IC: PY-SD-04-07 - Security Duty on Gillfillian's Gold

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IC: PY-SD-04-07 - Security Duty on Gillfillian's Gold

Postby DNA » Tue Sep 25, 2018 8:57 pm

Registered Contract: PY-SD-04-07
Region: Periphery
System: Gillfillian's Gold
Galactic Coordinates: X: -479.6 Y: 114.23
Days to Jump Point: 5 days
Planet: Gillfillian's Gold
Primary Planetary Climate: Temperate
Approximate Population: 79 Million People
Capital City: Maroo
Contract Type: Security Duty
Primary Operational Terrain: Urban, Light
Contract Duration: 4 Months (60 Days in REAL TIME) non-negotiable
Employer: Lyran Alliance
Employer Contact: Damad Sandaker
Command Rights: Independent Command
Forces Recommended: A Company Strength Detachment
Supporting Forces: None
Enemy Forces: Rebels - Unknown
Supplement Contracts Offered: Riot Duty
Bounty Per Word: 500 C-Bills
Minimum Bounty: 12,000 Word Transcript
Bonus Salvage Bounty Target: N/A
Bonus Salvage Category: N/A

Tactical
Image
PRIMARY OBJECTIVES:
1) Ensure that Ambassador Liensdorf makes it to all scheduled affairs
2) Ensure the Ambassadors safe return back to the Lyran Alliance

SECONDARY OBJECTIVES:
1) N/A
2) N/A

Gillfillian's Gold - Planetary Details
Image

System Description
The Gillfillan's Gold system is located near the Merlynpede and Otisberg systems.Home to at least one inhabited planet and an asteroid belt.

System History
The Gillfillan's Gold system was either colonised by the Rim Worlds Republic during the Star League era at some point after the end of the Reunification War, or was an already-inhabited system that became significant enough during this period to be recorded on maps.

Planetary History
The Unification Movement active on Gillfillan's Gold and a number of other worlds in the region gained a significant boost when a town councilman named William Roberts discovered that his friend, James Moroney, was the kind of stirring speaker needed to tip popular opinion in favor of bringing together several systems in a new interstellar nation. Morney - a former professor from the University of Regulus exiled from the Free Worlds League - had settled on Gillfillan's Gold in 3041 to start a new life as a simple farmer, but was persuaded to become the spokesman for the Unionists.
A devastating pirate raid on Otisberg in 3046 nearly derailed the efforts of the Unification Movement, but the arrival of Able's Aces tipped things back in favor of the Unionists after the Ace's leader, Major Jerry Able, attended one of Moroney's speeches and persuaded his unit to join the cause, providing training and protection to the six worlds involved. With the signing of the Rim Collection Charter in 3048 the Rim Collection was founded, and James Moroney was declared the first President of the Collection and Gillfillan's Gold became the capital of this new interstellar polity.
During the first two decades of the Collection's history Gillfillan's Gold joined Slewis and Waypoint in exporting significant quantities of rugged local grains, luxury foodstuffs and livestock, with the Abbey District of the Free Worlds League and the Magistracy of Canopus being major customers.

Planetary Locations
Maroo (Capital City)
Rectortown (City)
Rector's Plateau: a 4km raised plateau perfect for landing DropShips.

The only spaceport on Gillfillan's Gold, and the nearest settlement to it, Rectortown are both situated within the bowl of a huge crater. Over three kilometers wide, the crater is encircled by mountains with dangerous passes. Some of these are filled with stagnant pools of water blackened by the industrial waste runoff from centuries past, others are dry and barren of life.
About two hours travel from Rectortown is Maroo, the capital of Gillfillan's Gold and the seat of the Rim Collection's Ruling Council.

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 some of the raw materials needed and imports the rest.
Industrial Output: World has a small industrial base that may produce a limited number of products for export.
Agricultural Dependence: World is agriculturally poor and must import much of its food to supplement what is grown.

EMPLOYER SITUATION REPORT:
The Lyran Alliance is opening up a forum for trade agreement with the Rim Worlds Collection and thus, we will need to send an Ambassador to its Capital world, Gillfillan's Gold. The Lyran Intelligence Arm has reason to believe that factions hostile to the success of a Lyran Alliance/Rim Collection trade agreement, will attempt to thwart the success in some way, shape, or fashion. We need to ensure Ambassador Karl Liensdorf safety, to and from the meetings in Maroo, the capital of and the seat of the Rim Collection's Ruling Council, during his month long stay on Gillfillan's Gold.
Captain Ekon Zane
Callsign: EZ Rider
CO, Dark Sun Combat Corps


With the things I've done in my life, oh I know I'm going to burn in hell. So I sure as shit ain't afraid to burn here on earth. - Wes Mantooth, Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues

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Mesha
Posts: 919
Joined: Sat Feb 11, 2017 8:15 pm
affiliations: Name: Mesha Seville
Callsign: ‘Viper'
Rank: Captain
Hardware: Jagdvogel JGV-1OAi
Wing: AeroSpace (Command)
Flight: Angel Flight
Squadron: Angel
Assignment: IAC Naval Fleet CO
Unit: Ingersolls Armored Cavalry
HOUSE: LYRAN ALLIANCE

Re: IC: PY-SD-04-07 - Security Duty on Gillfillian's Gold

Postby Mesha » Thu Oct 04, 2018 11:19 pm

PY-SD-04-07 #01(RW)

Free Worlds League
Terra Military District
Duchy of Terra
Terra
Continent: Australia
Territory: Northern
Alice Springs
Castle Brian Complex
Department of Mercenary Management
Star League Defense Force
Mercenary Ward
July 15th 09:15 am local time

A humid wind slanted up Church Street in the cheerless dawn of July 15th, 3098. That day I departed for the Department of Mercenary Management.

The Petersburg Massacre was not yet four weeks old, Lyons had fallen. The Atrean Hussars’ actions were a real tragedy, a burning bitter humiliation. Hastily composed war songs were on the lips of everyone, their heavy patriotism failing to compensate for what they lacked in tune and spirit. Hysteria seemed to crouch behind all eyes.

But none of this meant much to me. I was aware of my father beside me, bending into the wind with me. I could feel the wound in my lower regions, still fresh, still sore. The sutures had been removed a few days earlier.

I had sought to enlist the day after the Petersburg Massacre, but the MRBC had insisted that I be circumcised. It cost me a hundred Eagles, although I am not sure to this day whether I paid the doctor or not. But I am certain that few young men went off to war in that fateful time so marked.

We had come across the Jersey meadows, riding the Ponchatrain commuter line, and then on the ferry over the Hudson River to downtown New York. Breakfast at home had been subdued. My mother was up and about; she did not cry. It was not a heart rending leave taking, nor was it brave, resolute; any of those words that fail to describe the thing.

It was like so much else in this war against Agatha that was to produce unbounded heroism, yet not a single stirring song: it was resigned. She followed me to the door with sad eyes and said, “God keep you.”

It had been a silent trip across the meadows and it was a wordless good by in front of the bronze revolving doors at Ninety, Church Street. My father embraced me quickly, and just as quickly averted his face and left. The Irish doorman measured me and smiled.

I went inside and joined the Department of Mercenary Management.

The captain who swore us in reduced the ceremony to a jumble. We all held up our hands. We put them down when he lowered his. That way we guessed we were Mercenaries.

The master gunnery sergeant who became our momentary shepherd made the fact plainer to us. Those rich mellow blasphemous oaths that were to become so familiar to me flowed from his lips with the consummate ease of one who had spent a lifetime in vituperation. I would meet his masters later. Presently, as he herded us across the river to Harrisburg and a waiting monorail, he seemed to be beyond comparison. But he was gentle and kind enough when he said good by to the thirty or forty of us who boarded the monorail.

He stood at the head of our monorail car, a man of middle age, slender, and of a grace that was on the verge of being ruined by a pot belly. He wore the MRBC dress blues. Over this was the regulation tight fitting rain coat of forest green. Green and blue has always seemed to me an odd combination of colors, and it seemed especially so then; the gaudy dark and light blue of the MRBC dress sheathed in sedate and soothing green.

“Where you are going it will not be easy,” the gunnery sergeant said. “When you get to Alice Springs, you’ll find things plenty different from civilian life. You won’t like it! You’ll think they’re overdoing things. You’ll think they’re stupid! You’ll think they’re the crudest, rottenest bunch of men you ever ran into! I’m going to tell you one thing. You’ll be wrong! If you want to save yourself plenty of heartache you’ll listen to me right now: you’ll do everything they tell you and you’ll keep your big mouths shut!”

He could not help grinning at the end; No group of men ever had a saner counselor, and he knew it; but he could not help grinning. He knew we would ignore his every word.

“Okay, Sarge,” somebody yelled. “Thanks, Sarge.”

He turned and left us. We called him “Sarge.” Within another twenty four hours we would not dare address a lowly Pfc. without the cringing “Sir.” But today the civilian shine was still upon us. We wore civvies; Harrisburg howled around us in the throes of trade; we each had the citizen’s polite deprecation of the soldier, and who among us was not certain that he was not long for the ranks?

Our ride to Sydney was silent and uneventful. But once we had arrived in the capital and had changed monorails the atmosphere seemed to lift. Other Mercenary recruits were arriving from all over the east. Our contingent was the last to arrive, the last to be crammed aboard the ancient steel monorail that waited, puffing, dirty in the dark, smelling of hydraulic oil; waited to take us up the coast to Northern Territory. Perhaps it was because of the dilapidated old monorail that we brightened and became gay. Such a dingy, tired old relic could not help but provoke mirth. Someone pretended to have found a brass plate beneath one of the seats, and our car rocked with laughter as he read, “This car is the property of the Philadelphia Museum of American History.” We had light from portable power pack lamps and heat from a Double Induction Burner. Draughts seemed to stream from every angle and there was a constant creaking and wailing of metal and wheels that sounded like an endless keening. Strange old monorail that it was, I loved it.

Comfort had been left behind in Sydney. Some of us already were beginning to revel in the hardship of the monorail ride. That intangible mystique of the Mercenary was somehow, even then, at work. We were having it rough, which is exactly what we expected and what we had signed up for. That is the thing: having it rough. The man who has had it roughest is the man to be most admired. Conversely, he who has had it the easiest is the least praiseworthy.

Those who wished to sleep could cat nap on the floor while the monorail lurched up through South Wales and Queensland. But these were few. The singing and the talk were too exciting. The boy sitting next to me; a handsome blond haired youth from south Jersey, turned out to have a fine high voice. He sang several songs alone. There being a liberal leavening of New York Irish among us, he was soon singing Irish ballads. Across the aisle there was another boy, whom I shall call ‘Armadillo’ because of his lean and pointed face. He was from New York and had attended an Academy there. Being one of the few Academy men present, he had already established a sort of literary clique. The ‘Armadillo’s coterie could not equal another circle farther down the car. This had at its center a stocky, smiling redhead. ‘Red’ had been a catcher for the St. Louis Cardinals and had once hit a home run at the Polo Grounds off the great Joey Hubbs. There was no measuring the impact of such a celebrity on our group, composed otherwise of mediocrities like myself. ‘Red’ had been in the big time. He had held daily converse with men who were nothing less than the idols of his newfound comrades. It was quite natural they should ring him round; consult him on everything from pitching form to the FWLM General Staff.

“Whaddya think it’ll be like at Alice Springs, ‘Red’?”

“Hey, ‘Red’, you think the Hussars are as tough as the newsvids say they are?”

It is an Inner Sphere weakness. The success becomes the sage. Scientists counsel on civil liberty; comedians and actresses lead political rallies; athletes tell us what brand of cigarette to smoke. But the redhead was equal to it. It was plain in his case what travel and headlines can do. He was easily the most poised of us all.

But I suspect even ‘Red’s savoir faire got a rude jolt when we arrived in Alice Springs. We had been taken from the monorail station by ground truck. When we had dismounted and had formed a motley rank in front of the red brick mess hall, we were subjected to the classic greeting.

“Girls and Boys,” said the sergeant who would be our drill instructor. “Grunts, Ah want to tell yawl something. Give youah hearts to Jesus, kids . . . cause youah ass belongs to me!”

Then he fell us in after our clumsy civilian fashion and marched us into the mess hall.

There were baloney and lima beans. I had never eaten lima beans before, but I did this time; they were cold.

The group that had made the trip from New York did not survive the first day in Alice Springs. I never saw the blond singer again, nor most of the others. Somehow sixty of us among the hundreds who had been aboard that ancient monorail, became a training platoon, were assigned a number and placed under the charge of the drill sergeant who had delivered the welcoming address.

Sergeant Bellow was a FedRat with a fine contempt for Dracs. It was not that he favored his fellow FedSunners; he merely treated them less sarcastically. He was big. I would say six feet four inches, two hundred thirty pounds.

But above all he had a voice.

It pulsed with power as he counted the cadence, marching us from the administration building to the quartermaster’s. It whipped us, this ragged remnant, and stiffened our slouching civilian backs. Nowhere else but in the MRBC Corps do you hear that peculiar lilting cadence of command.

“Thrip faw ya leahft, thrip faw ya leahft.”

It sounds like an incantation; but it is merely the traditional “three four your left” elongated by the Periphery March drawl, made sprightly by being sung. I never heard it done better than by our sergeant. Because of this, and because of his inordinate love of drill, I have but one image of him: striding stiff backed a few feet apart from us, arms thrust out, hands clenched, head canted back, with the whole body following and the great voice ceaselessly bellowing, “Thrip faw ya leahft, thrip faw ya leahft.”

