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This is the way world ends (Chapter art)

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Chapter 10 - This is the Way the World Ends - Wolf Skinners (3024)[]

En route WSDS Mondez's impact site
1330-1630 Local Time
22nd July, 3024

Major Skinner took the opportunity to debrief his personnel while the escape pod was loaded on the Recovery Vehicle.

"Renzi was being modest, sir... he also gave us enough food to get through to the first harvest," the senior tech was saying.

The ex-Capellan added, "He struck me as honest, sir. His people are very loyal, indicating he treats them well. I believe he will be a strong ally. He has two lances of 'mechs under his command, along with at least four vehicles that we saw. The two you didn't see were a Manticore and a Schreck. I don't believe he would have let us see them if he meant to attack us. He also has at least a company of infantry with laser weapons, and... there were children."

"What? Kids?"

"Yes sir! All under 10, I think. Renzi himself is married to one of the Lance Commanders. She was the one who scooped us up initially." the senior tech replied.

The former Major Skinner's tech just nodded along at everything her officers were saying.

The current Major Skinner just shook his head, the likely future beginning to dawn on him in detail.

The senior tech continued, "It's not ALL bad news, sir. Renzi's guys mentioned there's a settlement on the other side of the bandits. 'Ar-Rabigh' they called it. DropShips occasionally land there, but not very big ones. Seems they don't like the bandits any more than we do, but it's close to a thousand kilometers to go around. That's why Renzi modified several of his 'mechs to carry cargo. It strikes me we could haul a LOT more with our Recovery Vehicle here."

"Good point, Warrant. That's one bargaining chip in our favor. We have a lot to do before we're ready to pull that trigger, though. Even with the extra food, it's going to be close run getting things set up. And who knows when the bandits will be back, in force? I don't think they saw enough of us to be deterred."

"If it comes to it, sir, we could do worse than moving in with Renzi and his crew. We outnumber them, and they've had a decade of figuring out how to live around here."

The ex-Capellan frowned. "That's true, but there would be inevitable friction. I take Renzi at his word that what he wants are friendly neighbors, not additional room mates. They had to make arrangements for just the three of us for a single day."

The Warrant nodded and said, "L-T's not wrong, Major. They were glad to see us, and even happier to see us leave."

The junior tech spoke up at this point. "Sir, those people are scared. They've been here ten years and are STILL scared."

The Warrant and Lieutenant exchanged shadowed looks. Skinner just shook his head.

The drive back to the Mondez's impact crater was tense silence as the Major seemed to age before their eyes, his furrowed brow never relaxing.

300 km west of WSDS Mondez's impact site...
City State of Al Mazrea
22 July, 2024

Lieutenant Commander Marion Fury was grinding her teeth. It had been a decade since the FWLDS Eagle's Claw and her embarked squadron had been shot down chasing the Condottieri. Fury, the XO, had just been promoted, and had orders to command her own DropShip when the Eagle's Claw had been diverted to chase the fleeing rebels. The two surviving aerospace pilots were laboring out in the fields under guard. The third had been shot years ago trying to escape. She herself had been incorporated into the Emir's harem, and had a daughter to worry about. Yesterday, a young tech had been brought in with a patch bearing the unmistakable kukri of Regulus on her uniform. Marion knew the bruises on her face would keep the Emir away for a few days until they healed. And this morning, yet another abductee from Ar-Rabigh had arrived. She too had apparently resisted capture. Enough was enough. Now that there were potential friendlies to run TO, Fury felt something she hadn't felt in a long time: hope.

Wolf Skinners bivouac around WSDS Mondez's impact site
24 July, 2024

Sergeant Novak was maybe a third of the way through his second cup of coffee at the communications intercept position aboard the Doc's MASH. He was taking a sip when the Interstellar Distress Frequency crackled to life with a broken signal:

<<"...lf Skinners, this is... -der Fury... inbound... -AVO MIKEs, at least eight VIC-...">>

Keying the mic, Novak said, <<"This is CHARLIE MIKE, station calling say again, over.">>

Unfortunately, the response was a solid wash of static through two more attempts.

Reaching for his tactical head set, he said, "Duty Officer, Comms… I think we got something, sir. You might want to come listen to the playback, over."

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