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Fate Can be Cruel (Book 2) - Chapter Cover

Fate Can Be Cruel
Chapter 18 - Year 3021


3rd January 3021
Thazi (Hegemony)

Commanding General Michelle Mitchell smiled as she listened to her girls bickering in the living room. They had spent the last 2 weeks at home for the holidays and were packing to head back to basic training. It had been good to spend some time with them, even though she kept a close eye on their training reports, fitness tests from a discrete distance. Still she had been surprised at how mature all three now seemed, while they had always been above average in that respect, they no longer needed alarm clocks. The entire time they had been home, they had been up at 5am, out the door for an hour of physical training, then showered and changed for breakfast by 8am. Even a late night game where they did not go to bed until 2am, still saw them up at 5am.

While they packed and bickered, she was going over the latest reports on the remobilization of the Hegemony Armed Forces. They were slightly ahead of schedule due to the last couple of years of above predicted recruitment. They still needed a few years to have every command activated, but the end was near and she could start focusing on bringing the (B) commands up to (A) level commands. Those already in the (B) commands would provide a solid core as they expanded to (A) level commands. She figured she could have all the (B) commands expanded to (A) level commands by 3032. She glanced over at the framed roster on her office wall, a moment from Commanding General Rita Mitchell passed down to every Commanding General, the roster listed all the original commands of the "Forgotten Corps", then all the commands to have ever served in the "new" Hegemony Armed Forces, with a special list at the bottom noting commands the Hegemony never brought back to life. Her eye's focused on the 280th Mechanized Infantry Division, it's destruction on New Dallas after refusing to abandon the people there was legendary. In their honor, the Hegemony had never brought them back to active duty. Even though carried on the rolls as on detached duty, but she felt the time was right. It was time to reactivate the 280th MID.

She penciled the 280th Mechanized Infantry Division above the 191st Royal Jump Infantry Division, it would form an additional Army Reaction Command. But due to it's unique status, she planned to beef it up some. She started making some notes on a separate note pad.

280th Mechanized Infantry Division

(3) Mechanized Infantry Brigades - 3 Mech Inf Regiment, 1 Ferret PA Regiment, 1 Armor Regiment each Brigade
(1) Battlemech Brigade - 3 Battlemech Regiments
(1) Armor Brigade - 3 Armor Regiments
(1) Artillery Brigade - 4 Thor Batt, 4 Padilla Battalion
(1) Cavalry Regiment - Battlemech Battalion, Hover Armor Battalion, Ferret PA Battalion
(1) VTOL Regiment - 2 Attack/Scout VTOL Battalion, 1 Transport VTOL Battalion
(2) Aerospace Wing - 3 Aerospace Groups each (108 Fighters total)

As in all the other Divisions, the Infantry Brigades all had integral transportation, the additional Armor Regiment was the Brigade Commanders personal sledge hammer. While adding an additional Mechanized Infantry Brigade, she also doubled the Division's artillery by adding another Regiment to give the command extra firepower in either defensive or offensive operations. She made a note to expedite the activation of the 280th MID.

Army Quick Reaction

280th Mechanized Infantry Division (A+)
191st Royal Jump Infantry Division (A)

1st Corps (Offensive)

359th Battlemech Division (A) - active 100%
368th Battlemech Division (B) - active 100% - (A) conversion 3023
208th Battlemech Division (B) - active 100% - (A) conversion 3023
428th Battlemech Division (B) - active 100% - (A) conversion 3024
272nd Mechanized Infantry Division (A) - active 100%
123rd Mechanized Infantry Division (B) - active 100% - (A) conversion 3024
79th Mechanized Infantry Division (B) - active 100% - (A) conversion 3025
265th Mechanized Infantry Division (B) - active 100% - (A) conversion 3025
81st Mechanized Infantry Division (B) - active 100% - (A) conversion 3026
211th Hussar Regiment - active 100%
201st Battle Regiment - active 100%
288th Hussar Regiment - active 100%

2nd Corps (Offensive)

295th Battlemech Division (A) - active 100%
298th Battlemech Division (B) - active 100% - (A) conversion 3025
318th Battlemech Division (B) - active 100% - (A) conversion 3026
370th Battlemech Division (B) - active 100% - (A) conversion 3027
126th Mechanized Infantry Division (A) - active 100%
173rd Mechanized Infantry Division (B) - active 100% - (A) conversion 3027
181st Royal Mechanized Infantry Division (B) - active 100% - (A) conversion 3027
251st Royal Mechanized Infantry Division (B) - active 100% - (A) conversion 3028
200th Mechanized Infantry Division (B) - 3022 - (A) conversion 3030
19th Hussar Regiment - active 100%
5th Hussar Regiment - active 100%
277th Dragoon Regiment - active 100%

3rd Corps (Defensive)

284th Battlemech Division (B) - active 100% - (A) conversion 3029
29th Mechanized Infantry Division (B) - active 100% - (A) conversion 3031
54th Mechanized Infantry Division (B) - active 100% - (A) conversion 3031
31st Infantry Division - active 100%
36th Infantry Division - active 100%
52nd Infantry Division - active 100%
48th Infantry Division - active 100%
55th Infantry Division - active 100%
56th Infantry Division - active 100%
247th Heavy Assault Regiment - active 100%
349th Dragoon Regiment - 3021

V Corps (Wolverine Mix)

331st Royal Battlemech Division (A) - active 100%
151st Mechanized Infantry Division (A) - active 100%
153rd Mechanized Infantry Division (A) - 3022
184th Mechanized Infantry Division (B) - 3024 - (A) conversion 3029
80th Royal Jump Infantry Division (A) - 3026
135th Royal Striker Regiment - active 100%
208th Striker Regiment - active 100%
257th Battle Regiment - 3023
541st Battle Regiment - active 100%

Training Command

322nd Armored Division
323rd Armored Division
324th Armored Division
325th Armored Division

The Hegemony Guard consisted of 110 Conventional Regimental Combat Teams, every system in the Hegemony had at least 1 assigned. Consisting of 3 Infantry Regiments, 2 Armor Regiments, Artillery Regiment and Aerospace Wing. These formed the garrison of every Hegemony system. Staffed by recently discharged HAF soldiers, they all were required to serve 4 years in the Hegemony Guard plus enlistee's directly into the Guard formations. This had always given the Hegemony active forces a large pool of trained personnel that could be called up in an emergency.

As she looked at the large list, her eye's fell on a request from General Jessica Hallis. She had the message for over 2 months but had only replied with a simple "will take under advisement". She picked up the message and read it again.

To: Commanding General Michelle Mitchell
From: General Jessica Hallis

Activation of V Corps proceeding well. Request permission to form special command, specially trained in Clan standards taken from records brought with Clan Wolverine from Clan Homeworlds. Feel this could come in handy when the day comes that we must face them in combat. From my study of records, Clan forces organized as follows:

Point - 1 Battlemech or 2 Aerospace or 2 Armor or 1 Infantry Platoon
Star - 5 Battlemech or 10 Aerospace or 10 Armor or 5 Infantry Platoon
Binary - 2 Star
Trinary - 3 Star
Cluster - 3-5 Trinary/Binary

From records, Clan forces depend heavily on an honor system. Conducting Trials which govern almost all aspects of combat, including bidding to the minimum of forces needed to accomplish a goal. I would like to form a Cluster command, heavily trained in Clan ways, until we actually gain first hand knowledge on any changes, this command can be used as an OPFOR for our forces to train against. Our Aerospace squadrons will need to get used to being outnumbered unless we engage a single Clan Star with a full Wing of ours. Our Battlemech Battalions could find themselves outnumbered by a single Clan Cluster so will need to develop tactics to handle this event.

--General Jessica Hallis

She had mentally dismissed the message, only because she did not plan to fight the Clan forces on any sort of even playing field. As far as she was concerned, a single Clan Cluster would face off against a full Division. She had also read as many reports as she could from Clan Wolverine's arrival in the Hegemony centuries ago. Along with Commanding General Rita Mitchell's writings on how she had planned to deal with the threat if it had come. How the Clan's had tried to move away from accepted combat tactics practiced by the SLDF and even the Hegemony to this day. Well, not only had Commanding General Rita Mitchell planned to reintroduce the Clan's to total warfare, but so did Commanding General Michelle Mitchell. Overwhelming force would be applied at all levels when the day came.


15th February 3021
Thazi (Hegemony)

Fleet Admiral Tomlin Tanaka sat across from Commanding General Michelle Mitchell, today he was going to plead his case to reactivate the Odessa Naval base. The most recent survey of the complex was now 5 years old, carried out by Hegemony Security along with naval engineers. They estimated it would take at least 12 years to bring it back into service. The equipment had fallen into such disrepair, that it was estimated that much of it would have to be replaced. Since it would take extra time just to return it to service, now was the time to begin.

"Okay Tomlin, what brings you to Thazi? You only come here when called or you want something. I did not call, so you must want something." Commanding General Michelle Mitchell said, finally putting down the report she had been reading and giving Fleet Admiral Tomlin Tanaka her full attention.

"It concerns the Odessa Naval base. Our most recent survey is now 5 years old. That report estimated that it would take 12 years to return the base to service. From a strategic stand point, we need that facility fully operational. We both know the mutant Kerensky's Army will return. Which is fine by me, my navy is more than ready to deal with them. But, I can only support them fully if they come at us head on. We lack base facilities on over half the Inner Sphere. The Odessa Naval base would give me a location on the other half of the Sphere from us. I also want to check out what is left of that Rim World Outpost 27. We have the location, and we know it built and serviced Warships back in that time. I want to see what is left of the place. We know the Naval Base in the Dark Nebula was stripped bare by Kernesky before they left, only the barest of anything was left behind.

While we are at it, I want to check out that location they discovered long ago at the Odessa Naval Base, the EC3057-J83A, Mundo Nublar. The recovered records said it was a weapons research facility and I am curious what the heck is there. It is time Michelle, I have bit my tongue for a long time, but if I have to plan to fight a war, against what Kerensky took with him, I damned well need the forward support bases. Yardships can only get me so far." Fleet Admiral Tomlin Tanaka said

"Wow, you came loaded for bear this time. And I agree, it is time. I have been focused on getting the Army back into shape that I have neglected preparing the Navy for a forward battle. The Odessa facility will be a major effort, but we must keep it a secret at all costs." Commanding General Michelle Mitchell replied somberly

"Damn you, Michelle, I was prepared for a knock down drag out fight with you and here you go stealing my thunder by agreeing with me. Well, shit." Fleet Admiral Tomlin Tanaka said with a half smile.

