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Chapter 78[]

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Extraction and Betrayal[]

Outskirts of Research AeroDome
Necromo System, Capellan Confederation
April, 3030

Hap waited on the Drop Zone. He had his Griffin facing the direction of the enemy facility, and he was ready to leave. Over the radio he could hear the crew hooking the Karnov into its harness system. They had already secured the "objective" or whatever it was in the steel transit container. Now they were hastily trying to get the Karnov VTOL rigged up. Hap examined his tactical display. Anastasia was trailing behind Mags and apparently Anastasia had somehow taken a prisoner. Joker was already loaded up on the DropShip.

Hap was also hearing that at the other drop zone they had already loaded up the fire support vehicles and were getting the rest of the tanks and hovercraft on board. Kelly warned Willard that if he jeopardized the load up his tanks would be unceremoniously tossed to the side and left. It sounded like things were going smoothly but Hap wondered if it was all the practice, or Kelly's threat..

Hap was waiting for the Colonel to get on the net and ask him why Mags was coming in with Anastasia, but so far he either hadn't noticed, or, more likely, he was waiting till they were underway to privately address Hap's insubordination. Somehow Hap was more nervous of a confrontation with Colonel Norton than the 'mechs and tanks he had just encountered.

Mags stepped her Jenner into the Leopard's Mech Bay, and Hap could see that Banshee Flight was starting to come back around to escort the Leopard. Anastasia's Valkyrie finally arrived at the drop zone, and Hap followed her to the side of the Leopard and they both quickly loaded into their separate areas and got their 'mechs secured for transport.

The plan was to take off quickly and so the MechWarriors would stay in their 'mechs and wait until the Leopard had broken atmosphere and was headed back to their JumpShip before anyone unloaded. The DropShip began to lift off even before the doors were shut. Hap settled in and waited to hear that the Tir na nOg was loaded. He felt a wave of relief as it sounded like the raid was successful, and they had taken few casualties. Some of the combat vehicles were destroyed but it sounded like most of the crews were recovered. The White tails reported some damage to their fighters but they were still capable. And as near as Hap could tell the McFinnigans had come out with all their 'mechs.

Hap began the shutdown procedures. He kept the life support system active and listened to the radio chatter. <<"Looks like you're clear, Phaidin.">> Kate said. <<"We'll maintain the current heading and velocity a little longer, but then I'd like to dock.">>

(("Acknowledgem, Banshee One.")) Hawkins said, (("We'll begin preparing for recovery operations, then later you and I can rehearse some docking procedures."))

<<"Keep it classy, Hawk.">> Kate said almost dismissively then added, <<"and I hope you chilled the wine.">>

<{"I'm going to proceed over to the Tir na nOg."}> Swanky said. There were a few moments of silence before he added, (("White Tails, you appear to be forming to attack. You see something I don't see? You need assistance?!"))

<("We think we got this under control, Banshee Flight.")> the leader of the White Tails' commander said. <("Maintain your current heading and velocity.")>

<("Acknowledge.")> Swanky answered, <("Tir na nOg, I'm moving to you.")>

<(<"Very good.">> Michelin replied. <(<"White Tails, we are ready to recover you now.">)>

<("Standby, Tir na nOg. We, uh, we just want to make sure of something.")>

<<"Phaidin, my scopes are clean, I'm coming in.">> Kate said.

<S"You're clear to proceed."S> Hawkins answered.

Hap finished the shutdown procedures as the tall blonde member of Det 3 strolled out into the Mech bay area. He was carrying a large, almost oversized laser rifle. Hap thought that was a bad choice for securing a prisoner but he keyed his mic, "Anastasia, it looks like Sjorberg from Det 3 is coming to secure your prisoner."

"Good." Anastasia said, Hap could hear another woman in her cockpit, "is that your husband? He's going to die too. Or maybe he'll just watch you die, and then I'll be sure to 'comfort' him." Anastasia came back on the net, "I've been sorely tempted to violate the Ayres Convention's articles on rights for Prisoners of War."

