Campaign of the Month: June 2014

Battletech : The Farscape Campaign

Episode 19 - Hebron
"The Dingoes were to secure and hold the town of Hebron, a central market and light industrial center west of the Citadel. However, it was quickly growing apparent White Death might be playing a different game than we thought..."

Roll Call————————————-Mechs

Dale (Paladin)—————————-Phoenix Hawk
Dana (Voice)——————————Hunchback
Bruce (Glamour)————————Phoenix Hawk
JP (Pitbull) ——————————-Black Knight
Greg (Fixer)——————————-Crab
Ralph (Wraith)—————————Wolverine
Jay (Advocate)—————————Griffin
Lee (Priest)——————————-Chameleon
Dylan (Boom-Boom)——————Jenner

The Iron Dingoes had taken a couple of days to refit and repair, and reorganize themselves into lances; Paladin leading Ravenheart, Boom-Boom, and Priest; Voice leading Pitbull, Advocate and Fixer; and Glamour leading Pockets, Wraith and Shredder.

Examining the scout information retrieved from their Force Recon of the Central Sector, the unit decided to travel along the monorail track west towards Hebron, primarily because the roads were suspected of being heavily mined. Along the tracks, about 5 kms away from Hebron was a small agricultural station, about 35kms west of Citadel, and the group would likely be able to get more accurate information regarding the disposition of Hebron’s defenses from the outpost personnel, before striking directly into the town itself. It was discussed activating * “The Werewolves”, but since time was passing the command staff decided to save a days preparations and not use them for a scouting mission of the outpost.

Travelling with the two flanking raider lances on either side of the main assault lance, the unit made good time, reaching the outpost on-schedule. Their AeroFighters and LAMS remained behind on overwatch, along with the “Crimson Sands” with a complement of security troops and techs for emergency salvage ops. The Line Scout and Combat Armor units followed along about a kilometer behind as a reserve, and to hold territory, the Pegasus Scout Tanks in the unit blending their sensor nets well with the two Ostscouts, to keep an eye on matters.

The monorail tracks led just past the station, which was surrounded by a collection of refugees and their tents. A pair of Scorpion Light Tanks, a wheeled APC, a pair of light utility trucks and an armed jeep. No troops were visible, though the teeming masses of several hundred civilians could easily hide any such forces. Lying off to the north of the station was a twisted monorial propulsion unit with three transportation units tossed off the rails behind it, facing east back towards the starport.

With the vehicle engines active, the unit moved closer, and quickly Boom-Boom, Paladin and Advocate moved into the compound, carefully navigating between tents and clumps of refugees. The crowds milled about, shouting various epithets at the Mechs, when suddenly four platoons of infantry leapt from hiding and took prepared positions, among the train station’s various buildings. Pitbull, Voice and Fixer moved to intercept the tanks. Paladin called over the intercoms “Pirate forces step down!”, while Voice detected a quick data burst sent from the main train station towards the west. Voice called out not to fire on anyone, and that he had noticed the signal.

The lead platoon in the station proper called over a megaphone “We do not acknowledge your authority Raiders!”, followed by the two Scorpion Light Tanks barreling out of the compound, knocking tents flying and killing slower groups of refugees as they tried to escape the tightening net. Glamour’s unit surrounded and tore the two tanks to pieces before they could get more than a hundred meters from the massed camp, with Voice and Glamour finishing them off with his Blazer and her flamer. Paladin reached down, picked-up the APC and gave it a good shake… realizing afterwards, it bore the colors of White Death’s garrison troops, not the local Pig-Stickers. The occupants of the APC didn’t get better. Pitbull tried to take a closer look at the wrecked train, identifying the transport units were relatively intact, though the propulsion unit had suffered a bombing attack and lay in shambles.

A quick discussion ensued, with the group trying to decide what to do with the outpost, and they chose to call-in the Crimson Sands and start a salvage op. Paladin shocked the entire unit by tossing aside the APC, and immediately demanded the surrender of the infantry company… who proceeded to surrender, waiting until the refugees were gone before leaving their fortified bunkers. The several hundred refugees soon began a riot, looting the two light utility trucks of the food and medical supplies on-board, while the Force Recon from the Dingoes Line Unit surrounded the camp with its tanks as support, and waited out the riot. It lasted for the better part of 30 anxious minutes, and threatened to get out of control. When the riots began to turn sporadic, the unit had their hired translator “Abudabi” try to inform the refugees to leave the compound and head east along the rails to the starport, where more food and other supplies were available…

With the slow departure of the tattered civilians along the rails, the Crimson Sands arrived, quickly followed by the * “The Dead Man’s Hand”, the enemy infantry in the bunkers began to file out, surrendering their small arms to the Snow Dusters infantry, and gathering together along the south edge of the compound. The techs and security guards from the Crimson Sands began to salvage the vehicles and the train. While Pitbull assisted in examining the contents of the train, by tearing open the containers bent and twisted doors, Voice, Advocate, Ravenheart and “Abu” left their Mechs to examine the station itself, with Voice and Advocate looking for the source of the microwave signal pulse they’d detected earlier. With little chance of any sort of surprise attack, Paladin dropped from his Mech as well, and started talking to the captured infantry, quickly identifying the leader of the unit as one Captain Anton Pavel.

The train was revealed to be carrying two loads of construction materials (duralloy beams, duralloy sheets and pipes : 27 tons each : 3000Cs per ton ), and a surprising collection of thirty-six (36) “Amber Flair Omni 25” Fusion Engines in the third. The propulsion unit was revealed to have a salvageable electric engine (17-ton 320-rated electric engine of unknown manufacture). The various fuel cells spilling out of the train’s engine were also mostly salvageable. Why the train had been carrying this cargo towards the starport at the time of its destruction remained a mystery.

Voice and Advocate searched the train station, finding it lightly armored with concrete barricades and broken into three sections; the main terminal, the baggage-handling area and the basement. The main terminal had been serving as a barracks for the infantry company, with the usual scattered equipment, but no micro-transmitter was discovered. The baggage area had been converted to a small armory and a section cordoned off to hold a small number of prisoners. The small arms included several locally produced assault rifles and appropriate gear to equip another five (5) squads as “militia”. The prisoners included numerous young men and women, apparently for shipment to the capital; no one ever knew why. Among them were a pair of local techs, and a young woman who identified herself as Senior Tech Katherine Bolivar. She told a tale of being from a hidden research laboratory (known as “Shadow Station” ), but that she had evacuated the facility when it had suffered an attack. Voice immediately informed the unit off normal channels of the situation, and she was hustled off to board the Crimson Sands with a “Leash Contract” in her hands to think about new employment… It was decided to keep these facts quiet until they could examine the situation closer for themselves, and that higher command didn’t need to know about this prisoner yet…

Paladin interrogated the captured infantry Captain, though he quickly and willingly gave up all the information he knew about Hebron and the “Pig Stickers”. He listed five infantry companies as garrisoning Hebron, along with a surviving lance of Mechs from the local “nobles”, the Pig-Stickers. They had some anti-Mech infantry, a couple Sniper Field Artillery pieces and a company of armor, along with a collection of techs in an Engineering Company. They were lightly armed for the most part, but had spent the better part of the last few days preparing for an assault. The Captain and his disarmed troops were hustled aboard the Crimson Sands for evac, and the unit moved off towards Hebron, leaving their remaining troops to garrison the salvage site, as the work would take the rest of the day.

Continuing off west towards Hebron along the tracks, the Dingoes encountered a short spat of long-range artillery fire from the city center, but after a half-kilometer, it ceased and artillery began to launch a cordon of flak around the nearby skies of Hebron, keeping any sort of AeroFighter strafing runs an impossibility. Spread across the eastern plains, the Iron Dingoes avoided the roads on their approach. Voice’s heavy lance in the center position, Paladin and Glamour swept swept their lighter lances to the north and south.

A Manticore Heavy Tank was dug-in along the eastern entrance by the main road along with two platoons of infantry. To the south, the refinery was surrounded by a trio of munitions shops, and the rubble of an entire section of town that had been leveled by repeated explosions. A company of infantry were positioned in armored bunkers on the corners of the refinery, while the munitions plants each had a platoon of guards. Arrayed around the refinery were four Mechs; a Thunderbolt, an Awesome, a Locust and a Wasp. Pockets noticed with his long-range sensors, a trio of Mechs dropping fast and hard from orbit, that would be landing somewhere in the area within a minute.

Paladin’s lance flanked the armor and infantry guarding the main road, and the tank and infantry immediately pulled-out. The Manticore retreated back down the main road into the town, while the infantry platoons ran for cover into a nearby building. Voice’s lance clumped together and approached the town along the rails, though Voice himself slipped off into a clump of woods and began to snipe at the Awesome along the south edge of the refinery. Glamour’s lance moved quickly across the low hills, and began to flank around the southern edge of the refinery.

The Thunderbolt first moved off to support the center, but seeing the large number of Mechs moving towards the refinery, it swept back around the north and tried to link up with the Awesome. The Locust also started to move off and scout the advancing forces, but pulled back along the north of the refinery, skirting around the western edge to run into Shredder along the south-western corner of the refinery, who tore it apart with several well-placed shots from his medium lasers and flamers.

Boom-Boom slipped into the flank of the retreating Manticore, but was surprised as a platoon of infantry rose from a passing building to “fire-bomb” his Jenner with incendiary grenades, spiking its heat, and then launch a number of anti-Mech rockets at him. The Manticore also fired on the Jenner, severely damaging it. Boom-Boom quickly moved away from the site, jumping off into a section of woodlands near an ornamental lake to the south. Wraith moved into the position abandoned by the Manticore, sniping at it and the infantry, who managed to scatter into their target building for cover. Paladin slipped next to the Manticore and took a couple shots, when a pair of Saracen Hover Tanks accompanying a Maxim Hover Transport moved along the road from the west to first fire some long-range missiles at Wraith, and finally SRMs at Paladin and Boom-Boom. Ravenheart slipped along the side, sniping and taking shots of opportunity, when she activated another hidden platoon of anti-Mech infantry, launching incendiary grenades and rockets at her Ostscout.

Pitbull, Fixer and Advocate moved closer to the refinery, shooting at both the Awesome and the Thunderbolt as they presented themselves, as they returned fire. Glamour and Pockets moved to flank the Awesome and the Wasp; Pockets tore the head off the Wasp with a well=placed shot, forcing the Awesome to close ranks with the Thunderbolt along the south-east corner of the refinery. As Voice closed for a number of tight shots at the Awesome, it savaged him back with its massive PPCs. Retreating to cool-down, Glamour took Voice’s place, closing and “over-killing” the Awesome while spiking her own Mech’s heat to dangerous levels. Priest also followed her and let loose a series of energy shots, and combined they tore through the armor of the Awesome’s Center Torso, managing to shatter the engine shielding around its fusion engine, and allowing the plasma to literally burst from the machine and consume it in a flash of bright light.

To the north, as the Maxim and Saracens slipped off to the north in a swift retreat from the field, a second Manticore moved up main street from the town’s center, and firing at anyone that presented themselves, moved to link with the severely damaged first Manticore. All Mechs along the north began to fire at the infantry in their refuges, forcing them to slip back out and seek other cover. Ravenheart and Paladin smashed through the refuge of the second infantry platoon, taking some damage, but making them run for other cover, as well. Paladin, still suffering from several well-placed shots to his Phoenix Hawk tried to stop the hover tanks, but took a savage volley from each, knocking him over and doing damage to himself in the fall. The remaining northern lance Mechs closed with the pair of Manticores and tore apart much of their armor, but the strength of the Manticore’s armor allowed them to survive the assault with hard shots from their Medium Lasers and SRMs.

To the south, the units were beginning to take sharp hits from the infantry platoons under cover of the factories. Shredder, tiring of the attacks, struck back by firing on the south-western munitions shop; it reacted by exploding into a massive fireball, doing a 50-point explosion that nearly consumed his Mech. Shredder’s left (Panther) arm went flying off and the Mech itself nearly collapsed, knocking it out of the fight. The Thunderbolt took a savage series of hits from everyone, blowing armor off everywhere (except its head), and eventually Priest damaged its gyro and touched off the ammo bin for its LRM-10s, blowing the Mech to pieces. Glamour, Voice and Priest all took a few seconds of valuable time to cool-off and re-assess their situation.

Fixer, Advocate and Pitbull turned from the refinery, to watch as an Orion, and a Rifleman landed on the eastern hills. An Exterminator (originally listed in the Dingoes’ War Books, as an Enforcer); a medium Mech that was a former assassin of battlefield commanders. The heavy and assault Mechs disengaged their drop-packs and demanded the unit not interfere in the “…Lawful execution of a House Marik contract for the life of Major Michael Ruxbundy!” Paladin panicked, and struggled to get upright, but failed (twice!), and fell over on his Mech’s side, knocked the Major unconscious. The Maxim and Saracens moved off-map, fleeing the battle with a minimum of damage to themselves. Ravenheart smashed through a warehouse to reach the Major’s side, scanning quickly for any other nearby dangers.

As the rest of the northern Mechs closed to finish off the now trapped Manticores, Pitbull, Fixer and Advocate all begin firing on the newest arrivals, while the new Mechs returned fire (the Rifleman using PPCs!). With the fall of Paladin, Voice took command, charging everyone to “…!@#$ the infantry, take out those tanks and Mechs now!” Glamour, Voice and Pockets moved up from around the refinery, to face their new challengers. The Exterminator simply moved behind the hill it had landed on, and began to dissappear from sensors. Pockets detected a series of largish blips on his computer sensors; seemingly a DropShip was burning in for a landing about 10kms northeast of Hebron…

So far the Dingoes had taken as well as they’d gotten…

<<the>>

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Episode 18 - Hunter, Be Prey
"With the fall of Citadel and the retreat of White Death's forces, we began to send out recon teams and bring supplies to the starving masses of Dunkelheim... but White Death wasn't going to turtle in Goldberg anytime soon..."...

Roll Call————————————-Mechs

Dale (Paladin)—————————-Phoenix Hawk
Dana (Voice)——————————Hunchback
Bruce (Glamour)————————Phoenix Hawk
JP (Pitbull) ——————————-Black Knight
Greg (Fixer)——————————-Crab
Ralph (Wraith)—————————Wolverine
Jay (Advocate)—————————Griffin
Lee (Pockets)——————————Ostscout

With the fall of Citadel, the Dingoes were granted a 48-hour window to effect repairs and see to their salvage. They were also informed they should expect to take over responsibility for patrols and pacification of the western region, known as “Central Sector”.

While repairs began, rumors began to be spread among the downed DropShips, that the “Claimjumpers” had mostly retreated from the area surrounding the starport, though handfuls were still positioned in strongholds and outposts nearby. Raids by small lance-sized units of armor and Mechs were still occurring, and convoy travel remained dangerous. The infantry among the planet’s militia were well known to love mines along the roads.

With repairs completed, the unit and all other mercenary forces were ordered to abandon the landing zone and effect a sub-orbital jump to a designated spot in the starport perimeter, which was effected quickly. The starport was awash in a steady stream of shuttles and DropShips arriving at the landing zones, as fresh troops, and tons of medical and food supplies were unloaded to aid the colonists after their three years of captivity. Among the most noteworthy sights, was the appearance of the battered “Star of Glory”, the Overlord-Class DropShip that had survived the initial landings of the “Black Banners” and several independent mercenary groups. Having effected orbital repairs, she landed with a great “Crump”, and the collapse of one of its landing gear.

Consumables were issued the unit (as per contract), and the unit asked their liaison officer, Cornet Katherine Podalla “Ravenheart” to see about acquiring ten tons of stadard armor and a dozen heat sinks from regimental supply, which the unit took on company store (175,000 Cs total). The day was spent trying to sort-out the logistics of several hundred soldiers and machines set-up barracks, and the local defenses were improved. Large portions of the off-loaded materiel was ear-marked for the refugees known to soon be swarming the area, and was accumulated into makeshift dumps around the old warehouse district. It was also noted a small salvage crew was at work on the ruins of the orbital missile bunker, cautiously salvaging torpedoes and naval missiles.

With the down-time, Pitbull tried his hand at mingling with the local mercenary survivors; the unit that had survived were becoming known as the “Lost Boys”. There was a lot of card playing, swilling of brews and more rumors that the mercs had joined the op knowing it would be a hard mission, but the pay was too good, and they had each been promised inclusion into a “special unit” in the Concordat military at the conclusion of the present contract. Voice tried to access the war footage, and study the tactcis being used by the opposition. Glamour tried to quiz Ravenheart, getting some barebones information on alternate landing fields, and learned about the airfield in the southern mountains near the Southwestern Sector capital of Lords. It was rumored the region had a very large military.

On the morrow, the Dingoes formed into a trio of traditional lances to begin patrols of the Central Sector. Using Ravenheart (Ostscout), the unit added Stargun (Jenner) and Shredder (Firestarter) to the roster, leaving a lance of the Dead Man’s Hand as a reserve and to guard any salvage or medical convoy required in the near future. The ad-hoc company was to be; Paladin leading Pockets, Stargun and the Chameleon piloted by a temporary hire from the dispossessed “Lost Boys”. Voice leading Pitbull, Fixer and Advocate. Glamour leading Ravenheart, Wraith and Shredder. They intended to have their Force Recon of the Snow Dusters two platoons to spread across the sector, doing what they do best; talking to locals and finding out what is going on in the region. They also left the two primary AeroFighters on standby, as well as the Crimson Sands for an emergency boost when needed. Since the entire area of the Central Sector to patrol was roughly 40kms on a side, they expected to take an 8-hour patrol to follow the entire border, and return later that night to Citadel.

The initial survey went well, but as they neared the western border with Goldberg’s (and the White Death’s) lands, both Ravenheart and Pockets picked-up a collection of roughly two squads of infantry camped in a thick copse of trees. Paladin’s lance moved forward, guns trained, as the units dug-in, and hunkered down. Ravenheart also identified a lance of Mechs moving slowly behind a nearby ridge and closing. Waring her unit, Ravenheart and her lance slowed to hold the far south of the field, while the central Voice’s group moved into position atop and behind a series of hills, and Paladin’s unit stayed to cover the infantry. Paladin’s speakers and war-cam picked-up “babbling” in Arabic, which he could not understand, but made sure whatever they were saying was filmed. He felt, there was something about their tattered military fatigues and equipment that made them seem more than just refugees, but could not really identify what or who they might be. The Crimson Sands was called to boost in to retrieve the infantry, and a section of duty guards were called in from Cerberus Command to accompany the DropShuttle. ETA was 30 mins.