Sergeant Bellow marched us to the quartermaster’s. It was there we were stripped of all vestiges of personality. It is the quartermasters who make soldiers, tankers and 'Mechwarriors. In their presence, one strips down. With each divestment, a trait is lost; the discard of a garment marks the quiet death of an idiosyncrasy. I take off my socks; gone is a propensity for stripes, or clocks, or checks, or even solids; ended is a tendency to combine purple socks with brown tie. My socks henceforth will be tan. They will neither be soiled, nor rolled, nor gaudy, nor restrained, nor holey. They will be tan. The only other thing they may be is clean.

So it is with it all, until one stands naked, struggling with an embarrassment that is entirely lost on the laconic shades who work in quartermaster sheds. Within the depths the psychiatrists call subliminal; a human spark still sputters. It will never go quite out. Its vigor or its desuetude is in exact proportion to the number of miles a man may put between himself and his camp.

Thus naked, thus quivering, a man is defenseless before the quartermaster. Character clings to clothes that have gone into the discard, as skin and hair stick to adhesive tape. It is torn from you. Then the quartermaster shades swarm over you with measuring tape. A cascade of clothes falls upon you, washing you clean of personality. It is as though some monstrous cornucopia poised in the air above has been tilted; and a rain of caps, gloves, socks, shoes, underwear, shirts, belts, pants, coats falls upon your unfortunate head. When you have emerged from this, you are but a number: 351391 RWMU. Twenty minutes before there had stood in your place a human being, surrounded by some sixty other human beings. But now there stood one number among some sixty others: the sum of all to be a training platoon, but the parts to have no meaning except in the context of the whole.

We looked alike, as Liaoist seem to Lyrans and, I suppose, vice versa. The color and cut of our hair still saved us. But in a minute these too would fall. The cry rose as we marched to the barbers: “You’ll be sorree!” Before the last syllable of the taunt had died away, the barber had sheared me. I think he needed four, perhaps five, strokes with his electric clipper. The last stroke completed the circle. I was now a number encased in khaki and encompassed by chaos.

And it was the second of these twin denominators of Alice Springs that was the real operative thing. In six weeks of training there seemed not to exist a single pattern; apart from meals. All seemed chaos: marching, drilling in the manual of arms; listening to lectures on military courtesy, “In saluting, the right hand will strike the head at a forty five degree angle midway of the right eye”; listening to lectures on MRBC jargon, “From now on everything, floor, street, ground, everything is ‘the deck’”; cleaning and polishing one’s rifle until it shone like an ornament; shaving daily whether hairy or beardless. It was all a jumble.

“Whadda we gonna do, salute the enemy to death?”

“No, we’re gonna blind them with spit and polish.”

“Yeah, or barber the bastards.”

All the logic seemed to be on our side. The MRBC seemed a madness. They had quartered us on the second floor of a wooden barracks and they kept us there. Save for a week or so on the rifle range and Sunday Masses, I never stirred from that barracks but at the beck of Sergeant Bellow. We had no privileges. We were half baked; no longer civilians, just becoming mercenaries. We were like St. Augustine’s definition of time: “Out of the future that is not yet, into the present that is just becoming, back to the past that no longer is.”

And always the marching.

March to the mess hall, march to the sick bay, march to draw rifles slimy with cosmoline, march to the water racks to scrub them clean, march to the marching ground. Feet slapping ferrocrette, treading the packed earth, grinding to a halt with rifle butts clashing. “To the rear, march! ... Forrr-ward, march! ... Left oblique, march! ... Platoon, halt!” ... clash, clash ... “Right shoulder, ahms!” ... slap, slap ... my finger! my red and white finger ... “Goddammit, men! Strike youah pieces! Hear me? Strike youah pieces, y’hear? Ah want noise! Ah want blood! Noise! Blood! Pre-sent, ahms!” ... my finger! ... “Forrr-ward, march!” ... now again... march, march, march...

It was a madness.

But it was discipline.

Apart from us recruits, no one in Alice Springs seemed to care for anything but discipline. There was absolutely no talk of the Massacre; we heard no fiery lectures about going after Agatha Marik, such as we were to hear later on in Gillfillian’s Gold. Everything but discipline, MRBC discipline, was steadfastly mocked and ridiculed, be it holiness or high finance. These drill instructors were dedicated martinets. Like the sensualist who feels that if a thing cannot be eaten, drunk, or taken to bed, it does not exist, so were these martinets in their outlook. All was discipline.

It is not an attitude to be carried over into pursuits civilian; but it cannot be beaten for straightening civilian backs.

Sergeant Bellow was as strict as most. He would discipline us in the ordinary way: command a man to clean out the head with a toothbrush, or sleep with one’s rifle because it had been dropped, or worse, called “a gun”. But above all he insisted on precision in marching.

Once he grabbed me by the ear when I had fallen out of step. I am short, but no lightweight; yet he all but lifted me off my feet.

“Pantaloon,” he said with a grim smile, seeming to delight in mispronouncing my name. “Pantaloon, if you don’t stay in step they’ll be two of us in the hospital, so’s they can get mah foot out of youah ass!”

Bellow boasted that though he might drill his men into exhaustion beneath that semitropical Northern Territory sun, he would never march them in the rain. Magnificent concession! Yet there were other instructors who not only drilled their charges in the downpour, but seemed to delight in whatever discomfiture they could inflict upon them.

One, especially, would march his platoon toward the ocean. His chanted cadence never faltered. If they hesitated, breaking ranks at the water’s edge, he would fly into a rage. “Who do you think you are? You’re nothing but a bunch of damned boots! Who told you to halt? I give the orders here and nobody halts until I tell them to.”

But if the platoon would march on resolutely into the water, he would permit his cadence to subside unnoticed until they had gone knee deep, or at least to the point where the salt water could not reach their precious rifles. Then he would grin and simulate anger. “Come back here, you mothers’ mistakes! Get your stupid behinds out of that ocean!”

Turning, fuming, he would address Alice Springs in general: “Who’s got the most stupid platoon on this whole damned over sized island? That’s right, me! I got it!”

On the whole, the sergeants were not cruel. They were not sadists. They believed in making it tough on us, but they believed this for the purpose of making us turn out tough. Only once did I see something approaching cruelty. A certain recruit could not march without downcast eyes. Sergeant Bellow roared and roared at him until even his iron voice seemed in danger of breaking. At last he hit upon a remedy. The hilt of a bayonet was tucked beneath the belt of the recruit, and the point beneath his throat. Before our round and fearful eyes, he was commanded to march.

He did. But when his step faltered, when his eye became fixed and his breathing constricted, the sergeant put an end to it. Something like fear had communicated itself from recruit to sergeant, and Bellow hastened to remove the bayonet. I am sure the sergeant has had more cause to remember this incident than has his victim.

WORD COUNT: 3218
CONTRACT COUNT: 3.218


NPC
Name: Michael Panteleo
Rank: Private
Hardware: AC/20 Field Gun
Company: Fox Cub Mechanized Infantry
Section: Dingo
Squad: Fire Team Charlie
Assignment: Gunner
Unit: Rabid Wolves Battalion
HOUSE: OUTWORLDS ALLIANCE
Name: Cathryn Whitley
Callsign: ‘Bulls Eye'
Rank: Major
Hardware: Steele Dagger Battle Armor
Company: Wolf Pack
Platoon: Brooding Lupus
Squad: Lone Wolf
Assignment: MUCO
Unit: Rabid Wolves Battalion
HOUSE: OUTWORLDS ALLIANCE

User avatar
Mesha
Posts: 919
Joined: Sat Feb 11, 2017 8:15 pm
affiliations: Name: Mesha Seville
Callsign: ‘Viper'
Rank: Captain
Hardware: Jagdvogel JGV-1OAi
Wing: AeroSpace (Command)
Flight: Angel Flight
Squadron: Angel
Assignment: IAC Naval Fleet CO
Unit: Ingersolls Armored Cavalry
HOUSE: LYRAN ALLIANCE

Re: IC: PY-SD-04-07 - Security Duty on Gillfillian's Gold

Postby Mesha » Mon Oct 08, 2018 5:11 pm

PY-SD-04-07 #02(RW)

Free Worlds League
Terra Military District
Duchy of Terra
Terra
Continent: Australia
Territory: Northern
Alice Springs
Castle Brian Complex
Department of Mercenary Management
Star League Defense Force
Mercenary Ward
August 18th 09:00 am local time

It was difficult to form a lasting friendship then. Everyone realized that our unit would be broken up once the “boot” period ended. Some would go to the planetary Garrison, most would fill the ranks of the Mercenary Units around the Inner Sphere, others would stay on at Alice Springs. Nor was there much chance of camaraderie, confined as we were to those high ceilinged barracks. Warmth there was, yes, but no intimacy.

Many friendships were mine in the MRBC, but of these I will talk about some other time. Here the tale concerns a method, the making of a Rabid Wolf.

It is a process of surrender. At every turn, at every hour, it seemed, a habit or a preference had to be given up, an adjustment had to be made. Even in the mess hall we learned that nothing mattered so little as a man’s own likes or dislikes. I had always suspected I would not like hominy grits. I found that I did not; I still do not. But on some mornings I ate hominy or went hungry. Often my belly rumbled, ravenously empty, until the noon meal.

Most of us had established ideas of what passes for good table manners. These did not include the thick sweating arm of a neighbor thrust suddenly across our lips, or the ‘trickle down from the top’ method of feeding, whereby the men at the head of the table, receiving the metal serving dishes from the mess hall attendants , always dined to repletion, greedily impervious of the indignant shouts of the famished ones in the middle or at the end.

Some of us might be disquieted at the sight of knives laden with peas or the wolfish eating noises that some of the men made, but we were becoming less and less sensitive in more and more places. Soon my taste buds served only as intestinal radar; to warn me that food was incoming, and my sense of propriety deserted for the duration.

Worst in all this process of surrender was the ruthless refusal to permit a man the slightest privacy. Everything was done in the open. Rising, waking, sending HPGs, receiving mail, making beds, washing, shaving, combing one’s hair, emptying one’s bowels; all was done in public and shaped to the style and structure of the sergeant.

Even food packages from home were seized by the drill instructor. We were informed of their arrival; that the drill instructor had sampled them; that he had found them tasty.

What! Now you are aroused! This is too much. This is tampering with the privacy afforded us by secure ComStar Transmissions! Ah, my friend, let me ask you this. Between the ComStar Precentor and the Department of Mercenary Management, who do you say would win? If you are undone in Alice Springs, taken apart in those first few weeks, it is at the rifle range that they start to put you together again.

Bellow marched us most of the way to the rifle range, about five miles, in close order drill. (There is close order drill and there is route march, and the first is to the last as standing is to slouching.) We had our packs on our backs. Our duffle bags would be at the tents when we arrived. We would complain of living out of packs and duffel bags, blissfully unaware of the day when either would be a luxury.

Then more than ever Bellow seemed a thing of stone: still ram rod straight, iron voice tireless. Only at the end of the march did it sound a trifle cracked; a heartening sign, as though to assure us there was an impure alloy of us in him, too.

We lived in tents at the rifle range, six men to a tent. Mine had wooden flooring, which most of the tents did not, and my tent mates and I counted this a great blessing. Nor did we fail to perceive the hand of Providence in keeping us six Terrans and Lyran ‘Merchants’ together; Merchant wheat separated from Cappie chaff. But the morning, the cold coastal morning, brought an end to that flattering notion. Yankee sangfroid was shattered by those rebel yells of glee which greeted the sound of our chattering teeth and the sight of our blue and quivering lips.

“Hey, Merchants . . . Ah thought it was cold on Tharkad. Thought you was used to it. Haw! Lookit them, lookit them big Merchant lips chatterin’.”

Bellow was so tickled he lost his customary reserve.

“Ah guess youah right,” Bellow said. “Ever time Ah come out heah, Ah hear teeth chatterin’. And evra time it’s Merchant teeth. Ah dunno.” He shook his head. “Ah dunno. Ah still cain’t see how we lost.”

In another half hour, the sun would be shining intensely, and we would learn what an alternating hell of hot and cold the rifle range at Alice Springs could be.

After washing, a surprise awaited us new arrivals in the head. Here was a sort of hurdle on which the men sat, with their rear ends poised above a stained metal trough inclined at an angle down which fresh water coursed. A group had gathered at the front of this trough, where the water was pumped in.

Fortunately I was not among those engaged on the hurdle at the time. I could watch the surprise. One of the crowd had a handful of loosely balled newspapers. He placed them in the water. He lighted them. They caught the current and were off.

Howls of bitter surprise and anguish greeted the passing of the fire ship beneath the serried white asses of my buddies. Many a rump was singed that morning, and not for as long as we were at the rifle range did any of us approach the trough without misgivings. Of course, we saw the foul trick perpetrated on other newcomers, which was hilarious.

We got our inoculations against the varied diseases amongst the Inner Sphere at the rifle range. Sergeant Bellow marched us up to the dispensary, in front of which a half dozen men from another platoon were strewn about in various stages of nausea, as though to warn us what to expect.

Getting inoculated is inhuman. It is as though men were being fed into a machine. Two lines of MRBC corpsmen stood opposite each other, but staggered so that no one man directly confronted another. We walked through this avenue.