"Ye think she's a ROM agent, is she wearin' a uniform?" Roweyna asked, "As we've recently discussed, if she's not wearin' a uniform, and her 'mech had no identifying marks, she's not a legal combatant and ye can mistreat her as ye please. At least per theAres Suggestion."

"Be that as it may, I'm bringing her out unharmed, or at least no more harmed then when she surrendered to me." Anastasia said as the hatch of her Valkyrie opened. Sjorberg stopped and casually lifted his laser rifle to his shoulder and pointed it at the Valkyrie. Hap was confused as he tried to figure out what Sjorberg was doing.

Shafer appeared in the door of the Valkyrie cockpit, and the moment she saw Sjorberg she started to back up. Anastasia, unaware of what was going on, shoved Shafer out of the 'mech. Shafer half stumbled and then started to run down the gantry's catwalk. Sjorberg tracked her with his laser rifle. The laser rifle spat out multiple quick bursts of lasers. Most of the laser pulses struck Shafer and she went down hard on the catwalk.

Hap looked beyond Shafer to see Anastasia looking wide eyed but still standing in her cockpit. Hap motioned for her to stay put as Shafer rolled over and feebly tried to sit up, and communicate with Sjorberg. Another burst of lasers struck her and the catwalk as she slumped over.

Hap ripped off his Neurohelmet and pulled hard on the cockpit release hatch and pushed with all his weight as he scrambled out of his command couch. He squeezed out of his half open cockpit as he shouted, "Sjorberg, what the hell-"

Sjorberg gave Hap a bemused look as he turned the laser rifle in his direction and sent a burst of lasers at the Griffin's glass canopy. The pulse laser seemed too under powered to hurt the 'mech but Hap knew it would certainly hurt him. Hap got back into his cockpit while Sjorberg put two more laser bursts into the catwalk and Shafer's body. Hap held up his Neurohelmet to speak into his mic, "Ops, this is Hap, one of Det 3's men has gone crazy and is firing weapons in the Mech bay."

There was no response as Hap half stood up and watched Sjorberg nonchalantly drop the power cell from the laser rifle and slam another into its place. He put the weapon back on his shoulder and aimed at Hap. He kept one hand on the rifle's grip, and with his other hand he pointed at Hap and motioned for him to come down.

Behind Sjorberg Mike was swiftly walking behind him. He carried a two meter long torque wrench. He was holding the wrench high and across his shoulders like an executioner would hold a sword. When he got within a few paces of Sjorberg he swung the wrench and brought it down hard at the base of Sjorberg's neck. Hap saw Sjorberg's head move in a sickening and unnatural way and, for a moment, rest sideways on his shoulder. Sjorberg immediately collapsed to the ground. There was a burst of lasers from somewhere below Hap directed at Mike as he dove to the deck.

Hap quickly exited his cockpit and ran to look over the edge of the catwalk. There were three members of Det 3 using parts crates and the foot of his Griffin for a hasty fighting position. Mike was using the body of Sjorberg for cover and was also using the dead man's pulse laser rifle to return fire.

Hap instinctively reached for his sidearm. It was a classic revolver style slug-thrower. His father had given it to him and swore it would never jam and was perfect for self-defense. It also kicked like a mule, was limited to six shots, and was heavy as guilt. Hap put his hand on the pistol grip and hesitated. The revolver could easily go through the armor and skin of the men below him, it would also pierce the skin of the DropShip and cause explosive decompression.

Hap looked around, and grabbed Mike's heavy wheeled tool case. He released the wheel locks rolled it to the edge nearest the combatants. He squatted low and lifted the tool case over the edge of the railing and pushed hard. Hap heard the shocking cacophony of a loud crash, an awful grunt, breaking bones, cracking ceramic armor plates, and metal tools striking the deck floor. Before Hap could peer over the railing several bolts of laser pulses were shot at the catwalk and Hap was forced to retreat to the other side of his Griffin.

Hap glanced back to see Anastasia standing in her cockpit and carefully lining up shots from the hatch of her Valkyrie. Hap wasn't sure if the laser could pierce the Leopard's skin, but Anastasia rarely missed, and this situation was desperate enough to risk it.

