Dale (Paladin)—————————-Phoenix Hawk
Bruce (Glamour)————————Phoenix Hawk
JP (Pitbull) ——————————-Black Knight
The Assault on Hebron continues…
Concentrating on the newest arrivals, the “assault” lance of the Dingoes turned about and opened full fire on the Rifleman on the hilltop. Fixer slipped around behind the new pair of combatants, while Voice, Pitbull and Advocate closed and fired everything they could. The Rifleman and Orion concentrated on Pitbull, shattering his Mech, though he took their volleys and remained standing.
On the northern flank, everyone else rallied to the fallen Major, sniping at infantry, tanks and anything else that revealed itself or got too close. Pockets stayed on over-watch, tracking the descending DropShip to the north-east, while Boom-Boom and Shredder slipped to the southern edge of the town and tried to stay out of harm’s way, their battered Mechs trying to escape. Having failed at getting close to the Major’s Mech for a killing blow, the enemy Exterminator slipped into the scattered northern woods to snipe at Advocate, trying to cover the Rifleman’s and Orion’s retreat.
As the two bounty hunter Mechs slowly made their way down the north flank od the hill, they laid into Pitbull, tearing his Black Knight apart, with the Orion slipping in behind to give him a savage kick and knock him to the ground. The Rifleman still took a savage series of hits, but stumbled downhill dangerously ravaged, with its remaining armor depleted all across its front, its right torso torn apart, and finally fell over. Pitbull, semi-conscious and dangerously over-heated, powered-down.
Glamour and Parish slipped across from the factory, and tore into the infantry platoons trying to get to the lesser factory buildings on the edge of the industrial sector, intercepting them in the woodland beside the ornamental lake. Glamour opened with her flamers, and burned one of the platoons to ashes. Ravenheart and Wraith continued to cover Paladin, doing some damage to the anti-Mech infantry that had closed with the fallen Major’s Mech and was attacking it at point-blank range.
The Rifleman staggered upright, despite serious leg damage, and its (now proven) elite pilot moved off, trying to follow its companion Orion north off the field. Fixer sniped at it somewhat, but Voice managed to hit it again with his Blazer, and that combined with his other laser fire tore off both of the Rifleman’s legs. Knocking the Rifleman to the ground, the Mech auto-powered down, its pilot scrambling to escape. The Orion and the Exterminator moved off through the scattered woodlands to the north, quickly fleeing the field.
Glamour closed with the anti-Mech infantry platoon threatening the Major, ravaging them with flamers, while Wraith tore the tracks off one of the Manticores. While the fallen tank’s crews abandoned the vehicle, the remaining Manticore managed to escape, moving off at full flank speed into the city center. The surviving infantry units began to disperse, and quickly scattered into the town. The industrial sector of town had fallen to the Iron Dingoes.
Pitbull and Fixer closed with the escaping Rifleman pilot. He identified himself as Koenig, of the Quarrel’s Fist bounty hunter group, and offered 50,000 Cs for his release. Pitbull thought about it and accepted, despite a serious desire to squish the elite pilot, and after getting Fixer’s nod of approval, let him drop a roll of bills from his bag and walk away, heading northeast. Pitbull and Fixer then dropped out of their Mechs, discussed the terms and split the roll of cash; Pitbull taking 35,000 Cs to Fixer’s 15,000 Cs.
While Ravenheart and Wraith kept watch on Paladin, who had regained consciousness somewhat, though he dared not try to stand up, the rest surrounded the factory complex and demanded the infantry hunkered in the buildings surrender. After some negotiation with Voice and Advocate, they agreed, leaving their small arms and scattered into the southeastern countryside away from the town.
The Dingoes called in the remaining salvage squads, using the Dead Man’’s Hand Mechs to cover their approaching convoy. While they waited for their arrival, the unit discussed options, and decided they would keep an eye on the town, while the Mechs rotated through repair work back in the Citadel. Sent back for repairs, Voice, Glamour, Fixer, Parish, Shredder, Boom-Boom, and Paladin’s Phoenix Hawk returned to the Citadel (the latter piloted by a Tech, while Paladin was med-evac lifted in the MASH Cobra). This left Pitbull, Wraith, Advocate, Ravenheart, and Pockets to guard the site, along with the hendful of DMH Mechs (Slayer, Solitaire, Valentine and Stargun).
