“Ten Four,” Rothwell replied. “Over and Out.”




***20 minutes elapsed mission time***


Seamlessly the Oo Suzumebachi’s bay door opened pointing at the BattleSat Station just across the dark open space. All tethered together twelve sets of battle armor ignite their jump jets propelling them towards the station. In the lead is ‘Ghost’ followed but the three suits of KAGE battle armor with their Stealth systems fully engaged. Tethered behind them follow the four Oni and bringing up the rear where the four Gray Death Scout armors. The plan seemed simple: Attach all with tethers, ignite their jump jets for 30 seconds and then let the force carry them to their destination. Being small they hoped that the Oo Suzumebachi would mask them in its radar shadow as well as they were banking on their Stealth systems making it appear to be nothing there. Intel indicated that the BattleSat Station was equipped with Capitol Grade weapons. Capitol Weapons had trouble targeting 20 to 100 ton AeroSpace Fighters say nothing about a 1 ton Battle Armor Suit. As Chan saw see it, the only thing that could give them away is if the Station sent aerospace fighters out to scout them.


No communications. Chan had told them until they were attached to the station the teams were to adhere to radio silence. Then they would simply walked to the radar assembly and the Oni fired their Recoilless Rifles into the comms array as the rest poured fire into the power source to bring it down. Then prepare for an assault from any troops sent to stop them or get in the way and secure the station if possible.


Half way there Chan saw the flares of aerospace fighters launching. Now he began to get worried. He gave his KAGE armor the predetermine hand signal that indicated that they should deploy their mines. There KAGE armor was equipped with a Remote Sensor dispenser. But for this mission the loaded the dispenser up with proximity mines.


“Unidentified craft! State your intentions.” Chan heard the voice challenge the Oo Suzumebachi.


“We ….here….pirates…..help.” was the reply. All had been thought out and planned days ago. The ruse was that they were running from pirates. “Merchant craft….Pirate….attack…Damaged.”


“Do not move or launch any aircraft. You have violated United Leadership of the Tikonov Republican Army space. You will be boarded.” The voice said.


“Roger….Need….Air.” was the reply as they started countdown to engage the Oo Suzumebachi’s thrusters to back out as their mission was done, deliver the twelve Battle Armored Troopers then once they were a safe distance away, to get the hell out.”


“We are sending fighters to secure your ship, power down all nonessential systems. Acknowledge!”


“Roger….acknowledged.”


“Are they clear yet?” the Sho-ko (Master Sergeant) Rothwell asked.


“Ten seconds and clear sir.” The elite pilot, Gunsho (Sergeant) Audrey Jenkins, answered.


“As soon as clear get us the hell out of here.” Rothwell orders.


They twelve Battle Armor floated along in dead silence. The KAGE carefully deploying their mines. The only sound they heard was the communications between the ship and the BattleSat Station. As the troopers watched the two aerospace fighters turn to their ninety and make towards the Oo Suzumebachi, Chan looked at the countdown timer he’d put in the display of his HUD and saw that they have thirty minutes left until the main force gets here, with or without them accomplishing their mission.


The station was a small station as far as space stations go. It still weighed at two thousand kilograms however. Which was fine, had it been a medium or large station then it could have presented problems for them to accomplish their mission with only twelve men due to the sheer size of it. After floating so far in space it was starting to look huge as they got near it. Suddenly the comms come alive.


“Unknown ship. Power down or be destroyed. Do not attempt to engage your drives.”


“Sorry guys have another engagement, besides; We don’t do ULTRA lockup.” The Sho-ko (Master Sergeant) replies as they fire their drives and head out of the system.



As they near the BattleSat station ‘Ghost’ clicks one time to signal them to flip over one hundred eighty degrees so they can use their jets to slow their descent, as one they comply. The nice thing about unconventional forces is that once briefed they will do as told. They are a special breed of person who needs some guidance but in the lack of it can think for themselves also which make them one hell of a fighting force.


Two clicks and they all fire their jump jets for thirty second to slow themselves. With a soft click their magnetic boots attach them to the hull of the station and they start to move. Chan looks and sees only ten minutes are left.


Point to point communication to the team is needed so he fires the link. “10 minutes! We need to hurry, as soon as possible plant those charges!” No reply comes and he didn’t expect any. They start to move and soon crested the top to see the antenna array. ‘Red’ and ‘Tank’ rush the array and plant the charges and start back to the rest of the team.


"Done." is all they say as ‘Red’ pushes the button to destroy the array.




WC 2879

Chan Cheong

Tai-i (Captain)

Callsign: Ghost

CO KAGE Squad

CO Ghost Platoon

DEST

RAZAN’S RONINS MERCENARY REGIMENT



Sho-sa (Lieutenant Colonel)

Tanaka Kintaro

callsign: ‘Iceman’

CO Infantry Command Squad

CO Heavy Jump Infantry DEST Platoon

CO Infantry Draconis Elite Strike Team

Shadow Platoon

DEST

RAZAN’S RONINS MERCENARY REGIMENT




Confucius reminds us that before you embark on a course of revenge dig two graves.








FW-OR-02-04 #07


Draconis Combine/ULTRA Contested

Dieron Prefecture

Dieron Military District

Al Na'ir Province

Telos IV

Zenith JumpPoint

BattleSat System Defense System

Control Room

Sunday April 1st 0653 3094


"How close are we to the end of our shift?" asked Colonel Jacob Pickett of the ULTRA 23rd Baranovsky Wing


"We have about seven minutes left and our relief she be here any minute now Colonel," answered Captain Greg Holland.


"Captain, there's something showing up on our scopes" reported one of the many crew members on the bridge of the BattleSat Station System Defense Platform.


"What is it?"


"I don't know, but it's coming this way and fast"


Suddenly an explosion rocked the BattleSat Station, even as an aerospace fighter returning to the BattleSat’s fighter bayship, a 100 ton Riever, makes contact with a mine and explodes as well. Jacob and many of the men and women from the 23rd Wing rushed to portals and watched as many dart-like shapes sped away from the burning wreckage of the Riever towards the Space Station..


“What the hell was that?” the technician shouts as all comm. Relays go down.


“Comms are down, switch to back up.” The station commander says “And find out what that explosion was.” He says as he reaches over and hits a button sending the station into red alert status.


The BattleSat’s capital guns opened fire, trying to destroy the tiny men. Jacob watched as armored warriors leapt onto the BattleSat’s hull and stuck to the Station’s surface. ‘They must have magnetic boots or something’, Jacob thought as he ran through the BattleSat Station, alerting all his troops. He looked out another portal and saw some of the warriors firing continuous red energy bolts into the BattleSat Station’s hull, trying to cut through it. Running to the cargo bay, he ordered that his Achileus battle armor be sent out and that once the battle armor was out, the cargo bay doors would be shut.


TheRonin Battle Armored teams marveled at the sight as the Ronins starting to make their way in to the system but soon turned their attention to the last remaining part of the mission.


“Find us an entry point ‘Red’.” ‘Ghost’ commanded as the teams made their way towards one of the air locks.


Sixteen Achileus battle armor troopers clambered out onto the BattleSat Station’s hull to engage the unknown enemy.


“Looks like we have company,” the Scout Armor Leader, ‘Tank’, said over the comms, pointing towards the far airlock as sixteen Troopers in Achileus Armor exit it and head towards the relay.


“Secure them.” ‘Ghost’ commands as four Oni armor move towards them.


The Oni armor was prepared for trouble. The Achileus armor was not. In less than a minute the Oni armor had laid down a pattern of recoilless rifle fire that only left two enemy Achileus standing. The two look in the Oni armor’s direction as jump jets ignite and send the four Oni battle armored soldiers towards the Achileus Armor soldiers to secure them. The Achileus clad troopers turned quickly and run, having not mastered the art of using their jump jets in zero g, trying to make it back into the air lock but the Achileus were not as fast at the jump jet capable Oni battle armor. The Oni disarms them and both armored units turn and rush to the location the Achileus had come from, just in case more Achileus armor showed themselves.


“Good shooting now let’s breach this place.” ‘Ghost’ says as they start moving towards an air lock. “Four minutes to spare and the invasion force will be here.” He says as he turns to watch a sight that many never get to see as the Ronins start to arrive insystem.


“They have probably warned them inside.” ‘Red’ states.


“Roger, well let’s make ourselves known just in case they haven’t.” Chan replies.


There are many ways to enter a space station and the easiest is to be invited but that wasn’t going to happen now Chan was sure. Blowing a hole in the door or side means they had to breach every barrier as well which was time consuming.


“Give us the codes to enter.” ‘Ghost’ demanded over the comms to the two prisoners.


“Never! You blimey Snake. You will have to find another way,” One replied.


“We don’t have time for this crap.” Chan spits.


“No problem, ‘Cap’ just relax.” ‘Tank’ cooed calmly.


‘Red’ takes out a device that Chan had seen a few times in use; a star league electronic lockpick device. She attaches it to the panel and in less than ten minutes she gets the green light to start cycling so that they can enter.


“Stand ready to repel any who try to stop us.” ‘Ghost’ says in general knowing they are trained killers and need little direction.


The outer door starts to open to allow them entry and they soon realize that only three in battle armor will fit due to this being a personnel maintenance shaft.


“Oni’s in first.” Chan orders “Secure the other side.”


Upon leaving the cargo bay and heading back up to the bridge, Jacob saw many figures pouring out of a portal that had been ripped open into space. He watched them head towards the upper levels and suddenly ran back towards the cargo bay, as they all headed towards it. Colonel Jacob shouted to the midshipmen in charge of the doors to shut the doors as fast as possible. This, however, proved to be futile as four, and then four more armored marines poured into the cargo bay before it was shut. The armored troopers careened around the large cargo bay, hacking off limbs and slicing Heavy Battle Vibro Claws through his troops. Reaching for his belt, the Colonel grabbed his Vibrosword, activating it. One of the enemies noticed him and shot towards him through the use of its jump jets. Even though it was wearing a sort of sealed helmet that was enabling it to breath in space, Jacob could clearly hear a cold laughter, filled with glee. As the enemy got closer to him, he noticed it was on some sort homely battle armor that he had not encountered before. As it spun its Heavy Battle Vibro Claw around, he leapt up to it, slicing straight through it. Landing in a crouch, Jacob watched the rebel toppled to the floor, one half going to its left, the other to its right.


Colonel Pickett ran back through the doors and was heading up to the bridge, when a closed door exploded open, enemy armored warriors spilling out. The warriors ran straight at Jacob, drawing katanas and other mean-looking weapons. He ducked and dodged, slicing through the warriors. As the last one brandished a sword that crackled with energy, the Colonel could tell this one wouldn't go down so easy. Acting with a great speed, it ran at him, swinging it's sword at Jacob’s waist. He brought his Vibrosword down to cut the weapon in half, only to be very surprised when it didn't. The warrior rolled back, pulling out a pistol of some sort, needler no doubt. Squeezing the trigger, black splinters shot out. Assuming this to be needler fire, Jacob brought up his Vibrosword to deflect it. His assumptions correct, the flechette ricochet back towards the enemy warrior. Upon dodging it, the warrior leapt in front of him, stabbing his sword through the air, towards the Colonel’s chest. Jacob leapt over him, in a front flip and quickly turned upon landing, thrusting his Vibrosword through the chest of the enemy warrior. The warrior fell to the ground, a circular burn mark through its chest.


He was about to run back up to the bridge when a hand pulled him back. Jacob felt an immense pain in his chest and looked down to see a large blade protruding from it, his blood covering the part of the blade that was coming out of his chest. The blade was pulled back out and he fell to his knees. Jacob felt a kick to his back and the next thing he felt was the ground. He looked up at his attacker and gasped at what he saw; a pale, leering face with a cold smile on it, revealing jagged, stained teeth. It was Chan, his uncle on his mother’s side. Chan started laughing at Jacob; a harsh noise that hurt his ears. Everything was getting darker and Jacob’s head lolled back. The last things he noticed was that Chan was donned in KAGE Battle armor that sported the Razan’s Ronin crest superimposed with a red circle and a red slash crossing its center. Then everything went dark.


The Oni’s secured the perimeter and the Gray Death escorted in the two prisoners. The place looked deserted but they all knew that wasn’t true as they proceeded thru the hallway to the center of the station. As they neared the center they could see a hasty blockade of tables, desks, chairs across their path. As ‘Tank’ started towards it to smash it down a lone individual stepped out.


“I am Captain Arius, you will have to defeat me for the right to take this station. Who among you will fight me?” he said calmly enough looking at the invaders,


“I am Tai-i (Captain) Chan Cheong and I command these forces. I don’t have time for this.” He sighed heavily “Surrender now or die. You have 30 seconds to decide.”


Confusion was the look upon the man’s face as Chan lifted his arm and shot him in the chest killing him instantly. “Like I said, I do not have time for this, WHO is in charge?” he said over his KAGE’s external speakers.


The two prisoners exchanged startled looks at the actions they had just witnessed but stayed silent lest they bring the Tai-i (Captain) anger upon themselves. As the prisoners stood there, a door at the far end of the bridge opened and a smaller man came out to meet the invaders with a white flag.


“I am the senior technician assigned here. What are your terms?” he said defiantly.


“Surrender now or we dismantle this place piece by piece and none will be left standing or alive. You have 10 minutes to decide.” Chan said “Any trickery and you have sealed your fate. We can be benevolent or cruel. Its your call.”


The fighting on Dieron had changed Chans perspective somewhat due to the brutality of it and he now saw ULTRA as an extension of that and what has befallen the Combine. He waited patiently for the man’s decision. He had big hairy balls if he thinks he can stand up to an armored battle suit; but then everything he had read and seen about these people said that is their way. The samurai of old often would go into battle against impossible odds and for a chance to serve their lord and possibly make a name for themselves. Though the man standing before him was a technician and not a warrior he could not help but admire his courage.


“You have 5 minutes left.” Chan said.


“We are technicians, you have killed the only warriors amongst us. Do what you will, Snake,” the man said coldly.


None are born into the technician caste, they are all warriors until they fail to meet the standards so for him to stand there and say they wouldn’t fight seemed ridiculous. Chan let the time tick down and then said “What is your decision?”


Before the man could answer, the door opened again and out filed twenty people, all with their hands up and moving towards them. As they approached ‘Red’ moved her remaining Oni armor towards them and halted them before they could get too close. It would seem the battle for the station was indeed over. As they rounded the prisoners up and in to a large room Chan directed ‘Tank’s people to inspect the room they had just vacated.


“ ‘Ghost’, you better come look at this.” ‘Tank’ called.


“On my way!” was the reply.


Once Chan enters the room he sees that the destructing is everywhere. The Technicians had taken all the boards out and smashed them with hammers as well as all screens and keyboards. It was quite obvious that without a lot of work this station was not going to target anything any time soon. Laying in a pile were the side arms that technicianshad been issued.


“As per the Star League Charter you now are Prisoners of War.Do not attempt any further sabotage or anything else.” Chan said. “ ‘Red’, try to get a signal out and tell them that the station is secure and we are ready for pickup.”


“On it, ‘Ghost’.”


“Who was the brave individual who challenged us?” Chan asked.


“A mech warrior who was waiting on transport.” was the answer.


‘Wrong place at the wrong time.’ Chan thought.


“ ‘Ghost’, they will send someone to pick us up as soon as they can free up a suitable transport. But until then, we command this station, sir.”


Word Count 2251


Chan Cheong

Tai-i (Captain)

Callsign: ‘Ghost’

CO KAGE Squad

CO ‘Ghost’ Platoon

DEST

RAZAN’S RONINS MERCENARY REGIMENT



Sho-sa (Lieutenant Colonel)

Tanaka Kintaro

callsign: ‘Iceman’

CO Infantry Command Squad

CO Heavy Jump Infantry DEST Platoon

CO Infantry Draconis Elite Strike Team

Shadow Platoon

DEST

RAZAN’S RONINS MERCENARY REGIMENT


Confucius reminds us that before you embark on a course of revenge dig two graves.






FW-OR-02-04 #08


Draconis Combine/ULTRA Contested

Dieron Prefecture

Dieron Military District

Al Na'ir Province

Telos IV

Upper Atmosphere

Over Dulles

Aurora Class DropShip

Wyvern

‘Mech Bay

Wednesday April 4th 3094 2330 Local


The in-run to Telos IV turned out to be uneventful, even boring. Only two events broke the monotony of the short trip. The first came just three minutes before the Aurora Class DropShip, theWyvern, was due to begin its shallow entry into Telos IV’s stormy atmosphere. At about twenty two fifty hundred hours, on the 4th of April, the Wyvern’s sensor tech, Sho-i (Junior Captain)Gwendolyn Yamada, reported that two large electromagnetic and tachyon flare had blossomed and faded outside the system’s thermosphere. The emission profile was consistent with that of departing Invader Class JumpShips. When the word was passed, Sho-sa (Lieutenant Colonel) Tanaka ‘Iceman’ Kintaro felt an unaccustomed chill. The Red Storm and Hydra’s Bane had returned to the systems Pirate Points. The DEST team and Ghost Platoons were now truly on their own.


The second event came just two minutes later, when a ground-based sensor sweep triggered the Wyvern’s transponder. A thrill of tension passed through the ship as the passengers and crew waited for the ULTRA’s response. Here was the first, and most critical, test of Ethan Korto’s intelligence. Was the code correct? Was there some vocal exchange in addition to the electronic password? If they were challenged, would their bluff hold up?


For several long minutes there was no sign of a response from the planet below. Tanaka supposed to Sho-sa (Light Commodore) Ramon Richards, the Wyvern’s CO, that ULTRAs might be discussing what to do with the Wyvern masquerading as the Lynx if the IFF code wasn’t one hundred percent correct. All during that time the only sound heard on the DropShip’s bridge was the mournful and irritatingly high-pitched beeping of the radar warning system. The unpleasant tone was a constant reminder that the ship had been detected and was now being “painted” by tracking radars.


Then, as suddenly as it began, the interrogation signal ceased. The tracking radar was switched off, and the New Regime seemed to have lost interest in the Wyvern.


“What happened?” Tanaka’s voice was a fierce whisper, as though he were afraid to talk too loud, lest ULTRA hear and take a renewed interest in the ship.


“I don’t know,” Richards replied, scowling at the Wyvern’s instruments. “It’s not supposed to work this way. Once you’re on radar, you’re on radar until you land. Flight controllers don’t just shut down tracking systems like that.”


“Maybe they’ve got some sort of passive system?” Richards’s co-pilot, Chu-i (Lieutenant)Jeorge ValJhong Sabado, suggested.


“Maybe,” Richards allowed. “But I wouldn’t want to rely on it. Passive systems are far too unreliable when it comes to holding a good track on a moving object.


“I can only come up with two answers. One, they’ve got some kind of tracking system our electronic warfare suite can’t detect. Or, two, they’ve switched over to standby and will pick us up again once we enter our landing profile. For now, we have to assume the former. We have to assume that we’re still on some kind of sensor screen, though there isn’t much we can do about it.”


“So what do you suggest?” Though Sho-sa (Lieutenant Colonel) Tanaka, like all Razan’s Ronins’ DEST commandos, had received basic instruction in DropShip operations, he understood little of the more technical side of space flight.


“For now, we stick to the plan,” Richards answered. “We go in just like we’re supposed to. We’re a nice friendly civilian DropShip carrying parts and supplies for the factory at Pembrose. If ULTRA doesn’t believe our story, we’ll have to think of something else.”




* * *




In the Wyvern’s cavernous ‘Mech bay, now empty of the armored giants it was intended to carry, the DEST Teams made ready to launch their phase of Operation Sunrise. Each trooper carefully checked over his or her equipment. No item, from the KAGE power armor suits to the small shuriken carried by the members of each team, went uninspected. As each warrior finished inspecting his own equipment, he turned to go over his partner’s. In this way every piece of gear was examined twice, so that any tiny flaw which might otherwise endanger the mission would be detected and corrected.


Even Kintaro Tanaka was not exempt from this ritual. Slowly, with infinite care, he ran his hands along each segment of his KAGE suit’s black, non reflective surface, checking for any dings or dents in the armor, possible signs of hidden damage that might manifest itself at some inopportune moment. Satisfied that the armor and its “low delectability” coating were intact, he moved around the rack-mounted suit to inspect the folding stub-wings attached to the unit’s back. Again, a careful check revealed no flaws in the wings’ airfoil. The power suit’s internal mechanisms checked out flawlessly, as did the powerful KA23 Subgun Tanaka favored for infiltration operations.