"Secrecy is paramount, Tomlin. You have to assure me of this." Commanding General Michelle Mitchell said

"We have precise coordinates of the Odessa Naval Base, so we can Slip Stream almost on top of it. No one will ever know we are there. I am going to take in everything the place could need on 2 of the Longhaul Transports, escorted by two Brandt-Class Corvettes. Once we unload all the cargo, the Longhauls will return to Hegemony space. One the Corvette remains on guard, I will use the other one to check out the other places before returning back to Odessa. Once I get an idea of what we find, well I will adjust accordingly. Of course we will keep you informed at every step, promise." Fleet Admiral Tomlin Tanaka replied

"See that you do, Tomlin, this is not an open ended hunting license. Stick to what we have agreed on and keep me informed promptly of developments before you go tearing off in search of any and every fairy tale." Commanding General Michelle Mitchell said


8 March 3021
Zetang (Hegemony)

Before leaving Thazi, Fleet Admiral Tomlin Tanaka had checked the current locations of Merchant Surveillance ships with Hegemony Security. He had been pleased to find that 5 were operating within the Lyran Commonwealth posing as commercial Jumpships. He had requested that one be dispatched to Odessa to check out the naval base there. He just wanted to know what they might be walking into since it had been 5 years since the last check. Plus they would have a current update on the stellar positions for a more accurate arrival point. He had made some quick plans for the reactivation of the base using what he knew of the base. It had a total of 10 repair slips, which he deemed more than enough for his needs. He was going to send 2 Marine Battalions for base security aboard 2 of his Marine Titan DropShips. In addition, 2 Independent Aero Wings would provide local protection.

He had already sent a request to Hegemony Quartermaster to begin gathering everything contained in the last engineering report and get it loaded aboard the Transports. In addition, he wanted 20 Aqueduct-Class Dropships fully loaded with fuel and water to refill the bases tanks. Another message was sent to Personnel to begin gathering the needed personnel for a new duty assignment, projected length would be 2 years before rotation. Since they could not afford any sort of orbital habitats or ground basing, no family members would accompany them. Once the base was operational, he would figure out some sort of scheduled transport to facilitate crew rotations and leave. Added emphasis was placed to locate single personnel that have no issues with long term deployments.

He had second guessed himself a few times on using a single ship for the recon of the other locations, but he managed to convince himself it was better to have a light foot print versus a heavy one for the first run. He figured if the ship in question had a mechanical breakdown, they would send a message via Fax, which would then be relayed from Odessa to Zetang and he could dispatch a repair ship with escort with an arrival within 2 months of the breakdown for recovery. He had toyed with using some more of the Merchant Surveillance ships, but after calculating a projected arrival date, he had realized that his Bryant Corvette would arrive, perform it's recon and be back at Odessa before the first one had even gotten close to their target. I should have forced a dedicated Slip Stream Spy ship through the system, it would be better suited for this mission, but too late now, at least for this particular mission package, he thought to himself for the millionth time.

28 March 3021
New Avalon (Federated Suns)

"Welcome back Highness. How did the meeting with Archon Katrina Steiner go?" Yvonne Davion, Prince's Champion asked.

"Surprisingly well, Yvonne. Archon Katrina Steiner is a very charismatic leader and someone I think we can work with." First Prince Hanse Davion replied with a smile and twinkle in his eye.

"You look like a cat that swallowed a canary Hanse. You’re not smitten by her are you?" Yvonne Davion asked

"Not smitten, but she is a beautiful woman. That I cannot deny." he said

"Oh to be young again. I am long past that, so tell me how the Federated Suns might be able to work with Archon Katrina Steiner and what of the Lyran military? That is another ball of wax. Most of their officer corp spends more time at social functions than in the field. Plus their units are so damned heavy, I am surprised they don't change the rotation of any planet they are deployed on. They have no real flexibility, just create their wall of steel and plow forward." Yvonne Davion said

"We have another meeting scheduled for early next year. This first one was more a formal feeling out of each other. But Katrina was quite open on many matters, more so than I was to her. She has the heart of a warrior along with the passion, but she also cares deeply for her people and is willing to do what is needed to see them prosper." Hanse replied

"No matter what come of this Hanse, do not take your eye off Michael Hasek. He is a bigger thorn than Sandoval will ever be and I do not trust him at all." Yvonne said

"I won't, Yvonne. Besides, that is why I have you around, to remind me of that very fact." Hanse replied

Odessa (Lyran Commonwealth)

Captain George Yamashina had brought his Merchant Surveillance Ship to the outer limit of the system itself. From here, they would take readings and allow the ships powerful telescopes and camera's to take a look at the Odessa Naval base from long range while they recharged the ships jump core and LF battery. He wanted to be ready for an emergency escape if need be. They had exhausted their charges moving here as quickly as possible. In a week, he would jump into one of the stable points not far from the base itself where the marines could make a shuttle run to check the base itself for signs of tampering. He had served with Hegemony Security for over 18 years, mainly aboard this very ship. The one thing he had always hoped for was a new ship that utilized the Slip Stream technology for his missions, it would save so much time and allow him to redeploy so much quicker.


8 April 3021
Odessa IV (Lyran Commonwealth)

Captain George Yamashina blinked as his senses came back to him after the brief jump. His eyes quickly scanned the ships sensors and within seconds knew they were in the correct spot. "Launch the fighters, let's let them do a quick flyby of the naval base and immediate area. I would prefer no surprises. Tell the Marines to gear up and head for the shuttles, Chief Engineer, you will be going with the Marines for a look see."

Minutes later, the Aerospace Squadron launched and broke into 3 pairs for their search runs. The pair of Sabre fighters assigned to have a look at the naval base slowed to almost a hover and slowly crept into the interior of the darkened naval base. Now that they were shielded by the base itself, Lieutenant Rhonda McCord powered up her fighters sensors and went fully active. Within seconds, she had a good radar picture of everything inside the naval base. Docked inside three of the berths were massive silent warships. On a docking collar at the edge of the main complex, a single Elephant Tug sat silently. There was no light at all inside the huge asteroid housing the naval base. Even deep space was not this dark, she thought silently.

"Ghost Lead to Ghost Two, let's get out of here and make our report. No radio calls outside this rock. Silent running all the way." She called before she began the rotation to head out of the asteroid on minimal thrust.

Three hours later, three of the four SA-7 Buses docked with the main complex of the naval base. Chief Engineer Jiles Neblsmith, clad in a EVA suit, carefully followed the squad of Marines to the complex's main reactor room. Once they had declared it clear, he moved to the control panel and hooked up and emergency power pack. As power began flowing into the main computer control panel for the first time in centuries, the computer screen flickered and then came alive. Got to hand it to the damned Star League folks, they built shit to last. He thought with a smile. He began to run a quick diagnostic before starting the delicate process of entering in several passwords that would deactivate the multitude of demolition charges, left by the Hegemony 200 years ago. Once that was complete, he hoped anyway. He began the task of bringing the long powered down reactor back to life. After a few hours, the reactor had been restarted slowly he began restoring power to the complex itself. The Odessa Naval Base was once more alive.

DC18872-2997 (Draconis Combine)

Carly Weisen was aboard her Scout-Class Jumpship, they had hastily jumped to this empty system when Combine Customs had almost caught them at Altair. She and her crew were smugglers, and they were very good at their job. They made a very good living running luxury goods into the Combine, goods that could not be legally bought from Combine manufacturers. For the last 9 days they had been recharging their drive from the very weak star. The system itself only had scattered asteroids, some really big ones. While most were just single monsters, her attention was focused on a cluster of asteroids that almost seemed to be in formation. There was just something unnatural about this cluster and it made her nervous.

She saw that the drive was fully charged and the jump sail was safely stored. "Nav, you got our jump plotted?"

"Yes ma’am, we are fully plotted and ready to jump on your command."

"Start the jump sequence." She ordered. As the jump timer sounded 30 seconds, she fired up the ships radar and all the other sensors. Hard returns came back in seconds from the formation of what she had thought were asteroids. She stared at the sensor readings in stunned silence as her Scout Jumpship made the jump. Her last thought before the jump was "Those are not asteroids, those are friggin ships".

9 April 3021
New Earth (Lyran Commonwealth)

Carly Weisen was in her private cabin, displayed on her computer screen was the sensor readings and radar images taken right before they had jumped. She had massaged the information until she could now see that instead of what she thought were 5 ships, it looked as though one of them was broken in half the entire grouping was in a tight "formation" roughly 10Km in diameter. From what her sensors had gathered, not a single emission of any kind was detected and the ships were as cold as the space around them. Their orbit, plotted by her computers put them on a long orbit around the weak star they had left. There had not been enough time to get a really good fix on their actual orbit, but it was the best they could determine with the amount of time they had. One thing was for sure, they are worth a ton of money to someone, but who would be brave enough to play in the Combine's backyard that long, she wondered.

For damn sure she was not about to send anything out over any HPG, damned if she wanted Comstar probing her for information. Nor would she even contemplate giving the information to the Combine or Capellans. Then it hit her, Sammy Featherman. He is crazy enough to take on the job or at least he would know who would. Used to be independent, but about 6 years ago signed on with ZaP Shipping full time. She had even been tempted to sign on with ZaP also, but she liked her Independence too much. He got a sweet deal to; they bought his ancient Merchant Jumpship and then allowed him to put the money towards purchasing the brand new Liberty II Jumpship he was now operating. Plus ZaP put 2% of the revenue generated by his ship towards his purchasing of the ship down the road. One thing was sure, she needed to figure out how to find him, without raising any alarm bells.