Hap realized he needed to get to the deck and stop the Det 3 member from further hurting Mike or shooting at Anastasia. He could see that the Griffin's feet were between the ladder and the men with the pulse lasers. Hap jogged over to the ladder and put his feet on the outside so he could half slide, half control fall to the deck below.

Hap landed hard, and moved to quickly press himself against his 'mech's foot. He looked around the Griffin's leg to watch one of the Det 3 members charge Mike. He let his pulse rifle hang free from the cross body sling and pulled out a short, half-meter, vibro blade. As he ran Mike tried to take a shot at him but the laser rifle's battery was spent. Mike jumped to his feet and held out the rifle to parry his enemy's attack.

The vibroblade cut through the rifle's stock and receiver and slashed Mike across the chest. Mike slammed the broken rifle butt into the nose of his adversary. The man was stunned for a moment and Mike used the time to drop the broken rifle and pull out his J knife. The Det 3 man tried to take another swing with his vibroblade but Mike stepped out of his way and grabbed his wrist. With a whip-like slash of his arm Mike brought the J knife down like he was cutting through myomer. The man screamed as his sword and one of his hands fell to the deck.

A burst of lasers struck Mike across the chest and he staggered backwards and fell down. The man Mike had maimed was cradling his bloody stump under is other arm as he tried to get into his first aid kit. Mike staggered forward, crouched next to him, grabbed him by the hair, tilted his head up, and used the J knife to slit his throat. Mike was hit again by another burst of lasers.

Hap swept around the back of his Griffin's foot and stepped around the ruined tool case that had crushed one Det 3 mercenaries. Hap saw the final member of the Det 3 group looking down his rifle's sights waiting for Mike to move again. Hap grabbed the man's pulse laser rifle and punched his head as hard as he could. The man fell away from Hap while releasing his laser rifle.

Hap put the laser rifle's butt stock into his shoulder as his hand found the rifle's grip and trigger. He saw the man reach for his side arm as he tried to draw his weapon. There was a deafening explosion from a few paces away as Tasja shot the Det 3 member with a shotgun. She was walking with her sister who was now kneeling down next to Mike. Tasja kept walking toward Hap as she put another shotgun round into the Det 3 man. She was next to Hap when she pumped the shotgun, ejected a spent casing, and put a third round into her assailant.

The man was clearly dead or dying and Hap put his hand on the barrel and pushed it slightly down, "Careful, with that. You don't want to shoot through the ship's hull."

"These rounds are designed for ship board use." Tasja said as she moved the barrel away from Hap's hand and put another round into the man. "And the choke is wide open."

Hap snatched the shotgun from the tech, "He's dead. " He said and looked at her. She was starring at the dead man with a look of hatred and vehemence. "We need to help the living."

She nodded and followed Hap as he walked over to Mike. Masja had the first aid hit open, but she seemed at a loss of what to do. Hap could see Mike had several burns from multiple laser bolts and the large slash across his chest was bleeding profusely. "Stop the bleeding." Mike told Masja. "Just like with a coolant or hydraulic leak, stop the leak. Then get me to the sick bay."

Masja nodded and took a small envelope from the first aid kit. She tore the corner and spread the coagulant on his chest. She then pulled out a large bandage and started to prep it. Hap felt helpless as he watched Masja. He wanted to help, and Mike looked like death warmed over.

"I'll go find Doctor Les." Hap said.

"How many of those Det 3 guys were there?" Mike asked Hap.

"Thirteen." Hap said as he looked around the bay. There were the two men Mike had killed, the man that had been crushed by the tool box, and the man that Masja had killed.

"Yeah, so there are still a few more." Mike said as he shivered a little, "Give me one of those red pain killers." He told Masja, motioning weakly at the kit.

"I think it's better if you stay awake and lucid, besides when we get you to the sick bay-" Hap said as Masja took the red syringe and started to prepare to administer the powerful anesthetic.

"I think it's better if you go find the other bastards that are trying to hijack this ship." Mike said before he coughed. "I told you those ****** couldn't be trusted.

Before Hap could respond Joker and Mags came from the corridor that connected the two 'mech bays.

"Hey, Hap, I think there's something wrong the Det 3 guys." Joker said.