After checking his KAGE suit, weapons, and other equipment, he traded places with Shujin (Staff Sergeant) Eniwa Fuchizaki. Tanaka knew that many officers outside of the Razan’s Ronins DEST teams looked on the notion of an officer submitting himself to the inspection of a junior officer to be beneath his station, even demeaning. Tanaka himself had once held a similar view. But that was before hearing a training officer at the Zun Zhang Mech Warrior Academy on New Samarkand tell of a Chu-i (Lieutenant) who had refused to allow an enlisted man to check over his parachute before a practice jump. The officer’s main ‘chute later failed to open, and he barely had enough time to deploy his reserve. He hit the ground hard, sustaining compound fractures of both legs, injuries severe enough to disqualify him from further military service. Remembering that man’s disaster, Tanaka forced himself to submit his gear to the inspection of his subordinate.


As usual, the inspection was unnecessary. All of the equipment belonging to the Razan’s Ronins Draconis Elite Strike Teams was maintained in as close to perfect working order as possible. Tanaka was an absolute fanatic when it came to maintaining his team’s gear. When they weren’t using it, they were cleaning, inspecting, or repairing it.


Once the last bit of gear had been checked and re-checked, he made the appropriate notations in his noteputer and signed it with an electronic stylus. Turning to the communicator mounted on the ‘Mech bay’s inner bulkhead, he tapped a button that opened the intercom system with the other bays.


“All teams report in when ready,” he said into the wire-covered grille.


“Team two, ready.” Tai-i (Captain) Duane Johnson must have been standing next to the communicator, waiting to make his report. Shujin (Staff Sergeant) Barbara Ogawa, Team Three’s leader, reported in a few moments later followed by Team Four’s Shujin (Staff Sergeant) Ionela Breten, and lastly team five’s leader, Shujin (Staff Sergeant) Jimmy Pane


“So ka,” Tanaka responded, and switched channels.


“Bridge, this is Sho-sa (Lieutenant Colonel) Tanaka. All teams ready to begin operation. Standing by.”


“Aye, aye,” acknowledged Captain Ramon Richards, the Wyverns commander. "Stand by for insertion.”




* * *




“Sho-sa (Lieutenant Colonel)? HALO interface in one minute.” Richards’s voice crackled from the tiny headset speakers clamped over Tanaka’s ears. “Drop in five.”



Fortunately for the DEST teams, the New Regime seemed to have believed the story told by the Wyvern’s transponder, because the ULTRA surveillance and tracking sensor stations left the intruders alone until the DropShip reached the point where Telos IV’s atmosphere was replaced by the emptiness of space. The mission plan called for the teams to be inserted over their drop zone in the dead of night, around 0000 local time. The darkness would provide cover for the commandos, while the timing of the drop would ensure that those who were awake on the ground would be at their lowest ebb, physically and mentally. It was a long used tactic, but one against which no human had ever developed a countermeasure.


Several minutes earlier, Tanaka and the members of DEST teams Two, Three, Four, and Five had made their way down to the Wyvern’s number two ‘Mech bay. There were no BattleMechs still present in that huge, booming space. Instead, twenty eight miniature versions of the multi-ton combat machines stood silently in their specially designed racks. These were KAGE suits, powered battle armor similar to that worn by Elementals, the hulking, genetically engineered Clan armored infantrymen.


The greatest differences between Clan battle armor and the KAGE suits were size and mission. Whereas Elemental armor was massive and clumsy looking, the KAGE suits were small, almost dainty by comparison. Elemental armor was intended for combat on the field of battle, and was armed and armored as befitted that intent. KAGE armor, on the other hand, had been specifically designed as scout suits, under the advice of the Draconis Elite Strike Teams. Instead of mounting powerful, ‘Mech-killing weapons, which the Razan’s Ronins DEST variant in fact did mount a ‘Mech grade small laser, KAGE suits supported anti personnel weapons, though the fully manipulative mechanical hands fitted to each suit allowed the trooper inside to operate any of a wide range of man portable anti armor weapons, including the fearsome Inferno incendiary missile launcher. In addition the KAGE suits had a skin made of a mimetic polymer, commonly called sneak coating or Stealth Armor. This high tech camouflage allowed the KAGE suit to blend in, chameleon like, with its surroundings. The suits were fitted with high tech sensors and electronic countermeasures, making them perfect for scouting and reconnaissance missions. A small but powerful jump pack and stub wings would even allow the armored troopers to bound across the battlefield like jumping mantises.


But, for all the military technology built into the KAGE suits, most of the men and women who wore them considered their mission at least a partial failure if they had to rely on even the barest fraction of the suit’s capabilities. Each DEST trooper considered his or her training the best camouflage and the most effective weapon in their vast inventory.


Tanaka was firmly secured inside his KAGE suit, lacking only his helmet, when Ramon Richards informed him of the approaching drop.


“Thank you, Captain.” Tanaka answered; then, switching channels, he spoke to the troopers gathered around him. “Five minutes. Prepare for drop. And remember, you are the first Draconis Combine troops to carry the battle to the enemy. You are here to fight and to liberate this world for the glory of the Combine, and to liberate those of our planets now in the oppressor’s grip. You all know your duty. I know that you will do it.”


“Hoorah!” he modern shout of soldiers about to go into battle rang through the ‘Mech bay.


As Tanaka settled the helmet over his head, a quartet of ship’s crewmen scuttled around him, erecting a drop pod around him. This thick, heavy egg of ceramic and steel would protect him during his long fall through Telos IV’s upper atmosphere. To prevent their detection on enemy radar, the pods were given two layers of Radar Absorbent Material. In theory, the outer layer RAM would protect the pods during their fall into Telos IV’s upper atmosphere. That thick coating of high tech paint would be burned away by the entry heating, along with the pod’s ablative shell. The inner layer of RAM would continue to hide the pod until it split apart deep inside Telos IV’s atmosphere. If things went according to plan, the DEST teams would be “below” ULTRAs’ radar net by the time that happened. In some ways this was the ultimate in High Altitude Low Opening drops.


The pods were larger than the ones the DEST commandos had previously used. The old model was so small that the soldier inside was forced to curl up into a fetal position for the drop. The additional bulk of the KAGE suits required a larger capsule. Fortunately, the design team had built the pods so the soldier inside could at least kneel in an upright position, rather than being curled up into a ball.


To cover the disappearance of the DropShip, Captain Richards would broadcast a weak, purposely broken distress signal, claiming that his vessel was in trouble and was about to crash. The subterfuge had the added effect of explaining any faint radar traces ULTRA might get of the descending pods. As small as their radar cross section would be on the enemy’s sensors, the pods would in all likelihood be mistaken for debris falling from a supposedly stricken ship.


At various places around the bay other techs were likewise cocooning the rest of his unit. This was the part of an orbital, or high altitude, drop, that Tanaka hated the most. In order to protect its occupant, the pod had to be made of thick, dense material. So thick were the sides of the capsule that normal radio communications were impossible. The larger versions used by BattleMechs were often fitted with a service umbilical, which allowed a MechWarrior to stay in touch with the outside world. The pods used by the DEST teams were so much smaller than the enormous ‘Mech pods that a service umbilical was impractical. Thus, Tanaka had ordered his techs to hold of closing up his pod until the last possible moment.


Due to the time involved in locking the pod down and running diagnostics to ensure its safety, the order gave him only two more minutes of freedom than his platoon mates.


Tanaka knew that each team would be accompanied by one unmanned pod, which was loaded with whatever equipment the troopers could not fit into their individual capsules. That pod would be controlled by a simple on board computer system. Though the theory was sound, Tanaka didn’t have any great faith in the drone pod. During the DEST teams’ training on Mars, the pods had failed about one time in ten. In an operation as critical as this, he didn’t dare rely on a system that had a ten percent failure rate. Thus, he ordered his men to load themselves down with as much gear as they could cram into their pods. He himself was so heavily loaded as to make walking a chore, even in the strength enhanced KAGE suit.


As soon as the last drop pod panel had been bolted into place, the egglike container rocked heavily. Tanaka knew that the motion was caused by a crewman wearing a heavy Gladiator industrial exoskeleton lifting the pod and placing it in the ship’s drop chute. Locked inside the capsule, Tanaka tried to anticipate the moment when Ramon Richards would give the command to eject the pods. He knew approximately how long it took to load the pods and to seal the chutes, and watched the chronometer set into the KAGE suit’s view screen, counting down the seconds until...


Unexpectedly, the world dropped out from underneath him. His count had been off by nearly ten seconds. For several long seconds, the pod fell free, buffeted by the wake of the Wyvern’s passing. Dimly, through the thick shell, Tanaka began to hear the roar of the wind as his pod punched through the air like a rile bullet. Despite the heavy insulation of the pod, and the environmental protection of his suit, heat began to creep up his legs and back. His pod, and, he prayed, those of his men, was entering Telos IV’s upper atmosphere, where air friction would heat the capsule’s ablative covering to a hellish temperature. Tanaka hoped that any ULTRA Troopers seeing the fiery streaks, which he knew the team’s drop pods were scoring across the night sky, would assume they were shooting stars.


I know what I’d wish for. Tanaka snorted a bitter laugh. I’d wish that ULTRA would just stay fat, dumb, and happy.


Looking again at his chronometer, Tanaka estimated the time remaining until the pod entered the lower atmosphere. This time he was right on the mark.


Just as his count reached zero, the pod split into six narrow sections and peeled away, leaving him falling through space. Arching his back as far as his armored suit permitted, Tanaka fought to bring himself under control. As he settled into the spread eagle position dictated for High Altitude, Low Opening jumps, he searched the sky for the rest of his team. At first, the black armored troopers were invisible. Switching on his visor’s built in thermal imager allowed him to pick out the falling commandos as barely lighter patches against the cool darkness of the sky. Not far away was the robot controlled cargo pod. For a wonder the blasted thing was working correctly.


With outstretched arms and legs, the troopers maneuvered into a rough aerial formation, falling into place behind their leader. Following the discretes generated by his suit’s Heads Up Display, Tanaka angled off into the night sky, aiming for an unseen point on the planet below. Like a flock of silent predatory birds, the twenty seven men and women under his command followed his lead.


Making the drop itself wasn’t particularly difficult. Finding the right drop zone was. With no navigation aids or drop beacon, the DEST commandos had to drop almost blind, trusting the data loaded into their suits’ on board computers to locate an out of the way plateau in the mountains east of Triumph, the continental capital. Tanaka prayed that intel’s information was accurate. If it wasn’t, the commandos might be in for a very hard landing indeed.


Tanaka’s altimeter clicked over to five hundred meters. A second later his drogue chute deployed, slowing his fall. At two hundred meters, the black nylon main canopy deployed with a muted pop. A careful look upward assured Tanaka that the air foil parachute had opened properly. With grim purpose, he aimed his chute toward the now visible drop zone. The relatively level area designated as his insertion point was narrower than he had been led to believe, and appeared to be strewn with low, thorny bushes.


As the ground rushed up to meet him, Tanaka wheeled into the wind, bringing himself to a gentle, upright landing. No sooner had he touched down than he slapped the quick release harness, freeing himself from the now limply lapping parachute. All around him, the rest of his troopers were doing the same.


Silently, by means of hand signals, his team checked in. All had made the HALO drop safely.


High above, as the DEST troopers got themselves organized to begin their mission, the Wyvern swung away from the drop zone, turning her nose for her own landing zone on Rostov.




* * *




A low pop sounded in Tanaka’s headset, followed by a pause. A series of pops followed the first in a three, pause, two pattern. Clucking his tongue against his teeth, Tanaka sent the countersign. Two, two, one. In response to his signal, a handful of shadows, deeper than the black of night, flitted into the small grove of scrubby thorn trees under which he and his men had been sheltering. The grove, a half dozen kilometers south of Team Four’s drop zone, had been designated as the primary rendezvous point for the five Razan’s Ronins DEST Teams under his command.


Tanaka was both proud of and impressed by his men. Though they had dropped into essentially unknown terrain, with little to no navigational aid, all twenty eight had made it to the ground safely. An additional source of amazement came when it was revealed that all five cargo pods had landed intact, and relatively on target, though two men of Team three had to climb one of the low trees to free their pod from its upper branches.


By means of hand signals, Tanaka indicated that his subordinates, Tai-i (Captain) Johnson and Shujins (Staff Sergeant) Ionela, Barbara, and Pane should open their helmets so they might hold a brief discussion of their situation without having their words go out over the radio.


“I think we landed a little farther west than we intended,” Tanaka began, speaking in a low whisper. “It’s hard to tell, not having accurate maps. That means we’ve got to push hard to reach the Regiments anticipated LZ on schedule.”


The hushed voice was not really necessary. There probably weren’t any enemies within a dozen kilometers of their position. But, a near mania for stealth and secrecy had become so ingrained in the commandos that they spoke in low tones out of sheer habit.


“We’ll move in five groups, using a traveling over watch with a one hundred meter spread. Duane, your group will be on point. Mine next. Ionela you’re west flank. Barbara you’re the east. Pane? You’re on rear guard. I’m not expecting to run into the enemy, but it’s possible, so keep your men alert. If you see anyone, avoid contact if at all possible. Pull back and we’ll try to bypass them.”


Johnson, Ionela, Barbara and Pane nodded their understanding of Tanaka’s orders. The teams would move in a narrow column, with a wide gap between each individual unit. The tactic, called a traveling over watch, would allow for a fast rate of travel, while providing the commandos with a great degree of tactical flexibility. Such formations were routinely used when contact with the enemy was possible but not likely. Had Tanaka actually expected to run into ULTRA Troops, he would have ordered what was termed a bounding over watch, in which one team moved while the other two covered it. This latter tactic afforded the moving, or bounding, team with a great degree of protection, but was painfully slow.


Tanaka glanced at his chronometer.


“Time check. On my mark it will be oh twenty two. Ready ... mark. Intelligence says local sunrise is at oh six thirty. That gives us five and a half hours of movement time. We’d better get moving. I want to be well away from our drop zone before daybreak.”


Tanaka knew he hadn’t miscalculated the amount of time until sunrise. It was standard practice when making a night march to halt and lie up shortly before daybreak. The extra half hour would be used in selecting a hiding place for the team, and in making that position secure before the sun rose enough to betray their presence.


Without another word, Johnson, Ionela, Barbara, and Pane returned to their teams to pass along his orders. Tanaka called his own team to him and explained what he had just told the other team leaders. Moments later, DEST Team Two led off, fading silently into the night. The other teams followed as directed by Tanaka, leaving almost no trace of their passage. Had anyone been present to see the hideous, black armored shapes passing from shadow to shadow, they would have been tempted to call what they saw a legion of ghosts wandering the hills in search of some kind of supernatural vengeance.


WORD COUNT 3895


Sho-sa (Lieutenant Colonel)

Tanaka Kintaro

callsign: ‘Iceman’

CO Infantry Command Squad

CO Heavy Jump Infantry DEST Platoon

CO Infantry Draconis Elite Strike Team

Shadow Platoon

DEST

RAZAN’S RONINS MERCENARY REGIMENT


Confucius reminds us that before you embark on a course of revenge dig two graves.






FW-OR-02-04 #09


Draconis Combine/ULTRA Contested

Dieron Prefecture

Dieron Military District

Al Na'ir Province

Telos IV

Zenith JumpPoint

Overlord Class DropShip

The Heaven Scent

‘Mech Bay

Sunday April 8th 0830 3094


Outside the bulkhead of the Red Storm, an Invader Class JumpShip, the last ship of the strike force's fleet element came to full charge. As the Red Storm recorded maximum hypercharge in its banked and shielded accumulators, the crew began the delicate and time-consuming work of furling the jump sail and preparing for the hyperspace transition. This was the busiest time of all for the JumpShip crew, but it was time that hung heaviest on the troops and warriors aboard the DropShips. They could only continue their routine of eating (those who still could), gambling, sleeping, work details, and worry.


And then the time for suppositions was over. The last of the fleet's jump sails was collapsed and furled, tightly rolled into the narrow mast that jutted from each ship's stern like a monstrous sting. Aboard their WarShip, a Davion I-Class Destroyer Zeus, Rear Admiral Rihta 'Venom' gave her assent, and Admiral William ‘Scratch’ Autry gave his command.


. . .



With the fall of Kervil, the ULTRA commanders knew that it wouldn't be long before Kurita came gunning for the nearby world of Telos IV. They were expecting it, the troops were expecting it, and even the battle computers were predicting a 73 percent chance of an attack within ten days. But the clever Tai-sa (Colonel) of the Razan’s Ronins, managed to take them by surprise after all.


First came a lightning strike by a platoon of Razan’s Ronins’ Ghost Platoon troops who planted explosives at the huge radar BattleSat Station at the system's zenith jump point. By crippling the microwave relay dish aimed at Telos IV 1 AU away, no warning of the attack could get through to the ULTRA forces onworld. At the same time, an unmarked Razan’s Ronins Invader popped in from less than 8,000 klicks away. Even before unfurling its sail or engaging its station-keeping thrusters, the ship disgorged two Union Class DropShips and an Aurora, which headed straight for the two ULTRA Invader Class JumpShips parked at the station, jamming the JumpShip’s communication signals as they went.


The JumpShip crewmen repeatedly ordered the DropShips to change course, but the three vessels just kept on coming. Then they began frantically radioing the BattleSat station for further instructions, but the only reply they got was electronic noise. How could those ULTRA crewmen have known that Ronin saboteurs had just transformed the BattleSat station's communications gear into wreckage and debris and that a furious firefight was raging in the comm center at that very moment?


Meanwhile, the DropShips had begun spearing the Invaders with high-energy lasers, crippling them. By the time the JumpShip crews had gotten to the weapons lockers, or had even realized that they were under attack, battle-armored invaders had already boarded the ships and were turning the passageways into slaughter pens.


Only now did the second of the Razan’s Ronins Invader Class JumpShips materialize at the jump point.


. . .



In a moment, space opened around the Red Storm and the ship vanished into it. The next moment, the same fold of space opened twelve light years away, and the Kurita strike force rematerialized. The star below them was a Class K7, larger, brighter, and more orange than the sun of Kervil, and just under 1 AU distant. Radar swept the area in all directions, pinpointing a bright, hard return from a large object some 80,000 kilometers away.


That would be the BattleSat Station, and the presumed hiding place of any ULTRA fighters on hand to deal with intrusions such as this one. Razan’s Ronins AeroSpace Fighters were deployed. The JumpShips themselves fired up their station keepers but did not unfurl their sails. Those huge, fabric disks were easy targets. Though the ships could not jump again until they had recharged their accumulators, no captain dared open his sails until the threat of enemy fighters was past.


Aboard the ship, the troops still waited. There was little gaming now and no bull sessions. Eyes searched the gray-painted bulkheads endlessly, as though they might see past them and into the surrounding vacuum. They could hear nothing, of course, and so were dependent on word passed down to them from the control room. Each man wondered if the ship's captain would actually let them know if they were about to be hit . . . and what possible good it would do to know.


Tai-sa (Colonel) Onishi ‘Rough Ryder’ Razan was on the Heaven Scent's bridge, which was linked to the bridge of the Red Storm by an open vidlink. The Heaven Scent's captain, Chu-sa (Light Commodore) John Dryden, was shaking his head as he examined the banks of monitors, then turned from the screen to face Onishi. "I think that scares me more than an assault wave of enemy ships incoming at 5 Gs."


"What?"


"Nothing."


"Nothing?"


"That's right, ma’am. ‘No damn thing’. Our fighters turned up a blank at the BattleSat Station. There's nothing there ... and nobody except our Battle Armor Squads." He checked his monitor screens again. "The patrols are returning. It looks as though the ULTRA Commander has left the jump point to us."


Onishi worried at this piece of information for a time. It was possible that the entire ULTRA space strike force was concentrated at the opposite jump point . . . but foolishly unlikely. Radar and IR sweeps of the entire system had so far produced equally negative results. So, it looked as though Agatha Rousset-Marik's defense of Telos IV would be concentrated near the planet itself.


The word finally came from the Hydra’s Bane. Throughout the fleet, DropShip brackets opened, and grapples dropped silently clear. The DropShips began drifting away from their JumpShips like seeds scattered from slender pods. Once clear of the JumpShips, and refueled now from the stores of reaction mass aboard each larger vessel, the DropShips calculated vectors and accelerations and began the long boost toward the Telos IV. Behind them, metal foil parasols two kilometers wide began unfurling against the stars, as the strike force fleet began the process of recharging for the next jump.