Robinson (Federated Suns)

Sammy Featherman was currently at the Nadir Jump Point of the Robinson system. Having dropped off his loaded Mammoth Dropships, he was awaiting the different Dropships coming to link up with him for the return trip. He was as happy as he could remember. He got a nice steady paycheck, he got a brand spanking new Liberty II Jumpship and ZaP was putting money towards his final purchase of the ship from them. He no longer got hassled by customs people, he got priority recharges on the rare times he actually used them. In addition, only in the last year he had qualified and been rated for what ZaP labeled Priority Alpha cargo runs, which paid a very handsome bonus. They were rare, and he had yet actually made one of those runs yet, but he had talked to a few that had and they all told him it was worth it. With his new rating, he did have to submit to extra paperwork, filling out a much more detailed log report and even sensor readings of every system he traveled to. They said it was for their internal data bases to track what was happening in every system, possible competition, who all was visiting a system, updated star charts, and gravitational readings. It was really the first time he had ever heard about a private company even thinking of stuff like that, most just downloaded the free stuff from Comstar. Another form he had to complete was for him to report anything that even vaguely might be of interest to ZaP Shipping, up to and including normal rumors, which he really found strange. But he did not let it bother him at all, they were a huge Corporation after all, plus he had only submitted one of the forms concerning an independent he knew wanting to hire on, that had netted him a nice little bonus when they hired the guy. The only thing that made the hair on his neck stand up some was the new rating also brought with it 6 very serious Marines. He did not know of ANYONE that actually employed actual Marines, but ZaP Shipping sure as hell did. They were only deployed aboard ships that had Priority Alpha ratings.

Zetang (Hegemony, Deep Periphery)

Fleet Admiral Tomlin Tanaka signed off on the final manifest heading for the Odessa Naval Base. Any day now, a Brandt Corvette was going to arrive in the out system of Odessa, take on the message that it was safe along with updated system information. It would then recharge and bring that information back where it would be uploaded into the convoy's navigational computers. He figured 2 more weeks before they departed for Odessa. So while waiting, he had decided to try and take care of the issue of a long range fast Surveillance ship. He had given the information to Hegemony Industries lead naval engineer to see what they could do.

30th April 3021
Odessa IV (Lyran Commonwealth)

At a stable non standard point fairly close to the Odessa Naval Base, first one and then another Brandt–Class Corvette appeared. Minutes later, a massive Longhaul-Class Transport appeared followed minutes later by a second. Captain George Yamashina shook his head "No matter how long I have been doing this, I will never get used to ships just appearing with no warning what so ever", he said to his navigator who nodded in agreement.

Avoiding any radio communication, the few personnel on the Odessa Naval Base managed to get secure laser communications with the Longhauls and the first Dropships began detaching. The only main saving grace was the large asteroid which housed the naval base was in a locked orbit around Odessa IV which had a very slow rotation itself. It would be another 4 months before the base itself could be detected from Odessa III. The first Dropships heading for the naval base carried several thousand crew for the station itself. There were only 20 docking collars at the naval base, so it would take quite a while to get everything unloaded with 100 Dropships carried aboard the Transports.

Aboard the very first Dropship, Rear Admiral Trisha Vanadey, sat on the bridge watching as the Dropship slowly thrust towards the bases docking collar. The interior was brightly lit now and she could see the ships she had been briefed on. This is my command now and the first thing we do is get those hulks out of those berths so that I can get them rebuilt and upgraded if they need it, she thought silently. Then I will decide if they are worth repairing or just scrap them to nothing, she continued thinking until finally she felt the slight bump as the Dropship locked into the docking collar. She unstrapped herself from the couch she had been occupying and nodded to the Dropship captain as she headed for the hatch. Time to get to work, she thought with a smile.

Although the Hegemony Navy itself received excellent support from the various ship builders, the Navy itself maintained a large and well trained ship engineering department to man their Yardships and Naval Bases outside the Hegemony itself. It was these personnel that would be crewing the Odessa Naval Base long term. Though they could request additional support from the various industrial concerns in the Hegemony itself if the work required that additional support. Within the week, the interior of the asteroid would be a beehive of activity as several hundred personnel went EVA to begin their work.

Aboard SLS Robert H. McCard, the other Brandt-Class Corvette (SS), Commander Chelsea Zuniga prepared her ship for recharging operations, in a week, she would be fully recharged and ready to head out for her own mission to check out the old Rim Worlds Outpost 27, which had contained a shipyard complex at one time in the past.


17 May 3021 Rim Worlds Outpost #27 (Periphery)

Commander Chelsea Zuniga, SLS Robert H. McCard, Brandt-Class Corvette (SS), had spent the last week hovering outside range of anything that could detect them, taking sensor readings and listening to radio traffic. One thing was for certain, there was life out here, question is, friendly or hostile. She knew she was hesitating, but her order to maintain absolute secrecy conflicted with her orders to check out the shipyards. "Nav, how long to get to a point where we can get a good look at the shipyard on thrust and distance to shipyards?"

"Distance 7.5 billion kilometers to shipyards. At 1g thrust, 20 days ma’am."

"Plot a course, Helm. 1g thrust. Let's close on our target and take a really good look. XO, keep a close watch on the passive sensors, I do not want to be located."


4 June 3021

Using the ships navigational telescope, they had gotten a very good look from a very discrete distance. Commander Zuniga let out a low whistle as she looked at the image on the screen. There was no mistaking the single large shape in one of the berths, a Dart-Class Light Cruiser. It was easy to tell that it was only partially constructed. The other yard looked as though it had been stripped to provide parts for the one containing the unfinished Dart. There was not a single electronic signal coming from the small complex or orbitals. Long range sensors had detected several jump signatures from the Zenith Jump Point and they had radio traffic from several planets in the system. The complex itself was located just outside the Nadir Jump Point of the system.

But she had her answer and it was time to get the hell out of here before they were detected. "Nav, plot our course back to Odessa. Engage slip stream when your ready."

Zetang (Hegemony)

Fleet Admiral Tomlin Tanaka was at the Livingston Naval Base in his office. Displayed on his large monitor was Hegemony Industry's submission for the new Surveillance vessel. Though it lacked any sort of capitol weaponry, he had to admit it met all of his criteria he had demanded. They had selected the Tramp Jumpship as the basis for the design, still being in production at a very reduced rate, but it was common enough to not draw any attention.

Weighing in at 250,000 tons and the same visual profile as the Tramp-Class Jumpship, that was as far as any common ground between the two ships went. Powerful engines carefully hidden from casual view powered the vessel at a safe thrust of 2.5g and a maximum thrust of 4g, it was capable of outrunning what it could not overpower. Coated in 150 tons of Lamellor Ferro Carbide armor, this gave the ship good armor protection spread evenly across the ship. A vast fuel store of 10,000 tons allowed the ship to undertake long deployments with multiple recharges or refuel the 3 Dropships it could carry. For weapons, it was protected by 8 Large Pule Lasers and 8 Small Pulse Lasers in each firing arc. While not the most impressive, it did provide enough firepower to discourage anything short of another warship or assault Dropship. Besides, it was not meant to fight and the engineers figured if they armed it with capitol weapons, a commander might decide to stay and fight instead of running.

It was the amount of electronics that made the vessel shine. Equipped with the Amber Computer Control System, the ship was equipped for Slip Stream travel for a maximum range of 1,000LY on a single jump provided by the vessels 4 LF Battery's while retaining the ability to make an immediate normal jump if the need was there. In every arc of the vessel, the most advanced sensor arrays and camera's meant the ship did not have to position itself to use the electronics, it could do so from any angle. The most advanced Naval Comm Suite was also installed to soak up as much electronic Intel it could as quick as it could. Hegemony Industry's had decided to leave out the HPG, due to its use announced the vessel's presence, instead, they had hard wired one of the newest Fax Machines to the Amber System, able to transmit 1,200LY at a rate of 180Ly per day, encrypted with the most advanced Quantum encryption and able to transmit 50 pages of text across 9 channels at the same time. The Fax Machines had such a small signature when sending or receiving that a vessel had to be extremely close to detect it.

His mandate that the vessel needed to be capable of multiple mission profiles had also been met. The 3 docking collars allowed the ship to meet many mission profiles. Two large Fighter bays, each able to handle 2 squadrons of Aerospace Fighters while a 3rd Small Craft bay carried a squadron of small craft. The large cargo bay could carry 16,406 tons of cargo. The vessels crew had individual staterooms plus another 140 individual rooms for docked Dropship crews or mission specialists. Two platoons of Marines made sure anyone attempting to board the ship would not have an easy time of it.

They had managed this with a price tag of 16.2 Billion per ship, just a shade higher than the Merchant Surveillance it would be replacing. The price increase was due to the expanded sensor suite and Amber Control system. He had already gotten Rebecca Ebon on board since she would have operational control over the ships most of the time. Plus, since this fell more under Hegemony Security, they could use the vast "black" funds to pay for them.


22 August 3021
Thazi (Hegemony - Deep Periphery)

Corporal Anastasia Cameron, Corporal Christina Mitchell and Corporal Sarah McEvedy stood at attention on the large parade grounds. Today was graduation day from Basic Training. From here, most recruits would head for their advanced training, but for all three, their future was still in the air as they would need a waiver to begin their advanced training due to their age. Neither of the three really listened to the speeches being delivered by the various speakers, but all three were focused on the small stands set slightly apart from the other graduates families. This particular stand held Director-General Mark Cameron, Commanding General Michelle Mitchell, Major Christopher Mitchell, Tabitha Mitchell, General Jessica Hallis and various other officers and members of the Cameron family in attendance today. Plus it was the only set of stands that had a security detail of Ferret Power Armor standing not far away while a Company of Battlemechs stood in formation not far away.

Even with their distraction, all three clearly heard the call to attention and then dismissal. As per Hegemony tradition, instead of a mass wandering off the parade grounds, each company did an about face and smartly marched off the parade grounds until they were out of sight of the viewing stands. There, their instructors formally dismissed them. All three girls shook a few hands, but made their way to Master Sergeant Clifford Jamison, who was watching his star pupils making their way towards him. He, like them, was smartly dressed in his dress uniform, complete with all his awards.

"Master Sergeant Jamison, we want to thank you for your guidance during our training. We learned a lot from you and thank you for the rank." Corporal Anastasia Cameron said

"Girls, it was my honor. I have never had finer recruits than you three. You more than earned that rank you wear. Ask around, never and I mean never have I recommended a recruit for promotion. I have always felt that was up to their first unit. But you three are special, and I really mean that. Corporal Cameron, it makes me even prouder that you elected to join the Infantry, unlike your sisters who want to go the easy way and play stompy robot driver. It takes a special person to elect Infantry and then mastering the craft of defeating those robot drivers on the battlefield." Master Sergeant Jamison said with a sly grin.

Corporal Sarah McEvedy choked back the snarling response that almost emerged before answering "She just wants to be a squishy and maybe someday graduate to the mini bots. But before I say anything else on the subject. Thank you Master Sergeant Jamison, I will try to remember everything you taught me." She paused before ending "Even if most of it does not apply to driving Battlemechs."