When the enemy Mechs came over the ridge, they were identified as a Jenner, a Valkyrie, a Vindicator and an Archer. Since the pirate groups of the White Death’s forces tended to paint themselves in similar fashion, based on each separate command, it was obvious they were two separate groups; Voice further identified the Archer as one of the two the group had met near the missile bunker when they had assaulted the command tower. It was apparent, as they quickly ignored the central lance and closed with Paladin’s unit, that they might intend to attack the refugees.

The enemy Mechs immediately turned away from Voice’s lance and the Valkyrie and Jenner ran towards the trees along the north edge. They met the fury of Paladin’s lance, and a swirling melees ensued. These two Mechs loosed all their fire into the woods, though only a single medium laser managed to chew through the woodlands and strike the clustered infantry. The Vindicator and Archer moved towards the infantry, but were quickly swarmed by half of Paladin’s and all of Voice’s lance. Paladin managed a snipe on the head of the Valkyrie, while Pockets, Stargun, Advocate and the Chameleon pilot “Dingo Pack Tactics” assaulted the Archer, scattering shots all over it. Voice sniped the Vindicator. The entirety of Glamour’s lance held back on the southern hills, keeping themselves in overwatch and looking for any other dangers.

With fire attacking the refugees, Paladin called on his lance to defend the woods, and as they pulled back, they engaged the Valkyrie and Jenner point-blank. Advocate got off another lucky shot and tore the head off the Jenner with his PPC, killing the pilot and taking the vehicle out of the fight. At the same time, the Vindicator pilot took a critical shot that blew through its torso and tore apart the shielding to its engines, forcing a heat overload. The Vindicator managed to get a couple shots that tore apart the legs on the Chameleon, damaging its hip actuator and knocking it over. As the Chameleon pilot powered down, so did the Vindicator pilot, removing both Mechs from the fight.

The Archer pilot backed away from the fight, and up along the ridge, but received the attention of Voice’s lance and started to get torn apart. The Valkyrie was swarmed by several of Paladin’s unit. With a valiant charge, Voice closed with the Archer, and as it fired several flights of LRMs into the woodlands, eradicating the refugees, his “Maser” tore the head off the Archer with a single shot, taking the Archer from the fight. The Valkyrie took a couple shots, but seeing the lead pilot go down, and facing its own swarm, recognized it couldn’t retreat, and wisely powerd-down. The Dingoes held the field, following this quick, brutal fight.

Glamour immediately, as unit field medical officer, moved to see if there were any survivors, while Pitbull covered the Vindicator, and Paladin’s people covered the Valkyrie. Voice called in a med team and a salvage convoy to take care of the wounded and fallen Mechs. The Line Armor was to escort the convoy, as well as the remaining four Dead Mand’s Hands. The pilots of the enemy Mechs were ordered to stay where they were until the infantry arrived on the Crimson Sands, and after a tense 30 minutes, the DropShuttle arrived, and the enemy MechWarriors were taken into custody. with the arrival of the salvage squads and the convoy, the Dingoes pilots began assessing the situation. Glamour and VOice tried to identify anything that might have survived the refugees, but craters and unidentifiable remains were all that had survived in the woodland.

Pitbull started an interrogation of Rahvin Stone, the Valkyrie pilot, and he proved to be very hostile, claiming the Jenner pilot had been his brother. Very little of importance could be pried from him, however, and all they learned was that he was a part of “The Pig-Stickers” a local band of pirates that ruled from the central town of Hebron. It appeared that the Archer pilot had been a chosen lieutenant of White Death himself, and the three Pig-Sticker pilots had been requisitioned for the mission with no knowledge of what it was for or why they were doing the attack.

The other pilot, Sitarra Hewitt, from the Vindicator was far more quiet and compliant. Both pilots were secured aboard the Crimson Sands and sent back to Citadel, though Rahvin required “subdual” from the medical team. The Chameleon was given an emergency repair, replacing its hip actuator with the Field Repair Gantry. The Jenner was retrieved by the JetCopters, while the Archer was loaded on the Meadowlands; the remaining two Mechs would be walked back with the convoy, using techs as pilots.

As repairs began, Pockets identified a pair of jeeps along the outer edge of sensors, apparently trying to skirt the unit and moving quickly towards the east. He and Ravenheart moved quickly to intercept them, and discovered a handful of civilians in military trucks loaded with tools and a few personal effects, who surrendered as soon as they closed. Pockets simply grabbed one of the jeeps and moved back to the salvage field, and Ravenheart followed by telling the crew of the second truck to follow.

Upon returning to the camp, it became obvious that Ravenheart could speak Arabic, if only in passing. Her discussion with the refugees (who kept shaking their shoes at Pockets) related several important facts about the “Overlords” and the state of affairs in the Sector. The most noteworthy, was the fact that they were among the first of possibly many thousand refugees who had been abandoned at the camps, since the militia forces had been recalled to Hebron to defend the factories there. It seemed like the Pig-Stickers were improving their defenses of the sector capital by any means necessary. The civilians were offered protection with the returning convoy in a few hours, which they accepted… though they still swore at Pockets and shook their shoes at him. They also asked for the Dingoes to find their daughters; the Pig-Stickers had been taking young women with them when they left the camps, as well…

Once the repairs were complete and the convoy on its way, the remaining Mechs began to travel their perimeter patrol, and they encountered no other people, though they found several abandoned camps, sometimes with evidence of rioting and possibly the slaughter of small groups of refugees. Returning to the starport well after dark, the unit brought their machines in for repair work and rearmament.

Taking the next day for continued repair work, they took stock of the situation, learning a few matters regarding the other mercenary patrols and the state of affairs in the nearby sectors. Glamour took the opportunity to take a close flight in the unit’s Stinger LAM to maintain her skills, and then “glamourized” for the remainder of the day. Pitbull and Advocate hunted down Ravenheart and requested a friend of hers in the resistance be “hired” as a unit translator. Paladin had his recordings downloaded and sent to C&C for examination. The two pirate pilots were taken away for interrogation by regimental command. The Snow Dusters returned and verified the fact that most of the refugee camps had been abandoned, and that there was a growing struggle between the three local sector’s military forces. White Death’s stranglehold might be slipping.

Given the fact that the regional defensive militia had been recalled to the captial at Hebron, it was agreed that the Dingoes should strike the town as quickly as possible. They began to organize fireteams and discussed weapons load-outs (to inferno or not to inferno). The Dingoes also reviewed what information they knew about the capital (unit strengths and resources), noting that the two primary targets to secure were the munitions factory and the oil refinery. With a day or two to prepare, they would soon strike back at White Death’s troops.

The only question unanswered, was why would someone sacrifice an entire lance of Mechs to silence some refugees?

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Episode 17b - Trojan Horse : The Fall of Citadel
"The line Mechs had managed to find a way into "the Citadel" through an abandoned mine shaft, and were now able to freely range throughout the fortress... at least until they tried to blow something up..."

Roll Call————————————-Mechs

Dale (Paladin)—————————-Phoenix Hawk
Dana (Voice)——————————Hunchback
Bruce (Glamour)————————Phoenix Hawk
JP (Pitbull) ——————————-Chameleon
Greg (Fixer)——————————-Crab
Ralph (Wraith)—————————Wolverine
Jay (Advocate)—————————Griffin
Lee (Pockets)——————————Ostscout

It was during salvage operations that Fixer came up with the idea. Watching a salvage crew lose power to their tools, it dawned on him that the naval laser towers (and probably most of the other weapons systems in the Citadel) were reliant upon their main power for the bulk of their fire control systems and power. Informing the Major and Wraith of his thoughts, the plans to hit the naval laser towers were modified…

It was decided to activate *"The Werewolves", who were immediately ordered to search the administration building for any information of value they might find. They left even before repairs had fully begun on the the line Mechs, giving them about an hour to search for something regarding the source of the main power for the Citadel. After repairs were complete, and the prisoners packed into the salvage convoy, the unit decided to give the Werewolves an additional half-hour to finish their raid. Word came that the unit had entered the facility, and encountered “…a very large dog-like creature with bony armor covering its entire body… the skull seemed especially tough, and its claws were both sharp and fast…”. The guardian of the admin facility destroyed with no casualties, they continued to search the complex. By the deadline, they reported they had found some maps of the starport grounds (circa three years ago, pre-Invasion), repair records on DropShips and shuttles, and a diagram showing engineering protocols to connect the starport’s power generator (located under the Citadel Command Tower) with improved air ventilation… one of which ducts connected from the basements directly into the Command Tower’s lower levels.

With an opportunity to take out the main power generator, it was agreed to give the Werewolves another hour to slip into the lower Command Tower and plant sufficient demolitions charges to disable the generator. Fixer figured it would take the compound about a minute (6 game rounds) before any secondary generators activated, so the Dingoes had a window to assault the naval laser towers before they began targeting them. Timing their departure, they gathered at the mine-head, and 30 minutes later began moving into the compound in a long line, still organized by “Star”. The “Ice Wraiths” and “Frost Angels” stayed back and dug-in to ensure the Dingoes had an exit.

Moving across the compound the Dire Dingoes and Dead Man’s Hand swung wide past the infantry barracks, and approached the command center and its three naval laser towers from the northwest. They passed an APC broken-down and being repaired by a lone tach, and also encountered a small convoy of six trucks filled with infantry and what appeared to be AsTechs moving from the western gate off towards the DropShip assembly grounds. Ignoring the AeroFighter Hangar Bay, they managed to get within 1/2 a kilometer of the north-west tower, when a lance of Mechs approached their position, hailing them. Consisting of a Vulcan, a Trebuchet and a pair of Javelins, they moved at a slow pace, and appeared to be moving north. Unable to get the Werewolves on comms, the Dingoes began to open fire on the first tower as they approached and passed it, with the designated Stars choosing their assigned towers and tried to keep either their target or the central tower as a shield against attacks.

The first salvoes took the approaching support lance by surprise, and only sporadic fire against the trailing members of the unit. The Dingoes ignored counter-fire and concentrated on eliminating the towers as quickly as they could. After the first salvoes, the towers began warming-up their systems, and the turrets went active, when suddenly a lone tracked APC burst from the Command Tower, spun a quick donut and moved off to the south away from the area. Assuming this was their commando team, the Dingoes moved to flank them and continued progressive fire on the second towers, when a large flash came from beneath the Citadel, and plasma burned-out from every opening along the lower levels. Power immediately went down, as a pair of Wasps sauntered into the area from the south. Continued fire from the trailing Dingoes tore apart the structure of the first tower (labelled “Tower A” by command), while the leading MEchs attacked the second tower (labelled “Tower B”).

A Catapult and a pair of Patton Heavy Tanks appeared among the rises from the north, and moved directly towards the trailing Mechs, but remained at least a minute away from contact. The Vulcan and Trebuchet fired-off long-range shots, one getting a lucky round from its AC/2 to strike the Chameleon’s head, and rattle Pitbull. As the lance reached the ruins of Tower A, the Wasps leapt into the woods west of the Command Tower, watching, but not engaging the leading Dingoes Mechs. The Catapult and pair of Pattons rumbled through the rubble piles north of the tower, still trying to close. A lone tracked APC moved in from the north, making a direct bee-line for the central tower, ignoring everyone.

A pair of SRM Carriers and a couple platoons of infantry appeared near the missile bunker, and while the former began moving to intercept the lead Dingoes Mechs, the infantry moved around the main entrance to the bunker and tried to dig-in. The sight of twenty SRM-6 packs moving to intercept the rapid elements of the Dingoes, frightened them into slowing their approach, while the slower elements in the Dingoes managed to reach the crumbling Tower B and savage it with rounds of close-in weapons and melee assaults. Slayer, using bravado, moved into the south edge of the forests, luring the Wasps in for an attack, while the other pirate units swept around both sides of the command tower firing salvo after salvo at the trailing Dingo Mechs, but doing little severe damage. Another tracked APC moved in from the north, rapidly travelling across the rubble piles towards the command tower.

The rapid destruction of both “Tower B” and “Tower C” (the furthest west tower) in a matter of a few seconds, however, altered the fight. The lead elements of the Dingoes switched fire to the SRM Carriers, and Slayer nearly took the leg off one Wasp, forcing them to quickly retreat. Slayer then moved to the edge of the woods and sniped a shot into the damaged front of one SRM Carrier, blowing it apart. Stargun bounced forward and followed-up with a lucky laser shot, and did the same to the other one as it retreated. Valentine took a couple shots, but her “…elite piece of Star League trash…” Ultra AC/5 jammed again, and reduced her combat potential significantly, and she withdrew from the fight to the south.

Power was restored in various towers and facilities across the compound, but the only support the defenders could give was scattered fire from the laser turrets in the Citadel itself. The Dingoes moved out of range of the central tower, crossing the open plain to the west and closing with their remaining target, the missile bunker. A pair of Archers appeared near the bunker and moed to defend it, firing several salvoes of deadly missiles at the approaching forces. The missile lance of Vulcan and Trebuchet followed along closely behind Dingoes, stopping at the forest edge.

Behind the trailing Dingoes Mechs, a Maxim and a pair of Saracens appeared, moving rapidly across the field to flank them. The lead elements of the Dingoes began firing and attacking the missile bunker, taking sporadic fire from the dug-in infantry and Archers. As the central “Star” moved to divert the Archers’ fire, the two support Mechs were forced back, and retreated towards the rubble hills taking scattered fire. The Wasps moved to assist, while the Catapult, Trebuchet, Vulcan, Javelins and Pattons gathered at the edge of the woods to snipe into the trailing Mechs. The first tracked APC from the north entered the shattered lower maintenance bays of the command tower.

As the units began to coalesce in the area south of the missile bunker, the damage began to be felt on both sides, especially with Slayer, who took a full salvo of four LRM-20s, losing an arm and taking serious other damage. Pockets leapt behind the Archers, taking various shots of opportunity, and Stargun charged the hover tanks, firing wildly, while the rest of the DIngoes tore apart the missile bunker. Glamour, in her haste, stepped into a rubble of a portion of the collapsing bunker and tripped. It was later identified she’d snagged her foot on a White Shark Torpedoe…

When the bunker finally went up in a gout of collapsing masonry and smoke, the Dingoes called-in “all-retreat”, and all units disengaged, fleeing south with all best speed. The remaining pirate Mechs and tanks scattered off to the north and east, fleeing the facility, and refusing to engage anything. The remaining Dingoes Mechs managed to leave the map (despite some wiching to “claim the field” and fight it out further), and pulled back to the mine entrance, sweeping past the fairly empty infantry barracks and leveling it as they passed.

Things began to happen rapidly after the Dingoes raid. Having taken the bright shot of light and power-outage as proof that the Dingoes had succeeded at hamstringing the compounds’ AeroSpace defenses, the supporting forces began their assault on Citadel;

Low level attacks on the walls by AeroFighters laden with bombs breached the defenses in several places. A full battalion of infantry mounted on APCs moved in a rapid dash to gain the walls along the north, while a company of heavy armor moved into the compound and began chasing lone APCs and Mechs away from their defensive posts. The remaining Mechs of the “Black Banner” and its surviving allied mercenary forces assaulted the walls from the east, while “Bane’s Badgers” and “Veruca’s Visigoths” took the west. Meanwhile, a pair of infantry squads came through the tunnels used by the Dingoes to aid in holding the “secret exit”. A trio of heavy VTOLs carrying an infantry platoon each, landed inside the compound along the orbital catapult rail, taking cover and digging-in.

With all these units in position, the final assault began. As forces from TF 29 moved through the compound, pirate infantry, armor and Mechs began a full-scale retreat, scattering away to the south-east and north-east. The final proof of the fall of Citadel was as the pirate DropShips began to launch from the starport in a rapid succession of blasts, followed closely by the handful of remaining AeroSpace Fighters. Both a Triumph and a Condor DropShip were unable to lift-off, swarmed by TF 29s infantry forces, but the remaining spheroids (a pair of Unions, a pair of Lions, and a Dictator) managed to claw into orbit and reach safety. The Citadel had fallen…

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Episode 17a - Trojan Horse : The Tunnel Rats
"Our contract with the Taurian Concordat had led us to particiate in the invasion of a border world, Dunkelheim. Full-scale war was nothing new to us, but this time, we were prepared, and intended to meet the enemy on our own terms..."

Roll Call————————————-Mechs

Dale (Paladin)—————————-Phoenix Hawk
Dana (Voice)——————————Hunchback
Bruce (Glamour)————————Phoenix Hawk
JP (Pitbull) ——————————-Black Knight
Greg (Fixer)——————————-Crab
Ralph (Wraith)—————————Wolverine
Jay (Advocate)—————————Griffin
Lee (Pockets)——————————Ostscout

Having secured their landing site, the “Brush Wolf”, “Pandora’s Box”, “Crimson Sands” and “Dingoes Den” dropped near their ground forces and deployed the unit’s security forces. Bane’s Badgers Union-Class DropShip, “Star Digger” quickly followed suit, as did the Visigoth’s loaned Union-Class DropShip, the “Seething Rage”. With security forces deployed, Ravenheart declared the site secure, and within the hour several spheroid DropShips from the 1st Taurian Rangers also dropped on the site, and construction crews began work on a quick airstrip for TF 29s Aerodynes and AeroFighters. Taurian forces deployed their own security, and the Dingoes were able to relax a little, while repairs began on the line units. They deployed the remaining Dead Man’s Hands to keep an eye on the perimeter, as well.

As morning dawned, word came down that local resistance fighters had made contact with the C&C, and that a major had landed from the orbital command staff, and was organizing some sort of “Special Duty”. The Dingoes officers were called to report to ground control, gathering most of the line command, including Capt. Fionna Lord and Valentine, though Wraith & Pitbull stayed behind. Ground command was revealed to be a pair of Swift Wind scout cars on either side of a ballistic nylon tent, hidden among the Taurian Rangers DropShips.

In the meeting, they met some of the local resistance leaders (one of whom knew Ravenheart quite well, from her stay on-planet), and the ground command officer, Major Halverson. He detailed that a battalion of armor had been deployed against the LZ, along with several strike forces of VTOLs, while a battalion of infantry garrisoned the Citadel. The bulk of the base defenses were still intact, and orbital command was unsure of the safety of their position; the bulk of its landed assets were busy trying to maintain the LZ perimeter.

Since air-space control was still something of a stalemate, the supply DropShip was trapped in high orbit with the bulk of their reserve forces, and with a feared lack of supplies TF 29 had only two choices; push ahead with the assault, or pull the forces back to high orbit and abandon the campaign. Baron Sarne has determined to push ahead with the assault, but was fearful of the remaining Aero assets at the Citadel as well as its naval laser towers and orbital launch facility. No one had expected this level of resistance. Its defenses remained strong; a ring wall, trencheworks, minefields, laser towers with supporting missile bunkers, and would require the remaining strong force he had intact on-planet to level the defenses; the Iron Dingoes.