As we did, each corpsman would swab the bared arm of the mercenary recruit in front of him, reach a hand behind him to take a loaded hypodermic needle from an assistant then plunge the needle into the prospect’s flesh.

Thus was created a machine of turning bodies and proffering, plunging arms, punctuated by the wickedly glinting arc of the needle, through which we moved, halted, moved on again. It had the efficiency of the assembly line, and also something of the assembly line’s inability to cope with human nature. One of my tent mates, called the ‘She-Hulk’ because of her huge strength and a brief career in the ring, had no idea of what was happening. She stood in front of me, in position to receive the needle; but she was so big she seemed to be in front of both corpsmen, the one on the right and on the left, at the same time.

While the corpsman on her right was swabbing, jabbing, so was the corpsman on her left.

She-Hulk took both volleys without a shiver. But then; before my horrified gaze, so quickly that I could not prevent it, the corpsmen went through their arm waving, grasping motions again, and fired two more bursts into She-Hulk’s muscular arms.

This was too much, even for She-Hulk.

“Hey, how many of these do I get?”

“One, stupid. Move on.”

“One, hell! I’ve had four already!”

“Yeah, I know. You’re Major Whitley, too. Get going, I told you . . . you’re holding up the line.”

I broke in, “She isn’t kidding. She did get four. You both gave her two shots.” The corpsmen gaped in dismay. They saw unmistakable chagrin on She-Hulk’s blunt features and something like mirth on mine. They grabbed her and propelled her to one of the dispensary doctors. But the doctor showed no alarm. He made his diagnosis in the context of She-Hulk’s muscle mass and iron nerve.

“How do you feel?”

“Okay. Just burned up.”

“Good. You’re probably all right. If you feel sick or nauseous, let me know.” It is the nature of anticlimax to report that She-Hulk did not feel sick. As for nausea, this engulfed the oversensitive among us who witnessed his cavalry charge upon the meat loaf some fifteen minutes later.

The rifle range also gave me my first full audition of the MRBC cursing facility. There had been slight samplings of it in the barracks, but never anything like the utter blasphemy and obscenity of the rifle range. There were non-commissioned officers there who could not put two sentences together without bridging them with a curse, an oath, an imprecation. To hear them made our flesh creep, made those with any depth of religious feeling flush with anger and wish to be at the weather beaten throats of the blasphemers.

We would become inured to it, in time, have it even on our own lips. We would come to recognize it as meaning no offense. But then it shocked us.

How could they develop such facility with mere imprecation? This was no vituperation. It was only cursing, obscenity, blasphemy, profanity . . . none of which is ever profuse or original . . . yet it came spouting out in an amazing variety.

Always there was the word. Always there was that four letter ugly sound that men in uniform have expanded into the single substance of the linguistic world. It was a handle, a hyphen, a hyperbole; verb, noun, modifier; yes, even conjunction. It described food, fatigue, metaphysics. It stood for everything and meant nothing; an insulting word, it was never used to insult; crudely descriptive of the sexual act, it was never used to describe it; base, it meant the best; ugly, it modified beauty; it was the name and the nomenclature of the voice of emptiness, but one heard it from chaplains and captains, from Pfc.’s and Ph.D.’s . . . until, finally, one could only surmise that if a visitor unacquainted with English were to overhear our conversations he would, in the way of the Higher Criticism, demonstrate by measurement and numerical incidence that this little word must assuredly be the thing for which we were fighting.

On the firing line, angry sergeants filled the air with their cursing, while striving to make riflemen of us in what had become an abbreviated training course. Mercenaries must learn to fire standing, prone and sitting. Perhaps because the sitting position is the hardest to learn, that posture had some sort of vogue at the Alice Springs rifle range.

They impressed the fashion upon us for two whole days on that miserable island continent’s blasted blistering sand dunes. We sat in the sun with sand in our hair, our ears, our eyes, our mouths. The sergeants didn’t care where the sand was, as long as it was not on the oiled metal parts of our precious assault rifles. There was no mercy for the unfortunate man who permitted this to happen. Punishment came swiftly: a hard kick and a horrible oath screamed directly into the miscreant’s ear.

To assume the sitting position, as the sergeant instructor would say, was to inflict upon yourself the stretching torture of the rack.

The auto rifle was held in the left hand, at the center or “balance of the piece.” But the left arm had been inserted through a loop of the rifle sling, which was run up the arm to the bicep, where it was drawn unbelievably tight. Thus held, while sitting with the legs crossed, Buddha style, the butt of the rifle was some few inches away from the right shoulder. The trick was to fit that butt snugly against the right shoulder, so that you could lay the cheek alongside the right hand, sight along the barrel, and fire.

The first time I tried it I concluded it to be impossible, unless my back would part down the middle permitting each side of my torso to swing around and to the front as though hinged. Otherwise, no joy. Otherwise, the sling would cut my left arm in two, or my head would snap off from the strain of turning my neck, or I would have to risk it and aim the rifle single handed, as a pistol. Fortunately, if I may use the word, the decision was not mine. Sergeant Bellow came over.

“Trouble?” he inquired sweetly.

His manner should have warned me, but I mistook it for an unsuspected human streak.

“Yes, sir.”

“My gracious.”

It was too late. I was caught. I looked up at him with dumb, pleading eyes.

“Okay, lad, you jes get that rifle firmly in the left hand. Fine. Now the right. My, my. That is hard, ain’t it?”

Whereupon Sergeant Bellow sat on my right shoulder. I swear I heard it crack. I thought I was done. But I suppose it did nothing more than stretch a few ligaments. It worked. My right shoulder met the rifle butt and my left arm remained unsevered, and that was how I learned the unprofitable sitting position of shooting.

I saw but one man killed by a shot fired from the sitting position, and this only when no fire was coming from the enemy.

Still it was amazing how the MRBC could teach us to shoot within the few days they had us on the range; that is, teach the remarkable few among us who needed instruction. Most of us knew how to shoot; even, surprisingly, the big city boys. I have no idea of how or where, in the ‘steel and concrete’ wilderness of our modern cities, these boys had developed prowess in what seems a countrified pastime. But shoot they could, and well.

All the men and women from the Outer Sphere (250 or more light years from Terra) could shoot. Those from Federated Suns and the border worlds of the Draconis Combine seemed the best. They suffered the indignity of the rifle sling while “snapping in” on the sand dunes. But when live ammunition was issued and the shooting butts were run up, they scorned such effete support, cuddled the rifle butts under their chins and blazed away. The drill instructors let them get away with it. After all, there is no arguing with a bull’s eye.

I was one of those unacquainted with shooting. I had never fired a rifle before, except an occasional twenty two in a carnival shooting gallery or the gaudy arcades of midtown New York. A thirty caliber Auto Rifle seemed to me a veritable cannon.

The first time I sat on the firing line, with two twenty five round clips beside me, and the warning “Load and lock!” floating up from the gunnery sergeant, I felt as a small animal must feel upon the approach of an automobile. Then came the feared commands.

“All ready on the firing line!”

“Fire!”

BA-ROOM!

It was the fellow on my right. The sound seemed to split my eardrums. I jumped. Then the entire line became a splitting, roaring cauldron of sound; and I got my Auto Rifle working with the rest of them, firing, releasing, reloading. The fifty rounds were gone in seconds. Silence came, and with it a ringing in my ears. They still ring.

It was not long before I overcame my timidity and began to enjoy shooting. Of course, I made the mistakes all noobs make, shooting at the wrong target, shooting under the bull’s eye, getting my windage wrong. But I progressed and when the day came to fire for record I had the monumental conceit to expect I would qualify as an expert. An Expert Rifleman’s badge is to shooting what the Medal of Honor is to bravery. It even brought one hundred c-bills a month extra pay, a not inconsiderable sum to one’s earnings at twenty one.

The day when we shot for record, that is, when our scores would be official and determine whether we qualified or not . . . dawned windy and brutally cold. I remember it as dismal, and that I longed to be near the fires around which the sergeants clustered, smoking cigarettes and forcing a gaiety I am sure no one could feel. My eyes ran water all day. When we fired from the six hundred yard range, I think I could just about make out the target.

I failed miserably. I qualified for nothing. A handful qualified as marksmen, two or three as sharpshooters, none as experts. Once we had shot for “record” we were Mercenaries. There were a few other skills to be learned, the ‘block parry thrust’ of bayonet drill or pistol shooting, but these had no high place in the MRBC scale of values. The rifle is the Infantry Mercenary’s weapon. So it was that we marched back to the barracks, with our chests swelling with pride and our feet slapping the pavement, with the proud precision of men who had mastered the Auto Rifle, or at least pretended that they had. We were veterans. When we arrived at the barracks, our path crossed that of a group of incoming recruits, still in civilian clothes, seeming to us unkempt, bedraggled as birds caught in the rain. As though by instinct we shouted with one voice: “You’ll be sorree!”

Bellow grinned with delight.

WORD COUNT: 3,072
CONTRACT COUNT: 6,290


Name: Michael Panteleo
Rank: Private
Hardware: AC/20 Field Gun
Company: Fox Cub Mechanized Infantry
Section: Dingo
Squad: Fire Team Charlie
Assignment: Reconnaissance
Unit: Rabid Wolves Battalion
HOUSE: OUTWORLDS ALLIANCE
Name: Cathryn Whitley
Callsign: ‘Bulls Eye'
Rank: Major
Hardware: Steele Dagger Battle Armor
Company: Wolf Pack
Platoon: Brooding Lupus
Squad: Lone Wolf
Assignment: MUCO
Unit: Rabid Wolves Battalion
HOUSE: OUTWORLDS ALLIANCE

User avatar
Mesha
Posts: 919
Joined: Sat Feb 11, 2017 8:15 pm
affiliations: Name: Mesha Seville
Callsign: ‘Viper'
Rank: Captain
Hardware: Jagdvogel JGV-1OAi
Wing: AeroSpace (Command)
Flight: Angel Flight
Squadron: Angel
Assignment: IAC Naval Fleet CO
Unit: Ingersolls Armored Cavalry
HOUSE: LYRAN ALLIANCE

Re: IC: PY-SD-04-07 - Security Duty on Gillfillian's Gold

Postby Mesha » Tue Oct 09, 2018 11:19 pm

PY-SD-04-07 #03(RW)

Free Worlds League
Terra Military District
Duchy of Terra
Terra
Continent: Australia
Territory: Northern
Alice Springs
Castle Brian Complex
Department of Mercenary Management
Star League Defense Force
Mercenary Ward
August 25th 13:00 pm local time

In five weeks they had made us over. Another week of training remained, but the desired change already had taken place. Most important in this transformation was not the hardening of my flesh or the sharpening of my eyes, but the new attitude of mind.

I was a Special Ops Infantrymen. Automatically this seemed to raise me above the plodding herd of Mercenaries. I would speak disparagingly of soldiers as “dog faces” and yeomen as “swab jockeys.” I would guffaw when the sergeant referred scathingly to West Point as “that boy’s school on the Hudson.” I would accept as gospel truth those unverifiable accounts of Army or Navy officers resigning their commissions to sign up as MRBC privates. I would acquire a store of knowledge covering the history of the DMM and would delight in relating anecdotes pointing up the invincibility of the embattled MRBC. To anyone but another Special Ops Trooper, I would become insufferable.

For the next week or so we merely went through the motions while awaiting assignment. We talked easily of “garrison duty” or “guard duty.” In these waking dreams we all wore dress blue uniforms, drank copiously, danced, copulated, and generally played the gallant. Occasionally, as the name of a family miscreant haunts the conversation of reunions, the name of “Outreach” popped up. This is the base where the First MRBC was formed. At Outreach there were no dress blues, no girls, no dance bands; there was only beer and that Wolf’s Dragoons Lahdhold called the ‘Outback’. To mention Outreach was to produce painful pauses in the talk, until it would be forgotten in the next onrush of happy speculation.

The day for departure came.

We swung our duffel bags onto hover trucks. We donned our packs. We fell out gaily on the sidewalk before the barracks. We stood in the shadow of the balcony, a place made odious to us one day, when, to punish a butterfingers who had dropped his auto rifle, Bellow had commanded him to stand there, erect, rifle at port arms, chanting from sunup to sundown: “I’m a bad boy, I dropped my rifle.”

There we stood, awaiting orders. Bellow fell us in. He ran us through the manual of arms. Our hands, slapping the rifle slings, made sure sounds.

“At ease. Fall out. Get on those trucks.”

We scrambled aboard. Some one at last mustered the courage to inquire:

“Where we goin’, Sergeant?”

“To the Rabid Wolves on Gillfillian’s Gold.” The trucks drove off in silence. I remember Bellow watching as we pulled away, and how astonished I was to see the sadness in his eyes.





The Periphery
The Rim Collection
Gillfillian’s Gold
Continent: Lyuben
Country: Trendafil
Maroo
Airport
DCCC/RW Camp
Rabid Wolves Bivouac
Fox Cub Company Billet
November 2nd 23:00 pm local time


We arrived at Gillfillian’s Gold in darkest night. We had come from the Nadir JumpPoint by Small Craft. There had been a good meal in the small mess hall, as there always was in Small Craft travel. We had slept in our seats; packs on the racks above us, auto rifles by our sides.

They fell on us out of the small craft with much shouting and flashing of lights, and we formed ranks on the siding. All was shadowy. None of these yelling rushing figures, the N.C.O.’s and officers who received us, seemed related to reality, except in those moments when a flashlight might pin one of them against the darkness. Black as it was, I was still able to gain the impression of vastness; the dome of heaven arching darkly overhead and stretching away from us, a limitless flatness broken only by silent huts.