Master Sergeant Jamison let out a gruff laugh "I am going to miss you, girls. But do not think I will not be keeping up with your careers. Let me find out one of you are stepping out of line. I will move heaven and earth to get to where ever your assigned to put you in your place." He looked at Corporal Christina Mitchell, who had only stuck out her hand, he shook it firmly and she nodded her head. Without another word, all three girls stepped back and saluted perfectly, which he returned just as perfectly. Nothing else was said as the three girls started towards the milling group of VIP's waiting on them.

As they crossed the parade ground, Master Sergeant Jamison watched them marching in unison. He shifted his eyes lightly and felt more than knew Commanding General Michelle Mitchell looking at him. She saluted him smartly and then a slight nod of her head. He returned the salute.

23 August 3021

"So Mom, you going to sign our waivers so we can start our advanced training or do we have to wait another year? It would be stupid not to sign them, you already signed the waiver for us to take the early test for graduation, which we all passed with flying colors before graduation from basic." Anastasia asked

"I already signed the damned waivers. Your class does not start for 4 months, your sisters have to wait 6 months before they leave for Boulsi. Are you that eager to leave, Infantry School is 2 years long." Michelle Mitchell replied

"No, not to leave, but I have spent the last 12 years here on Thazi. That is why I asked to go to the Ceibu school. I want to see a different place. Besides, if I stay on Thazi, the instructors are always going to feel under your gaze. I need to do this on my own. I appreciate everything, but I don't want them to hold back just because my mother, Commanding General Mitchell and Director General Mark Cameron are but a few miles away." Anastasia said

Michelle could not help but smile, she was so proud of her girls "Okay baby, if this is how you want to do it. I will quit being snarky about it."

In the next room, Corporal Sarah McEvedy and Corporal Christina Mitchell were pestering their "Brother" Major Christopher Mitchell about Gunslinger School and piloting Battlemechs in general. Finally he held up a hand.

"Please girls, can we not take a break. Your have pounded me non-stop for over an hour. Let's get you both thru your initial training before we talk about advanced stuff." Major Christopher Mitchell said

"We both have over 100 hours logged in the simulators. Mom got the 191stto let us use theirs the last 2 years. We are going to breeze thru initial training." Sarah McEvedy replied

"Piloting the real thing is a bit different, Sarah. You trip and fall in a real 'Mech, well it sort of hurts. Make a jump and land wrong, you can snap a leg. Hell you can land on your cockpit and kill yourself. Simulators are good, but do not think they are the same thing." Christopher Mitchell said, knowing what was coming next.

"Bet I can take you, Chris. Come on, accept the challenge, I dare you." Sarah replied, goading him.

Christopher sighed deeply, he had known it was coming, mom had warned him. "Okay, tomorrow. Noon. We will load in and see just how good you and your sister here are. We will do a 1v1 with each of you and then a 1v2, me against you both. Loser has to spit shine the others boots. But let me warn you, I have a special pair that needs some loving."

24 August 3021
Thazi (Hegemony)

The match was being streamed to the 191st Royal Jump Infantry Division's auditorium where quite a few had gathered to watch. The match had grown quite a bit from the initial challenge thrown. Now Commanding General Michelle Mitchell was going to take on General Jessica Hallis. Which would have been okay, until Corporal Sarah McEvedy had challenged General Jessica Hallis followed by Corporal Christina Mitchell challenging Commanding General Michelle Mitchell. So instead of an hour or so match it had turned into quite the show and word was spreading fast.

Two matches would start off the day's events. Major Christopher Mitchell (MRT-3C Maelstrom) versus Corporal Sarah McEvedy (ST-9B Shootist) and Commanding General Michelle Mitchell (Pillager PLG-9Z) versus General Jessica Hallis (Hegemony built Pulverizer). Two large screens would display the fights. Corporal Sarah McEvedy had won the coin toss and chose to fight in a heavily wooded area, seeking to limit Major Christopher Mitchell's long range firepower. The moment the fight started, Sarah McEvedy plunged into the woods looking for her opponent. Major Mitchell moved slowly, sensing that she would try to close on him as quick as she could to bring her awesome close in firepower to bear. While he moved, he adjusted his targeting computer, setting it to fire an Alpha when he pulled the trigger. He planned to show her some humility by removing her largest weapon as quick as he could.

Sarah McEvedy had her active probe up and running, she wanted to locate him before he located her. She hoped her ECM suite would negate his targeting computer. She weaved left and right, avoiding the massive trees. The fight had been on for 4 minutes before her active probe located her opponent. She smiled as she angled to intercept him, he was moving slow and slightly away from her. She throttled up, adding some speed to her advance. Christopher smiled grimly as his sensors detected the active probe. He throttled down and placed his Maelstrom in amongst a thick stand of trees. If she wanted him, she had to come directly at him to get a shot. He set his sensors to passive instead of active, but he had his thumb just above the button to activate them.

Sarah slowed her Shootist as her active probe showed him come to a stop. He was only 120 meters away, but she could not see him, the forest was so dense. She knew he was close, and then her eyes focused on what looked like steam coming from a clump of trees. She did not have a shot and her sensors did not register any active emissions. Slowly, she began circling the clump of tree's looking for a clean shot. So focused on trying to get the first shot off on her opponent, she did not see the ground slope slightly and had to quickly readjust as she felt her Shootist slip. She banged off a massive tree, which shook her, the couch simulating movements.

Major Mitchell glimpsed the left shoulder of the Shootist for a brief second, the angle was wrong and he smiled. Slipped didn't you. He thumbed his sensors to active, hit the throttles and burst from his hiding place, his weapons tracking as he cleared the clump of tree's. His reticule flashed on the Shootist's left arm and he hit the trigger. Both ER large Lasers and 4 ER Medium Lasers lashed into the Shootist’s left arm, from a range of only 65 meters, the computer targeted shots all hit home. The massive damage dealt severed the Shootist's left arm as clean as a surgical knife. The 70 ton Shootist staggered at the sudden shift in weight and Sarah struggled to keep her balance. She swung her right arm around and fired her 4 ER Medium lasers, but only 2 scored hits, barely damaging the 75 ton Maelstrom. But worst, her sudden move was too much on the soft sloping ground and she felt and saw the ground coming up fast as she lost her balance.

Christopher wasted no time and moved quickly to her downed Shootist before she could get it back up. He placed his right arm weapons to her Shootist's head. He thumbed his communications to active "Bang, your dead."

The fight between Commanding General Michelle Mitchell and General Jessica Hallis was a completely different affair. Though Michelle had won the toss, she had allowed Jessica to choose the field of battle. Jessica selected a broad plain, an area that played to both Battlemechs strengths, ultra long range fighting and she had the speed advantage. Neither pilot wasted any time messing around, the flat ground offered no cover, so it was going to be pure skill. Michelle pushed her Pillager to max speed in an attempt to close the distance. Jessica Hallis only walked forward, counting on her speed to allow her to dictate the flow of battle. As her opponent came into range, Jessica cut loose with her three ERLL, and watched as Michelle at the last second hit her jump jets, only taking a single hit to her lower left leg. Michelle fired her ERLL which struck true on Jessica's Pulverizer's right arm. Jessica Hallis throttled back and began backing up, she fired another volley of ERLL's and felt the sudden heat flood the cockpit which was quickly whisked away by her cooling system. Michelle had landed her Pillager and resumed her run, she planted her left foot and pushed to the right causing the incoming ERLL's to miss. Only this time, she smiled as her Gauss rifles were just barely in range, she fired both Gauss rifles and her ERLL at Jessica's Pulverizer and had the satisfaction of seeing one Gauss round strike the right leg while the ERLL slashed into the left torso.

The hits staggered Jessica and she wrestled with the controls. She swore and knew she would not be able to just back up all day, so she pushed her Pulverizer into a run. Let's see how you like me in your face Michelle, she thought. Her Pulverizer rapidly closed with the on rushing Pillager. Both pilots danced and weaved causing their opponent to miss many shots as they closed in on each other. Michelle landed her Pillager just 120 meters from Jessica's Pulverizer and triggered a full Alpha Strike. Waste heat flooded her Pillager and she swore softly, but had the satisfaction of seeing most shots rip into the Pulverizer as it returned fire. Jessica knew she would not be able to keep her Pulverizer on its feet so did not even try to fight it as she focused on making Michelle pay for the Alpha Strike. She cut loose with everything she had in return. Missiles from her LRM/15 peppered the Pillager while the ERLL's burrowed deep into it's armor. Like her own Pulverizer, she watched as the Pillager, staggered by the return fire, lost its fight to stay on its feet after shedding tons of armor and crashed into the ground at almost the same time as her own. Both massive war machines managed to get on their feet at almost the same time and wasted no time firing at each other. Jessica's screen went bright red, indicating her cockpit was destroyed. Michelle smiled grimly, but knew it was a tie as her reactor exploded after her Pillager's center torso was cored.

Cheers could be heard coming from the auditorium next to the simulator room as the simulator doors opened and both pilots emerged. "Well fought, Michelle." Jessica Hallis said sticking out her hand, which Michelle took. "Same to you, Jessica. Even though they score it a tie, I had ten tons on you. So as far as I am concerned you won."

"That is gracious of you. Let's go get some damned water and head over to the auditorium and watch the next bout." Jessica said with a smile

It took 20 minutes to reset the simulators and load up the new Battlemech profiles. Corporal Christina Mitchell was not sure what Major Christopher Mitchell would bring, so she figured he would bring his Maelstrom. Using that knowledge, she selected the STY-2Cb Starslayer as her Battlemech for this fight. The coin toss had come down in his favor, so he had selected an area with many ravines and broken ground. She figured her jump jets would provide her an advantage on movement. She nodded to the technician and the simulator hatch closed silently.

Major Christopher Mitchell settled comfortably into the simulator couch. As the simulation booted up, he felt the cockpit pod start to move as it adjusted itself to the approximate height and angle of the selected Battlemech. For this fight, he had changed his Battlemech the second he had selected the battle field. Choosing a END-6Fb Enfield as his ride. He did not get to use jump jets as much as he liked, and he had fudged a bit, having checked the simulator records and saw that Christina usually chose a medium or heavy Battlemech equipped with jump jets when she had a choice. Plus he had spoken to the simulator commander and learned that where Sarah was overly aggressive, Christina had much more finesse in her fights. A natural in the cockpit. Sarah's win/loss ratio was a 68% win but Christina was at a excellent 87% win ratio.