The Resistance had knowledge of a hidden entrance into the compound; an abandoned mine shaft dating to the original colony, that opened near an old ore processing facility in the southern portion of the compound. The mines provided access to a dumping ground used by the garrison for trash, sewage and general rubbish, and once the Dingoes had access to the compound, they could choose targets at their whim. Since the compound was large (5kms across), there was a good chance they would be mistaken for native pirate units and should avoid conflict until the shooting begins. Once it has become obvious they are eliminating the various defenses (a large explosion inside the compound should do nicely), Taurian forces would begin their assault on the compound itself, with the 1st Taurian Rangers, Bane’s Badgers and Veruca’s Visigoths attacking along the west, the Black Banners and other surviving mercenaries from the east, while a select force would drop directly on the compound from Baron Sarne’s orbital reserve.

The Major suggested concentrating on the command tower, but the orbital missile facility, the naval lasers and any Aero defenses the garrison might have were all viable targets; he admitted the Dingoes would have a better understanding of the defenses once they were in the compound itself, and should act on whatever targets of opportunity presented themselves. The leader of the local resistance tried to stress the importance of keeping the starport facilities as intact as possible, since it represented a lifeline to his starving people. He also suggested searching the admin buildings, since maps and other intel would be at the site, and it remained quite abandoned and unused by the pirate garrison.

One hour was allocated for planning and organization, and since the entire attack force was dependent upon the success of the Dingoes raid, they decided to take all their active Mechs; both the line units and the Dead Man’s Hand into the tunnels. It was quickly decided to assign Alpha Platoon “Ice Wraiths” of their Force Recon to sow confusion. Broken into single squads, they would try and take a naval laser tower, and use it to fire (at least once) on another tower as a distraction. Another squad was to search the maintenance buildings, while two squads were to “cause a fuel spill” in the fuel processing lines leading from the tanks to the processor. The command group discussed activating *"The Werewolves", and they were chosen to search the Admin building for whatever information they could find. Beta Platoon, the “Gray Ghosts”, were to accompany their Omega Command Group of two Pegasus Tanks to hold the compound side of the entrance once the Dingoes had exited the tunnels.

The Mechs were quickly reorganized into three “stars” of five Mechs each, based on movement and range capabilities for the assault. Paladin, Fixer, Wraith, and the Clooney Brothers, Gunman and Shredder were assigned together. Pitbull, Advocate, Stargun, Solitaire and Ravenheart were in the second group. The third consisted of Pockets, Slayer, Voice, Glamour and Valentine. Rearmed and sitting with full repairs across the board, the unit headed out to the hidden entrance, escorted by Cornet Spencer, a local resistance fighter. The short trip through arroyos and among the impossibly tall insect mounds of Dunkelheim’s surface went without incident, and they approached the mine entrance about 5kms south of the Citadel.

Entring in a long line, the group of MEchs slowly made their way through its depths, noticing the place had been dug with large machinery, probably IndustrialMechs, and so passage was quite easy. Keeping the support units with their Jackrabbit hoverbikes and Pegasus tanks well behind the Mechs, the whole unit followed the designated tunnels, eventually reaching a large powered elevator that led to an upper level. Travelling a short distance, Ravenheart and Pockets noticed a number of EM signals coming from a large chamber ahead, somewhat near the entrance to the compound. Ordering the lighter, more fragile Mechs to remain behind, the majority of the line Mechs swarmed into the chamber to find a large, bottomless chasm cutting across their access. It was bridged by a single large engineering marvel of stone and iron. A pair of UrbanMechs waited behind the bridge among a mass of stony outcroppings, and a pair of laser bunkers were built like hornet’s nests on either side of the cave. As the Dingoes stormed into the chamber, a Zeus, a Victor and a Banshee activated behind the UrbanMechs and a fight began.

Fixer, in the lead, took withering fire, was knocked over, and promptly pulled back. Glamour managed to get two hits on the Zeus, striking it once in the head with a medium laser. The Zeus and Victor moved across the bridge and Pitbull, up to the challenge, declared no fire on the Victor, taking a wild charge on it intending to knock the Mech into the depths of the chasm. The right-hand UrbanMech came under a vicious assault, was knocked over and promptly powered-down. The Victor made several powerful shots on Pitbull (including a pair of head hits from the UrbanMech and Banshee), but took Pitbull’s charge full in the torso and fell over into the chasm. As it fell, it savagely kicked Pitbull’s leg off, knocking him over as well, before the falling (undmagaed) into the lightless depths and out of the fight.

The Banshee moved across the bridge, as the remaining UrbanMech followed along, holding the bridge. Voice charged the Banshee in a desperate assault, but missed, though Voice took a savage kick it in response. The remaining UrbanMech took severe fire from Glamour and Stargun, tearing it apart and knocking it over, forcing it to power down. Various combined fire destroyed the right-hand laser bunker.

Paladin moved in behind the Zeus and as the Mech was surrounded, it took a combination of fire from various pilots, but suffered a hard shot from Valentine’s AC/5 Ultra, blowing through its armor and igniting its ammo bays. The resulting explosion tore it apart, clearing the space enough for Wraith to step towards the Banshee. Various other fire destroyed the left-hand laser bunker.

Firing from a prone position on the ground, with his heat almost off the scale, Pitbull fired a last volley into the Banshee before his heat spiked, and his Mech automatically shut-down. Wraith cracked the Banshee in the head with an SRM, and the machine also took severe damage from the remaining pilots, until eventually it took a hard shove from Wraith, and fell back into the chasm near the bridge, managing a last minute kick that tore all Wraith’s armor from one leg. The roars of the combat echoed back and forth through the caves… but, the Dingoes held the field.

Quickly rounding-up the two surviving pilots from the UrbanMechs, the group decided on their next action; they hadn’t thought about extraction or salvage. Pitbull was out of any further fight, and they needed to do something about that. Replacing the leg would take hours, and that wasn’t really an option in their present circumstances. Pitbull decided to go over and start interrogating the two captured UrbanMech pilots, while Captain Lord arrived with her troops. Dispatching a Pegasus back to the entrance of the caves to order a couple salvage crews with a repair gantry on a Meadowlands Transport to salvage the Black Knight, the unit decided to break-out the Chameleon as a replacement, escorted by “Typhoon Lance” from the Line Combat Group, held in reserve.

With time to wait, Pockets located a strange recurring EM field in one corner of the cavern, and it was further identified as a low-level power signature, coming from a mech-sized metal door covered in debris. Quickly digging it clear, the Dingoes identified it to be locked with an electronic mechanism. Fixer broke-out his tools and deftly managed to open the barricade, revealing a small “maintenance closet”, with a pair of odd-looking DVM-3 MiningMechs, cocooned in a pair of maintenance bays with a collection of tools and parts.

Pitbull succeeded in intimidating the captured pirates enough to learn the pair were stationed at the bridge as guards against casual intrusion, and had recently had the three assault Mechs assigned when TF 29 had assaulted the starport. The pair knew very little about the garrison or any watch-words, though they insisted repeatedly that “…the White Death is everywhere! He knows what you’re thinking, man… like all the time…” Despite their drug-addled nature, the group put them under guard (rather than toss them down the chasm) with the salvage crews in the Meadowlands to be returned to the LZ.

With the arrival of the salvage teams about an hour later, the crews spent an hour activating the MiningMechs (ignoring most of their attached systems to save time), and cleared the bays to allow the unit repair three Mechs instead of just the one. They stripped the UrbanMechs of armor from their legs, while the MinigMechs were activated, and using these pieces began repairing Fixer’s savaged Mech. Meanwhile, Voice and Wraith had their severely depleted leg armor repaired from the patches found in the cache, and within a short period of time, were able to move out of the cavern. The gantries, tools and parts were salvaged to piece together a third mobile repair gantry for the Dingoes. Using the MiningMechs as salvage machines (with their active lift hoists), they began dragging the UrbanMechs from the chamber back to the LZ, while the Black Knight was loaded onto the Meadowlands and Pitbull took charge of the Chameleon for the Dingoes foray into the compound… The Dingoes mission, labelled “Trojan Horse” entered the most dangerous aspect of its operations…

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Episode 16 - Operation : Overlord
"It was time to put Heroditus behind us; not only because of growing scandals, but because we'd done nothing but spend money... plus, we needed the break from all the media rumors that were starting to fly about the unit's love lives..."

Roll Call————————————-Mechs

Dale (Paladin)—————————-Phoenix Hawk
Dana (Voice)——————————Hunchback
Bruce (Glamour)————————Phoenix Hawk
JP (Pitbull) ——————————-Black Knight
Greg (Fixer)——————————-Crab
Ralph (Wraith)—————————Wolverine
Jay (Advocate)—————————Griffin
Lee (Pockets)——————————Ostscout

Having stored the salvaged Mechs and supplies in the Dingoes’ Den, the piots caught some rest, and waited for the dawn. Contacting their known agent with “The Ruler”, they were informed a “Mr. Jewel” would be arriving to “settle-up”. A discussion began among the command staff regarding the terms of the arrangement, and they thought maybe they could re-negotiate the terms when Mr. Jewel arrived.

The man that arrived stood 6’+, wore a lime green suit of a fine cut, and in addition to jewelled rings on every finger, he had the snarling tattoo of some wind demon running across the left side of his torso and arm, peaking out from his neck and wrist. He got down to business, asking after what was salvaged, and though he listened to the Dingoes’ offer, he demanded one of the Chameleons, and all of the salvaged Mechs (Panther, Dragon, and Wasp bits), in exchange for the other Chameleon and all twelve of the VR pods… he even offered the software control chips as a bonus… The group agreed without question. As Mr. Jewel left, he handed a video chip over to Pitbull, and with a mysterious smile, left…

The chip contained footage of the entire raid on the utilities facility, from the Dingoes first shots all the way through its final attacks and ending with the Dingoes’ VTOLs arriving and proceeding to spread-out, dropping infantry and tech salvage squads… The Dingoes’ logo and badges were very clearly presented and it was obvious from the makes of the Mechs involved, that it was the Iron Dingoes that had raided the facility. The mob had the Dingoes in check… it was a warning they would reveal everything if Mr. Jewel did not get his agreed salvage.

Later that day, a handful of prime movers arrived at the starport, and identifying they were there to pick-up a “package”, the Dingoes’ techs started organizing the salvage for loading on the movers. Several techs from the couriers verified the salvage as correct, while Pitbull contacted his unlisted number, and also verified that the prime movers had been sent by Mr. Jewel. With everything checked-out, the transfer began, and the lead “black-suit” gave a steel case holding thirteen VR Software Control Chips to their control. The techs quickly verified the chips were okay, by using one to power-up the Chameleon they had captured, and the prime movers left the starport.

The “Mob” matters behind them, the Dingoes began to examine other options. How many pods should be kept? They finally agreed to install four in both the Dingoes Den and the Brush Wolf, while the remaining four would be mothballed for later use or sale. They verified the command console in the Chameleon was active, and began to run specs how they might alter the Mech to better prepare it for combat. They began a series of slow repairs on the damaged units, from their recent raid. Finally, they began to put out word they wanted to trade their remaining salvaged Mechs and began looking for a Griffin, a Phoenix Hawk, and a couple others.

As the next couple weeks went by, while waiting for the return of the JeriCorp Tramp, it was becoming increasingly obvious that their stay on Heroditus needed to be shorter and not longer… Various news agencies were clamouring to get interviews with the PCs regarding their time on Heroditus. Within a few days of their viewing the Vid-Chips, footage began to circulate displaying their raid, though it had been severely edited, and did not show exactly who was involved (though if you knew enough about the Dingoes, it was hinted…). Lastly, a late-night cable channel called “DINGO WATCH!” had begun to play. It featured a camera pointed 24-7 at the starport launch pads where the Dingoes were parked, and had open commentary with “specialists” regarding technical aspects of the Iron Dingoes Mech choices, and who was dating whom…

A single tech applied and was hired from the local mercenary net, and the Dingoes conscripted both of the green-rated techs they had captured from the “Raiders” who were based from the utilities facility; more to keep them under watch than anything else. The Dingoes were able to trade their Hermes-A (from the Dead Man’s Hand), the Major’s Spider (from the Dire Dingoes), and their salvaged Thunderbolt from the Stargun Incident, for a Phoenix Hawk and a Griffin. The Major “upgraded” to the Phoenix Hawk, and Advocate traded his Firestarter to Nick Clooney for the Griffin, replacing his now sold Hermes with a better line Mech. Pitbull co-opted the new Tech to serve as his personal Technician (at last settling on a personal technician for his Mech).

The eventual arrival of the “Vagabond” brought other good news; a contract. LtSG Dajus-Marik informed Pitbull and Advocate of the news, and arranged to meet with the agent (known only as “Dropbox 92”). Arriving at Myrmos and taking an office in the Arcade for such matters, they met the man, identifying himself as “Subaltern Stark”, of the Taurian Concordat and his two accompanying techs. Pitbull recognized them as the odd techs who had been working “special programs” on the VR Pods at the Arcade, for the last several months. Subaltern Stark informed the two warriors the contract was a “Planetary Assault” mission, that it was well-paying though rather dangerous, and that they would be a part of a force of other mercenaries to serve in the unit colloquially called the “Junkyard Dogs”. Taking this information back to the Dingoes, they were told they had been chosen because their profile and results in the simulator pods had been “appropriate”, but that they needed to commence negotiations and have the contract locked-down ASAP.

Taking this information back to the Dingoes, a command meeting was called and after a short discussion, the group agreed to accept it, but that pay per squad and mercenary control of salvage were the priority. They met back with Subaltern Stark the next day, and Advocate began the actual negotiations. At first, acquiring a doubled remuneration took most of their negotiating power, and they gave-up much of their re-supply offers to retain full salvage rights. The contract agreed to, they were quickly assigned a Liaison Officer Cornet Katherine Podalla “Ravenheart”, and Comstar assigned Adept Creed as their contract guarantee. The last provision in the contract for unit salvage, however, demanded that anything deemed “…of strategic value, such as naval weaponry, Drop- or JumpShips, and military-rated manufacturing facilities, remain the property of the Taurian Concordat, though proper marketable recompense be returned to the capturing parties…”. An odd, but reasonable request. The contract was signed, and the unit moved forward and finalized matters.

( Contract – “Operation : Overlord” ).

Since the plan involved a planetary “hot-drop” on System – Dunkelheim, it was decided to include three other pilots from the Dead Man’s Hand in the initial landing units, to bolster their attack strength and give them valuable drop experience. It was decided to assign Trooper Elias Whitlocke “Stargun” to the Jenner in the reserves, and appoint him, Senior Trooper Valentina Masterson “Valentine”, and Senior Trooper Dale Taylor “Solitaire” to accompany Ravenheart as drop support. Voice, Pitbull and Fixer were assigned as part of the connection to the Intelsat “Predator’s Eye”, giving them improved range on their weapons systems. Last miute loading and finalizing negotiations with the Vagabond, the unit prepared to leave the growing controversy revolving around the Dingoes behind them.

The fleet (listed as “Task Force 29”) gathered and met together towards the end of the month, and on July 30th, 3017, the entire fleet jumped out-system towards Dunkelheim. Consisting of four Invaders, two Merchants and a rare Explorer-Class JumpShip (the Fleet command vessel), they were quickly joined by a final unit, the mercenary AeroSpace Company “Armageddon Starlines”, with their pair of Avenger-Class Assault DropShips, several lances of Aeros, and a Condor for its techs and support staff. Units gathered consisted of “Bane’s Badgers” (a full Mech company with their own Union and a pair of Aeros), "Veruca’s Visigoths (a pair of heavy Mech lances, no transport), “The Black Banners” (a mix of several small commands, amounting to 17 Mechs who had recently combined under their own company), and several lances of smaller, independent mercenaries, amounting to roughly two companies. In addition, the expedition was led by Baron Kenton Sarne, and his 1st Taurian Rangers, a mixed forces regiment of Mechs, armor and infantry, well-supplied with Aero support and engineers, as well as several small armor and infantry militia units from the Taurian Concordat to act as garrison and security troops. Finally, Baron Sarne had brought a collection of his own House troops, intended to be a reserve force for long-term support.

With the fleet gathered at the rendezvous, the final plans were laid-out. Upon jumping into Dunkelheim, TF 29 would follow a simple battle plan. First Stage : Claim Air Superiority. Second Stage : Assault and take the starport to use it for resupply efforts. Third Stage : Eliminate any loose bands of marauders in the area around the starport, and begin liberating the prison camps and isolated civilian populations. Fourth Stage : Assault Goldheim (planetary capital) and destroy the White Death’s forces on Dunkelheim.

The initial assault on the starport would be broken into three waves:

Wave One : With Armageddon Starlines as primary support, the Union-Class DropShips “Cayuga” and “Kennedy” will drop the independent mercs, while the “Black Banners” will follow in the Taurian Overlord-Class DropShip “Star of Glory”, to drop on the eastern side of the starport, and draw fire from the Citadel, allowing the rest of the operation to follow.

Wave Two : Consisting of the Iron Dingoes, Bane’s Badgers and Veruca’s Visigoths, along with their DropShip support, will “hotdrop” on the west side of the starport, establish a landing zone and eliminate any patrols in the area, to facilitate a landing field for TF 29s infantry and armor support units.

Wave Three : The 1st Taurian Rangers will land to establish a ground base on the landing field west of the starport. Depending on resistance, the combined force will then assault the Citadel of the starport, and once the starport is secure, remaining assets will be gathered at the starport, and contact begin with the next stage of the plan…

Thus with their plan in hand, the combined Task Foce 29 jumped out-system.

Panzyr :

The gathered fleet jumped without incident. The system was an abandoned Liao border colony. The fleet appeared near the systems’ ruined Nadir recharge station. There was a distant contact reported as a Scout-Class JumpShip left the system on the second day, but nothing came of the incident.

During the wait, Tech Ishikawa organized a “Meet-and-Greet” among the Dingoes, with everyone gathering for a feast and drinks to allow all the new hires to be introduced to everyone else. The activity was well-recieved, and morale went up. The unit then jumped out-system.

Hochbaden :

The system of Hochbaden was a Liao colony that had been left to itself over a century ago, and had been assaulted and ravaged in mid-3013 by unknown forces. Many believe it had been the forces of the White Death, who had eradicated its defenses in record time and destroyed all its orbital colonies in short order. The ravaged system was now abandoned and considered haunted.