They marched us quickly to a lighted oblong hut, with a door at either end. We stood at one end, while an N.C.O. called our names.

“Panteleo.”

I detached myself from my platoon, ending, in that motion, my association with the majority of the men who had been my comrades for six weeks. All twenty one of us went to a separate Unit inside the Rabid Wolves Battalion.

I walked quickly into the lighted hut. An enlisted man made me sit down opposite his desk. There were three or four others like him in the hut, similarly “interviewing” new arrivals. He asked questions rapidly, interested only in my answers, ignoring me. Name, serial number, rifle number, etc. ; all the dry detail that tells nothing of a man.

“What’d you do in civilian life?”

“Newspaper, sports writer.”

“Okay, Dingo Section, 3rd Squad, Fire Team Charlie. Go out front and tell the sergeant.”

That was how the Rabid Wolves classified us. The questions were perfunctory. The answers were ignored. Schoolboy, farmer, ‘scientist of the future’, all were grist to the reception mill and all came forth neatly labeled: Fox Cub Mechanized Infantry Company. There were no “aptitude tests,” no “job analyses.” In the Demon Pup Platoon the presumption was that a man had enlisted to fight. No one troubled about civilian competence.

It may have been an affront to those vestiges of civilian self-esteem which Alice Springs had not had time to destroy, but Camp Maroo soon would take care of that. Here, the only talent was that of the Special Ops soldier, the only tool the Federated Barrett M42B Assault Rifle System; here the cultivated, the oblique, the delicate soon perished, like gardenias in the desert.

I felt the power of that attitude, and I felt, for the first time in my life, an utter submission to authority as I emerged from the lighted hut and mumbled “Dingo Section, Fire Team Charlie” to a cluster of sergeants standing there expectantly. One of them pointed with his flashlight to a group of men; I took my place among them. About a half dozen other groups were being formed in the same way.

Then, at a command, I swung up on a Heavy Wheeled APC with my new comrades. The driver started the motor and we rolled off, bumping over pitted muddy roads, past row upon row of silent darkened huts, rolling, ever rolling, until suddenly we stopped with a lurch and were home.

Home was Demon Pup Platoon, Fox Cub Company, Rabid Wolves Combine Arms Mercenary Battalion. Home was a platoon of ultra 208mm auto cannons and Arrow IV Field Guns. Someone in that cheerless hut had decided that I should be in Reconnaissance.

The process of enrollment in Fox Cub Company hardly differed from the method of our “assignment” the night before, except that we were run through a hut occupied by Captain Jonas ‘Hops’ Hopfer . He fixed us with his gloriously militant glassy eyes, he fingered his non regulation military beard, and he questioned us in his clipped British manner of speech. Then, with an air of skepticism, he assigned us to our squad huts and into the keeping of the N.C.O.’s now arriving from other areas of the Maroo Airport Base.

These men came from Husky and the Dingo, the veteran line units in whose ranks were almost all of the Demon Pup’s trained troops. My squad, the Third, had been disbanded, but now, after accepting the contract on Gillfillian’s Gold, it was being reactivated. TheThird needed N.C.O.’s, and many of those who came to us betrayed, by a certain nervousness of voice, a newness of rank. Their chevrons were shiny. A few had not found time to sew them onto their sleeves; they were pinned on.

A few weeks before these corporals and Pfc’s. had been privates. Some predated us as Mercenaries by that margin only. But in such an urgent time, experience, however slight, is preferred to none at all. The table of organization had to be filled. So up they went.

But the First Squad also received a vital leavening of veteran N.C.O.’s. They would teach us, they would train us, they would turn us into fighting troops. From them we would learn our weapons. From them we would take our character and temper. They were the Old Breed.

And we were, the new, the volunteer youths who had come from the comfort of home to the hardship of war.

For the next six months, all of these would be my comrades, the men of the Fox Cub Company.

WORD COUNT: 1,480
CONTRACT COUNT 7,770


NPC
Name: Michael Panteleo
Rank: Specialist
Hardware: M42B Assault Rifle
Company: Fox Cub Mechanized Infantry
Section: Dingo
Squad: Three
Fire Team: Charlie
Assignment: Recon
Unit: Rabid Wolves Battalion
HOUSE: OUTWORLDS ALLIANCE
Name: Cathryn Whitley
Callsign: ‘Bulls Eye'
Rank: Major
Hardware: Steele Dagger Battle Armor
Company: Wolf Pack
Platoon: Brooding Lupus
Squad: Lone Wolf
Assignment: MUCO
Unit: Rabid Wolves Battalion
HOUSE: OUTWORLDS ALLIANCE

User avatar
Mesha
Posts: 919
Joined: Sat Feb 11, 2017 8:15 pm
affiliations: Name: Mesha Seville
Callsign: ‘Viper'
Rank: Captain
Hardware: Jagdvogel JGV-1OAi
Wing: AeroSpace (Command)
Flight: Angel Flight
Squadron: Angel
Assignment: IAC Naval Fleet CO
Unit: Ingersolls Armored Cavalry
HOUSE: LYRAN ALLIANCE

Re: IC: PY-SD-04-07 - Security Duty on Gillfillian's Gold

Postby Mesha » Thu Oct 11, 2018 11:09 pm

PY-SD-04-07 #04(RW)

The Periphery
The Rim Collection
Gillfillian’s Gold
Continent: Lyuben
Country: Trendafil
Rectortown
Rectortown SpacePort
DCCC/RW Camp
Rabid Wolves LZ
Spotted Eagle
Union Class DropShip
November 3rd 09:00 am local time

She sat like a squat, sedentary old maid. Flat bottomed and broad of beam, she seemed motionless except for the thin curl of exhaust at her thrusters. Dirty navy blue and sky blue camouflage had been smeared on her sides, and rust spread toward the top of her blunt bow, across her huge white numerals. As with an old ‘Dropper', her main deck was towards the top two thirds of her height. On the remaining third aft rose a stubby superstructure with a BattleMech bay, a plexiglass crane control house and a canvas covered conn where the senior tech sat on a high stool with a speaking tube and a control panel in front of him. The rigid lines of her egg like hull were abruptly broken at the bow by the peculiar upward surge of the AeroSpace catapult bays surmounted by two bubble, circular turrets. Placidly resting on the ferrocrete she appeared to be a peaceful, harmless ship, except for the long thick guns which bristled on her hull and pointed threateningly skyward.

Around her were many smaller ships, all formed in even columns, all turning on the zig and the zag of their course in one lumbering motion, all with their interplanetary drives still lit, belching smoke into the atmosphere. They were toward the horizon; the protecting Caerleon Small Crafts, rakish and jaunty, taxiing back and forth around the fringes of their Union Class MotherShip. Sometimes their sleek hulls were lost against the graying ferrocrette, and only the dark plumes at their aft drives showed that they were there.

The air was flat and gray and with the leaden sky above trapped the suffocating heat, mirrored it, increasing its intensity. Tomorrow a squall or perhaps a cool steady wind from the northeast? Doubtful ; during November in these parts a typhoon was the only possible variation.

A dark chunk on this endless expanse of a dirt ball, the Spotted Eagle was war weary and seemed to resent each knot that slipped under her Star League V250 Planetary Drives. Dully submissive she sat alone, a veteran, needing a new coat of paint, a new ventilation system and an overhauling in a dry dock. Since she had sailed from Earthworks Limited on her maiden voyage to the Nadir JumpPoint, through the Federated Suns into the Crucis March, she had seen the Coreward Fleet, the Riwward Fleet, back to the Second Star League, then to the MRBC Surplus, and now, with the Rabid Wolves logo painted on her stern, she was again far into Periphery Space bound for the Rectortown Spaceport, the last of the steppingstones before returning to Gillfillian’s Gold’s low orbit.

She was heavy with cargo; APCs and VTOLs, and water trailers, Packrats, a distillation unit, and crates of boilers, pots, ladles and rations, ammunition, explosives, drums of water, hydraulic oil and Iridium.

A Wing of Heavy AeroSpace Fighters could swamp her; a hit by a Rebel AeroSpace bomber would touch off the explosives and blow her to a thousand pieces. She was relying heavily on the protecting umbrella to be furnished at a moment’s notice by the six Caerleons whose outlines were dim on the horizon far astern.

When we first boarded the Spotted Eagle we had the usual difficulty of crowding ourselves into the limited living space which the Brass provided for us. The sleeping compartments down below accommodated only two Squads of Battle Armor, that constituted 8 men with 8 tons of equipment and since there were108 men in my company, the others spilled over onto the main deck, finding what living space they could in the confusion of APCs and VTOLs and water trailers and drums and piles of crates. All these were lashed to each other and to the cargo deck by an intricate network of myomer chains and mag braces. Through these countless barriers was one narrow passageway running fore and aft on the port side. The only obstacles on it were an occasional knee high chain and the topside showers which it just managed to circumvent, though still well within splashing range.

We hoisted up huge, green tarpaulins. Underneath them the men slung their jungle hammocks fastening the suspending ropes to any available object that was sturdy enough. They unfolded Personal Environment Bag, or more affectionately known ‘Body Bags’, wherever they could make them fit, and before long everyone at least had a covered place to sleep. But moving around for anything but the necessary functions of living was impossible.

Amidships and perched precariously on top of a loaded track above the level of the tarpaulins was one isolated ‘Body Bag’ covered by a camouflaged poncho angled across four tent poles like the canopy over a throne. The owner of this home was sitting on the bulkhead cleaning his rifle, majestically oblivious to the turmoil which seethed beneath him.

The days and nights rolled into each other, losing their delineations of time. The murky, recycled air would muffle the sound of voice and the rattling of mess gear as the men formed the chow line on the port side. The PA system would croak “First Squad chow!” and the line would move slowly aft toward the galley. The third squad would be just finishing taking showers, and the spray, splattering off the sun-starved backs of the men, would splash the chow line. For a moment there would be congestion as the two lines merged, then straightened themselves out as they crisscrossed and filed off in different directions. The food was comparatively edible, as it usually was in the Rabid Wolves, with occasional helpings of real roast beef and fresh string beans from Terra.

Afternoon would drone by with a game of hearts, a shabby, well thumbed pocket mystery, an hour’s schooling and exercise in the ‘Mech Bay, cleaning a M42B assault rifle, evening chow and sick call down below where the air was so oppressive that even the exercise of breathing made you sweat. The night would cool slightly, and space beyond the portals would swarm with stars. At one signal blackout would transform the flotilla to ghost ships. The mornings would drag on like the afternoons, except that there would always be the rarely realized possibility of having fresh eggs for breakfast.

With Gillfillian’s Gold only three days away we began to think of our hopes for the future. The hours ticking by carried us to something which none of us knew about, but of which many had deep thoughts. Nearness of death produces varied personal philosophies. Some men challenge and defy death, some develop a fatalistic gloom, some are oblivious to it, some are cheerful and confident, some have faith in God and believe implicitly in His protection. At odd moments I have heard men express their thoughts on the subject. “When my number is up, there isn’t much I can do about it. You know, three strikes and you’re out.”

“I haven’t any number. The bastards might nick me but they’ll never kill me.”

“To hell with it. You either ‘get it’ or you don’t, so why worry. If I ‘get it’ I hope it’s quick.”

“Whenever I begin to worry too much about it I go to church services and come back feeling much better.”

I have often heard men say after a battle, “Joe got it in the head. Somehow I had a feeling he would, and I remember he told me once that he thought he’d never make it.”

Sometimes such premonitions come true, inexplicably, though usually they have no more meaning than mere superficial remarks. An officer whom I knew quite well had always been a hard luck kid. He invariably studied the wrong paragraphs for his examinations in college and consequently received very low marks. His best girl turned him down. He could never make the grade in athletics, and when he played cards his luck went against him. He was not strongly built, rather pale and thin. On Mars when I heard that he had been killed I was shocked but not surprised. Somehow I had expected it.

An exceptionally close friend of mine told me the evening before we landed on Rockawellawan that he knew he was going to be killed. It was not long after the first shots had been fired that I saw him carried out on a stretcher with the telltale pallor on his face. Another who landed on Ohrensen with me believed so completely in an inevitable death that he wrote his epitaph for his college magazine before leaving the Outreach. He was shot through the head by an enemy lieutenant.

On the other hand, one of my sergeants on Merope had a strong premonition of death and took incredible chances, as though to say, “Come on, let’s get it over with.” It never came. But many times I have seen men who were continually smiling and happy and never had a morose moment, who defied death, who prayed to God for protection from it or who naively believed that it could not touch them, suddenly blown to bits by a LRM shell or riddled by machine gun bullets. These are the unfortunate majority of fatalities, victims of the normal happenings of 31st century conflict from which death is as inseparable as life from the beating of the heart.

Whatever our deeper feelings regarding our future we adopted, through training and necessity, a mental attitude of cold professionalism as though to say: It’s just another day. But the usual physical signs of prebattle tension began to appear as we crept very near to our objective. Laughter was often too loud and frequent; silences seemed too still; trivialities became major issues. There was a hushed atmosphere of preparedness exaggerated now by what had been so unchanging since we left our base in the MRBC; the monotonous throb of the engines, sultry, stultifying heat, the drab overtones of interstellar travels and loneliness in the midst of vast space.

