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This is the way world ends (Chapter art)

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Chapter 9 - This is the Way the World Ends - Wolf Skinners (3024)[]

WSDS Mondez's impact site, 36 km SW of its intended landing point
1000 Local Time
22nd July, 3024

The Recovery Vehicle and its escort were just bringing in the salvaged enemy jeep when the radio blared to life.

<<"Any WHISKEY unit, this is MIKE THREE on IDF, over.">>

<<"MIKE THREE, CHARLIE MIKE copies, report your position, over.">>

<<"CHARLIE MIKE, our position is our original landing site... looks like you came looking for us... bring a truck and the Major, we're not alone, but they're friendlies, over.">>

<<"Copy that MIKE THREE... ETA three hours... sit tight, over.">>

<<"MIKE THREE copies, out.">>

One hastily convened council of war later, Captain Skinner was wearing his dead brother's rank, and Lieutenant Harris was now a Captain organizing an escort for the Recovery Vehicle while the salvaged jeep was hastily unloaded from it. It was agreed Captain Lindeman would stay behind with the bivouac and the balance of forces not recovering MIKE THREE.

1015-1300 Local Time

Major Skinner was still sorting through his feelings about wearing his brother's rank, but Captain Harris was all in. Harris, of course, had most of his attention focused on piloting his Hunchback across Astrokaszy's less than even terrain, while Skinner was simply strapped into one of the spare seats in the Recovery Vehicle's spacious cab. The rest of the Fire Lance, plus the Recon Lance's Mirage, were spread out in echelon ahead of the heavy truck, while the unit's APC trailed behind with a full platoon of infantry embarked along with one of Doc Ozora's medics.

By the time the ad hoc force approached where MIKE THREE had originally come down, Skinner was half asleep. Harris' insistent voice snapped him to full awareness though:

<<"WHISKEY ACTUAL, this is WHISKEY FOXTROT... ROMEO TWO reports a full lance of 'mechs and two vehicles with MIKE THREE. Recommend a cautious approach, over.">>

"Roger FOXTROT, proceed," Skinner replied, his voice steady while he blinked to full awareness. Commanding a DropShip was similar to this operation, with hours of boredom punctuated by activity.

The Recovery Vehicle pulled up near MIKE THREE, and the Major climbed down to first meet his S-6, newest Lieutenant, and his brother's 'Mech tech. While he made sure they were all right, another man climbed down from a Thunderbolt 'mech.

"You must be Major Skinner, sir! I'm Captain Luca Renzi, commanding Renzi's Renegades, formerly of the First Ducal Guard. Your people tell me you were with the 4th Regulans back in the day..."

Major Skinner hadn't quite had time to explain the change in command of his unit to his formerly isolated personnel, who looked a bit uncomfortable, to put it mildly.

"Nice to meet you Captain. I'm Major Skinner, commander of the Wolf Skinners, but yes, formerly of the 4th Regulan Hussars. Thank you for returning our personnel to us, and our escape pod. Hopefully it's intact?"

"Oh, yes sir. But I'll say we traded a few things to your people for those three duffels full of rations. It's been almost ten years since my people have had anything but local food, and I couldn't deny them."

Skinner shot a hard look at his S-6 and newest Lieutenant, and asked, "Oh, really?"

While the heavy-set senior tech and ex-Capellan liaison officer grimaced, Renzi continued, "Certainly! We're giving you enough seed and local livestock to set yourselves up quite well, along with all the lessons we've learned over the years about the particulars of the water table and farming techniques around here. I look forward to having friendly neighbors for a change! Hopefully you do too?"

Skinner kept his face as neutral as possible while he thought it over. Obviously, these weren't the people who'd destroyed two of the other escape pods, and the unit certainly couldn't afford TWO hostile neighbors.

"One friendly neighbor is better than none, Captain. Thank you for your generosity. I assume this will be our usual meeting place going forward?"

Renzi made a show of looking around, then replied, "I think it's as good as any on this godforsaken rock, sir. I'll have my techs arrange a frequency other than IDF for communications going forward." That said, Renzi stuck out his hand to shake Skinner's.

"Sounds like as good a plan as any, Captain," Skinner said, shaking the weather worn hand. His own lacked the callouses of the other.

"I know you have a lot to do, sir, so I'll get my people out of your way. Call us when you're ready. Please. If there's any way off this rock, I think we might be able to make it work better together." Renzi looked more than a little desperate as he reluctantly let go of Skinner's hand.

Skinner could only think, "Will we be this desperate in ten years?" but did his best to hide it behind a reassuring smile and nod.

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