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The Other War (Cover)

Chapter 47 - The Other War

Rebekah's jeep left the town of Belle's Wharf behind heading toward the rugged terrain of the Eastern Scablands at reckless speed. Unfortunately, paved roads transitioned to poorly maintained gravel roads about ten minutes out of town. These trails and reports of Bandits in the area forced her to slow the pace in order to avoid falling into a trap.

The Scablands despite their unpleasant name were at one time pleasant to live in. Once home to many Nova Cat enclaves at the turn of the 30th Century living alongside Coyotes and Diamond Sharks. Until the Smoke Jaguars strip-mined and clear cut its forests in a vain effort to sustain their flailing touman during Operation: REVIVAL. Clan Diamond Shark attempted remediation, but landslides and banditry damaged its infrastructure making it increasingly unprofitable and out of reach.

Cara watched empty windows and roof tops when they passed through a quiet abandoned village still flying a ragged flag Nova Cat flag even years after their Abjuration. Its town sign long since fallen leaving only the chains hanging and tinkling in the wind. A flash of movement in a darkened alleyway caught her attention but, Rebekah was moving fast enough that she could not confirm it and they quickly passed through the ghost town without incident.

She looked over to Rebekah who was intent on the road ahead dodging potholes and collapsed roadsides, “Should we really be out this far without backup, Becky? I know Rex is your trothkin but this seems reckless now.”

“Cold feet, Cara, maybe you want to walk back to town?”
The teenager steeled herself at the rebuke. “I am a trueborn Coyote Warrior cadet not some airhead civie. Bandits do not scare me,” she pulled the Gauss SMG tight holding it like a treasured pet against her armor vest, “but we are in uncontrolled territory and not properly equipped to fight off an ambush.

On a nearby hill three uniformed men sat in a cutout beneath a camouflaged tarp around a small but powerful radio. Each was behind a tri-pod mounted telescope from which they could just barely make out Belle’s Wharf and its surrounding waters almost 40 kilometers away. Equally they could just barely make out Quarry Lake 58 and the rusty bulk carrier a short distance away next to its industrial quay.

“We have motion coming from the West. Coordinates on the scope.”
One of the men peered through the complex scope already shifting into position to track the contact, “Gray soft top civvie four by four Jeep, older model, no markings, tinted glass.”
“No markings?”
Aff, no markings. Just passed through the old Cat village on the gravel path.”
“Older model, the Coyotes wouldn’t have brought one with them, but they are the only ones occupying Belle’s Wharf now that they sent the Sharks Northward.”

“Its not a Patrol vehicle. We know they use pickups. Should we tell the bike team to intercept?”
“Its probably some Merchant cad looking for some privacy with his girlfriend. Inform the Cell Captain to pause recovery operations until we can confirm their heading. There are a few paths that will lead them past the Lake.”

Rebekah and Cara passed through the dense forest along the decrepit roads heading toward their destination. Spur roads broke off from the main path heading toward nearby quarries and mills. Small cervid like creatures crossed dangerously close to the fast-moving jeep before disappearing into the thick shrubland that was their home. Both Warriors kept a close eye on the embankments for animals and human lying in wait.

Cara’s stomach growled, “We should shoot one of those deer and take it back with us. I am sick of fish.”

“It has taken a while for me to adjust to it as well but, that is what is locally available to the Quartermasters. Almost all of Delios’ inhabitants live near and off the Inland Sea.

There is a pistol carbine in the back somewhere. When we find Rex, I will shoot one myself and we will have a feast.”

“I hope you do find him Becky. Cyne did not seem to have much urgency to find his missing Star.”

“He is a failed Warrior, little better than a Merchant now even though he plays at it. Cyne deployed once and it was a dismal failure that cost him his eye, hand, and the respect of his Peers. Even the Colonel is suspect. What the Burrocks were implicated with should have rendered them Annihilated rather than absorbed by the Adders, I do not trust him.”

“Who do you trust?”

Rebekah paused a moment while considering the innocent but important question, “People I can count on.”

They approached the final group of hills leaving the jeep hidden in a nearby stand of brush. Rebekah added an under-barrel grenade launcher to one of the Clan standard Mark 39 ER Laser Rifles, dropping a pair of grenades into her belt pouch along with spare power cells. Cara took the other keeping her compact Gauss SMG on her back. Both wanted to get in fast and get out faster preferable with Rex but if he was gone to at least know what might have killed him. They stuck to the brush careful to avoid sky-lighting themselves to any observers on the other side of the valley.

Both went prone and crawled the final couple of meters until they saw Quarry Lake 58, there were no signs of battle visible in their scopes nor of any mech movement from their current position. The ground was heavily exposed with only small structures, some piles of debris or gravel, and abandoned machines for cover. Across the way they saw no signs of observation in the rifle scopes across any of the spectra it tracked. Cara whispered, “They would have at least done an aerial survey, quiaff?”

Aff, that is standard protocol, but I think they might have recon birds looking for Sharks and these unknown Bandits. This area is a low priority.”
“But the Watch thought it had a cache.”
“That is what Cyne said yesterday. I searched Rex’s codex backup on the Cluster database; it has no record of this mission or of him even being missing in action. He is still listed as medically inactive.”
“But he got out of the MASH unit last week. How can you do that?”
“He is my trothkin, we share DNA and I am very clever. I do not think even Cyne knows that I could do this. Something is off about this world and I am to find out.”
“You should tell the Watch.”
“I would tell the Khan herself if I can reach her. I want to set up an observation post and wait until nightfall.”

