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This is the way world ends (Chapter art)

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Chapter 18 - This is the Way the World Ends - Wolf Skinners (3024)[]

Designated Coordinates
1300-1400 Local Time
27 July, 3024

As before, each side brought a lance of 'mechs and a pair of vehicles. Skinner and Renzi made small talk while the techs on both sides inspected the materiel to be traded. The clothing turned out to be shorts and t-shirts apparently donated to charity on Campoleone. Renzi's suspicion was that the traders were paid to deliver them to "the needy" in the Periphery. Of course, they simply sold them on to the locals for further profit. The feminie hygiene products were much the same: cut up t-shirts donated to charity. The grumbling on the Wolf Skinner side was audible, and the sympathetic looks from the Renegade side were visible but unhelpful.'

Coffee was apparently profitable enough to actually ship to Astrokaszy, so it could be had in the bazaar at Rabigh, and the town apparently had some way to manufacture lubricants. Renzi was also kind enough to offer a joint expedition to Rabigh the following month. There was never any guarantee a DropShip would be there, but when there was, the bazaar was moved out to the landing field. The local authorities wouldn't let 'mechs into the town proper, but vehicles were generally allowed. He joked speed limits were enforced by Rabigh's 'mechs. Skinner did his best to laugh appropriately.'

Packrat (Driving on desert road - Oswald)

Packrat Scout Vehicle

Once Renzi's techs gave the thumbs up on the Hermes engine, transloading began in earnest. Both the Packrat and Swiftwind had been packed with the various bits and bobs, and the Packrat had a makeshift rack on its roof for the engine. Four 'mechs (two from each unit) carefully lifted the engine off the back deck of the Wolf Skinners' Recovery Vehicle while it drove to the side. When the Packrat was satisfactorily positioned under the suspended engine, the 'mechs eased the load on to its roof. The vehicle's suspension visibly compressed as it took the load, but there was still travel left in the shocks. The 'mechs continued to hold on to the makeshift cradle until Renzi's techs had securely strapped it in place.'<b.r>

Warrant Officer Cushman was supervising the loading of the wide variety of stuff being loaded aboard the Recovery Vehicle in trade. He was kicking himself for not requesting tarps, but at least they now had the ABTs needed to get the OLF up and running!

Outlying Landing Field Skinner
1430-1500 Local Time
28 July, 3024

Major Skinner's first priority was getting the main power back on. Warrant Officer Bowman was overseeing EM2 Wirth and the small crew that had carried the three ABTs down flight after flight of stairs at the main switchboard, while Lieutenant Summers and the bridge crew from the Mondez were in the "tower" with the Major. When the switch was thrown, the main lights slowly came to life around floor level, and monitors began displaying boot up sequences. Skinner had his ancestor's dog tag ready at the main console when the red light started flashing. As he presented the tag to the reader, the red light blinked once more and was replaced by a steady green. A soft but authoritative feminine voice said "Welcome back, Major Skinner. Systems booting up."

Skinner smiled weakly as the rest of the crew stared at him. "I'm sure it's not AI. Just a normal 'Betty'," he said, trying to convince himself at least as much as the rest of the crew. Shortly, the control room was bathed in light as the main screens came to life, displaying the surrounding terrain in exquisite detail. Skinner suddenly found himself very busy denying the system's requests to bring up the radars and establish routine satellite links. The rest of the crew was similarly busy establishing control over various base subsystems. Unnoticed among all the business, the elevator controls shifted from red to green.

Warrant Bowman's voice shortly came over the speakers, "Bridge, Engineering... we've got two out of three installed, and just got the intercom working down here."

"Bridge copies," Lieutenant Summers said, still tapping commands into her console. She smiled to herself. It was almost like being underway again.

1530-1800 Local Time

"It's a good thing they gave us three cans of lubricant sir!" Warrant Bowman said, sweeping her arm to emphasize the size of the base's huge door mechanism and drive her point home. "I recommend we take the first few openings and closings very slowly to avoid breaking anything. We have no way of fixing anything this big if it breaks."

Major Skinner nodded in agreement. "All right, we'll plan on the first opening tomorrow morning. I want to finish the inventory of this place tonight, now that we have the lights on. The logs only provide so much detail."

Elsewhere in the base, Doc Ozora was nodding in approval at the state of the medical facilities. The Star League had installed an impressive amount of equipment, though it made sense in the context of an aviation training facility. Of course there would be a burn unit in addition to the surgical suite! That would at least ease the treatment of the laser burned pilot still laboring on oxygen in the Doc's MASH vehicle. And the recovery rooms would also help Sergeant Ludak and the trooper with broken ribs on their somewhat longer roads back to full health.

