Campaign of the Month: June 2014

Battletech : The Farscape Campaign

Episode 62 - The Haven Consortium

“Behind every captain, there’s a crew. Sure, some of you are as ugly as a sea cucumber, some of you are closer to being a chair or coat rack than a pirate, and some of you are fish I’ve just dressed up in a hat…”

Roll Call————————————-Mechs

Bruce (Glamour)————————Phoenix Hawk LAM
JP (Pitbull) ————————-——-Battlemaster
Greg (Fixer)——————————-Flashman
Ralph (Wraith)—————————Wolverine
Jay (Advocate)—————————Thug
Ken (Templar) -————————— Ostsol
Scott (Moxie) -————————— (Science Lab)

January 20th, 3021 : After battle on the plains of Tether, System – Rolling Thunder.

The turrets on the base’s pylons stopped firing as soon as the Mechs surrendered, and all went silent within the facility. The unit knew there was a full platoon of marines and about two dozen techs in the place, and they were doubtless fortifying their position.

Discussions ensued regarding how to proceed, and since the unit had time before their marines needed to deploy, they waited. Eventually, Captain Erika Hartmann “Glamour” broke the silence, and demanded that her possession of one of the San’Grael (believed to be the watch from early in their careers) makes her one of The Starlords – “The Brotherhood”. When queried who she had stolen her token, she responded “Starlord Zane”. Silence.

Five minutes passed. Then ten. Then came the response; “You have assaulted a neutral facility owned by the Haven Consortium. This is an act of war against all the Starlords.”

“Fine”, she responded.

The unit gathered their marine squads, calling in both those waiting aboard the unit’s Orkan-Class Space Planes in orbit, choosing to land them at the base’s own shuttle strip, and called in the “Star Talon” with its complement of marines. They quickly deployed, with their key units from Shiv’s Talons in their heavy combat armor, the Iron DIngoes “Warlord Mk2” Field Kits, taking the front assault positions towards the bay. The rest accessed the various personal access doors, and breached the airlocks quickly, assaulting directly into the lower engineering bays. In an overwhelming display of force, the unit took very few casualties, and within ten minutes had the entire base under their control, and a squad of marine survivors along with most of the techs. The base was theirs.

The prisoners were interrogated in the base itself, and placed under heavy guard. The survivors of the Fold Fiends were quickly leashed, while the unit’s salvage squads took their time scrapping the facility, and salvaging the Mechs from the field. The unit suddenly saw the incorporation of the Fold Fiends as a possible third combined-arms battalion…

As the days progressed, it became apparent that all the formal Marshals from the marines were unapproachable. A discussion made them all agree to leave them behind. Among the techs, some of the refinery staff were formerly civilians and four were hired for a position aboard the unit’s The Factory – BioDiesel Refinery, while two of the regular Kindred were determined to be former civilian techs and not too dangerous to hire. The rest were to be abandoned wiht the Marshals.

Among the base’s salvaged bits, the unit took all its “Mech Bays”, stripped the turrets, and found a large collection of various trade goods that made their way into * “The Scrapyard”. They all seemed to be made by various companies under the monniker of the Haven Consortium. Finally, large supplies of spare parts were salvaged for their own refinery, and the remainder of the facility was sabotaged for what was to come. The Fold Fiends Mechs were packed aboard the “Dingoes’ Den” as cargo.

February 2nd, 3021 : After a long recharge time, and hard work, the unit’s DropShips left the asteroid Tether, and moved back to their JumpShip fleet. They prepared everything for a jump, and sent “The Iron Vagabond” and “The Den Mother” off ahead back to System – Dumassas with all their DropShips, while “The Freedom of the Stars” remained behind for a little experiment, with most of the command staff present.

The unit had decided, very covertly, to test their AR-10 Launcher. They placed Engineer Tia Sprang in her position as command on the weapon system, and placing the target of the refinery base on Tether as their target. With all its Marshals and Kindred deemed dangerous as victims. She launched a Barracuda and it quickly closed with the facility, and struck dead center. After the initial explosion, a series of rippling explosions expanded through the refinery, and out into the large storage tanks buried around the facility, resulting in secondary explosions that proceeded to tear the asteroid into two pieces and dust. Tether had just been un-tethered… As the dust expanded, the unit jumped away, back to Dumassas, clapping each other on their backs. Some however, seemed horrified by the level of destruction… The unit collectively decided to start calling their torpedoes, “Coffins”. Somewhat apt.

Back in System – Dumassas, the unit decided to rotate their crews through their landhold, “The Factory”, and transferred personnel, parts and supplies appropriately. The unit examined their possible recruitment efforts having been gathered on the planet of Terramatrix and at the station itself. It seemed, the station was attracting local attention as a gathering point for mercs. The unit managed to get a pair of crews with hover tanks, and some Mech pilots and pilots with their own Mechs to fill the rosters of their new unit, * The Fold Fiends, and formally assigned them to The Factory as a defensive force, while they started to work together and build their esprite de corps. NUmerous infantry units were placed into training units in * “The Cerberus Command” as Militia.

During the week, Major Kanto Jokukad “Pitbull” started looking over his maps and consulting with the navigational maps aboard “The Iron Vagabond”, and comparing them with his own collection. He came to the conclusion, that two navigational points were available on the Iron Vagabond, to two unknown systems; Lorkdahl and Badlands. Pitbull’s own knowledge of the region and SLDF history, let him know both of these systems were lost colonies from the Taurian Concordat, and rumored to have been thorns in the side of the SLDF throughout its occupation of the Periphery.

Other news, included the rumors that House Steiner had offered an olive branch to all the other Houses of the Inner Sphere. If accepted, this could spell the whimpering end of the Third Succession War! The news brought a wave of fear among citizens of the system, since they felt it might mean House Davion pointing its intersts back into the Periphery, once more…

Trooper Pol Baca “Templar” threw a party for the techs that designed the Warlord Mark 2 combat armor, to thank them for their year of hard work.

The unit also found Senior Tech April O’Neil aboard The Factory, doing a documentary called , “My Life as a Merc”, following the untis; various techs and troopers about, and watching their lives unfold. She claimed to be doing it from the proceeds of her research project for Karl Lotjonen, but she also mentioned she saw a market back on System – Heroditus

As the week drew to a close, they were contacted by an _ Apprentice Synod, Garth Ammon_, of System – Gollere. He had come to Dumassas seeking a mercenary company of MEchs, to deal with an issue on his homeworld. Intrigued, and needing something to do before they trekked back across the Periphery on a LosTech hunt, he offered a three month Combat Campaign contract, to hunt and eliminate a group of “…large, man-sized Mechs …” that were raiding and eliminating various communities in his home province, the Barony of Horm. Negotiations ensued, and they nearly lost on Full Salvage_, but were able to get it i n exchange for reduced supply options. The _Content Not Found: contract-steampunk-shuffle was created and signed, though the unit discovered something else new… they had a Comstar adept on the station, who had just opened an office…

The unit made final preparations, taking their time, as they had some weeks to get their personal matters in order before they made the trip one system over… to deal with battle armor… preparing their jump for the 16th of February.

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Episode 61 - Rolling Thunder

“Times of great calamity and confusion have been productive for the greatest minds. The purest ore is produced from the hottest furnace. The brightest thunder-bolt is elicited from the darkest storm.”

Roll Call————————————-Mechs

Dale (Paladin)—————————Battlemaster
Bruce (Glamour)————————Phoenix Hawk LAM
JP (Pitbull) ————————-——-Battlemaster
Greg (Fixer)——————————-Flashman
Ralph (Wraith)—————————Wolverine
Jay (Advocate)—————————Thug
Ken (Chewie) -————————— Ostsol
Keith (-) -———————————- Condor Heavy Hover Tank
Scott (Moxie) -————————— (Science Lab)

January 3rd, 3021 : Having waited for their JumpShips to recharge, the unit gathered from an extended R&R among the debaucheries of System – Tequila Beach. Last minute, supply acquired a large collection of Endo Steel, and verified numerous modifications to unit Mechs, and then bundled everything together for jump out-system.

January 4th, 3021 : Jumping into the border world of System – Armington, the unit registered themselves again as leaving Davion space, and deployed their sails for recharge operations. An uneventful week passed, and the unit made the final jump out-system.

January 11th, 3021 : The jump into System – Dumassas proved a happy reunion; the entire unit was back together for the first time in over a year! “The Iron Vagabond” and “The Freedom of the Stars” were in-system, and * “The Dead Man’s Hand” were deployed in the Sangrian capital at the start of their contract. The unit had sent ahead their contract income for the last contract, plus the deposit for the new one to the unit on a shuttle.

Over the next week, the unit took an assessment of its status, and transferred troops and personnel between ships as needed. They gave Lord (LtSG) Henry Fitzroy the mandate to conduct recruitment operations from the locals, especially since they had proven very popular with the local government, having done numerous contracts over many years. In some ways, Dumassas was almost another home to many in the unit now.

January 20th, 3021 : It was also decided that the unit follow-up on the Jumpkeys they found, particularly the one leading to System – Rolling Thunder. Leaving their landhold “The Factory” behind, the unit packed everything aboard their JumpShips, and made the jump using the Jumpkey. Immediately, there was a problem. The pilots aboard the Iron Vagabond noticed something was odd with the jump, and then the maneuver drives kicked-in. The JumpShips each re-positioned themselves, something that none of the navigators had ever seen happen, followed by tense waiting as the ships made their jump bubbles, and then, in the seconds for the Jump transition to occur, the ship’s jumped…

Rolling Thunder was a radiation-laden system, dominated by its brown dwarf “star”, and the large ice asteroid later identified as “Tether”, located about a half-an-hour’s flight away. The station-keeping drives cut -out, and once sensors were clear, the unit did a long-range scan over the asteroid, hoping for comms or something substantial, but found nothing. in-system static was extensive, clouding most anything. The unit deployed their Line Command and Line Interceptor AeroSpace lances, who did a close scouting fly-by of the asteroid. Captain Erika Hartmann “Glamour” activated her recently installed 3D-topographic mapping system, and while conducting their flight, discovered an anomaly. Some sort of station was on the planetoid’s surface, surrounded by rubble and extensive mining efforts. The unit returned back to their fleet, and brought their map with them.

The unit examined the map, and decided to take the “Brush Wolf” down to the planet’s surface, some distance away from the base. They would send the slower “Grounders” and “Paladin’s Own” would make their way through the heavily mined canyons, and thus approach the base relatively closely, though unnoticed, while the “Scrum” lance would approach directly some minutes behind, and act as a lure for any garrison forces that might be present. Glamour would follow along as flanking support about a minute behind the Scrum lance in her LAM.

photo_1.JPG

The unit landed under fighter escort, and moved into position without incident. When the Scrum lance appeared on the edge of the clear area “south” of the base, a lance of Mechs moved out of the main loading ramp, and the Archer was sniped at (successfully) by MechWarrior Evan Lars “Caboose”.