From jump point to star was 1.9 AU. From star to planet was 1.37 AUs. Simple geometry gave a distance between jump point and world of a hair under 2 AU, or over 98 hours of travel at a constant 1 G.


Onishi had been over the figures in her head many times already.


Each person in the fleet, Onishi included, now bore the expectant and frustrated attitude of one waiting for the proverbial other shoe to drop. Standard doctrine called for a defending force to meet an invading fleet as far off from the planet as possible, to inflict as much damage on the incoming fleet before the DropShips had a chance to release their precious 'Mechs or to land and disembark them. But her advance team had reported the same lack of concern from ULTRA on their approach too.


The first attack wave came seventy two hours into the passage, long after the DropShips had flipped end for end and begun their deceleration. Razan’s Ronins Daikyu and Hanikyu fighter squadrons launched from their DropShips and accelerated at high-G toward the assault formations that were spreading across the fleet's screens.


Black Ronin and her sister Union Class DropShip in the Flying Dragon Wing, the Dragon’s Nest, had been opposed during the final few hours of their burn to Telos IV by what appeared to be the last flights of AeroSpace Fighters ULTRA could muster. Like OmniMechs, the ULTRA fighters could be easily modified to suit a particular mission or a particular pilot’s fighting style.


Though the ULTRA pilots fought bravely, there was little doubt as to the outcome of the attack. The ULTRA fighters were battered aside by the inbound DropShips and harried to death by the Razan’s Ronins own Ice Dragon Wing aerospace fighters. Still, they managed to inflict some damage. The Black Ronin, a Union Class DropShip belonging to the Flying Dragon Wing, took heavy autocannon fire from a mottled gray Huscarl that jammed one of her ‘Mech bay doors. Though the Black Ronin was still operational, some of the Ronins would be forced to queue up to use the remaining door in that bay.


“Tai-sa (Colonel) Onishi?” A voice sounded in her ears.


“Onishi. Go.”


“Tai-sa (Colonel), we are over the drop zone. Request permission to deploy the Regiment.”


With a nod made of equal parts satisfaction and apprehension, Onishi said, “Permission granted. Deploy the Regiment.”


“Very well.” The Heaven Scent’s captain, one Chu-sa (Light Commodore) Petre ‘Toby’ McIntyre, sounded relieved. As soon as the ground forces were deployed, the DropShips could pull back and await the message signaling that the landing zone was secure. “Heaven Scent to all Main LZ Drop Regiment commands, commence drop in five … four … three … two … one… Drop, drop, drop!”


The very second McIntyre’s third “Drop” blared from her headset, the remote feed to Tai-sa (Colonel)Onishi ‘Rough Ryder’ Razan’s ‘Mech was cut off and she kicked over to a small local transmitter attached to the outside of her ceramic drop pod. While it was not powerful enough to establish communications over distances much more than a thousand kilometers, it would at least keep her in contact with her own Regiment until she shed the protective cocoon and went to ground so that she could bounce her superior communications suite of her Naginata off of a Razan’s Ronins based Antares Series AS-17 C3ISR Satellite.


The Antares Series AS-17 C3ISR Satellite is a military surveillance satellite constructed by Sorcerer Technologies of the Federated Suns. Part of series of satellites built over time for AFFS. The AS-17 C3ISR is not only used by the military, but also House Kurita's ISF branch. The satellite is designed for multiple roles such as; Recon, Command & Control, Communications, intelligence gathering, & surveillance.


Faintly, through the huge, egg-shaped drop capsule and the thick legs of her Naginata, Onishi felt the trembling of the big spheroid DropShip as the first of thirty BattleMechs dropped free of her armored hull in eight waves of four. Though she hated the waiting, cooped up inside the blind, silver-gray world of the drop pod, she would have to take her turn. As the Razan’s RoninsRegiment commander, the overall leader of the Ronin Legion Battalion, her place was in the middle of the fourth “stick” of four ‘Mechs to be dropped. With each barely perceived shudder of the huge vessel, her turn drew ever closer.


“Hang on, ‘Kuma’,” she called to her Fire Dragon Lance XO. “By my count, we’re next.”


Making an orbital drop was in some ways a study in contrasts. MechWarriors experienced a sudden switch from the sensation of motionlessness aboard the coasting DropShip to the stomach-churning acceleration of being punted out the ship’s drop tube, and then back to the feeling of floating in space. Onishi, of course, knew better. Though she couldn’t see the cloud-shrouded bulk of Telos IV rushing up to meet her plummeting ‘Mech, she was well aware of the fact that she was encased in over a ninety five tons of armored BattleMech and protective drop-pod, at an increasing rate of about ten meters per second, per second.


Then there was the contrast in noise level. Inside the Heaven Scent’s ‘Mech bay, it was relatively quiet, save for the tactical feeds coming in through her pod’s service umbilical. When the umbilical was detached, it became deathly silent, save for Onishi’s short conversation with ‘Kuma’ Fujinaka over their short wave communication and the beating of her own heart. As soon as the Naginata and its protective pod were launched into space, the quiet was broken by a faint hissing sound that soon became a high keening, then a basso roar. The sound was generated by the massive, egg-shaped capsule slicing its way through Telos IV’s upper atmosphere. Onishi knew that the outer ceramic covering of the pod was heating rapidly due to friction with the air. Were it not for the pod, her ‘Mech would burn up in the atmosphere long before ever reaching the planet below. If some small, hidden fault in the capsule’s outer surface should suddenly manifest itself, the result would be the same.


Onishi glanced at a multifunction display that bore a series of rapidly decreasing numbers. She knew that the figure represented her estimated height in meters above the planet’s surface. Estimated, because her ‘Mech’s sensors were unable to penetrate the pod’s thick skin and give her actual altitude.


Maybe this is why ‘Kuma’ hates orbital drops.


As the pod fell, and the roaring sound grew ever louder, Onishi thought she could feel the temperature inside her cockpit begin to rise as air friction began to heat and wear away the drop pod’s outer, ablative surface. The pump set into her command couch kicked on with a loud thump, sending a wave of coolant flooding through her MechWarrior combat suit. The incredible amounts of waste heat generated by the ‘Mech’s power plant and weapons could fry a warrior in very short order. To combat that unpleasant occurrence, ‘Mech designers installed a number of heat sinks to bleed off the high temperatures that would otherwise cause the machine to shut down, its ammunition to explode, render its electronic control and targeting packages balky, and incapacitate or even kill its pilot.


Even so, the temperatures inside a ‘Mech’s cockpit during a pitched battle could rise as high as forty-six degrees Celsius. To fight this oppressive heat, the MechWarriors of the Razan’s Ronins wore combat suits that circulated the same ethylene glycol-based solution as their ‘Mech’s heat sinks.


Onishi felt the rush of fresh coolant flowing through the suit’s tubing. this was followed by a mental wave of gratitude to the Tai-sho (Warlord), who had provided the combat suits, as she watched the cockpit’s internal temperature continue to rise on a secondary display screen.


A high tone sounded in her ears.


“Hang in there, ‘Kuma’,” she called. “That’s the one-minute warning.”


Sixty seconds later, the huge gray ceramic and steel egg split apart, leaving Onishi’s huge, boxy ‘Mech falling toward the ground below. Now, her sensors worked, and she could tell exactly how far above the surface they were. Eighteen kilometers, still a long way above the ground, but at the rate the Naginata was falling, it wouldn’t take long to cover that distance, unless…


With a massive snap, a five-petaled blossom of parachutes bloomed into existence overhead. The dropping ‘Mech suddenly slowed, its feet orienting violently downward. The chutes weren’t intended to bring the massive war machine gently down on the landing zone. It was falling far too fast and weighed far too much for that. The quintuple nylon canopy was merely intended to slow the ‘Mech’s fall and orient it feet-downward. In that way, the jump jets built into the ‘Mechs feet would provide enough braking power to bring the Naginata down safely. Such measures were necessary in all BattleMechs even those that lacked integral jump jets.


For the first time since entering the drop pod, Onishi looked around with her own eyes. As far as she could see, there were dark black streaks blazing against the morning sky. It looked like a massive meteor shower, but she knew that the blazing smoke-trails were not tipped by rapidly eroding chunks of nickel-iron, but by multiple-ton mechanisms of ceramic and steel and death. Other, smaller streaks, not as visible, but just as significant, laced the light sky. These were the trails of drop pods, already split open to deliver their cargo of death into Telos IV’s atmosphere. Every four of these dull black strands meant another Ronin Regiment ‘Mech on its way to Telos IV.


“Tai-sa (Colonel), I have the beacon,” Chu-i (Lieutenant) Akita 'Kuma' Fujinaka reported with a calm voice that belied his admitted and extreme anxiety. “Altitude now, eight kilometers.”


A guidance discrete flashed into life on Onishi’s head’s up display. The small green circle indicated the point toward which she was supposed to steer her dropping ‘Mech. A gentle tap on the jump jet throttle swung her massive Naginata onto a course for what Fujinaka called “the beacon”. In reality, their landing zone was a broad, relatively flat expanse of ground one hundred fifty kilometers due north of Pemberton and well outside the Dulles continental capital of Triumph.


The small flashing light on her Naginata’s HUD gave Onishi a mark toward which to steer her descending ‘Mech. In theory, if she stayed on target, according to the guidance discrete, she would hit her assigned LZ with no trouble. The theory also stated that a fixed landing beacon increased the chances for hitting the correct landing zone. In this case the theory would probably be correct.


The landmark provided a perfect landing beacon for Ronin Legion Battalion. Though the area could never serve as a landing zone for the entire Regiment, their ‘Mechs’ sophisticated computer systems were able to key in on the beacon and determine the actual location of their landing zones.


“Sixty seconds,” Onishi called, as the altimeter clicked over to read four thousand meters. Clamping down hard on the jump jet throttle, she fired the jets for a long, twenty-second burst, slowing the Naginata. If she did hit the ground hard, at least now she was moving at a more or less survivable rate of descent.


At two thousand meters, Onishi gave the jets another long burn, taking even more speed of her fall. Then, a scant five hundred meters of the ground, she lit off the powerful reaction-fuel jets in a final braking burn. The ninety five ton, humanoid ‘Mech shuddered with the incredible amount of kinetic energy being spent to bring it to a safe landing. The whining roar of the jets tortured Onishi’s ears as she struggled to keep the decidedly top-heavy machine in an upright landing position.


With a heavy, jolting thud, the Naginata touched down. Onishi bent the ‘Mech’s thick, armored knees to absorb the last of the machine’s downward energy. Bringing the ‘Mech upright again, she flicked a cover locked control, and was rewarded with a firecracker series of sharp, flat cracks as a dozen explosive bolts fired, dropping the drogue chute and bolt on jump pack to the ground.


“Ronin Regiment, this is ‘Rough Ryder’. Check in,” she snapped into her communicator. “ ‘Rough Ryder’, this is ‘Dragon Lady’.” Tai-i (Captain) Terri ‘Dragon Lady’ Sicoe was, almost predictably, the first of her commanders to respond. “Scimitar Section has landed and is moving to secure our western perimeter.”


“ ‘Rough Ryder’, ‘Crone. We’re down and safe.” Sho-sa (Lieutenant Colonel) Shannon ‘Crone’ Parrish, Kiridashi Company’s veteran commander, was far less formal than her more spit-and-polish counterpart. “We’re establishing a perimeter.” The Tai-sa (Colonel) received no response from her battalion XO Sho-sa (Lieutenant Colonel), Owen ‘Kestrel’ Callaghan over her Assault Lance. She waited several long minutes before she tried him again. “Dragon Sword, this is Ronin Actual, I say again. Sit-rep.” Onishi waited exactly sixty seconds before she broadcast her messaged to all known Dragon Sword frequencies. Five minutes went by and still no answer. She then reached out to the Razan’s Ronins grounded orbital AeroSpace Carrier Command, the Heaven Scent, an Overlord-Class DropShip and gave a brief synopsis of the situation to its captain, Petre McIntyre, who then routed orders down to Hankyu Squadron’s 1st AeroSpace Flight, Emerald Dragon, to refuel and re-launch to perform a flyby of Dragon’s Sword LZ to determine what the status was of an entire Assault Lance, It had to be the iron ore in the mountains for the whole lance to be out of contact. Or so she hoped.



WORD COUNT 3333


Name: Onishi Razan

Callsign: ‘Rough Ryder'

Rank: Tai-sa, Commanding

Hardware: Naginata NG-RO1

Company: Ronin Legion

Lance: Fire Dragon

Assignment: MUCO

Unit: Razan's Ronins

HOUSE: DRACONIS COMBINE






FW-OR-02-04 #10


Draconis Combine/ULTRA Contested

Dieron Prefecture

Dieron Military District

Al Na'ir Province

Telos IV

Dulles

Razin’s Ronins LZ

Bivouac

Sunday April 8th 0830 3094


Onishi checked a secondary monitor, this one programmed to display a map of the Razan’s Ronins area of operation. Dead center of the AOE was the Overlord Class Dropship, 800 meters southwest of it was the Black Ronin, a Union Class Dropship, and 800 meters in the opposite quadrant of the Overlord, to the northeast, was the Dragon’s Nest Union Class DropShip. All three spheriods rested on their massive landing jacks and smoke still curled up from their drive system’s, loudly whining fusion reactors. Onishi was insulated from the noise by her Naginata’s sealed cockpit. The techs and Astechs unloading the DropShips, however; had to wear earplugs or those noise canceling headphones to protect their hearing. Onishi looked up and out through her cockpit’s plexiglass wind screen. The clouds overhead were thick on ominous. It was awful dark to be eight thirty in the morning. It looked as if it were going to rain cats and dogs out. She even thought she saw a funnel cloud out over the horizon. Pushing her concern about the weather aside she keyed up her FlagShip Captain to address a concern that she could actually do something about.


“Chu-sa (Light Commodore)Petre, Ronin Actual here.”


It took the Captain of the Heaven’s Scent a few seconds to answer her, “Chu-sa (Light Commodore)Petre here. Go Actual.”


“I know I don’t need to tell you this but let me know as soon as you hear back from Emerald Dragon Flight on the status of Owen and Dragon Sword lance,” Onishi said with a little more emotion than she had intended to display.


“Roger that Tai-sa (Colonel). I understand. And No, you didn’t.” Petre added the last part playfully in an attempt to lighten Onishi mood. “Heaven Scent Out.”


Onishi took several seconds to reign in her emotions before switching frequencies and calling up her Dragon’s Claw Lance Leader, Sho-i (Junior Captain)Sroydin ‘Cha Cha’ Tang. “ ‘Cha Cha’, ‘Rough Ryder’. I need a favor from you Hun.”


“Sure Tai-sa (Colonel), what is it?” Sroydin asked inquisitively.


“I need your lance to go to Dragon’s Sword LZ and get me a sitrep. I’m sending the exact coordinates to your Shiro right now. I have Emerald Flight vectoring there as we speak.”


“Roger, WilCo Tai-sa (Colonel).”


“Listen, I don’t ‘Expect ‘ you guys to run into any trouble but I want you prepared for anything. It looks like a storm front is rolling in so your lance best hurry. Check in every thirty minutes. Combat formation. ECM on and put Sonja on point with her Uziel’s Beagle on full gain. And don’t forget you’ll have two fly boys in your search pattern to provide air support if necessary.”


“I won’t. Combat Formation. ECM on. Beagle on point. Got it. You’ll hear from us in a half hour.”


Onishi called up Scimitar Section next. “ ‘Dragon Lady’, Ronin Actual.”


“Hey Tai-sa (Colonel). What can I do you for?”


“Steel Dragon’s vehicle battalion is going to need an escort here from Pemberton’s Airport. Take your Scimitar section and Double Time it on over there to provide them with big brother over watch, will you?”


“Ma’am, Yes ma’am! Scimitar is all over it.”


“I’ll let Chu-sa (Jr Lieutenant Colonel) Reece Kimura know you’re coming.”


The spheriods were predominately ‘Mech Haulers. So Razan’s Ronins vehicles were mostly boarded on their two aerodynes, the Tempest Fury and the Wyvern; a Gazelle Class and Aurora class DropShips; respectively . And aerodynes had to have a smooth surface to land on and a lot of it. Hence, the aerodynes landing at the nearby Pemberton airport. That’s one reason Onishi had purchased the Fortress Class DropShip. It could carry 12 heavy vehicles to a battlefield. The Ronin’s had performed some reconstruction on the Dragon’s Nest however. The engineers had converted the lower ‘Mech bay into a mixed unit bay. It could now carry, 2 Heavy Vehicles, 11 lights, 7 Infantry Platoons, and 2 Battle Armor Squads. Onishi reserve that space for her mission critical vehicles. Her mobile HQ’s, the Daimyo and Teppo, in the two heavy slots, and in the 11 light vehicle bays she transported her vehicle scout lance and the vehicles of the Ronins’ Bivouac.


“Tai-i (Captain)Reid Mediate. What’s the status on our Bivouac?” Onishi queried the Combat Engineer over the Well Being & Development Section.


“Tai-sa (Colonel)?” he started but must have dropped his communicator or something. She could hear the wind blowing across his microphone. He began again. “Tai-sa (Colonel), Yeah. Uhm Lemme see. We’re pulling the Daimyo and the Teppo out first. We’re going to set up your Command Post in the shadow of the Overlord. I have the entire combat engineering platoon assigned to that task. We’ll also leave a conduit for your Naginata so all you’ll have to is pull up and plug in and you’ll be patched into the network. Next, on the opposite arc of the Heaven Scent, I’ll have the barracks and field kitchen established. In that order, barracks first, kitchen second. I have a Gladiator Exoskeleton squad working on that. And I split the second Gladiator Squad up. I have two units assisting our MASH unit assembly and the other two pulling out your recon choppers and the Infiltrators from the cargo holds of the Heaven Scent and Black Ronin, respectively.”


“You’re really on the ball though aren’t you Tai-i (Captain)?”


“That’s what you pay me for. Not to sit around and look handsome. I wouldn’t earn two c-Bills that way. Is there anything else Tai-sa (Colonel)?”


Onishi could tell that he was rushing her. She had wanted to tell him he needed to hurry up with the barracks before the weather turned bad but she figured he already knew that and she did not want to be redundant. So in the end all she said was, “Oh no, thank you Tai-i (Captain).” The Tai-i (Captain) had also mentioned recon assets and that reminded her of something that had skipped her mind. Onishi patched into to her Stealthy Dragon Flight’s VTOL Recon channel. “Chu-i (Lieutenant) Bahnken, Tai-sa (Colonel) Razan here.” When after thirty seconds she received no response she hailed him again. “Chu-i (Lieutenant) Bahnken, Tai-sa (Colonel) Razan here. Over.” This time after thirty seconds had elapsed the other Suzaku VTOL pilot, Kashira (Talon Sergeant) Darwin Balubayan came on the line.


“I think he’s in the can, Ma’am. Is there something you want me to tell him?”


“Yeah, Kashira (Talon Sergeant), tell him as soon as Tai-i (Captain) Mediate gets your birds unbuttoned I want them spun up and in the air over our LZ as early warning crafts.”


“Ma’am, Yes Ma’am. I’ll relay the message, but Ma’am, permission to speak freely?”


“Yes Kashira (Talon Sergeant), permission granted,” Onishi mentally sighed.


“If this weather does what I think its gonna do; we won’t be able to fly in this soup for very long, Ma’am.”


“Then get’em airborne for as long as you possibly can Kashira (Talon Sergeant). We’ll let mother nature do her job, you do yours, and I’ll do mine.”


“Ma’am, Yes Ma’am. Stealthy Dragon Two Out.”


She dialed up her Kiridashi Company Commander, Sho-sa (Lieutenant Colonel)Shannon ‘Crone’ Parrish. “ ‘Crone’, Ronin Actual. Dispatch your Dragon’s Eye lance to recon out in a 20 klick to 50 klick perimeter around our LZ. Get’em up and running now. I want to know if a mouse farts before HE can smell it. I want your lance on perimeter security and Dragon’s Lair Lance on DropShip security.” Onishi didn’t wait for an acknowledgement.


“Chu-i (Lieutenant)Kang, ‘Rough Ryder’.” Onishi reached out to her vehicle scout lance leader.


“Oh hey Tai-sa (Colonel). We have three vehicles off loaded. We’re waiting on my ride, the Sabaku. It should be up and running here in the next ten minutes. Where do you want us?”


“Good. You read my mind. I want your lance to perform close recon, range out to just about 20 klicks and I want hourly reports. Got it?”


“I’m readin’ you loud n clear. Scout Lance over and out.”