Hap looked at Joker and Mags, "You think? They just tried to kill us. What happened to you?"

"Same, Hefe." Mags said, "They told us to get out our 'Mechs, and they were taking this DropShip. I told them to go to hell, and William torched them."

"You used your flamers inside a DropShip?" Hap asked.

"Not flamers, that would be insane." Joker protested, "I just used one flamer." Joker said, "it's no big deal. Mike told me he didn't trust me not to be a dumb ass, so he doesn't put ammo or anything flammable near my 'mech. So I figured one flamer was pretty safe."

"It was actually Erik that told him that, and we don't put anything flammable near that 'mech." Mike said as he leaned heavily on Masja. She was taking the syringe out of his thigh, and pinning it to his collar and bending the needle down. Mike coughed and it sounded wet, "If you ever do that again, I'll kick your ass."

"Everything's fine." Joker said with a dismissive wave, "The Fire Suppression System kicked in pretty fast, but not before I toasted those ass hats, and it took a second for the air to recirculate, but no harm to the ship."

Mags looked around the room. Her eyes lingered on the two dead men next to Mike, "You gonna be okay?"

Mike nodded sluggishly, but Hap was concerned. Several of the assistant techs were milling around. Anastasia was talking to one of them and pointing to the woman on the catwalk. Hap caught the attention of one the bigger techs. He motioned to him and the guy next to him and pointed to a stretcher on the wall.

Mike had a little trouble focusing on Joker, "Yeah, it's going to take more than three of these ****** to take me down."

"There were four." Anastasia said. She was walking toward them now. She had collected the pulse laser rifles and battery packs from the dead mercenaries. "Perhaps you forgot that one that was crushed under your tool case."

Mike's focused seemed to improve as Anastasia mentioned his tool case, "Hap you owe me a new tool box and a new tool set."

"Yeah, sorry Mike. It was a desperate moment and I…"

"Yeah, I get it, you just throw my property around." Mike coughed again, "You're going to buy me a new one and tools. I want both common and metric, complete sets. I want all the power tools to be DeWalt-Milwaukee. The case should be red and brass. I want it in Davion colors." Mike said. "You got that?" Hap nodded as Mike continued, "I think I need..." He leaned heavily on Masja and she looked more worried. "I need to rest. It's getting cold in here, someone check life support, or the hulls." Mike mumbled as he closed his eyes.

Hap handed Tasja back her shotgun and helped the techs get him onto the stretcher. "Let's get Mike to the sick bay."

Mike stirred and pushed Hap away, "Secure the ship dumbass. Chad and Kelane will get me to sick bay."

Hap looked over at Masja and Tasja, "Follow them and if you run into the Det 3 team, shoot first." The twin techs nodded and followed the men taking Mike to the sick bay.

Anastasia walked up with an arm load of battery packs and two laser rifles slung on her shoulder. She gave a few of the batter packs to Hap and then started to hand Joker a laser rifle."These are pulse laser rifles. It's similar to a standard laser rifle, but it fires multiple short bursts rather than a concentrated beam. It means more damage over a wider area, but less penetration power." She held onto the laser rifle for a moment and looked Joker in the eye, "They don't seem able to pierce the ship's hull, but you should still fire carefully."

"Bad ass." Joker said as he took the weapon and pulled out the battery pack to check the charge.

Anastasia passed an extra battery pack to Joker, and asked, "Mags, you want a laser rifle?"

Mags shook her head as she cycled her shotgun to empty the shells. When it was empty she started to refill it with shells with black casings from a cloth bag Masja had given her before leaving for the sickbay.

"I'm good, sister." Mags said as she loaded in her gun, "These are special shells, with less powder. It's enough to hurt a bastard, put a hole in his ass, but not the hull."

Hap changed out the battery pack in his rifle. "Joker, how many men did you and Mags kill?"

"Three." Joker said as he put the battery pack back in the rifle and cycled the firing system.

"Alright we gotta find the other six Det 3 members." Hap said, "They're probably trying to get to the bridge. Or more likely they are breaching the bridge right now."

The ship felt like it took a dive and there was a shift in the pseudo-gravity.

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