The positions of the former drives went active, revealing themselves as turrets, equipped with LRMs and SRMs. Scattered fire began, with the hidden units revealing themselves, and Trooper Pol Baca “Templar” taking a shot and getting a lucky hit into the Blackjack’s CT, blowing its ammo and splitting the Mech right in two.

Now almost a minute into the fight, things took a serious turn (known as the “Blood Bowl” round). Major Kanto Jokukad “Pitbull” squared off against the first Thunderbolt, cracking its internal structure and flooding the central fusion reactor. This immediately over-heated the Mech, forcing it to shut-down, while MechWarrior Jessica Burlingame “Slayer” hit it with a lucky head shot, cracking its armor, destroying its life support and killing the pilot. Captain Mitchell Kitsune “Wraith” and MechWarrior Robert Stuart “Prince” double-timed the exposed Archer, doing extensive damage, including several breeches in its armor on the left leg, left torso, and both right and left arms, damaging all its lasers and leaving it with a single LRM for combat. It shut-down and surrendered. Finally, combined fire from the unit also forced the first Griffin to fall over, almost destroying its left leg, causing numerous criticals and forcing it to shut-down and surrender. The unit, however, took very little serious damage, and continued forward.

photo_2.JPG

The garrison down to eight Mechs, started to “turtle”, moving back-to-back and pulling into what little defenses they could salvage around the base. The bulk of the heavy Mechs from the unit were in peak range, and opened into the massed group. MechWarrior Jessica Burlingame “Slayer” got another lucky shot inot the otherwise virtually untouched JagerMech, breaking its head armor and killing the pilot. Pitbull both breached the right torso armor on the Catapult, and head shot the Mech, killing the pilot. Lastly, among the scattered fire going both directions, Prince managed to pierce the Crusader among the volleys that struck it from the rest of the unit, piercing its left torso, and igniting the ammo bins, destroying the Mech in a rippling series of ammo explosions throughout the Mech. The Enforcer also took a lucky hit that cracked its internal structure, over-heating the fusion drive and forcing it into over-heating.

Down to only a handful of Mechs, the leader, one “Jolly” Roger Galligan of the Fold Fiends mercenary company offered their surrender and asked for the honors of war. There was much discussion in the ranks regarding this, but the unit accepted their surrender, accepting all salvageable “dead” Mechs (a Thunderbolt, a JagerMech, a Catapult, and a destroyed Crusader and a shattered Blackjack ) as war salvage. The merc group proved to be a ragged group of rogues and borderline pirates, who lived through plunder and salvage, now selling their services as a garrison for this isolated facility. Perhaps most telling, he promised to present a legitimate contract signed with Comstar as a signator…

Galligan informed the unit there was a platoon of marines aboard the station, along with a handful of techs, all beholden to an organization known as “The Haven Consortium”, though some might refer to it as The Starlords – “The Brotherhood”. He called it a conglomerate of worlds and corporations based from System – Pirate’s Haven Star Cluster, with a formal military and definitively unique culture.

Discussion began regarding the capture of the base and its refinery, as well as its techs and whatever else might bring them help in making the next step…

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Episode 60 - Tequila Beach
"Life gives you lemons, you reach for the tequila."

“Life gives you lemons, you reach for the tequila.”

Roll Call————————————-Mechs

Dale (Paladin)—————————Battlemaster
Bruce (Glamour)————————Stinger LAM
JP (Pitbull) ————————=——-Ostsol
Greg (Fixer)——————————-Flashman
Ralph (Wraith)—————————Wolverine
Jay (Advocate)—————————Thug
Ken (Chewie) -————————— Ostsol
Keith (-) -———————————- Condor Heavy Hover Tank
Scott (-) -——————————— (-)

December 15th, 3020 : The unit sold-off the surplus Combat Armor and salvaged scrap metals taken from the ancient hulk of the Jumbo-Class DropShip “Tentative”. The remainder was folded into the unit’s supplies as consumables or items of potential other uses and value.

The unit also spent some time itemizing their research into the old journal they had detailing the “San’Grael” (Episode 11 – Shipboard Life). They concluded that the maps and journals seemed to follow a trail of caches established by the 689th Engineering Corps along the Periphery edge of the Inner Sphere. It seemed he was headed for at lest one more somewhere between Cavion and Marik space….

December 16th, 3020 : After a couple days of down-time, Captain Frank Elgyn contacted the command council, informing them they could buy a Jumpkeys leading to System – Tequila Beach, though it would cost 500,000 Cs. They agreed, handed over the cash, and took possession of the Jumpkey they needed. They also asked if the contact could translate the locations for the unit’s other Jumpkeys, but asking 500,000 Cs for the lot was a little steep, and they refused to accept it, planning to look elsewhere.

December 19th, 3020 : Spending a couple more days rotating crew through the station for some R&R, they packed the fleet and gathered on their JumpShips. They inserted the Jumpkey, and cycled comms through both “The Bloody Paw” and “The Den Mother”, and prepped for the jump.

System – Tequila Beach proved to be a milky-white “light” nebulae, a shard of free plasma and latent radiation that allowed a very slow charge (14.85 days) of jumpdrives via jumpsails. Located deep in dead space somewhere between System – Malagrotta and Vackisujfalu, near the Periphery border with Systems Constellation – “The Hyades March”.

After several moments of tense radio static, came a broad-band comms signal :

“Attention incoming vessels. You have entered a restricted area. You will broadcast your electronic and visual identification and statement of intent on frequency 934A-3B. Please maintain your present position until further notification. You are being tracked by our main batteries.”

After a brief exchange, the fleet received docking instructions and a course to follow to the station. Eventually, the fleet headed in that direction, and moving through the blinding light of the nebulae, eventually saw the large armored habitat that was Tequilla Beach, surrounded by a swarm of shuttles and various JumpShips.

Identifying themselves as * “The Iron Dingoes”, they looked over the required protocols for customs, and then carefully decided what they were going to sell at the station markets. They all piled aboard a shuttle, and headed into the station. Customs were quickly passed through, and they scheduled the trans-shipment of their “Nerve Gas” SRMs taken off “The Tentative”. Customs informed them they needed to speak with The Cardinal himself, and were invited to dinner in a day’s time… They quickly headed into the market decks and split into groups looking for whatever they could find.

Among the various stuff they found, Colonel Michael Ruxbondy “Paladin” found a Spider Mech, spending an hour staring at it and its stats. He missed his first mistress… Trooper Evan Lars “Caboose” easily found a Phoenix Hawk, but closer inspection revealed it seemed heavy for its weight class…. It was a PHX-HK2 Phoenix Hawk LAM! Contacting Captain Erika Hartmann “Glamour”, who immediately salivated and marked it as her own, begging the unit to buy it… which they did for a flat 8,000,000 Cs cash. They also found a couple Partisan Heavy Tanks, though the seller demanded 4,000,000 Cs for each of them. They did not buy those.

December 20th, 3020 : After more browsing, the unit arrived at the personal quarters of the Cardinal, which included a small personal gravity deck. They encountered his personal body guard, Hella Brun, a tall woman with sharp features who had been his guard for over two decades. Passing into the elite quarters, located on a boom off the main station, they were impressed by its simple opulence. Eventually they were seated, and met The Cardinal himself, a tremendously old man stooped in a hoverchair, essentially a mass of wrinkles topped with a shock of snow-white hair. He was dressed in an archaic style of robes, but very tasteful.

After small talk, the conversation got around to what, exactly, the unit was doing at his station. After assuring The Cardinal their intent was only to acquire a few things, sell a few things and maybe find some information. They related the origins of the unit’s discoveries while in Marik space, including the mystery surrounding the ancient watch they’d recovered. After explaining some of the incidents around its acquisition, they finally mentioned it might be connected to The Starlords – “The Brotherhood”. He agreed, it was likely one of the “Pieces of Eight”, their lost San’Grael, which ownership presented the unit with a problem. While it might be acknowledged by the other Starlords as legitimate (and only they would know for certain), it could only be possessed by a single person, and that person could only try to carve concessions from the others regarding space or territory. What the unit would do with such an item remained unknown. He also hinted to Glamour that she should investigate “…some Trifles down at the flower markets…”.

Over the next two weeks, the unit waited and killed time shopping and moving about on the station, giving the crews and troops some more down-time. They searched out some scientific equipment (expensive!), and various other pet projects, but nothing of exceptional note. Major Kanto Jokukad “Pitbull” did some serious research into Star League caches, identifying that the potential cache Brigadier Zane might have been aiming for was a border world along the Liao-Davion border. He narrowed it to either Jaipur, Midale, or Robsart, all of which were important sites for Castle’s Brian and independent garrisons of the Star League military.

The group also spent some distasteful time on Level 12, among the slave markets. In particular, Pitbull went hunting for someone with comms experience, who had a background in Comstar, and who might know something about HPGs. He managed to buy a beaten young woman, Tech Jeyne Tull, with an eye towards getting their pair of HPGs operational once more.Trooper Pol Baca took a personal interest in her well-being, and began spending time with her whenever possible. Chewie also spent time combing the salve deck, looking for likely “good-hearted” individuals that needed saving, and wound-up buying seven commoners, spending effort and money to bring them aboard the fleet as future personnel. Lastly, in addition to a dozen new “black boxes” for Mech stealing, Pitbull discovered that the watch fob from the “San’Grael” s being a pornographic picture of Katrina Steiner, from when she was young and a mechjock with no intention of ever becoming the Archon of House Steiner. It was definitely not worth a pitiful 100 Cs…

Searching for a Beagle Active Probe to replace the one lost on Pitbull’s Mech, they found a battered unit for 400,000 Cs. They also visited Sprang’s, asking him to identify the Jumpkeys they had taken back in System – Malagrotta, for a cheap 50,000 Cs. They proved to include five to “black” worlds no longer considered habitable, but one was a pirate point on New Avalon, and another was for New Syrtis. Three of them were for separate pirate points in Flannagan’s Nebula, the star cluster that surrounded System – Taurus.