About three days into recharging the fleet, an Aero patrol from the 1st Taurian Rangers reported contact with a pair of unknown “close escorts” (200-ton small craft), but quickly disengaged to report their findings. Armageddon Starlines dispatched their Avengers and a close escort of a wing of Aeros to investigate the encounter, and followed a faint sensor reading to a gas giants L5, which identified a small asteroid base. Initial attacks eliminated the two close escorts, and a follow-up raid from Baron Sarne’s personal troops captured both the base, and its accompanying Scout-Class JumpShip with a Triumph-Class DropShip aboard her. Sending a prize crew and clean-up work by the 1st Taurian Rangers, took an additional week, but once the unit was guaranteed the Scout was operational, it left the ship to join TF 29 in Dunkelheim.

Dunkelheim :

Despite several years of yoke under “ClaimJumper” rule, the Nadir station appeared to never have been occupied, though it had been stripped of salvage. After a scout force assured the safety of the location and a lack of the ClaimJumper Fleet (rumored to count a pair of Invaders and a Merchant), allowed TF29 to deploy sails and prepare for the planetary burn to Dunkelheim. The burn in-system took almost three days, and the DropShip fleet met no resistance until it approached close orbit…

Planetfall : The Dingoes dropped their forces along with their companion mercs with Wave Two, and in-transit discovered that the initial plan had worked; the First Wave had met a strong resistance force of Aeros, naval missile spreads and highly accurate laser fire. The DropShips “Cayuga” and “Kennedy” had been destroyed, dropping only a handful of troops, while the “Star of Glory” had scattered its troops widely in its maneuvers, but had managed to reach high orbit mostly intact. Several Aeros had been lost, but the defenders orbital satellites had been eradicated, and several of the ClaimJumpers Aeros destroyed.

The initial drop went well for Wave Two, having had most of the defenders attracted to Wave One’s activities. All three of the Dingoes drop lances landed, though Paladin and Wraith had troubles in the last part of the drop, and Pockets nearly landed on Stargun. Word began to filter in that the Badgers and Visigoths to the north and south were being probed by heavy resistance, and a pair of J.Edgar Light Tank lances and tracked APCs slammed into the Dingoes…

The fight was a case of probing attacks by both sides, with the hover tanks trying to sweep around the unit, while the APCs and their infantry held the ridges to the east. Initial fire from the Dingoes was sporadic, but eventually they managed to immobilize half the tanks before they could slip past the unit, and the Dingoes scattered widely across the plain to make their escape difficult. The APCs were mostly destroyed as they dug in with their infantry, but when the light armor was chased-down and immobilized or destroyed, all APCs tried to escape. Only a pair managed to slip back to the east, and the infantry was eliminated with flamers and machineguns. The Dingoes held the field with scattered and light damage to its units.

Word came that their comapanion mercenaries had met serious resistance in the form of a company of heavy hover tanks (Saladins & Saracens and a lance of J. Edgars) each. Word came that the Black Banners and the handful of surviving independent mercenaries to the east, had taken heavy casualties; down to eleven Mechs, with ten disabled and three unaccounted for. With relative quiet on the western front, the unit was able to take a short breather, improved when the unit Liaison officer, Ravenheart, called in a strafing run on the retreating armor, and it was decided to bring in the Dingoes DropShip assets and make their present battlefield the landing zone. Positioned 20kms from the Citadel, it was almost ideal, allowing close support with the unit’s artillery and other defensive assets.

With the arrival of the Dingoes’ DropShips, security troops were dispatched to give the Line Mechs the chance to rearm and repair, and commands came from the TF29 Command and Control (C&C) that eight hours would be granted for emergency repairs, while DropShips began to land from the rest of the fleet, and engineers from the 1st Taurian Rangers started to clear a landing field for Aerodyne and AeroFighter repairs and refueling. With the approach of dawn, the assault might finally begin…

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Episode 15 - The Games People Play
"We had money. We had salvage. We even had a rep (sorta). But it was the games we'd played that got us a contract..."

Roll Call————————————-Mechs

Dale (Paladin)—————————-Spider
Dana (Voice)——————————Hunchback
Bruce (Glamour)————————Phoenix Hawk
JP (Pitbull) ——————————-Black Knight
Greg (Fixer)——————————-Crab
Jay (Advocate)—————————Firestarter
Jessie (Slayer)—————————-Jenner

We woke from issues surrounding our experiences in the School of Hard Knocks, with a message from Arlana and JeriCorp; she needed to take a contract. We had originally agreed to her waiting a month, which had just passed, after which she would need to look for another contract to pay her people. She had acquired a short haul contract to Victoria in the Victoria Commonality that was expected to last six weeks. She couldn’t turn it down, but promised to return after the trip to settle our contract talks as an interface JumpShip for the Dingoes.

With more than a month of downtime sorting-out all the issues resulting from the “Sunburst Incident”, we spent much of the time trying to reorganize our assets with the reconstruction of the now named “Brush Wolf”. Assigning the Line Mechs and AeroSpace to it was easy, but it also brought its own set of problems. The freed space in the Dingoes Den’s Mech bays allowed us for the first time, to grant the Dead Man’s Hand a dedicated series of Mech Bays. The real problem, however, was the Brush Wolf’s lack of space for a dedicated Marine squad, as well as the needed technical squads. The construction efforts were made easier because of the already improved life support facilities aboard the Brush Wolf, and even after it was all done, we made money from the equipment we salvaged. We stripped the former lounge areas to build a series of dedicated “infantry” bays sufficient to house two platoons of infantry, and promptly filled them with a marine squad, several squads of dependents, AsTechs and the dedicated Techs for the Line Mechs. The relief in space was quickly pressured again, as we began to acquire more new hires.

Advocate managed to conduct a series of interviews with many of the former crews from the “Hot Booty” and “Hot Rod”, since they were now out of work, and we acquired most of a full crew for the Brush Wolf, including a steward/medic. The crews had a month to learn tehir new vessel before we would need to call upon her for duty once more.

Deciding to keep the Thunderbolt scavenged from the Stargun mercs, because of its potential value once we’d improved it to “Dingo Standards”, we found a buyer for the Archer and Centurian, and using the income from that trade took a large list of vehicles, supplies and equipment in trade, along with a smaller share of cash. In the exchange, we also managed to locate a 250-rated fusion engine that we adapted to upgrade Voice’s Hunchback, giving it improved movement speeds and swapping-out its AC for an experimental “Blazer” to bring the Mech to “Dingo Standards”. In the pile of parts and supplies arriving at the Dingoes Den, Advocate tried to smuggle a req for a motorcycle, but was denied by Paladin’s eager eyes.

In addition to the usual handful of techs, medical paramedics and infantry troopers we managed to recruit, we also found a couple interesting individuals who applied to fill our MRB listed officer positions. The first was Trooper Jessica Burlingame “Slayer”, known among the local underground Mech Dueling League as a tough pilot. She claimed to have heard all the news and wanted to sign-up and serve a tour. Second was Lieutenant JG Dominic Reed, a retired naval engineer, seeking to travel and in need of a job to do so. Lastly, we managed to find a Planetologist; Doctor Carolyn Lamb, a civilian with a skill in pharmacology and knowledge of diseases that seemed very capable.

The last we found, was a battered mercenary infantry command, called “The Last Bastion” of five squads of troops who had recently arrived from a Periphery system; System – Patrician. Apparently a world wracked by civil war and over-run by rogue mercenary bands and worse, its various city-states were divided between loyalties with the regional great powers. The surviving unit included a veteran junior officer Lieutenant JG Jerri Holden and their former patron, Lord Henry Fitzroy. Both troops and officers were valuable additions to our unit, though they brought with them their own collection of dependents.

With only a month to wait on matters, people began their “downtime training regimens”, with everyone following their own personal agendas. Pitbull, in particular, hit the Arcade with regularity, seeking information about any “spare” VR Pods lying around, but found little information to help him at first. Eventually, he was able to find-out the Arcade had once had several smaller “labs”, and that a number of VR Pods went missing along with various “training assets” when the government took control of the facility. Using Lt. Chase as a liaison contact, he was able to find-out that a group led by the mysterious figure, “The Ruler”, were likely a good source of information regarding finding such rare items. He was warned they demanded cash up front and of the “buyer-beware” manner of their activities.

Talking to the local protocol expert, Tech Ishikawa, he learned nothing of note, but speaking with LtSG McGuire gave him the information that “training assets” likely referred to a couple Chameleon training BattleMechs. Also, he intimated that use of such equipment likely required access to large quantities of power, water and other utilities.

Taking a trip down to the New Hedon Municipal Hall with a pair of the admin staff and Advocate, Pitbull began a multiple-day journey through the difficult bureaucracy of New Hedon’s government. Advocate was reminded the last time he’d tried using the hall had led him to winding-up in a tattoo parlor, and so also was not looking forward to the incident. It took the group two days of forms, lines and healthy bribes just to gain access to the city’s utilities network and study its massive snarl of systems. A couple days later, they had determined that the Academy had fallen to the city government right after the Libertines seized the planet; one of their first tasks was to consolidate their utilities into a single multi-acre facility, and they abandoned several smaller facilities in its wake. Looking over the records of the city utilities, they noticed an increase in utilities usage in one of the “abandoned” facilities about a season or two ago… Bingo!

Taking a trip out to the facility, the group scouted the site. Based in a poor, almost slum area of town, the facility was a collection of sewage recycling, electrical transformers and storage warehouses, surrounded by a retaining wall. The gates were guarded by a unit of infantry with a medium transport truck, in local “Lone Star Security” uniforms. It was obvious work was on-going at the facility involving heavy machinery, though sensor ghosts made identifying exactly what the units might be. A quick investigation of the locals revealed the group was believed to be Lone Star Security, and that they had been occupying the facility for months now; no one questioned their motivations; it was not a good idea to get on the wrong side of Lone Star Security…

Pitbull called a general meeting of the command staff, explaining that he’d found the location of the missing VR Pods, but their retrieval would likely result in three possible endings. One, they could inform the local government, which would likely result in them having Lone Star Security retrieve them, or they could inform Lone Star directly, and suspected the result would be the same; they get a pat on the back and a cookie. Two, they assault the facility to seize them, but if the unit was a secret Lone Star training facility, they were in trouble, not to mention it would likely attract too much attention. Third, they could contact the Ruler, and see what they coud do about getting access to the facility.

Taking the Football out on the town, Pitbull, Voice, Glamour and Advocate (noticeably excluding Paladin in the venture), went to visit a small dive bar known to be the hang-out for the contacts from the Ruler. The small, dingy bar proved expensive, and once it was obvious the group had cash, they were approached by a dark, mysterious man who answered their questioned as vaguely as possible. They were able to learn, after more cash, that the group at the facility was not Lone Star Security, but rather a band of rogue mercenaries known as “The Raiders of New Hedon”. For an additional payment, they were assured the items the Dingoes were looking for (Chameleons and a group of VR Pods), were indeed present, and in exchange for a 15 minute window of distraction provided by the Ruler, the Dingoes would have to pay 50% of their salvage. After a quick discussion, they agreed.

The problem quickly became how to access the facility. While it was obvious the Dingoes could boldly assault the place, they needed to do it quietly, and so some other means of accessing he facility needed to be found. It suddenly dawned on the command group that the facility was a utility compound… sewers! Their contact with the Ruler confirmed that sewers were extensive in the city, and accessible to MEchs, but that they were a maze of connecting tunnels and no map was forth-coming. Glamour remembered that they had a contact with the Underground MEch Dueling League; “Slayer”. She likely knew how to get around the city tunnels in her Mech, and so they agreed they would take the place in two days. Their contact offered to give them a more detailed listing of their opposition the following day, and the command staff departed.

With “Slayer” willing to be their guide aboard the borrowed unit’s Jenner (while “Mannequin” was down for repairs), they made their plans. They intended to use their VTOLs to retrieve any of the small units they might salvage (flying fast and hard, and NAP), as well as bring in a small number of Salvage and Recon Squads to secure the site and salvage anything they can find In salvaging for this mission they knew the time limit would be something difficult to overcome. They decided to put their two “travel permit” Meadowlands and the Football in the nearby neighborhood with the remaining salvage squads at the ready. Finally, their contact from the Ruler let them know that their opposition included six Mechs (2 Heavies, 2 Mediums and 2 Lights), a lance of light armor, and a number of infantry squads.

At the last minute, Pitbull convinced a local at the starport that the unit was moving supplies between their DropShips and a warehouse complex on Governor’s Island. Although the initial bluff failed, the heavy bribe convinced him to look the other way, provided the Dingoes didn’y leave the Island facilities, nor caused any trouble. It was also decided to declare the VTOLs were under-going “night training maneuvers” near the targeted utilities complex, and a flight plan was officially registered.

Making their way through the cavernous sewers, the Dingoes broke into the utilities compound along the south wall, exiting from the recycling tanks. As the Dingoes reached the facility on time, word came over local comms nets that a series of explosions had ripped through a couple nearby construction sites, and someone had blown the planetary beacon. The distraction had begun.

Slayer, Advocate and Pitbull moved off to the west around the tank farm, while Paladin, Voice, and Fixer moved off to the east, and Glamour bounced through the recycling tanks and a light woodland that had grown-up in its midst. Glamour took a couple shots at the guards and blew their transport up at the entrance to the main warehouse at the facility, while Fixer and Voice took pot-shots at the parked Striker Light Tanks near a small series of warehouses near the complex center.

Fixer took up a position in the street with a clear view of most everything in the middle, while Voice came around the corner with Paladin. Pitbull “parked” himself near the corner of the warehouse, while Slayer and Advocate moved forward. Running from the warehouse came a Wasp, a Panther and a Dragon. The Wasp took a full shot to the Center Torso from Voice’s experimental “Blazer”, and blew it apart with one shot. The Dragon took some shots and moved slowly into the center of the complex, while the Panther took a withering series of blows, and bounced up onto the complex, away from the warehouse entrance. Another set of Mechs exited the facility, including a Marauder, a Phoenix Hawk and a Wolverine. Paladin closed with the infantry at the gate, flanked by Slayer, and combined they tore apart the guards and blew apart their truck.

Voice moved into the rear of the Dragon, taking apart a Striker Tank in the process, while Fixer continued to snipe. Paladin concentrated on the Marauder, while Advocate bounced up onto the roof next to the Panther and tore off its leg with a swift kick. Glamour moved around to the north of the warehouse, and was confronted by a pair of Scorpion Light Tanks, and a pair of wheeled APCs. She managed to get into the back of the Wolverine, and let loose a full salvo into its rear torsos, chewing through armor.

In a sudden reversal common to the Dingoes, Fixer managed a lucky shot with his large laser, and tore off the head of the Dragon, knocking it over and killing its pilot. The Panther tried a few half-hearted snipes with its torso SRM, before eventually powering-down and abandoning his Mech. Although the APCs disgorged a couple squads of infantry, Glamour blew apart one APC and ravaged the infantry with her flamers. The Marauder took a series of hits from Advocate and Pitbull closed and took off its leg, knocking it over as well. The Wolverine, after taking a couple shots at Advocate, bounced back to the complex wall and tried to withdraw, though Paladin, Slayer and a couple sniper shots from Pitbull failed to stop it, before it bounced off into the surrounding suburban area. The Phoenix Hawk, totally unscathed, bounced off into the eastern suburbs taking a couple shots from Fixer, but evacuated the area as well. Glamour tore apart a Scorpion Tank, and its crew and the other two surviving crews abandoned their vehicles and ran. The remaining APC tried to escape by taking the long way around the complex, but met Fixer and he tore it apart.

The Marauder refused to power-down, and continued to shoot nearby targets, until Voice declared “Dingo Pack Tactics” and everyone closed on the Marauder to finish it off with a brutal series of kicks and close-in weapons attacks. Glamour slipped into the facility, finding eight temporary Mech cubicles, two of which contained a pair of Chameleons. With the minut-long battle over, the VTOLs arrived soon thereafter, and the Meadowlands Prime Movers came, spreading the unit’s techs and infantry throughout the battle site. The group found a hover jeep in Lone Star Security colors and a collection of supplies and ammo, watched over by a pair of female techs. Taking the techs as conscripts (though not trusting them), the unit salvaged all the ammo, and misc supplies (which turned-out to be several tons of bio-fuels, three tons of explosives and thirty-five tons of domestic food).

The techs quickly rigged the Wasp bits into a cargo net on a Sktcrane, while the Panther was strapped under the other, and the units were dispatched back to the starport. A pair of the Cobras were stuffed with as many of the supplies as could be scavenged from the site, along with the jeep and its Techs bundled aboard under guard. Finally, the Chameleons were dropped onto the Meadowlands, though its Tech crews discovered the machines had something wrong with their motivational controls. The vehicles were also quickly dispatched with an infantry sqaud each to keep watch. Finally, the VR Pods were packed aboard the last Cobra along with any remaining TEchs and Infantry, and sent off on the short hop back to the starport. Pibull and Glamour grabbed the Dragon’s legs and the whole unit slipped back into the sewers below the city, trying to make good time back to the starport and their DropShips.

Slipping back to their drop-pads, the unit took stock of their salvage, and techs closely examined both the VR Pods and the Chameleons; they were determined to be missing their software control chips. An integral part of the training routines for both electronics suites, the unique design of the machines made them an integral part of their mechanism, and they could not be bypassed… someone had their means to actually use the things. The captured techs admitted they had been missing since the Raiders had found them, otherwise they would have been piloting them.

NOw the unit needed to negotiate their share of the salvage with “The Ruler”. But the real question, was what were mercenaries doing with explosives and a Lone Star hover jeep…

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Episode 14 - The School of Hard Knocks
"The colony was saved, our salvage was astounding, and we had some street cred on Heroditus... now how do you get a pack of vampiric leech lawyers to release their hold on a pair of DropShips?"

Roll Call————————————-Mechs

Dale (Paladin)—————————-Spider
Dana (Voice)——————————Hunchback
Bruce (Glamour)————————Phoenix Hawk
JP (Pitbull) ——————————-Black Knight
Greg (Fixer)——————————-Crab
Ralph (Wraith)—————————Wolverine
Jay (Advocate)—————————Firestarter

Location : Stargun Airfield, Heroditus, the Periphery

We spent the better part of a two days accounting the salvage from the battle for Little Heaven and performing a series of close searches of the two captured DropShips. Modesty spent time each day in “duels” with Wraith, providing a little entertainment to our crews in betting who would win. Modesty proved to be a surprisingly capable swordswoman, and was possibly augmented, as well, with cybernetic neural nets. Other than her over-bearing personality and cutting words, she was very quiet and kept to herself in her locked closet aboard the Dingoes Den. When things seemed secure, we held a staff meeting and discussed where we stood, and where we should go from here.

