Episode 34 (2180.12.02)
by Shawn Hagen (1998)
Starblade Battalion is the Property of R.Talsorian Games.
Opening Titles - As Before
While the SAC lacked the cloaking technology that the ODF was using so effectively, they could still mount stealth attacks. Battlegroup Doji was one of the elements designated for such operations. The four cruisers, three landing craft and a handful of cutters were all stealth craft, newly built. They moved towards the unnamed planet, using natural phenomenon to further hide their signatures.
On the bridge of the 'Crane'-the command cruiser-Shingo stood by Captain Doji. The Kiki had been left behind. It was not set up for quiet running.
"Be funny if a fleet of ODF ships pops up," Maria Doji said.
"I'm not sure if funny is a word I'd use," Shingo told her.
"I guess not. I never asked before, how did you find this place?"
"Got lucky. Spotted a transport in the area, hung around listening to radio transmissions."
She nodded. "The bunker on the surface, sounds like it will tough to crack."
"Perhaps. Getting worried?"
"Yes," she smiled as she said it.
Shingo could not blame her. She had just been given command of the fleet and this was her first mission after all. "Don't worry about it. Their main defence is secrecy."
Doji nodded. "Thanks for coming Captain."
Shingo shook his head. "I'm just here to finish of my job. You still need intelligence on this, and a liaison with my people on the ground."
The battlegroup was almost in orbit of the planet when they were finally detected. Defence satellites were brought on line and the weapon platforms began to power up. In the approaching ships the sensor operators detected the satellites and passed on the information onto their commanders.
Mecha began launching from the ships to deal with the satellites. A Galliard closed on one of the satellites but was blown apart by a number of high speed lasers cannons. A moment later the satellite went up, taken out by a blast from a Manticore's cannon.
Within a minute it was obvious that the SAC was not going to be stopped by the satellites. Already the staging area had been cleared and the two landing craft were moving into position. They did not set themselves up for re-entry. It was not considered necessary for them to actually land on the planet, and neither had its full complement of mecha.
The bay doors opened on the ships and Leopards began moving out, throwing themselves backwards from the ships. The gravity of the planet took hold of them and began drawing them down into the atmosphere.
Re-entry packs were deployed from the rear of the Leopards and canisters of ablative foam began forming the heat shields the suits would need. When done, each suit lay atop a half sphere of hardened foam. It protected them as they descended.
The Leopards were not alone though. Cavalier fighters, outfitted for re-entry, went along with them. They were there to protect the suits on the way down and would provide air support once the Leopards were on the ground.
Forty of the suits dropped, ten squadrons, the largest such operation ever. In her too warm cockpit Major Casidy Li was thinking just about that. She had been told that Power Solutions had performed over thirty drops over Mars with the suit, but that did not quite reassure her. They were the first to do it in field conditions.
She looked up at her gunner who sat above her. The young woman had been nervous about the whole thing from the word go. Casidy hoped that she would be all right, but did not let it concern her too much. A gunner was a nice addition to the Leopard, but not something she really needed.
The temperature continued to rise as the suits continued their fall. Then, as the pilots had all been told, the temperature in their suits peaked at about forty degrees Celsius, then began to drop. The first hurdle was over, now they just had a sit through a time of freefall before the chutes could be deployed. It was not so bad, the remains of the heat shield provided a large surface for air resistance and the terminal velocity was quiet low.
The pilots of the Cavaliers kept an eye open for possible counter attack, ready to defend the falling suits if necessary, but nothing happened.
The suits were two and a half kilometres up when they blew free of the heat shields and deployed their chutes. Reinforced sheets of synthetic silk billowed above each of the suits, catching the air and slowing the Leopards with a jerk.
The Cavaliers were not able to match the slow drift of the Leopards as they travelled the last two thousand metres of their journey to the planet's surface. The starfighters had to circle around the falling suits at quite some distance.
Not surprisingly that was when the ODF launched their counter attack.
The ODF craft were atmospheric jets, small craft, more manoeuvrable than the SAC starfighters. They came in low, taking advantage of their lower stall speeds and greater manoeuvrability to avoid the Cavaliers and get in close to the Leopards.
While their small guns were not a great danger to the thick armour of the Leopards, damage to the parachutes was much more dangerous. Three suits plummeted to the ground in the first pass, their chutes destroyed. One managed to open the emergency chute in time.