The last one, however, caught his eye. He mentioned it as a “black world”, except if you looked on a star chart, it led to nowhere. The co-ordinates were for a system located one jump away from System – Dumassas, System – Pirate’s Haven Star Cluster, and System – Armington. It was, however, Dead Space, a region with no listed system on any known maps…

For an additional 50,000 Cs, Sprang sold the unit a blueprint of a Seeker-Class DropShip he once worked on. He admitted it might not be one-hundred percent accurate, but it was a good starting point for the group to begin scouring the “Dingoes’ Den” for the mysterious hidden areas they suspected were somewhere within its hull…

They asked him about naval weaponry, and in particular, if he’d ever worked on Colonel “White Death”‘s shipos, The Black Star and The Sable Countess. He agreed on one condition; he wanted to get his grand-daughter Engineer Tia Sprang off the station and into somewhere that she might be able to actually have a life. He agreed that if anyone knew anything about naval weapon’s systems it was she who could figure things out. Assured they would find a home for her, he spilled that, yes, White came to him on occasion for repairs and maintenance on both ships, but that he was bound to give no other information regarding a client. Still, it assured the group that Colonel White indeed had a pair of Tracker-Class WarShips, fully capable of causing major destruction…

It was agreed, that once the fleet was charged (around the 4th of January), they would head back to Dumassas and then jump to wherever Rolling Thunder might be…

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Episode 59 - Ghost Ship

“I do know one thing. I’ve seen strange things happen in Dead Space. But I know something else. Space gives you an opportunity you take it.”

Roll Call————————————-Mechs

Dale (Paladin)—————————Battlemaster
Bruce (Glamour)————————Stinger LAM
JP (Pitbull) ——————————-Ostsol
Greg (Fixer)——————————-Ostroc
Ralph (Wraith)—————————Wolverine
Jay (Advocate)—————————Thug
Ken (Chewie) -————————— Ostsol
Keith (-) -———————————- Condor Heavy Hover Tank

“I do know one thing. I’ve seen strange things happen in Dead Space. But I know something else. Space gives you an opportunity you take it.”

Prior to leaving the system, LtSG Massimo De Luca “Advocate” paid-out four months salary to the unit before everyone headed off to some R&R and scattered on their journey. Also, they began modifying the unit’s spare Condor Heavy Hover Tank from the Scrapyard for their newest crew. They stripped out the AC/5s and gave it LRMs and Flamers with heat sinks.

Eventually, the unit prepped their JumpShips and left the system.

November 18th, 3020 : System – Armington : In Armington they encountered the first recharge station they’d seen in almost three years. A quiet system, they were immediately hailed by the station control, asking for identification and purpose.

The unit ID as * “The Iron Dingoes” was swiftly acknowledged, though their status was woefully out of date (last registered back on Joshua’s Station above System – Taurus ). The unit requested a recharge using their sails, and acknowledged they were looking for contracts, promising to send an updated TO&E in a day or so. Requests were granted, as well as leave for a “resupply trip” to System – Malagrotta.

Contracts were relayed back to the unit in a couple days, offering two regional Cadre contracts with planetary militia, and one “Territorial Campaign” (Riot Duty) in nearby System – Csomad. A quick discussion let them to deny all three options, and they quietly passed time before jumping back out to their next stop.

November 26th, 3020 : System – Csomad : Csomad proved a little more lively, with warnings coming from the Nadir station about a local “Amber” alert on the inhabited planet. A couple transports jumped in-system, but a little over a week later, they jumped out-system.

December 3rd, 3020 : System – Malagrotta : The fleet declared their status and writ of passage, deployed their sails and spent a day readying for travel, and looking through the heavy local jumpship traffic. Trooper Pol Baca “Templar” identified the Monolith-Class JumpShip off to one side as the one formerly stationed in System – Outpost, looking like it was loading suppl;es for some military-related purpose.

A quick council meeting resulted in a discussion regarding contacting their old ally Karl Lotjonen. regarding possibly acquiring Seeker-Class DropShip BPOs. Funds were set aside for a priority message through to Joshua’s Station, and plans made to contact him.

The unit then undocked the “Star Talon” along with their pair of EGL-R6 Eagles as a slow escort, and burned the couple of days (2.67 days) to the moonlet Fontana, ostensibly on a supply mission.

December 6th, 3020 : The trip to Fontana was uneventful, though their AeroFighters were in desperate need of fuel, and docking was acquired for both Fighters and the DropShip at the starport. Fontana proved to be a combination starport/capital city/mining support city and proved to be very modern in its offerings for entertainment and services. Access was only via monorail service through the various city locations, but swift and efficient. They also learned that in order to make contact with local businesses, a special (rather simple pre-paid burners) radio com-link system was required, so several units were purchased and distributed to the group. Chewie took an especial interest in the devices, planning on spending a day or two tearing one apart to see how it was made, and bought a couple for himself.

The group split-up on various private missions. Colonel Michael Ruxbondy “Paladin” took his personal assistant and went looking for upgrades to the office suite aboard their private DropShip, the “Brush Wolf”, spending 10,000 Cs on a new council meeting room and its furnishings, followed by a nice, expensive dinner with Tech Rima Fakih.

Captain Mitchell Kitsune “Wraith”, Lieutenant SG Michael Anderson “Fixer” and MechWarrior Evan Lars “Caboose” went to the local HPG station to send the priority message to Lotjonen, and then spent the rest of the time looking for a discount gun shop, finding one offering slightly used merchandise (80% off!) of a large variety of guns. Wraith picked-up an advanced laser rifle for his protege’ Scout Abigail Breslin “Winter”, followed by a night at a dive bar and greasy, oh-so-greasy food.

LtSG Massimo De Luca “Advocate” and Captain Erika Hartmann “Glamour” went shopping for new AeroFighters and Tanks for the unit’s inventories, and quickly managed to locate a pair of EGL-R6 Eagles @ 3,200,000 Cs each, a pair of SL-17 Shilones @ 2,720,000 Cs each, and a lone TR-7 Thrush @ 1,090,000 Cs. All in relatively good shape (though located elsewhere in the system), they got permission to purchase all five vessels, and organized shipping to arrive at Fontana in five days. They also found three Saracen Tanks, but declined their purchase, but jumped on three Partisan Heavy Tanks they found for sale (one was in poor condition, but overall they were cheap at 4,500,000 Cs for the lot). They also arranged for these vehicle’s purchase and delivery at Fontana. The rest of the night was a wine and dine event.

Major Kanto Jokukad “Pitbull” and Trooper Pol Baca “Templar” went “streetwising”, looking for rumors about lost treasure and other Star League LosTech. Using contacts from the unit’s recently hired “retired” Davion sergeants. Eventually, they met with an old technician in a dive bar, who regaled them with the legend of The New Karachi; a reputed “Ghost Ship”…

“It turns out that during the Malagrotta Affair, everyone always talks about the captured vessels, but few talk about the _*”TCS New Karachi"*_, a Pinto-Class Warship that was reportedly captured. A Corvette, a small escort vessel, the ship had a single DropShip, a Jumbo-Class DropShip, known as “The Tentative”. It was reputedly destroyed, but the New Karachi and its cargo had been making fast for an escape vector when encountered, for Fontana’s LGrange-4 pirate jumppoint. Why? Good question.

“Seems people never really talk about the “Why?” of the Taurian Battle Fleet’s presence in Malagrotta. They claimed a mis-jump and repair time spent in orbit, but entire fleets don’t mis-jump. No, I suggest they were planning on the coming conflict and were in-system to stockpile weapons and munitions for the inevitable war that was just around the corner. When Davion called their bluff, and dropped a war fleet in their lap, they made a fight of it, but were surprised during loading operations, and overwhelmed by a force three or four times their size. The outcome was never in question."

“But the ‘Tentative’, now, that was another story. Whatever she had in her holds was dangerous enough they risked the debris fields of _The Drift_, to attempt an escape. If they’d made it inside that debris field, a mass of ice, battle damaged ships and other waste that collects in the trailing LaGrange point of a mining moon, well, they’d have gotten away. Unfortunately for them, the TCS New Karachi never made it. But then again, I’ve studied the reports, and though there has never been a confirmed kill on the DropShip, they wrote the DropShip and its contents off as destroyed. I tell ya’, she’s still in that field, and whatever she had is still on board…”

That was all the convincing they needed. Pitbull and Chewie both returned and informed the group of their findings… Looked like it was time to find this Ghost Ship

December 8th, 3020 : After a day’s R&R, the group made plans for their trip to the L-4, “The Drift”. Chewie accessed the local network, and found The Drfit was a common site for salvagers, bandits and worse, all looking through the debris for something someone else might have missed. Recent news articles hinted at the recent loss of a military patrol, and a science shuttle near The Drift

The unit then cautiously travelled out the handful of hours to the L-4, with both Eagles in tow as escorts. Several hours later, the group approached the debris field, and it proved both hazardous and unpredictable. Pieces of old shuttles, DropShips and mining debris, ranging in size from small loose screws to hull slabs, mangled and trailing their own debris, along with the fog of ice particles and small chunks of frozen water were everywhere. Moving intentionally into the field proved anything they might find, would not be via radar, motion detectors, with even optics being obscured. It took guts and skill to gamble entering the debris, but both AeroFighter pilots and Commander Andre Wallingsford did so, taking very little damage.

After several hours of searching, the unit realized why such a find must have remained undiscovered for so long… it was nearly impossible to just search for something like that. They decided to release the AeroFighters back to Fontana, and called in “Dingoes’ Den” as a support vessel for the hopefully eventual salvage work, and to provide refueling for the AeroFighters. That meant that there was still nearly three days, however, before they would arrive… The group drifted deeper into the field, and started passive scans, discussing options.

December 9th, 3020 : The unit decided on following a basic grid pattern, breaking teh field into sectors, but examined the sectors, looking for difficulty factors. They realized that there were some sectors that were far more dangerous and likely avoided by casual salvagers, and decided to concentrate on “…the weird-ass most difficult locations…” Almost immediately, they get a massive hit. Success on the first try!

The “Tentative” was in the thickest part of the Drift, and proved massive; a Jumbo-Class DropShip. It showed some damage, mostly confined to its undercarriage, and it had its engines shot fairly to pieces. It would not be salvagable without something to haul it away. There were no lights or EM readings, though thermals identified low readings from the engineering sections. They also recognized that the engines had been covered with “racking” of some sort; possibly exterior docking bays for small craft, numbering four in total, each with a rudimentary docking collar and pressure sealed airlock.

Boarding procedures were discussed, and the two “training” marine platoons (8th and 9th), and the two Militia platoons (7th and 10th) from * “The Cerberus Command”, the latter equipped with C80 Combat Environment Suits were readied for boarding, led by several members of the command staff (notably Wraith and Pitbull). Once the troops were aboard, the DropShip would depart to a safe distance away. Paladin verified his plans, and the ship moved to dock.