He hit the throttles the second the simulation started, heading down into a deep ravine. He kept his speed up as he weaved in and out around the massive boulders strewn about. Christina stayed high and out of the ravines, for now. As she moved at a run, she stayed just far enough back from the deep ravines so that Christopher would not be able to take a pot shot at her. After 4 minutes of no contact, but only a faint sensor reading, which faded in and out so fast the computer could not get a good lock, Christina throttled back and brought her Starslayer to a halt far enough back from the deep ravine to allow her some breathing room if she needed it. After watching Christopher's fight with Sarah, she knew he was out to prove a point and she planned to make him work for it. Or she hoped.

She's up high, Christopher thought as his Enfield rapidly closed on the ravines exit point, but damned if I am going to run up that slope. He hit his jump jets and vaulted to the ravines edge. As he cleared the ravines lip, his sensors located the Starslayer 472 meters away. He adjusted his jump profile as he watched the Starslayer fully faced him and fired it's two ERLL's and then hit the jump jets, leaping into the ravine. One ER Large laser managed to connect, ripping armor from his right torso. He landed and turned to where he figured she might reappear. After almost a minute, he moved to the ravine edge for a look. He jerked back suddenly the split second he spotted her, and her shots barely missed his head. Damn, she is pretty damned good, he thought. He hit the jump jets, leaping backward away from the ravine edge. Landing, he began moving towards his starting point, keeping his guns aimed at the ravine edge.

When her shots missed Christina swore and pushed her mech into a run for the ravine exit. He will be expecting me to jump from the ravine, so I will stay on the ground, she thought. Pounding up the slope, she began twisted her torso as much as she could, hoping for a shot. There, max range, she fired her ER large lasers and hit the jump jets. Christopher's sensors picked up the Starslayer and he had already begun turning to face her. He planted his right leg and leaned as far as he dared, more sensing than knowing the shots were incoming. Both shots barely missed his Enfield. Coming back upright, he fired a cluster round from his LBX/10 at the leaping Starslayer, having some satisfaction as the cluster shot scored some minor hits. Landing, Christina did not stay on the ground for long as hit her jump jets again, as her mech rose on pillars of fire, she fired the only ERLL that would track. It missed wide left. But Christopher's return shot again peppered her mech with submunitions. She leaped for the ravine.

Christopher pushed his Enfield into a run, guessing that she would jump for the ravine and some cover. He switched to a slug round and watched as Christina made the leap for cover. He aimed and fired his LBX/10 and ERLL. Chrisitna felt her Starslayer absorb the hits and saw her right leg and left arm change to yellow on her damage screen. She struggled to maintain control of the jump and barely made a safe landing, having to take several steps to maintain that balance. She aimed her weapons at the ravine edge as she moved towards a bend in the ravine for some cover. Come on, stick your head over and take a look, she thought. Mere seconds later, the Enfield’s head peeked over the side and she fired.

Christopher had seen his shots hit home and the Starslayer sway in mid air. Now to see how badly she crashed and deliver the killing shot, he thought moving to the ravine edge. Instead of a crashed Starslayer struggling to get up, he found himself looking at a Starslayer on the move, it's weapons aimed right at him. He jerked back, but not quick enough and his damage screen showed that his head had taken a direct hit, scouring most of the armor away. He did not fight the mech as it stumbled backwards and crashed to the ground. He grunted as the command couch punched him hard in the back. He had just begun to roll over on his side in an attempt to regain his feet when Christina's Starslayer rose above the ravine edge on pillars of flame, landing barely 100 meters away. He abandoned the roll and started to bring his LBX/10 to bear as multiple shots slammed into his Enfield, knocking it back to the ground. He fired and his shot missed the Starslayer as Christina re-engaged her jump jets, leaping over his Enfield. Her next volley caused his cockpit to go bright red. Damn, she is really good, he thought.

Short Time Later

After breaking for lunch, where Sarah McEvedy and Christina Mitchell sat apart from the others and discussed strategy for the last fight. "Look Sarah, Christopher is too good for us. I got lucky as hell in my fight. And you already have seen how he took you down with no problems. Do it my way, and we have a chance." Christina argued

"He got lucky, if I had not slipped, I would have had him dead to rights." Sarah replied angrily, she had been embarrassed in her fight and she never reacted well to that.

"Does not matter, will you do it my way?" Christina tried again.

"I don't like jump jets. I want both of my feet planted on the ground at all time. I am taking my Shootist again." Sarah said with no give.

"Have it your way. Your gonna have to learn to work as a team someday." Christina replied

Christina settled into the couch of the simulator as the door closed. She saw that the communication light to Sarah's pod was active, so she toggled hers on. "You there, Sis?" As she continued powering up her chosen Battlemech, which for this fight was a Exterminator EXT-4Cb. She had piloted it a few times in the simulators and had enjoyed being able to move around a battlefield, virtually unseen, able to pick when and where she struck. She had tried to get Sarah to pilot one or the smaller Spector, but no dice.

"Yes, I am here, Christi. I will keep his attention and you do your sneaky stuff. Just don't get lost." Sarah's voice came back

"I will be where I need to be. Just try not to do so quick." Christina said with a light laugh.

Major Christopher Mitchell completed his power up. He was back in his Maelstrom. He had no clue what the girls were piloting, so he wanted something he knew inside and out. He just wished it was his actual ride, which his tech had dialed in so well that it literally danced at the mere thought. Though he did not completely discount Sarah, he was more worried about Christina. She was just a little too good. He had spent lunch with a couple of Mechwarriors from the 191st Royal Jump Infantry Division who had tangled with the girls a few times in the sim pods. They all agreed that both were good, but Christina was the more dangerous foe. Sarah when angered would bull right in, regardless of the danger to herself. That and since she usually picked something big and dangerous, she usually could win or do an astounding amount of danger before being put down. Christina had no problems changing Battlemechs to fit the fight she wanted, or the ground chosen and was equally dangerous in anything. A total natural and scary good since she had no formal Battlemech training.

Christopher decided to do some psyops and selected his communications on. "So, Sarah, you going to show me how good you are this time or just go ahead and lay down now?" He knew it was not fair, and felt a tinge of guilt, but only a tinge. Her response was immediate.

"Screw you, Bro. I am going to blow you out of that Maelstrom. Get ready for some payback." Sarah's voice came back

He could not help but laugh. She had always been too easy to goad and he knew every button to push. It was one of his few guilty pleasures when he got time to visit. "Christina, you know you got lucky last time. Not going to be as easy this time." But only silence came back.

Christina smiled and refused to answer, be damned if she was going to give away her position by using an open channel. She was fully cloaked and moving slow enough that the cameo could easily match the surrounding environment. She saw Sarah take off at a fast pace and throttled up just a little more as she placed some distance between them. She had to get close to Christopher, his weapons out ranged hers by a bunch. Her passive sensors detected the energy volley, just over the rise. She throttled up and moved closer to the thin tree line as she crested the small rise. There, she could easily see Christopher slowly picking apart Sarah as she rushed straight in at him. She pushed her Exterminator to a full run, hoping the cameo could keep up. She could here Sarah on the radio.

"Dammit Chris, when I get a hold of you I am going to tear an arm off and beat you with it."

"You have to actually get to me to do that sis. If you keep coming in like that, you’re not going to make it." Christopher said as he targeted her left leg and out an ERLL shot into it. The hit staggered the Shootist and he heard Sarah curse over the radio. "No, not again, dammit I am not going to fall over again." He laughed out loud, but he was getting worried, Where the hell was Christina? His sensors detected nothing but he was getting an itchy feeling.

Christina had managed to push behind Christopher and she began angling in. She closed to 120 meters before dropping the Null Sig and Chameleon so she could fire safely. Christophers sensors detected the Exterminator the second it appeared. "Shit, she's in a Exterminator." He slammed the throttles to the max and started to move to the right. But he felt his Maelstrom shudder as her volley struck home, Streak SRM's slamming into his rear armor, a ER medium laser hit his right arm and another hit his right leg. he turned to face this new threat, but she vanished before he could get a lock on her.

Christina cloaked back up and went into reverse as fast as she could to put some distance between them. She watched a shot from Sarah hit Christopher forcing him to turn and return fire on her. He throttled back up and began a mobile fight with Sarah. No more sitting still with Christina running around in a damned ghost, he thought. It was time to take Sarah out of the fight. He Alpha fired on her damaged left leg and watched the leg snap off. Over the radio he heard "NOOOOOOOO!!!!!!! NOT AGAIN DAMMITT!!!!!" The Shootist plowed into the ground face first from a dead run. Even though this was a sim, he cringed at the face plant. But his screaming sensors did not allow him time for the killing shot as Christina materialized close in. Again the Maelstrom shuddered from the close range volley. Christopher managed to fire the second he came around and saw some shots hit before she vanished again.

Keeping his speed up, he zigged and zagged across the field, closing on the Shootist struggling to regain a standing position. Stay down Sarah, he thought as he put several shots into the Shootists right leg, causing her to again face plant back into the dirt. Sorry, but I need time to deal with your sister. He dodged right suddenly, just in case and then cut back to the left just as suddenly. He yanked back on the throttles, slowing suddenly and felt something hard slam into the back of his Maelstrom, the hit caused him to lose his balance and he saw the ground coming up fast. Christina had been following Christopher way too closely when he cut his throttle causing her running Exterminator to plow right into him, she reacted on impact and hit her jump jets while stumbling forward. The Exterminator sailed over the Maelstrom plowing into the ground and Christina worked quickly to make sure she landed on her feet. The second she touched down, she planted her right leg and spun around. The second her reticle flashed she dropped her cameo and fired. Her shots slammed into the Maelstrom which was slowly regaining its feet. One ER medium laser hit the head and Christopher flinched. Girl lands more head shots than I have ever seen, he thought as he tried to get a lock on the Exterminator but it vanished again.

Every very time Sarah tried to get up. Christopher put some shots into her Shootist to keep it on the ground while he tried to stay out of her limited firing arcs. However Christina was always around to put some shots into him when he did so and would then vanish again. Sorry Sarah, but you have got to go, I need to focus, Christopher thought as he moved in for the kill. He got a clear shot and triggered his ERLL's into the Shootist's head. But his own screen went a bright red as he heard "Bang your dead." Christina had materialized right on top of his Maelstrom and placed her right arm ER Medium lasers almost in contact with his own Mech's head and fired.