<Cut your main chutes,> Casidy ordered her the two remaining suits in her squadron-her 2IC had been in one of the suits that had fallen. <Open the secondary chutes two hundred meters from the ground.> Casidy cut her own chute, hoping her people would follow suit.
The Leopard plummeted towards the ground, going faster and faster. At two hundred meters exactly she deployed the secondary chute, the Leopard decelerated rapidly. Casidy did not let the jerking bother her but looked at her sensor screen. She was pleased to note that her people had followed her, and that a number of others had made similar choices, or had followed her lead.
The ODF fighters came around, but by that time a number of Leopards had made it to the ground and had entered the fight. Co-ordinating their attacks with the Cavaliers the SAC force was able quickly force the enemy fighters to retreat.
<Listen up,> Colonel Tin Forsythe sent. <Losses are minor, we continue on as planned.>
Those orders were all the force needed. The squadrons moved out, the tread/wheels of the huge suits ripping up ground as they sped off. They moved into an arrowhead formation, three squadrons forming the point.
Casidy was on the right side of the formation, back behind the point. It was her job to protect the flank. Her Leopard-LiLi-shot across the rocking ground. Ahead of her the ground rose in a rocky shale. She leapt up, the right foot began to slide back, the rock crumbling beneath her suit's foot. The gave some power to the treads on that foot. The studded track duck in, pushing the foot forward, up into a more secure position.
She continued up the shale, finally making it to the top. <Green 3 and 4, move out,> she ordered. Behind her the other two suits moved out, crossing the ground she had just crossed. She knelt her suit down on the ridge, providing cover for her suits.
"Something close by," her gunner-Sergeant Beth Nim-called out.
"You know the drill," Casidy said as she looked over the information the sensors were giving her. "Two suits. You use the main cannon, hit this one." Casidy marked one of the suits.
Casidy took the secondary cannon and missiles off safe and waited.
Two Drakens came out of cover, firing on the two suits below them. One of them was ripped apart by a blast from the Leopard's main gun. So powerful was the blast that some of it carried through, damaging the second Draken. A targeted blast from the secondary cannon finished it off.
"Good work," Casidy called out.
The two other suits made it up the ridge and Casidy moved forward. In such a way did they, and the other squadrons, cross the distance between the landing sight and the bunker that the enemy had built on the planet.
To the Leopard crews this was a chance to prove the Leopard, the regain what had been lost on Freya 4. With the Cavaliers providing air support the suits were very effective. The ODF suits that took to the air found themselves attacked by the SAC starfighters, and those that remained on the ground fought the Leopard in its environment.
Colonel Forsythe had arranged it so that point of his arrow hit the main concentration of the enemy. It was not much of an obstacle, the ODF did not have a large force there. Their suits were few, though they had a large number of more conventional weapons.
The point force scattered a number of Landgranger IFVs, and then came under fire from a group of helicopter gunships. They were pinned down for a short time, then a Cavalier fighter scattered them and the Leopards moved out of cover, firing on the gunships with their secondary cannons.
Off on the flanks Casidy was slowed down by a platoon of PAFSs. The armoured suits were to small to easily target, though a spray from the main cannon cold have probably been counted on to take out a number at once. Casidy did not allow that though. It would have been waste of ammunition.
They fought the small enemy, taking down each suit with a shot from their secondary cannons, or a stomp from a Leopard's foot.
The PAFSs had been taken care of when the Colonel ordered the sides of the arrowhead to move up. The point remained stationary as the other suits moved up, and past the point, setting themselves up in flanking positions.
When everyone was in place the Colonel took his vanguard, now down to nine suits, into the enemy.
The fight was soon over. The Leopards smashed through defences and took the ground. They held the position while a number of drop shuttles began landing, off loading infantry and PAFS troops.
Shingo walked away from his men, leaving them to finish off their work. He crossed the burnt ground, looking for Captain Doji. He found her standing among a group soldiers and some PAFSs, receiving reports and giving orders. Shingo stopped just beyond the group and waited. While waiting he looked around, taking note of the Leopards standing around the area.
The GAs had performed quite well, proving quite valuable in the operation. That would no doubt make Power Solutions happy. Their stock had taken a few hits after the incident on Freya 4.
The group suddenly broke up, everyone moving off in a different directions, except for Captain Doji-and her guards-who stayed where they were.
"How are your men?" she asked Shingo as he approached.
"They are all fine."
"Give them my thanks. Their intelligence was perfect."
"I will. So, how is everything?"