It was decided that we needed to re-think our assets, and either drop our weight class or find a means of improving our existing Mech engines and speeds. Ultimately, using “Dingo Pack Tactics” was one of our key reasons to watch our cruise and flank speeds, and it was decided to stay with a minimum flank speed of 85 kph. Various plans were drawn up by Glamour and Fixer, and supply lists were made for future reference to find the tools and equipment we needed to hit that profile unit-wide.

The unit also looked a little closer at the hard-copy equipment lists Fixer and Wraith had pulled from “The Barnyard” curio scrapyard in Myrmos. Several items were noted as valuable, but would have to wait until we could actually inspect them a little closer in a couple weeks.

It was agreed our plans for “tapping into” Modesty’s neural core was not possible with our existing tech and skills.

Advocate spoke with Talker Muriel about establishing ties with New Hedon, to better organize matters for the future of her people. She spoke with her council, and they agreed; she would travel to New Hedon as Little Heaven’s “ambassador”, build a consulate office, and establish formal ties with their parent nation. The Dingoes, for their help in stopping the raids, were granted “citizenship” papers in Little Heaven, allowing them to act as attaches to the consulate and make a formal and fully legal claim on the two DropShips of Sunburst Enterprises.

After a day of packing and plans, we sent a pair of tech squads back along with an infantry squad, Advocate and Talker Muriel, aboard the Crimson Sands for a quick sub-orbital hop to New Hedon’s starport. It was the first time she’d ever flown, and Talker Muriel had a rough time of the short trip. They spent the rest of the day giving a tour to Muriel of our “home ship”, before making plans for the trip to the Libertine Council’s Hall.

Back at the Airfield, we packed the salvaged Mechs (…a headless Centurian and headless Thunderbolt, and a mostly intact Archer) up out of the valley to the “Hot Booty”, and tied it away for later transport, while the rest of the Mechs prepared to travel in a convoy north to New Hedon the next day. The Dingoes Techs finished studying the cryptography on Modesty’s computers, and using one of their best computer Techs, Tech Brandis Turgan, they were able to crack it. It revealed the following;

  • The “Hot Rod” had been engaged in hauling several ship-loads of convicts to the Stargun Airfield, from Scrope Correctional Facility for “…community service…”.
  • Dame Modesty Scrope had been issuing direct commands to these convicts and assault teams, to “…dispirit and impoverish the colony so that they will be willing to sell their lands cheaply…”.
  • Various financial transactions from several New Hedon banks to certain accounts had been made, though the exact names and accounts are unavailable; just numbers in the millions have been transferring recently.

They also interrogated the flight crews of the “Hot Booty” and “Hot Rod”, determining they were fairly innocent of the whole matter, though some were minor members of “House Scrope”. It was decided that they would fly their own DropShips back to New Hedon, along with a squad of infantry on each ship to ensure they get there… A handful of convicts were rounded-up, and their testimonies taken regarding the whole incident. The command staff also inquired of Lieutenant SG Jenna Seedar as to whether they could access some “truth drugs”, and her shock and dismay against using them was backed by the fact they had to avoid getting a “coerced” testimony, so the idea of chemically interrogating Modesty and the convicts with such serums was abandoned.

Advocate went with Muriel to the Libertine Hall, and began a series of bureaucratic snafus that led to eventually meeting with Protocol Officer Shaka Ben Suzuki, a government political officer assigned to assist Muriel in establishing a consulate in the city. Muriel was given a series of addresses to check-out for the offices, and three names; “Bassinger & Bailey”, “Weiss, Terra Nova & Sung”; and “Zeal Associates”, to be contacted if the consulate needed legal support for anything. They were listed as equally eminent and skilled.

The first, slower Mechs of the Dingoes left the camp, while the remaining faster Mechs remained to escort the Dingoes Meadowlands Carriers, remaining Tech crews and “the Football”. The group would rendezvous several days from now near the edge of the jungle. Once the convoy had reached the outskirts of the city, the DropShips (hosting the rest of our infantry) would rendezvous at the Starport, and formally filed papers would lay claim to their possession at that time.

In New Hedon, the offices chosen were in “Harmony Tower”, a 69-floor glass and steel monstrosity near Myrmos that many of the similar mining colonies to Little Heaven were based from. It had a reception area divided in half by a low counter, three offices along one side, and a long, thin boardroom along the other. A secure safe had been built into the support beam of the plush, corner office. The tower itself actually had private halls and a roof garden suitable for hire in functions and meetings.

Advocate chose and contacted the law firm “Zeal Associates”, informing them of everything the group was involved in, staking a formal claim on the two DropShips as “spoils of war”.

Later that day, Advocate and Muriel formally met with PO Suzuki, who informed them of some of the protocols for the upcoming meeting with the President of the Libertine Council, a discussion about clothing and, of course, the present… “What present?”, asks Muriel and Advocate at the same time. It quickly becomes apparent, through the horrified PO Suzuki’s babble, that having a gift to give at the presentation to Gabriel Fur’ Seng-Geng, President of the Council of Herotitus Libertines, is the accepted protocol. It should be both representative of the colony or realm, and be “delightful”.

Advocate inquired what does Little Heaven export, to which she replied “Cigars, Bauxite, and a little Dream-Fern Resin…”. “What’s Dream-Fern Resin”, asked Avocate (echoed by the rest of the group). Muriel identified it as a noxious weed that grows widely across Little Heaven’s valley; it has only one redeeming quality, it helps with pain when processed properly and consumed. While the Dingoes second medical team (a handful of former bio-chem students), examine what information they can about it… Doing a little research, the Dingoes determine that “Dream-fern resin” is not registered anywhere as a narcotic, but they think they might finally know why the Scropes were interested in the valley.

The next morning the bio-chemical analysis of the Dream-Fern Resin was made available. It is indeed what they think it is; the resin can be processed to provide a base chemical used in the production of a local drug, known as “Waste” by the streetwise. Although it has potential use in medicine in improving alertness, boosting self-esteem, and increasing libido, it is also highly addictive and prolonged, regular use (over 6 months) causes neurotoxicity and amphetamine psychosis, as well as severe cardiovascular damage. The Scropes were trying to get a lock on the drug trade in New Hedon, and possibly beyond… It is decided that of all their options, a 1/2 kilo of Dream-Fern resin will be retrieved from the colony to be used as a gift for the President… come what may. The Crimson Sands was dispatched, while Advocate went in search of a proper container to present the resin in, and Muriel spent the day getting her dress “just right”.

The day arrives for the meeting, while the rest of the Dingoes gathered into the larger convoy a few days out of New Hedon. PO Suzuki arrived for last minute detail work, and although not especially happy about Muriel’s dress, or the present, he talked Advocate into wearing a “Dingo Formal Uniform” taken from their SLDF uniform cache. He then asked “…so, when is the landau arriving…. what do you mean you don’t know what a landau is?” He cried a little, then asked what vehicles were available for trasporting the pair to the ceremony… all they have is Senior Techs John and Susan Gibbons hover truck “The Chuckwagon” (with its massive freezer and storage bays for food in the back) or SRM Jeep – “Nerf”, since the “Football” is still in the convoy. PO Suzuki made some panicked calls, but was unable to get a landau, since they were all pre-booked for this event. He cried a little more and ordered a taxi…

Advocate arrived with Muriel and PO Suzuki at the Libertine Hall Palace. A complete “red-carpet event”, with all the planet’s noble and celebrity best and brightest in attendance. The arrival of a common taxi and the “sparkly normal” gown of Muriel attracted immediate notice. The news media went insane. Although a deer trapped in the lights of the oncoming media storm, Muriel was introduced as the “Ambassador of Little Heaven”, along with her escort, “Advocate of the Iron Dingoes”… The carefully wrapped package is moved on down the line, drawing many interested looks, and eventually the group approached President Gabriel, offered their gift, which was accepted to great fanfare. He didn’t just like it, in his drugged-out stupor, he called a recess while he and his two female companions retired for a “break” (which lasted the rest of the evening), accompanied by his little gift, and the enigmatic “Ooo…. we’ll remember Little Heaven, indeed we shall… I formally recognize your colony and accept its gift… now where’s that man with my resin?”. The rest of the evening passed with a mosaic of all walks of Heroditus life. The Freaks. The Geeks. The Dangerous. All rubbing elbows. Advocate even thought he saw the Huntsmen at one point, but after a couple hours, PO Suzuki hustled the pair back out to their taxi and “home” to the Den. It looked like a success.

In the morning, the local media was all ablaze, talking about Little Heaven, as the “…plucky little colony that stood up to a Liao invasion.” There was talk about what parties the consulate will begin, and how soon. The Dingoes legal team, Zeal Associates, bring word that they have discovered the following regarding the Dingoes’ claims;

  • The two ships present a problem. Yes, their users can be tried for being involved in piracy, but there is another interest – the finance houses that own them, known as Sunburst Enterprises. This company is owned by a selection of investment funds and individual shareholders.
  • The professional soldiers who served as hired mercenaries, were defeated, and their war material is now the legal possession of Little Heaven, and they have claim on their assets (though this has already been cleared-up by the Dingoes, and did not need further work).
  • The customs officials who planted bombs aboard the PCs equipment (back when they were leaving the city) should be arrested and tried for sabotage. The investigation has ended regarding this matter, however, since the man responsible for commanding the searches, was a Commander Germana, who unfortunately slipped and killed himself while polishing his cutlass only a few days ago…

Several days passed, during which the Dingoes’ convoy finally made the trip to New Hedon unmolested. As they approached the city, they were stopped by the local security forces, but they let the Dingoes pass with little trouble. When they passed through the city, they pick-up a handful of news VTOLs that follow them, until they were chased away from the starport. Although stopped by security a couple times they are never halted long, and soon even had an informal escort of police vehicles. Security forces were polite and considerate this time around. The pair of captured DropShips were able to land in a pair of staging bays some distance away from the Dingoes unit assets.

Early the next morning, after the news of the Iron Dingoes return to their home aboard the Dingoes Den was posted everywhere, Zeal Associates contacted them, with an offer from Sunburst Enterprises. They proposed a “No Contest Salvage Claim” and the immediate transfer of one third of each ship’s full market value to the colony (roughly 92,747,058 Cs). After a few attempts to try and get a better deal (first 75% and then 60%), Zeal informed them Sunburst would not budge. “Take 30% or see you in court”. Later that night, a pair of techs failed to report back in for duty… Tech Mitsuko Kitsune and her best friend, Tech Brandy Wiebe.

Wraith went ballistic. Initially the Dingoes contacted the city security forces, but they seemed uninterested in resolving the matter (tourists go missing all the time, apparently…). Within minutes, Wraith had armed himself and headed off to where they were last seen along the Copacabana. The rest of the Dingoes tried to stop him, but he ignored their calls and took the monorail to the shopping district… in body armor…. with guns… lots of guns…

The next morning, a package arrived, consisting of a vial of blood tied with a bow of black hair and a note. Essentially, the note demanded the colony of Little HEaven and its attaches, the Iron Dingoes, withdraw all charges against Modesty Scrope and admit the whole campaign was undertaken to discredit the good name of Scrope. If they do not fulfill these requirements in 6 hours, they will lose their two techs and family, and other certain, less-flattering aspects of the PCs past will come to light… The Dingoes unilaterally agreed they would not do that.

Soon thereafter, Wraith was escorted into the Dingoes Den by planetary security, with the groggy words “She didn’t wander in, did she?”, to which Voice responded “Well, some of her did…”, and handed him the note. Wraith had earlier been “subdued” with tranq guns and sonic rifles when he’d been found accosting the security at a rave club near where his sister had been kidnapped. His diplomatic credentials had kept him from jail, but they suggested he be kept under key for the duration. The unit tossed him in the only secure facility they had – in the tool closet with Dame Modesty Scrope.

Voice contacted Lieutenant JG Abbey Chase “Peaches”, figuring she might have contacts they could exploit, and she arranged for the security footage used along “The Strip” of the Copacabana to be made available. As a high-crime location, it had extensive coverage all along its length. The Dingoes contacted PO Suzuki, who had heard about the kidnapping, and was enroute to city hall to see what help he could get the group. Turned out, he kinda liked the Dingoes. That took an hour.

Two hours into the waiting period, the tapes arrived, and the group realized they didn’t have anything they could view them on. The city security wouldn’t likely give them access, so they pondered options. Glamour realized the equipment on-board the “Hot Booty” was likely the only means they had in viewing the tapes, and so while the rest headed across the airfield to view those tapes, Glamour contacted Muriel at the consulate in Harmony Towers, to determine that Muriel was fine, and headed over there in the Football to be available in need. Pitbull gathered a pair of squads Scout Infantry and getting them armed, arranged to have Nerf and one of the Meadowlands Carriers available as transports. PO Suzuki responded with authorization for the unit to bear open arms within the city, as well as a warrant to act as legal security for any search and siezures required in direct relation to the kidnapping. That took the second hour.

In the closet, a now somewhat sobered Wraith abandoned beating on the door and swearing at the guards to let him out, and turned to Modesty. He apologized for having treated her like this, and asked her to be gentle when she makes her inevitable escape, and try not to kill anyone. She responded, "Actually, the way things are progressing, I’m more concerned what will happen when they come looking to “collect” me…" After the exchange of a few more pleasantries, the two had “a moment”, and before you knew it, the two were at each other like rabid voles in Pon Farr.

The next couple hours were spent examining the reams of security footage, and Voice spotted a scene where masked figures in an unidentified speeder swooped down on the pair as they were walking along the Copacabana, captured them unceremoniously in a net gun and bundled them into the hover trucks’s back. The vehicle then swung north into Oldtown before disappearing into the shadows. Knowing what they were looking for in a vehicle, the Fixer, Paladin and Voice all closed in their searches, eventually spotting a similar speeder near the Barton Station monorail. The vehicle, carrying a large bundle in its back, then swooped into the construction site, and dropped its cargo into a big hole in the ground, leading to its underground water and electrical connections, before whisking away into the shadows. Located near the Cleon Memorial Stadium, it was a locally known landmark, and Pitbull took his troopers out into the city straight towards the Memorial Stadium.

Glamour, meanwhile, had Muriel draw-up a formal statement, regarding the “deplorable actions of the Scrope Family”, and calling upon the Moot to formally oust the entire family from power. Using their recent media glory, they had it broadcast across several channels just as Pitbuill’s team arrived at the construction site.

With an hour to go, Pitbull’s unit spared no time searching the site, and abandoning their vehicles, they slipped into the ventilation/electrical shafts exposed. Searching around, Pitbull found a single rail used for electrical “tunnel cars” to assist repair crews in covering vast distances quickly; the trail led down deeper into Oldtown, and eventually he found an abandoned railcar covered with a tarp next to a tunnel leading up into a private townhouse. The entrance proved to be untrapped, though it was lightly barricaded against casual intrusion.

The assault on the townhouse was quick and brutal. Three men proved to be guarding the site, and they were both well-armed and armored in military-grade heavy weapons and armor. Since the Dingoes assault had come from the only un-monitored entrance, they were able to rescue both girls (mostly) unharmed, though the three thugs guarding them were drugged out of their minds and would not go down quietly. The assault squads took limited losses; none of the kidnappers survived. The unit quickly looted the thugs of their weapons and armor, though most of the upper floor was blown-out and flattened in the fight. Pitbull sent the girls down into the tunnel with one squad and then took the lead thug’s hand (which had a tattoo of some mercenary jump infantry company) wrapped in one of the corpses’ own sets of fatigues. Together, the unit slipped back up the tunnel to their vehicles (unmolested), and quickly made their way back to the starport.

As things seemed to finally be in hand, and Wraith was discussing a few post-fun matters with Modesty, an explosion rocked the Dingoes Den. Security immeadiately reported someone had landed a pair of Karnovs near the docking collar of the DropShip, and had blown the main docking corridor open. Several security squads quickly mowed through the initial resistance, as various Dingo staff officers began to respond to the alarms. There was a single squad broken into several small fireteams of two raiders each moving rapidly throughout the upper levels of the DropShip, shooting random panels and people, while two dedicated invading squads began a methodical search of the living quarters of the DropShip. A fourth squad remained to hold the airlock. Wraith asked Modesty to please open the door for him, which she did with a single hard kick (to the surprise of the two guards in the maintenance room). Wraith gathered his arms, and recruiting the two gaurd troopers to assist in the DropShip defense, asked Modesty if she’d be alright… she simply smiled, blew him a kiss and closed the tool closet door…

As the Dingoes numbers grew, and defense of the upper levels stiffened, the raiders began to retreat, unable to quickly find what they were looking for. None were captured alive. Using assault shotguns, “diplomatic armor”, dueling cutlasses and pistols, the initial assault turned against the raiders, especially as they met the full fury of the Dingoes defenses and its command staff. The raid was quickly put-down, when the surviving raiders retreated to the airlock, and with the “guard” squad fled into the VTOLs and quickly moved off down the starport towards the shuttle pads.

While Commander Darryn Thane contacted the starport to relate they were under attack and not involved in an illeagal “fly-by”, the casualties of both the raid on the Dingoes Den and eventually those from the rescue efforts from the townhouse in Oldtown were brought to the medical teams aboard both DropShips, saving many from certain death. The VTOLs were reported to have landed at the shuttle impound lot, and had seized several LR shuttles held under the Sunburst Enterprises aegis. Arrangements were quickly made to dispatch the Crimson Sands and follow the escaping shuttles. Only a short hour behind the escaping shuttles, Lieutenant JG Dara Gideon, spent the next couple days following them to Heroditus’ L3 Point, where it rendezvoused with a Merchant-Class DropShip (of unknown registry), and jumped away from that pirate point. The Crimson Sands returned with their information.

With knowledge that the Scropes were gone from the planet, Modesty was released and Wraith asked her if she wanted a place among the Dingoes until she figured out what to do next. Her only question; “How big’s your bed?”…

The mess, both diplomatically and physically was immense. Over the week, the media suddenly became hostile to Little Heaven. The story was quickly spread that “…some country bumpkins and urban scum…” shot up some escaped convicts, made a big splash in the media, had tea with the president, and then couldn’t protect their own dependents when bandits raided their camp. The Iron Dingoes were referred to as a “…ratty, third-rate mercenary command..”. As the week passed, small groups of agitators began to spread graffiti and minor vandalism throughout the city, calling “Mercenaries Go Home!” and “New Herod for Libertines, not Foreigners!”.

