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This is the way world ends (Chapter art)

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Chapter 16 - This is the Way the World Ends - Wolf Skinners (3024)[]

Wolf Skinner bivouac around WSDS Mondez's impact site
1934 Local Time
25th July, 3024

Lieutenant Erica Summers sealed the hatch before taking her seat. Major Skinner and Captain Harris were the only other two in the escape pod with her. Skinner seemed to have aged in the few hours since their last meeting.

"All right, recon to the north is hereby good enough. Tomorrow, send Stevenson northeast. We need to know sooner than later if there's anything better than the unstable rock around here for shelter." Skinner said, a defeated tone in his voice.

"Roger that, Boss. I think we can spin the story that with what we obtained moving units in from the north, today's recon was good enough. Right, Erica?" Harris said, trying to put on a brave face.

"Yeah." the spacer agreed, nodding. She'd seen Ludak when he was pulled out of the tunnel, and it was still haunting her. The Doc said he'd make a full recovery, eventually. But he wasn't going to be any use until then, even if his exoskeleton could be repaired without his active participation.

Seeing her thousand yard stare, Skinner shook his head and tried to straighten his back. "Things aren't looking good, but we'll get through this," he said, trying to convince himself too. "When you two can look less glum, send Top in. I think he needs to be read in."

"Aye, Sir." Erica said, taking a deep breath to try to clear her head. Harris already had his hand on the hatch. She stood to follow him out.

Top was waiting outside, a question written on his craggy features. He saluted the officers as they left and the pair heard, "Shut the hatch and have a seat Sergeant Major..." from inside the pod.

37km NE of WSDS Mondez's impact site
0741 Local Time
26 July, 3024

Firestarter (Firing flamer)

Firestarter Light 'Mech, "Mirage variant"

Staff Sergeant Antonia Bianchi was more than a little confused by the change in recon plan from yesterday, but had shrugged her shoulders when Lieutenant Stevenson briefed her. She was piloting her Mirage, Phantasmagoria, up a gentle rise expecting more of the same broken terrain. When she crested the ridge though, her jaw dropped. Halting, she absently reached to key her mic, her eyes fixed on the sight below.

"Sir, you gotta see this!" she said breathlessly.

Pulling up next to her in his Vulcan, Stevenson could only marvel himself. "Holy shit..." he said on the local push before switching to the command frequency. "WHISKEY, this is ROMEO... JACKPOT. I say again, JACKPOT. Pass to WHISKEY Actual, over."

37km NE of WSDS Mondez's impact site
0917 Local Time
26 July, 3024

Even though he had some idea what to expect, Major Skinner was still amazed when the APC crested the ridge. As the vehicle rolled to a halt a bit past where the distracted driver had intended, he ordered everyone outside so they could see it for themselves. Lieutenant Novak's platoon whooped at the sight, but quickly got themselves back together. Sergeant Major Shaan, Warrant Bowman, Senior Chief Levy and EM2 Wirth all expressed similar wonder before climbing back into the air conditioning. The Major conferred with Lieutenant Steveneson about where to rendezvous at the base of the mountain, then resumed his seat in the APC.

A half hour (and almost 20km) later, the APC, Vulcan, and Mirage were parked at the base of the mountain, in a shallow bay. The Major had an ancient dog tag in his hand, and was looking around with uncertainty written on his face. Motioning for Stevenson to join him on the ground again, he called Laura Bowman over and moved to the feet of the Vulcan.

"I'm not sure there's a pedestrian entrance at ground level. Logically there should be, but I think the peak will give us a smaller area to search. You'll take me up there, and Sergeant Bianchi will bring Warrant Bowman. Once you drop the two of us off, come back down and bring Senior Chief and EM2 on the next trip. Between the four of us, I think we'll be able to get the main entrance open, even if it takes some time. While we're doing that, bring a squad and Sergeant Major up. Any questions?" said the Major.

"Copy all, sir! We'll have you at the top shortly!"

Five minutes after that, Major Skinner was grinning ear to ear as a likely looking boulder began to rise on a hidden hinge, revealing a clearly marked emergency escape staircase.

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