"We've just cleaned out the last pockets of resistance. The engineers are now laying the charges. We'll blow the entire place when we leave."
Shingo nodded and looked over at a line of prisoners being marched towards the one landing ship that had come down. "What will you do with them?"
"Take them to the holding facility until a prisoner exchange can be arranged."
"I'd like to talk to a few, see if anyone wants of be helpful."
"Take any you'd like. They will be your responsibility though."
"Be careful. You don't want to end up being charged with war crimes."
"No need to worry about that," Shingo said. "I'm only going to ask them some questions. I'll be leaving soon and rejoining my ship. Good luck Captain."
Shingo nodded to her, then walked away.
"Juan, I must say I'm surprised that you got in touch with me," Ichiru said as he took a seat across from Juan.
"Why?" Juan asked innocently. "Sure, you took me for all my money, but you taught me a few things, so it was a learning experience."
Ichiru smiled. "Well, I'm glad to see you are taking it so well."
"Why shouldn't I. You took me fair. You're a con man, nothing wrong in that." Juan picked up his cup of coffee and took a drink. "It's not like you are a terrorist after all." He smiled over the rim of his cup.
Ichiru laughed, it sounded forced. "Of course not. So, what is this business you wanted to talk to me about?" he said, quickly shifting the conversation on.
"It's nothing too big, money wise, but it has a lot of potential for other gains."
"Really? So what is it? Help someone out, set ourselves up for later gains?"
"Basically. You see, I'm part of a group that is going to take the Midnight Sun out of the picture by destroying its upper echelons, taking out the snake's head as it were. You are going to help by telling me everything you know about the organisation. For doing that, you won't be horribly killed." Juan finished and took a drink of his coffee.
For a moment Ichiru simply stared at Juan, than he laughed. "If this is a joke it is not funny," Ichiru said.
Juan put his coffee cup on the table. "No joke, and don't bother denying it, we have seen you set up various attacks over the past week. You're a busy man. Now the fact that you aren't falling to floor, instantly dying of some nasty poison tells me that you are not a fanatic, ready to die for the cause. In it for the money I guess. So, here are you're choices. Help me, and you might just not end up dead, or don't help me, and some of my associates will get it all out of you, though the end effect will not be so pretty."
"Good bye Mr. Varris," he said, getting to his feet.
Juan took a pistol out from under her jacket and pointed it at Ichiru. "Never agree to meet in private rooms unless you completely trust the other person. I would have thought you would have known that."
"I thought I knew you."
"Everyone changes Mr. Davis. Some of us end up on the side of the Angles, and others," Juan trailed off.
"You'll be coming with me."
"And if I don't," Ichiru laughed. "Are you going to shoot me?"
"Yes," Juan said, then shot him in the shoulder.
Ichiru yelled out, his hand going to his shoulder. He paused, looking down at the wound. There was not much blood, and it did not hurt very much, He looked up, staring questioningly at Juan.
"That's a pellet, fairly harmless. It's probably lodged in the muscle, maybe tucked up against a bone." Juan paused as if in thought. "When I say fairly harmless, I mean that it is so until I detonate it, then it will likely blow a very large hunk of flesh out of your arm, if it does not simply blow your arm off."
"Oh god," Ichiru said, the blood leaving his face. He had his hand pressed hard against the would, then he suddenly pulled it away, as if he was afraid that the pressure might set it off. "This is twisted."
"Coming from you, that is almost funny. Now, let's go. There are people you have to talk to. If you give them the right answers, they might even take that pellet out of your shoulder. You first."
For a moment Ichiru did nothing, then he turned around and started towards the door. There was another discharge and he felt something sting his buttock. He whirled on Juan who was holding the pistol pointed towards him. "Why?"
"That was for conning me out of all my money."
Ichiru stared open mouthed at Juan for several seconds before slowly turning and walking towards the door.
Ichiru sat in a hard chair, his arms strapped down. On the wall in front of him were a number of screens, displaying his dealing with the other Midnight Sun members. Seated right in front of him, in a comfortable chair was Diane. She tossed a small object from one hand to another. Ichiru assumed it was the detonator for the pellets in his arm and ass.
"Please, tell me you are not guilty of all this," Diane waved the device behind her at the screen. "Start this out by lying to me."
"I want a lawyer."