The Star Talon rapidly docked and using its integral boarding locks, cut through the hull into engineering, and troops quickly swarmed into the ship, taking engineering and fanning-out across the cargo decks and into the crew decks. Initially more difficult than expected, the group quickly filed more and more troops in, eventually outnumbering the defending pirates hiding aboard by nearly 4-to-1. After nearly an hour of tough boarding action, the ship fell to Iron Dingoes marines.

Roughly a squad of pirates were captured alive, but injured, and another squad surrendered. Forces swept through the decks, taking a quick examination of valuables and equipment, discovering the ship had indeed been converted into a base for pirate raiding, with booty and tons of ancient Taurian combat armor and weapons discovered in the cargo areas. The main hangar busy were active, but empty. The bridge revealed that there was an active raid in progress, but all ship’s logs were written in code. In the crew quarters, they recovered a pair of scientists, and a Davion patrol pilot, who knew very little of value.

The unit tossed all the prisoners into the Star Talon’s brig and medical centers, along with their own wounded. Pitbull, Advocate and Chewie started interrogating the prisoners, and though difficult, after an hour they were able to piece together that the pirates were off on a raid. Several hours passed while the codes were cracked,, with Paladin deciphering them as tracking heat blooms near the debris field, coupled with low-frequency comm signals to choose targets to raid. When asked, the pirates revealed they had sent four more squads on-board a pair of typical KR-61 Class Long-Range Shuttles converted over to boarding actions. They also had a pair of older GTHA-500 Gothas to act as escorts.

It was quickly decided to leave the bulk of the uninjured marines behind to ambush the pirates when they land back at the ship, placing a pair of regular marine squads in each hangar bay, along with a pair of reserve militia, and placing a single marine squad with a militia squad and some leadership to capture any pilots who come through the engineering airlocks. The main hull breach was hastily repaired, and the Star Talon undocked, and moved a short distance away, dropped into an “idle” mode, and prepared to reconnect when the time came.

December 10th, 3020 : Early in the morning, the raiders returned, dragging two heavily damaged LR Shuttles along with them; a fighter and shuttle docked in each bay, and the two captured shuttles docked near engineering in the cradles. The ambush in one docking bay was difficult, but swift, while the other was an over-whelming success, capturing an entire squad with no problems.. In engineering, both pilots surrendered without a fight. The Star Talon re-connected, and the prisoners were transferred into the, now bursting prison. The ship/station secured, they swept through the base with careful progression, awaiting the arrival of the Dingoes Den and the salvagers.

December 12th, 3020 : The Dingoes Den arrived, and the ship’s stores, supplies and cargo were stripped. All shuttles were loaded aboard the Den as cargo, and the two Gothas were given temporary pilots for the trip back to the fleet.

Supplies captured included :

Crew Quarters – 500 Auto-Pistols, 500 Assault Rifles, 2000 Clips Ammo for each (4000 total), 2000 Sets of Taurian Concordat Combat Armor. 15 tons of nutrient powder (3000Cs each).

Upper Cargo Bay – 30 tons SRM ammo, 10 tons SRM “Inferno” ammo, 10 tons of SRM “Nerve Gas” ammo. Twenty tons of AER-9 Laser Rifles (80 per : 100,000 Cs each). 5 tons of AEP-7 Laser Pistols (130 per : 100,000 Cs each). Collection of textiles (20 tons : 9000 Cs per). 20-75 liter plastic barrels of nutrient powder (1.5 tons : 3000 Cs each). Large cache of industrial chemicals and solvents (10 tons : 50,000 Cs per). 160-500 liter plastic tanks of Water : (250 Cs each : 500 Cs per).

Lower Cargo Bay – Remnants of countless AeroFighters and shuttles, resembling an elephant’s graveyard. Industrial Metal Compactor (2 tons : 50,000 Cs). 18 tons of various armor fragments.

Engineering Bays – Collection of various ship’s tools. Handful of Engineering Exo-Suits.

Captured Shuttles : 16 tons of S4DPs by Rim AeroSpace : (5000Cs per).

December 13th, 3020 : Booty packed, the unit left the hulk of the “Tentative” behind in the debris field, burning quickly for Fontana. The unit then set about packing their recently delivered AeroFighters and tanks aboard “Betty”, and waited for word from Captain Frank Elgyn regarding his contact…

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Episode 58 - Leaving Paradise

“I wanted to do my part to help preserve that golden age of travel… I step aboard The Patron Tequila Express railcar, and I go back in time to the days when a long journey was something fun and very special.”

Roll Call————————————-Mechs

Dale (Paladin)—————————Battlemaster
Bruce (Glamour)————————Stinger LAM
JP (Pitbull) ——————————-Ostsol
Greg (Fixer)——————————-Ostroc
Ralph (Wraith)—————————Wolverine
Jay (Advocate)—————————Thug
Ken (Chewie) -————————— Ostsol
Keith (-) -———————————- (-)
Scott (-) -———————————- (-)

October 2nd, 3020 : The day following the attack, medical teams were busy trying to save as many lives as they could, and were brought in from all supporting DropShips, while emergency cases were shipped out. Hard work paid-off, saving most of the security troops and many of the techs, though there were losses. The tech squads took it the worst.

The interrogation of the handful of attackers who surrendered revealed them to be mostly hard-luck mercs and desperate miners. The majority were separated into pairs and thrown into the Militia. x – Commander Freyr Rogan (Deseased) was also interrogated, roving to be bold, brassy and arrogant man, who quietly threatened everyone with an unexpected and sudden death. He quietly hinted that Excalibur Corporation was interested in his activities, and that the corporation would soon be paying them a visit. He was secured aboard the “Star Talon”, while everyone pondered what to do with him.

“Victory’s Blood” and “Silverlight” were dispatched to the Zenith Jump-Point to take their arranged commercial transport out-system, and “Betty” was given leave to rendezvous in System – Dumassas at its best possible speed.

Oct 4th, 3020 : Word came from Senior Tech Fernando Botero on Rockport Habitat that the President of the system government, President Murgon Astrofalk, was deathly ill, and that there were rumbles among the local industrialists that hinted at a political shift. It was decided to pull in all the unit’s assets, before things got hotter. A KR-61 Class Long-Range Shuttle was dispatched at double-burn to pick the Field Intel up for an evacuation ASAP.

Oct 6th, 3020 : An official announcement came of the president’s death, followed later that day with an announcement by Excalibur as representatives of the new Cassandra Industrial Alliance :

“Be it known that, with immediate effect, Excalibur Corporation, proud partner of the Cassandra Industrial Alliance, considers the Free Radicals of the Cassandra Belt to be open territory for exploitation and gain. With the death of our most august leader, President Murgon Astrofalk, certain statutes are now considered void: this includes the edicts that had secured the Free Radicals as purely independent territory. They are now considered, by the Cassandra Industrial Alliance, to be free markets open to any and all interests.”

“As the principal mining conglomerate at work in the Cassandra Belt, Excalibur Industries intends to take full opportunity of the commodities the Free Radicals have to offer. It wishes to share this with the independent prospectors and free companies who work the Radicals, but hereby makes it known that retaliation or hostile action leveled against Excalibur installations and/or employees will be met with appropriate force.”

“Those who wish to become partners in the Cassandra Industrial Alliance will find themselves beneficially placed within this new order. The Cassandra Belt is large enough to accommodate all interests. The Cassandra Industrial Alliance does not seek hostility, but peaceful co-existence.”

The message was obviously a gauntlet. The new Alliance was a combination of the primary corporate industrialists in the system. The organization included a navy capable of enforcing its presence in the Free Radicals. War was coming to the system.

Oct 7th, 3020 : Hours into the new day, the system government at Rockport made its response known, with a united front by various habitats in the Free Radicals. They supported the old regime, and denied the Alliance’s claims to revocation of their former rights. Clear Habitat, Vineyard Habitat and Rockport all took the lead. They declared any incursions by the so-called Alliance would be viewed as an act of war. Sabres were rattling everywhere.

Later that day, the injured from the station attack began to filter back on-duty aboard “The Factory”, with security forces taking over from Dingoes troopers, and many of the unit’s recently hired techs taking positions in the engineering staff of the station. To forstall further conflict and efforts to infiltrate the station, the unit transferred its two new platoons of marines to continue their training, while covering the unit’s endangered assets.

Finally, the unit jumped its hidden pair of JumpShips within sight of the station, having carefully calculated the required physics for the jump over the long weeks of waiting. The unit ensured all off-duty personnel possible were rotated aboard the station for R&R, but stepped-up patrols with their handful of AeroFighters, and activated all long-range sensors.

Oct 9th, 3020 : The station’s techs reported the station’s drives were operable, and ready to move the station. Work began on separating the boom from the asteroid, and having it undergo maintenance.

Oct 12th, 3020 : Captain Vesna Clamp contacted the unit, and offered to bring information. He was granted access to the station’s docking bay, and met at the docking collar by Colonel Michael Ruxbondy “Paladin”, Major Kanto Jokukad “Pitbull” and LtSG Massimo De Luca “Advocate”, the latter two having met him previously during the “Signing Authority” incident.

He had been working claims beacons in the fringes, when his contacts had heard rumor about the station getting a visit from both Excalibur Corporation and Rockport’s Government. It seemed, with both sides rattling sabres and jockeying for position, they wondered what the troops from the Iron Dingoes had in mind. Ownership of an independent station, and nearly a regiment of mixed troops was a concern for both sides, not to mention the present position of the unit within Excalibur’s own Clusters.

He was invited to a game of cards, and during the bout, asked for passage for his troops out-system. He was granted this opportunity, and further offered long-term employment once the unit reached System – Dumassas if they wanted it, working for the station as couriers. He promised it would be discussed among his crew. They eventually accepted.

The unit called an immediate Council, and discussed their options. It was decided that the unit emphasize they are mercenaries, and as such, would remain neutral as much as possible. Personnel were assigned to meet with the agents from both sides and act as escorts; Pitbull with Excalibur, and Advocate with Rockport. A vote was held, and Paladin chose to make the meeting aboard the station, but that they would be restricted in their tours of the facility. They also realized that the official repair date of the station was November 15th… but since they had chosen to simply dump the ore processing bays and spend resources outfitting it later as a hydroponics facility and a bio-diesel refinery, they were actually nearly a month ahead of schedule, despite the delay from the recent raid. The station and unit would be gone (if their luck held), in days, not weeks. Time was their friend now.

Oct 15th, 3020 : The station was swarming with off-duty personnel and troops, and the unit waited anxiously for their guests. The Factory – The Hangars Upper, or Large Hangar was packed with every shuttle the unit had, and station personnel were ordered to make the place look busy, and in the middle of a refit, toting equipment and parts about.