She dangled the keys in front of the girl she was starting to treat like a little sister, “Do you want to drive my Jeep?”

Cara looked both excited and confused, “What? Why? For real.”

“If anyone observed us, they might not know how many people were inside. If you drive up one of the spur roads to one of the other quarries or the Inland Sea and set up the solar panels, they might think you are just some airhead civvie on a joyride to catch some rays and that they can continue whatever they are doing in this area.”

“That is a good plan. How did you get so clever?

“Coyotes are tricksters in many mythos. Something for you to reflect on while you are getting a tan. Of course, you will have to take off that uniform. Anyone watching you needs to think that you are not a Warrior cadet, or they will get suspicious.”

Cara began loosening the poorly fitted vest for her still maturing body, the fifteen year old needed help getting into and out of her armor as it had to be held on with more straps than Rebekah’s in order for her to move with any comfort, Aff, you need supplies anyway.”

Both snuck back to the Jeep and after a quick lesson on the advanced features Cara sat in the driver’s seat wearing her tank top undershirt and shorts while the rest of her uniform was rolled up in the back along with both of their armored vests. Instead Rebekah carried gear more appropriate for scouting than combat and also wore civilian clothes swapping out her weapons for Cara’s SMG which was more concealable if she were discovered.

“I will keep the radio handy so if either of us get into trouble we can help each other out. If we are very lucky Cyne might send out Patrol teams looking for us that will draw out the real enemy.”

“Be careful Becky, you do not know what is out there but there is at least one Star of missing Warriors. Try not to join their ranks.”

The Jeep pulled away hesitantly, slipping slightly on the gravel road as the novice driver accustomed herself to its operation. Upon their height the recon team marked the vehicle as departing for the West after about thirty minutes outside the Quarry. Its speed had reduced from the approach and then it turned onto one of the spur roads leading toward a former Nova Cat Merchant’s Villa overlooking the Inland Sea. It traveled up and parked outside, they zoomed in to find a lightly clothed young woman setting up the Solar charger for the jeep and sitting on its hood sunning herself. “Cell Captain Brodric we have ID on the mark from earlier. Confirmed to be a young woman, likely teenager, brunette, sunning herself near the abandoned Villa Roja. Roads are clear all the way to the Wharf.”

“Roger that, Overwatch. Central has changed the timetable and urges caution to all Cells. Something big is about to go down today. We will wait till nightfall to continue recovery operations. Maintain your position.”

“Affirmative Cell Captain, Overwatch will maintain position.” The masked soldier looked toward the other pair,

“Brodric wants us to stay here. Anybody have something good to eat? or is it just MREs again tonight.”
“We only have the Salsa chicken left, James.”

They shrugged, “Not even hot sauce can make that taste good.”

Elsewhere Clan Coyote Epsilon Galaxy Commander Silas Kufahl looked out over the Inland Sea from Pier Ten of Deep Harbor, one of the larger enclaves on-world and the largest one currently controlled by the Coyotes. He arrived via The Spirit in the Sky with reinforcements two days ago to help end the stalemate between Nu Galaxy and the Diamond Shark’s Omega Galaxy. It had required a personal appeal to Khan Koga herself as she was reluctant to let him leave her supervision. The two had a history of quarreling with one another and he made no secret of his feelings toward her reorganization in the past.

He could not argue with results however and had regained his Galaxy Commander Berth fairly in the Circle of Equals returning to his rightful place and bringing his own supporters close for potential action against her should the opportunity arise. Chatter had drawn the attention of the Coyote Watch however and he barely escaped their brutal raid on one of the opposition cells.

His reputation however was preserved no one had seen him at any of these meetings which were often conducted in the Chatterweb using careful phrases to escape filters. It was to close though and there was no real escape for him. He had made to much noise before and was a suspect in any actions against Koga’s reforms that had seen greater power centralized in her and her supporters. There was hope though it would cost him his honor and reputation, but it may save him from the Khan’s firing line.

He watched a dark-skinned young woman wearing abundant jewelry, a short top, tight skirt, and wedged sandals with pinned up hair walk onto the pier. Her slender chain belt was filled with jangling coins and other shiny objects that drew as much attention as her wardrobe and striking makeup. She slowly walked over to stand beside him and also looked out toward the setting sun. “Waiting for someone special, Mechwarrior?”

She turned to him batting her eyelashes all the way, “Maybe it’s me.”

Silas looked past her though his gaze was drawn to her makeup and tattoos on the abundant exposed skin, “I am waiting for a man. Move along, Surat.”

She mouthed something and feigned anguish, “You did say Surat, Aff? Not something else”

She leaned in attempting to touch his arm, “Otherwise that would be very rude, there is no need for insults. I am very selective but change my mind frequently. Sure, you are not flexible. Its going to be cold soon.”

He batted her away and felt a prick on his wrist from one of the pins now in her hand; then a cold fear as his nerves failed to respond. His lips were numbing as his heart beat faster in a panic spreading the chemical further faster. “What did you do?” He attempted to shout and draw attention to himself but, she put her hand over his mouth and his muscles refused his commands to throttle her and take the antitoxin she surely must carry.

“I did nothing, this synthetic tetrodotoxin my brother made though it will do everything I require. You have roughly seven minutes to live if the previous tests on human subjects are anything to go by.” She pushed into him and he numbly fell over the railing and into the surf, “That is of course if you don’t drown first, traitor.”

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