"I'm a Pleiades Marshal," she told him, tossing the device up again, catching it. She leaned forward. "That makes me, where necessary; judge, jury, and executioner." She tapped the device on his nose to emphasise each word. "No lawyer. Plus you don't want this to go formal. Informal, you might just live."
Ichiru firmed up his jaw, clenching his teeth, and stared back at her.
"Saying nothing. That is an interesting strategy. A bad one, but interesting. Mr Davis, I will not hurt you, at all. Torture is not what a Marshal does. I might kill you, but it will be quick, and painless. There is a problem though. We need what's in that brain of yours," she tapped the device against his forehead. "to destroy the Midnight Sun. Now, to do this, we have gathered together a select team, many who have reason to hate the Midnight Sun. One of them is close by. His sister was killed my a Midnight Sun bomb a few months ago. If I turn you over to him, you will tell us everything we need to know, but you won't like what happens."
Sweat began to roll down Ichiru's forehead.
"You don't have the option of dying, do you? How did you arrange that? How did you arrange not getting that tattoo?" she asked, reaching up to rub at his forehead, hard.
He pulled his head away. "Antibodies," he said angrily.
"Put them into yourself just before the Sun people injected you, set up to take out any other nano machines?"
"Smart. Faked the tattoo as well, then got rid of it I assume?"
"You are a sick bastard. You don't even believe it this twisted cause, you just partake in wholesale slaughter for money."
"Don't act so high and might Marshal," he spat. "You certainly aren't showing a lot of respect for what is right yourself."
"Seizing the moral high ground, that's an interesting twist. Mr. Davis, I am breaking the word of the law, but not the spirit. It might be wrong for me to allow you to be tortured, near to death, to be broken completely, but don't think I'll loose a night of sleep over it. Now, tell me everything, from the first time you were contacted by the Midnight Sun to the point where Juan brought you into here."
Ichiru licked nervously at his lips for a moment. "I was in the Long Rider at the time, a big deal had just fallen through and some people were after me. That's when a woman approached me, asked if I was sick of life and everything."
"And you told her?"
"Everything she wanted to hear, because I was sure that she might be able to help me, and that's what I have done every since, told people what they want to hear."
"I suggest you don't try that now Mr. Davis. It will just cost you a lot of pain."
Ree coasted along the side of the new carrier, looking it over. It looked like it was going to be a beautiful ship. It was based on Daniel Alincourt's luxury liner. Partially completed, the Alincourts had gone to work on it, reinforcing the hull and working on turning it into a warship.
It was kind of sad, Ree thought, moving her craft closer to the ship. She had seen pictures of what the liner was supposed to look like. A breathtaking design, a ship that would have entered into a rather select company, she was sure. No one had built a true luxury starship, a huge vessel like the Queen Elizabeth ships that had sailed Earth's oceans long ago.
Now all it was going to be was another carrier.
The engines of her Arrow flared as she moved away from the ship, circling around towards the docking bays.
The Clayton brothers had been drafted into the work parties. Ree found them floating in what would eventually be the ships central computer core.
<Gentlemen,> Ree sent as she floated into the room. <Keeping busy?>
<Ree,> John sent. <What brings you to where real work is going on?>
<Just checking up on you two, making sure you are staying out of trouble.> She put her hand out and clasped a piece of the ship's structure, coming to a halt. <Like your work space. Must be a joy working without air, gravity and all the rest of that.>
<The work is interesting,> Jim sent. <Still, it would be nice to get onto something else.>
<Exactly why I came.>
<Are we going?>
<Soon. We just have to wait for Epiphany to come off her medical leave.>
<What's she in for?>
<I have no idea really. I just got the leave request after Doc Rolson had okayed it.>
<Weird,> John said.
<Probably just a cold or something. Let's say we're on an hour's notice to move.>
<Our bags are all packed.>
<Good.> Ree swung herself about and pushed herself off. <Take care boys,> she sent as she sped off.
<Don't work too hard,> Jim sent out after her, the sarcasm carrying clearly over the datalink.
Massive reconstruction of the human body could be done with an injection and follow up IV treatments to get the material into the body. It was a rather uncomfortable procedure though, and much more dangerous that way as well as taking much longer. The preferred way involved sinking the person in a tank of oxygen and nutrient rich liquid and leaving them there, floating, partially disconnected from their bodies.
Epiphany had to admit it was not all that bad.