The first shuttle to appear, was a Callisto Luxury Yacht, that belonged to an agent from Excalibur Corp. The shuttle was escorted into the docking by the unit’s primary AeroFighters, a pair of EGL-R6 Eagles piloted by Lieutenant JG Daisha Defarannos “Elemental” and Lieutenant Commander Rihanna “Wing-Ripper” Blackjay. It docked without incident, and was met by Paladin and Pitbull, and many of the command council and other personnel.

With great disdain, Agent Murgo Voss, representative of the Cassandra Industrial Allaince exited, along with several aides and a couple squads of Excalibur troops. Leaving all but two of the troopers behind, the entourage followed their ambassador to the Black Sector grav deck and into a meeting room set aside for the purpose. Following some hard vodka, the liaison officer essentially gave the unit a pair of choices; either accept an Excalibur/Alliance liaison officer and security troops as guests of the Alliance, or the matter would be taken from their hands “…by a more permanent action. It would be a shame if a permanent garrison was forced to take position aboard this station…”. The unit admitted the station was not fully operational yet, and that they needed a few days to discuss the matter in council. Meanwhile, Agent Voss was given a tour of the station, centering on [[: the-z-calo]] and living quarters in Blue Sector. He seemed unimpressed by the rough and bare facilities available.

Meanwhile, a couple hours later, the representative from Rockport arrived, identifying herself as Vahreen Masque, Director of Belt Affairs, one of the government’s own Council of Ten. Arriving aboard a simple Type-S “Seeker” Mining Shuttle, she brought only a single aide with her, and quickly met with Paladin and Advocate in Black Sector. She was forth-right, stating simply that the unit represented a large unknown in the coming conflict, and she was interested in securing their assistance when the shooting started. She admitted they didn’t have a lot of money, but offered reduced in-system taxation, recompense in time of war for consumables and payment of salary in local scrip. Not much, she admitted, knowing that if Excalibur wanted to hire the unit, the government could not meet their offer. The unit promised they would give her their decision in a few days, and she was escorted back to the docking bay.

Inevitably, both ambassador’s met in the station’s hangar bay, glaring across at each other, but they left without conflict, and moved off their separate ways. Immediately, all troops were dispatched back to their assigned DropShips and JumpShips, and preparations began for the unit’s jump out-system.

Later that day, the unit’s Field Ops arrived via their LR Shuttle, docked and prepared for transport out-system.

Oct 16th, 3020 : The Factory – Boom Controls were officially declared operational, and the Boom was stowed for transport to its JumpShip. The station’s drives were tested, and all ships slowly began to arrange themselves for docking and jump out-system.

Oct 17th, 3020 : All ships were secured and everything was arranged for transport.

The unit sent a snap-burst to Excalibur Corp, relating that they chose to remain neutral for the time being, while their station was under repair. A snap-burst communique went to Rockport relating that the Iron Dingoes were staying out of this conflict, and leaving the system in minutes. They wished the government the best of luck, and the fleet jumped out-system.

Oct 17th – Oct 24th, 3020 : The station arrived in System – Outpost. The usually vibrant and active system was eerily silent, with military traffic scant, and all communiques running in cyphers and military codes. Using old contacts, Space Master Terrance Chantilas tried to get information on what was happening locally, eventually discovering that the Davion Navy had recalled numerous assets from the system, including its ancient Monolith-Class JumpShip, and most of its DropShip transports. They had all left for Federated Suns space some weeks ago, and were not due back anytime soon… No one knew why, exactly.

Given their more than 6 days of lay-over time, the unit’s techs began arming the station’s hardpoints with lasers from unit stocks, but upgraded to numerous Large Lasers and PPCs, rather than mostly smaller calibres as suggested in standard blueprints. They intended to have the refit done by the time they arrived in Dumassas.

Oct 24th – Nov 1st, 3020 : The fleet jumped into System – Pa’an, and spent a quiet week continuing installation of weapons systems on the station, while trying to stay out of everyone’s way. They jumped out-system without incident.

Nov 1st – 10th, 3020 : The unit jumped into System – Gollere without incident, and contemplated a raid… but decided against it. =) They jumped out-system with no incidents.

Nov 10th, 3020 : The unit jumped the fleet into familiar territory, at the Zenith Jump-Point of System – Dumassas. In addition to a handful of random JumpShips and other transports, Captain Erika Hartmann “Glamour” identified one of the transports to be flying a familiar flag… WOLF’S DRAGOONS! After an initial fearful moment, she further identified the Invader-Class JumpShip as hauling a Union-Class DropShip and a pair of Mule-Class Transport DropShips. Careful investigation revealed the unit was travelling along the edge of the Inner Sphere, having just returned from some sort of trade mission in the Periphery, and was making its way to House Steiner space, where the Wolf’s Dragoons had apparently just taken a contract…

The unit watched the ship for three tense days, but eventually the ship jumped out-system and everyone breathed a sigh of relief. The station was deployed and announced it’s presence as being “open for business”.

Over the next few days, they made contact with The Sangrian Training Company, informing them of the situation, and asking Captain Jerri Holden to make some investigations regarding recruitment and salvage in-system, as well as get in contact with their friend the industrialist, Mister Hernandez, regarding a manufacturing contract for Long Toms and their ammo, since the unit had BPOs they could share. They agreed to meet back in six weeks for further discussions, when they picked-up their infantry. Also, Master Trooper Grant Burke “Sabre” was recalled to help the unit’s training of all their new troopers and marine officers they’d acquired. Lastly, the unit made inquiries with Adept Caitlan Clarke regarding future “opportunites”.

Nov 17th, 3020 : Still with no word from “The Freedom of the Stars” and her crew and passengers, the unit left “Victory’s Blood” and “Silverlight” to burn to Terramatrix to join the * “The Dead Man’s Hand” together in preparations for their infantry’s evacuation. The unit was able, however, to make arrangements to take a longer-term “Static” Garrison/Cadre contract independent of the rest of the unit, with the Sangrian government, called Contract – Operation “Lasting Influence”.

The rest of the unit prepared to jump into Davion space, intending to travel along the Armington / Csomad / Malagrotta route, where they would be able to have Captain Frank Elgyn meet with a contact to acquire the information needed to perform a final jump into the Shadowport Tequila Beach.

Nov 18th, 3020 : The Line units of the fleet prepared their two JumpShip’s for jump out-system, and left for their journey through House Davion space….

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Interlude - The Wolf in the Woods

“The wolf is carnivore incarnate and he’s as cunning as he is ferocious; once he’s had a taste of flesh then nothing else will do.”

August 7th, 3020 – Cassandra System : Space Master Eric Severin looked around the bridge of his newest ship, “The Freedom of the Stars”. Everyone was busy, and making last-minute prep of the ship’s systems before they went on a recon mission into the utter edges of humanities’ exploration. Who knew this was where they’d be now.

Ship’s Master Severin reviewed his checklists. They had supplies and consumables for several months. They had a pair of experienced marine platoons as guards, a pair of AeroFighters to cover their journey, and a full, experienced crew that had worked together for some time. Things were about as prepared as it could be for the journey.

“All stations, report in, please”, called the Commander. As each department called-out its status, his gaze swept across the each station, pausing at the single station located directly before him, a weapon’s station that no one understood, and he sincerely hoped would never need activation. But he was especially drawn to its present occupant. “Roger, all stations reported in as positive. Open the outer gates, and let’s get moving. To all crew, prepare for acceleration on my mark…”

As the crew strapped themselves into their stations and holds, the Freedom slowly began to thrum with power as its drives activated. “No time like the present…”, thought the ship’s master…., his gaze taking in Dame Modesty Scrope “Viper” strapped into the gunner’s position before him. She was an unknown aspect of this mission, and had combat command of the military element present. He knew her history; a thief, a saboteur, a diplomat, and probably an assassin. Heaven’s knew what she would lead them to…

“Cables detached?”, asked Ship’s Master Severin. “Roger”, came the call from Bay Operations. “Very well, ship move forward, station-keeping thrusters only, and angle for the upper exit. Let’s move out”.

August 22nd, 3020 : The Freedom jumped into System – Promise, in a blaze of the usual noise, clouding sensors and comms for a few minutes. This was always the moment of fear that all JumpShip crews experienced; being blind and waiting for the dust to settle before understanding their situation.

Comms opened channels first, reporting chatter coming in from in-system traffic, with nothing unusual to notice. Sensors cleared, and reported two in-system shuttles active and docking with a Merchant-Class JumpShip, on some sort of data mission. Further out, a system defense boat, registered as a TIG-15 “Tigress” Close Patrol Craft (Gunship), seemed to be angling towards their fading jump signature. The Ship’s Master cleared comms and dutifully reported in over broadband.

“This is the Iron Dingoes JumpShip Freedom of the Stars out of Cassandra, on a diplomatic mission, passing through. Please note we intend to unfurl our sails and charge our drives, and will be posting our flight plan through Unity of Promise space within the day. Over.”

Minutes passed. The faint crackle of comms was interrupted by a directed channel from the Gunship. “Roger, Freedom . We acknowledge your status and welcome you back to Unity space. If you intend to trade with the system, please ready your manifests, otherwise have yourselves a pleasant stay in the Unity . Over.”

Ship’s Master Severin glanced over at Viper, who was fixated on the sensors station, floating just over the shoulder of the operator with her tether still looped and clipped to her waist. She was watching the read-outs of the Gunship closely. Very closely.

“Aspect change on the Gunship”, came the call from sensors. “It’s shearing away, and moving back in-system.”

“Excellent”, replied Ship’s Master Severin. “Ops. Deploy sails, and prepare to activate the grav deck. I think our passengers would appreciate a chance to stretch their legs.” Even Viper grinned at that.

September 6th, 3020 : “The Freedom of the Stars” had jumped into System – Sligo only hours previous, having activated her main thrusters and burning quickly from Sligo’s L1, trying to reach the northern magnetic pole, where they could hopefully hide from casual sensors of any in-coming ships. The burn-in would be complete by day’s end, but without its sail deployed, the ship would be unable to jump out-system. It was a risk, but required by the short time-frame of their mission.

The ship’s crew and passengers were strapped into their acceleration couches, bearing well the strain of 3Gs for the journey. Their trajectory was carefully plotted, and the vessel’s turn-around and deceleration would occur shortly. When they arrived, it would be a difficult couple of weeks, waiting for the mission to play out.

