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Chapter 46 - What Could Go Wrong[]

14 October 3041
Valasha (Outworlds Alliance)

After making a quick message to Inner End, kept very short and sweet, a simple "Mission is a go." Leftenant Colonel Mitchell and Master Sergeant Caldwell had taken a shuttle up to the Nadir Jump Point and waited for the rest of the unit's arrival. A short 2-day trip saw the Intrusive, Intruder Assault Dropship and the Haulin it All, Mule Cargo Dropship making their landing on the continent of Menard. With no true STOL ability, the Home Plate, a Monarch Passenger Liner Dropship remained in orbit of Valasha. When the Intrusive lowered her ramp, only Doctor Alan Dryson was actually in the cargo bay, fully suited up in an environmental suit. He took readings and deemed the actual air safe, slightly elevated radiation but not enough to concern him. After walking down the ramp, he pulled a small shovel and dug into the ground. The disturbed soil sent the Geiger counter into the red. He retreated back into the Intrusive, which closed the ramp back up.

Intruder DD DropShip

Intruder Class Assault DropShip, the Intrusive

After a quick decontamination, he exited the cargo bay where everyone else was waiting. "It's a little worse than I expected. They must have used some high yield weapons, dirty ones too. I only dig down 8 inches and the radiation levels there are deadly. The entire operation, if it must actually be done, will have to in full suits, full decontamination procedures. I would advise to avoid this place." Doctor Alan Dryson said

There were low voices from the assembled personnel. "Easy folks, let's not lose our cool just yet. Chief Zuniga, how hard is it going to be to decontaminate all our suits and equipment during this mission?" Leftenant Colonel Mitchell asked

"Not too hard. Lots of water and detergent can handle most of it. Not nearly enough suits to actually toss them after use. Whatever you use to do the actual digging, leave those behind. I doubt any sort of cleaning will return them to service, not by the readings the doc got. We brought 4 of those Mining Mechs, if they do the digging, they need to be write offs. Anything that touches the disturbed dirt needs to be tossed. That is about all the advice I can give at this time." Chief Zuniga replied, having the most experience with radiation.

"Okay, this is a setback. Sergeant Davis, how close are we to where the cache is located?" Leftenant Colonel Mitchell asked

"From where we currently sit? About a kilometer. If the coordinates recovered are correct, and I have no reason to doubt them, it should be under that low hill over there." Sergeant Davis replied

"Well, at least the Mining Mechs are fully sealed. Master Sergeant Croyle, what do you think?" Leftenant Colonel Mitchell asked

Master Sergeant Harold Croyle commanded the unit's engineers. "As long as we are leaving the Mining Mechs behind, it is doable. I think me and Chief Zuniga can rig up a high-pressure water system using scalding hot water to blow any dirt off the Mining Mechs before the pilots exit. We have 80 environmental suits in total. So, we can do a few rotations while we try and uncover a door or something. I think we will need to use the Carbine though to help out. That is not sealed against this crap, so the pilot will have to work fully suited up. I insist the doc monitors his radiation count inside the suit and we yank the pilot before it gets anywhere close to dangerous. Maybe use those fancy bio sensor setups the space cowboys use when they go EVA."

"After we get an entry way located, I am going to want 3 kilometers worth of Marsden Matting, same stuff we use for temporary roads and runways in the AFFS. I can stack that stuff at least a foot high off the ground to keep anything and anyone off this contaminated ground all the way back to where we stand. Every Space Port and engineer company worth a damn keeps the stuff on hand. Been around for centuries and works like a charm. It has been a long damn time, but if I remember my AFFS tables right for passing thru a radioactive area, as long as nothing touches the ground and just drives thru and area without delay, we should be able to spray them down and be good to go." He replied

"So, what I am hearing is the task is doable as long as we take every precaution. Am I correct?" Leftenant Colonel Mitchell asked

"While we all think it is doable, we have to go get what we need. Currently, our Dropship landing struts are contaminated to the high heavens. Once we lift off, this entire area is going to be totally contaminated. Either Dropship lifting off is going to blow a big damn hole underneath us and throw debris all over the place. I think we should put a hold on this operation for now. I advise that we head back to Inner End, we decon the hell out of our landing struts. When we return, we land on the other side of that hill, where we have not contaminated the crap out the area, we have everything we need so that when we come back, it is a one and done. That is my opinion, Sir." Chief Zuniga said, several others nodded in agreement.

"Okay, we put this recovery on hold for now. Back to Inner End, get everything we need located, ordered and ready to go. If we are going to this extreme, Master Sergeant Croyle, double up on everything, find another Carbine or two, no sense leaving our only one behind without some sort of backup. Davis, let's go find another mission site to hit until we are prepared for this operation. Valasha is now on hold folks." Leftenant Colonel Mitchell said

15 October 3041
Valasha (Outworlds Alliance)

After reaching orbit, Leftenant Colonel Mitchell managed to get a message to Governor Ulman, advising him that Menard was indeed deadly and that they would be returning with additional equipment. It had only taken an hour while on the surface with Sergeant Davis to decide that the Joshua system would be their next target. After discussing the contamination issue with Chief Zuniga, the decision was made to head directly to Joshua. No one wanted to return to Inner End empty handed. Only Commodore Noble voiced any concern about traveling that far out with only a pair of Aerospace fighters as escorts. Leftenant Colonel Mitchell weighed the protest and decided to roll the dice, they would proceed to Joshua.