She had climbed into the tank, waited for several seconds, then let the air out of her lungs and took a deep breath of liquid. It had been a rather odd sensation, a little frightening. Not long after that she had entered a Sim. Occasionally she would get the urge to look at her body through the medical lab's cameras, but she never did. Living the life of a Elizabethan heroine was more than enough to keep her entertained. Every day or so a doctor would enter the Sim and they would sit, perhaps in the Shadow of Big Ben, drinking tea and discussing her progress.
Every day the nanomachines that swam in the liquid that surrounded her, as well as within her, made further progress. Bone shape altered, an organ removed, a new one grown, the very cells altered. Perhaps the most dangerous work they did was the alteration of her chromosomes. DNA work always carried with it a risk, cancers and various things. That was why she had chosen Dr. Rolson to do the work, and why she was sure before she went through with it.
The chances of cancers were fairly low for the first time, but they went up exponentially every time the surgery was carried out afterwards. Epiphany knew that this was forever, unless she was willing to risk a rather unpleasant death.
"In a few hours this will be over," Dr. Rolson said, appearing beside her. He was wearing a rather handsome suit with a tall hat.
"Is it time," Epiphany asked, lowering her parasol so it would not get in the way of the conversation.
"At this moment a number of last checks are being made and the nanomachines are being flushed from your body."
"I see. Well that is good to hear. It will be nice to get back to the real world," she looked behind herself suddenly and watched as the Sim shimmered as it rebuilt itself. "They are fun for a time, but get boring quickly."
"I suppose. I enjoy these occasional forays into this world. Of course they are occasional."
"It's been fun, but there comes a time when this little imaginary world gets to be too much."
"So, did you find out who stole the Crown Jewels?"
"Yes. It was that tiring little man from the Americas."
"Yes. He was trying to smuggle them out of the country in his wooden leg. I was very worried when I accused him. If I turned out to be wrong, well I would have been very embarrassed. What with ordering the constable to remove his leg and all."
"I'm glad you solved it."
"It has kept me busy. I will miss the banquet in my honour tonight though."
"Why not just fast forward to that?"
Epiphany stopped walking. A man walking behind her almost bumped into her. Andrew turned to look at her. "Epiphany?"
"I forgot I could do that," she said.
"Fast forward, pause, all that."
Returning to her body was, in some ways, a little like coming back home after a long period of being away. She slid back into it easily enough, but there was a time when she had to get used to it again. She began moving her limbs, gently, feeling the liquid she was immersed in moving about her. She was aware of her breathing, made harder by the need to move a liquid much denser than air in and out of her lungs.
She opened her eyes. Above her was the ceiling, looking odd due to the refraction caused by the liquid. There were sounds as well, dull, muted. She wondered if it was like being born? For a moment she felt like staying in the warm liquid air, dreaming her computer spun dreams, but that was just a moment.
Placing her hands on the bottom of the tank, she pushed herself upwards. She got her feet under her and stood, her head and then chest breaking the surface of the liquid. She felt more buoyant than before, just one of a number of changes she noted.
She pulled herself to the ledge, leaned out into open air, and coughed up the liquid from her lungs. It splattered on the floor below her. After a moment she took her first breath of air that she had in a long time.
She pulled herself up and over the edge, then fell forward onto the floor. The tanks was sunk into the floor, so the fall was not very long. She lay there, in a spreading pool of the liquid, shivering slightly in the cooler air.
"Welcome back to the real world," she heard Andrew say.
Epiphany pushed herself up to a sitting position, her back against the tank. "My chest hurts," she said as she ran her fingers over her breasts.
"To be expected. You've been working those muscles pretty hard over the last day. That was when we started you breathing again."
"You could not have waited till the last few hours?" She ran her hand down between her legs, a little surprised by what she did not find.
"We find it best to start earlier, just in case there are any problems. The pain will not last long."
Epiphany nodded and looked at her hands. She wondered if they were a little finer or if that was just a trick of her mind. "What's all this?" she asked, turning her hands over and back. They were covered in very fine lettering and symbols. She noted that her whole body was covered in similar markings.
"Just some marking used to keep track of the process. The marks will vanish in a few hours, the remaining nanomachines in your body will take care of that."
"Really? Shame. I kind of like it, on the hands at least."
"Talk to a tattoo artist," Andrew said, walking over to her. "I don't do that." He dropped a robe into her lap.
Epiphany got to her knees and pulled the robe on. Her body was still wet and the thin material stuck to her in a number of places. She tied it off and started to get to her feet.