- to be continued -

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Episode 57 - Belt War

“All war is deception”

Roll Call————————————-Mechs

Bruce (Glamour)————————Stinger LAM
JP (Pitbull) ——————————-Ostsol
Greg (Fixer)——————————-Ostroc
Ralph (Wraith)—————————Wolverine
Jay (Advocate)—————————Thug
Chris (Caboose) -————————Phoenix Hawk
Ken (Chewie) -————————— (-)

August 5th, 3020 : “The Bloody Paw” jumped back in-system to System – Cassandra at the pirate point chosen by the unit, located 5 days from The Rock and the rest of their DropShip fleet. Quickly boarding shuttles, the remainder of the ship’s former crew, along with the units that had travelled to System – Outpost, burned back to rendevous with the unit, while both Bloody Paw and “The Den Mother” waited at their hidden refuge.

The crew of “The Freedom of the Stars” were ordered to make haste in preparing for a trip back to System – Sligo, to observe what might happen yo the planet on September 10th, the day Colonel “White Death”’s forces were to pay the system a little aggressive visit. The skeleton crew that had taken the Bloody paw to Outpost increased their burn-time, hoping to make the ship in two (2) days, while the others took a regular five-day trip.

The Freedom prepared for the journey, by placing “The Star Hunters” interceptors in its hangar bays, along with its pilots Trooper John Callaghan “Lucky Shot” and Lieutenant JG Joliet “Talon”. Also, Trooper Marguerite Phillano and her Mark VII Landing Craft were installed, with one of the ship’s LR shuttles was retained. The spare passenger module was installed in the main cargo bay, and both active Stargaurds platoons were assigned to guard the ship, with an eye open for opportunities to seize a less-defensible ship they might encounter. Lastly, * “The Werewolves” were activated and ordered to take command of the mission. Dame Modesty Scrope “Viper” took overall military command, and stocked the ship for it’s month’s long journey.

August 7th, 3020 : The skeleton crew arrived a little unsteady, but the ship promptly left its position hidden in The Rock‘s repair bays (expending the last of the station’s reserves in opening the outer hatches), moved into position and calculated the jump for Outpost. Later that day, the ship jumped out-system…

August 8th, 3020 : Having spare time while flying back to the fleet, LtSG Massimo De Luca “Advocate”, and Major Kanto Jokukad “Pitbull” discussed the options with moving the Factory, and if acquiring an Model 96 “Elephant” or similar DropShip was possible. Using the very good comms network in the system, they accessed rumors about an Elephant having been used in the construction of Rockport, the system capital habitat some hundreds of years ago, but the vessel was old even then, and was rumored to have been stripped and abandoned when construction was complete, to float off into the Radical. Not terribly promising.

August 10th, 3020 : The command group returned to the fleet, and immediately made plans to pay-out their debts, through a trip to Rockport. They prepared “Crimson Sands” for the journey, taking most of the command staff, as well as Epsilon Platoon from * “The Cerberus Command” for some R&R. After some hours to organize matters, the DropShuttle left, accompanied by the Master of Enterprise, the Factory’s own DropShuttle, on the eight-day supply run.

The unit also discovers that many independent miners and “Free Companies” have been inquiring if the Factory was able to accept refining work. The calls have been steadily increasing in number, to the point that the station has been getting one or two a day. Requests also include requests for shuttle maintenance, or general recreation. They are all refused.

August 11th, 3020 : “The Factory”’s living quarters are considered fully-active and available for use. Many of the dependents of the Iron Dingoes various forces, if not engaged in some aspect of its maintenance or military on-board another ship, move officially into the station, and active service members are granted billings for themselves or their families.

*August 18th, 3020 * : The Factory – Cargo Decks elevators were declared operational, and the long, hard efforts to clear the cargo bays could begin.

August 19th, 3020 : The “travellers” arrived at Rockport Habitat, spending several days with both the government banks and Maas Companies Inc. to pay-off their loans.

August 21st, 3020 : Flush with cash, the unit started a month-long series of hirings and recruitment, focusing on scientists , techs and marines. They also took a look at Maas Corp’s assets list, and noticed both a BioDeisel Refinery and a micro-brewery for Vodka was available for purchase. Seeing the value in them, the unit arranged for purchase and delivery to The Factory through their auxiliary Captain Frank Elgyn and his crew aboard “Betty”.

Over the next four weeks, the unit poured through personnel records and files, eventually managing to recruit a total of six marine-trained trooper squads; another five (5) security squads who had basic military training and could be cross-trained as marines; three medical squads, including Doctor Evram Mintz (a noted surgeon and psychologist); three general tech squads, including a young scientist Doctor Max Helmut “Moxie”; and several administrative squads, including a protocol specialist Ambassador Inara Serra and a manager for the unit’s refinery plans.

During this time, the unit also discussed the potential opening of a formal training group in the unit offering combined-arms training to potential people. In any event, it was decided that their plans for cross-training all their infantry forces in marine combat was going to take something more, but further plans would have to await the arrival of Master Trooper Grant Burke “Sabre” back to the unit in the new year.

September 10th, 3020 : The unit at Rockport began shipping personnel back to The Factory, using both the Crimson Sands and whatever LR shutles they had available.

September 15th, 3020 : The Factory – Cargo Decks were officially declared clear of debris, and ready for use. Attention turns to the scrapping of the station’s Ore Processing equipment, a messy, but quick task.

September 17th, 3020 : Recruitment complete, the unit began moving the last of the new personnel back to The factory, and the long trip to return themselves.

September 25th, 3020 : The unit returns from their recruitment drive at Rockport, aboard the Crimson Sands. They begin organizing training and sort which troops should go where, with shuttles travelling throughout the fleet.

Also on this day, the unit watches the last of debris from the Ore Processing Facility being dumped into space away from the station. With that bay soon to be filled with equipment taken from “Betty”, nearby. The techs hurry to complete final repairs on the station’s drives, so that it can be moved from its position on The Rock.

October 1st, 3020 : A week into the repairs of the station’s station-keeping drives, one of the calls received by C&C is unusual.

A DropShip, calling itself the “Silverside”, made contact over emergency comms, identifying itself as a Free Company mining vessel seeking repairs. They send a digital copy of a valid certificate as proof, and request access to the docking collar for contact to effect repairs and evacuate the crew, due to a leak in the ship’s fusion drives. After a discussion, the group agreed they must “legally” accept their needs, but prepare to have the docking collar guarded and send a general alarm across the fleet.

As the ship swiftly approached, they studied the Free Company’s license and determine that something seemed.. odd… Then Lieutenant SG Michael Anderson “Fixer” remembered, … Silverlight and Commander Freyr Rogan. Captain Erika Hartmann “Glamour” scrambled the unit’s EGL-R6 Eagles and her STG-A1 Stinger LAM as cover, keeping their eyes open on scanners. All available troops on The Factory were activated, numbering four (4) security squads attached to the station, and Black Fire Brigade from * “The Cerberus Command”, who were on R&R in the station. Also, Fixer, Captain Mitchell Kitsune “Wraith” and Trooper Evan Lars “Caboose” were present aboard the station, and rallied to lead the troops in defense of the docking collar.

Mintes later, the “Silverlight” came into view, and moved to dock. Nothing unusual could be detected from its engines, beyond them operating at low-power levels. The ship docked, and after cycling the airlock, immediately disgorged a pair of assault squads who swarmed the bay. Casualties began to mount, and a minute later, the defenders retreated to the main access corridor. Quickly surveying the station maps, they recognized two problems with defense; the central corridor allowed access everywhere in the station, and directly accessible to the docking collar was The Factory – Boom Controls, a site that acted as auxiliary control for all station operations.

WIthin minutes, the officers present began rallying off-duty personnel and encouraging Dingoes techs, who go armed at all times, to gather manpower. As forces began filling the docking collar, Pitbull took the “Brush Wolf”’s squad of marines aboard a present SR shuttle, and made directly for the main hangar bay of the station.

Minutes ticked by, with skirmishing continuing in the Boom Controls and outside in the main hangar bay. Eventually, Glamour picked-up a pair of signals coming fast and hard from around The Rock, were identified as a pair of [[:Orkan-Class Space Plane]]s. Her forces moved to intercept them, though only she and Tinman were able to score a couple hits on one, before they slammed into the station’s hangar bays; the damaged into the Lower Hangar, and the undamaged into the Upper Hangar.

The fighting continued for nearly half an hour, with few major losses on either side, though rallied techs kept taking dangerous damage, and at one point an entire security squad was eliminated in the main hangar. Desperate to stall the invader’s long enough, they declared “Dingo Pack Tactics” in the Boom Controls, and threw every available force into the area, managing to do some serious damage at last. Attrition among the indifferently armed techs was mounting.

As the Boom Controls finally fell, and Pitbull’s forces managed to breach into the Upper Hangar, the battle tipped in favour of the defenders, clearing the bay and chasing after the two invader squads trying to seize C&C unopposed. As the invaders forces finally began to fall, one squad of invaders was captured in the C&C, and the remaining forces were annihilated at the docking collar airlock itself. The leader of the operation, Rogan himself, was captured, and remaining forces swarmed into the DropShip, capturing it and its crew unopposed.

The tally was eight civilian tech squads, and three security squads down and being rushed for medical treatment. All infantry forces and one security squad active and holding. All the invaders proved to be burnt-out mercenaries and desperate miners equipped with indifferent arms and armored miner’s vacc-suits. The “spare” DropShip crew led by Commander Thomas Dallas was dispatched from its billet aboard “Victory’s Blood”, to take command of the Content Not Found: silverlight. Both Orkan-Class shuttles were captured and stored in the Upper Hangar, and the surviving invaders were gathered, given medical attention (for some), and placed in a cargo hold until the unit could conduct serious interrogations. The pilot of the Silverlight, Commander Elissa Dresden and her crew of thugs.

With most of the station’s civilian techs under medical care, or clinging to life, the unit transfered all new Tech hires to the station, and ordered all new military personnel to take position aboard The Factory, until the station was securely out-system…

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Episode 56 - Shadow Business

“Mining is the art of exploiting mineral deposits at a profit. An unprofitable mine is fit only for the sepulcher of a dead mule.”

Roll Call————————————-Mechs

Bruce (Glamour)————————Stinger LAM
JP (Pitbull) ——————————-Ostsol
Greg (Fixer)——————————-Ostroc
Ralph (Wraith)—————————Wolverine
Jay (Advocate)—————————Thug
Chris (Caboose) -————————Phoenix Hawk
Ken (Chewie) -————————— (-)

July 13th, 3020 : After several long, filthy days of cleaning “The Freedom of the Stars” using fire and the best decontamination procedures possible, the crew left the JumpShip and returned to “The Factory”. It was quickly decided to employ the veteran crew from “The Bloody Paw” and transfer them t command The Freedom, and make a quick trip “next door” to System – Outpost to recruit another crew. Along the way, they would try to sell Stone Dog in a bid to acquire enough currency to cover their loans in System – Cassandra. It was felt that the system’s location as the site of many retiring Davion JumpShip crews, combined with it’s military needs would lend itself to the unit’s plans.