25 August 3021
Thazi (Hegemony)

The most abused pair of combat boots ever seen sat outside Sarah McEvedy's bedroom door. When she opened the door, she nearly tripped over them. A note was written and placed on top of them. She snarled as she bent down, picked up the note and read:


A bet is a bet. These boots have been with me for the last 8 years and need some tender loving. I will be by on the 28th to pick them up. Your going to need the extra time.

Your loving brother,


Sarah balled up the note and picked up the pair of combat boots. Her nose caught a whiff of foul stench coming from the boots. "EEEWWW, the least he could have done was wash the poor things. They are not even black anymore." The door across the hall opened and Anastasia emerged, still wiping the sleep from her eyes. "What are you holding?" Sarah thrust the boots at Anastasia who also caught a whiff of the foul stench. "GEEZ, do not do that Sarah. Smelling salt does not reek that bad. Christopher needs his feet cut off and bagged as hazardous waste."

"How the hell am I going to spit shine this ragged pair of boots that should have been given a decent burial years ago?" Sarah asked

"No clue and don't look at me, you made the bet and lost to him." Anastasia replied, fanning her hand in front of her face to ward off the stench.

Sarah continued to hold the boots at arms length, which Anastasia kept pushing away. "You mean you will not help your beloved sister in her time of need?"

"Not a chance. Matter of fact, I am going to sit back, far back and enjoy watching you spit shine those." Anastasia said, finally pinching her nose closed with one hand and headed for the bathroom.

Nine hours later, Sarah was on her 2nd can of shoe polish. She continued to work the polish into the worn leather. Slowly building a base to work with. Several stubborn parts kept bleeding through the polish. Even though she had washed the boots several times, every now and then she thought she caught a whiff of that foul stench. "How can a human have such stinky feet that it penetrates friggin leather and lingers like this?" She asked no one, since she was alone in her room, having been banished by everyone when they got tired of her constant muttering and cursing under her breath.

She pulled her hand from the old sock she had been using to work the shoe polish into the boot she held. Her fingers were stained black from the shoe polish. Cursing lightly under her breath, she picked up the brush and spent ten minutes brushing the boot. Finally, she laid the boot aside, her arm felt like it was going to fall off. She crawled into bed, careful to keep her stained hand away from everything.

26 August 3021

"I cannot believe that in a house with 4 people in the military that we are out of shoe polish." Sarah exclaimed loudly

"You have gone through 3 cans of the stuff already. Your just going to have to go to the Commissary and buy more." Commanding General Michelle Mitchell replied from her home office

Cobra Transport VTOL (Flying over woodlands art by Masakari)

Cobra Air Transport VTOL

Muttering, Sarah left the house for the short walk to the Commissary. As she walked down the sidewalk, she could not help but glance at every pair of combat boots she saw as she passed other soldiers. How does a Mechwarrior and an officer at that get his boots in such bad shape, she wondered to herself. She paused as a flight of Cobras settled down on the parade grounds and watched a Battalion of Infantry from the 191st Jump Infantry Division move to board the waiting VTOL's. Her eye's focused on the boots worn by the soldiers, slowly a low growl started to emerge from deep within her. "That dirty low down sneaky son of a *****." On the feet of every one of the Infantry troops, were the most beat down boots she had seen. A voice made her turn her head.

"You finally figure it out, Sis?" Anastasia asked as she leaned on the fence also watching the loading.

"Those boots are not Christophers are they?" Sarah asked

"I doubt it. Any person that has spent enough time around a bunch of Infantry know they have the smelliest feet around since they wear their boots sometimes for days and days. Plus, almost every Infantry troop has a pair of boots that has seen much better days and has not seen neither polish or a brush in years. Any sign of a shine can be seen in moonlight from a long way off. Called field boots and are only meant for that. They stay stowed in duffle bags or rucksacks until it is field time." Anastasia replied with a sly smile0.

"I am going to kill him." Sarah hissed

"You have to give him credit, it was a good joke. But your right, he cannot be allowed to get away with it. It was a fair bet after all. Question is, what do we do about it?" Anastasia asked

27 August 3021

"Christopher, you should be ashamed of yourself. No way are those a Mechwarriors boots. Wrong type anyway, those boots are Infantry all the way. We wear the same boots as the tankers." Commanding General Michelle Mitchell said, as she stabbed her fork into the salad before her.

Major Christopher Mitchell glanced around the mess hall before answering "Cost me 200 bucks and I spent all day scouring the troops of the 191st to find the right pair. You have to admit, it is funny."
"Funny it might be, but if Sarah figures it out, and she is not stupid, there will be hell to pay." Michelle replied taking another bite

"You would think she would have noticed right away, as hell bent as she is about anything and everything to do with being a Mechwarrior. I think I can handle anything she dishes out." Christopher said taking a bite from his roll.

"Oh, you think she will retaliate alone? You seem to forget that those three girls stick together like glue. When one is wronged, all three of them are out for blood." Michelle replied

Several miles away stood large hangers, which housed the Battlemechs assigned to the Gunslinger School. Moving slowly and sticking to the shadows, three figures made their way towards the Maelstrom. They knew it was Christophers, having been inside the hanger enough times. They crouched down and waited patiently for the last techs to head off to chow. Anastasia looked at Sarah.

"You sure about this? Feel's like we are punishing old Fisher also. You know Chris is going to make him clean it out. Or try anyway." Anastasia said

"I will find a way to make it up to him, but Christopher deserves this." Sarah replied tapping the sealed container lightly.

"Just make sure you do not get that crap on you, it is almost impossible to get the smell off." Christina said

"There they go, we have about 20 minutes before the next group gets back. It is now or never." Anastasia said

Swiftly, Sarah mounted the lift and rode to the Maelstrom's cockpit. She tapped the code into the cockpit hatch, which slid back smoothly. Very carefully, she entered the cockpit. She pulled on very thick rubber gloves that reached over her elbow. She slipped a rebreather on. Opening the hatch to the cockpits air scrubbers and filters, she then opened the sealed container. Even with the rebreather on, she thought she could smell the super foul stench. Inside the sealed container was the secretion from the Swamp Cat, who had a super foul spray that it let fly when threatened. Much like Terra's native Skunk, it was about 3X as powerful a stench. She took a brush and dabbed some inside the intake and exhaust for the cockpits air scrubber. Closing the hatch, she then moved to the couch itself. She then took and dabbed some on the seat and using a clean rag, she vigorously rubbed the fluid into the couch. She then placed small dabs in corners of the cockpit and for a final touch, she placed a very small, almost tiny dab inside the Neurohelmet, near the communication mic. She then sealed the canister and exited the cockpit. As silently as they arrived, the three girls left the hanger.

28 August 3021

"Damn sis, you have got to be the best there is at shining up a pair of boots." Christopher said, looking at the glistening shine on the boots.

"A bet is a bet bro. It was a fair bet afterall." Sarah said with a smile.

"Well, I would hang around and chat, but I have to get to the range. Even us instructors have to do our quarterly qualifications." Christopher replied

"Good luck and come back when you get done so we can talk." Sarah said, her smile getting a little more vicious.

Half hour later, Major Christopher Mitchell rode the lift up to his cockpit. He entered his code and the hatch slid back. The odor that assailed him almost made him gag. "Jesus Fisher, what the hell is that smell?"

"No clue sir. The hatch has not been opened since yesterday and it was fine when I completed the pre-check." Brian Fisher, technician replied.

"I am going to have to reschedule my quals until we sort this out." Major Christopher Mitchell said

"You can't boss. Today is the last day. You put off your quals too much already. You don't pass quals today, your going to get down rated, that will cost you your Instructor slot." Fisher replied

Cursing, Chris climbed into the cockpit and sealed the hatch. He slipped on his Neurohelmet and gagged. What the hell was going on, he thought as he started the start sequence. Let me get the scrubbers online and they will filter out this foul crap, he thought. Finally his start up reached his security response. "Adversity makes you stronger."

29 August 3021

Major Christopher Mitchell stormed up the pathway leading to his mothers house. Before he reached the steps to the front porch, his mother, Commanding General Michelle Mitchell stepped outside "Hold it right there buster. No way your coming inside or even onto my porch."

"You know??" Major Christopher Mitchell asked loudly.

"I saw the report this morning from your tech reporting the vandalism of your Maelstrom. I put two and two together. I warned you." Michelle said
"That damned stunt almost cost me my qualification. I scored a damned 91 on the range. You know anything under a 90 is immediate loss of qualifications. I am going to beat the hell out of Sarah." Major Christopher Mitchell said

"You will do no such thing. Besides she was not alone and I doubt you can take all three of them. They will pay for the replacement equipment they damaged. In addition to my own punishments. You should have thought harder about cheating on a fair bet, dear son. Now, go take a few more showers because I can smell that crap from here." Michelle said, a sly grin playing across her lips.

30 August 3021
Thazi (Hegemony)

Major Christopher Mitchell, Corporal Anastasia Cameron, Corporal Christina Mitchell and Corporal Sarah McEvedy stood at attention before a pacing Commanding General Michelle Mitchell in front of a certain Maelstrom. Beside the Maelstrom's right foot was Brian Fisher, the technician responsible for this Maelstrom.

"Now, all 4 of you are going to replace the parts that got screwed up in this fracas. Mr Fisher here is going to supervise you all in this task. Until the task is complete to HIS satisfaction, you all have no rank or say in the matter, is that clear?" Commanding General Michelle Mitchell said

Not a single one spoke up, and this started to anger her "I said, IS THAT CLEAR!!!??"

A ragged chorus finally responded "Yes Sir"

"Now before any of you try to protest, let me explain why this is happening. Major Mitchell, your involved because you tried to cheat on the wager and brought on this retaliation event. Corporal McEvedy, your retaliation caused just over 475,000 dollars in damage. Most of that cost is the damned Neurohelmet. Corporal Mitchell, because you aided in the retaliation and that goes for you also Corporal Cameron. I am not going to see Mr Fisher suffer for all of your actions, so if he says scrub it, you will scrub it. If he says it is not good enough, you will keep working until it is good enough. I hope I am making myself very clear. This event is done, over with and there will not be a single sideways look at each other. You will all suffer equally. Mr Fisher has my direct number, god help you if he has to call me except to tell me the task is completed. Mr Fisher, you may take charge of your work detail." Commanding General Michelle Mitchell said

Brian Fisher smiled broadly as he stood up straight from where he had been leaning "Yes, Sir. If you all will fall out, you can change into coveralls and rebreathers. Even though I should make you do it without any of them."