Fixer and Parish managed to effect rapid repairs and within a couple hours returned back to the industrial compound in Hebron. As they travelled along the monorail tracks, they encountered a Skulker from the 1st Taurian Rangers (Baron Sarne’s personal military force), who reported to them that all military forces in their sector seemed to be pulling back to Goldberg (the Dunkelheim capital) or were concentrated in Hebron.
Pockets and Ravenheart ran a quick patrol around the town, and detected it was mostly quiet, with only a single concentration near the center of the community where a number of tanks, light vehicles and somewhere around a pair of infantry companies were holding their ground. Through the night, they kept a vigil, taking turns as some slept and watched for any counter-attack. Meanwhile, Voice and Glamour undertook emergency repairs at the Citadel, and within a few hours were fully active and returned back to the Hebron industrial center by morning, accompanied by the line unit’s armor and infantry assets, who had finished guarding the eastern outpost’s salvage site.
The fresh salvage techs swarmed the factory buildings, determining the local munitions plant to be the “Dunkelheim Ammunition Manufacturing and Services Company” that produced BM-118 Assault Rifles and RPG-7H Launchers, typically used by the planetary militia, along with ammunition and mortar reloads. The third destroyed building had formerly manufactured explosives and other important munitions chemicals. The oil refinery was the “Hebron Petroleum Refinery Company”, the only refinery on the planet. It contained thousands of liters of kerosene and some refined ICE fuel. The abandoned militia’s small arms at the facility were salvaged.
A day passed, while Wraith and Pitbull slipped back to the Citadel to conduct repairs. Paladin, feeling better after being patched-up and given medical attention, made contact with the TF29 command. He was informed that a company of planetary militia (all from a local rebel cell) were being sent to assist in holding the town, with their arrival in a couple days. Repairs on the Wraith’s and Pitbull’s Mechs were determined to be very extensive, and would take most of the next two days. Paladin’s Mech is also in a bad state, taking nearly two days to repair as well.
With a new day’s arrival, an enemy convoy gathered in the town’s center and made its way off to the western approach of town. The ready Mechs (including Ravenheart, Pockets, Voice, Glamour, Advocate and Parish) were sent to stop them, with the line Pegasus and Zephyrs keeping watch on their flanks, while the infantry assisted by Fixer and his Crab, held the industrial site. Quickly meeting the convoy at the town’s edge, the Dingoes identified three Scorpion Light Tanks (hauling sniper field artillery), a Manticore Heavy Tank, three Prime Movers with 80-ton trailers loaded with supplies, numerous light utility trucks and jeeps, and about two companies of foot infantry.
When the convoy was confronted, they threatened (from the identified Manticore) to destroy the center of town and its “Mech repair bays”, unless thye be allowed to leave. Slipping off to the side, Pockets managed to escape unnoticed, and was ordered to check the abandoned site out. Moving quickly, he reached it with his Ostscout in minutes, and found the site to have been the community administration center, with a repair and warehouse facility attached. A single massive concrete Mech repair bay stood in the center, and a collection of construction vehicles were tucked along one side of the compound. Numerous perimeter infantry defenses had been hastily abandoned, including a collection of crates around the warehouse entrance. Using his advanced electronics suite, Pockets was unable to identify any specific threat, though there might be low-tech explosives wired somewhere…
As the convoy slowly moved-off, its tank turrets aiming at the massed Mechs, and the Dingoes waiting for the call to open fire. When Pockets called-in there was nothing terribly threatening about the site, and that there was actually only one Mech repair bay with no tools or supplies, Voice decided to call the convoy’s bluff. Taking a pot-shot at the lead Manticore with his Blazer (and missing), he told the convoy to stand down. The convoy erupted in panic, infantry scattering along with vehicles everywhere. The CO of the convoy, one Captain Serge and his crews abandoned their charges and called for a general surrender. The convoy’s bluff was proven, when nothing exploded and the Dingoes captured most of the convoy intact. Although the techs and engineers of the local Engineering Company had scattered with the convoy troopers and AsTechs into the local town, valuable vehicles, and tons equipment & supplies had fallen into the Dingoes hands.