There were, however, some compensations;

  • The colony gained free title to the “Hot Rod” and the “Hot Booty” – the Scropes left debts, but the colony had a prior aggrieved claim. Both were turned over to the Dingoes by the colony Elder’s Council, since they have no interest in the “…big, beastly things”.
  • The remainder of Sunburst’s assets, five aging *KR-61 Class Long-Range Shuttles along with a collection of military goods were found in a hangar complex on Governor’s Island. The goods consisted of six SRM Support pods, other basic equipment and soft goods sufficient to arm six squads of SRM-Infantry. In addition, a MASH unit and three Hover APCs were recovered. It appeared from documents, that the Scrope family had kept the equipment against eventually making a final push against the colony. The colony, as lead claimants, took two of the shuttles, seeing them as useful in contacting New Hedon in the future. The other three and all the remaining equipment, they left to the Dingoes.
  • The neutral minor members of the family, namely the pilot crews and engineers held in prison were released from their contracts, meaning they had to find other jobs…
  • All remaining assets of the Scrope family were seized by the Libertine Council, and their name stripped from the Moot.
  • The lead kidnapping thug was identified (mostly through his name on his uniform combined with identification of the tattoo on his hand…), as one Gunnery Sergeant Levi Kent, a former member of the small Jump Infantry Merc Company “The Jumping Junkies”. His friends were local street thugs, Miles Strasser and Theoi Chun.

To every silver lining, there’s always a cloud. PO Suzuki paid the Dingoes a visit, and informed them that Little Heaven’s success at uprooting and toppling a minor noble house (albeit murderous pirates) had upset the planetary Moot. It would be best if the consulate kept a low profile, keeping open as a contact for trade and any individuals seeking to join them, but not get involved in any important diplomatic events or other matters that might draw attention to them. He suggested the Dingoes follow suit for a while. He also hinted that the Scropes might send trouble their way through their friends in the Moot or other means. Although the Scropes are a reviled name on Heroditus, they seemed to have Liao connections, and that might come back to haunt them.

PO Suzuki also informed them he had been promoted; First Secretary of the High Commission of Colonial Affairs. He, his wife and two daughters were moving soon, and they would be unavailable for a few weeks as they restructured their lives… but he could be used as a contact in the future. The Dingoes asked him to find a contact in the planet’s Admirality that could trade their two new DropShips for a Union-Class. A day later, he put them in contact with a military salvage yard that had something they might be interested in; “Iridium Lion”. Although it needed some work and expense, it was in good condition and could serve them well. What a hard, sloppy fight to get a Union!

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Episode 13 - A Little Slice of Heaven
"We'd been tasked to defend a small mining colony in the far southern jungles of Heroditus' primary continent. The locals were nice enough, but ignorant of what real war was like, at least until we'd barked enough to bring down a hammer on them..."

Roll Call————————————-Mechs

Dale (Paladin)————————-Spider
Dana (Voice)——————————Hunchback
Bruce (Glamour)———————-Phoenix Hawk
Lee (Pockets)———————-Ostscout
JP (Pitbull) —————————-Black Knight
Greg (Fixer)——————————-Crab
Ralph (Wraith)—————————Wolverine
Jay (Advocate)—————————Firestarter

The night before we left, we officially signed-on two of the infantry platoons who’d been under consideration, as well as the dozen lone troopers and a scatter of marines, techs and artillery troops to fill-in some positions. We also signed a contract on five armor crews to get our Galleons up to operating condition. An actual teacher had also applied, and she and her young daughter joined the dependents, along with a handful of administrative personnel to get the unit up to proper operating status. PItbull went to starport authority and asked a minor tech to monitor when and if the “Hot Booty” might leave port, and to give the DropShip a call when they file their flight plan. As it was a simple request, and was accompanied by Pitbull’s kindy nature and a 750 C-Bill offer of a “filing fee”, it was successful.

In addition, we managed to take delivery of a large number of motion sensors and monitoring equipment, ostensibly for use in maintaining a perimeter around our grounded DropShips, but we’d be testing them around our defenses on the upcoming mission first. Finally, we sold-off almost all of the specialty seeds and most of our “collectible” guns taken back on Claybrooke.

In the morning, Muriel and Eduardo appeared in a rugged landrover, and handed us eleven diplomatic “seals” that would allow us access out of the city by using the main roads; a highly unusual activity as it turned out. We chose the eight line Mechs, two of the Meadowlands haulers, and “The Football” to go with us. The latter was loaded down with an additional tech crew and the new motion sensors.

We were stopped as we left the starport island, and it took over an hour of patient conversation and checking by Muriel before the militia troops guarding the bridge would let us into the city. We proceeded along the main route west, and quickly drew a crowd of on-lookers, unused to seeing BattleMechs on their streets. Although we were stopped several times along the way, we eventually made the city perimeter, and were again halted for a thorough check once more. This time, the militia had techs with them and VTOL support, and demanded to search the Meadowlands for “contraband”, which we allowed them to do. After another haf-hour of patiently waiting, the militia agreed things checked-out and let us head off into the agricultural heartland.

We quickly found a spot down the road away from most prying eyes (though a pair of black VTOls were quietly keeping pace with us), and had our accompanying Tech crew do a once over of the Meadowlands. They almost immediately found… something… Unsure of what exactly it might do, we had Fixer pull the items found on both vehicles, though he failed catastrophically on the second, and it blew the entire skirt system. He and the techs agreed that if we’d been on the move, the devices would likely have blown the hover skirt and flipped the transports at some point along our route. The result, was a couple more hours lost and the certain knowledge someone in the government wanted us not to be at the colony anytime soon…

The next several days passed uneventfully, as we traveled from the suburban area around New Hedon, through plantations and open pastures, until we reached the heavy jungles to the south. A rough and rugged territory, there was only one ancient track leading several days into the steaming jungle, and we made good time meeting no one along the way.

The community of Little Heaven was nestled deep in the jungle in an isolated valley running north-south between sharp ridges and heavy jungle growth. Surrounded by an open green space of fields and pastures, the village was comprised of some forty single level pre-fab colony houses, with bits of hull plating and cargo shipping crates for storage. Several small barns and a cluster of warehouses had been built, along with a central hall, a school and some form of religious building. Next to the church was an antenna tower, and a large mining laser had been slaved to it to provide coverage. The entire community was surrounded by razor-wire entanglements and trenches. A few tracks led off into the surrounding jungle.

We met with “Mad Mike” and his troopers immediately upon entering the open area around the village, since we had sent him and several squads of infantry and techs ahead on the Crimson Sands. He reported that the villagers, though grim and determined, were poorly armed (all 700 colonists had crossbow dart guns, as well as a handful of hunting shotguns and a few messed-up ARs). They were low on seismic charges, primarily because they had used most to plant the minefield around the village. Only 50 were actual militia, trained in a minimal fashion to defend the facility, with most of the locals non-combatants. The community had a single doctor and three local tech teams with tools could be cobbled together to assist in maintenance and provide salvage crews.

He had them organized somewhat into formal fireteams, and we agreed to supply them with some arms in exchange for an offer of ore in the future. We distributed some of the longhorn hunting rifles among the militia to improve their arms. We also had the techs deploy the sensor net before night fell. The locals began to have a welcome feast, where we were wined, dined and treated like kings and queens. Morale went up a notch when the new rifles and handguns were shown around, and we were given our choice of billets, though most chose to remain near or in their Mechs. Rotating schedules were assigned, particularly paying attention to having people awake and on-duty during the latter half of the evening, when the attacks seemed to regularly occur. We positioned ourselves and waited.

A couple days passed uneventfully, during which we performed a search of the nearby valley for anything out of the ordinary, but beyond the strip mine some kilometers away, there was nothing. Even a “fly-over” by the Crimson Sands found nothing in the valley. Training of the militia fireteams continued, and things seemed upbeat, if subdued.

That night, however, we got a communication from our contact at the starport; the “Hot Rod” had filed an exit flight plan for an hour prior to dawn. We prepared by getting the infantry in place along the perimeter, with the militia to guard the colonists in the main hall. And we waited. Eventually, Pockets picked-up a pair of Mech lances moving slowly along the river to the north west, and we positioned ourselves to best defend the approaches to the community well-away from the village itself. Surprisingly, Pockets picked-up a large heat signature falling quickly towards the valley. A large arrow-shaped DropShip appeared, shedding heat and speed quickly as it moved towards somewhere off to the north-west; we identified it as a Buccaneer-Class DropShip, the “Hot Booty” had arrived and identified the location of its camp. Voice tried to get the unit’s AeroFighters to keep from following and attacking the Hot Rod on its transit, but the growing stormy weather created a poor reception, and his call went unheard back at the starport.

Soon, a pair of scout lances appeared; a pair of Wasps to the east and a pair of Stingers to the west. Soon thereafter, a lance of heavies wandered down along the river, consisting of a Thunderbolt, an Archer, a Centurion and a Valkyrie. Combined, the unit weighed roughly our own class of Mechs, but we had the edge in choosing the terrain and we had the element of surprise. To the east, a cluster of infantry squads began moving through the jungles towards the village; a long-term proposition, but still a threat to the village.

Paladin and Pockets pulled back to screen the village, joining with Fixer and Wraith. Voice and Pitbull took position to hold the line, while Glamour and Advocate took position along the western edge. The Wasps moved to cover the approaching infantry, and were quickly chased away by the advance of both Paladin’s and Wraith’s group, who moved carefully through the thick jungle into a supporting position against the center line. Pitbull parked himself in a light forest and started ranging PPC fire on the Thunderbolt, while Glamour sniped at the Stingers, blowing the right arm off one with a lucky shot. Voice and Advocate slipped behind the central hill and prepared to attack anyone who tried to take position on its top.

As the Thunderbolt, Archer and Centurion slowly took position on the other side of the hill, the Valkyrie bounced atop the hill to get a look around. The damaged Stinger bounced away into the forests behind the hill, while the second took a pair of shots from Voice and Glmaour, that took its right arm off too, though it got a shot on Voice as well. The Wasps pulled back near the lead heavies, but remained shrouded in the jungles. Paladin and Wraith’s group followed carefully, keeping an eye on the Wasps, but ready to swarm the heavies forming-up at the northern base of the hill. A call came over general coms channels, demanding “Unidentified unit, identify yourselves immediately!”.

As the second Stinger bounced back into the jungles beyond the river where its companion waited, the Centurion and Voice met in close combat. Although it scored a hit with its AC-10, the pilot took a direct hit to the head by Voice’s AC-20, blowing it off and knocking it down the hill, though its pilot barely managed to eject. Paladin responded “We are the Iron Dingoes, contracted to defend the colony of Little Heaven. Identify yourselves!” And then things turned chaotic.

The loss of the Centurion and the retreat of the Stingers allowed Voice and Advocate to sweep around the hill, and they laid some withering fire on the Archer. Pitbull moved forward, while Wraith’s and Paladin’s groups moved out of the jungles and sniped at the Thunderbolt and Archer. Fixer scored a solid hit on the Thunderbolt’s head, rattling the pilot. The pilot of the Archer managed to croak out a “Whoa! Whoa! Whoa!” before managing to make the relative safety of a light patch of jungle along the northern slopes.

The fall of the Archer signaled something primal among the Dingoes, and Voice, sensing blood in the water, called “Dingo Pack Tactics!” over the unit coms. The call was to concentrate fire and move to close position on the lead elements; the Archer and Thunderbolt. The Archer promptly took a direct shot to the head from Pitbull’s PPCs, and combined with multiple fire to its leg from Voice’s AC-20 and others, was knocked off its feet. Advocate moved upslope from the Thunderbolt and gave it a good solid kick to the head; which took it completely off, killing the pilot and knocking it over. The Archer struggled to stand, but stumbled and took more damage, knocking its pilot unconscious, and removing it from the fight.

With the punch of the attackers removed, the Wasps, Stingers and Valkyrie fled the field, chased away by Paladin and Pockets, who followed them closely to identify their base of operations. Fixer and Wraith moved to surround the infantry moving through the eastern jungles, demanding their disarmament and surrender. They were shortly joined by the Dingoes infantry assets, who captured most of them. Voice and Glamour captured the surviving Centurion pilot, while the unconscious Archer pilot was taken into custody and sent to the village doctor for observation. The Battle for Little Heaven was over.

Salvage crews were dispatched, supplemented by the village’s own units. The Dingoes pair of mobile repair gantries were erected near the DropShuttle and armor repairs promptly began on the Dingoes’ Mechs. The three downed Mechs were salvaged by the Dingoes, though the Archer was fairly mobile and could be walked off the field by the techs. The infantry were quickly truned-over to the village, and proved to be conscripted Liao convicts, sent here as raiders to commute their sentence. They had been inmates at the “Scrope Correctional Facility”, a Periphery corporate labour camp. The captured Centurion pilot proved to be a Sergeant Elias Whitlocke, remaining command officer of the Mechs; the CO was the unconcsious Archer pilot, while the XO had been the Thunderbolt pilot. Their unit was identified as the “Stargun Mercenary Company”, and he claimed another force of infantry and armor awaited them at their camp.

Pockets and Paladin followed the fleeing lights over the ridgeline to the northwest, and suddenly another DropShip appeared, this time followed closely by the unit’s pair of AeroFighters. They had made a couple critical shots to its manuevering thrusters, and the DropShip shed heat and speed quickly as it made an emergency landing at the camp to the northwest. The pair of “explorers” finally found the camp some distance away and well out of the valley. It consisted of a rugged landing strip burned from the jungle terrain, a collection of tents and a makeshift repair depot. There were a pair of armor lances present, a few scattered platoons of infantry and a handful of techs in the camp itself. Near the center of the camp was a nest of Sniper artillery field guns. The five surviving Mechs stood nearby, still active and running. The two DropsSHips, the “Hot Booty” and “Hot Rod” lay along one side of the landing field, their ramps extended and what looked like the beginnings of a loading operation in the preparatory stages. The Starguns were bugging-out.

Recognizing the Dingoes still had the upper hand for a few hours, the unit enacted a bold plan to seize the Stargun’s transports and supplies. Fixer, Pitbull and Voice left their MEchs behind at the village, and took several squads of techs and infantry aboard the Crimson Sands DropShuttle for a quick sub-orbital drop on the camp. The remaining Mechs, now fully repaired and capable of moving quickly through the jungle to the camp. Upon a arrival a few hours later, the group found that the armor and Mechs had been loaded aboard the Buccaneer, while the infantry and much of the camp supplies were in preparation for final loading. The unit could attack the DropShips directly, try and seize the camp and its supplies, or destroy the runway; they went bold, and assaulted the DropShips, scattering the surrounding infantry quickly, and seized the ship’s hangar bay entrances, while they called in their Aeros to hit the artillery emplacement and maintain superiority over the airfield. The Crimson Sands landed in a perfect position behind both DropShips and disgorged its infantry and techs to the bay entrances of the DropShips, seizing the loading bays of each. With no infantry support and the bulk of the unit’s assets stored for transport, the Stargun transport pilots surrendered and the unit stood down. The Dingoes were in control of the Stargun airfield and camp.

Separating the flight crews from their ships, the infantry and techs began a quick sweep of the ships and camp. They found piles of combat supplies still ready to be loaded, as well as all the Mechs and armor secured aboard the Hot Booty for transport.One of the Sniper Field Guns was found to be intact and was promptly salvaged. The crews were secured and placed under gaurd while the unit prepared to rest for a few hours and let the techs do their jobs.

After some needed down-time, the Dingoes had the former Centurion pilot brought to the camp to negotiate for his people, and after a short discussion, the PCs claimed the felled heavy Mechs near the village and half the standing supplies of the Starguns, in exchange for the release of their remaining assets and immediate cessation in the conflict against Little Heaven. The Dingoes further demanded the DropShips they had captured, meaning the Starguns must spend the next several week getting back to civilization the hard way. Sergeant Elias agreed to all these terms, and the Starguns were allowed to withdraw their camp, infantry, vehicles and surviving Mechs. In parting, the Dingoes acknowledged Sergeant Elias’ honorable conduct and offered him a position as a full member of their own company. He was stunned at all they offered, and gratefully accepted. The Dingoes turned-over the surviving (if still unconscious) CO, Major Hassan Ali Khaled to the departing troops.

The unit called in all their infantry and techs to salvage the rest of the camp, and secure the DropShips with a thorough search, while the PCs slept. In the morning, the unit was brought a new hostage, Miss Modesty Scrope. Identifying herelf as the Executive Project Director and Vice-President of Sunburst Enterprises, she proved to be a catty, cruel, spiteful and rude, despite her looks and noble status. She demanded the immediate release of “her ships”, that were “…engaged in simple transport of goods and personnel”. After various discussions back and forth, with the Dingoes demanding they owned the DropShips now and Modesty Scrope reminding them her corporation still owned them legally, the group decided they needed to either take this to civil court or simply let her go.

Modesty’s hints that the entire proceedings were under surveillance, led the group to take a very close examination of her quarters and the bridge controls. They found her quarters were a gaudy executives chamber with control station for bugs, video surveillance cameras and even bridge monitoring equipment that covered the entire ship. They also found an extensive encrypted database that would require some detailed work to access. Glamour pulled all the video and audio recording files and after making back-ups, destroyed the originals. Voice determined the data were uploaded regularly to another location, but hadn’t been since the fight near Little Heaven. On the bridge, they found an auxiliary system simiiar to Modesty’s quarters, and another panel that did… well nothing. Behind it, they found a stack of platinum ingots and some hard cash in a a couple steel briefcases.

The Dingoes determined the contract had been fulfilled, and so moved their assets (except the hover vehicles and a tech team) to the Stargun’s airfield, and began discussing plans on how they were going to go about seizing the DropShips for themselves… Advocate summed-up the leagal situation as such:

- The colony of Little Heaven is a sovereign state of Heroditus that has suffered an unsanctioned assault by a non-sovereign power (whoever hired the Starguns and was shipping inmates to attack them). The colony is within its rights to condemn the prisoners to whatever fate they desire.

- The presence of Modesty Scrope complicates things. As a noblewoman of Heroditus, however minor her house, means she can expect a trial and sentencing by a jury of her peers in New Hedon.

- The two DropShips are owned by a completely different and third party (Sunburst Enterprises), and was not engaged in documented actions against the colony. Though seized at the enemy camp, they have a legitimate claim to being treated as a neutral third party unless proof of collusion with the attackers can be proven.

- The only way to claim a grievance in this case, is to act as proxies for the colony of Little HEaven, who must formally establish some sort of consulate or formal position with the existing government beyond their present ore-lease agreement. Then, the unit can act as the Little Heaven attaches and fight a legal battle for control of the DropShips. The problem, is that the colony doesn’t much care about extending formal contact with the world; they must first be convinced it is in their best interests…

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Episode 12 - Business Before Pleasure
"Heroditus was everything they said it was; vices of every sort, hot and cold running entertainment, and a nice break from eating military rations in zero-G and staring at walls... provided we could dump some salvage and find a contract..."