"Feel free to do so, Mr Fisher. It is your decision and there will be no retaliation at all. First one that balks or even shoots you a snide glance, you make the call to me." Michelle said as the work detail moved to get changed. "If I did not have several meetings, I would pull up a chair and watch the action myself. I am sorry my family even did this."

"It's okay ma'am, I am more upset that they damaged my baby. It is going to take some extra work to synch the new Neurohelmet and fine tune it like I had the old one. That is a major pain." Fisher replied

Commanding General Michelle Mitchell looked at the Maelstrom and said "She looks like she could use a good cleaning and detail. Might have them take care of that also. Parade inspection quality if you catch my drift."

After leaving the Mech hanger, Commanding General Michelle Mitchell headed for her official office for her 8am meeting. As she breezed through her waiting room, she waved her guests into her office. Taking her seat, she read some quick messages and then focused on her guests. Fleet Admiral Tomlin Tanaka and Rebecca Ebon, Hegemony Security. "Okay, so what have you two got for me today?"

Her guests shared a look before Fleet Admiral Tanaka spoke up "First off, we have confirmation of the Rim Worlds Outpost #27. We got some good pictures of the place and I had Hegemony Industries take a look at them. One yard is a total loss according to them. Not even worth trying to repair, it would have to be scrapped and rebuilt. The second yard, well it has a incomplete Dart-Class Light Cruiser in it. No power readings at all from either the ship or yard. One of the pics got a pretty good shot of the gaping hole where the Jump Core and Engines would be. Also they are not there. Me and Rebecca discussed it, and we think Outpost #27 is a total bust, too far and not worth the effort to make use of. But, we want to send a Newgrange Yardship with escort out there. Have a tug pull the Dart from it's berth and bring it back to Odessa Naval Base. Without a Jump Core, the Newgrange can make the move using slip stream with the Dart docked aboard her."

"Second, we want an allocation to replace the Merchant-Class Surveillance ships. Most of them are over 100 years old, and limited to old Jump methods. I have a design for a multi-role ship, that has much greater abilities than the Merchant but can use the Slip Stream tech. This would allow us to have a Surveillance ship on station anywhere in the Inner Sphere within a matter of days versus months or having to use a ship that might raise some eyebrows if spotted. I had it specially setup to mimic a Tramp Jumpship."

Commanding General Mitchell had made some notes while he spoke. "Can we get the Dart with minimal exposure?"

"I think we can. The Brandt Corvette we sent did not have any problems getting close enough for some really good pictures. I figure a few days in system, no more than a week and we should have the Dart and be gone." Fleet Admiral Tanaka replied

"Okay, approved. Now, how much does this new spy ship cost?" Michelle Mitchell asked

"This is the good part, Michelle. While the Navy actually mans the vessels and takes care of them, Hegemony Security actually owns the things. That means we can use their Black Funds to pay for them and we will not need to have near as many since they can redeploy so quickly. Each on will cost a few billion more than the Merchant version. A hair over 16 Billion per ship." Fleet Admiral Tanaka said and Rebecca smiled while nodding.

"So you agree with this, Rebecca?" Michelle asked

"Sure do. I like the idea of being able to pop into a system without announcing to the entire universe that someone just arrived. Not to mention the added flexibility of the new ship plus the already stated rapid deployment capability. It would make the field agents breathe easier if they know help could be but a mere week away instead of possibly months if something goes critically wrong during a mission. Right now, we have to spend a ton of time coordinating movements anytime something comes up and we need a look see, this would help tremendously." Rebecca Ebon said

"We got enough Black Funds to pay for these new ships, in full?" Michelle asked

This caused Rebecca Ebon to smile broadly "Michelle, Hegemony Security has over 9 Trillion C-Bills worth of Black Funds spread around the Inner Sphere and Periphery. The interest alone that we get from our accounts is billions a month, not to mention the, shall we say, hidden investments we have made over the years. But short answer, yes, we have plenty of money to pay in full and then some."

"Okay now I have to ask. What investments has Hegemony Security made and what is our exposure risk?" Michelle asked

"No notes Michelle, we keep very tight control over this stuff. I will just hit the high spots for you. Hegemony Security, or should I say ZaP Holdings, controls 8% of the common stock for Bowie Industries, 12% of Mitchell Industries, 20% of Thompson Shipyards, 9% of General Motors and many other smaller share positions in industries across the Federated Suns and Lyran Commonwealth. Mainly small contractors. There are a few that we actually have controlling interest, or should I say several Trusts that have been around for many years, we just have not exercised any control over them. We just sit back and let our share of the profit come in. We have loaned money to a few to keep them afloat in hard times though, that is how we managed to get control of them, via stock anyway." Rebecca Ebon stated

"Do these investments have no risk attached?" Michelle asked

"Only monetary. If the stock crashes we will lose paper value only. I do not even know exactly what that value is. These investments were made under Director-General Amanda Cameron and General Rita Mitchell two centuries ago. I am not sure how much more secure you can get. Plus the money keeps arriving in the various accounts every month." Rebecca Ebon replied

"Okay, you can have your new ships. But no new authorizations for funding for them. They come out of the Black Funds in full." Michelle Mitchell said


1 September 3021
EC3057-J83A (Periphery)

Commander Chelsea Zuniga, SLS Robert H. McCard, Brandt-Class Corvette (SS), studied her target system from 10 AU outside the system edge. "Gina, can we slip stream from here to close in, and I mean almost on top of what appear to be ships?"

The ships Amber Computer, "Gina", answered "Yes, Commander. It will take me 27 minutes and 8 seconds to calculate the actual movement. I am currently updating all gravitational effects and orbits based on current information we have gathered. Do you want me to make the calculations?"

"Yes Gina, make the calculations and notify me when we are ready." Commander Zuniga replied

"I will begin calculation immediately." Gina replied

"Nav, question, how long would it take you to make the calculations for a normal jump?" Commander Zuniga asked

"Hell of a lot longer than that skipper. Probably 3-4 hours since we have absolutely ZERO information on this place until just 9 hours ago." The navigator responded

It was 32 minutes when "Gina" announced calculation were complete. "What took so long?" Commander Zuniga asked

"I updated the calculations with the most current information gathered and recalculated the move three times to verify our arrival point. You said as close as possible and I calculate a non standard point to be located only 53,294 kilometers from the location of the vessels. Since we do not know what we will find, I have concluded that to arrive closer as too dangerous. You will need reaction time. I have also pre-plotted an emergency jump back to our current location that I can engage on your command." "Gina" replied, it was almost as though she was insulted to be questioned

"Sound slip stream warning, Gina, you may engage the drive at your command." Commander Zuniga said

The alarm sounded and 1 minute later, everything blurred. Suck a short distance made things seem instantaneous, but at least their arrival was not broadcast. The moment the ship returned to normal space, Commander Zuniga ordered "Launch the fighters and get a CAP established. Weapons, go active on sensors and let's get a good look at what is out there. Helm, set course to 338, 1g. Get us moving. Alert the Marines and get them suited up for boarding action."

An hour later, SLS Robert H. McCard was holding station only 93 Kilometers from 5 partially dismantled Warships bearing SLDF markings. Each was berthed in a yard slip around a fairly large orbital station located in a stable La Grange point. No power readings were detected anywhere in the system. Commander Zuniga quickly identified the ships using their SLDF registration hull numbers and type.

SLS Dominator, Kimagure Pursuit Cruiser
SLS Bruno, Avatar Heavy Cruiser
SLS Admiral Donner, Riga Frigate
SLS Furillo, Monsoon Battleship
SLS Tamarind Lane, Monsoon Battleship

"Why the hell would the SLDF just leave these ships out here? I mean, it would take some work to put them back together, but it makes no sense." Commander Zuniga said

"We won't find out until we get the Marines aboard and then send an engineering team over for an inspection. Then we have to send a Marine detail down to the surface to check the surface facilities reported there." Her XO replied

Abandoned Orbital Station
EC3057-J83A (Periphery)

"Alpha search team to McCard, How you read?" Lieutenant Brandon Toliver asked

"Got you loud and clear. What do you have?" Commander Zuniga asked, she was anxious to get all the info so she could relay it back to Odessa. She had not decided via fax or in person, time for Odessa to receive was the same.

"The orbital station itself is clear, but we are still conducting the sweep. It is like the Titan Yards, all the berths are connected to the central station via pressurized tubes. Though there is no pressure. No atmosphere aboard and no fuel, reactors cold as hell. You can send the Chief Engineer over with his people and maybe he can at least get the computers up. I am about to send boarding teams aboard the first Monsoon." Lieutenant Toliver reported

"Roger that, proceed with caution and have an escort waiting for the Chief please." Commander Zuniga said, she raised her hand held "Chief, get your team aboard the shuttle, make sure to take a portable power unit."

"Already have it loaded aboard the shuttle Commander." Chief Engineer Troy Janasy replied

It took Chief Engineer and his team 45 minutes to get the stations main computer back online. Once it had finished it's reboot, it asked for a security password. Chief Engineer Janasy smiled and tapped a command into his portable computer which opened a special file, on it was a SLDF master access code. He typed that into the stations main computer terminal. The screen flashed and began finishing it's boot up. Once the main screen appeared, he selected the stations logs. He started copying everything to a data stick while he browsed the last of the log entries.

3/19/2770 - Commanding General Kerensky has ordered station mothballed and all personnel transferred to Odessa Station. Damaged or destroyed jump cores pulled and sent into deep space trajectories.

He skipped further back now that he knew why the station was abandoned, so he scanned until something caught his eye.

6/22/2768 - General Kerensky had the Jump Core orbital dismantled for shipment to support SLDF operations. This effectively ends any hope of repairing the ships here

But how did they get damaged to such a degree, Chief Engineer Janasy continued his scrolling.

4/27/2767 - SLS Furillo heavily damaged during testing of Mass Driver, jump core shattered. Jump Core grinder has been inoperable for over 2 years. This was our last functional ship.

The computer beeped telling him that it had completed the download he had ordered, but at least he now had an idea of why all these ships were sitting here. He scanned the indicated status of the station itself. It was basically a modified Olympus Recharge Station, but with multiple repair berths attached. He noted that the station itself had moved almost 122,000 kilometers over the years due to no station keeping drives. The McCard did not have enough fuel to handle this. He unplugged the portable power generator and closed his portable computer. "Let's get back to the ship and get this to the Commander."