On the next day, Paladin contacted TF29s command, and officially informed them that the Central Sector was officially pacified. After a short, tense silence, the commanding officer (Colonel Hawkes) repiled “Are you F@#$ing serious?!?” Paladin reported various captured assets and the success of the Dingoes’ removal of all active military forces in the Sector. Colonel Hawkes seemed pleased, promised the previously mentioned infantry, and also offered to send a few of his personal “Rangers” over the next couple days to protect the industrial plants. The Dingoes were ordered to hold the position and await matters in the Northern and Southwestern Sectors to resolve, before moving from Hebron.
Open discussions resulted in the unit spending a couple days gathering their strength, splitting-off with the Dead Man’s Hand to patrol town and keep an eye on the industrial plant. As people began to openly move about the town once more, the Dingoes’ decided that now was a good opportunity to look after rumors of the “Shadow Station” brought to them from Senior Tech Katherine Bolivars comments about the place. With the unit mostly repaired, they decided to take two squads of Stargaurds, a squad of techs and activate * “The Werewolves”. Fixer, Wraith, Pitbull and Voice were to accompany them, each taking control of a separate squad (Fixer the techs, Voice the Werewolves, and Pitbull and Wraith a squad of marines each). Taking the “Crimson Sands”, in hopes the ship’s recent use in salvage operations might not draw attention to their operation, they dragged Tech Bolivar along for her experience and knowledge of the station’s location.
“The most striking feature of the station was the rotation of its ring. The play of light and shadow constantly revealed new facets of the hull’s exterior. Not rotating, however, was the main docking section and its docking collar. This structure along its single spoke was specifically mounted to counteract the rotation of the ship, making docking easier for pilots and for the ship to connect to JumpShip collars.”
Each squad took a separate way in; the two marine squads entering through the empty escape pod airlocks (Quadrants 1 and 3), while the techs and Werewolves came in through the main docking collar (Quadrant 2). Wraith and Pitbull were in their combat suits, as were the marines. Fixer had his Engineer’s Exo-suit, but the rest were only in their combat armor with their favored weapons (though they wre able to seal the suits to use their own air supply). Pitbull was refused his SRM launcher, since the marines didn’t feel it was very conducive to a close-action in the station corridors.
Wraith’s team immediately entered Auxiliary Lab, just off the airlock, while Pitbull’s entered a large cargo bay. The ring seemed to have been vandalized, with lights smashed and various items destroyed. Both left a pair of marines to watch the airlocks and moved deeper into the ring. The Werewolves encountered an airlock to Avionics & Communications, or the long tube-like central cargo spoke of the docking collar. The latter was filled with various plastic shipping crates, strapped to racks along the walls, including one long coffin-like container and several empty animal carry-cases. The Ring’s cargo bay was mostly empty, though the few battered shipping crates and barrels were found to be empty. The Auxiliary Lab was mostly empty, with a central explosion seeming to have destroyed most everything and nearly pierced the ring bulkhead, buckling it. Along the far wall was a collection of lab tables in a big pile.
Voice moved from the spoke into the simulated 0.5Gs gravity of the ring, into a large reception hall, with some seating and a ship’s inter-communications device.
Pitbull’s group moved out of the cargo bay and into what they felt was the bridge; a pair of acceleration couches surrounded by blinking computers, with a large flat screen against the bulkhead wall that displayed the forward starscape (away from the planet) and various camera images along its exterior hull. Wraith’s group immediately tripped over something, when the point-man was “grabbed” as he passed the table pile. His startled scream was met with intense laser fire on the tables from his squad mates and confusion reigned until Wraith was able to quiet things down. The trooper had been clawed at by some sort of bloody appendage, his combat suit’s leg smeared with gore and some strange blue gel.