WORD COUNT: 1,762
CONTRACT COUNT: 8,011


NPC
Name: John Kershaw
Callsign: ‘Eyes’
Rank: Lance Corporal
Hardware: Caravan Hover Tank
Company: Fox Cub Mechanized Infantry
Lance: Saint Bernard
Section: Ground Transport
Vehicle: Alpha Zulu
Assignment: Gunner/Sensor Tech
Unit: Rabid Wolves Battalion
HOUSE: OUTWORLDS ALLIANCE
Last edited by Mesha on Fri Oct 12, 2018 6:07 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Name: Cathryn Whitley
Callsign: ‘Bulls Eye'
Rank: Major
Hardware: Steele Dagger Battle Armor
Company: Wolf Pack
Platoon: Brooding Lupus
Squad: Lone Wolf
Assignment: MUCO
Unit: Rabid Wolves Battalion
HOUSE: OUTWORLDS ALLIANCE

User avatar
Mesha
Posts: 919
Joined: Sat Feb 11, 2017 8:15 pm
affiliations: Name: Mesha Seville
Callsign: ‘Viper'
Rank: Captain
Hardware: Jagdvogel JGV-1OAi
Wing: AeroSpace (Command)
Flight: Angel Flight
Squadron: Angel
Assignment: IAC Naval Fleet CO
Unit: Ingersolls Armored Cavalry
HOUSE: LYRAN ALLIANCE

Re: IC: PY-SD-04-07 - Security Duty on Gillfillian's Gold

Postby Mesha » Fri Oct 12, 2018 4:47 pm

PY-SD-04-07 #05(RW)

The Periphery
The Rim Collection
Gillfillian’s Gold
Continent: Lyuben
Country: Trendafil
Maroo
Airport
DCCC/RW Camp
Rabid Wolves Bivouac
Fox Cub Company Billet
November 3rd 11:00 am local time

When the core unit of the Rabid Wolves, Fox Cub Mechanized Infantry Company was deployed to Gillfillian’s Gold, I was privileged to serve with it in the initial capacity of a Corporal. The initial deployment took place in May of 3098 and the unit moved to its training location, Camp Maroo, in Lyuben, on Gillfillian’s Gold in June. There we took up the job of bringing the company up to good shape before the contract began. We faced many problems, in that we were short of both equipment and know how in the lower ranks, if not along the entire chain of command. We were deploying with a skeleton crew, without our training staff and their expertise. We had to simulate and improvise constantly. My service at Camp Maroo was to me, from beginning to end, a constant revelation of our unit’s pathetic state of unpreparedness. But under the supervision of a few veteran Spec Ops soldiers who had gained experience on the other contract and our small allotment of Regular Rabid Wolves personnel, we made headway and became a workable formation in time for our Security Duty maneuvers.

Being assigned as an Ultra AC twenty, field gun, squad leader in a mechanized heavy weapons company, I had little chance to keep up my rifle shooting. There was no civilian competition within driving distance of Maroo and I often went for months at a stretch without firing a shot. I did, however, have an opportunity to test the M42B Assault Rifle to my satisfaction and I gained a good bit of respect for it, an alteration of opinion for me. At the beginning, I had decided that full-auto was not the thing. It seemed to me that, with the adoption of a fully-automatic rifle by the Rabid Wolves, accuracy would have to be sacrificed. Most men would be inclined to blow away their ammunition too fast, and good fire discipline would become more difficult of attainment. This original opinion of mine had received its first setback at Alice Springs in ‘97, where I shot one of the weapons in the Assault Rifle School and got a 79 out of 80 at 200 yards, rapid fire on the 10, “bullseye”. Next, the limited firing I did at Maroo sold me on the weapon as far as its range performance was concerned. The conclusion I harbored then was that if using this new gun did not seriously increase the ammunition supply problem, there could be no real reason why it should not be a grand performer in combat. The latest improved M42B model with the gas port instead of the older muzzle sleeve, was actually superior in practical accuracy to the Federated Long Rifle. Its better sights, stock fit, and lightened recoil made it easier for recruits to shoot. The fully-automatic feature eliminated the need for long hours of bolt manipulation exercises. But with all of this, it still seemed to me a little early to think of discarding the good old Long Rifle.

Well, a normal need for building the trimmings of Camp Maroo faced us, and we laid down our rifles to “fancy up” the place. It seemed to me that there was an unnecessary amount of emphasis placed on housekeeping while we were there. All of the time used in landscaping and beautifying had to be deducted in one way or another from training. But that was in peacetime and no one could blame an officer for building duck walks and finishing them with mahogany stain if he knew that it would set him well with high authority, even if he had to yank the men off the ranges to do the work. The thought of that incident, one particularly annoying memory of Camp Maroo days; brings me to mention a few things about that camp and the circumstances of our stay there.

I suppose that it was much like any other Static Defense post at the time, but even in rationalizing retrospect, I cannot forgive the responsible parties for some of the serious sins of omission and error which were committed, and some of the damage which was done to the really good raw material which we got in the first levy of recruits under the MRBC’s selective service.

These first batch of recruits were largely volunteers, with a very high order of intelligence and physique, and they were deserving of the best possible training under fully qualified instructors. Most of them were fresh from schools or businesses, thoroughly indoctrinated with the spirit of efficiency and organization, which are inherently part of the Inner Sphere industry. Coming into a Mercenary Unit, they had every reason (if not every right) to be trained as efficiently by the MRBC for their function in it as they had been trained for industry and business by the various branches of their House’s educational system.

Most of them were at least a little fired with a feeling of conscientiousness, and many were of a thinking sort; men who had carefully adjudged the seriousness of the international situation, and wisely decided to get into the Mercenary trade early. The greater part had relatively high educational qualifications, sometimes well above those of the House Guard enlisted cadremen who were to be their instructors.

The cadre of our company was made up of men and women of various backgrounds and from various walks of life, but they were troopers who had kept an interest in the military during the years of relative peace. By spending a night or two out of each week at an armory where they would learn drill and weapons training, and by going to a two weeks summer camp, they had managed to pick up a smattering of military knowledge which later proved to be worth its weight in gold. Some few, like myself, were weapons enthusiasts, and our interest in the peacetime military had been primarily one of competitive shooting with the rifle, pistol, and occasionally with the Browning Auto Rifle or machine gun. Many of us were moved to remain members of National House Guard units for years, mainly for the pleasure we obtained from rifle and pistol competition, (though often we would gain an interest in tactics and weapons employment as well).

Throughout the ranks of Fox Cub, as in other Mercenary Companies, there were all sorts of men and women officers, ranging in type from the keenly interested non-professional soldier to the yokel who had joined up for the sake of the uniform. However, the most valuable asset each unit had, as far as training was concerned, was its small group of Regular Army personnel.

Those few regular soldiers and officers also varied individually, but most of them had received lengthy training and were accordingly possessed of some military knowledge. The great trouble was that they were too few in number, and almost entirely unschooled in the better methods of instructing new soldiers. Few of the enlisted Regular Army personnel had educational (or I.Q.) qualifications to match those of the better selectees. And few of them possessed truly specialized military knowledge.

This “specialized knowledge” was the most important non-physical shortage encountered in the early days. War may be a very wide scoped and general business, but Special Ops training and tactics are not at all general in character. They are just like the name say, ‘Specialized’, and, to a degree, highly scientific. No amount of common sense on the part of an officer can be substituted for the minimum requirements of technical knowledge concerning the operation of weapons and the handling of Infantry units in combat, especially Special Ops Infantry. Special Ops rifle shooting, despite its simplicity, is one of these subjects which requires specialized knowledge; in some ways rifle ‘know how’ is just as specialized as the knowledge and experience required for the operation of complicated signal equipment.

Rifle shooting instruction in the Rabid Wolves at Camp Maroo pre Whitley, was generally poor. (That’s how the troops refer to our training period at Maroo, Pre-Whitley and Post-Whitley. They were that different) No amount of rationalizing can alter that truth, and there are few excuses. True, we were short of Instructors and equipment. We did not have M42B rifles, of course, but we had perfectly good Federated Long Rifles, and an inadequate but worthwhile allowance of 7.62mm ammunition. We were also short of good instructors but no alibi is provided there, for there was always a small number of skilled rifle shots and rifle instructors who were kept busy at “more important work”.

This was largely a matter of improper placement of training priorities, and over emphasis upon “appearances” . . . a term which, in military parlance, is known as “eyewash”, and means exactly the same thing as the Oriental term “face” (and which to my mind makes about the same amount of sense). The old Infantry concept which demanded that an outfit be taught, “to shoot and to walk” ahead of everything else, had apparently been forgotten by important people somewhere at the top of our command echelons. That pragmatic, age old, prerequisite of good, fighting, foot soldier units seemed to have few advocates at Maroo. It seemed that instead those two subjects had been deemed unimportant and had been set aside, for we were taught most everything else first. Shooting and the employment of weapons in the field were intangibles as far as many of the post inspectors were concerned; such qualities did not show up for all to see at a glance . . . at least not so importantly as a nicely painted mess hall or a well appointed enlisted men’s club!

We seemed to spend endless hours on things which were obviously silly, especially the more spectacular and “showy” subjects. Hours were devoted to ‘hand to hand’ combat instruction and drill, how to fight without weapons, long before we had even begun to learn to use the guns we had. It made me wonder if our higher training authorities had lost all confidence in firearms, and had decided to fight the war under slightly modified Marquis of Queensbury rules. Mass calisthenics were taken up in minute detail, with officers staying up all night sometimes to rehearse a complicated routine of commands they would have to give on the following day to a company of soldiers who would spend an hour or so emulating the antics of a group of chorus girls, flexing their muscles in unison. Sometimes they would be accompanied by a holo-vid band playing “The Band Played On”. Military courtesy and customs of the service were subjects which also kept constantly appearing on the schedules of Infantry Squads whose recruits had not yet learned to shoot or to march.

All of these other training subjects, which I have mentioned with doubtless bitterness, were not necessarily useless. All of them had definite purposes, though some must be lauded only on indirect points of value such as “hand to hand” combat, which, realistically, has practically no combat value. Its apologists say that it is “good for morale”. To an extent, I suppose that is true.

Military courtesy and precise close order drill were also beneficial, and their value in the interests of discipline was great. The bitterness I bear toward such training subjects does not come from any belief that they should not be taught to Spec Ops soldiers, for I feel that they are all fairly important. My rancor stems from the fact that commanding officers who were supposed to have some idea of what they were doing went ahead and spent time schooling their men in such finer points of garrison life and duty before these men had learned to shoot well enough to definitely hit a standing man at 100 yards with a rifle, or to march so that their company could move twenty miles on a hot day without losing entirely too many of its personnel. We never got around to any properly organized rifle instruction during our pre-Whitley stay at Maroo, except in the case of a few units which were lucky enough to have skilled instructors for their immediate officers. At Maroo, there was no spreading out or mass utilization of specialized instructional talents as far as rifle shooting was concerned, and in most squads the same story was true of marching.

We blundered through our training period with all units struggling their utmost to look better than the next outfit. This resulted in thousands of man training hours being shot to hell in the execution of especially refined housekeeping activities, such as landscaping and beautifying the barracks areas, and neatly whitewashing little picket fences (often built by a company carpenter who sometimes had no time left to make training aids or range equipment). Officers kept trying to comply with training directives, to do the impossible, teaching everything listed in the book, but no one on hand had been empowered to take a look at the whole mess, scrap the entire training program for a necessary length of time, and teach the men to shoot and to walk. So when final checks were made, we were found to be much wanting in both of those abilities. We needed our training officers who were stuck back on Outreach with the bulk of our unit.

When we finally did begin to shoot, there was a more than ample measure of stupidity in our range programs. Weapons schools were organized by squads and subordinate leaders in accord with the “book”; which procedure in itself was all right. But the instructors selected were often unqualified in their respective subjects, the operations office sometimes having the weird idea that it was good practice to select an instructor uninformed on the particular subject, so that the instructor himself would “learn by instructing!” (I actually heard a Battalion staff officer express himself along such lines.) And there was always an element of “eyewash” shoved into each class, a thing or two in the way of decoration or show which wasted everybody’s time and benefited only the platoon or company commander who had managed thereby to dazzle the eyes of his senior. This “eyewash” might be in the form of flashy instructional props, or a high instructor’s platform, or even some radical departure from regulation training procedure.

In the matter of rifle shooting, the policy was reminiscent of some critical histories I have read of the conscription and training of the Federated CommonWealth Civil War soldiery. Reliance on subordinate units seemed to be the rule, and the admittedly keen minded operations and training officer (G-3) of the company apparently did not know who could instruct in rifle shooting and who could not. In any event, several third party, independent, Periphery Grade, rifle instructors, who almost literally did not know one end of a rifle from the other, were hired and charged with organizing and conducting rifle qualifications. The advice of a distinguished rifleman assistant instructor was, on one occasion, disregarded by a section commander who had ordered his squads to remove all of their rifle bolts when the weapons were locked up. His orders further prescribed the stowing of the removed bolts in a locker, but made no provision at all for returning the bolts to the proper rifles. Fantastic as it may seem, it is true. That section commander, the leader of half the soldiers in our Special Ops Platoon, had to learn by experience that Federated Long Rifle bolts are not always interchangeable!