4 September 3021
EC3057-J83A (Periphery)

Lieutenant Brandon Toliver had taken a full platoon of Marines along with the Chief Engineer to the planets surface complex. After spending 3 days sweeping the entire orbital complex and derelict ships. Once they had landed on the single runway, he ordered the Marines to begin searching the multitude of buildings. He lead a squad and Chief Engineer to what looked like the main building, since it was the one with a flag pole outside. It took 20 minutes to locate the main computer and Chief Engineer Janasy hooked up a portable power source and began the process of bringing the computer back to life. While he was doing this, Lieutenant Toliver monitored the progress of the search teams. So far, all they had found were dark rooms, dark computers and not much else.

"Computer coming up Lieutenant." Chief Engineer Janasy said

"Do your thing, Chief."

Chief Engineer Janasy began surfing the computer files after entering the SLDF master password. Nice thing about how the SLDF did things, these central computers kept track of everything. He opened up the power grid screen and ran a quick diagnostic program on it. The computer told him that the compounds fusion reactor was cold, but they had plenty of fuel to get it restarted again. Fuel on hand was estimated at 2 years. He left it alone and went back to surfing thru the stored files. He spotted a map of the compound and opened it up. He quickly printed out the map for the Lieutenant, it could be of some use.

"Got a map of the place for you, Lieutenant. Quick run down. Main Building, 4 Research Buildings, 2 Manufacturing Buildings, 4 Apartment Buildings, Dining Facility, 3 Warehouses, 2 Hangers, Power Plant, Fuel Processing Plant which is 8 miles from here on the coastline and 4 Hydroponics Buildings. Pretty bog standard if you ask me." Chief Engineer Janasy said

"Any idea what they were researching?" Lieutenant Toliver asked

"No sir. Not from here, we would have to power up each buildings computer to have a look see." Chief Engineer Janasy replied

"Shame. We will let Commander Zuniga make that call. Download what you think is interesting and let's finish this sweep and get back to the ship." Lieutenant Toliver said

7 September 3021
EC3057-J83A (Periphery)

"Commander Zuniga, I spent some time going over the recovered files from the surface and compared them to records aboard the station. Looks like they were testing the Mass Driver. I had to pull it up in the history and seems like it was only really deployed one single ship design, the Soyal Cruiser. It is an all or nothing weapon in my opinion. From the station, I found a report from one of the ship engineers stationed here, seems he deduced the Mass Drivers need a heavily reinforced structural integrity. I compared the Monsoon Battleship to the Soyal Class Cruiser, did some calculations and determined that the Soyal has a stronger structural integrity than the Monsoon. I assume that was what caused the weapon being tested to actually move and hit the jump core with it's recoil. Or so I assume."

"From what I can gather, really the only weapon system that was being tested, that I think is worth a damn was a Laser based Anti Missile System. I can see the potential in that, no ammunition needs is a huge plus, no worries about running out when you need it most in a long engagement or campaign. Seems they only mounted some aboard the Avatar Cruiser, but every ship docked there has those damned Mass Driver's mounted on them. If High Command decided to recover these ships, well I for one want those damned things yanked off and replaced with stuff I know works before I go into battle on them." Chief Engineer Janasy said

"Very good summary Chief. I already sent a message to Odessa, but will send a follow up. Please write it up and forward it to me and I will send it out." Commander Zuniga replied

"So you decided we would remain on station?" Chief Janasy asked

"Yes, for now or until we get new orders. No sense leaving this location unguarded for someone else to trip over. We are only a couple jumps from the Chainelane Isles, and they are rife with pirates." Commander Zuniga replied

"Very well sir. I will run another diagnostic and make sure everything is battle ready, just in case." Chief Janasy said as he returned to his small quarters to write up his report.

11 September 3021
Odessa (Lyran Commonwealth)

The messenger handed Rear Admiral Trisha Vanadey the message from the Corvette SLS Robert H. McCard, investigating various items of interest. She read the message and said "Now that is worth keeping." She quickly wrote up her own recommendations and fired off a fax to Zetang along with the message from the McCard.

18 September 3021
Zetang (Hegemony)

Fleet Admiral Tomlin Tanaka accepted the message from his aide, who had interrupted a pre-scheduled meeting with all his Fleet and Squadron Commanders, which was only done if vitally important. He quickly read the message, a smile growing on his face as he did so. He let his eye's fall on Rear Admiral Eduardo Gomez, commander 89th Independent Cruiser Squadron. His mind was moving fast and then he let his eye's sweep over to Rear Admiral Carla Ortiz. "Rear Admiral's Gomez and Ortiz, I am going to have a mission for both of you very soon, so get your ships ready for an extended deployment. I will have more information for you both very soon. Ladies and Gentlemen, Admiral Forsythe will take over the meeting, I need to go to Thazi right now."

20 September 3021
Thazi (Hegemony)

Fleet Admiral Tomlin Tanaka rapped his knuckles on the door frame to Commanding General Michelle Mitchell's office. "You got a second, Michelle? It's hot."

Commanding General Michelle Mitchell waved him into her office "Close the door, Tomlin. What gives?"

Closing the door and taking a seat, he handed over the message slip to her. Commanding General Mitchell accepted the message and read it quickly. Finished she laid the message on he desk. "Very good news I see. Let me guess, you want to launch an immediate mission to recover those ships and probably turn that complex into a full on forward base."

"No one said you were dumb, Michelle. Your damn right I do. With your permission, I want to deploy the 89th Independent Cruiser Squadron, 13th Repair Division along with a Germanium Processing Factory, Jump Core Factory and the support personnel to keep the place running. I will also deploy the 1st Marine Air Wing, 9920th Marine Regiment and 9th Royal CAAN Regiment." Fleet Admiral Tanaka replied

"Your going to build the base up to repair those ships? Your talking a couple of years at least." Michelle said

"Nope, I am going to recover the 4 best candidates, load them onto Newgrange-class Yardships and haul those suckers back here for their refit. The last ship can remain there for it's repairs. But the Yardships will remain long enough to get the additional orbitals operational. There is a asteroid belt that we can mine for raw material. Rear Admiral Vanadey already sent a message to the McCard, which is still on station, to conduct a quick survey of the asteroid belt so we have an idea of what is already there. I plan to recall the McCard and have it meet the convoy at Odessa, outside the system proper so the convoy has up to date navigational charts of the system. If and when the time comes, this base will be our most forward location for repairs to any damaged ships in addition to being in a good place to support any offensive operation we might launch." Fleet Admiral Tanaka replied

"Okay Tomlin, it is a larger foot print than I am comfortable with, but you seem pretty intent on this and I did say you could establish some bases out that way. What are your plan's for the ship your leaving there?" Michelle asked

"Off the top of my head, I would say leave it there and it gets assigned to whichever Squadron is on station at that time. Probably won't even equip it with Slip Stream, but we might be able to repair one out there. Even I am not keen on letting that particular tech outside the Hegemony borders at all. Not the manufacturing end of it. I am going to have the Newgranges bring back any weapons examples, data cores and anything else they think the weapons geeks back here will be interested in." Tomlin said

"Approved Tomlin. Start gathering your convoy. I will issue the orders to kick loose whatever you require. And then I will go see the Director General and convince him of the need." Michelle said


5th November 3021
Quatre Belle (Outworlds Alliance)

Actual construction of the orbital yards had not even begun until 3013, they had spent over a year surveying various systems to locate all the needed material for Jumpship Construction. Then another year figuring out what could be salvaged from the ancient old SLDF base. Since this was a long term project, Thompson Shipyards, with covert Hegemony support, began construction of the Quatre Belle Construction Facility in May 3013. Rebuilding the old broken down yards brought in from the Hegemony took 3 years, with the 2 berths completed in 3017. Most of the slow down was due to the training of locals to actually do the task plus a 8 month strike by the local hired and trained workers demanding better housing on site instead of Dropship travel back to the surface. The Outworlds Alliance government, eager to restart work, agreed to foot the bill for a Large Orbital Habitat to be constructed for the workers.

The first Jump Core spun by local workers had been defective, requiring it be ground down and recast, which slowed the first Merchant Jumpship's construction by 6 months. But finally, 11 years after the deal was made, the first Merchant Jumpship to be constructed within the Outworlds Alliance by local means left it's berth and made a test jump between the systems Jump Points before being accepted by the Alliance Military Corps. Thompson Shipyards projected they could maintain a steady production rate of 1 Merchant Jumpship every 6 months.

Illiushin (Taurian Concordat)

By comparison, the work at Quatre Belle was smooth sailing, but in the Taurian Concordat, it was anything but. With Thomas Calderon, assuming the title of Protector of the Realm in 3017, every step in the construction process of the Shipyard Complex seemed to hit a snag. He demanded Thompson Shipyards buy all their material from local sources, even though locally sourced raw material was being quoted at 3 times the rate Thompson Shipyards could buy from the Federated Suns, Capellan Confederation or even shipping raw material from the Lyran Commonwealth was cheaper than the locally quoted material.

Then there was a 2 year halt to everything when Taurian customs inspector's. Under orders from Thomas Calderon, boarded a ship from ZaP Shipping and arrested the crew as spies for the Federated Suns. Thompson Shipyards was finally able to get the crew released by agreeing to use Independent shippers up to the Taurian border and then final transport was aboard Taurian Jumpships at twice the freight cost. Now 12 years after initial construction of the yards had begun, the first berth was finally completed and actual construction of a Merchant Jumpship had begun. Estimates projected that every Merchant-Class Jumpship manufactured at this shipyard complex would be 90-120 million C-Bills more expensive than any Merchant Jumpship built elsewhere. It would actually be much cheaper to build them at Kilbourne in the Federated Suns and ship them to the Taurian Concordat.

However, Thompson Shipyards took an extra step to protect their investment. Seeing the possible writing on the wall, the entire complex was rigged with massive demolition charges. Just in case the Taurian Government decided to take control of the complex. Duke Joshua Thompson, CEO Thompson Shipyards, would rather lose the entire complex than have it taken over by an already difficult Thomas Calderon. Plus Director-General Mark Cameron agreed to this course of action.

Canopus IV (Magistracy of Canopus)

Severance Station, former home port of the 9th SLDF Fleet, had been rendered uninhabitable during the Periphery Uprising in 2765. Years of salvage operations had only further degraded the complex. Work began in 3014 to restore the complex and in 3018 actual work began on the actual construction yards themselves. Finally in early 3021, the first two Merchant-Class Jumpship's began construction. Today saw both of those Merchants pulled from their construction berths to begin acceptance trials while two more already under construction.

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