Pitbull examined the bridge computers, but was unable to do more than get a basic understanding of things from the data he saw. Immediately as the fire-fight in the Auxiliary Labs started, a blaring marching band tune began to play over the ship’s speakers, drowning-out most every conversation. After failing to turn the music off, he called for Voice to get the techs down to the bridge to extract what they could and shut the music off…
Determining the music was uncontrolled from the reception computer, Voice & Fixer with the Werewolves and the techs moved off along the ring, passing various staterooms and eventually entering a large galley and mess hall. Vandalized like most other rooms of the ship, they found one corner of the mess to have had its tables mounted and welded against the wall. Ignoring it, they moved off towards the bridge in Quadrant 3, while Pitbull left two troopers and moved off to see what the fight was about and investigate the sealed chamber. Wraith started to clear away the tables from the corner of the lab where they lie. He uncovered a strange hole carved into the floor with a laser torch (!), that was smeared with a sticky cobalt-blue gel. It led not into a ventilation shaft (as expected) but some other sort of tube that seemed to follow the outside “floor” of the station’s ring.
Once Voice and the Werewolves’ techs had entered the bridge, they examined the ship’s logs and he managed to shut-down the blaring music. Voice noticed, however, as they did so, a computer log-off from some other computer on-board. Pitbull entered the Galley and examined the sealed section towards the kitchens, determining they had likely sealed someting inside, when he heard “scratching” on the tables, followed promptly by “mumbling and snuffling” (Fan-n-n-n-tastic!). He swore, he heard something mumble words back to him when he tried to communicate, and asked his troopers to see about opening the seal. When it proved impervious to casual attempts to open it (and Pitbull reminded the squad senior trooper that a missile launcher might be helpful at this point… “Shut-up Sir”…) he called in some of Fixer’s techs to get a few tools and open it up. When the tech group arrived from the bridge, he was notified that someone “else” was in the ship, and started a room-by-room search of the station ring. starting at the mess and moving starboard past Reception and towards the Auxiliary Labs, past Wraith’s initial drive pod and airlock.
Wraith and his troops moved into the Main Labs, which occupied the entire 4th Quadrant. A series of lab tables flanked each wall past the iris, covered in lab equipment. All lights were smashed and some experiments had been destroyed. Immediately to the left of the iris valve was a large “divet” in the floor bulkhead. Moving through the quadrant, Wraith’s troops encountered a single self-contained science computer (an Ichiban Model/0.5) still displaying a series of data. Opposite it was a high-energy laser of some sort (later identified as a Medium Laser with some sort of modifications and components added to it, “The Hatpin”). None of his troops could identify what experiments were being run. One corner of the lab had been set-up with broken tables and trash, resembling a nest, with another hole cut into the floors smeared with blue gel, but well-padded with torn clothing and sheets.
Pitbull continued his search, and found a dismembered corpse in one stateroom, whose limbs had been literally torn-off… (Fan-n-n-n-tastic! Umm… tech squad? I don’t think we should be opening that barricade yet…), eventually determining the staterooms were empty. An auxiliary bridge was discovered next to Drive Pod #2, though he determined it was not being manned at present. Another hole was uncovered in the staff washrooms, leading into the tunnel and its blue goo-smeared interior.
The ship had been almost completely searched, and the group started to confer over their coms, while the techs worked on the computer in the bridge and the science computer in the Main Labs. The techs determined the following:
- The ship’s computer had no information about experiments aboard, but was conducting transmissions of lab reports every day up to the abandonment of the lab, towards the capital of Goldberg.
- Batches of the reports had been regularly sent every six days to both the capital and to an unknown location in the system. Co-ordinates were available, though access to charts were needed to verify its location.
- A visitor’s roster over the last four months indicated numerous high-ranked staff officers had visited the facility, including Colonel White, and numerous senior infantry.
The science computer revealed numerous other facts:
- Data including experiments numbered, its general title and basic examination of its status.
- Experiment 1067 : Combat Drugs
– Complex combinations of various medical compounds, powerful stimulants, neural accelerators, pain killers, and endurance/strength enhancers that combine to create a nearly fearless, ruthless, focused and utterly lethal frame of mind.
- Experiment 1077 : Deathpaste
– Almost universally banned and reviled, the use of a bioagent and radioactive dust (cobalt in this case) combined with a bio-gel, and used to smear on missiles and autocannon rounds. It exposes dangerous and lethal levels of radiation on enemies to contaminate and slay large portions of the enemies techs and support personnel.