A good look at our qualification firing would have made a civilian rifle club member laugh. On the date of record firing, officers galore were detailed into the pits to keep supplemental scores, and every shot on the targets was recorded carefully in the pits and on the line, but the identification of firers was not closely checked and in at least a few cases men succeeded in firing for each other. After these score-cards were turned in, they sometimes seemed to be changed. The shooting was on a competitive basis in only one sense, an organizational one. Each of the units wanted to score better than the others. With possession and control of the records in their own hands, there was plenty of pencil pushing on the part of certain outfits.

This was ignorantly encouraged from above. On more than one occasion, senior officers demanded high qualifications standards from their subordinate commands, refusing to accept anything below a certain level. When a Master Sergeant made such demands from behind his desk, without taking the time to go out and check the ranges and scoring procedures carefully, he usually got his high qualification records promptly indeed, on paper.

Our brilliant commanding officer (whom many of us had the pleasure of seeing sent home by the Major from Gillfillian’s before the unit ever got into combat) organized a rifle school at Maroo as one would organize a circus. He built the highest chief range officers’ platform that I have ever seen, made up numerous giant scale training devices for demonstration purposes, huge washtub sized markers, sighting bars ten feet long, and numerous other gaudy props. He qualified very few men in that school, even on paper, and he thoroughly insulted the intelligence of the men who had to endure the course.

I served in a heavy weapons company, as could reasonably be expected. I had played around a good deal with heavy machine guns, was a qualified expert over the old and tough “E” course, and was very fond of Bull Dog Mini Guns. At that time, most of the men in heavy weapons companies had long rifles for personal weapons. (Their M42Bs were still in the process of shipping or manufacture, and pistols were issued only to a few squad members.)

Regardless of the obvious silliness of arming an already overloaded gunner or number two man with a rifle, it seemed to me that it would have one advantage. At least it would give the men an opportunity to learn how to operate and perhaps to shoot properly a shoulder weapon of some sort. I began to use every available bit of spare time to teach a few men in the company the rudiments of rifle instruction, and we made up a few training aids and selected suitable dry firing areas close to the barracks.

In due time, our AC/20 gun qualifications were finished. We managed pretty well at it because the new company commander stole sufficient time from other subjects, and wrangled someone out of enough old 3095 ammunition to allow us to fire an extra time across the course, (after sorting out all the rounds with cracked necks). A few weeks later, we received our M42Bs and authorization to actually fire with the rifle 200 rounds per man for familiarization purposes, but we had to do so within two days.

Our heavy weapons personnel had not been officially available for rifle marksmanship training at any time previously, and their only grounding for using the rifle at all had been a little mechanical and care and cleaning training given in spare time. But all protests were in vain, and I was forced on this two days notice to take the company out to the thousand meter range and use up the ammunition; otherwise we would not get to fire at all. We had only one morning to get the job done.

It rained that day, a sort of chilly drizzle. I had selected assistant instructors the night before and “crammed” them as best I was able. On the range, I gave up the thought of teaching any positions in the very few minutes we had to spare for the purpose. We simply tried to get across the basic idea of sight picture and trigger squeeze and let each man fire his shots from prone or sitting position, using the sling if he felt like it. The shooting was at inch pasters on big expanses of target background, and the groups were generally pathetic. All of the company non commissioned officers were distressed, if not thoroughly disgusted, but we all felt that it would be better than no shooting at all, and did our best to coach and encourage men who were flinching with each shot and not taking the recoil properly. It was lucky that we took this trouble, because it turned out that those few shots were the only rifle practice the men were to be allowed before the DCCC Brass arrived on world.

That experience was a good one for me, a grand lesson in making the most of poor training circumstances. As I continued in the next years to serve in the Rabid Wolves and saw training as it went on in many posting stations, I was to become more and more certain that the key to good soldiery is not the ability to use well the proper tools of training and war, but is instead the developed knack of getting along with tools and devices at hand, or being able to make substitute tools if normal issues are not available. And when I began to work with the soldiery of other Periphery nations, Chainelane Isdles, Hanseatic League, Mica Majority, and Jarnfolk, I began to really appreciate the need for a new set of standards to apply to the training of people of much more primitive background than the average Inner Sphere or Outer Sphere for that matter. It is an unbelievable truth that it would take months of intensive training and hundreds of rounds of ammunition to teach the average Jarnfolk peasant soldier to shoot even as well as most of the men in my company did with their first 200 rounds from a military rifle.

That fact, however, afforded no excuse for allowing only a few hours’ rifle training to a Special Ops heavy weapons company personnel, individually armed with the rifle, and who were later to use that weapon in combat. Arguments that this training deficiency was circumstantial and no one’s fault were pure hog wash. We took too much time to teach ‘hand to hand’ combat and we took not enough time to teach ‘Sweep and Clear’ methods with our Assault Rifles. (The latter technique may possibly have been used to some extent in a Civil War, but had damn little application in the mountainous desserts of Gillfillian’s Gold.) Nearly everyone used rifles, carbines, or submachine guns in the dessert; no one knew when he was safe without such a weapon, any place forward of a combined arms command post. Pistols were never plentiful, and were used mostly at night for close in “foxhole” protection. We should have been trained better with shoulder weapons.

These training measures apparently were delayed, or at least were not enforced, until after the Major made it on world. The memories of the last contract were not sufficiently poignant in 3097, and someone high up in command had run out of imagination. Every junior officer (non-comms) I knew at Maroo would openly deplore our lack of attention to vital training in the use of important basic weapons. Everyone but the “wheels” saw the mistakes.

We learned enough about grenades, using the methods then prescribed in the manuals. However, most all of the throwing techniques we were taught were never put to use. The formal grenade throwing positions were artificial as could be, even the prone position, which, as it was taught, called for momentary exposure of the whole upper half of the body. Grenade throwing is an easy subject for the average baseball grounded Spheriod, and grenade throwing technique should not attempt to reteach a man how to throw, but rather to simply give a good course in grenade safety (a few of our men were wounded with their own grenades), then give him a large amount of practice throwing at realistic targets. As large a percentage of this practice as possible should be conducted with live grenades. This was another obviously advisable type of training which was discarded in favor of more precise and formal methods. On the whole, however, grenade training in the Special Ops Company was more adequate than close quarters combat training. Some of it, in fact, could have been diverted to room clearing training.

The most wicked of all our sins at Camp Maroo was concerned with the true occupational specialty of the Special Ops Trooper, Intel. We left real ‘honest to God’ scouting almost entirely out of the picture, and confined the recon we did make to known roads and good trails. None of the large urban centers of Gillfillian’s Gold cities and towns were reconned and scouted by whole companies, properly loaded down with their complete equipage. Quite the other way around: in all reconnaissance, we kept ourselves continually road bound, often moving enough afoot, but scouting only the areas trafficable to motor vehicles. On that account we gained no conception of normal Special Ops Recon across hazardous terrain, and the rigors of such reconnaissance were later to come to us as a shock when Major Cathryn Whitley arrived. Roads, we should have realized at the time, are only man made seams of civilization, and many less civilized areas have none. Our company, which a few weeks later would be especially thankful to find a few hundred yards of cut footpath in the jungle spaces, was conducting all of its scouting and movements along paved roads, with heavy weapons and ammunition going along in carriers instead of on the backs of the men. The “book” had made a statement to the effect that distances for hand carrying heavy weapons should not ordinarily exceed a few hundred yards, and that mechanized transportation would be the favored means of moving field guns. This statement was seized upon and misinterpreted by many officers who seemed unable to even think in terms of large areas without roadnets of ferrocrette or macadam highways.

As our training program went on, we saw each day more evidence of our own military incapabilities; and also terrible shortages of proper instructors, equipment and weapons. How little we actually had to work with! We were short of everything except a limited measure of willingness. We had no weapons, no equipment, and even worse, no knowledge.

Silly things were done in those days, because we didn’t know even the right methods to use. Officers without experience in handling large numbers of troops made errors which adversely and unreasonably affected the comfort and morale of the company. An over emphasis of safety precautions, always a bone of contention in peacetime, tended to give each tactical exercise, each firing problem, and each small unit maneuver, an unreasonable appearance of morale sapping artificiality.

As I recall, the classic expression FUBAR (Phukked Up Beyond All Recognition) came into being at that time and many of us will always associate it with Camp Maroo, where so many things seemed to go wrong beginning with the Major decision to deploy her forces piecemeal.

Memories of my stay at that place put it in the definite category of an organized bore, worse even than any equivalent length combat period I have since been through. Camp Maroo to me was a chigger-infested land of petulant senior officers, who, never satisfied, were always moaning about some trivial detail. It was a place where unknowing field officers stood on platforms and lectured in the hot sun to a hundred Special Ops Troopers, telling them to squeeze the stock of a rifle with all fingers, gripping it like a lemon, to get the trigger off. It was a place where squads were busy building decorative little picket fences and whitewashing them; a place where attempts to devise true and realistic combat training methods as often as not resulted in discredit to the man who went to the trouble.

Worst of all, it was a place in which a thousand conscientious junior officers and non-coms expended months of heartbreaking effort, knowing all the while that too much of it was in the interest of “eyewash”, being totally misdirected.

Camp Maroo, our training period there, served to give proof to every thinking man in the platoon that we were indeed poorly prepared for combat, that our unit was militarily a second rate Dragoon’s F on the Mercenary Rating, that the great mass of Rabid Wolves manhood (and womanhood) would require much physical and moral alteration before it could successfully fight in a joint contract with another MRBC rated unit.

All of this was to come out later when Major Whitley finally arrived, and all her infantrymen were later trained to shoot not only the rifle and carbine but also anti-armor and heavy weapons. You want to talk about training. She had the officers trained the dog shit out of us. We trained in Airborne and HALO drops. We trained in advanced level physical conditioning, psychological tests, fitness and swim tests, obstacle courses, long ruck marches, land navigation, small unit tactics, on both the squad and platoon levels, trained in weapons marksmanship, survival training, avoiding capture, resisting enemy interrogations and exploitations, escaping captivity, building techniques, defensive fortifications, as well as explosives, booby traps, and vibro mines. We had to complete a Combat Medic Course complete with trauma care and advanced paramedic training. We became proficient in not only in highly technical and advanced communication systems, but also the most basic forms of communications that are found in all the major Houses. The entire bandwidth of communications was taught as well as cryptography and construction and basic repair of communications systems and antennas for all types of ground to ground and ground to air communications capabilities and rudimentary HPG repair. And in our final phase was a culmination exercise known as ‘Sage Wolf’ where Spec Ops recruits put their training and experience of the last several months to the test. This was a realistic training setting dealing with indigenous personnel, counterinsurgency, and tested in the mission of taking out a mock guerrilla force of Rabid Wolves Instructors in a hostile environment.

I learned a lesson my father had been attempting to teach me for years. ’Be careful of what you wish for. It just might come true.’

Major Cathryn ‘Bulls Eye’ Whitley was a Bitch. But she’s OUR Bitch. Her training regimen saved our miserable lives. That and the marvel of modern military science that was granted to every member who graduated her training program, a Rabid Wolves Combination Sneak Suit.

The RW Combo Sneak suit was woven with a black synthetic Kevlar fiber for protection against shrapnel and other low velocity weapons. To reduce the wearer's infrared signature, within the synthetic fiber is a layer of thermo conductive mesh that absorbs and radiates body heat evenly into the surrounding atmosphere.

The suit worked as an ECM Suit to conceal the wearer from electronic sensors that emitted and detected signals. It consisted of a lightweight ceramic mesh containing thousands of electronic suppression/detection devices. These devices detected incoming signals and fed the information to an integrated microcomputer, which identified the incoming signal, selects an appropriate countermeasure signal, and commands the devices to transmit that signal. The suit can also inform the wearer when there is active electronic detection in the area; for example the suit's left hand will vibrate slightly when it is jamming radar.

The electronic camouflage component of the suit helped to prevent observation through visual methods, including the use of cameras and Rangefinder Binoculars. Sensors in the suit detect the color and amount of light in the immediate area, then passes that data along to a built-in analytical computer which changes the suit's color to match its surroundings. While this camouflage effect helps hide the individual in combination with other terrain, such as standing in front of a wall or within a forest, it provides no benefit if they happen to stand out on an open plain. The effect is also lost if the individual begins making rapid movements, such as sprinting or evading an opponent's attacks.

Also included was an extreme weather insulation unit and body monitors which could detect the wearer's vital signs.The suit was completed by goggles which incorporated a high-resolution video screen capable of infrared vision as well as anti-glare measures. A miniature computer and sensor system even presented the wearer with a 360-degree field of view. The guys in the Spec Ops Platoon referred to it as the 'Sage Wolf' Suit.

Can you say, 'DEST Infiltration Suit, eat your heart out'?