"Come on," Andrew held out a hand to help her to her feet. Epiphany took his hand and stood. "You'll probably find your centre of balance has changed. You'll get used to it soon enough."
Epiphany nodded as she took a hesitant step. He was right, it did feel different.
"You'll probably want a shower and then a few hours of rest," Andrew said as he led her from the room.
"Rest. Having your entire body rebuilt from the ground up, as it were, takes a lot out of you. By the way, you do know all the responsibilities and such that this body carries with it?"
"Basically. I can find out what I don't know easily enough."
Andrew looked at her for a moment. "I'll have one of the female doctors talk to you, just in case."
"Is that necessary?"
"You'd be surprised," was all he said.
Ichiru looked up at the man who came into the room. Even as he opened the door the lights in the room came on and the screens began to once again play the scenes of his crimes. It was almost as if they wanted to constantly remind him that they knew he was guilty.
The man who came in was one of the Marshals, a tall man, with greying blonde hair. He did not know the man's name.
He walked into the room and came to stand over Ichiru. "I want to talk to you about your story," he said.
Ichiru looked up at him. He held the device he assumed was the detonator in his hand. All of them carried it when they came to talk to him. "I've told it to you over ten times."
"The last two times you have told it, it was different from before."
Ichiru looked up at the man, trying to understand what he was talking about. What had he changed? He tried to remember everything he had said, but it was all a blur. "I don't know." "In your first statements you claimed it was almost three months before you met Tauutus Shabatai, but in later versions it seems you met him almost right away. Care of expand on that?"
"What do you think," Diane asked Conaly as he came out of the interrogation room.
"I think he's been more interested in protecting himself than he is in protecting the Midnight Sun. He wanted us to think he was fairly low in the organisation, as unimportant as possible. He slipped though. He obviously talked the talked to meet with Shabatai as soon as he did."
"I'm going to go in there in an hour, push him on some other things."
Conaly nodded. "You'll need this," he tossed her the small device. "Are we nearly ready to go?"
"As soon as we make sure all the information he has given us is good we can go. We've been given the Celeste for this, as well as a good sized force. None of the crew now what is going on, they just think they are on a training mission," Diane told him as she tossed the device from one hand to the other.
Ree pushed open the room to her bathroom and then stopped. It took her a moment to realise that the woman standing in the bathroom with her back to her was Epiphany. It was not that she did not look like Epiphany, but Epiphany did not wear skinsuits-or any other tight clothing-so Ree was a little thrown.
"Epiphany," Ree said.
Epiphany turned around. "Hi. Been a while."
It took Ree a moment to realise what she was seeing, or not seeing. "You did it."
"You sound surprised. You always told me to make a choice."
"I never thought you'd actually go through with it."
"Had to do something."
"I guess. So, how are you?"
"And just how do you mean that?" Epiphany smiled.
"I already know how you are in that way, you gutter minded girl. Are you up for flying?"
"Reflexes are the same. I can fly just as well as always. It will be a few weeks before I am up to my old levels in physical combat."
"We'll keep you in your suit. You got a clean bill of health?"
"The doctor cleared me, got my flight papers back, everything is good."
"Glad to hear it. So," she moved up close to Epiphany. "Let's take a look at the work." She grabbed Epiphany's arm and pulled it close. "Standard locking system. This should do it."
The memory fibres of Epiphany's suit relaxed, the entire suit going to a baggy state. "Ree, you are a bit of a pervert."
"A bit? I'm almost insulted. Now take that off, let me get a look at you."
"Fine, but no touching." Epiphany began loosening the suit.
"Oh like you really want that."
Diane sat down in front of Ichiru. She had him seated in front of her, secured to a chair. She placed the device on the arm rest of her chair. "Tell me your story, from the start."
Ichiru sighed. He was no longer sure how many times he had told the story. He no longer knew what day it was, how long it had been since it had all begun. He began talking, relating the events that led him to the Midnight Sun and beyond.
Diane would jump on parts of his story, forcing him to reveal the truth. The entire interrogation seemed to take hours, when it was finally over he felt exhausted.
"Well Mr. Davis, I'd like to thank you for being so co-operative," Diane said.
"It's not like you gave you me much choice," he said, anger in his tone.
Diane reached for the device, taking it from the arm rest. "Now, I think we should talk about your future."
Ichiru stared at the shiny metal object. When Diane flipped the top he closed his eyes. He was going to die."
There was a rasping sound, a click. Nothing happened. When he opened his eyes he saw that the device was a lighter. She flipped it shut, then opened it again, lighting it again.