The Combat Engineer Tai-i (Captain)Reid Mediate, turned out to be a Godsend. He had finally configured the unit’s C3 Master and Slave computers so that they actually talked to each other and did what they were designed to do; share data. He had configured hers as the company level Master and she had direct data feeds to all of her recon lances, her ‘Mech Recon Lance’s Raven, her vehicle scout lance’s Pegasus, and her VTOL recon Flight’s Suzako. Well at least it had worked flawlessly in live fire training. But they had only had time to live fire test it once. But Onishi had the utmost confidence in Reid’s technical savvy. Now if only he could figure out the C3i computer on her Teppo, then they would be cooking with gas.


Her thoughts were interrupted be an incessant tapping on her Naginata’s right leg that until recently had become a pounding. It sounded as if someone had been knocking on her BattleMech’s leg with their fist and had reverted to banging on it with a hammer or some other heavy metal object. Well a ninety ton ‘Mech couldn’t cant it’s cockpit far enough down to look at its own feet while standing still. She dare not move lest she step on him or her. She opened up her external speakers and microphone and said, “What or who is pounding on my leg? Back up so that I can see you.”


Sho-sa (Lieutenant Colonel) Tanaka ‘Iceman’ Kintaro walked into view. “Oh it’s you. Your DEST Teams have performed excellently with the capture of the BattleSat Station and two JumpShips.”


“Domo Arigato Onishi-san. We were merely doing our jobs. We lost two Oni Battle Armor Warriors in the assault on the Station. Wendell Hammerstien and Jasmyne Rudd.”


Onishi had never seen the Sho-sa (Lieutenant Colonel) like this. It was as if he were on the verge of asking her to allow him to commit Seppuku. She had to divert his energy. “Yes, they both will be sorely missed. We shall mourn their sacrifices later but here and now what your ‘Liege’ needs from your team is a security squad on each DropShip, a squad on the Teppo, and a squad on LZ security. Ii yo?”


“Demo... Onishi-san . . .” (but)


“Yamete kudasai!!!” (Stop it!)


“Gomennasai. Hai. Sore de kimatta.” (Sorry. Yes. Consider it Done.)


And with their brief exchange the Sho-sa (Lieutenant Colonel) retreated to do his ‘Liege’s bidding. ‘That was close’ Onishi thought to herself.


“Reece, Onishi.” She tried to raise her vehicle battalion commander on the horn but he was riding in his 90 ton Narumkami’s cupola, unbutton as usual, as was his wont. She could hear the rumbling tank over their connection. It kept up an ungodly noise. He had to shout just to hear her.


“HUH. WHAT WAS THAT?”


“I’m sending eight Kings of the Battlefield to escort your vehicle column to our LZ.”


“OK.”


“I need you to leave behind the Gray Death Scout Squads for deployment aboard the aerodynes and have them both return to separate JumpPoints.”


“WHAT?! YOU WANT ME TO SCOUT THE JUMPPOINTS?”


“I SAID,” the Tai-sa (Colonel) almost starting shouting herself until she thought better of it and sthought ‘What’s the point?’ “…. Nevermind. I’ll give them the orders myself.”


The Tai-sa (Colonel) had to wait until the vehicle column arrived to deploy her vehicles and battle armor to their assigned patrols but Onishi was starting to feel a little bit better. The Regiment was working together and she didn’t feel so helpless anymore. Now all she needed was feedback on the whereabouts of Owen Callaghan and his Assault Lance.


WORD COUNT 2001


Name: Onishi Razan

Callsign: ‘Rough Ryder'

Rank: Tai-sa, Commanding

Hardware: Naginata NG-RO1

Company: Ronin Legion

Lance: Fire Dragon

Assignment: MUCO

Unit: Razan's Ronins

HOUSE: DRACONIS COMBINE









FW-OR-02-04 #11


Draconis Combine/ULTRA Contested

Dieron Prefecture

Dieron Military District

Al Na'ir Province

Telos IV

Dulles

Outskirts of Triumph

Luthien Armor Works

Manufacturing and Refining facility

Monday April 16th 21:05 3094


Gunsho (Sergeant) Ralph ‘Stack’ Ibrahim, ranking non comm of the second Gray Death Scout Squad of Razan’s Ronins Ghost Platoons, rolled out of his bunk at the first sound of the alarm. His body moved instinctively, conditioned by years of active service aboard Mercenary DropShip Vessels. By the time his feet hit the floor he was already awake and alert, his mind evaluating the situation.


The alarm rang again, echoing off the hull to rebound throughout the ship. Two short blasts, repeating over and over. A general call to stations. At least they weren’t under immediate attack.


As he pulled his uniform on, Ibrahim ran through the possible scenarios. The Hydra’s Bane was on watch in the Telos IV Solar System, a contested region on the farthest fringes ULTRA and Draconis Combine space. Their primary purpose was to protect the dozens of settlements and research outposts from retaliation from ULTRA scattered across the continents of Dulles, Rostov, Fellin, and Haranshire. A general call to stations probably meant they’d spotted an unauthorized vessel in Draconis Combine controlled territory. Either that or they were responding to a distress call. Ibrahim hoped it was the former.


It wasn’t easy getting dressed in the tight confines of the sleeping quarters he shared with two other troopers, but he’d had lots of practice. In less than a minute he had his uniform on, his boots secured, and was moving quickly through the docking collar and along the narrow corridors toward the JumpShip’s bridge since he was ‘Officer-of-the-Watch’ tonight, where Sho-sa (Commodore) Lorean 'Czech' Mathijssen would be waiting for him. As the OtW it fell to Ibrahim to point the Commodore’s orders to the enlisted troopers aboard the Gazelle Class DropShip … and to make sure those orders were properly carried out.


Space was the most precious resource on any military vessel, and Ibrahim was constantly reminded of this as he encountered other crewmen heading in the opposite direction as they rushed to their assigned posts. Invariably, they would press themselves against the corridor walls in an effort to let Ibrahim by, snapping off awkward salutes to their superior as he squeezed past them. But despite the cramped conditions, the entire process was carried out with an efficiency and crisp precision that was the hallmark of every crew in the Razan’s Ronins Mercenary Battalion.


Ibrahim was almost at his destination. He was passing navigation, where he noticed a pair of junior officers making rapid calculations and applying them to a holo-tank’s three-dimensional star chart projected above their consoles. They each gave the Gray Death Squad CO a curt but respectful nod as he passed, too engrossed in their duties to be encumbered by the formality of a true salute. Ibrahim responded with a grim tilt of his head. He could see they were plotting a route through the nearest pirate point to Dulles. That meant the DCMS Hydra’s Bane was responding to a distress call. And the brutal truth was that more often than not their response came too late.


In the months following this conflict with ULTRA the Draconis Combine military had spread out too far and too fast; they didn’t have enough ships to properly patrol a region the size of the Dieron Military District. Citizens who lived out here knew the threat of attacks and raids was all too real, and too often the DropShips touched down on a continent only to find a large and thriving colony reduced to corpses, burned-out buildings, and a populace of shell-shocked survivors.


Ibrahim still hadn’t found a good way to cope with being a firsthand witness to that kind of death and destruction. He’d seen action during other contracts, but this was different. That had been primarily marine-on-marine warfare, killing enemy combatants from other militaries. It wasn’t the same as picking through the charred rubble and blackened bodies of civilians.


The War of Benjamin, despite its name, had been a short and relatively bloodless campaign. It began when a Draconis Combine patrol inadvertently trespassed on the territory of the Nova Cats. For the Clan it had been their first encounter with Inner Sphere politics; for the inhabitants of the worlds in question it was an invasion by an aggressive and previously unknown army. Misunderstanding and overreaction on both sides had led to several intense battles between patrols and scout fleets. And occasionally the conflict erupted into full-scale planetary war. The escalating hostilities and sudden deployment of the Draconis Combine fleets had drawn the attention of the greater Inner Sphere community. Luckily for the Draconis Combine.


It turned out the Clan Nova Cats were only one among dozens, each independent but voluntarily united beneath the rule of a governing body known as their Khan. Eager to prevent interstellar war with the Draconis Combine, the Council had intervened, revealing itself to the Draconis Combine and brokering a peaceful resolution between them and the Clan Nova Cats. Less than two years after it had begun, the War of Benjamin was officially over.


Six hundred and twenty-three million Draconis Combine lives had been lost. Most of the casualties were sustained in the first few months and during the Draconis Combine attack on Tatsuno. Nova Cat losses were slightly higher; the Draconis Combine fleet sent to liberate the captured outpost had been ruthless, brutal, and very thorough. But on a galactic scale, the losses to both sides were minor. The Nova Cats had been pulled back from the brink of a potentially devastating war, and instead became a member of a vast interstellar, Inner Sphere society.


Ibrahim climbed the three steps separating the forward deck of the Hydra’s Bane’s bridge from the main level of the ship. Commodore Lorean was hunched over a small view screen, studying a stream of incoming transmissions. She stood up straight as Ibrahim approached, and returned the Battle Armor Squad’s commanding officer’s salute with one of her own.


“We’ve got trouble, Gunsho (Sergeant). We picked up a distress call when we linked up to the com points,” the Sho-sa (Commodore) explained by way of greeting.


“I was afraid of that, Ma’am.”


“It came from Dulles.”


“Dulles?” Ibrahim recognized the name. “Don’t we have a Manufacturing and Refining base there?”


Lorean nodded. “A large one. Two hundred thirty-five factory workers, fifty security personnel, twelve researchers, six support staff.”


Ibrahim frowned. This was no ordinary attack. Raiders preferred to hit defenseless factories and bug out before Draconis Combine reinforcements arrived on the scene. A well defended base like Luthain Armor Works wasn’t their typical target. It felt more like an act of war.


The FedSuns were allies of the Draconis Combine now, at least officially. And the Telos IV Solar System was too far removed from Federated Suns territory for them to get involved in any conflicts out here. But there were other nations vying with the Draconis Combine for control of the Military District. The Draconis Combine was in direct competition with ULTRA puppet government to stem their tide into the Solar System, but so far the two rival nations were involved in a war of attrition a full thirty light years coreward. Ibrahim doubted they’d try something like this.


Still, there were plenty of other groups out there with the means and motive to hit a Draconis Combine stronghold. Some of them were even made up of mercenaries: nonaffiliated terrorist organizations and multinational guerrilla factions eager to strike a blow against the powers-that-be; illegal paramilitary troops looking to stock up on high-grade weapons; independent mercenary bands hoping for one big score.


“Might be helpful to know what the Facility was working on, Sho-sa (Commodore),” Ibrahim suggested.


“They’re a top-security-clearance facility,” the Sho-sa (Commodore) replied with a shake of her head. “I can’t even get schematics for the base, never mind get anyone to tell me what they were working on.”


Ibrahim frowned. Without schematics his team would be going in blind, giving up any tactical advantage they might have had from knowing the layout of the battleground. This mission just kept getting better and better.


“What’s our ETA, sir?”


“Forty-six minutes.”


Finally some good news. The Hydra’s Bane jumped to random pirate points; it was pure chance they happened to be this close to the source of the distress call. With luck they could still get there in time.


“I’ll have the ground team ready, Sho-sa (Commodore).”


“You always do, Gunsho (Sergeant).”


Ibrahim turned to go, acknowledging his commanding officer’s compliment with a simple, “Aye-aye, Ma’am!”


Outside the bulkheads of the ship, the JumpShip came to full charge. As each quadrant recorded maximum hypercharge in its banked and shielded accumulators, the crew began the delicate and time-consuming work of furling the jump sail and preparing for the hyperspace transition. This was the busiest time of all for the JumpShip crews, but it was time that hung heaviest on the troops and soldiers aboard the DropShips. They could only continue their routine of eating (those who still could), gambling, sleeping, work details, and worry.


And then the time for suppositions was over. The last of the jump sails was collapsed and furled, tightly rolled into the narrow mast that jutted from the ship's stern like a monstrous stinger. Aboard the Gazelle Class DropShip, Sho-sa (Lieutenant Colonel) Georgi Draganov gave his assent, and the JumpShip’s Sho-sa (Commodore) gave hher command, “Prepare for Jump!”


Turning to her Executive Officer, Tai-i (Captain) Jorgen Pallesen, Lorean nodded once. Without a moment’s hesitation, Pallesen began calling out the commands that had become so familiar. “Lock course into the navigation computer. Secure all fittings.” Pallesen voice cracked with excitement. His tone and his face told Ibrahim that he too was feeling the awful pressure of what they were about to do jumping to a pirate point. “Charge the drives.”


Scant moments later a deep, harsh tone sounded throughout the ship, telling everyone aboard that the Hydra’s Bane was about to hurl herself through the netherworld of hyperspace, across twelve light years, to a pirate point in a system filled with hostile ULTRA soldiers. Though there may have been apprehension, if not fear, in every heart, no one protested or complained. Each man and woman aboard the massive Invader-Class JumpShip was prepared to carry out his or his duty to the fullest.


“Ma’am, the ship is ready to jump,” the Hydra’s Bane’s chief engineer called across the bridge.


“Very well.” Lorean stared straight ahead as he spoke, as though looking across the long kilometers to their destination. “Jump.”


The powerful charge that had been built up in the Hydra’s Bane’s massive engines flooded through her Kearny-Fuchida drive. The physics-defying system sent a field of unbelievable energies coruscating their way along the ship’s outer hull. The field expanded to encompass all the DropShip mated to her docking collar. As the field completely enveloped the huge vessel, a hole was torn in the very fabric of space, an impossible hole in reality through which the Hydra’s Bane and the soldiers of the Razan’s Ronins Gray Death Squad within her steel and composite hide were hurled.


The Hydra’s Bane slid back into rational space, two light years from its starting point. There, above and behind the miniature, laser-generated image of the Invader gleamed the bright yellow ball of the Telos IV system’s main star. Telos IV was the inner world of an K7IV. The laws of Kearny-Fuchida drive dictated that the star's two jump points would be seven-tenths of an astronomical unit out, the zenith point above the star's north pole, the nadir point above its south pole. At a constant 1 G boost, with time out for a mid-course flip, the trip from world to jump point would take one hundred ninety eight hours. The pirate point put them considerably closer. They had successfully jumped to a pirate point that cut their transit time down to 30 minutes.


The word finally came from the Sho-sa (Commodore). Throughout the jumpship, the Gazelle Class DropShip brackets opened, and grapples dropped silently clear. The DropShip began drifting away from the JumpShip like a seed scattered from a slender pod. Once clear of the JumpShip, and refueled now from the stores of reaction mass aboard the larger vessel, the DropShip calculated vectors and accelerations and began the short boost toward Telos IV. Behind them, metal foil parasols two kilometers wide began unfurling against the stars, as the DCMS Hydra’s Bane began the process of recharging for the next jump.



“We’ve cleared the JumpShip. Engaging drive core. ETA to Telos IV twenty-six minutes,” called out Chu-sa (Light Commodore) Georgi Draganov pilot of the Gazelle-Class DropShip.


Ibrahim had been over the figures in his head many times already.


Huddled in the troop hold with the other four members of the ground team, it was almost impossible to hear the sound of the voice coming over the shipboard intercom above the roaring of the engines. Not that Ibrahim needed to hear the updates to know what was happening. His stomach was still churning from the jump to the pirate point.


Scientifically, he knew the motion sickness shouldn’t happen. Travel between points . . . the jump from an originating, or transmitting, point to the destination, or receiving, point . . . was an instantaneous event. It took no time to occur; therefore, it couldn’t possibly have any physical effect on his body. But while he acknowledged this theoretical fact, Ibrahim knew from firsthand experience that it wasn’t true in practice.


Maybe this time the tightness in his gut was just a bad feeling about what they’d find when they reached the Luthain Armor Works facility. Whoever had attacked the research base had been willing to take on fifty Draconis Combine soldiers. Even using the element of surprise to their advantage, they must have been a formidable force. The Razan’s Ronins should be sending the entire Ghost Platoon in as reinforcements, not a squad of battle armor that could only assemble a five-person ground team.


But nobody else was prepare to answer the distress call in time other than the squad on watch, and most of the Regiment was scattered through out the planet anyway. The Tempest Fury was small enough to enter a world’s atmosphere and touch down on its surface, and still be able to take off again. Anything bigger than a Gazelle Class would have to have a full on runway, and they didn’t have time for that.


At least they were going in armored. Every member of the ground team was wearing Gray Death Scout Armor. By stripping off more than half of the prototype's armor and its integrated weaponry, the technicians were able to improve the Scout's jumping and sensor capabilities, creating a suit suitable for deep reconnaissance missions.


Though Gray Death Scout armor had no integral weapons, its Armored Gloves allowed its soldiers to wield standard small arms and perform other functions as normal. While this did not allow for very much damage potential against hardened targets, a scout squad could be a serious threat to unarmored infantry.


The Gray Death Scout's intelligence-gathering capabilities were enhanced with the inclusion of long-range communication systems and a Light Active Probe; the suit's sensors mimic the capabilities of a portable radar and infrared remote sensor. The suit was also the first to incorporate a Jump Booster which pushed its maximum jump range to 120 meters. They each carried half a dozen grenades and as their anti-personnel weapon, the Razan’s Ronins standard issue M61A Laser Rifle Combat Systems. Normally a five man squad would carry three M61A Laser Rifles, a Avenger Crowd Control Shotgun, and a Minolta 9000 Advanced Sniper Rifle. But they weren’t going in tactical, they were mounted up for an Assaualt. The Military Power Pack had a capacity of 200 rounds; invisible beams of light smaller than grains of sand. When fired at sufficient velocity, the nearly microscopic beams of the M61A were capable of inflicting massive damage.


That was the real problem. No matter how advanced defensive technology got, it was always a step behind. The Razan’s Ronins spared no expense when it came to protecting its soldiers: their body armor was top of the line and their Recon or HR variants were the latest military prototype. But it still wasn’t enough to withstand a direct hit from close range with ‘Mech grade weapons.


If they were going to survive this mission, it wasn’t going to be because of their equipment. It always came down to two things: training and leadership. Their lives were in Ibrahim’s hands now, and he could sense their unease. Razan’s Ronins DEST Agents were well trained to deal with the mental and physical stress of the human body’s natural fight-or-flight instincts. But this was more than the normal adrenaline rush of impending combat.


He’d been careful not to expose his own doubts; he’d projected an image of absolute confidence and composure. But the members of his team were smart enough to figure things out on their own. They could put the pieces together, just as he had. Like the Gunsho (Sergeant), they knew ordinary raiders wouldn’t attack a heavily defended Draconis Combine base.


Ibrahim didn’t believe in giving motivational speeches; they were all professionals here. But even for Razan’s Ronins DEST Agents, those last nervous minutes before a mission were harder to endure in total silence. Besides, there was no sense hiding from the truth.


“Everyone stay sharp,” he said, knowing the rest of the team could hear him clearly over the rumbling of the engines through the radios inside their helmets. “I get the feeling this wasn’t just some slavers pulling a quick grab and run.”


“ULTRA, sir?”


The question came from Heishi (Private) Sandrine ‘Gunnery Chief’ Paschalis. A year older than Ibrahim, she’d already been an Razan’s Ronins marine on active duty back when he was still taking battle armor training at Proserpina. They’d served in the same unit during the Benjamin War. She stood just over six foot three, making her taller than most of the men she served with. She was stronger than a lot of them, too, judging by her wide shoulders, the well-defined muscles of her arms, and her generally large but not ill-proportioned frame. Some of the other soldiers in the unit had called her “Ama,” short for Amazon … but never to her face. And when the fighting started they were all glad to have her on their side.


Ibrahim liked Sandrine, but she had a habit of rubbing people the wrong way. She didn’t believe in diplomacy. If she had an opinion she let everybody know it, which probably explained why she was still an enlistee. Still, the Gunsho (Sergeant) realized that if she asked a question it meant most of the others were probably wondering the exact same thing.


“Let’s not jump to any conclusions, ‘Chief’.”


“Any idea what they were working on over at Luthian Armor Works?” This time it was Go-cho (Corporal) Hyung Fukui, technicians expert, asking the question.


“Classified. That’s all I know. So be ready for anything.”


The other two members of the team, Heishi (Private) Seon Jeong O and Hojuhei (Recruit) Farra Kawakami, didn’t bother to comment, and the team lapsed once more into an uneasy silence. Nobody felt good about this mission, but Ibrahim knew they’d follow his lead. He’d brought them through the fire enough times to earn their trust.


“Approaching Luthian Armor Works,” the intercom crackled. “No response on any frequencies.”