WORD COUNT: 5,498
CONTRACT COUNT: 13,509


NPC
Name: John Ono
Callsign: ‘OJay’
Rank: Corporal
Hardware: Defiance Thunder UAC/20 FG
Company: Fox Cub Mechanized Infantry
Platoon: Demon Pup
Section: Dingo
Squad: 4th
Team: Yankee
Gunner
Unit: Rabid Wolves Battalion
HOUSE: OUTWORLDS ALLIANCE
Last edited by Mesha on Sun Oct 14, 2018 12:46 am, edited 3 times in total.
Name: Cathryn Whitley
Callsign: ‘Bulls Eye'
Rank: Major
Hardware: Steele Dagger Battle Armor
Company: Wolf Pack
Platoon: Brooding Lupus
Squad: Lone Wolf
Assignment: MUCO
Unit: Rabid Wolves Battalion
HOUSE: OUTWORLDS ALLIANCE

User avatar
Mesha
Posts: 919
Joined: Sat Feb 11, 2017 8:15 pm
affiliations: Name: Mesha Seville
Callsign: ‘Viper'
Rank: Captain
Hardware: Jagdvogel JGV-1OAi
Wing: AeroSpace (Command)
Flight: Angel Flight
Squadron: Angel
Assignment: IAC Naval Fleet CO
Unit: Ingersolls Armored Cavalry
HOUSE: LYRAN ALLIANCE

Re: IC: PY-SD-04-07 - Security Duty on Gillfillian's Gold

Postby Mesha » Sat Oct 13, 2018 3:20 pm

RABID WOLVES COMBINATION SNEAK SUIT
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SAGE WOLF SUIT
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Last edited by Mesha on Sun Oct 14, 2018 12:35 am, edited 1 time in total.
Name: Cathryn Whitley
Callsign: ‘Bulls Eye'
Rank: Major
Hardware: Steele Dagger Battle Armor
Company: Wolf Pack
Platoon: Brooding Lupus
Squad: Lone Wolf
Assignment: MUCO
Unit: Rabid Wolves Battalion
HOUSE: OUTWORLDS ALLIANCE

User avatar
Mesha
Posts: 919
Joined: Sat Feb 11, 2017 8:15 pm
affiliations: Name: Mesha Seville
Callsign: ‘Viper'
Rank: Captain
Hardware: Jagdvogel JGV-1OAi
Wing: AeroSpace (Command)
Flight: Angel Flight
Squadron: Angel
Assignment: IAC Naval Fleet CO
Unit: Ingersolls Armored Cavalry
HOUSE: LYRAN ALLIANCE

Re: IC: PY-SD-04-07 - Security Duty on Gillfillian's Gold

Postby Mesha » Sat Oct 13, 2018 11:09 pm

PY-SD-04-07 #06(RW)

The Periphery
The Rim Collection
Gillfillian’s Gold
Continent: Lyuben
Country: Trendafil
Maroo
Airport
Aurora Class DropShip
The Nestling
DCCC/RW Camp
Rabid Wolves Bivouac
Fox Cub Company Billet
November 2nd 0600 am local time

I finally made it on station at the Rabid Wolves Camp on Gillfillian’s Gold, after a few days delay caused by a venting hydrogen leak from the Aurora Class DropShip, Nestling, we undocked from our Liberty Class JumpShip, Twisted Leash, stationed at the Zenith JumpPoint; back on the twenty sixth of October . . . I arrived on world fourteen weeks after the Core Units that I was hired to command.

I remember that morning well. It was the first time the DropShip carrying us had not been challenged during their several entries into a solar system between the Lyran Alliance Timbuktu Theater and Periphery. I was on duty on the bridge and Naval Officers, Lieutenant senior grade Cristian Fritsch and Lieutenant junior grade Mary Vanderbuilt; the Nestlings Commanding Officer and Executive Officer, who were standing around me were both tautly set, almost shaking with nervous tension as they looked around over the ominously placid airspace of the Maroo Airport. Several of the Naval Officers had assured us that there would certainly be fireworks during the landing operation, and we were set for them; but the unloading period was absolutely uneventful, so far as enemy action was concerned.

The Navy, however, made it evident that they were very anxious to get us the hell off their DropShip so they could get the hell out. And they were not the least bit bashful about throwing our equipment out on the tarmac in any way they could, so long as the action saved time for them. It took us quite a few days to clear up the mess they had created with such wasteful haste, but there are two sides to everything, and we could appreciate the fact that a grounded transport made an excellent cold turkey target for aerospace fighters and conventional planes alike.

I guess we all had a funny feeling as we loaded into the Caravan Hovertanks after walking down the ramp. There was no danger involved in the landing operation, we knew, but this planet was the place where some of my troops would see their very first combat. As we roared toward the barracks, our little craft making one of the many ugly rooster tail wakes of dust and debris for the Cobra Command VTOL circling above us to see, I gained a good bit of comfort from the M42B in my hands. I had fitted a VG6 Gamma 556 Muzzle Brake to it and had liked the combination so well that I had acceded to a tearful request from my good friend and boon hunting companion, Captain Jim Collins, and left him my Federated Long Rifle for ‘Boar Hunting’ on Valencia. The combined muzzle brake and compensator feature of the VG6 helped to eliminate recoil and minimized muzzle jump when firing the M42B in Light Machine Gun Mode. My favored mode. My M42B was encased to protect it from the sand and was beautifully waterproofed by a spar-varnish, linseed oil finish; inside and out on the stock. The attention I had devoted to it on the DropShip had given the Aurora’s CO, on one occasion, to tell me to remember that I had a platoon to command and to not let myself be caught popping away with a rifle on my own unless circumstances permitted.

Our hover craft rides were short and uneventful. It was only a few minutes after we walked down the ramps that the coxswain cut the motors and we felt our crafts’ nose grindingly cut into the sands of combat zone ground. Immediately we became busy unscrambling the mess the Navy had caused with the hasty unloading of our supplies. I only took time off to check the zero of my rifle, using a few rounds of my carefully husbanded M42B boat-tail stuff. My weapon was right in the groove. It gave me a three inch, ten shot group, perfectly centered on a five inch bull at 100 meters.

We bedded down in the barracks near our allies, the Dark Sun Combat Corps and waited during the first night. High flying enemy ‘Choppers came over in the moonlight to brave a considerable amount of our flak and reconned the unloading and dispersal areas. It was a new sight but not particularly frightening to most of us. We were more interested in the frequent roar of batteries of Rocket Assisted Grenade Launchers, or RAGs, sited near us, and the distant patter of small arms fire, coming in, sound muffled, from the ‘not so far off’ city. The threat of an attack loomed strongly, and we were therefore set up to defend the airport from a surprise offensive. But nothing materialized.

I managed to see Lieutenant senior grade Mason ‘Gunny’ Hall while he remained off duty and we were able between us to locate quite a few shooting buddies. The Fox Cub Mechanized Company had many familiar Alice Spring names within its ranks. The Dingo Section, Hall’s command, debarked on the Spotted Eagle several months prior to my late arrival. He informed me of the vagueness of the Rim World Consul situation, saying that there were from 1,000 to 1,500 hostiles in the immediate area and four times as many world wide. They had heavily reinforced the original group in personnel, but were currently believed to be suffering for lack of supplies. They were using Galleons and Strikers and light Technicals for supply and reinforcement at the time, not daring to risk any more sizeable transports while Maroo Airport remained operational in our hands. I got my first orientation on the fluid situation from him and began to think about assigning Specialist Ereiwitz to do some sniping at a select part of the city, should Demon Pup not soon be committed.

I had but recently been promoted to Captain and transferred to Fox Cub company, thereby resuming my old duties as a machine gun platoon leader. Strangely enough, my new battalion commander was also an old acquaintance of mine. She had been an Outworld Alliance Secrete Agent or Covert Op or some shit. Major Cathryn ‘Bull’s Eye’ Whitley.

She was a good, solid commander.

NPC
Name: Jonas Hopfer
Callsign: ‘Hops’
Rank: Captain
Hardware: Federated-Barrett M42B Rifle System
Company: Fox Cub Mechanized Infantry
Platoon: Demon Pup
Section: Husky
Squad: 1st
Team: Alpha
Assignment: Spec Ops CO
Unit: Rabid Wolves Battalion
HOUSE: OUTWORLDS ALLIANCE


WORD COUNT: 1134
CONTRACT COUNT: 14,643
Name: Cathryn Whitley
Callsign: ‘Bulls Eye'
Rank: Major
Hardware: Steele Dagger Battle Armor
Company: Wolf Pack
Platoon: Brooding Lupus
Squad: Lone Wolf
Assignment: MUCO
Unit: Rabid Wolves Battalion
HOUSE: OUTWORLDS ALLIANCE

User avatar
Mesha
Posts: 919
Joined: Sat Feb 11, 2017 8:15 pm
affiliations: Name: Mesha Seville
Callsign: ‘Viper'
Rank: Captain
Hardware: Jagdvogel JGV-1OAi
Wing: AeroSpace (Command)
Flight: Angel Flight
Squadron: Angel
Assignment: IAC Naval Fleet CO
Unit: Ingersolls Armored Cavalry
HOUSE: LYRAN ALLIANCE

Re: IC: PY-SD-04-07 - Security Duty on Gillfillian's Gold

Postby Mesha » Sun Oct 14, 2018 12:26 am

RIM WORLD CONSUL ZEALOTS
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TECHNICAL
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GALLEON
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STRIKER
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Name: Cathryn Whitley
Callsign: ‘Bulls Eye'
Rank: Major
Hardware: Steele Dagger Battle Armor
Company: Wolf Pack
Platoon: Brooding Lupus
Squad: Lone Wolf
Assignment: MUCO
Unit: Rabid Wolves Battalion
HOUSE: OUTWORLDS ALLIANCE

User avatar
Mesha
Posts: 919
Joined: Sat Feb 11, 2017 8:15 pm
affiliations: Name: Mesha Seville
Callsign: ‘Viper'
Rank: Captain
Hardware: Jagdvogel JGV-1OAi
Wing: AeroSpace (Command)
Flight: Angel Flight
Squadron: Angel
Assignment: IAC Naval Fleet CO
Unit: Ingersolls Armored Cavalry
HOUSE: LYRAN ALLIANCE

Re: IC: PY-SD-04-07 - Security Duty on Gillfillian's Gold

Postby Mesha » Mon Oct 15, 2018 6:21 pm

PY-SD-04-07 #07(RW)

The Periphery
The Rim Collection
Gillfillian’s Gold
Continent: Lyuben
Country: Trendafil
Maroo
Business District
Ruling Council Tower
Security Check Point
November 4th 0630 am local time

Major Cathryn ‘Bulls Eye’ Whitley trailed along with a line of indigenous Rim Collection veterans and their families waiting for their VIP tour of the Ruling Council Tower. As a current MRBC Major, she’d technically qualified for the tour. However, today she wasn’t dressed as herself. Some of the finest deception experts in the Inner Sphere Intelligence Community had disguised her as an ‘eighty two year old’ woman. They were so good she even had wrinkles.

“This way, ma’am.”

Cathryn nodded to the Dark Suns Combat Corps, Special Actions Team agent, considering whether to call him son. No, it was best to stay as quiet as possible. Otherwise she might give herself away. The success of her team, the “Hostiles”, meant she had to stay in character. Not let on that she wasn’t who her ID said she was. Just the fact that the DSCC SAT Agent hadn’t questioned her fake identification card said something about the quality of the fabrication.

Did she feel guilty about the fact that she was fooling her ally’s, the DSCC, breaking into the Ruling Council Tower to get up to trouble? No way. They were expecting her team. They would be ready for the exercise. The DSCC didn’t know when it would start, but her “Hostiles” did. They were all handpicked by their Lyran Alliance Liaison Officer, Damad Sandaker.

Cathryn checked her chronometer. It was just after six thirty in the morning. Seven minutes until “go” time.

The line of authentic Rim Collection tourists, snaked around a security building at the southeast entrance. Cathryn had to give them credit. She’d learned a lot in the past few weeks spent pouring over files and sifting through the wheat and chaff of data. Security at the Ruling Council Tower was good. Almost impenetrable, in fact. She figured, almost since the DSCC SAT Team could never assume a breach of their defenses was impossible.

Soon enough, her unit would be working ‘side by side’ with the Dark Suns Combat Corps. Cathryn smiled as she stepped inside the security office. She’d already had the full body scan. Now she stood by a desk, staffed by a broad shoulder DSCC personnel. He was sitting, so she couldn’t see how tall he was but she was trained to pick out such things so she guessed he was roughly about six two, six three at the most and went about a buck fifty. Kind of thin for her liking. He must have had a BMI of about 18%. Her mother would have said he needs to make it to the fattening trough. His dark brown hue was smooth and unblemished and he wore his head bald, with a neatly trimmed moustache and goatee, his eyes were a faded grey. Brooding.

Sunglasses had been pushed up on top of his head. His bulky vest was covered with pouches, and a dozen things had been clipped to his belt. He pulled a vid phone from the zippered pouch on the left front side of this vest, looked at the screen for a second and then replaced it.

He glanced up at her, caught her staring at him and gave her a perfunctory nod. If she wasn’t dressed as an elderly woman she might be offended he hadn’t given her more attention than that. Her ex-husband, Earl, had been a flatterer.

Ancient history.

Oh My God! It hit Cathryn like a runaway Rhino. She realized where she had seen that face before. In the briefing data for this contract. The DSCC personnel manning the security desk was none other than Captain Ekon Zane, the overall commander of this contract and her Boss. She wasn’t going to look at the handsome Captain again. Cathryn was done with relationships. Done like burned toast . . . throw it in the trash and hit the hover-through on the way to work, Done!

The line inched around the desk, toward the kind of security checkpoint present in basically every military building on every planet. Surrender all bags to be scanned, and walk through the metal detector, just like the ones in the spaceports. At the corner of the desk, she glanced one more time in the direction of Captain Zane. Banks of phones. Computers. The file open in front of him.

Cathryn sucked in a breath so fast it got stuck. Forced to cough, she pulled a handkerchief from the sleeve of her blouse and held it in front of her mouth.