"You will be tried for your crimes," she told him, flipping it shut again. "The help you have provided us with will go on your record, and the judge will probably take it into account. I suspect the best you can hope for is a prison sentence for life. If that happens, we will ensure that you do not spend in on Goal."
"And the worst?"
"A death sentence."
Ichiru shook and took several deep breaths. "I don't want to die."
Diane flipped the lighter open, spun the wheel, bringing forth a flame. Ichiru stared at the flame. "I'm sure that all the people you killed felt the same way," Diane told him as she snapped the lid shut. "Goodbye Mr. Davis." She got to her feet.
"The pellets, please, can they be taken out?"
"Something will be arranged," Diane said, turning away from him, walking to the door.
The arm restraints came off, freeing Ichiru. He slumped into his chair, not moving. When Diane left the screens went dark, leaving him alone but for the faint hum of the lights.
"He cracked easily enough," Diane said, tossing the lighter to Juan.
Juan caught the lighter. "I did not think that he would prove tough. Think he's going to die for this?"
"What do you think?"
"I could almost feel sorry for him." He put the lighter in his pocket. "Almost."
"Where's Marshal Sharp?"
"Taking care of the last few things. Was it wise?"
"We were not going to let these terrorists go you know? We've faked Davis' death, put it out that we have nothing. The Midnight Sun won't get spooked over this."
"Then I guess we'll be ready to go soon."
"Everyone all together?"
"Soon. Once we close down shop here I guess we can head for the ship. Then we'll spend a couple of days running drills."
"I'll pack up my kit," Diane said, turning around. She stopped and turned back towards Juan. "You know, you did good."
"All this, we could not have done it without you."
"We all play our part."
"I owe you," Diane told him.
"When I catch you, I'll let you go."
"Don't you mean if you catch me?"
"You're a cocky bastard," Diane told him, then turned and left.
"It's been said before," Juan said to her back.
"Miss Dover, I am glad you could come," Campbell said to Joanna as she came into the bar.
"You made it sound pretty important."
"It is. Would you like something to drink. Ursula here makes a very nice margarita." He indicated the woman behind him.
"No thank you." She looked around the nearly empty bar and then at the bartender. "Should we talk here?"
"Don't worry about it. This is safe territory. No bugs, no watchers, no problems. Sit down, we have to talk."
Joanna walked to the bar and took a seat on one of the stools. "What is going on?"
"We've received and interesting offer from the Colonies."
"What?" The bartender put a glass of water in front of her.
Joanna gave him a hard stare. Campbell smiled slightly. "They want to talk peace."
"Some high ups in the structure there want to hammer out a peace accord. It's not official, but it is the next best thing."
"I see. And you think this is legitimate?"
"We think it is."
"But if it is not official, how can it work."
"If we put forth a peace agreement, make it public, what do you think the people will do?"
"They could do a number of things. That they will demand that the agreement be honoured is not guaranteed."
"Perhaps, but it will throw a little confusion into the mix. Neither Solingen nor the USSA will be in a stable position after that. It may even work."
"What sort of a peace agreement?"
"That has to be worked out. That is why we got in touch with you."
"You want me on this? I'm retired."
"Yes, but there are a number of people who believe that you should still be in charge. You have a lot of support in the SAC, and many of the people in government respect you. If you are part of this, it will give it more credibility."
She picked up the glass of water and took a drink. "I suppose."
"We will need some others of course."
"Actually, we want you to pick your team."
"This should not be a Starblade operation. The Cluster is picking its own people, Earth should do the same."
"So I pick the people, put together a team, and negotiate this peace for the entire USSA."
"A lot of work."
"I think you are up to it."
"Yes," she nodded. "What will the Battalion be doing?"
"We will set up the place you meet, and make sure that everyone stays honest."
"The middle man?"
"It's what we do."
"I'll do it."
"How long do I have?"
"How long do you need?"
"A few days. I know the people I want."
"Good enough. Thank you Miss Dover."
Joanna nodded and got to her feet. "You'll get in touch with me?"
"I'll talk to you soon then," she turned and walked from the bar.
"Think she will do it?" Ursula asked him.
"I'm surprised you're not with Varris and his crew," Redding said to Jesse.
"So am I, but as much as I like to avoid it, there is work I have to do that is less than fun."
"What's your opinion on how things are going?"