That was grim news. If any Draconis Combine personnel were still alive inside the base, they should have answered the Tempest Fury’s call. Ibrahim slammed his visor down to shield his face, and the rest of the squad followed suit. A minute later they felt the turbulence as the ship entered the planet’s atmosphere. At a nod from Ibrahim his team made a final weapons, com, and armor check.


“We have a visual of the Luthian Armor Works base,” the intercom crackled. “No ships on the ground and we’re not picking up any non-Draconis Combine vessels in the vicinity.”


“Damn cowards already cut and ran,” Ibrahim heard Sandrine mutter over the radio in his helmet. With the Tempest Fury’s quick response time, Ibrahim had been hoping they’d arrive to catch the enemy in the act, but he wasn’t really surprised there were no other ships in the area. A raid against a target as well defended as Luthian Armor Works would have required at least three vessels working together. The two larger ships would land on the surface and unload assault teams while a small scout vessel would stay in orbit, monitoring the nearby airspace for any signs of activity.


The scout must have detected the Hydra Bane’s emergence signature and sprung to life as the Tempest Fury approached them on the far side of the region and radioed the ships on the ground. The advance warning would have given them just enough time to lift off, clear the planet’s atmosphere, and engage their thrusters before the Tempest Fury arrived. The ships involved in the attack on the base were long gone … but in their hurried escape they might have been forced to leave some of their troops behind.


A few seconds later there was a heavy thump as the DropShip touched down at the landing port of Luthian Armor Works Research Facility; the interminable waiting was over. The pressure door of the Tempest Fury’s troop hold hissed open and the gangway ramp descended.


“Ground team,” came Captain Draganov’s voice over the intercom, “you are cleared for go.”


WORD COUNT 3493


NPC

Name: Ralph Ibrahim

Callsign: ‘Stack’

Rank: Gunsho (Sergeant)

Hardware: Gray Death Scout Battle Armor

Company: Draconis Elite Strike Team

Platoon: Ghost Platoon

Assignment: Scout

Unit: Razan's Ronins

HOUSE: DRACONIS COMBINE


Name: Gerald Brand

Callsign: ‘Scratch Proof’

Rank:, Go-cho (Corporal)

Hardware: Hatamoto Ku HTM 60W

Company: Ronin Legion

Lance: Fire Dragon

Assignment: Sentry

Unit: Razan's Ronins

HOUSE: DRACONIS COMBINE







FW-OR-02-04 #12


Draconis Combine/ULTRA Contested

Dieron Prefecture

Dieron Military District

Al Na'ir Province

Telos IV

Dulles

Outskirts of Triumph

Luthien Armor Works

Manufacturing and refining facility

Ground Floor

Monday April 16th 21:15 3094


Heishis (Private) Sandrine and Jeong O, the two marines on point, scuttled down the gangway. Weapons drawn, they scanned the area for a possible ambush while Ibrahim, Fukui, and Farra covered them from the hold above.


“Landing zone secured,” Sandrine reported across the radio frequency.


Once the entire team was on the ground Ibrahim took stock of the situation. The landing port was small . . . room for three troop aerodyne DropShips, or maybe a pair of Ovoid Confederate Class DropShip. It was located a few hundred meters from a pair of heavy blast doors that led into the structure of the base itself: a rectangular single-story building that looked plenty large enough to house the over three hundred people assigned to the project, plus all kind of labs for research.


The exterior looked eerily normal; there was no hint that anything was out of the ordinary other than a half dozen large crates near one of the other runways.


‘That’s how the attack began’, Ibrahim thought to himself. Equipment and supplies coming in would have been ferried by hand from arriving DropShips on cargo sleds up to the doors. The Luthian Armor Works Facility must have been expecting a shipment. When the raiders touched down they would have begun unloading the crates. Someone inside would have opened the blast doors and five or six of Luthian Armor Work’s security detail would have come out to help with the cargo … and been gunned down by enemy troops hiding inside the holds of the DropShips.


“Strange there are no bodies out here,” Sandrine noted, echoing Ibrahim’s own thoughts.


“Must have dragged them away after they secured the landing port,” Ibrahim said, not certain why anyone would want to do that.


Using hand signals he motioned his team across the deserted landing port and up to the entrance of the base. To be wearing seven hundred kilogram Gray Death Scout battle armor, his squad was eerily quiet in their approach. The sliding blast doors were featureless and smooth . . . they were controlled by a simple security panel on the wall. But the fact that the doors were closed didn’t sit well with the Gunsho (Sergeant).


Ibrahim was at the head of the team; they all stopped short when he crouched down and held up a raised fist. He held up two fingers, signaling for Fukui. Hunched over, the Go-cho (Corporal) moved to the head of the line and fell in beside his leader, resting on one armored knee.


“Any reason those doors should be closed?” the Gunsho (Sergeant) asked him in a sharp whisper.


“Seems a little weird,” he admitted. “If someone wanted to wipe out the base, why bother sealing the doors when you leave?”


“Check it out,” Ibrahim told his tech expert. “Take it slow and careful.”


Fukui hit a button on his M6A1 Combat System, causing the handle, stock, and barrel to fold in on themselves until the gun was a compact rectangle half its normal length. He slapped the collapsed weapon into the locking holster on his Gray Death Scout’s hip. From a compartment on his other leg he pulled out an omnitool and crept forward, using it to scan the area for faint signals that would indicate the presence of any unusual electronics.


“Nice catch, ‘Stack’,” he muttered after checking the results. “Proximity mine wired to the door.”


The Go-cho (Corporal) made a few adjustments to the omnitool, emitting a short energy pulse to jam the sensors on the mine so he could creep forward close enough to disarm it. The entire process took less than a minute. Ibrahim held his breath the whole time, only releasing it when Fukui turned and gave him the thumbs-up to indicate that the trap had been rendered harmless.


A nod from Ibrahim sent the rest of the team rushing forward to breach the door, taking up their pre-assigned positions. Ibrahim and Farra moved to either side of the entrance, backs pressed against the exterior wall of the building. ‘Chief’ Sandrine crouched low in line with the door, a few meters away. Behind her and slightly off to the side Jeong O had his assault rifle raised and pointed at the entrance, providing Sandrine’s cover.


Fukui, crouched down beside Ibrahim, reached up and punched in the access code on the panel. As the doors slid open, Sandrine tossed a flash-bang grenade from her belt into the foyer beyond, then dove to the side and rolled for cover. Jeong O did the same as the grenade detonated with a blinding flash of light and a fog of thin, wispy smoke. They could not have performed these maneuvers with any more grace if they had trained on them for 1,000 more hours – Flawless.


An instant after the blast Ibrahim and Farra spun in through the door, rifles raised and ready to gun down any enemies inside. It was a classic flash-and-clear maneuver, executed with impeccable precision. But the room beyond the door was empty, save for a several splatters of blood on the floor and walls.


“Clear!,” Ibrahim said, and the rest of the team came in to join him. The entry was a plain room with three hallways leading off the back wall deeper into the base. There was a small table flipped in the corner and several overturned chairs. Six monitors on the wall showed images of the landing port outside from different angles.


“Guard post,” Sandrine said, the evidence confirming for her what Ibrahim had suspected earlier. “Probably four of them stationed here to keep an eye on the landing port. Must’ve opened the blast doors when the DropShips landed and went out to help them unload their cargo.”


“I’ve got blood smears heading down this hallway, Gunsho (Sergeant),” Heishi (Private) Seon called out. “Looks like the bodies were dragged out of this room and back into the facility.”


Ibrahim still couldn’t figure out why anyone would drag the bodies away like this, but at least it gave them a clear trail. The ground team slowly made their way deeper into the base, following the smears of blood. The trail took them through to the cafeteria, where they saw more overturned tables and chairs, as well as holes in the walls and ceiling . . . clear indication that the room had recently been witness to a brief but intense firefight.


Further in they passed two separate dormitory wings. The door to each individual room had been kicked open and the interiors, like the cafeteria, were riddled with bullet holes. A picture formed in Ibrahim’s mind: the attackers, once inside, systematically going from room to room, massacring everyone in a hail of gunfire … and then dragging the bodies away with them.


By the time they reached the back of the building they had yet to see any sign that enemy troops were still here. They did, however, make a separate discovery that none of them had been expecting. At the very rear of the facility was a single large elevator going straight down into the earth below.


“No wonder this base is only a single story,” Fukui exclaimed. “All the good stuff is buried underground!”


“Damn, I wish we knew what they were working on,” he muttered a moment later in a more somber tone. “God knows what we’re about to walk into.”


Ibrahim agreed, but he was concerned with a more immediate detail. According to the panel on the side of the wall, the elevator was down at the bottom level. If someone had gone into the lower floors of the base only to flee when they got word the Tempest Fury was coming, the elevator should have been on the top floor.


“Something wrong, ‘Stack’?” Sandrine asked.


“Somebody took that elevator down,” he said, tilting his head in the direction of the panel. “But they never took it back up.”


“You think they’re still down there?” ‘Gunnery Chief’ asked, her tone making it clear she hoped they were.


The Gunsho (Sergeant) nodded, the hint of a grim smile on his lips beneath his helmet.


“So what happened to their DropShips?” Hojuhei (Recruit) Farra asked, still not piecing it all together.


“Whoever attacked this base came for something,” Ibrahim explained. “Whatever they were looking for wasn’t up here. They must have sent a team down to the lower levels to finish up the job. Probably only left a few men up here to keep an eye on things.


“But they weren’t counting on a Razan’s Ronins patrol ship being close enough to respond to the distress call so quickly. When their scout ship sent word someone was coming through the pirate point they knew they had about twenty minutes to pick up and clear out. I bet they never even bothered to tell their buddies down below.”


“What? Why not? Why wouldn’t they tell them?”


“These elevators might go down two full kilometers,” Go-cho (Corporal) Fukui chimed in, helping to spell it out for the inexperienced Hojuhei (Recruit). “Looks like the com panel to the lower level was destroyed in the gunfire. No chance of getting a radio message to anyone down below through that much rock and ore. And it could take ten minutes for the elevator to make the trip one way.”


“If they wanted to alert their friends in the basement, it’d take half an hour: ten minutes to call the elevator up from the lower floor, ten minutes to send someone from the top down to warn them, then ten more minutes back up again,” he continued. “By then it’d be too late. Easier just to bug out and leave the others behind.”


Farra’s eyes were wide with disbelief. “They just abandoned their friends?”


“That’s what separates these lesser mercenaries from the Razan’s Ronins, a Ronin won’t leave a man behind.” Ibrahim told him before turning his focus back to the mission. “This changes things. We’ve got an enemy unit down there, and they have no idea a Razan’s Ronins Gray Death Scout Squad is up above waiting for them.”


“We can set up an ambush,” Sandrine said. “As soon as those elevator doors open we start firing and rip those sons-of-bitches to ribbons!” She was speaking quickly, a wicked gleam in her eye. “They won’t stand a chance!”


Ibrahim thought for a second, then shook his head. “It’s obvious this is a seek-and-destroy mission: they aren’t planning on leaving any survivors. There could still be Draconis Combine personnel alive on the lower levels. If there’s any chance we can still save them we have to try.”


“Could be dangerous, sir,” Fukui warned. “We’re assuming they don’t know we’re here. If they somehow do, then we’ll be the ones walking into an ambush.”


“That’s a risk we have to take,” Ibrahim said, slamming his fist against the wall panel to call the elevator back up to the surface. “We’re going in after them.” Gunsho (Sergeant) Ralph Ibrahim radioed Chu-sa (Light Commodore) Draganov and informed him of the Gray Death Squad’s intent.


The rest of the group, including Fukui, responded with a sharp, “Sir, yes, sir!”


The long, slow elevator descent was even more agonizing than the wait in the Gazelle Class Troop Carrier DropShip’s hull at the start of the mission. Minute by minute the tension grew as they sank deeper and deeper beneath the planet’s surface.


The Gunsho (Sergeant) could hear the faint hum of the elevator winch, a dull drone boring into the back of his skull that grew steadily fainter but never entirely disappeared as they dropped ever farther down the shaft. The air became heavy, warm, and moist. He felt his ears pop, and he noticed a strange smell in the air, an unfamiliar stench he imagined was a mixture of sulfurous gases mingling with foreign molds and subterranean fungi.


Ibrahim was sweating profusely inside his Gray Death Scout body armor, and he kept having to reach up with a free hand to wipe away the fog condensing on his visor. He did his best not to think about what would happen if the doors opened and the enemy was ready and waiting for them on the other side.


When they finally reached the bottom of the shaft the enemy was waiting for them, but they sure as hell weren’t ready. The elevator opened into a large antechamber . . . a natural cave filled with stalagmites, stalactites, and thick limestone columns. The artificial lights strung across the ceiling illuminated the entire chamber, reflecting off thick veins of glistening metallic ore in the cavern’s countless natural rock formations. At the far end was a passage that served as the cave’s only other exit, a long tunnel that wound around a corner and out of sight.


The enemy forces, close to two dozen armed and Ailette armored mercenaries, were coming toward them from the far side of the chamber. They were laughing and joking, helmets off, weapons at their sides as they headed for the elevator that would bring them back to the planet’s surface.


It only took Ibrahim a fraction of a second to decide they looked like murdering raiders and not Draconis Combine personnel, and he gave the order to fire. His team had been poised and ready as the elevator doors opened and they reacted almost instantaneously to his command, charging forward from the elevator with a barrage of gunfire. The first wave of their attack ripped into the pack of unsuspecting mercs. The fight would have ended right then if it wasn’t for their Ailette Exoskeletons and extended life support.


Six of the enemy combatants dropped to the floor, but enough of the deadly laser beams were deflected or absorbed so that the rest of them were able to fall back and dive for cover behind the boulders and stalagmites that littered the cavern’s floor.


The next few seconds of the battle were utter chaos. Ibrahim’s team pushed forward, scrambling to use the cave’s rock formations for cover. They had to fan out quickly, before enemy crossfire could pin the entire squad down in a single location. The cavern echoed with the staccato hiss of laser rifles and the sharp zip-zip-zip of bullets ricocheting off the rock formations and walls, and the incandescent tracer beams that made up every fifth round ignited the room with a ghostly luminescence.


Sprinting to a nearby large stalagmite, Ibrahim felt an all too familiar shudder as his Gray Death Scout Battle Armor repulsed several shots that would have otherwise found their mark. He hit the ground and rolled as a line of bullets struck the floor just in front of him, disintegrating the stone and sending tiny showers of water and dust up under his helmet and into his face.


He came to his feet spitting out the foul grit, instinctively checking the remaining power on his battle armor. He was down to twenty percent . . . not nearly enough to give him a fighting chance if he had to make another run through direct enemy fire.


“Battery status!” Ibrahim shouted into his radio. The numbers came back at him rapid fire:

“Twenty!”

“Twenty-five!”

“Twenty!”

“Ten!”


His team was still at full strength, but their battle armor had taken a beating. They had lost their initial advantage of surprise, and they were now facing an enemy squad more than double their number. But Razan’s Ronins DEST Agents were trained to work as a team, to cover each other and watch one another’s back. They trusted their teammates, and they trusted their leader. He figured that would give them the edge they needed over any band of mercs.


“Sandrine, Jeong O . . . move up on the right!” he barked. “Try to flank them!”


The Gunsho (Sergeant) rolled to his right, emerging from behind the stalagmite shielding him from view and firing a quick covering burst in the direction of the enemy. He wasn’t trying to hit anything; even with the smart-targeting technology built into all personal firearms it was almost impossible to hit a man-sized target without taking at least a half second to steady and aim. But inflicting damage was not his goal; all he wanted to do was disrupt the enemy so they wouldn’t have time to line up on Jeong O or Sandrine while they alternately advanced, darting in and out of cover.


After a two-secondstream he rolled back behind his own cover; it wasn’t good to stay out in view in one place for too long. Even as he did so, Farra popped out from behind a large boulder to lay down another covering burst for her squad-mates on the move, and as she ducked back to safety Fukui filled in.


As soon as the Go-cho (Corporal) pulled back, Ibrahim poked his head out and fired again. This time he emerged from the left side of the stalagmite; jumping out from behind cover in the same position twice in a row was a sure way to catch an enemy round in the teeth.


He ducked back in and heard Sandrine over her radio saying, “In position. Laying down covering fire!” Now it was his turn to move. “I’m on the go!” he shouted just before he scrambled out into the open, crouched low and running hard for another nearby piece of the cave’s natural architecture that was large enough to protect him from enemy bullets.


Skidding to a stop behind a thick column, he had just enough time to catch his breath and lay down covering fire as he ordered Farra and Fukui to make their runs.


Again and again they repeated the process; Ibrahim sending one person on the move while the others laid down covering fire to keep the enemy on the defensive. He varied who would go each time; the key was to keep the team moving and keep their opponents off balance. Staying in one place would let their enemies focus on them and bring multiple shooters to bear or, even worse, start lobbing grenades in their direction. But there had to be purpose and direction to the movement; they had to follow a plan.


For all the mayhem and random confusion of battle, the Gunsho (Sergeant) had been trained to approach firefights like a game of chess. It was all about tactics and strategy, protecting and defending your pieces as you maneuvered them one by one to develop a stronger overall position. Working as a single unit, the Razan’s Ronins squad was pushing its advantage one trooper at a time, slowly maneuvering themselves to where they could flank the enemy, drive them from their cover, and catch them in the crossfire.


The mercs could feel it happening, too. They were pinned down by the coordinated efforts of Ibrahim and his Gray Death Scout Squad, trapped, virtually helpless. It was only a matter of time before they launched a suicidal counterassault or broke ranks in a desperate retreat. In this case, they chose the latter.


It seemed to happen all at once; the mercs burst from their cover, backpedaling toward the passage behind them as they fired wild bursts in the vague direction of the Razan’s Ronins DEST Agents. Exactly what Ibrahim and his team had been waiting for.


As the mercs fell back Ibrahim stood up from behind the boulder he was using for cover. He was exposing his head and shoulders, but someone running backwards while shooting an assault rifle would be lucky to hit the broadside of a WarShip, let alone a target half the size of a human torso. He braced his weapon on the top of the boulder to steady it, took careful aim at one of the mercs, let his weapon’s auto-targeting systems get a hard lock, then slowly squeezed the trigger. The merc did a short, stuttering dnaace as a steady stream of laser beams depleted his carapace, shredded his armor, and ripped through his flesh.


The whole sequence took maybe four seconds from start to finish . . . an eternity if they had been worried about someone on the other side calmly lining them up in their sights. But with that threat now gone, Ibrahim had more than enough time to guarantee his aim was lethally accurate. He even had a chance to line up a second merc and take her down. And then two more went down, too.


And he wasn’t the only one taking advantage of the situation. All told his team dropped fourteen of the mercs during their desperate retreat. Only two managed to escape with their lives, making it to the safety of the passage and disappearing around the corner.


WORD COUNT 3513


NPC

Name: Ralph Ibrahim

Callsign: ‘Stack’

Rank: Gunsho (Sergeant)

Hardware: Gray Death Scout Battle Armor

Company: Draconis Elite Strike Team

Platoon: Ghost Platoon

Assignment: Scout

Unit: Razan's Ronins

HOUSE: DRACONIS COMBINE


Name: Gerald Brand

Callsign: ‘Scratch Proof’

Rank:, Go-cho (Corporal)

Hardware: Hatamoto Ku HTM 60W

Company: Ronin Legion

Lance: Fire Dragon

Assignment: Sentry

Unit: Razan's Ronins

HOUSE: DRACONIS COMBINE







FW-OR-02-04 #13


Draconis Combine/ULTRA Contested

Dieron Prefecture

Dieron Military District

Al Na'ir Province

Telos IV

Dulles

Outskirts of Triumph

Luthien Armor Works

Manufacturing and refining facility

Subterranean Level

Monday April 16th 22:15 3094


Ibrahim didn’t immediately send his crew chasing after the fleeing mercs. As soon as they lost visual contact with their enemy, pursuing them turned into a fool’s game. Every corner, turn, or branching hallway they’d come across would represent a chance for a potential ambush.


Instead, Sandrine, Fukui, and Jeong O took up defensive positions guarding the passage in case the mercs came back, possibly with reinforcements. With the only squad of insurgence covered, Ibrahim and Farra were free to examine the bodies.


They’d killed twenty mercs in the battle. Now they were picking through their corpses . . . a ghoulish but necessary denouement to every engagement. Step one was to identify any wounded survivors who could pose a potential threat. Ibrahim was relieved to find all of the downed figures were already dead. It wasn’t Razan’s Ronins policy to execute helpless foes, but taking prisoners would have introduced a whole new set of logistical problems to a mission that was already complicated enough.