“Ma’am?” The Captain looked over. “Are you okay?” Concern softened his features. His voice was like the rumble of a ground car’s tires on a country road. She could listen to that all day.

Cathryn nodded even though she was far from okay. The file was a hard copy and had her picture on the first page, along with her personal information. Why was the Captain looking at her file?

Cathryn had to continue. There was nothing else she could do. It was probably part of the exercise. But that didn’t negate the surprise at seeing her own face in the folder.

The Lyran Alliance higher ups knew she’d been sent to the Ruling Council Tower, and she just wanted to get on with the day’s activities. Did Ekon know she was part of the exercise? Did the file tell him she was currently on assignment? Her unit had scored so high, busting through long held records by the Wolf’s Dragoons, that they’d offered her Rabid Wolves this opportunity. The chance to be part of an actual Lyran Alliance sensitive Security Detail.

The Event today was real, the Rim Collection wanted to honor veterans with a special tour. Chairman Launtis and family were at Otisberg this week, and the West Wing was undergoing renovations, so a lot of the staff were working from home. As soon as most of the tour people had exited the front door, everything would really begin.

She’d been briefed, and she was going to carry out those instructions to the letter. The SAT Team, and all their personnel and non-comms, were experts. Still, the higher ups figured there was always opportunity to improve. They were going to test their response time in a live environment.

Cathryn was part of a group which consisted of three people on the tour and three currently posing as HVAC repairmen who were supposed to take a couple of on-duty agents as “Hostages”. Then the plan was to hole up in one of the rooms and make demands. There was a whole script to follow.

Since it was actually really difficult to take over the Ruling Council Tower, a good thing, given their job was to protect the Lyran Alliance Ambassador Karl Liensdorf and his entourage while they attended meetings there all month, they also had a “Mole” in the Planetary Militia who was going to help them. The job of the agents on duty was to resolve the situation and figure out which one of them was working with the “Hostiles”. Personnel were far more vulnerable and susceptible to security breaches than any computer system.

After the security check point, the tour headed outside and up a path that wound around a corner to the East Wing entrance. An agent waited outside the door, with a dog at her side. Cathryn gave her a nod and said, “Morning.”

They trailed down a long hallway. Rooms had been roped off and carpets rolled up so they didn’t mar the fabric with their shoes. Cathryn didn’t want to feel like a peon, but it kind of did make her feel inferior that she wasn’t even allowed to walk on their rugs.

The whole place didn’t seem all that dated, like a lot of historic buildings in the Periphery. Maybe it just didn’t get used that much, and they cleaned it really well. She’d been in some old castles in the Outworlds Alliance, on leave, back in her Covert Ops days. Those had been visibly old. Crumbling walls, and a stale smell. The Ruling Council Tower was pristine, and yet Cathryn couldn’t even appreciate the splendor of it.

Not with the impending exercise.

They meandered past the archives room. Agents watching over the tour from both ends of the hallway were engaged in conversation with some of the vets. She checked her chronometer.

Two minutes until . . .

“Yes, now!” The words were a brash whisper from a man in front of her. Not a great attempt by him at lowering his voice.

He spoke closely to the guy beside him. Both were dressed in Gillfillian’s Gold Militia uniforms, and she recognized them from the briefing but couldn’t remember their names.

She was the only other person close to them. The line had thinned out to small groups lingering through the tour route. No one paid any attention to the little old woman.

“The Archive Library is coming up,” the first said. “It’s right here. Thirty seconds. You distract them, and I’ll run in and grab it. I’m sure it’s there. Chenkov will probably pay us double if we do this with no fuss.”

Grab it?

Were they going to steal something?


Cathryn gasped. The two men turned. She fumbled for a weapon she wasn’t carrying, instinct driving her to the crux of her training. But it was no use. The two men grabbed her.

They crowded her against the wall, both standing way too close, but casual. Like they were just talking.

A gun pressed into her ribs.

“Wanna know what happens to eavesdroppers?”


…………………


Dark Suns Combat Corps Captain, Ekon Zane, shut the file and leaned back in his chair. Most of the veterans had filed through, leaving the office quiet now. How he was supposed to find Cathryn Whitley, Rabid Wolves Battalion Major and future ally, was anyone’s guess. She was part of the exercise, and Ekon had been told to keep an eye for her.

His DSCC had no idea when the exercise was going to happen, but he’d kind of hoped she would be on this tour of veterans. Her name hadn’t even been on the list, though, so that was out. He flipped the file open again and stared at the photo of her . . . black hair, and those honeynut-hazel eyes. He’d stared at it far too much already. She was alright, but his assignment was to make sure she was apprehended as part of the exercise.

His job was to protect Lyran Ambassador Liensdorf, but it was so much more than that. The Lyran Alliance also had a vested interest in the Ruling Council Tower of the Rim Collection and all the people who worked here, investigated financial crimes and had offices all over the region. The scope of what they did was huge.

As part of the Lyran Alliance Ambassador’s Security detail, Ekon DSCC served the office of the Archon rather than Liensdorf himself. No matter who held the title, Ekon’s job was to be on duty. Day to day, it wasn’t super exciting. If it was, that meant something had gone wrong. No one looked forward to that. The DSCC liked quiet days where they didn’t have to deal with attention seekers trying to run across the south lawn. There wasn’t an agent employed here who enjoyed taking down a misguided member of the public. Most of his personnel heralded from backgrounds that served the public in Law enforcement. He swiveled in his chair and rolled his shoulders. The constant vigilance was exhausting. The exercise would be a good distraction from whatever was nagging at him.

His communicator crackled. The announcement drew his eyebrows up as he realized the scope of what was going on. A full on brawl in the entrance hall? The exercise.

Master Chief Petty Officer Thomas Magnum rapped twice on the doorjamb. “Let’s go.”

Ekon rushed after him to the cabinet where the rifles loaded with blanks were kept. They had guns with live rounds on them at all times. No one was going to lay those down, even for an exercise. However, if they had to shoot a so called “Hostile” it was better to do that with blank bullets when this was only role play.

He and Magnum headed to the east entrance and took the stairs up to the hall where a fight had broken out. The tour had made its way through, and now most of them were outside. The stragglers had apparently walked slowly in order to start the exercise.

Two men were facedown, being cuffed by his SAT agents, while others looked on. If this was the exercise, it had failed. Were they simply that good at their jobs, or was this only one part of a larger plan? It could be nothing more than a distraction for a multipronged attack. They’d have to be cautious still.

“The Rabid Wolves?”

Ekon said, “I guess so. Was this their whole plan?”


“If it was,” Magnum replied, “it wasn’t a good one.”

Ekon grinned. “And we got here too late to help.” Not that there wasn’t still plenty to do, but they’d missed the bulk of the action. Maybe.

He motioned to the door at the far end of the entrance hall. “I’m going to sweep that side.” He gestured at the usher’s closet, behind which was the large dining hall and an industrial kitchen along with a hallway, stairs and a service elevator. Plenty of places for “Hostiles” to hide. Plenty of blind corners, and an escape route for any “Hostile” wanting to regroup in order to plan the next phase of their operation.

Magnum nodded. “I’ll work on this end.”

Ekon radioed in to his Command Center and informed them of his intentions. Between the two of them, and the other SAT agents no doubt now dispersing through the Ruling Council Tower, they’d get the “Hostiles” all cleared out in no time.

There was no way things had begun and ended with a fight in the entrance hall. Some of that was likely real veterans not knowing an exercise was taking place. They’d be questioned and then released. The “Hostiles” already arrested would be a point each for the DSCC. If they scored too low, though, heads were gonna roll. You could count on that.

No one in the Corps wanted that to happen.

Ekon twisted the door handle but froze immediately when he heard voices.

“I didn’t hear anything,” a woman pleaded. “I don’t know anything.”

He could hear the desperation in the woman’s voice. An innocent had been caught up in the exercise? Ekon’s brain spun with what this could mean.

A man snorted. “Won’t matter. Either way, you’ll be dead. No one will be any wiser until your body is on a slab at the morgue and they realize you lied to everyone.” He laughed. “We’ll make them think you’re behind all this.”

Ekon wasn’t about to let the woman get hurt. He kicked the door open. “Freeze!” Two men started. Both dressed in Militia uniforms, they had been part of the tour. “Guns on the floor! Hands up!”

The woman they had with them wasn’t at all what he’d expected. Her voice hadn’t made her sound all that advanced in age, but she seemed to be in her wise years. He reiterated, “Drop your weapons, and put . . .”

One gunman, the one closest to Ekon, turned and shoved the other as he fled the room out the back door. The man he’d shoved stumbled to one side, his gun up and pointed at the woman. It went off. The blast was loud in the small room.

The woman’s breath escaped in an “oof”, and he heard her go down. Ekon was already running at the man before he even registered the move. He slammed into the guy and tackled him to the ground.

The man fought him, waving the gun around.

Ekon grasped his wrist and slammed it against the floor until he let go. “You’re under arrest!” Then he flipped the man to his front and zip tied him, while the captive grunted and struggled.

Had he killed that poor woman?


………………………..


Ekon sank to one knee beside her, pulled his com unit out with one hand and called in to the Command Center about the man who’d run off. There wasn’t any visible blood, and yet her floral print dress had a hole in the front. He laid two fingers of his free hand on her throat. Strong and steady pulse. She was alive? He glanced back at the gunman he’d secured, now lying on his side watching them. Johnson his shirt said. Was that his real name?

Command responded that they would send agents to find the man who’d run off.

Ekon said, “See if you can figure out why he has a weapon with lethal ammunition as well.” A woman had been caught in the crossfire because someone messed up. None of the “Hostiles” were supposed to live ammo, just blanks. And how had the man managed to get that past security? “I’ll bring in the guy I have here, once I get the woman up and escorted out.”

The woman gasped. He looked at her in time to see her eyes were open. She sat halfway up, much faster than an old woman should react.

“What The F…..???”

He touched her shoulder, keeping half his attention on the man. “Easy.”

She shifted her shoulders and hissed in pain. “I can’t believe the bastards shot me.” The woman felt the area where the round had hit her, then pulled aside the hole to reveal the end of a mangled slug lodged there.

“You have a protective vest on?” If she was fine, Ekon didn’t need a Medic to come. But he did need to get the gunman, glaring at him from the floor, booked into custody. They would have to figure out who his partner was, and whether this was all part of the exercise. But why involve an old woman?

One wearing a vest.

Okay, so nothing about this made any sense.


The woman sat up fully, frowned and scooted farther from him on the floor. Her gaze was a million miles away. “They were going to kill me.”

“Who are you?” Nothing about her made any sense. “I’m glad you’re alive and all, but you need to start talking.”

She clasped one wrist with her other and slid her hand down, peeling back the skin.

“Wait! Wha—”

The wrinkles fell to the floor and revealed soft skin on her wrist and hand. Young skin. Now that he was closer to her, not behind the security desk, he realized her gray hair looked like it could be a wig. But without the discrepancy between that young skin, and the wrinkles on her face it was hard to tell. It wasn’t synthetic hair.

Someone had gone to a great deal of effort to make this woman look nothing like herself. A disguise? Ekon shifted while his mind roiled with questions. Was she yet another part of the exercise? “Why did that man shoot at you? Was it part of the exercise?”

“I don’t think so.”

“He had live ammunition.”

“I overheard...” She shook her head. “They were actually trying to kill me.”

She shrugged one shoulder, then pulled the wig off. Removed the stocking and shook out her black hair. She pulled a hairband from her dress pocket and tied her hair back into a horse’s tail. Now he could see the edges of where wrinkled skin had been cosmetically added to her face.

A face he’d seen before, but only in a photo. “That’s some costume. But I can see your face showing.” Ekon stared her down.

The corner of her mouth curled up. Before she could answer, a response came over his com unit. He held up one finger and listened to the conversation while she peeled the latex off her face. That was when he realized who she was. He relayed to her what he’d heard over his earpiece. “Agents downstairs haven’t seen the shooter... Cathryn Whitley.”

She grinned at her name but said, “Did Simmons go upstairs?”

“Simmons?”

He glanced around, mostly to keep himself from staring at her honeynut-hazel eyes and her tanned skin of someone who enjoyed being outdoors. The only upside was that in saving an old woman, he’d inadvertently completed his priority task: apprehending Cathryn Whitley, the “Hostile’s” exercise leader, unscathed. The Dark Suns had won.

She said, “That was the name on his jacket.” Then motioned to the man still bound on the floor. “That one is Johnson.” Clambering up from the floor, she extended a hand in greeting. “Captain Zane, Major Whitley. The Rabid Wolves will concede victory to our betters . . .” she said with a conspiratorial grin, “and in lieu of the latest development, I recommend we pool our resources to figure out what the devil is going on here, right after I go get changed.”

“Later this Afternoon, how about we get together to hash out unit Area of Operations, brief the ambassador and his entourage, advise our teams of the timeline of month-long negotiations; you know, meeting schedule, ingress and egress routes, contingency plans, evacuation plans, ROE, those sorts of things?”

WORD COUNT: 3,621
CONTRACT COUNT: 18,264
Name: Cathryn Whitley
Callsign: ‘Bulls Eye'
Rank: Major
Hardware: Steele Dagger Battle Armor
Company: Wolf Pack
Platoon: Brooding Lupus
Squad: Lone Wolf
Assignment: MUCO
Unit: Rabid Wolves Battalion
HOUSE: OUTWORLDS ALLIANCE


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