Roll Call————————————-Mechs

Dale (Paladin)————————-Spider
Dana (Voice)——————————Hunchback
Bruce (Glamour)———————-Phoenix Hawk
JP (Pitbull) —————————-Black Knight
Greg (Fixer)——————————-Crab
Ralph (Wraith)—————————Wolverine
Jay (Advocate)—————————Firestarter

Upon reaching the zenith jump-point aboard the Vagabond, the Iron Dingoes and their companions began final preparations for a several day burn to Heroditus and its capital, New Hedon. Wraith finally hunted down the battered old neurohelmet taken from the Crab back on Claybrooke, in a pile of uniforms taken from the Eden’s Promise cache. Battered and old, it had the look of an advanced neurohelmet popular among elite warriors of the Star League, though bearing many years of use; it still had dried blood all along the rim.

The unit agreed to protocols of allowing everyone a 96-hour leave and then asking for 48-hour check-ins for all personnel with their supervisors, to ensure everyone stayed safe. As final preparations began for the convoy, the Dingoes command staff gathered and discussed their options; Mech load-outs, DropShip acquisition and unit assets were discussed.

The trip in-system was without incident, until docking wanted confirmation on positioning for Drop-Pads. The “Star Mistress” requested a warehouse location off to the east, away from the Dingoes, while the two DropShips and the DropShuttle were granted pads clustered together. Arlana and her crew taking leave were given a spot among the visiting AeroShuttles.

Soon after landing, the crew was paid-out its two-months of wages (in cold hard C-Bills) from the unit reserves, though after docking fees, there was not much left. Registering as a formal unit and getting a contract seemed very much a priority. As many of the crew scattered into the city, the unit “certified” a handful of vehicles for transit passage (“Nerf”, “Football” and “Chuckwagon”), placing the former and latter at the use of the techs and support staff. Tick-Tock, the captured pilot from Pilpala, was given 1000 Cs and escorted off the landing pad to find his own way…

All of the unit gathered in “The Football”, and headed off to Myrmos, where the bulk of the mercenary services were purported to lie. The area was a collection of sub-urban middle-class housing projects amidst fields, lush forests, and old estates. The towns center was dominated by “the Arcade”, a ruined and somewhat abandoned MechWarrior academy dating to the take-over of the planet by the New Hedonist Movement. The facility, now run by a department of the New Hedon government, was dominated by the holotanks that allowed up to a pair of company’s to engage in simulated combat. A series of offices lay along the west, most noteworthy among them being the offices of the Mercenary Bonding Commission, run by ComStar. The east wing was a collection of fast-food restaurants and small novelty shops.

Paladin, Advocate, Glamour and Voice headed to the MRB offices to register the unit, Pitbull wandered off to drool over the holotanks, while Wraith and Fixer went in search of an antique store they’d read about in the neighborhood.

The unit was officially registered as “The Iron Dingoes”, led by Major Ruxbundy and listed the unit “mercenary resume” as being a reinforced mixed company, with infantry, armor, artillery and Aero support, DropShip and JumpShip assets. They paid for the opportunity to be notified of the official registration at Galatea. Pitbull drooled for over an hour, watching the local youth compete with a local mercenary group, “The Huntsmen”. He was positively captivated by the place. Wratih and Fixer wandered over to the location of the antique store, and stood in amazement at “Barnard’s Emporium and Antiques”; a facility of several acres of land strewn with scrap, and a large Mech repair facility. Wraith questioned the local expert of Star League “collectibles”, though he didn’t learn much about the “Fisher King” that he didn’t already know. They accessed the local database of parts and vehicles, and down-loaded a hardcopy for the unit to look at, before returning to the Arcade.

When the others had completed their work in the registration office, Pitbull tried to get them to join him in a fight against the Huntsmen, but they didn’t have the class of Mechs available that he needed to compete, so he paid some local kids to join him, and fought against the Huntsmen’s lead lance of assault/heavy Mechs. Given 3/1 odds, his companions bet on him to win, and while many of his “hired children mercs” lost, Pitbull was able to squeek out a simulated victory with his Black Knight defeating the Huntsman’s Highlander. Their leader, a Captain Matthew Alder, congratulated Pitbull on his “luck”, and the Huntsmen left the facility in a huff. Pitbull’s fellow Dingoes raked in the cash.

Over the next week, the crew of the DropShips and the Iron Dingoes staff and troops scattered across the city and satiated a variety of vices. Glamour spent a full day at a spa and several more at salons. Advocate gambled and lost; nothing big, but still… Voice attempted to find a “Geek Squad” to discuss the Predator’s Eye and ways to modify the unit, but was unsuccessful. Paladin spent some “quality time” with Fionna in organizing their official absorption. Wraith spent time at a dojo practicing and finding his “Inner Chi”. His discussions about “Mech-Fu” seemed to fall on unknown ears. Fixer spent time in his quarters and in the Mech bays, trying to unlock the damaged neurohelmet. Pitbull spent all his spare time (and money) at the holotanks.

Eventually the unit was officially notified that they had been registered as the Iron Dingoes, however, they were also notified that House Marik had placed a Bloodmark (TP -1 : 10,000 Cs) on their heads, while Major Ruxbundy, as leader of the Dingoes was Bloodmarked at a higher level (TP -2 : 25,000 Cs). The good news, the unit was official.

The following week, the Dingoes rebuilt several of their salvaged units (the Thorn Mech, Eagle, Sabre and Stingray Aeros), and sold-off some parts and units (The Locust and Stinger Mechs, and Sabre and Stingray Aeros) for some hard cash and spare parts. At Advocates suggestion (and based on his research), the unit bought a pair of battered old Pike Support Vehicle hulls, and installed their Long Toms in place of the turrets to give the artillery mobility. Although not especially pretty, they seemed to do the job. Pitbull researched a location ofr a munitions plant, and found “Harvester Munitions Plant” in Myrmos, a location famed for making custom munitions, though they proved expensive and busy. The rest of his spare time was spent in the holotanks, and he was joined by Paladin, Wraith and others, seeking to improve their skills with the downtime and opportunity.

The Dingoes spent their remaining time putting-out notices of hire, looking for a few vehicle crews and some infantry to fill-out their line roster. Extra technical personnel were considered, but of lesser importance to their agenda. In the meantime, they would often rendezvous at the holotanks for practice, taking the opportunity to improve their skills without danger of dying.

About a week later, having played a successful round at the holotanks, the group were approached by an odd pair. Identifying themselves as Talker Lotte’s Girl Muriel and Sharpshooter Saul’s Boy Ernesto, they invited the group to a feast at the nearby “Arcade Bar and Grill” (known as a location both civilians and mercenaries freely mingle). After a series of drinks, entrees and deserts, Muriel broached the subject of why they’d wanted to speak with the PCs.

“We are from the colony of Little Heaven, and need your help. We are being attacked by raiders and you seem to know about space ships, giant walking robots, and seem like you can fight.”

Following a barrage of questions, the Dingoes learned that the colonists were being attacked once a month by a force of “…a dozen handfuls of soldiers, and a double-handful of giant walking robots…”. The raiders had never been captured alive, though a few corpses had been recovered that were “…heavily painted and had a strange symbol on their arms…”. The colonists were also attacked every few weeks, by a “…large flying ship of some sort…”, which after further questions, was identified as a Fury-Class DropShip.

The community, a mining colony of 700 citizens, held “…an end-users certificate for their land from the New Hedonist government…”, for which they were held responsible to make re-payments on from their resources. They mined bauxite and farmed sufficient to export a little surplus, but it didn’t explain why the raiders were attacking. Muriel offered 1,000,000 Cs to “eliminate the threat”, and had no concern for salvage, supplies or other demands. Getting units from the starport was the difficult matter, however, since the colony did not have a landing site for DropShips and it was located deep in the jungles of southern Heroditus. Muriel said she could provide sufficient passes to get “…a couple handfuls…” of vehicles or Mechs out of the city, but other than the DrpopShuttle, couldn’t support any Aeros. Using these parameters, the Dingoes agreed to take the contract, and would meet Muriel and Ernesto the following morning at the starport.

The group met back at the Dingoes Den, and agreed to bring the eight line Mechs, two of its Meadowlands transports loaded down with the two Skycranes, their couple of mobile field repair gantries, some Loadlifter exoskeletons, and a variety of miscellaneous parts and supplies. The Crimson Sands would shuttle over the Beta Scout Group of their infantry, along with four squads of techs from the Field Salvage Group, and a handful of squads of their recently hired infantry troops as a “shake-down” to test them. Since the trip would take a couple days, the Dead Man’s Hand was left responsible for the DropShips, and the remaining infantry were to be put on alert, though leave was granted for the remainder of the crews and techs while the Dingoes went for a “walk”.

During preparations for their trip in the morning, Advocate pondered on where the Raider’s Fury-Class ship might be based, and on a whim, climbed up onto the top of the “Dingoes Den” with some binoculars and scanned the landing fields of the starport. Located among a handful of other aerodynes, he spotted a Fury-Class DropShip sporting the flat black paintjob with red, orange and white flames curling around its prow and various airlocks and landing gear positions. Along one side was the ship’s name, the “Hot Rod”. Informing the group of his discovery, several gathered under an umbrella and began a “watch” on the ship, complete with a cooler of drinks and a radio. Major Ruxbundy began a search of the public listings at the starport, and found the ship to be owned by “Sunburst Enterprises”, a local trade company that also owned an aerodyne Buccaneer-Class DropShip, the “Hot Booty”. The Hot Booty was not presently listed as being “at port”, though the vessels traveled in-system every few weeks.

As the group concentrated on the Hot Rod, Glamour noticed a “black ops” landrover along the edge of the starport boundry, with a couple individuals in heavy trenchcoats and sunglasses watching them. As Glamour made plans to investigate closer, “the Watchers” were spooked, and they quickly left the area. It seems someone had taken an interest in the Dingoes contract…

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Episode 11 - Shipboard Life
"We'd done it! Tweaked Janos' beard, and managed to regain our surviving members of the company. Who knew the following weeks of quiet travel would be so eventful..."

Roll Call———————————-—Mechs

Dale (Paladin)————————-Spider
Dana (Voice)——————————Hunchback
Bruce (Glamour)———————-Phoenix Hawk
Greg (Fixer)——————————-Crab
Ralph (Wraith)—————————Wolverine
Jay (Advocate)—————————Firestarter

Andarmax :

We jumped from Pilpala into the Andarmax system, and were immediately hailed by the Liao customs station at the Zenith. Commodore Southland explained that the Vagabond was hauling “…refugees and medical supplies to Heroditus for resettlement…”, and since its beacons were correct and she still had a commercial (if Davion) licence, they let us drop our sails and recharge. We noticed the JumpShip hailed a couple other vessels, and some limited contact was done shuttle-to-shuttle, mostly trade in luxuries and news from different crews. The rest of us spent the week playing cards, and in discussion meetings trying to nail down some matters that had been building over the past few months.

It was decided that we would offer the techs and support staff we had hired of late proper contracts, so a series of interviews with all the Techs, AsTechs and other dependents of the Dingoes was conducted. Advocate compiled files on each person, including a picture, rough personal information, and areas of expertise. That task kept the crews aboard the Dingoes’ Den busy all week, and with this information in hand, we decided to pay all our registered members two months standard wages upon landfall on Heroditus, in raw gold bullion from our reserves. The news was well received, and a “bonus” of a year’s wages to our oldest friends, the Gibbons. We also contracted with “Sunset” and her LAM to a full year’s service in the Dead Mans’s Hand Reserves, after which we could re-negotiate her situation. It was also decided to drop “Tick-Tock” on Heroditus with 1000-Cs and let him find his own way, keeping his Stinger LAM and repairing it for our use (since it had been captured under rights of salvage, unlike Sunset’s surrender).

Paladin and the command staff entered into a discussion with Arlana Jericho and her corporation, “JeriCorp Trading”, regarding contracts and serving the Dingoes as full-time transport. It became apparent, however, that the financial needs of her company, JeriCorp, were very high (millions of C-Bills would likely be required, with payment every month). They inquired as to what she normally did as a Corp, and exactly how big she really was, to which she explained that it was only her JumpShip, the Vagabond, and that they usually hauled as an “Interface Line” along the Periphery borders. She further explained she had gotten a “sweet deal” to haul diplomatic cargoes to the Marik Capital at Atreus, and was hauling mining equipment and “incidentals” through Claybrooke on her way back to Davion space, when she was contacted by Milo Carsebloom to take a trip out-system as a “diversion”. JeriCorp Trading presently had no plans beyond Heroditus, however, she hoped to get a few DropShips to return to Davion space once again. She agreed to a contract in principle, that upon arrival at Herditus, she would need to stay a month or more (shore leave for the crew, trade of the corporation’s goods, and some active maintenance at the recharge station), and so she would grant the unit “right of first refusal”, before leaving the system. The unit felt that they could determine things at a later date, as they got closer to Heroditus.

The command group also spoke briefly with Captain Adam Kristophe, gaining a better understanding of what his DropShip, the “Star Mistress” was about, and whether they might hire her. Costs were examined, and since he was travelling to Heroditus with the Dingoes, they felt they didn;t need to hire him at the moment, though the free cargo space his ship had was looking very valuable as a potential asset. They also learned that his ship was very much a family affair, and the two would not likely part company.

When we had charged our jump core, we bounced into the next system.

Repulse :

Jumping into Repulse, we encountered a single Merchant-Class JumpShip, its sails deployed. The ship, “The Exostar”, was hauling a pair of Mule-Class DropShips, and its command crew was unusually curt and unresponsive, refusing to exchange crews. About a day later, she furled her sails, and jumped out-bound without any hails. The “Star Mistress” aboard the Vagabond, undocked and made a run in-system to pick-up some cargo bound for Heroditus.

A couple days later, a Scout-Class JumpShip bounced into the jump position, and immediately hailed the Vagabond. Voice, who had taken to monitoring all local communications as something to do, caught a part of it, as did Glamour and Lt. Dajus-Marik who were on the bridge at the time. Boasting a Davion ID Beacon, the vessel was identified as the civilian corporate JumpShip “The Nebula”. It detached a small escort ship of some type, and quickly burned towards the Vagabond, hailing itself as carrying a representative of “..a private Corporate entity, seeking re-fueling and discourse with the head of JeriCorp…”. Panic set in among the lead elements of the Dingoes, as Voice informed everyone in the Line Unit of the situation, and Wraith verified “…I’ve got a bad feeling about this…”. Paladin quickly gave out unit orders, and contacted Captain Lord and the Snow Dusters, asking them to ready some infantry in case things went south. She activated her “ready force” (a pair of squads) to gather at the JumpShip locks, while the rest of her squads, techs and dependents suited-up and armed themselves. Our techs also readied weapons and came to some semblance of order.

Paladin, Wraith, Fixer and Advocate gathered at the airlock, waiting just down the corridor to “keep an eye on things”, while Voice continued to monitor comms and Glamour and Dajus-Marik waited on the bridge. Commodore Southland and Arlana Jericho arrived and they were soon joined by several techs in engineers vacc-suits. A squad of marines in grey, unmarked armor and a grizzled man in a perfect business suit, appeared at the airlock, and he identified himself as Ship’s Master Brinton Young of Excalibur Corporation. Arlana offered the boarding party the freedom of the ship, and Young dispatched most of the squad to take their time in the mess, while he “conferred” (said with a smirk) with the JeriCorp executives. Paladin split the group, with himself following the five troopers headed to the lounge, while Wraith followed silently (in his sneak suit) to Arlana’s offices in the forward cargo bay, and Fixer and Advocate kept an eye on the airlock.

Paladin noted that the group had brought “boarding packs”, and once they were in the lounge, began offering tobacco, liquor and a few other incidentals in trade for hard cash from them. Over the next hour, the five troopers seemed to get most of the JumpShip crew to travel through the lounge and engage in a bit of trade. The crew seemed to give quiet respect to the troopers and seemed to welcome the opportunity, though they spoke little and quickly moved away from the sqaud to their own places. Paladin also noticed a velcro-attached symbol on their suits of a sword rammed through a planet in black outline. Wraith was unable to slip into the offices, but waited outside, wishing he’d brought his ram-mike system to gain some insight into what was happening in JeriCorp’s offices. The airlock remained quiet. Glamour noted that the “escort” ship that had docked was a Vampire-Class Dropship, (http://www.sarna.net/wiki/Vampire), an infantry assault DropShip known for speed, and its unusually small size. monitoring the local channels, Voice was able to overhear the common conversations between the technical crews as they refueled the shuttle on the hull. He overheard the techs commenting on the odd, flat black color of the ship’s hull, which made it seem warm and capable of melding into the Void around it.

After an hour of closed discussions, the call came to the marines to ready themselves and rendezvous back at the airlock. The lounge crew packed-up and made haste back to meet their patron, pocketing their rolls of newly traded currency. The boarding group together once more, pleasantries were exchanged, and the unit boarded their ship, making quickly to undock. As soon as the docking hatches were sealed and the ship began to pull away, Fixer noticed Arlana scowled, swore like a marine, and overheard her mutter to the Commodore, “…I really don’t know how they tracked us, but at least we’ve got some goods to cover our losses. At least, for now…” She returned to her offices, while the Commodore headed for the bridge. The escort made quickly for their JumpShip, the “Nebula” across the way, docked and the JumpShip deployed its sails and began a recharge cycle. Glamour, on the bridge, noted that there were numerous signatures on the “Nebula”, and careful study of the sensors revealed there were three Vampires attached to the hull of the Scout-Class ship… obviously the vessel was modified beyond standard practice…

Over the next day, Arlana put a lock on all system communications, and numerous conversations took place, back and forth, between the JumpShip and the Repulse HPG. Voice identified the comms channels being used, and identified the conversations regarded Arlana, as Executive Secretary of JeriCorp, making regular contact with the “New Avalon Central Bank” regarding interest payments of a rather high amount. Later in the day, a tech from the Dingoes crew reported to Voice that his supervisor, one Eduardo Sadeh, was missing. He explained that his team was salted to do repair work this morning on the foot assemblies of the “ready” Mechs, but Tech Sadeh didn’t show-up for work. The team did their tasks anyways, and afterwards attempted to contact him, but he was nowhere to be found. Voice informed Paladin, and soon a ship-wide alert was processed, and tech teams fanned throughout the Dingoes Den, looking for Tech Sadeh. The airlocks were investigated, as were the escape pods and Aero hangar-bays. They turned-up nothing.