The next step was to try and identify who they were working for. Ten of the dead were ULTRA, six were ConMag, and four were Free Worlders: sixteen males, four females. Their equipment was a hodgepodge of military and commercial arms from a wide variety of manufacturers. Officially recognized military units tended to be made up of a single manufacturer and carried only one brand of weapons and armor; the inevitable result of corporations signing exclusive supply contracts with the overseeing governments.


These were most likely soldiers of fortune, members of one of the Inner Sphere’s many freelance non-MRBC sponsored mercenary bands that hired themselves out to the highest bidders. Most non-sponsored mercs had tattoos or brands burned into their flesh proclaiming their allegiance to one group or another; usually prominently displayed on the arms, neck, and face. But the only markings Ibrahim found on the fallen were indistinct splotches of raw, scabby skin.


He was disappointed, but not surprised. For jobs where secrecy was important crews often had their markings removed with an exfoliating acid wash, then reapplied after the mission: a simple but painful procedure that was charged back to whoever had hired them. Obviously the group hired to attack Luthian Armor Works had feared Draconis Combine retaliation and done their best to remove anything that might expose them if something went wrong.


Well something HAD gone terribly wrong for this merc unit. The Razan’s Ronins. There had still been no counterattack from the enemy by the time Ibrahim and Farra finished stripping the bodies of grenades, power packs, and anything else useful and small enough to easily carry.


“Looks like they’re not coming out again,” Sandrine grumbled as Ibrahim came over to stand beside her.


“Then we have to go in after them,” Ibrahim replied, slapping a fresh power pack into his Gray Death Scout Battle Armor. “We can’t wait out here forever, and there’s still a chance we’ll find some DCMS personnel alive down here.”


“Or more mercs,” Fukui muttered, replacing his own Battle Armor power pack.


The Go-cho (Corporal) was only saying what they were all thinking. For all they knew there was another full enemy squad deeper inside the base, and the two men who’d fled the battle had already managed to warn the reinforcements. But even though they might be walking into a trap, they couldn’t turn back now. The Gunsho (Sergeant) gave the rest of the team a moment to gear up before shouting, “Sandrine, Farra . . . take point. Let’s move out!”


They advanced into the rough-hewn passage, maintaining a standard Razan’s Ronins patrol formation . . . the two marines on point up front, Ibrahim and Fukui three meters behind them in the middle, and Jeong O three meters behind them watching their backs. They all had weapons raised and ready as they made slow but steady progress through the uneven, irregular tunnel that had been bored through the rock. They were officially in a hot zone now, and caution was more important than speed. One moment of careless inattention could cost all of them their lives.


Ten meters in, the corridor turned sharply to the left. The team stopped short at a hand signal from Sandrine, who crept forward and poked her head around the corner, momentarily exposing herself to possible enemy fire before ducking back. When she gave them the “all clear” they continued on.


Beyond the corner the passage continued for another twenty meters before reaching a sealed security door. The heavy metal barrier was closed and locked. Ibrahim signaled to Fukui, and the Go-cho (Corporal) moved forward to work his tech magic and override the lockdown codes. The rest of the team assumed standard positions for another flash-and-clear procedure.


“If those mercs are locking the security doors,” Sandrine whispered to her commanding officer as they waited for the door to open, “then that means they have codes for the base. Someone on the inside must have been working with them.”


Ibrahim didn’t reply, but he gave a grim nod. He didn’t like the idea that someone inside Luthian Armor Works had betrayed the DCMS, but it was the only explanation that made sense. The mercs had known the facility was expecting an off-world shipment, and they must have had the proper landing codes to get their DropShips on the surface without raising any alarms. They’d been familiar enough with the layout to clear out the upper area and make their way to the elevators at the back without letting anyone escape. And they had to have access to restricted lockdown codes to seal the security door. All the evidence pointed to the inescapable conclusion that there had been a traitor at Luthian Armor Works.


The door slid open and the team sprang into action, using a flash grenade to blind anyone on the other side, then charging in only to find the area beyond empty. They were now standing in a large square room, about twenty meters on each side. The shiny metal walls, ceiling, and reinforced floor made it clear they were now entering the heart of the research facility. Everything had a sleek, modern feel; a sharp contrast to the rough-hewn natural tunnels they had just passed through. There was a hall leading off to the left, and another to the right.


“I’ve got blood trails over here,” Fukui called out on the left. “Looks fresh.”


“We follow it,” Ibrahim decided. “Jeong O and Farra, set up position here.” He didn’t like splitting up the team, but they didn’t know the layout of the base. He didn’t want any of the mercs doubling around behind them and making it back to the elevator. “Sandrine, Fukui . . . fall in!”


Leaving the two rookies to guard the only way out, Ibrahim and the others set off down the hall on the left, moving ever deeper into the research complex. They passed several more intersections, but Ibrahim wasn’t willing to split his squad up yet again. Instead, the three of them simply followed the blood trail. Along the way they passed a number of rooms, most of them small offices, judging by the desks and personal workstations. Like the dorms on the upper levels, each had been thoroughly ravaged by gunfire. The killing spree that began on the surface had continued unabated underground. And once again the mercs hadn’t been content to leave their victims where they had fallen, but for some inexplicable reason had dragged them off.


It was five minutes later when they finally came across the source of the blood trail they’d been following. A enemy merc lay face down on the floor in the middle of a medium-sized room, bleeding profusely from a wound to his leg. Ibrahim recognized him as one of the mercs who had fled the recent battle. Approaching carefully, he knelt down beside the motionless figure to check for a pulse but found nothing.


There was only one other exit from the room, another sealed security door off to one side.


“You think his buddy’s inside there?” Sandrine asked, using her laser rifle to point to the closed portal.


“I doubt it,” Ibrahim replied. “He probably knew we’d be following the blood trail. I bet he ditched this guy at one of those other branches farther back. Probably waited for us to go by then made a mad dash back to the exit.”


“I hope Farra and Jeong O are on their toes,” Sandrine muttered.


“They can handle him,” Ibrahim assured her. “I’m more interested in what’s behind this door.”


“Probably leads to the primary research lab,” Fukui guessed. “Maybe we’ll finally get some answers in there.”


They rolled the dead merc out of the way; there was no sense taking the chance of someone tripping over his body if there was another firefight waiting for them beyond the door. Then, on Ibrahim’s command, the Go-cho (Corporal) set to work overriding the security lockdown while the Gunsho (Sergeant) and ‘Chief’ Sandrine took position for another flash-and-clear operation.


Sandrine was the first one through this time, and once again there was nobody on the other side. Nobody alive, anyway.


“Sweet mother of mercy!” she gasped.


Ibrahim stepped into the room and felt his stomach lurch at the gruesome spectacle before him. Fukui had been correct; they were standing in an enormous lab dominated by a massive central server. The only way in or out was the door they had just come through, and like the rest of the base every piece of equipment in the room had been blasted beyond all hope of repair.


But none of that was what had evoked their reactions. At least three hundred corpses were strewn about the room, most piled along the walls on either side of the entrance. Their uniforms marked them as DCMS military personnel; the guards, employees, and researchers killed throughout the other sections of the facility. The mystery of where all the bodies had gone was solved, though Ibrahim still couldn’t figure out why they’d all been dragged to this single location.


“Check for survivors, sir?” Sandrine asked, her voice not holding out much hope.


“Wait,” Ibrahim said, holding up his hand to freeze his team in place. “Nobody move a muscle.”


“Oh my God,” Fukui whispered, just now recognizing what Ibrahim had already seen.


The entire room was wired with explosives. Not simple proximity mines, but countless ten-kilo vibro detonation mines placed strategically around the lab. For Gunsho (Sergeant) Ibrahim, all the pieces suddenly fell into place.


There were enough explosives here to vaporize everything inside the room, including the bodies. That was why they’d been so carefully collected here. There’d be no way to positively ID the remains, meaning whoever betrayed Luthian Armor Works would be presumed dead with all the others. They could assume a new identity and live off the profits of their crime with no chance of repercussions.


A soft electronic beep made Ibrahim realize that finding the traitor was the least of their problems.


“Timer!” Fukui hissed, his voice raw with fear and nervous energy.


A second later it beeped again, and the Gunsho (Sergeant) knew the dying merc had lured them into a trap. The detonation sequence was counting down and their fate . . . survival or death . . . would very likely be determined by the next order he gave.


In the split second between beeps his mind analyzed and evaluated the situation. The size of the blast from the explosives would be enormous, more than enough to destabilize the entire underground complex. It would probably cause a cave-in, collapsing the huge natural chamber back by the elevator. Even if they were far enough away to survive the blast, they’d run out of air long before rescue workers would ever find them.


Fukui was a tech expert; there was a chance he could disarm the trigger before it went off. If they had enough time to find it. And if there wasn’t a backup. And if it was a manufacturer he was familiar with. And if there weren’t any built-in fail-safes to prevent manual overrides.


Too many ifs. Disarming it wasn’t an option, which meant the only thing left for them to do was …“FALL BACK! NOW! MOVE!”


Responding to his order, all three of them wheeled around and sprinted back down the halls the way they had come.


“Farra, Jeong O,” Ibrahim shouted into his radio. “Get to the elevator. Now!”


“Aye-aye, sir!” one of them shouted back.


“Wait for us as long as possible, but if I give you the order, you go without us. Is that understood?” There was silence on the other end of the radio . . . the only sounds were the clomping armored feet and heavy breathing of the three Razan’s Ronins DEST Agents sprinting down the hall.


“Heishi (Private)! Do you hear me? If I say go, you damn well go whether we’re there or not!”


He was rewarded with a reluctant, “Understood, sir.”


They were racing through the halls as fast as they could run, slipping and skidding around corners in a desperate attempt to beat out the timer that could go off at any moment. There wasn’t time to check for enemy ambushes; they just had to hope they didn’t run into one.


Rounding the corner into the room where Ibrahim had earlier ordered Farra and Jeong O to wait for them, their luck finally ran out. Sandrine was in the lead, her long legs allowing her to eat up extra ground with every stride, and she had pulled a few meters ahead of her two male companions. She ran full speed into the room … and right into a spray of gunfire.


The lone surviving merc, an ULTRA agent, was waiting for them. He must have stumbled into the room after Farra and Jeong O had pulled back to the elevator on Ibrahim’s command. Since then he’d been waiting patiently, just hoping for a chance to extract some form of petty revenge.


The force of the bullets picked Sandrine off her feet and sent her crashing to the ground in a heap. Her forward momentum caused her body to somersault across the floor until she stopped, crumpled and motionless in the corner.


Ibrahim was the second one into the room; he charged in with his weapon already firing. Normally, running straight at a stationary enemy with a loaded laser rifle was pure suicide, but the merc had foolishly kept his attention on Sandrine as she’d tumbled and fell . . . he wasn’t even looking in Ibrahim’s direction. By the time he tried to spin around and fire back at his charging foe the Gunsho (Sergeant) was virtually on top of him; so close that even while running he was able to aim accurately enough to blow a hole in the Tikonov Republican’s chest.


Fukui arrived a split second later, coming to a stop when he saw Sandrine lying in a rapidly spreading pool of blood.


“Go!” Ibrahim shouted at him. “Get to the elevator.”


Fukui gave a curt nod and took off, leaving Ibrahim to check on their fallen comrade.


The Gunsho (Sergeant) dropped to one knee and rolled her over, then nearly jumped back in surprise when her eyes flickered open beneath her helmet.


“Stupid bastard aimed too low,” she said through gritted teeth. “Took me in the leg.”


Ibrahim glanced down and saw that it was true. A few stray bullets had penetrated the armored barriers protecting her torso only to ricochet off the heavy plates of her body armor, inflicting no damage beyond small dents and discolorations. But her right leg, where the armor was thinner and the highest concentration of fire had depleted and penetrated her armor, had been reduced to pulp and hamburger.


“You ever have a piggyback, ‘Chief’?” Ibrahim asked her, tossing his weapons to the ground and rapidly shutting down his weapons and shunting all his suits power to its myomers.


“I was never a piggyback kind of girl, sir,” she replied, snapping off her belt and discarding every piece of equipment that wasn’t strapped on.


“Nothing to it,” he explained, reaching down to help her into a sitting position. She still had her body armor on, but they’d already wasted too much time. “All you gotta do is hold on.”


He did his best to help her wrap her arms around his neck and shoulders, then stood up, momentarily staggering under the large woman’s weight. He reached back to help support her weight, clutching her thighs and buttocks while her arms locked around his collar in fiercely strong grip.


“Giddy-up,” she grunted, doing her best to hide the agony the movement was inflicting on her mangled leg.


Ibrahim took a few unsteady steps, struggling to find a way to move as quickly as possible while balancing the awkward load. By the time they emerged from the passage into the large stalactite-filled cavern he had found an awkward but effective cadence somewhere between a gallop and a trot. And then the timer detonated.


From the main laboratory in the heart of the research base an enormous ball of heat, fire, and force burst loose, laying waste as it swept through the complex. Doors were warped and ripped off hinges, floors buckled, walls melted.


Far away in the natural cavern the effects of the explosion were felt in three distinct stages. First, the ground seemed to heave under Ibrahim’s feet, sending him tumbling to the ground. Sandrine screamed as her leg slammed against the floor, but her voice was drowned out by the second phase of the explosion . . . a deafening boom that echoed throughout the cavern and drowned out every other sound. The final phase was a wall of hot air propelled by the blast spilling out from the passage to roll over them, pinning them to the ground, burning their lungs as the intense heat overloaded their armor and leaving them gasping for air.


Ibrahim struggled to breathe, and for a second he nearly blacked out. He fought to maintain consciousness as the invisible hand squeezing his chest and pinning him to the ground slowly released its pressure while the super-heated air expelled by the blast dispersed itself throughout the cavern.


They weren’t out of danger yet. The force of the blast had rocked the cavern. The strings of artificial lights ripped loose, swaying wildly and casting bizarre, crazy shadows throughout the room. And though his ears were still ringing, he could plainly hear the loud, sharp cracks of stress fractures appearing in the walls and ceiling as the cavern began to collapse.


“Fukui!” he shouted into his radio, hoping the three men in the elevator could still hear him. “This place is caving in! Get to the surface! Now!”


“What about you and Sandrine?” The reply was barely audible inside Ibrahim’s helmet, though from the tone it was clear the Go-cho (Corporal) was shouting.


“Send the elevator back down after you get to the top,” he snapped. “Now move! That’s an order!” Not waiting for a reply, Ibrahim scrambled over to check on Sandrine. She had passed out; the pain in her leg too much to bear on top of the physical trauma of the explosion’s aftershocks.


Summoning what was left of his strength, the Gunsho (Sergeant) managed to stand up, slinging her over his shoulders in a fireman’s carry.


He began a desperate, staggering race to freedom as the chamber disintegrated around them. Stalactites plunged down like enormous jagged limestone spears, the fragile hold they had maintained on the ceiling for thousands of years finally failing. Huge cracks were spreading through the floor, walls, and roof, causing great chunks of rock to shear off and tumble to the floor where they exploded into dust and rubble on impact.


Ibrahim did his best to block it all out. There was nothing he could do but keep moving and pray they weren’t crushed from above, so he forced his mind to focus solely on placing one foot in front of the other. He wasn’t sure he was going to make it. The swinging strings of lights caused a strobe like effect that made it difficult to keep his balance on the uneven ground. He was bruised and beaten from the concussion of the blast. Exhaustion and fatigue were setting in. The muscles in his thighs and calves were burning as he pumped them ever forward inside his myomer enhanced Gray Death Scout Battle armor suit.


The adrenaline rush he’d felt at the beginning of the mission was gone: his body simply had nothing left to give. He moved slower and slower, the unconscious woman draped over his shoulders feeling as heavy as the massive slabs of rock raining down around them.


When the elevator finally came into view he wasn’t surprised to see Fukui, Farra, and Jeong O still waiting for him. Seeing their commander staggering along like the living dead, all three of them rushed out to help. Ibrahim was too exhausted to object. He simply let Sandrine slide from his shoulders into the grasp of the two rookies, one taking her under the shoulders and the other under her hips.


With the burden removed he lost his balance and nearly fell over, but Fukui was there to catch him. Leaning on the Go-cho (Corporal) for support, he managed to take the last twenty steps into the elevator before collapsing in the corner.


The doors slammed shut and the car began the long journey up to the top. The ride was far from smooth: the elevator moved in fits and starts as the gears screeched and squealed. Nobody said anything, as if they were afraid mentioning their precarious position might make it worse. Ibrahim simply lay where he had fallen, panting and wheezing as he tried to catch his breath.


By the time they reached the top and spilled out into the safety of the surface he had recovered enough to speak.


“I told you not to wait for us,” he chastised his team as they made their way back to the Tempest Fury, the greenhorns still carrying Sandrine’s unconscious body between them. “I should bust each of you down a full rank for disobeying orders!” He paused to let the statement sink in. “That, or recommend you all for medals.”


WORD COUNT 3827


NPC

Name: Ralph Ibrahim

Callsign: ‘Stack’

Rank: Gunsho (Sergeant)

Hardware: Gray Death Scout Battle Armor

Company: Draconis Elite Strike Team

Platoon: Ghost Platoon

Assignment: Scout

Unit: Razan's Ronins

HOUSE: DRACONIS COMBINE


Name: Gerald Brand

Callsign: ‘Scratch Proof’

Rank:, Go-cho (Corporal)

Hardware: Hatamoto Ku HTM 60W

Company: Ronin Legion

Lance: Fire Dragon

Assignment: Sentry

Unit: Razan's Ronins

HOUSE: DRACONIS COMBINE



FW-OR-02-04 #14


Draconis Combine/ULTRA Contested

Dieron Prefecture

Dieron Military District

Al Na'ir Province

Telos IV

Dulles

Razan’s Ronins LZ

Bivouac

Teppo Mobile HQ

Wednesday May 23rd 06:30 3094


"Chu-sa (Jr Lieutenant Colonel) Kimura, please report to Tai-sa (Colonel) Onishi Razan! Chu-sa (Jr Lieutenant Colonel) Kimura …"


Chu-sa (Jr Lieutenant Colonel) Reece ‘Buddha’s Fist’ Kimura yawned in his cot, cussing at the PA that robbed him of his sleep. He hadn't slept good for days as his unit, Steel Dragon Battalion, had been training for the next deployment to the continent of Rostov, to reinforce the 15th Dieron Regulars against the ULTRA Provisional Regiment. His physical training made him tired, but as a Vehicle Battalion commander in the Razan’s Ronins Regiment, he had to spend more time in the situation room, acing tactics and strategies while his subordinates were sleeping. He only spent 5 hours a day to rest, and he knew he would spend even less hours than that in his bunk today.


Mumbling incoherently, Kimura donned his uniform and dragged his feet toward the field office of Tai-sa (Colonel) Onishi ‘Rough Ryder’ Razan, the CO of Razan’s Ronins Mercenary Mix Arms Regiment. On the way to his CO’s field office, he walked through the repair area and watched his unit’s Hiryo WiGE having a final checkup from the gunner/technician Hojuhei (Recruit) Luyen Nguyen, the sexy little number with two prosthetic type four legs. She looked up at Reece as he passed by and nodded in a way of acknowledgement. He smiled at her and kept on walking. Kimura joined the Razan’s Ronins 4 years ago, hoping to become a mechwarrior like most young men, but a head injury prevented him from wearing a neurohelmet. He was instead transferred to the Razan’s Ronins vehicle unit, then only a two lances, and assigned to a Narumkami, a 90 ton tracked, assault class tank he learned to love over the 4 year period. He made a good career with his Narumkami, which earned him the rank of Chu-sa (Jr Lieutenant Colonel) and a privilege to command his own vehicle battalion.


Arriving at Onishi's Teppo Field office, Kimura knocked on the door three times. At the sound of Onishi's concession, he climbed the three short steps, entering the Teppo and took the liberty to take a seat in front of the Tai-sa (Colonel).


"Sorry to wake you up, Kimura," Onishi said while opening a small holo disc case with several discs inside. "I know you've been busy preparing for the Rostov deployment, but I have a rush job for you."


"A rush job, Onishi-sama?" Kimura asked. "Does that mean I don't get to go to Rostov?"


"It depends," Onishi replied. "If you can pull this off quickly, you may be able to return to Dulles to go to Rostov. You'll be exhausted, I know, but on the bright side, you and your Battalion will have a chance to fight weaker forces before you face off with the ULTRA Provisional Regiment, a privilege that the rest of the Razan’s Ronins don't have. You'll be the most combat ready battalion in the entire regiment."


