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This is the way world ends (Chapter art)

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Chapter 20 - This is the Way the World Ends - Wolf Skinners (3024)[]

Wolf Skinner bivouac around WSDS Mondez's impact site
0652 Local Time
30th July, 3024

Major Skinner was NOT having a good morning. Lieutenant Commander Fury was continuing her litany of accusations, and he was just about ready to...

Sighing, he finally said, "All right! All right... that's enough. Look, we found something, Ok? It wasn't what we hoped, but it's more than I'm willing to risk a regiment being dropped on us to find out about. I don't want to keep you here, but I ALSO don't want you reporting us to the authorities. Those damned rations are the most useful thing to us in our current situation, and I already had the Doc test them. They're 100% safe, if not exactly tasty without the entire bottle of hot sauce added. The filled sponge cake is even GOOD, if you like that sort of thing. Whoever handed one to your daughter will be duly punished, and to be clear: for breaking OPSEC, not endangering her. She's made a few friends in the unit, but a LOT more enemies. I strongly recommend you keep a closer eye on her. Sergeant Ludak won't be walking for at least a month, and he's the ONLY one who was willing to put up with her for any significant length of time. The Doc tells me your pilot's recovery time will be roughly halved with the decidedly non-portable equipment we found, and that's why we weren't fully forthcoming about where we took him. The place might be more comfortable, but unless you like Star League omelets until you die, it's not feasible. We MUST make this site self-sustaining, and your man is going to be key to making it that way. EVENTUALLY, we'll be able to get you somewhere there MIGHT be a DropShip willing to take you off planet. Our ostensible friends to the east tell us there's a community on the other side of the bandits to the west. Do you know anything about 'Rabigh'?"

Fury was stone silent while Skinner theoretically came clean with her. There was something still not quite right. He didn't strike her as greedy enough to need to fly under the radar of the Free Worlds League government, unless...

"Major, what Regulan regiment were you attached to?" she asked.

"Ah... I'd rather not say." the Major said, tensing as his hand dropped to his side arm.

Shaking her head, "That figures. I hate to say it, but your lot is STILL better than the bandits. Please tell me the Captain-General prevailed, at least?"

"He did and I appreciate your consideration. As we've already told you, we've been mercenaries for the last decade, and the Cappies screwed us on our last contract. Going so far as to jail our liaison officer when he tried to stick up for us, which is why he's here, for better or worse. If it makes you feel any better, the precipitating incident was that an undercover Free Worlds League unit commanded by a classmate of my brother raided the planet we were defending, and the subsequent cease fire. They even gave us the ride here, though we were confined to our DropShip. That tells me the Captain General is at least mildly interested in what might be out here, and as I said, I do NOT want to give him any further motivation to come looking."

"So what can you tell me you found?"

"The rations, obviously. The paper products you may or may not be using right now. A facility with absolutely zero prospect of self-sufficiency, and a few miscellaneous vehicles and two hangar queens that will never fly again. As far as we can tell, the Star League abandoned it after the Reunification War, and took everything worth taking with them. For what it's worth, we're trying to figure out how to bring one of the hangar queens here as housing. The quarters will be tight, but air conditioned, and yes, you and your daughter will have racks. And I'll say you still haven't answered my question about Rabigh..."

Grimacing, Fury replied, "Only what the bandits had to say about them, and that they've had an ongoing blood feud for over a century. Aliyah was abducted from there, so I'm sure she's told you more than I know."

Nodding, Skinner said, "Yeah, she has, but she's 100% local, and clearly in it for herself and nobody else. Well, maybe her Emir. Which doesn't give me any kind of confidence in her."

"That's probably wise. All right, Skinner. I won't shoot you in your sleep. But please, if you want to build trust between us, you're doing a lousy job of it."

"Good thing that's not on my priority list right now, then. I've got a unit on the ragged edge here. I don't hate you, no matter what you may think. But I don't need you either. Guestrite only goes so far in situations like this."

"You're right and I apologize for the terror my daughter has been. I'll try to keep her busier going forward."

"If you run out of ideas, I've been told there'll be a significant digging effort over the next week or so, and it WON'T be underground."

"I'll keep that in mind."

Wolf Skinner bivouac around WSDS Mondez's impact site
1537 Local Time
6th August, 3024

The 'notch' in the rim of the impact crater was coming along nicely. Commander Fury and her daughter had both pitched in every day so far. Most of the troops were being rotated through the duty, but a certain pair of privates had been on the job constantly. By this point, the novelty of the Star League rations had worn off, and only strict orders kept leftovers from being thrown away. Even the local 'livestock' were largely indifferent to the "plastic" eggs, though they'd eventually eat whatever was put in front of them. At least the rations had coffee packets in them. Quite the black market quickly sprang up, with those few who didn't like coffee coming out ahead.

While the hole was being dug, Master Truck and Sergeant Blu were helping Warrant Cushman and his crew assemble something resembling a cradle. Salvaged spars from the wreck made up the main structural components, and the Warrant had pointed out they'd be needed for the roof of the hole being dug. The makeshift hangar wouldn't have a door, but some parachute material would at least keep direct sunlight out, if not the ever-present dust.

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