The search was quickly expanded, alerting the other ships, the Vagabond especially, that one of the Dingoes’ crew was missing. Advocate began to rummage through his newly made files, and quickly identified who Sadeh was; a former lead tech in the Outback Irregulars, he had taken service when the Dingoes sacked the “Eden’s Promise Cache” on Claybrooke. Copies of his picture were made (thank goddess for all that office equipment in the cache), and quickly spread to search crews. Advocate began “interviewing” Sadeh’s crew, asking questions about “if he’d had anything happen to him lately”, to which his crew agreed that the only thing of note, was back a system (in Andramax) he had gotten some sort of message via the HPG. The two with him when he read it, claimed he had seemed very alarmed, turned deathly pale, and had to use a ventilator he carried with him in his pocket. He soon recovered, and as the days proceeded, he treated his crew to a special stash of his private stock of alcohol (rum as it turned-out), and seemed to regain his jovial manner. A search of his quarters revealed nothing at first, but Fixer eventually pointed-out that a Tech would never be without his tools, and they were not found amongst the things in his room.

As the search spread across the fleet, members of the Vagabond’s crew were attached to tech crews from the Dingoes’ Den, and they fanned throughout the JumpShip. Paladin, leading one crew team, headed down to the lifeboats, and his crew literally tripped over Tech Sadeh, as he staggered into them in a corridor near a lifeboat access. In horrible shape, he collapsed and muttered in Paladin’s ear, “…I had to try and get off-ship… they want it… they want it bad…”. The strain proved too much for Sadeh, and he finally collapsed, uttering “Tequila…. the Shining Beach…” with his dying gasp. Paladin alerted the ships that they had “…found their missing crewman, and that he was off his meds and had suffered some sort of break-down”, and then carted his corpse to the Seeker’s medbay. He dispatched some of his techs with Sadeh’s remains, and investigated the nearby lifeboat access, finding a pair of shoulderbags, taking them back to the ship with another announcement to the Vagabond’s engineers to check-out the lifeboat’s systems.

Gathering the senior unit members in his offices, Paladin and the group began to investigate the bag’s contents. In the larger, they found a collection of fine tools, and in the other a wide collection of items. The second, smaller shoulder bag was stuffed with military rations, a bundle of seven ComStar bank drafts in 2000 C-Bill increments, a collection of currency (3058 C-Bills in cash and coin), a few personal papers (of no consequence, including Sadeh’s Guild membership ID), a tourist brochure of the planet of Claybrooke, and two other items of note. The first was a very old gold pocket watch, on a chain with a small telescope fob. Looking into the telescope revealed a pornographic hologram of a red-headed Mech pilot. The watch was heavily chased and engraved, in a “stag” motiff; Glamour identified the item as being rare and from Old Terra, and worth forty to fifty thousand C-Bills to a wealthy collector. The other item was a small, spiral-bound notebook, filled with handwritten notations (mostly in code), tables, and strange diagrams which might be maps.

Paladin took the notebook, promising to try his hand at Cryptography, a hobby of his, and break the code over the next few weeks. Glamour took possession of the watch and tossed it and the money into the unit cash reserves. Luckily, the conscripted medical team included several skilled bio-scientists, so Voice requested they perform an autopsy on Sadeh. Within hours, Doctor Sutherland and his team determined that Sadeh had died of some sort of slow-acting poison… Suspecting the ventilators he had used, the handful of used dispensers found in his quarters were also examined and they were identified to contain some sort of slow-acting poison, in particular, a rare form of powerful opiates. Voice suggested the source of all this trouble might lay in the HPG message Sadeh had been received, and accessing the Vagabond’s computers, copied across the now-garbled file, and cracked it to discover a few phrases and words. Noteworthy among them was the comment, “…give me the object, but whether you do or not, I will get it, and you will die…”. The files were somewhat corrupted, and the bulk of the transmission was lost.

The next day, Paladin decided to ask Arlana a few questions, and visiting her offices, encountered a grumpy Executive Seretary, but she willingly took some time to talk with him. He commented about if there were any problems, and if there was some means by which he and the Dingoes might help. She was about to say something, then changed her mind and commented, “No, not really. I just have obligations to meet is all.” They talked about a few other matters, and he then excused himself, feeling she had wanted to ask for something, but was unable to…

The crews of all the ships were sullen and somber over the next few days regarding the recent death, and the eventual return of the “Star Mistress” was a pleasant change. The fleet warily watched the nearby “Nebula” and its DropShips. When the Star Mistress was declared secure, and all other DropShips reported their status, the Vagabond called for all-quarters, and jumped out-system, hoping to put the incident behind them.

Renown :

The Renown system had little of note occur, making its name seem false. Arlana co-opted the comms channels again upon arrival for a a few hours. A military Union-Class DropShip on a Scout-Class JumpShip with a company of Kincade’s Rangers travelled through bound for Repulse, and a shipment of ore on a Merchant-Class JumpShip came through from the uncharted Periphery. With the “lull”, the DropShips and JumpShips held an intra-ship “Olympics” in the Vagabond’s cargo bay, involving various zero-G activities, though none of the PCs participated.

Cavalor :

An industrialized arctic planet producing a few export products (mostly electronic components and civilian ICE engines), the system had fair traffic, despite its location near the Periphery, and the fact that it would take three week’s travel via DropShip to get to its primary planet’s rocky surface. Arlana once more took command of all local communications for a couple hours. A couple of merchants bounced through, deploying sails or retrieving their DropShips for transport elsewhere.

In a stream of several parties held to break the boredom, one particularly eventful bash stood-out. Paladin was noted as getting very deeply into his cups, and disappeared for several hours… in the morning, he discovered a large portion of his cash-on-hand was missing, and numerous origami cranes made out of C-Bills in his bed. He wasn’t sure, but he thought he might have spent the night making origami cranes out of his cash and then “set them free” out an airlock. From the same party, Glamour and Wraith got into an argument with a Dingo Tech and a civilian dependent, over some religious point; the exact details having been lost in the fog of the party.

Ward :

A garrison system and noted for its large mercenary groups of construction crews, Ward’s population of 1.5 billion provided little beyond foodstuffs. Visitors included a frontier fleet of an Invader-Class JumpShip hauling some assault DropShips, a Scout-Class military courier, and a civilian Starlord-Class JumpShip from Hellespont Industrial with a full cluster of merchant Buccaneers, Mules, and a single Mammoth, all bound for the heart of the Sian Commonality. Arlana took control of the comms for a couple hours, making her usual communications with the Ward HPG.

Among the group, Fixer found his and nearby rooms aboard the Dingoes’ Den had suffered some sort of accident, with venting spewing toxins into all the affected chambers. Also Voice had a temporary glitch, as his new systems on the Hunchback suffered failures. It took most of the downtime while waiting for their sails to charge their drives before the problems with both systems tracked and fixed. Fixer spent most of the week in his BattleMech cockpit, rather than his quarters, while they worked on the entire life support system. He also began to feel “stuffy”, as the weeks aboard a closed system were starting to affect his allergies.

Also, a couple days after arrival, “Tinman” Captain Balmer awoke from his coma, and after a day of observation, was spoken to about his “situation”. It became apparent that he was in a bad position with few options, and readily accepted taking a year’s contract with the Dingoes in their Reserve Unit, flying a repaired Stinger LAM as the Recon Lance’s senior officer. He was also expected to act as a trainer for any future “students” as part of his duties, a task for which he seemed well qualified. While it meant taking a drop in rank, he recognized that it was a good offer.

The group was getting anxious, and with Heroditus so close, they discussed what they knew about the “Repulse Incident”. Paladin revealed his discoveries in translating the notebook found on Tech Sadeh, and it was a hit like a ten-ton hammer. The notebook contained the coded records of Sadeh’s actions in the service of his prior patron, Brigadier Magdan Zane.

Tech Sadeh was more than the simple leader of a tech squad, he had been Brigadier Magdan Zane’s personal lead tech for several years. His memoirs detailed a series of repeating events; the Outback Irregulars were privately funded, and would jump from system to system as salvagers and treasure hunters. The Outback Irregulars would bounce from boring garrison contract to boring garrison contract, always for corporations or small planetary militas, and always for specific planets. While on-planet they used the cover of their “LowTech” Mechs and pair of Galleon lances as their garrison forces, while their “elite” pair of Thorns, Sentinel and Black Knight would comb the backwater stretches of their chosen planets on treasure hunts. Mostly fueled by speculation and rumor, his hunts always found something; a few lost parts here, a battered Mech there, but always turned a profit while the “line” unit’s contracts paid the unit salaries and covered their activities.

Sadeh commented that he didn’t know who funded their operations, but that it was obviously someone with good finances, and a great deal of trust in the Brigadier. The unit maintained a high tech ratio, but tended to go through pilots quickly; mostly through attrition, as the “hidden” unit would often be suspected as bandits and had to fight planetary militia while on their hunts, on a regular basis. Often, he would move the DropShip and its garrison forces to a suspected site of “bandit activity” as a cover to get his techs and vehicles to uncover the cache and provide footage as proof of eliminating “bandit” Mechs. His activities had been very profitable of late, with better and better information coming from his patron. The way the Brigadier had spoken of regarding the “Eden’s Promise Cache” it was likely an answer to all his plans and dreams. His death at the hands of the Dingoes made all that moot, however.

Following the raid on the cache site by the Dingoes, Tech Sadeh writes, things began to unravel. As the Brigadier’s personal tech, he knew about a few things, like where Zane kept a couple very valuable personal artifacts he had collected during his travels. He knew that something in Zane’s possession was worth a lot, since lately he was given such good information from his patron. It was obvious that the patron was giving Zane a reward in return for whatever it was. During the confusion of the Dingoes’ raid on the cache, Tech Sadeh looted the one spot where Zane kept his most valuable items, and found the watch and some smaller pieces he had since gambled away. He was hired by the Dingoes, and just kept quiet while he figured-out what to do.

About a month after the Dingoes returned with their loot to Fort Anton, Tech Sadeh started to get messages. At first, they were typed hardcopy messages, telling him to “…turn over the Sangreal, before something bad happened…” kind of demands, but as Spring arrived and it was becoming obvious that the Dingoes were panning to leave planet, they became adamant that he turn over the object NOW. The Dingoes raid on Deadwood and prompt abandonment of the planet must have taken whomever it was by complete surprise, because all communication ceased. Until the HPG message in Andarmax, and the events that followed. From his writings, it is obvious that Sadeh was becoming unstable, and paranoid. His final few comments in the book show he was suffering from advanced stages of paranoia, and combined with the appearance of the mysterious Excalibur Corp and the last use of his ventilators (which teh PCs now know were poisoned by someone), pushed him over the edge and he wrote a need to leave the ship and flee somewhere they could not track him…

An intensive study of the pocket watch ensued, with the science team of Doctor Sutherland examining it for any “microscopic items that might have been missed”. Nothing seemed extraordinary; it was a very ancient watch with a high value to collectors. Seemingly having hit a dead-end, the PCs noted the incident, and recalled his final words regarding “…Tequila… the Shining Beach…”. They consulted the Encyclopedia Galacticana holograms (Episode 0 – Escape from the Ice Hook), but it said nothing. Commodore Sutherland and his navigator knew nothing, either. The group remembered, however, that Captain Adam Kristophe, was a noted veteran of the Periphery, and might know more. Visiting him on-board the Star Mistress, he shared some rum and while smoking his pipe, answered their questions.

“Have ye ev’r heard of a Shadowport, laddies?” When they acknowledged they had not, he elaborated. “A Shadowport, is a place where bandits, outcasts and renegades go when they need supplies or repairs. A hidden port, usually along the borders of any given realm, and always unknown to the authorities, Tequila Beach is one such place. Built in a Nebular cloud Rimward and Trailing of the Davion regions of Islamabad and Kearny, it is a massive armed and armored asteroid, ruled by the old pirate, Cardinal Benjamin Taft. You can get anything there; slaves, food, repairs, even second-hand and newer Mechs and DropShips… if you can pay the tariff…” He gave vague directions, claiming to have never been there himself, but the Dingoes now understood a little more of the situation. Paladin commented “…is an old pocket watch was worth the value of a man’s life?”; everyone, including Paladin, knew unspoken the answer to that simple question… They agreed there was little to do about it for now, but if they should ever be near the Reaver’s Rift or the Davion Outback, it was worth looking into…

With the jump to Heroditus a day away, the Dingo command staff gathered once more, and discussed their final approach to contracting the Vagabond. Its value in storing salvage, and the independence it gave the unit might be worth the cost, they decided. Discussing the financial difficulties that JeriCorp might be undergoing, they realized that there was a powerful fact the unit had forgotten. They inquired of the Commodore, what the exact problems the company was facing, and while he did not feel it proper to talk about specifics, he claimed all the independents have been under pressure from the various mega-corps in the Periphery, but they had recently lost a cargo, and they’d had to spend nearly a year trying to solve the financial morass that had ensued. When asked for clarification, he admitted it had involved “The Ice Hook Incident”, and that he was unwilling to discuss more without Arlana’s approval…

The Ice Hook! Fixer suddenly remembered back when they managed to flee the Ice Hook, before it hit the atmosphere, he had caught a fleeting glimpse of the ship that had attacked their transport; it had looked sleek, and black and small… like a Vampire-Class DropShip, he now realized. He shared this information, and the Dingoes were stunned. They all agreed that the Ice Hook had somehow been “hit by raiders” and destroyed, and possibly by the same mega-corp they had met a month ago at Andarmax; Excalibur Corporation. They remembered Arlana saying the Vagabond had been hauling mining equipment and “incidentals” through Claybrooke, and were picking-up a shipment of food for Pilpala before having to spend that year at the Claybrooke Nadir. The Dingoes (then 13th Provisional Company) had been the “incidentals” on the Ice Hook.

Taking this bit of information with them, the command staff quickly met with Arlana at her offices, and asked to speak with her. They sat down and began to lay out their suspicions and the facts as they saw them; She had lost a cargo of mining equipment and “incidentals” in Claybrooke to raiders, and the Dingoes had been the incidentals. Voice explained the group had been prisoners on the losing end of the recent Civil War, and that the Ice Hook had not simply fallen prey to mechanical difficulties, but rather had been hit by slavers as it approached the atmosphere. They described the ship that had sent the raiders aboard, and described the uniforms and armor… similiar to the armor worn by the boarding party from the “Nebula”. They remembered that Pockets and Pitbull both had suits of the stuff in their quarters, and fetched them as further evidence. They admitted they did not understand exactly why Excalibur had wanted the DropShip “Ice Hook” destroyed, but that its loss had obviously made JeriCorp Trading more unstable, and they had done it for a reason. The arrival of the armored vacc-suits proved their point beyond question in her mind, and Arlana filled in the missing information that remained.

“The History of JeriCorp Trading” : JeriCorp Trading came into existence twelve years ago when Arlana’s father, a successful merchant, had cobbled together the finances to purchase “The Vaga”. He had brought the ship into the border worlds of the Davion Outback, hoping to exploit the growing demand of the Davion war machine for raw materiel from the region, and similar to a dozen other small, independent operations was somewhat successful. Arlana had been working the business end of matters for about five years, when her father had died in a shuttle accident the year prior to arriving at Claybrooke (3015).

She admitted many of the independents had, of late, been under pressure from the mega-corps operating in the Davion Outback, organizations such as Sternmetal Horizons and Excalibur Corporation. This, by itself wouldn’t have been too bad, as the Periphery was vast, and a JumpShip could never occupy more than a single system and deal with only a handful of DropShips at any given time. However, the mega-corps had begun to target the smaller independents, since most were on shoe-string budgets and the acquisition of their ships and crews would make expansion easier than waiting for new ships or trying to outfit new crews. About the time of her father’s death, JeriCorp had been reduced to accepting questionable contracts on the fringes of the “Reaver’s Rift”.

Following his death, JeriCorp’s bitterest enemy had proven to be Excalibur Corporation; the company is a large, diversified holding spreading along the Davion Outback’s Periphery edge, with many of its holdings in the Periphery of Anterior Space. Excalibur’s competitors are often fond of reminding its traders that the corporation was founded under dubious circumstances centuries ago, and that its initial investment capital was very shady in origins. Excalibur Corporation has been singling out certain independent organizations for persecution and outright piracy, and has taken a particular interest in JeriCorp Trading, due probably to the skill of its crew and the value of its ship. Over the past year, there have been a dozen attempts to discredit the Corp, frighten off its employees, and sabotage its contracts.

The destruction of JeriCorp’s leased DropShip, the “Ice Hook”, might have been the final blow. Only large mega-corps can afford to buy or build the DropShips needed for trading; other corps have to “lease” the vessels, with little hope of ever actually owning their own. Even with financing, there are few available, however, and the waiting lists are long. JeriCorp had been leasing the Ice Hook for a trip to Pilpala, hauling foodstuffs, ice, mining equipment and “incidentals” (now identified as the PCs) to Pilpala, but its destruction under questionable circumstances had forced the company to use almost all of its reserve capital in meeting their lease contract. They had been forced to wait at the Claybrooke Nadir for almost a year, while they renegotiated their contract for payment on the Vagabond. The interest payments were about to drive the final nail in their coffin, when Milo Carsebloom had contacted them and offered a large sum of hard currency in exchange for a trip away from Marik space as a “diversion” for him to leave the system. Unable to miss more payments, they had accepted a bank draft from “Carse Technologies Corp (CTC)”, as an assurance to their bankers that they were trying to meet their financial obligations. It was all that was keeping them from having JeriCorp Trading go bankrupt and Arlana lose everything she and her father had tried to build…

Arlana could now see the truth of what the Dingoes had shown her, and admitted Excalibur Corp was likely the culprit behind destroying their DropShip, taking its crew as conscripts and incidentally slaying the PCs, all in an effort to get their hands on JeriCorp Trading’s single asset, their JumpShip the “Vagabond”. That they would disatch a Scout-Class JumpShip and several elite DropShips to “shadow” the ship for most of a year, hinted at how far they were willing to reach for what they wanted… What they hadn’t counted on, however, was the luck and determination of the 13th Provisional Company, soon to officially be known as “The Iron Dingoes”.

The Dingo command staff checked their maps, noting, for future reference, where the Davion Outback was, and hoping an opportunity might present itself for them to take the fight back to Excalibur Corp in the future… Arlana thanked the PCs for their offers, and admitted she felt much better about working with them in the future. For now, they had a few more plans to make before Heroditus.

The group began various last minute projects, such as conducting research on Excalibur Corp, making a list of salvage the unit could potentially sell in the limited Heroditus markets, as well as plans to spend some hard-earned downtime for a few weeks. Glamour asked for a list of all the smaller corps that might also be in the same position as JeriCorp, though Arlana admitted she wasn’t sure she could provide much or even all of them, just those she knew about. Glamour seemed to have plans to create some sort of “Trader’s Decree” and forge a force against their attackers. Plans set, and their drive coils finally charged, they jumped into Heroditus…

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