"Where am I going, Onishi-sama?"


"How does Pemberton sound to you?"


"Uh…" Kimura cringed. "Rebel haven… I hate rebellion. They don't have dignity, fighting for their lost cause. Who should I face at Pemberton?"


"Worse than mere rebels," Onishi smiled. "Or maybe better, depends on your perspective. As you might've read or heard, ULTRA Loyalist have taken over control of the Fellin Capital and several major industrial and mining cities on that southern hemisphere continent, including the Capital, Heldev, this war torn rock we are on with a defacto leader. The ULTRA Loyalist haven't mounted a strong offensive so far, but many feel that these fanatics are preparing something. Their maneuver is obvious that they are inching toward authority of the planet.


"Your job is simple: extract an independent scientist from Pemberton, a ruined city on Fellin. This scientist is working on something that might be useful to us in the battlefield. We can't let the Free Worlds League have his discovery! You and your lance are to infiltrate Pemberton, abduct the scientist, and bring him to Dulles. The details, including the map of Pemberton and the defending forces, are on these holo discs."


"Aren't there any other lances more suited to this mission, Onishi-sama?" Kimura asked. "Not that I'm complaining, but my battalion has been training to fight the ULTRA Provisional Regiment. Fighting the militia will throw off our sync."


"True, but you can regard this mission as a stealth exercise," Onishi resounded. "The premise of stealth mission is the same, no matter whom you're hiding from. And I'd rather have you do it than some other units. I like your dossier, and I know you can pull this off."


"Is there any reinforcement?"


"Negative. Speed and stealth is the utmost importance, and a battlemech unit will draw too much attention and an infantry unit won’t have the staying power. That's why we'll send a small armor unit. You can select four vehicles from among ANY in your entire battalion. You receive any static send them straight to me. The 15th Dieron Regulars' Regulars, is the Draconis Combine’s House unit under Tai-sa (Colonel) Elizabeth Carrols command. You can ask for their assistance, but only if you're in dire need of support. The details are in those discs. The DropShip will leave in 20 hours."


"I will not let you down, Onishi-sama," Kimura stood up, bowed, then left the Teppo.




Draconis Combine/ULTRA Contested

Dieron Prefecture

Dieron Military District

Al Na'ir Province

Telos IV

Fellin

Pemberton

Battle Zone

Thursday May 24th 09:30 3094 Local


Kimura perched on top of a Trident Company, Dragon Scale Lance, Command tank, a Fury, observing the city of Pemberton through his range finder binoculars. Smoke billowed up from the tortured city, and occasional explosions boomed in the distance. For almost ten months, Fellin had been a contest of power among the Fellin Republic (ULTRA supporters), 15th Dieron Regulars (Kurita loyalists), the Black Outlaws and the Dragon’s Breath mercenary units under Kurita contract. Now that ULTRA entered the fray, Fellin had become more and more of a wasteland. Pemberton was no different.


Kimura turned back to rally his platoon. On his right was Sho-ko (Master Sergeant) Brain Veurink, his recon expert, with a Halbred Section’s, Scout Lance’s, fast Pegasus scout tank. On his left wing stood Sho-ko (Master Sergeant) Walter ‘Tiger’ Blakenship, his sniper specialist, in a Halbred Section, Infantry Support Lance Cizin. Closing the formation at the back was Sho-ko (Master Sergeant) Yi Kuang Lin, artillery whiz, a Skirmisher, Support Lance medium class Long Range Missile Goblin tank. Razan’s Ronins were an elite corps of commandos trained in every branch of the military from piloting a BattleMech to operating a JumpShip, and everything in between. Of the twenty-one man platoon, sixteen of them were required to crew the four tanks. The remaining five, Urban Ronin Squad, would deploy into battle from the Goblins infantry bay, under command of Tai-i (Captain) Duane Johnson. Each of these guys had fought with him for more than 3 years each, and he knew he could count on any of them.


"Alright, armor platoon, listen up," Kimura briefed his troops. "We have 48 hours before the DropShip pick us up. There's a full blown war in front of us, but it's not our war. Our job is to get this scientist and pull out. We don't want to attract any attention. Do this quick, so we can go back to Dulles and prepare to face our real enemies, the ULTRA Provisional Regiment! Are you ready?"


A pumped up chorus answered his query.


"Veurink, take point!" Kimura ordered, then climbed back into his Fury. The Fury tank’s driver stepped on the pedal, bringing his 80 ton tank rolling behind Veurink's Pegasus. Behind him Blakenship brought his Cizin, and Lin closed the formation in her Goblin II Infantry Support Tank. The convoy rolled steadily into the city of Pemberton. Entering the city, the smell of gunpowder and burning flesh stung their noses. Battlemechs, tanks, helicopters, and infantries from various factions pounded at each other with large bored guns. Bullets ricochets left and right while lasers and missiles swooshed about. Lucky for the Kuritans, the combatants were too busy fighting each other to notice their presence. The Razan’s Ronins tanks slipped away from the heat of the battle with only minor damage from stray fire and some infantry troops that noticed their presence, who Lin took care of with her twin 50 caliber machine guns.


After 30 minutes driving in the war torn city, the Razan’s Ronins platoon arrived at a suburb area that hadn't been touched by the war too much. They drove for a while through a residential complex, then parked in front of a small hut. Kimura ordered Veurink and Blakenship to stand by in their tanks, just in case, while himself, Sho-ko (Master Sergeant) Lin, and the squad of DEST Agents riding in the Goblin’s infantry bay exited their tanks and came to the hut's door. Kimura rapped on the door.


"Yes?" an old man came out. "Can I help you?"


"Doctor Haney?" Kimura said. "I am Chu sa (Jr Lieutenant Colonel) Kimura, Razan’s Ronins, Steel Dragon Battalion. I am here to take you to Triumph."


"What?" the scientist frowned. "I don't plan to leave this place! Who told you that?"


"I have my orders, Haney sensei, to escort you out of Pemberton, away from ULTRA influence."


"No!" the old man yelled. "I know what you're up to! You're into my work! You want to dominate the battlefield with my invention! It is because of guys like you the universe is what it is now! I will not let you abuse my invention! Good day, gentlemen! And don't come back, you're not welcomed!"


"Please cooperate, Haney sensei," Reece tried to persuade the scientist. "I mean you no harm. We come in peace. But I have my orders, and I will do anything to ensure that their accomplished."


"Is that a threat?" Doctor Haney went off. "Are you threatening me, you Kuritan Snake! Well I'm not afraid of you, nor will I go anywhere! Now shove all your righteous act up yourself! Good day!"


The scientist turned back to get into his house. Kimura cued Duane, who then grabbed the old man's shoulder. The scientist jerked back, and Duane launched a straight punch, right into his face. A loud thud signaled a broken nose, and the scientist sloshed to the ground. A dark hue mushroomed under both his eyes.


"Get him on the Goblin!" Kimura ordered while double timing it back to his tank. DEST Kashira (Talon Sergeant) Misty Issacks hoisted the unconscious scientist onto her shoulders and took him to the Goblin’s infantry bay. Two other Shujin (Staff Sergeant)’s duck taped him into a jump seat, then went back to their own seats. "That's it, people. Let's get out of here."


"Chu sa (Jr Lieutenant Colonel) Kimura, I pick up multiple inbounds coming this way," Veurink stated. "Half a company of Longinus battle armor!"


"Shimatta! Longinus…" Kimura knew what it meant. "Alright, everybody go weapons hot! The ULTRA Loyalist are coming our way, and I'm sure they don't come in peace!"


"Attention Mercenary intruders," a general transmission sprang on the comlink. "This is Colonel Herman Saweeny, ULTRA army. The scientist is under the protection of ULTRA Provisional Regiment. Hand me the scientist and I'll grant you a peaceful withdrawal."


"This is Kimura Chu sa (Jr Lieutenant Colonel), RRMB," Kimura replied, preparing his autocannons with incendiary ammunition. "I have my orders to take Haney sensei out of Pemberton. I mean you no harm, but if you don't grant a pathway for us to get out of this city, we will attack."


"This is your last warning, Mercenary Snakes! In the name of all that is holy, I swear I'll crush your tin cans into scrap if you don't hand me the scientist! Do it now or you'll suffer the consequences!"


"Agatha Rousset-Marik, fanatics!" Kimura yelled. "Razan’s Ronins, vehicle platoon, fire at will!"


The nozzle belched fire as Kimura fired his high explosive rounds at the Longinus battle armor. Mushroom like explosion blasted, flushing four Longinus in a fire hail. Lin and Blakenship spread their missiles over a wide area, killing half a dozen more battle armor in a chain explosion. Chunks of armor and body parts flew in every direction.


"Mercenary scumbags!" Saweeny exploded in wrath. "ULTRA, ATTACK!"


Ten Longinus leapt into the sky and fired their SRMs at their closest target, Veurink's Pegasus. The scout tank staggered and quaked as the warheads gouged its armor, dangerously threatened the internal structure. Veurink brought his tank to turn, firing his medium pulse laser wildly, but more and more Longinus scored good hits on his tank. Chunks of armor flew in every direction, and within seconds, the Pegasus caught fire.


"Veurink, pull back!" Kimura noticed his scoutmaster was in trouble. "I'll deal with them!"


"I am fine, Chu sa (Jr Lieutenant Colonel)," Veurink refused to comply. "I will not give the ULTRA Loyalist the satisfaction by retreating! If I go down, I will take as many of them with me as I can!"


Kimura knew that ordering Veurink to retreat to save his life would only insult him. Their Bushido training dictated them to fight until the last drop of blood, and retreating was an act of cowardice. Kimura’s driver, Gunjin (Lance Corporal) Shaila Supriya, gunned the Fury’s engine as Kimura ordered, "Blakenship! Lin! Move forward and assist Veurink!"


Lin and Blakenship fired more missiles, which whizzed in the air and exploded at the Longinus ranks, sweeping more battle armor aside. But Saweeny orchestrated his battle armor squads to attack only Veurink's dying Pegasus. Four of six of its hover skirts were flaming, and the tank spurted oil and coolant like a bleeding beast. Veurink made his last fight, drilling a Longinus with his medium lpulse aser, before a quartet of missiles slammed into his power generator. A loud explosion ripped half of the Pegasus apart, and Sho-ko (Master Sergeant) Veurink ordered his tank’s crew out seconds before the rest of the tank was engulfed in a bonfire.


"Veurink! Get in my tank!" Kimura halted the Fury Command tank near the crash, with the bay door already opened.


As Veurink’s crew climbed into the Fury, Blakenship and Lin covered him with their LRM 10 missiles. The missiles exploded on the ground, creating a wall of fire that halted the advance of the Longinus. Knowing that the Goblin tank posed the greatest threat, Saweeny dove for the missile tank with a dozen battle armor on his tail. Having only one remaining machine gun, Lin tried to escape, but two missiles breached her right track, rendering her Goblin immobilized.


"Blakenship, cover fire for Lin!" Kimura ordered and brought his 90mm rotary auto cannons to bear. Two Longinus went down in flames. Some Longinus were distracted and started to fire at the Fury, but Kimura fired his auto cannon on full bore as quickly as it could recycle, creating a fiery explosion that burnt three Longinus. Blakenship came with his ER Large Laser repeatedly, mutilating five more ULTRA battle armor.


Losing more and more battle armor in an alarming rate, Saweeny pulled his troops out. "This is not over, Mercenaries! You can keep the scientist today, but you'll never get out of this city with him! This I swear, and the ghost of Alexander Kerensky is my witness!"


Kimura himself was relieved that the Longinus withdrew. His tank was riddled with bullets holes and pocked mark with missile blast, and his armor diagram was blinking red. Blakenship's Cizin's was no better, with sparks and smoke spurting from all around its hull. Lin's Goblin was still pristine, but without the replacement for the breached track, Kimura knew that he had to leave the missile tank behind. "Lin, scuttle your Goblin and have your crew hitch a ride with me. Bring the scientist Have the DEST squad ride with Sho-ko (Master Sergeant) Blakenship! We need to get out of here before the ULTRA Loyalist return with reinforcement!"


"Hai, Chu sa (Jr Lieutenant Colonel)!" Lin replied with a slight hesitation. She felt responsible for the $848,000 C Bill Goblin, as much as Kimura would feel responsible for the Fury. But she knew that it was unsalvageable, and destroying it was the only way to keep them alive and their mission accomplished.


As the Goblin exploded, Kimura and Blakenship drove their mangled tanks into the suburb area of Pemberton to plan their next move.


WORD COUNT 2764


Name: Reece Kimura

Callsign: ‘Buddha’s Fist’

Rank:, Chu sa Chu sa (Jr Lieutenant Colonel)

Hardware: Narumkami Heavy Tank NK 1C

Battalion: Onishi Dragon

Company: Trident

Lance: Fire Dragon

Assignment: Assault

Unit: Razan's Ronins

HOUSE: DRACONIS COMBINE
Raymond Freeman MacCreary
Deputy Director
Mercenary Review and Bonding Commission (MRBC)

“We abjure labels. We fight for money and an indefinable pride. The politics, the ethics, the moralities, are irrelevant.”
Croaker, The Black Company

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Re: Transcript for FW-OR-02-04

Postby DeputyDirector » Tue Jan 17, 2017 5:02 am

FW OR 02 04 #15


Draconis Combine/ULTRA Contested

Dieron Prefecture

Dieron Military District

Al Na'ir Province

Telos IV

Fellin

Pemberton

Suburbs

Friday May 25th 17:45 Local 3094


Kimura crouched behind the tank, scanning the bottom of the Fury. Oil and coolant dripped from several cracks in the under carriage, and Kimura knew the tank wouldn't survive Pemberton. He just hoped that it would survive at least to get them safely to the DropShip. The Fury had been fighting with the Razan’s Ronins since their inception, and Kimura had a feeling that it was the last time any Ronin would fight with it.


"How bad is it?" Sho-ko (Master Sergeant) Lin stood beside him, watching the stream of fluid leak from the tank.


"Bad," Kimura sighed. "It won't survive this operation, I'm sure of it. I hope it can at least get us to the DropShip safely to complete our mission. How's our guest?"


"He refuses to eat but he's taking water," Lin informed him. "I think he can survive another 24 hours without food, if that's what he chooses."


"We've got less than 20 hours until the Wyvern comes," Kimura glanced at his chronometer. "It's not his pig headedness that I'm worried about. I'm afraid the Fury can't survive 20 hours against ULTRA."


"About the scientist, Chu sa (Jr Lieutenant Colonel)," Lin asked in agitation. "What's he doing that he deserves this much attention? Did he invent some kind of super weapon? More powerful than nukes?"


"It's not ours to fret, Lin san," Kimura said while averting her eyes. "We're just Ronin. We do what we're told to do. If you start asking questions about your mission, you're second guessing your Liege’s judgment. We're trained in Bushido, Lin san, and asking questions is not a part of it."


"Hai, Chu sa (Jr Lieutenant Colonel)," Lin bowed in respect.


By that time, Sho-ko (Master Sergeant) Blakenship and crew returned in the Cizin from scouting the area. By the looks on their fatigue faces when they dismounted the tank, Kimura could tell that the situation had become worse than he could've imagine.


"The ULTRA Loyalist have blocked our exits, Chu sa (Jr Lieutenant Colonel)," Blakenship reported. "They placed two companies of Longinus battle armor, plus an additional lance of Sentinel battle mechs along our escape route. We can't possibly break the Longinus companies with only 2 tanks, let alone a medium ‘Mech lance."


"The leader of the Longinus unit we fought yesterday, Colonel Saweeny, has issued martial law in Pemberton," Veurink stated matter of factly. "They will kill Pemberton citizens unless we hand over the scientist."


"Saweeny, saite dana!" Kimura hissed in disgust. It was not enough that he had to take care of twenty one people's lives, and his own, along with the success of his mission. Now the citizens of Pemberton’s lives lied in his hand too. Kimura leaned up against the Fury, thinking of the best course of action he could take. He knew that his mission was a priority, but he couldn't let the ULTRA Loyalist butcher Pemberton's citizen. Suddenly he remembered that he had one more ace up his sleeve.


"Wait here," Kimura ordered his men then went and climbed into the Fury tank. He flipped his holo disc case opened and looked for the one labeled frequency channels, popped it in the reader, then dialed it in his comlink. A burst of static flooded the receiver, followed by a faint male voice. Kimura connected his mic to the comlink and said, "This is Chu sa (Jr Lieutenant Colonel) Kimura, Dulles, Razan’s Ronins, Mercenary Battalion. I wish to speak to Tai-sa (Colonel) Elizabeth Carrols, over."


"This is Elizabeth," a firm voice now sprung on the com link. "What can I do for you, Chu sa (Jr Lieutenant Colonel)?"


"I running an op in your AOE, and it requires my vehicle platoon to catch a flight for Dulles by 1300 hours tomorrow. But the ULTRA Loyalist are blocking our exits and will start killing civilians to prevent us from completing our mission. Is there something you can do to distract the ULTRA Loyalist, Tai-sa (Colonel)?"


"You can expect that from these animals, can't you Chu sa (Jr Lieutenant Colonel)?" she said somberly. "Anyway, I have two lances of ‘Mechs stationed near Pemberton. I can order them to attack the ULTRA Loyalist strongholds, just enough to draw their attention. You'll have to fight your way by yourself. Is that fair, Chu sa (Jr Lieutenant Colonel)?"


"Yes, Tai-sa (Colonel)."


"Good! I need a complete reconnoiter on their positions, and your pick up site. Every little detail will help me create an effective diversionary attack, which ultimately will help you too. I hope my two lances can destroy enough ULTRA Loyalist to spoil their massacre plan."


"Domo arigato gozaimashita!" Kimura said exuberantly.


"Hey, don't thank me. Thank Hohiro Kurita for putting me on Fellin. This is not a free service, by the way. I will bill your boss later. But I'm always glad to help my Kuritan contractors! Fifteenth Dieron Regulars CO out!"


Kimura turned off his com link, a smile of satisfaction sprung on his lips. He always despised House Lackeys, but today, he was glad that he knew one. It changed his perspective of them. Getting out of the Fury, he went back to his vehicle platoon mates who were waiting anxiously.


"The 15th Dieron Regulars Regiment will help us create a hole in the ULTRA Loyalist barricades," Kimura briefed his troops. "I want all of you to ride on the Cizin, including the scientist. I don't think the Fury will make it to the pick up site. We will draw straws tomorrow to see who will have the honor to man it. Whatever happens tomorrow, we will not allow it to hinder our mission. Our order is to bring Haney sensei alive to the DropShip, and do what it takes to keep him alive until we arrive in Dulles. This might be my last order for you, so may our Bushido code bind you.


"Hai, Chu sa (Jr Lieutenant Colonel)!" the twenty Ronin replied in unison.


"Alright, get some rest."

Draconis Combine/ULTRA Contested

Dieron Prefecture

Dieron Military District

Al Na'ir Province

Telos IV

Fellin

Pemberton

Battle Zone

Saturday May 26th 08:30 Local 3094


The city of Pemberton went alive with fire as the 15th Dieron Regulars Regiment marched into the city, and went head to head with the enemy. Two lances of 15th Dieron Regulars medium and light ‘Mechs traded fire with four Sentinels and two dozen Longinus battle armor from the ULTRA. Flashes of lasers, ballistics, missiles, and explosions painted the city like a firework gala on an independence day. The sounds of explosions echoed throughout the maimed city, and the smell of gunpowder was imminent long before the city came into view.


Kimura, Lin, Veurink, and Blakenship observed the downtown from the suburb, watching the enraging battle from the distance. It was two hours before pick up, and they had to go across the blazing Pemberton downtown to get to the pick up site.


"This is it," Kimura said. "Go flank speed to the pick up site. Do not stop for anything, including Sho-ko (Master Sergeant) Veurink. I want you to know that it's been a privilege to serve in the Razan’s Ronins with you." Veurink squad had drawn the short straws.


"The honor is ours, Chu sa (Jr Lieutenant Colonel)," Veurink replied, followed by approving nods from the others.


"Alright then, let's get it done," Veurink jumped into the Fury. He checked the oil gauges, wincing upon noticing that the tank was almost running dry. He pushed the throttle forward, and hoped that the tank would go as close to the pick up site as possible. Veurink was ready to die. As his Bushido training dictated, dying for their Lord in battle was the highest honor a warrior could ever achieve.