Furthermore, plans were laid to store The Rock’s salvaged munitions (namely numerous White Shark and Barracuda Missiles, as well as 400 rounds of AC/20 NAC ammo) in The Factory – The Foundry cargo bays. Also, plans were made to transfer the crew of The Stone Dog once it sold to bolster the young crew of {“Victory’s Blood”, until a new DropShip became available. Lastly, the unit began planning and calculating an in-system jump, which would allow the unit’s JumpShips, presently hidden some days away at a pirate point, to jump to the Factory, and allow the unit to more quickly evacuate the system once the Factory was deemed mobile.

The last order, was for all available salvage squads and other personnel, to begin salvaging The Rock of anything and everything they could. Dingo Pack Tactics began later that night, using Content Not Found: crimson-sands to haul goods from the hidden outpost into the Factory, through its numerous docking collars. Anything and everything easily salvaged was done so… Finally, the paymaster issued pay to all unit members for the last few months. It was decided, in passing, that there should be an annual event, known as “Dingo Pack Tactics Day”, when pay was issued and parties ensued. July 13th seemed as good as any.

July 14th, 3020 : Salvage operations began.

July 16th, 3020 : Word arrived from Captain Frank Elgyn, that there were many questions being asked about The Factory, by various individuals, but one in particular, Tech Sal Baledo was being particularly adamant on finding information about who was repairing the ancient mining station. Seems he was willing to talk, if the price was right.

The group, still planning on a trip to Outpost, elected to send Captain Mitchell Kitsune “Wraith” and Dame Modesty Scrope “Viper” along with a couple Line Force Recon (ostensibly to also give them some R&R) aboard The Crimson Sands to Vineyard Habitat, an eight (8) day journey. They were issued 60,000 Cs as petty cash, to cover any “expenses”, and told to get their hands on some good quality wine while they were at it.

Meanwhile, the rest of the command council took the Stone Dog, The Bloody Paw, a passenger mod from the-scrapyard, and the rest of the war-weary Line Force Recon in a jump to Outpost. The trip to the pirate point was a five (5) day journey on the Stone Dog.

July 21st, 3020 : The out-system group arrived at the JumpShips, docked and began preparation for their jump to Outpost. The jump went uneventfully, and the group were hailed by the system’s security beacon. Identifying themselves as seeking to sell a Union-Class DropShip, they were given clearance, and began the five day journey to the system’s inhabited moon and its military base.

July 24th, 3020 : Viper and Wraith arrived at the popular Vineyard Habitat, and after docking, let their troops go for some R&R, while the leaders made contact with Captain Elgyn, who quickly arrived and after a brief discussion, led them to a popular Belter bar, called “Nightside Moves”, located in one of the rougher quarters. Elgyn introduced them to an older man in his 50s, Tech Sal Baledo.

After identifying he was the man they were seeking, and that he knew a great deal about the "final days " of The Factory, the man asked for 50,000 Cs cash, fr everything he knew. He admitted he didn’t think once he’d told everything he knew, he’d stay alive for long, so the money would go to get him out-system as quickly as possible to start over. Without the payment, there was no deal. Recognizing the unit had a better option, safety in the Iron Dingoes as a technician, they offered him 10,000 Cs and a promise of leaving the system around August 8th. Viper proved very persuasive, and so he took the cash, and related his tale.

“I worked on AM90125 (The Factory) for two years as part of a research team brought on board without Excalibur Corporation’s knowledge or sanction. This was a private operation funded by Commander Rogan and we were well-paid for our work.We were developing robust, reliable stims to boost production efforts on a mining platform. Our work was technically illegal in Cassandra, but we all saw the great commercial benefits in what we were doing. We were, unfortunately, naive in that…”

“Commander Rogan was a relentless taskmaster, always seeking the greater payout, bigger bonuses and better results from those who worked for him. He was a violent man. A disturbed man. Possibly even insane. He ran AM90125 like a fiefdom, not a mining operation. Anyone stepping out of line was disciplined severely – but he showered his favourites with gifts and rewards. He was, in short, a real basterd…”

“Initially the research went well nd results were impressive. Men were working at double or triple efficiency. But then as these things do, it went all wrong. We developed a more effective dose of the drug, but it caused an almost immediate psychosis. Two died within hours of the injection. Other became unstable and this led to even more injury. Rogan shifted the blame to incompetence and had the refining machinery rigged to look likea servicing negligence fault. At that point we, the scientists, wanted out. We were paid off and left, but Rogan stayed to cover all his tracks. Soon after, AM90125 was closed down because it was determined to have reached the end of its operating life, but that wasn’t the only reason…”

“The relatisve of all those dead subjects don’t know the real reason> Rogan covered his tracks very well indeed, and he profited by their deaths. When AM90125 closed down, he left Excalibur Corp and disappeared. My colleagues have been bought and remain silent, but me? No. I can;t sleep nights anymore unless I get so blind drunk that I blot everything else out that I saw and did. I don’t want to live like this anymore…”

“I also want to see that bastard Rogan pay for what he did. When he left Excalibur, he vanished alright – vanished into the Belt. I suspect he’s been working as an independent prospector under an assumed identity. I’ve made inquiries, and know he’s somehow affiliated with something called Silverlight. But there’s more. Working that rock where AM90125 still is, Rogan found something unusual. Something he never told his superiors. Something that could make him rich.I think that’s why he didn;t care so much about the station. he already had something to set him up for the rest of his life…”

Sal accepted the payment, and made to leave, but Viper persuaded him to stay (with a knock-out drug), and she and Wraith dragged the man back to their shuttle, placing him under suicide watch… Over the next couple days, he underwent some serious withdrawl symptoms, but Viper was able to smooth him through the worst. The rest of the Line Troopers took several days of glorious R&R, and after six (6) days, made ready to leave the station. Wraith also managed to acquire some good quality wines to bring back to the group…

July 26th, 3020 : Arriving at the populated moon, the group set about finding a buyer for the Stone Dog.The local military buyers proved happy to discuss acquiring the Stone Dog, mostly due to its good condition and relative newness. Initial negotiations rapidly went in the favour of the Dingoes, and the group agreed on a final price of 175,000,000 Cs for the Union. Much more than expected, half in C-Bills, the other half in Davion Francs.

Taking five (5) days to search for a crew for their JumpShip, they let the Line Force Recon take turns having some serious R&R. While everyone seemed unable locate a proper crew, Trooper Pol Baca was entertaining the troopers on a trip to a local bar, and encountered an “old salt” holding court and regaiiing everyone with his “…one time he had to repel boarders…” in System – Hawktor. Talk eventually wound down to the man’s name, Space Master Terrance Chantilas, and his history as a JumpShip commander in the Davion Navy. It came out that he missed the opportunity, but his age and medical issues had led to his retirement from House Davion’s AFFS Navy.

He was introduced to [[: kanthto-jokukad]] and LtSG Massimo De Luca “Advocate” for a formal interview. It quickly became apparent that, though older, he had a mind like a steel vice, and was capable of very complex Jump variables. His years in null -G had left him with numerous implants and other mechanical aids , but he was still capable for what the unit needed. They hired him. He also gave the names of a few crew he felt might be useful; all were former crew-mates or their children, or sometimes their grandchildren. Before the day of leaving the world came, they had their crew for the Bloody Paw.

On the last day of their searching, the unit managed to conduct a series of interviews with retired sergeants and similar veteran troopers, all with marine experience. Eight (8) such troopers were hired, to provide a core for future training and recruitment efforts in the future.

Lastly, Pitbull was able to find a supply trooper who was willing to sell the unit a collection of 200 Marine Combat Suit – “Voidsuit”s and their related equipment, spending some of the cash they were getting from the Union sale, t the tune of 5,000,000 Cs total.

July 31st, 3020 : The unit collected its equipment and troops, and left the lanet on shuttles bent for The Bloody Paw. Five (5) days later they reached their JumShip, and jumped out-system, safely… back to Cassandra and their Factory.

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Interlude - The Finger of God
"God's Finger touched him, and he slept."

“But he, knowing their thoughts, said unto them, ‘Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and a House divided against a House falleth.’

If Satan also be divided against himself, how shall his kingdom stand? because ye say that I cast out devils through Beelzebub.

And if I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your sons cast them out? therefore shall they be your judges.

But if I with the finger of God cast out devils, no doubt the kingdom of God is come upon you."

The Agent closed its book and steepling its fingers, looked thoughtful. Sitting in a corner of the canteen, The Agent sat alone, as usual, thinking about what it had read. The Cameron Star in faded gold leaf on its cover, stamped from ancient cow hide was a precious treasure that The Agent felt was surreptitious enough to carry and read in public. Several of the ancient texts had been found among the many works recently taken from the hidden treasure vault buried deep in The Rock below them.

On leave from salvage efforts in the lost way-station, The Agent was able to spend some time, at gravity, in the recently activated station the unit was calling “The Factory”. Unofficially the station was nick-named “The Dingoes’ Delight” among others, but the station was a great place to take a break from the confines of “Dingoes’ Den”. The gravity wheel was one thing, but The Agent saw what the unit had in mind… The Factory – The Zócalo would one day be filled with nightclubs, beer halls and casual goods shops, a real, live home for the unit. The Agent smiled, and lovingly stroked the book in its grasp.

Treasures of the Star League. LosTech machines and weapons. So many things pointed to The Iron Dingoes being chosen by God for greatness, and it was a sign that this unit was possibly the true heirs of the Star League. They were increasingly proving their ability to assimilate LosTech, and treasure it with a view towards the long-term. If nothing else, they were true heirs to the legacy of Brigadier Zane. If nothing else, they might figure out what they had in their possession, and make something of themselves…

The Agent looked around, and thought about things. If they could get this station fully operational, it needed to know what their next steps were. It was the only way to drop another bread crumb and get them moving in the right direction. It was time to start working the technicians in the unit and contacting its own intelligence network… First stop, that little shop over in the corner of The Zocalo,

…to be continued…

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Episode 55 - Hard Salvage

“Mankind is not likely to salvage civilization unless he can evolve a system of good and evil which is independent of heaven and hell.”

Roll Call————————————-Mechs

Dale (Paladin)—————————Battlemaster
Bruce (Glamour)————————Stinger LAM
JP (Pitbull) ——————————-Ostsol
Greg (Fixer)——————————-Ostroc
Ralph (Wraith)—————————Wolverine
Jay (Advocate)—————————Thug
Chris (Caboose) -————————Phoenix Hawk
Ken (Chewie) -————————— (-)

June 4th, 3020 – “The Factory” : The lead elements of the Iron Dingoes present at “The Factory”; Station Master Haro Lothrain, Captain Jessa Dajus-Marik “Dragonfly”, and Dame Modesty Scrope “Viper”, gathered to discuss the group’s recent findings. It was quickly decided to leave the salvage work to a later date, preferably once the unit had gathered completely together, and the full command council could adjudicate the next series of actions.