5 November 3041
Joshua (Former Outworlds System)

Using centuries old navigation data, Ship Master Sarah Campbell brought the unit's Invader Jumpship, the SaRI Express to the Nadir Jump Point. On arrival, the Intrusive, Intruder Dropship undocked and launched her pair of Aerospace Fighters. Sergeant Nathan Davis had dug into every units' After-Action reports trying to build the best picture that he could of what remained and where. Reading the various reports from the 37th Royal Dragoon Regiment to 18th Army, he had learned that Joshua had an Olympus Recharge Station at the Nadir Jump Point. It had been reported as heavily damaged and the surviving crew evacuated.

It took Commodore Noble, his wingman and the Intrusive 11 hours to locate the Olympus Recharge station just over 530,000 KM from where SaRI Express had materialized. A quick fly by conducted by Commodore Noble confirmed that the station was heavily damaged. He guided his Samurai SL-26 in for a closer look and spotted something small attached to one of the stations docking collars. It looked funny, if it was a Dropship, it was the smallest he had ever seen. "Pete, swing over and check out the repair bays, see if the doors are closed or open."

It only took a few minutes before the response came back. "All three bays are open, nothing inside of them. I am looking into the largest bay, and it is beat up pretty good inside."

Commodore Noble keyed his mic "Sir, you catching all of this?"

"Heard it all. We will board the Olympus and see what is left onboard. Head back and refuel, we have an hour until we reach your position." Leftenant Colonel Mitchell said

Marines (on Ship Hallway)

Marine Combat Armor

After refueling and relaunching their CAP, the Intrusive carefully docked with the Olympus Recharge Station. As the Chief Engineer double checked that they had a good seal, he attached a power connection to the airlock hatch. Stacked behind him was Bravo Company, fully suited up in their Marine Combat Suits. He gave a thumbs up and opened the airlock hatch after verifying that his own cargo bay was depressurized for safety. Without a word, Bravo Company began swarming into the Olympus Recharge Station, spreading out by the squad. It took half an hour to clear the massive cargo bay before moving onto other levels of the station to clear them. Leftenant Colonel Mitchell, Master Sergeant Caldwell and Sergeant Davis, clad in Marine Combat Armor entered the cargo deck. Agent Jessica Hammel, not having Zero G training remained aboard the Intrusive.

The vast cargo bay had quite a few open shipping containers which they poked around in but found nothing of real value. It was obvious that someone had looted the place, probably long ago. Two hours had passed with them poking around in the cargo bay, still finding nothing of value, outside of the empty cargo containers themselves. Over the radio he heard "Sir, station is clear. No life whatsoever, not even remains. You might want to grab the Chief and come take a look. I am at the docking collar airlock where Commodore Noble reported something docked. I can see it out of the portal. Someone at some time took a cutting torch to the hatch, mangled it bad."

"On our way. Chief, you want to join us." Leftenant Colonel Mitchell replied

Reaching the other docking collar area, the Chief Engineer looked out the portal at the docked vessel. "Seen it before. It's a Hoshiryokou (he pronounced it Hoshy O Koo). Small tug, commonly found in Combine space. There are even a few at Galax." He adjusted his position slightly for a different view. "Collar is wonky, probably jammed. It's possible the tug tried to pull itself free and just made whatever damage the collar took worse. I would have to EVA to tell you more." He moved to the hatch itself and whistled "Whoever did this mess should never touch a cutting torch again. This hatch is truly screwed up now. It will have to be taken out in pieces. Not even sure I have enough fuel to clear this mess away for my own rigs."

"No EVA, Chief. I am not sure there is anything on this station worth salvaging anyway. Not easily. Let's all clear off this station and head back to the Express. We have a 13-day trip to the surface and lord knows how long down there." Leftenant Colonel Mitchell said

18 November 3041

It had been a very long 13 days to the surface for Leftenant Colonel Mitchell. He had Chief Zuniga in his face the entire time telling him that the station was a massive find. Leftenant Colonel Mitchell could not count how many times he had heard "Let me take a team aboard the station while you folks play around on the ground. When you come back, I will compare that stations value, even damaged to whatever you find down there. I do not think you grasp how rare those Olympus Stations are. Parts lone are worth a fortune."

Nor could he count how many times he had said "We are equipped to recover on the ground Chief. Not for some massive space recovery effort. We complete the ground mission and then if time is left, you can go play on the station for a few days. Your talking about an entirely different skill set than what we are equipped to handle right now. If it has not been picked clean in the last 200 years, it will probably be here when we get back."
He shook himself back to the here and now as the Intrusive settled onto the ground gently. Sergeant Davis had landed them about a kilometer from where the cache was reported to be located at. Master Sergeant Caldwell and Chief Zuniga supervised getting Bravo Company's vehicles readied for deployment. A roar overhead announced Commodore Noble's presence as he flew a patrol around the landing zone. Leftenant Colonel Mitchell stepped off the DropShip's ramp onto solid ground. Agent Jessica Hammel followed him, but a bit more cautiously, she was more a cop than a soldier, but it felt good to have solid ground under her feet again.

Behind them, engines snorted to life as Bravo Company mounted up, three Heavy Tracked APC's and two Hunter Support Tanks rumbled down the ramps and headed for the reported cache location.

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