- Experiment 1079 : Fiber-Optic Guides
– Fibre-optic cables allowing the mounting of lasers in a location other than the one from which it fires from. These guides create extra weight and add an additional critical location in the affected torso.
- Experiment 1101 : Hydride Fuel
: A non-explosive additive for ICE
- Experiment 1103
: Needle Laser : “The Hatpin”
– A standard combat laser modified using energy boosters to produce a beam of less than 1/10th of an inch wide, with a total duration of less than 0.02 seconds. The result is a laser that creates an armor-piercing beam at short ranges, doing a very small amount of damage to its targets location interior, provided it achieves a penetration value sufficient to overcome armor values. The laser weighs more and generates a larger amount of heat per shot.
The knowledge that combat drugs might be running through the atmosphere alarmed the Werewolves and techs (and Voice!), since unlike the others they were not equipped with exo-suits. The Werewolves also commented that maybe they needed to get some for their own purposes in the future…
As the information about “Deathpaste” was being examined, Wraith had just stripped off his suit and was staring into the tunnel in the auxiliary lab, and upon hearing the news, smeared the blue gel on his hands onto a nearby rag, and demanded the unit hurry it, since he now needed a radiation decon shower… It was determined the bridge computer was booby-trapped, and though Fixer and the techs were likely able to disable most of the triggers, when the core was pulled, it would trigger “something” as the power feed left the core. With no means to continue supplying the rate of power needed, they decided to take that core last.
The divet in the Main Labs proved to an access panel that opened up outside the ship, allowing large equipment or experiments to be removed from the ship. It included an emergency bolt separation routine for emergency decompression. Using that access panel, they could get “The Hatpin” and the entire science computer from the ship, though the main lab would be trashed when they did so, salvaging none of the experiments prototypes or other materiel beyond the raw computer data.
When the blaring music statred for a third time, they examined what they had missed. Then it dawned on the group that no one had investigated the Avionics and communications pod near the docking collar. Pitbull led a marine squad to the pod and opening its iris, they found a disheveled and sickly tech manning the single acceleration couch. After a sharp confrontation where he demanded the “pillagers” leave his home, followed by giggles and sobbing, he was confronted about what was going on, but could only relate that “…since the explosion, Johnson had gotten a little… bitey…”. Growing weary of the conversation, Pitbull used his sonic pistol on the tech, knocking him out and after tying him up, moved the far more compliant life-support tech, one Tech Eugene Laforte, to the Crimson Sands.
With most of the loose ends tied-up they evacuated the labship, and decompressing the main labs, they moved the science computer and the experimental laser into its cargo bay. They also looted all the plastic cargo containers from the docking bay, finding them to include numerous consumables (basic clothing, hygiene supplies and packaged rations). A number of them also included several advanced assault rifles and three labelled “explosives” were filled with HE grenades. Packing slips on the crates identified them as being from a munitions plant on Patriarch, dated over a year ago, some time prior to the nuclear holocaust that struck the world.
With only the main computer remaining, the group evacuated the labship, leaving Fixer with a pair of marines to get him out when the core was pulled. The Crimson Sands undocked, and manuevered itself near the escape pod #1 airlock, to one side. Disabling the last few triggers, Fixer detached the core to find all power drop from the labship, forcing the interior into darkness. The trio moved quickly, and made for the nearby Escape Pod #1 airlock, as the ship suddenly maneuvered, flipping itself over… to face the planet directly… The trio managed to get out of the ship, though one marine caught himself on the way out, forcing the three into a radical spin towards the Crimson Sands stationed just a few meters away from the station.
The sudden acceleration of the Shadow Station took them by surprise, but it boosted towards the planet surface on a very steep approach, almost immediately bursting into flames and breaking apart to burn in the atmosphere. Retrieving Fixer and his two bodyguards, the Crimson Sands returned to the starport only a couple hours after it had left, cargo intact and a few more questions answered, though a few more had been created. All evidence of the Shadow Station and its contents were lost except for a smear in the sky and the contents of the hold of the Crimson Sands…