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Chapter 11 - What Could Go Wrong[]

18 November 3040
Inner End (Federated Commonwealth)

Though Inner End was still technically Federated Suns territory, just about everyone was switching to saying Federated Commonwealth on everything. It was sort of a confusing time all around. Over the years, there had been an increase of ships from the Lyran Commonwealth plying the shipping lanes inside the Federated Suns and vice versa. So, when the Lyran registered Invader Class Jumpship arrived at the Nadir jump point, nothing was really thought about it. Sergeant Major Pullman would be arriving at the end of the month, but he had sent Lieutenant Jordan Sanders ahead with a full platoon of Veteran Infantry, all former members of Captain Mitchell's Alpha Company, along with Corporal Davis. They had been on Inner End when Captain Mitchell and Master Sergeant Caldwell had arrived. The meet up had been surprising for Mitchell and Caldwell, but on arrival in system a HPG message had been waiting for them advising them where to meet up. This had gone without any issues.

JumpShip (Leopard DropShip Arriving - HBS Version)

Modified Invader Class JumpShip

"Sergeant Major Pullman thought you might need some backup out here. So, he sent us. The rest of the command will arrive mid-December, seems the AFFS Jumpship had a breakdown, but has now been fixed but it delayed them about a month." Lieutenant Sanders had explained on linking up with Captain Mitchell.

"Well, I for one am happy to see you and your people." Master Sergeant Caldwell said

Captain David Mitchell refocused on the mission at hand instead of remembering the link up as the Shuttle docked with the Invader Jumpship that would serve as their home base for the next few months. Lieutenant Sanders and his platoon were directed to board one of the mounted Dropships, an ancient Intruder Dropship. The other Dropship was a Mule, old but serviceable. Captain Mitchell, Master Sergeant Caldwell and Corporal Davis were led to the Jumpships bridge. There they met the ships master.

Intruder DD DropShip

Intruder Class DropShip

"Welcome aboard. Pete Kellog, Interstellar Expeditions. Adam Pallas hired us to do some looking around with you. We were between missions at Alpheratz when he made the call. Seems like an easy gig, but we have no clue where we are going. He said you have that information." Pete Kellog said

"Thank you, mister Kellog. Yes, mister Davis will assist your navigator on where we will be heading." Captain Mitchell replied, but he was actually looking at a couple of seedy looking people on the other side of the bridge.

Following his eyes, Pete Kellog smiled "Ah, forgive my manners. This is Major Lockton, he commands our escort under contract to Interstellar Expeditions."

Without taking his eyes off Major Lockton, Captain Mitchell nodded in greeting but got no gesture in return. Just a steady stare, we are going to have top post guards at all times, he thought.

"Shall we get started? We still have a few days on recharge, but I am not known for sitting still. If your man will help Ms Campbell with our destination, we can get this mission started." Pete Kellog said

"Mr Davis, show them where we are going." Captain Mitchell said and watched Corporal Davis move to the small navigator. He double checked and could see the bulge where Corporal Davis was carrying a pistol. He knew himself and Master Sergeant Caldwell were openly carrying pistols. From a distance he heard Corporal Davis speaking in a low voice to Ms Campbell.

FedCom Inner End System (3040) Sarna Map

FedCom Map center around Inner End Star System.

"There are 7 star systems within 27Ly of where we are now. 3 of those are closer than 21LY so we only need to focus on these 4 systems." Corporal Davis said as he pointed to the stars on the star map.

He watched the navigator consult her own readings via the ships navigational arrays and telescopes. After fifteen minutes she said "Sir, there are actually 5 systems meeting your range specifications. This one here is not even on the star maps, but is exactly 26.4LY from us."

Corporal Davis looked at Captain Mitchell who nodded "Then we will go look at that one first since it is the biggest mystery."

Once they reach Lieutenant Sanders, Captain Mitchell called an all-hands meeting. "I want armed guards posted at all times; everyone moves in pairs minimum. If you have not bumped into them, there are mercs on this mission and the few we saw looked more like pirates."

"Yeah, we seen them sir. About 2 platoons of them and a couple Aero jocks. This whole Dropship is their ride. Scrubby looking bunch. We were already discussing what we do if the hammer drops when you guys got back. Sergeant Chambers says we should just have at them and eject the bodies into space. Says they look and smell like pirates. Says a preemptive strike would be classified as justifiable self-defense in any courtroom in the Federated Suns." Lieutenant Sanders said

"Well, let's hope it does not come to that, but I will take Sergeant Chambers advice under consideration." Captain Mitchell replied, he looked around the large bay noting a change in weapons.

Seeing Captain Mitchell looking at the weapon change, Lieutenant Sanders spoke up. "Sergeant Major Pullmans idea. He told me to swap weapons for these Needler rifles and Needler pistols while we were aboard ship in Zero G conditions. So, we busted them out when we got in here. We stowed our normal weapons in the shipping containers that are code locked."

"I am not going to even ask where Sergeant Major Pullman got them, but it was good thinking." Captain Mitchell said

"He got them from his contacts with Customs. We have all he could score. One squad only has pistols, and we have one for each of you also. Plus, a decent ammo stock for them." Lieutenant Sander replied

"Very well. Pistols only outside the bay here, but guards inside each door with rifles. Lieutenant, make a guard rotation schedule. I don't want to wake up with my throat cut." Captain Mitchell said accepting the Needler Pistol he was handed and handing back his service pistol for storage.

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