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The Adventures of Beer Keg of Science! (Cover)

Chapter 7

The Adventures of the Beer Keg of Science!

Main Cargo Hold, NMS Beer Keg of Science! Ix Shipyards, Niops System, January 3, 3158

Brigadier Zeb Kindarps did not often come aboard the NMS Beer Keg of Science! often, despite how much of the Niops Association Militia's budget the ancient Cruiser class cruiser sucked up from his budget. Today, however, was a special day, though not necessarily in a good way.

He was on the observation deck for the Keg's cavernous cargo hold, to which the NMDS Coronado was currently docked, transferring over a special cargo, while being overseen by NAM special operations troops in the incredibly rare Nighthawk XXII powered armor.

Next to him, the ship's captain, Leanansidhe "Lea" Carpentier, stared at the noteputer with the cargo manifest. "What the hell are we supposed to do with these?"

"Hopefully, nothing." Kindarps replied.


"Nothing," he agreed. "If nobody bothers us, you'll never need those. If you ever find yourselves over your head, load your White Sharks with 'Physics Package Type 1', and given the number of launchers you have, that should be equalizer. A dozen 50 kiloton warheads should be enough to ruin anyone's day."

Lea shook her head. "I wasn't referring to the Santa Anas, Zeb."

"Ah, yes, 'Physics Package 2'. The nuclear mining charges."

"Yes, 'Physics Package 2', damn it. Three megaton warheads meant for orbit-to-surface fire. 'Xeneogeological research' my ass. Do you know what our neighbors will do to us if we have to use one of those?"

"Lea," Kindarps said evenly, "if things ever reach the point where you have to use one of those, it will either be because one of our neighbors will have already done to us, or you have to use those to save humanity from an alien invasion. Those are weapons of last resort, Lea, and I hope that we never need to resort to them, but I'm not getting my hopes up. The past 25 years have been getting increasingly insane, and the news out of the Inner Sphere just keeps getting worse. We're a little behind the times here, but evidently, back in September, the Republic gifted the Fed Suns one of their missing Avalon class cruisers."

"That's...suspiciously nice of them, and reminds me a lot of the Word of Blake with the Invincible. They were planning that as a gift too, weren't they?"

Zeb nodded. "Oh, that's just the start of things. Mid-November, the other missing Avalon showed up. And attacked the Draconis Combine. So, they're at war again."

"You're thinking the Republic did a false-flag attack. That's insane. To, what, weaken two of their neighbors by having them beat on one another?"

"Why not?" Zeb asked. "Think about it. The Republic was against arms proliferation after the Jihad was over, sometimes forcefully so. The Inner Sphere is in another wave of weapons proliferation, and has been since the Blackout. The Republic got beat on hard early on. Why wouldn't they want two of their potential rivals weakening each other, if it meant they might have a chance to step in and get some of their territory back. Which reminds me, speaking of proliferation, we're abbreviating the trials phase of the DropShuttle competition. You're getting the prototype Black Eagle and Seamus. And a DroST Ib shuttle carrier. Or a Saturn. Or two."

"Zeb?" Lea asked.

"Yes, Lea?"

"We have one DropShuttle bay. One. For two DropShuttles."

"Yep," Zeb agreed. "And the Keg carries nearly 65 kilotons of cargo, with those great big doors between the cargo hold and the DropShuttle bay. You can fit the Seamus and a Saturn in there, and still have 60 kilotons of cargo."

"I'm not sure who's crazier, you or my XO. This is madness."

"No," Zeb said, laughing, "This is Niops. You think this is madness now, wait until you hear the names they settled on for the DropShuttles."

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