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Chapter 228 - What Could Go Wrong[]

Carmellita (Former Outworlds System)
30th August, 3046

After a quick sub orbital movement, the SaRI Dropships landed near the reported location of the 258th Hussar Regiment's main base. With no mountains even remotely close, it was obviously not built into a mountainside. A quick review of the orbital scans allowed them to locate the faint outlines of a fairly large square looking area. Another four hours and the engineers had located ferro crete under roughly 2 feet of soil. There were no indications that anything other than a surface compound had ever been here so Major General David Mitchell called off the brief search and ordered everyone to reload for the trip back to the Nadir Jump Point.

Linden (Former Outworlds System)
10th September, 3046

Sensors came back to life after the jump and quickly picked up the incoming vessel escorted by two Dropships. "Launch all Dropships and CAP. Incoming vessel!!"

Lieutenant Colonel Kirby Pennell was issuing his orders when the ships communication officer said "Sir, we are being hailed."

"Loudspeaker." He ordered

"SLDF ships this is Rim World Ship Krait. We are not hostile. Who won the war?"

This confused Lieutenant Colonel Pennell for a few seconds before it hit him. The transponder codes had not been changed on the Lee Dropships nor SaRI Wavelength and they were still broadcasting their original SLDF identification codes. He floated to the communication terminal and took the radio. "RWS Krait, this is SaRI Heavy Lift. The Star League Defense Force won the war. That was many years ago and much has changed."

"We will begin braking action. Would you like to send a shuttle aboard for a meeting? I would like to hear what has changed."

Lieutenant Colonel Pennell looked at Major General Mitchell who nodded "Yes, we will launch a shuttle for a meeting."

Radar was picking up quite a few smaller but obvious Aerospace fighters at the very edge of their range. "Keep CAP in place. Cycle in for refuel as needed but no hostile actions unless fired upon." He ordered. Lieutenant Colonel Pennell was using the ships telescope to get a good look at the RWS Krait. "Intruder and Leopard CV Dropships. There also visually that is a Merchant Class Jumpship but it clearly was under 2g of thrust judging by their braking flares. No Merchant I ever seen moves that fast. Not sure what that really is out there."

Three hours later the Ares Mark VII small craft gently landed aboard the RWS Krait. Major General David Mitchell was the first off the shuttle in his Marine combat armor, the magnetic boots locked to the ships deck and clicked as he walked to meet the small group waiting.

"Major General David Mitchell, Search and Recovery Inc." He said

"Captain Marcus Birch. Welcome aboard RWS Krait. It has been a long time since the Star League Defense Force or anyone other than pirates has visited us. We detected the incoming wave and scrambled our defenses. Though you might be those pirate bastards the Sons of Plunder. They give us a try every few years. Then we picked up your transponder codes identifying you."

"Sons of Plunder, have not run across them yet. We have destroyed a few pirate bands though." Major General Mitchell said

"Watch out for them. They have a bunch of tech they should not have. They never get far here at Linden, but they have been a scourge out here for many years. They raid and take slaves on other worlds in the region." Captain Marcus Birch said

"I guess I will come out and say it, the Star League does not exist anymore. Neither does the Rim Worlds Republic. We are actually a mercenary unit that conducts anti-piracy operations for the Federated Commonwealth in the region. I am also the President of Thazi, our home." Major General Mitchell said and watched the reaction of Captain Marcus Pennell closely.

"Federated Commonwealth? Never heard of it. Your ships transponders?" Captain Marcus Birch asked, but he was tense as he spoke, his hand not far from his sidearm.

"Recovered SLDF ships. My primary unit is the 200th Royal Light Horse in honor of those fallen soldiers. The Federated Suns and Lyran Commonwealth are joined by treaty. One big nation." Major General Mitchell replied

"Thazi. You said Thazi was your home. I have seen it on our charts. Large pirate band right next to you. You do know that right?" Captain Marcus Pennell said

"Destroyed. Can I ask a question? How have you all survived out here for so long?" Major General Mitchell asked

"Shall you accompany me to the grav deck? That is a long story." Captain Marcus Birch said

After making their way to the grav deck and taking seats, Captain Marcus Birch began telling their story.

"I am descended from Captain Marc Birch. He had been activated to defend the Rim Worlds Republic and assigned this very ship, a Tracker. She is a Warship in name only though. In 2769 he learned that he had been lied to so he fled with his ship and crew into the deep periphery. They made their way here to Linden in 2772. It was total chaos with pirates and former rebels all over the place. They defeated the pirates that had been here but lost the ability for the Krait to jump. They were stranded here. He tried to board one of the orbital factories here and a nuclear charge blew it all to hell. Another year and they tried another one and it too blew. They quit trying after that.

They left the other stations alone for fear of destroying them too. It took twenty or so years before the locals trusted him enough to tell him they could reactivate two of the orbital factories. One built small craft, but they worked hard to modify it and about a decade later they managed to start production of VLC-6N Vulcan Aerospace fighters, which he had brought with him. They battled the odd pirate raid in defense of Linden and her people until the catastrophe struck in 2898. I am not sure what happened, but it killed millions and polluted the soil badly. The water down there is poisonous to drink unless run thru a complex filtration system and only one of those still works producing barely enough water for those left here. The world is dying, and our numbers decrease every year. Only by trade with others, very careful trade do we survive."

"How many of you are there?" Major General Mitchell asked

"On the surface? About just under 15,000. It is all that can survive down there. They run the large greenhouses that barely keep us alive. There are roughly 60,000 out here on the various orbital stations and habitats. Very few have ever even been on the surface. Born, raised and live out here in space for their entire lives." Captain Marcus Birch said

"It would take time, but what if I offered you and the people here a new home. Move you all to Thazi? We have all the food and water you could ask for." Major General Mitchell asked

"You would have to move the habitats. Most of these people have never touched the surface of a planet. To them it is a death sentence. I have to admit that I myself prefer out here to down on a surface." Captain Marcus Birch said

"Who would make the final decision?" Major General Mitchell asked

"Your looking at him. But I am not leaving without my ship. So, unless you have a spare jump core for a Tracker laying around or can magically produce a SLDF security key, that is not happening." Captain Marcus Birch said

"What if we could produce a security key? What would that gain us?" Major General Mitchell asked

"The keys to the kingdom. It has been the bane of the Birch family for centuries, our savior that stands just out of reach, and yet we can easily see it and even touch it, but not access it." Captain Marcus Birch said

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