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Chapter 68 - What Could Go Wrong[]

14 December 3041
Joshua (Former Outworld System)

At 6am local time, Sergeant Tabitha Raines watched from a distance as the Lion Dropship touched down on the planet's surface. With no way to haul off the two downed Firestarters, they lay where they had fallen. Techs had made sure that neither could be put back into service anytime soon. Though some grass had begun to sprout in the paths the tracked vehicles had passed, their direction of travel was still very easily seen even to an untrained eye. Worse, around midnight, the Intrusive, their Intruder Assault Dropship, had launched and its drive flares were like a moving star at almost 300 miles, but still visible, if you knew where to look.

Thunderbolt (Standing - Hard Wired Ep2 - TMC group )

Thunderbolt Heavy 'Mech

When the Lion dropped its doors, Sergeant Raines watched a Thunderbolt walk down the ramp and stop on solid ground at the base of the ramp. A Wolverine descended the other ramp and also halted at the base. After about five minutes, both Battlemechs moved forward to clear the ramps where other Battlemechs emerged and started to deploy in a defensive formation. With the growing light as dawn emerged, Sergeant Raines nodded to the 3 members of her squad with her, and they slowly slid back from the low ridge. It was time to fall back to their next watch point 100 miles away.

Captain Gweneth Rolando had modified her battle plans several times while waiting for the possible fight. She had pulled one of the Condor Hover Tanks from the Depot but it was just too much for her people to operate at speed, it now sat about 500 meters away with, its skirt torn away after the driver lost control. With only the two medium lasers as weapons, they would have been only useful for harassment anyway. The Depot had not contained any real ammunition stocks, only about 30 tons of machine gun ammunition stored in a sealed vault, for lack of a better word to call it, on investigation by techs, the vault was connected to a complex vacuum system that removed all the oxygen in the room and then pumped in nitrogen. Even with the ammunition crates seals intact, this ensured long term storage. A much larger system of the same type performed the same function for the rest of the Depot. It was theorized that this was how the SLDF managed to store equipment that showed little signs of age, even after centuries. As long as the seals held preventing the loss of the nitrogen and allowing oxygen inside, the equipment and most other items remained stored in an almost perfect state. Though no one could explain why the ration packs failed so miserably.

When we get back to Inner End, we will be getting a complete set of Hover APCs, at least then I can fight forward and outrun pursuers to the next battle line, Captain Rolando thought to herself. Defeat never entered her mind, like all of her troops, they had bested the Dracs, no way were some pirates going to beat them in a fight.

Back at the pirate base, General Jaws had climbed down from his TDR-5Sb Thunderbolt and surveyed the battle scene before him. Had the Outworlds Alliance tripped over his outpost? If so, why had they not recovered the two Firestarters laying out there? While one was an obvious kill, missing its entire head, the other looked intact. Techs were already inspecting it. His eyes had already spotted the direction the attackers had come from, their tracks still easily visible heading off to the west. Scouts had already located graves dug, a small group of graves were marked with names and ranks, but no one could figure out what SaRI meant.

Sensors aboard the Lion Dropship had easily detected the boosting Dropship and its escorting pair of Aerospace Fighters. Which worried him, since his Merchant class Jumpship would have no chance to recharge its jump core to escape. Without any Aerospace fighters of his own to counter theirs, it was beyond his control anyway. The only good thing was scouts had not located any signs that the attackers had any Battlemechs of their own. Only a destroyed vehicle, that no one could identify remained. But were the attackers still on planet? Only one way to find out, he thought as he ordered everyone to mount up, leaving a single Infantry platoon to guard the prisoners.

As Intrusive reached orbit, it switched on its own radar and full sensor suites. There was no need to remain undetected, its liftoff was hard to miss, plus its own passive sensors had detected the radar sweeps from the pirate Dropship easily detecting its presence. Captain Wendell Haynes decided to take the risk a bit further just for additional information. <<"Intrusive to SaRI Surprise, you have a location for their ride?">>

It would take 3 hours for the call to reach the Nadir Jump Point at 300,000 kilometers per second and another 3 hours for a response. Aboard the pirate Merchant Jumpship, sitting almost 150,000,000 kilometers from the planet, this caused quite a bit of panic. They had only begun recharge operations two days ago and needed another 5 days before it could jump to safety.

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