Veurink drove the Fury through debris marred streets of Pemberton, with Blakenship's Cizin on his back. Infantry monopolized the streets, shouting and shooting at anything that moved. It was almost impossible to see whether they were 15th Dieron Regulars, the Black Outlaws, Dragon’s Breath, or ULTRA Loyalist's. Their insignia and uniforms were smeared by soot and oil. Kimura blazed the Cizin’s ER large laser, driving the infantry away from the tanks and preventing them from taking pot shots at his two laboring tanks. Bullets ricocheted along the hull of the Fury. Sometimes missiles from shoulder mounted SRM whizzed just a mere centimeter above the turret, but lucky for him, none of them hit the Fury or the Cizin.


Downtown was where the ‘Mech action took place. Explosions roared one after another, and visibility was extremely low because of the smoke. Tongues of fire licked from burning buildings, destroyed ‘Mechs, and mauled tanks. Dead bodies littered the ground. Kimura maneuvered through the debris on the street, and took a detour when an intense ‘Mech fight took place in front of him. The ‘Mechs were too busy fighting each other, no one paid attention to the two small tanks tiptoeing on the ground.


The remnants of the vehicle platoon had passed through downtown and was on the verge of leaving Pemberton when a dozen Longinus battle armor blocked their way. Kimura knew who the leader was. He could feel the heat sprouting from the eyes of the Longinus leader when he zoomed in on the battle armor.


"So, Kuritan Snakes, you decided to be reasonable," Saweeny's voice boomed. "Give me the scientist, and you're free to go."


"I don't trust you, Traitor! First, let the Cizin go," Kimura said. "When it reaches a safe distance from Pemberton, you'll have your scientist."


"Don't test my patience, Kuritan!" Saweeny yelled. "Give me the scientist, NOW!"


"It's clear to me that you're not a man of your word," Kimura clutched his joysticks. "You want the scientist? Then come and get him yourself with honor! In the name of Hohiro Kurita, I challenge you!"


"Fine!" Saweeny dashed forward and charged the Fury. "Stupid Snake, you'll die eating my laser!"


"Blakenship, Saweeny doesn't know that the scientist is no longer aboard the Fury!" Kimura changed to private frequency. "Get us out of here and get to the pick up site before he realizes it!"


Blakenship swung the Cizin to his left, leaving Veurink and his tank crew to face the Longinus horde alone. The Fury fired all guns in unison. Tangerine fireball blossomed from the ground, wiping out one third of the Longinus. Saweeny leapt into the sky and fired his laser, melting half a ton of armor on the Fury. Veurink squeezed the trigger for the auto cannon, spreading a hail of shells in a wide area. They were not powerful enough to destroy the Longinus' armor plating, but they were annoying enough that the ULTRA Loyalist battle armor had to crisscross their path to dodge the shells. Two Longinus sacked a good salvo into the assault tanks tread, stopping the Fury dead in its tracks.


Veurink knew his life and the life of his crew was numbered in seconds, but they refuse to go down without a fight. He fired his main guns one more time. Two Longinus engulfed in flames. Saweeny retaliated with his twin SRMs straight into the hull. The explosion swept away the last remaining armor and cracked the internal structure. The Fury caught fire. Veurink gritted his teeth and fired his 90mm rotary auto cannon at Saweeny, but the ULTRA Loyalist leader ducked, letting the high explosive rounds whiz above his head, demolishing a nearby building. He fired his laser at the immobilized tank, torching the coolant system. Veurink's tank turned into a funeral pyre. Veurink took one last defiant blast, killing two more Longinus, before the heat forced him and the five crew members to exit his tank. The fire spread to the power generator, and the Fury exploded.


The vehicle crew gave a good accounting of themselves, unarmored warriors against six Longinus, one metric ton of lethal armored fury. They disabled three of the Longinus before succumbing to their sheer weight of three tons of Longinus battle armor. Two Longinus snatched Veurink from the ground, and brought him to the leader. Saweeny ordered his men to search the remains of the Fury, then scanned Veurink from head to toe. He cocked his hand and launched his mighty hook at Veurink 's jaw. Veurink 's head jerked back, and he felt blood spurting into his throat, along with unbearable pain in his jaw. But he fought the pain and shot a defiant stare at the Longinus. Saweeny fired an armored gloved upper cut into Veurink 's side, breaking two ribs at once. Veurink choked, his breath came in short gasps, but again, refused to give Saweeny the satisfaction. He rose up, staring at the depth of Saweeny's eyes.


"Major," one Longinus reported. "We searched the remains of the Fury. We can't find the remains of the scientist. I think he's been lying the whole time. He's in the other tank!"


Saweeny clutched his hands in wrath, but he knew there was nothing he could do. The Cizin had reached a safe distance, and there was no way his Longinus could catch up with it. He was outsmarted by Kimura. Overwhelmed by shame and rage, he drew his laser and aimed it at Veurink 's head. "Die, you worthless slime! Die in dishonor!"


But Veurink knew it wasn't true. He knew that Lin, Kimura, Blakenship and his remaining Steel Battalion brethren were on their way to the DropShip, along with the coveted scientist. He accomplished his mission, no matter what would happen to him. Mustering every bit of energy he had left to pose a mocking smile, Veurink whispered in his wheezing breath, "It doesn't matter anymore. My mission is complete. You lose… bakayaro!"


Saweeny triggered his laser.







Draconis Combine/ULTRA Contested

Dieron Prefecture

Dieron Military District

Al Na'ir Province

Telos IV

Dulles

Razan’s Ronins LZ

Bivouac

Teppo Mobile HQ

Sunday May 27th 10:00 3094 Local


" Sho-ko (Master Sergeant) Veurink was a very brave warrior," Tai sa (Colonel) Onishi stated while debriefing Lin, Kimura, and Blakenship. "He set the example of how a Razan’s Ronins must act in the battlefield. He put his mission, and the lives of his subordinates, in a higher priority than his own safety. It's hard to find a warrior of his quality. I'm sad that he did not make it. The Razan’s Ronins Mixed Arms Regiment will miss him dearly. ‘I’ was miss him dearly."


"We were honored to fight alongside him, Tai-sa (Colonel) Onishi," Kimura replied.


"His struggle will be our memento on how we should fight the enemies of the Draconis Combine," Blakenship added.


"Very good," Onishi concluded her debriefing. "The first DropShip to Rostov will depart in two weeks. Get your gear ready and check with Chu-sa (Light Commodore) McIntyre for your departing time. You're dismissed."


WORD COUNT 2525


Name: Reece Kimura

Callsign: ‘Buddha’s Fist’

Rank: Chu sa (Jr Lieutenant Colonel)

Hardware: Narumkami Heavy Tank NK 1C

Battalion: Onishi Dragon

Company: Trident

Lance: Fire Dragon

Assignment: Assault

Unit: Razan's Ronins

HOUSE: DRACONIS COMBINE







FW OR 02 04 #16


Draconis Combine/ULTRA Contested

Dieron Prefecture

Dieron Military District

Al Na'ir Province

Telos IV

Haranshire

Lower Atmosphere

Trireme Infantry Transport

Troop Bay

Monday May 28th 13:45 3094 Local


Painted in a charcoal gray with no markings but a small Razan’s Ronins flag on the vertical stabilizer, the Michaelson Heavy Industries Trireme Transport soared above an ocean of pearl-white clouds blanketing the glaring ice of Haranshire like a giant, featherless pterodactyl over a Mesozoic landscape.


Razan’s Ronins Sho-ka (Sergeant Major) Michael Afrane was quite at home in his cockpit office flying over the frozen continent. Normally, he flew back and forth between battle zones, insertion areas, and the bivouacs scattered around any given planet, transporting troops, equipment, and supplies. This trip they had been abruptly pressed into service to fly the hurriedly assembled assault teams to the Haranshire Ice Shelf and drop them over the United Leadership of the Tikonov Republican Army underground facility.


Afrane looked more like a public relations director than a pilot. White hair neatly trimmed, always ready with a smile, he was always volunteering to help out the Razan’s Ronins service and Pillar of Ivory (Culture and Philosophy) organizations. On most flights, he read a book, while his copilot, Kashira (Talon Sergeant) Abrienne Antonucci, a half pint FedRat whose feet could barely reach the helos rudder pedals when she was seated, tended the controls and instruments. Almost reluctantly, he glanced from his book, The Eirstien Papers by Charles Dirge, out his side window and then at the Global Positioning System display.


“Time to go back to work,” he announced, putting aside the book. He turned and smiled at Sho-sa (Lieutenant Colonel) Tanaka ‘Iceman’ Kintaro, who sat perched on a stool behind the pilots. “It’s almost time to begin prebreathing, Sho-sa (Lieutenant Colonel), and acclimate yourselves to the oxygen.”


Kintaro stared through the windshield over the pilot’s heads, but all he saw was cloud cover. He assumed that a corner of the Haranshire Ice Shelf was looming unseen ahead and below the VTOL.


“How’s my time?”


Afrane nodded at the instrument panel. “We’ll be over your release point in one hour. Are your men ready and eager?”


“Ready, maybe, but I’d hardly describe them as eager. They’ve all jumped from an aircraft at thirty-five thousand feet at one time or another, but not while it was traveling at well over hundred kilometers an hour. We’re used to feeling the aircraft slow down before the ramp lowers.”


“Sorry I can’t bring you in closer, slower, and lower,” said Afrane sympathetically. “The trick is for you and your men to land on the ice without your chutes being discovered in the air. My orders state in no uncertain terms for me to make my flight appear to be the routine supply run to McMurdo Sound in a normal flight pattern. I’ve shaved it as close as I dare without raising suspicion. As it is, you’ll have to glide nearly ten kilometers to your target zone just outside the security fences.”


“The wind is blowing from the ocean, so that’s in your favor,” offered Abrienne.


“The cloud cover helps, too,” Kintaro said slowly. “And if they have a functioning radar system, the operator will have to have four eyes to detect us from the exact moment we exit until we deploy our canopies.”


Afrane made a slight course change and then said, “I don’t envy you, Sho-sa (Lieutenant Colonel), jumping from a nice warm airplane into an icy blast one hundred degrees below zero.”


Kintaro smiled. “At least you didn’t hand me the tired old pilot’s line about ‘jumping from a perfectly good chopper.’ I appreciate that.”


They all laughed for a few moments at the inside joke among professionals. For decades, parachutists had been posed the question, “Why do you jump from a perfectly good helicopter?” usually by pilots. The stock answer Kintaro usually gave was “When a perfectly good helicopter exists, then I’ll quit jumping.”


“As for the cold,” Kintaro continued, “our electrically heated battle armor suits will keep us from turning into icicles while we descend to a warmer altitude.”


“The clouds extend, too, within a thousand feet of the ground, so you’ll be falling blind most of the way, since your compasses and GPS instruments are ineffective,” said Abrienne.


“The men are well trained for that. The key to a successful high-altitude, low-opening infiltration jump is to exit at the correct grid coordinate upwind, and have everyone under canopy at relatively the same altitude.”


“We’ll put you out on a silver quarter. But it won’t be no picnic.”


“No,” said Kintaro solemnly. “I’m sure that in the first minute after we drop from the chopper, we’ll wish we were falling into a fiery hell instead.”


Afrane checked the instrument panel again. “After you and your men finish prebreathing, I’ll decompress the cabin. Immediately afterward, I’ll pass on the twenty- and ten-minute warnings to you and my crew. Then I’ll notify you over the intercom when we’re six minutes from the release point. At two minutes out, I’ll lower the ramp.”


“Understood.”


“At one minute out,” Afrane went on, “I’m going to ring the alarm bell once. Then, when we’re directly over the release point, I’ll turn on the green light. At the airspeed we’ll be flying, you’ll have to get out quickly as a group.”


“Our intentions exactly.”


“Good luck to you,” said Afrane, twisting in his pilot’s seat and shaking hands with the Sho-sa (Lieutenant Colonel).


Kintaro smiled faintly. “Thanks for the ride.”


“Our pleasure,” Afrane said genuinely. “But I hope we don’t have to do it again anytime soon.”


“Nor do I.”


Kintaro stood and straightened, left the cockpit, and walked aft into the helicopter’s cavernous cargo bay. The sixteen men seated inside were a serious-faced group, dogged and dead calm, considering the uncertain peril they were about to encounter. They were young. Their ages ranged from twenty to twenty four. There was no laughter or unproductive conversation, no grousing or complaining. To a man they were absorbed in checking and rechecking their equipment. They were a composite of the Razan’s Ronins’ finest fighting men, hastily thrown together on the spur of the moment from the Ghost units to take on Haranshire that were on counter-operations throughout Telos IV. A squad of Tsunami Raiden Battle Armor, a squad Ghost Company’s new Grey Death Scout armor, a squad of Kishi Ceremonial Armor from the Recon platoon, and an Elite squad of DEST KAGE Light Battle Armor . . . a combined band of secret warriors on a mission unlike any ever conceived.


Once the alert had been given the Sho-sa (Sr Lieutenant Colonel),Karen Tsang, a member of the Razan’s Ronins Command Staff, the one thing they had in short supply was time. The Razan’s Ronins Assault Lance was on the way from Dulles but was not expected to reach the Bay for another several days, a time span that might prove too late and disastrous. Tai-sa (Colonel) Onishi ‘Rough Ryder’ Razan’s warning was not received with enthusiasm by the Governor’s top aides, nor the Telos IV current garrisoning unit’s, the 15th Dieron Regulars, Tai-sa (Colonel) Elizabeth Carrols. At first, none dared believe the incredible story. Only when Karen Tsang and various scientists added their weight to the plea for action was the Governor persuaded to allow the Razan’s Ronins to send a special force to stop the rapidly approaching cataclysm.


An air assault with missiles was quickly ruled out because of an utter lack of intelligence data. Nor could the Telos IV Government and the Razan’s Ronins be absolutely sure that they might not find themselves in hot water with the Draconis Combine for destroying an innocent plant and hundreds of employees. Nor could they be certain of the specific location for the command center for Telos IV’s destruction. For all they knew, the nuclear warhead could be hidden in an underground ice chamber hundreds of kilometers from the facility. The Razan’s Ronins Command Staff decided that a manned assault offered the best chance of success, without an international outcry if they were wrong.


The men were seated on their heavy rucksacks, wearing parachutes, and were engaged in completing jumpmaster inspections. The rucksacks were full of survival gear and ammunition for whatever weapon each member carried. KAGE’s mounted a ‘Mech grade Small Laser, a 3cm deadly killer weapon and a 5.56-millimeter automatic rifle with sniper scope. The medium team of Raiden Battle Armor carried a large bore barrel in its right arm that fired a ferrous nickel-iron alloy round commonly known as a gauss rifle slug. Some squads mounted machine guns and laser rifles. The spare magazines, gauss rifle shells, energy packs, fuel cells and SRM missiles weighed nearly twenty pounds and were carried in compartments around their waists. Inside each team members visored helmet was a navigation board, complete with a holovid marine compass and digital altimeter, both clearly visible to the jumper while gliding under his canopy.


Shujin (Master Sergeant) Chris Ridgley led the Ghost Company’s Grey Death Scout Squad, while Tai-i (Captain)Ka Cheong ‘Ghost’ Chan was in command of the Recon Platoon’s Stealth KAGE Squad. Gunsho (Sergeant) Natasha ‘Cha-Cha’ Stetson commanded the Ronons Kishi Ceremonial Armor. Sho-i (Jr Captian) Felix Ndang and his Tsunami Raiden Battle Armor Squad, which had aided the capture of the two Invader Class JumpShips at Telos IV Zenith JumpPoint, was also part of the assault force. The combined group was under the command of Kintaro, a DEST Agent veteran who had been about to return to Ancha on leave with his girlfriend enjoying the Sumo Wrestling Championship in South Normandy, when he was whisked away on a minute’s notice to take command of the elite makeshift assault unit. It had to be the second time in the Razan’s Ronins history that separate special units were merged to fight as one.


For this mission, every man would be utilizing a new ram air parachute system for the first time, called the MT 1Z or Zulu. With a four to one; lift to drag ratio, the canopy could travel four meters horizontally for every meter descended, an advantage that did not go unappreciated among the four teams.


Kintaro scanned the two rows of men. The nearest non-comm, Chris Ridgley, tilted his head and grinned. A grey bearded grizzled veteran wit with a gross sense of humor, and an old friend, he was one of the few who actually looked forward to the suicidal plunge. Chris had been ‘chasing helicopters’ for years, achieving the status of Military Free Fall Instructor at the DMM’s prestigious Special Forces Military Free Fall School in Yuma, Arizona. When not off on a mission or training, Chris could be found skydiving with civilians for the fun of it.


Kintaro had barely had time to glance at service records of Natasha, Ndang and Chan, but he knew they were the best of the best turned out by the Department of Mercenary Management for armored infantry missions. Though he was an old DCMS Infantryman, he well knew the battle armor and armored infantry teams were among the finest fighting men in the Inner Sphere.


As he looked from face to face, he thought that if they survived the jump and glide to the target site, they then had the ULTRA’s security force to contend with. A well armed and trained small army of fanatics, he was told, many of whom had served the very same forces as the men on the chopper. No, Kintaro concluded. This would be no picnic.


“How soon?” Ridgley asked tersely.


“Less than an hour,” Kintaro answered, moving down the line of men and alerting Natasha, Ndang and Chan. Then he stood in the middle of the united fighting men and gave them final instructions. Satellite aerial photos were carried by everyone in a compartment of their armored suits, to be studied once they had fallen into the clear and opened their canopies. Their target landing site was a large ice field just outside the underground facility, whose broken, uneven landscape offered them a small degree of protection when regrouping after the jump. The next part of the plan was the assault on the main engineering center of the facility, where it was hoped the doomsday controls were housed. Expert military minds judged that fewer casualties would occur if they landed and attacked from the outside rather than landing in the maze of buildings, antennas, machinery, and electrical equipment.


Coordination was to take place once each unit was on the ground and assembled for the assault. Any who was injured upon landing would have to suffer the cold and be dealt with later, after the facility had been secured and any systems or equipment that was designed to detonate the warhead destroyed.


Satisfied that each man knew what was expected of him, Kintaro moved to the rear of the cargo bay and donned his parachute and rucksack. Then he had one of Ridgley’s men give him a complete jumpmaster inspection, with emphasis on his oxygen breathing apparatus for the long fall.


Finally, he silhouetted himself with his back to the closed cargo ramp in the floor and waved his hands to get the men’s attention. From this point on, communication with the entire assault team would be conducted by hand and arm signals, which was standard operating procedure. The only voice communications until the jump would be between Kintaro, Ridgley, Ndang, Chan, Natasha and Afrane in the cockpit. Once they exited the VTOL and were under canopy, each man could communicate with individual throat mics over secure frequencies.


“Pilot, this is Gunsho (Sergeant) Mohsan Farid, the jumpmaster.”


“I read you, Gunsho (Sergeant),” came back Afrane’s voice. “Ready on the mark?”


“Jumpmaster checks complete. Oxygen prebreathing is under way.”


Kintaro took an empty seat and studied the men. ‘So far, it was going well, almost too well’, he thought. This is the time when Murphy’s Law came sneaking around, and Kintaro wasn’t about to allow Mr. Murphy any opportunities. He was pleased to see the men were fully alert and primed.


They wore hoods under their battle helmets to gain additional protection from the harsh subzero temperatures. Galeforce yellow-lens for fog and overcast were attached to the helmets, resting up and leaving the men’s eyes clearly visible to Kintaro and the oxygen technician so they could check for any signs of hypoxia. The heating units in their battle suits were activated, and each man checked his buddy to make certain that all equipment was properly organized and in place. Bungee cords and web straps were strategically laced around each man’s battle armor and equipment to prevent them from being torn away by the great burst of air expected upon their exit from the ramp.


After they checked their radios to confirm that each was transmitting and receiving, Kintaro stood up and moved near the closed ramp. Facing his assault force again, he saw that all the men were giving him their undivided attention. Once again, he motioned to the man nearest his left with a thumbs-up signal and then he jumped from the Trireme.


WORD COUNT 2555


Sho-sa (Lieutenant Colonel)

Tanaka Kintaro

callsign: ‘Iceman’

CO Infantry Command Squad

CO Heavy Jump Infantry DEST Platoon

CO Infantry Draconis Elite Strike Team

Shadow Company

DEST

RAZAN’S RONINS MERCENARY REGIMENT
Raymond Freeman MacCreary
Deputy Director
Mercenary Review and Bonding Commission (MRBC)

“We abjure labels. We fight for money and an indefinable pride. The politics, the ethics, the moralities, are irrelevant.”
Croaker, The Black Company


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