That didn’t mean leaving it unprotected. Summoning three of the original explorers; Captain Frank Castle, Senior Tech Katherine Bolivar, and Lord (LtSG) Henry Fitzroy, the command group tasked these three with re-entering the passage, sealing the hole and setting a sensor net with a remote camera for careful (and quiet) observation) of the site. Due to the radiation and heavy iron-heavy ore deposits, the group planned to establish a relay further out in the tunnel leading to the surface, to ensure contact might be maintained.

They quietly entered the main shaft, and quickly made their way back down the tunnels, and successfully set-up the sonic net and camera, and installed the relay. Tests proved the unit worked, and they quietly returned once more to the Factory. Castle, still suspicious, specifically decided he might begin monitoring the communications portion of The Factory – Main Mission, spending time off and on watching the station.

June 5th, 3020 : The day progressed as usual, until Castle doing his rounds of Main Mission, noticed an additional technician at one of the comms stations. He gathered in the pair of troopers stationed at the entrance, and quietly approached the man, pulling him suddenly away from the station and demanding his business. It rapidly became apparent that the tech, one Wes Smith, a civilian Metullurgy expert hired for work on the station, shouldn’t be there. His quarters were sealed, and repair operations were placed on hold, while everyone tried to locate all civilian personnel aboard the Factory. About an hour later, three were found missing, though one, a Malone “Fingers” was caught near the shuttle bays, trying to access one of the station’s Type-S “Seeker” Mining Shuttles.

Reports came that someone had accessed a service locker in Engineering, and that a pair of vacc-suits were missing… Almost immediately the sensors warning activated from the tunnels, and the camera activated. A pair of engineering-suited techs appeared in teh grainy, dim lighting of the tunnel. Castle ordered his Starguards into their suits and down into the tunnel ASAP, under Trooper Cassandra Anderson. The handful of crew aware of the situation watched, as the pair of intruders began talking to each other via a hard-link between their suits… then, within fifteen minutes, watched a light flood the tunnel and the pair get swarmed by six well-armed Starguards in hardened C80 Combat Environment Suits with Jump Packs. The pair were quickly taken into custody and hauled back aboard The Factory.

Identified as Tech Samuel Flamer and Tech Brandon Firestone, both were independent civilian techs, again hired to do work on bringing The Factory on-line. Careful examination of their files produced one interesting fact; all four had formerly been employed by Excalibur Corporation, and had been retired from that organization a week prior to hiring-on with Lothrain to work on The Factory. Among the group, Tech Firestone was noted as having explosives experience. Among the pair caught in the tunnel, was a recording camera, and search of their quarters revealed a disassembled long-range burst communicator.

Unsure of how to proceed, Viper was contacted, and she took the seeming leader, Tech Smith aside into a room. About an hour and several screams later, it was revealed the group were sent by Excalibur Corporation to investigate why the station was being activated after thirty years of abandonment. It was obviously public knowledge that the Iron Dingoes had bought the facility (an Excalibur executive had been present at the signing as a witness, after all), and the corporation was interested in knowing the station’s future purposes. The agents routinely sent updates regarding the station’s status and important developments, but the recent interest in The Rock had caught their attention, and the group chose to do a final check as to why this was important, before abandoning the facility and reporting-in. They’d been caught as this was being accomplished.

It was discussed that maybe they should send a final message and try to amke the four agents “dissappear” along with a shuttle, but after realizing it would expose them to danger, they decided to simply hold the four in a sealed cargo module, and wait for the return of their prison ship the “Star Talon”. They realized, after all, that the local cell hadn’t made a connection to this unit being the same Dingoes others had encountered, and besides; the local division of Excalibur would likely write the agents off as useless, and deny their existence anyways. The group faked a single transmission, claiming that with The Factory sensor nets going active, “…future communication would remain sporadic…”, and closed off the channel.

The next few weeks passed without much activity otherwise, and finally the Line Groups of the Iron Dingoes returned to the system.

June 30th, 3020 – Cassandra System : The Line units of * “The Iron Dingoes” returned in-system. Their JumpShip, “The Den Mother” jumped into the Pirate Point where their other JumpShip, “The Bloody Paw” waited. The remaining Line forces aboard their DropShips burned to The Factory for rendezvous, a five-day trip. The “Victory’s Blood”, having arrived via a commercial transport, moved away from the Zenith Jump-point, and began its ten-day burn to The Factory.

En-route, Major Kanto Jokukad “Pitbull” got an update on one of his pet projects aboard “Pandora’s Box”, Chip 10987. Progress was being made, and the group had a firm understanding that The Chip was a rudimentary form of AI – not a true AI, but more like a blank slate waiting for information to be imprinted on it…. Pitbull seems intent on trying to find a way to connect it with “Cortana”.

July 10th, 3020 : The unit finally gathered almost all its resources (except for * The Sangrian Training Company ) in-system, and began discussing what had happened in their absence, and where they should go from here. They started by interrogating Lepa Polczyk, though she seemed unable to tell them much about The Starlords – “The Brotherhood”. The decision to place her as a “Shadow” to the only person who might be able to handle her, Dame Modesty Scrope “Viper” was considered a fine way to keep an eye on her and level her desires to assinate to get a promotion.

Further discussions with Senior Tech Ralston Allen and Trooper Marguerite Phillano were not very productive, though the unit compiled a list of things they knew about The Starlords, using that as their starting-point in future investigations. Trooper Pol Baca suggested that maybe there was something about The Starlords and Colonel “White Death”, and how in the holotape, he kept referring to “New Haven”. Maybe, he suggested, this New Haven was actually System – Pirate’s Haven Star Cluster

Finally, the group decided to activate * “The Werewolves”, and accompany key members of the command council to enter The Rock, and explore the viability of activating “The Freedom of the Stars”. Using the “Crimson Sands”, the group loaded The Werewolves, along with Senior Tech Katherine Bolivar and most of the command staff. The group “flew casually” away from the collected DropShips and The factory, turned around some distance away, and drifted back towards the docking collars hidden on The Rock’s surface as craters.

Careful and skillful piloting led to a soft seal, and the unit techs cracked open the personnel airlock next to the docking clamps, slowly cycling the large group through. Taking a survey of everything, they noted the coiled power cabling that led from the engineering section of the ship, along the repair clamps, and then up into the engineering section of the base. At first, they thought it was to supply power to the ship, but Bolivar noted that it was the opposite; the cabling was connected to provide power to the station.

The group moved across the gap, and slowly used the repair clamps to access the engineering section of the JumpShip. Pitbull, Bolivar and Fixer all entered the airlock, and cycled through to the other side. Upon opening the inner airlock, a bundled object drifted through… a corpse in a body bag. Several more were drifting just inside the airlock. Pitbull opened one, and it revealed a hideous corpse that had been struck-down with some sort of hemorrhagic fever; signs of excessive bleeding and edema were present on the corpse and its uniform. He had not gone quietly into that good night.

The group slowly cycled everyone into the JumpShip, noting that there was an atmosphere present, though an extremely stale one. Probably poisonous. The techs went to work looking over the ship’s systems, and it appeared that the capabilities of Star League technology remained intact. The techs recommended that they could activate the reserves to at least emergency levels, allowing lights, door access and little else. They started work and several hours later brought emergency power on-line.

Leaving them behind, select members of the unit moved through the ship carefully, finding the lay-out predictable, though bodies in bags were strewn throughout the living quarters, and just outside the bridge. They noted the ship was in prime condition, and equipped with the very best of technology. It seemed somewhat modified from specs, but had its traditional shuttle bays and all second-class crew quarters intact. The first-class quarters had been redesigned to serve as labs, providing a basic biology/chemistry lab, cryptography/computer lab, nuclear lab and an orbital physics lab. The fifth room had been out-fitted as a control station for firing… something.

On the bridge itself, they found the usual assortment of stations, with an additional control station crammed in before the commander’s chair, obviously employed to fire and monitor the ship’s unusual addition of a White Shark naval missile launcher… The commander himself was strapped into his station in full dress uniform, and dead of the same virus. On his personal logs, they found his main data corrupted, but the last few logs detailed enough information about why they were here and what they’d been doing.

The ship, hauling a scientific and technical engineering crew through the Periphery in 2822, on some sort of classified mission (ostensibly to visit these sorts of bases, obviously). The ship had indeed visited System – Tharrill according to some salvaged data, but more importantly, had arrived at the station, connected its power cabling to the engineering station to power it up for testing, and quickly saw its first victim of the plague, a technician working on the power cables. Within a day, almost everyone had been struck down with the disease, and it was obvious that they could not finish their mission. The captain began gathering the dead and trying to give them the dignity of a “proper death”, until he too, struck by illness, made his logs and died at his post.

The group were in trouble. Advocate immediately drew the parallel between Tharrill’s Red Plague, and the ship’s visit to that system. The Red Plague was 99.99% lethal. ((Advocate : “…see if you’re still so relaxed when your eyeballs are bleeding. Space is disease and danger wrapped in darkness and silence. Why did you convince me to come with you?” )). They contacted the only two individuals they knew might help them, Doctor Sid Sutherland and Doctor Carolyn Lamb. In conference with the unit, they were able to identify that the possibility to disinfect the ship existed, though it would take time and personnel. Several Zippo “Incinerator” Man-Pack Flamers were gathered, and appropriate medical personnel and fusion techs were enlisted to gather supplies and equipment for the JumpShip.

The unit dispatched the Crimson Sands directly, and it became obvious that the ability of the unit to keep this quiet was over. Everyone would know that the Iron Dingoes were sitting on a treasure hoard in the next day or so. Within an hour, crews were swarming the ship, taking careful precaution to burn away any contaminants, and purge the ship’s life support. Reserves were ordered from the unit’s JumpShips, but that was a good five-day trip for a shuttle from the Pirate Jump-Point.

Several tiring days were spent trying to get the ship’s interior clean, and eventually, an exhausted group of techs, medical personnel and the command staff themselves were able to filter back onto the station. Preparations were begun to salvage both The Rock and the JumpShip ASAP, though that would take some time, and a crew needed to be found for the vessel. The techs had salvaged the ship’s jump logs, its personnel files and a list of its inventory.

They had a valuable piece of LosTech, and still a couple months before they could activate the drives on The Factory and leave system. Now the question remained, what were they going to do with it…

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