While the Doc was doing that, the Mini-Doc was testing the water quality in the galley, and nodding in approval as the results started to appear on the data pad. The refrigerators were operating as designed, and the ovens too. Even the ice maker was dispensing its first batch in centuries without a hitch.

Down on the first deck, techs were crawling over the ten vehicles left by the Star League. Aside from needing some oil here and there, they seemed to be in good shape. The jeep looked suspiciously similar to the one Lieutenent Commander Fury had driven in from Al Mazrea, but the general mood was otherwise jubilant.

The techs going over the hangar queens were somewhat less so. The SB-27 was missing its engine and all of its weapons, while the Ares Mark V Landing Craft was cradled in jack stands with obvious belly damage, no landing gear at all, and again all of its weapons pulled. Otherwise, the Ares seemed to be functional, not that the unit had any way to make it fly again.

The troops inventorying the stores left behind were slogging through cargo container after cargo container of toilet paper, cleaning supplies and bedding. The one bright spot was the last cargo container. Instead of toilet paper, it was full of Star League era sanitary pads. The whoop from the female troopers echoed in the massive space. The cleaning supplies included a couple of pallets of detergent, so that was quickly crossed off the list of things they needed to trade for. The groans of the troopers going through the ration containers were explained by the fact that all the boxes of rations had been opened and retaped a few centuries ago. Every single one of the unopened ration packs was the infamous "omelette". The packs were all confidently marked with "Expiration Date: Indefinite", but that did nothing to raise morale.

Sergeant Major Shaan was busily laying out the berthing plan. The base had quarters for 150 with limited officer and senior NCO options. There was going to be unhappiness, air conditioning or no. The report of the Ares Landing Craft made him quirk an eyebrow, and after a quick question, he cheerfully added 35 more racks to his calculations. If only there was some way to move that thing back to the crash site...

Outlying Landing Field Skinner
2000 Local Time

In addition to berthing, the facility hosted several offices and even a decent sized conference room. It certainly beat the heck out of an escape pod. Major Skinner was leaning back in his chair as the others filed in and took their seats.

"All right, I think we can safely call today a success," he began. "The "Bridge" is operational, the inventory went well, and even the hangar queens might have some use. Sergeant Major brought up the fact the landing craft could solve our air conditioning problem at the crash site, if we can figure out a way to get it there. Even stripped and empty, it's too heavy for the Recovery Vehicle to move. But we can solve that problem another day. I can't stress enough that we need to continue to hold the crash site. Even assuming the unit is willing to subsist on the most infamous rations in existence, they'll run out eventually, and there's no way to grow enough food here in the middle of a salt pan, even if we could rig up hydroponics from scratch."

Turning to Warrant Bowman, he said, "Laura, how does the door mechanism look? Are we going to be able to bring anything through it?"

"Well Sir, as I pointed out earlier, it needs a LOT of lubrication to avoid breaking anything. It's basically a huge hydraulic ram set up to move a chunk of the cliff face back and forth. With it shut, it would take the locals days or weeks to get in here, even if they knew where it was. If we get it working again, I don't recommend using it much. It just too big to fix if it breaks."

"Agreed. We'll aim to minimize openings and closings. That will probably impact our rotations to the crash site, which we'll need to do for morale purposes if nothing else. I think we need to keep the entire 'Mech company at the crash site with only patrols out this way. The Doc has talked me into bringing the critical cases here for recovery, but I want the MASH at the crash site too. If possible, I don't want the locals to know the bulk of our personnel are here. And that includes Renzi's crew. I don't want to put this kind of temptation in his way. As for our other guests, I only intend to bring the casualty here, at least at first. Fury wants off this rock, and I'd rather not send her off with coordinates the Free Worlds League might feel compelled to investigate."

Looking over to Sergeant Major Shaan, he continued, "How's the berthing looking, Sergeant Major?"

"Sir, there are two dozen single rooms, 48 double rooms, and a platoon bay. Leaving a force at the crash site means we may not need the platoon bay, but it also means rotating people in and out of rooms. When we get back to the crash site, I'll convene the Sergeants and work out the rotation."

"Good. Captain Harris will work out the MechWarrior rotation. With only one spare pilot at the moment, it's going to be rough. The Mondez's crew will remain here full time to operate the base, with trips to the crash site as necessary for maintenance. I will remain here overnight with the crew and a security detail. Any questions?"

2017 Local Time

Major Skinner grimaced and said, "Good point, Doc! I'm open to suggestions, but I think we have some time to work this one out. That said, any ideas right now?"

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