"The SAC is pushing forward, taking a little bit at a time, staying away from civilian targets, closing the circle on the Colonies. The Colonies are letting them do so, I think they are setting up a line of defence where they will not let the SAC pass."
Redding nodded as he grasped a handhold, pulling himself towards the shuttle's window. "Any idea where this line will be?"
"No. If I had to guess, either at Solingen or Faraday. So, what's with this peace deal?"
"It's nothing right now, but it might be something. We'll just have to play it as it comes."
"I'm surprised Caroline isn't there."
"She had a choice to make, but in the end she decided that the Midnight Sun story was the best."
"Arranging peace talks and closing down the Midnight Sun. We are good."
Redding laughed. "Perhaps. How is our military situation?"
"Five Ruby Cruisers have been completed and are out there. Most of the blades have seen some upgrades in equipment and have increased their numbers. I've got most of them watching the SAC and ODF, hitting any targets that might present themselves as tempting. We've managed to hurt both sides supply lines a little, but only a little. We're slowing both sides own, but we're not stopping them. Morale is still high, and all our diverse elements are working together well."
"Okay, where are our problems?"
"Well, there are a lot of little things, but they are nothing new. A lot of our supply sources are tentative and could dry up, but we've always known that." Jesse paused. "Along with our high morale, our people are also over confident. We've had some rather spectacular victories and our technology is a few centimetres beyond the cutting edge.
"Ultimately we are limited though. The Alincourts are building our cruisers from the frames and hulls from half completed Rubies. By the end of January we will have them all, enough to put together the equivalent of two task forces. If they get that carrier finished," Jesse looked out the window at the huge ship the shuttle was passing. "We will be in a much better situation than we could have hoped, but after that, things slow down.
"The Colonies and Earth have a lot of men, a lot of resources, and if they lose a ship, they can get a new one built soon enough. They can replace men. We've got as many people as we will likely see, those we lose, we lose."
Redding nodded as he stared out the window at the ship yards. "You're right, but if they are over confident, that is not a bad thing. We will choose our fights with care, making sure every loss we take counts for something. If our people believe they can do the impossible, maybe they will."
"That could be dangerous."
"I know. The entire Battalion is balanced precariously. We could go either way, so we have to be smart."
"We'll give it our best."
"I'm sure you can see the importance of this," Joanna said.
"I'm not an Admiral anymore," Joanna said. "Joanna, or Miss Dover."
Mint Waltz looked uncomfortable for a moment. "Miss Dover, I'm not sure of any of this."
"I don't blame you Lieutenant. It's not easy, but I need some help, and I can trust you."
"Isn't this treason?"
"I am not going to give away secrets, or help the Colonies in their war effort. We are going to hammer out a peace agreement, not even an official one."
"It will harm the war effort."
"It may. We might not even come to an agreement. I have already gathered together a few people, but I need another military person. I can't approach Kent directly, but you can."
"Miss Dover, I can't do this."
Joanna looked at Mint for several seconds. The young woman had served as her aide for almost a year. Joanna knew her well enough to force the issue. She had hoped not to do so, but she had no choice. "Lieutenant, you have been trained to know right from wrong. Is a war supported by a terrorist group that wants to completely eradicate the human race right?"
"It's not that simple."
"It is that simple. Right or wrong?"
Mint said nothing, she just looked terribly uncomfortable.
Joanna put an envelope on the table in front of her then got to her feet. "I'll sure you'll do what is right."
"Goodbye," Joanna said as she turned and walked away. She was not going to give Mint a chance to refuse.
Ree slid out from under her Arrow, pushing herself across the floor of the landing bay, Behind her the tech were securing the fighter.
She dragged her hands to slow herself, finally pushing off the floor so she was in a standing position in front of Juan.
"Welcome to the party," he said.
"Wouldn't miss it."
Closing Credits - as before.
Here's another of Angel's designs.
(XT stand for Extraction Team)
(you'll notice, as it's very similar to ODF modular, four-winged, subacuatic mecha, I put a German name instead of an English or Spanish one)
It's a Extraction Team Carrier - a Mek conceived to carry undetected a team of commandos into a fry, open a breach for them, cover them with suppressive and anti-tank or anti-mek fire, and take them and someone or something out of it. Combat wise it's a fast-moving, hard-hitting hunter killer, not as a long-standing first-line fighter.
On SBB, it could be a refit of the Arrow (well, there is already a fighter transformer with high-tech armour in the game) or a stand-alone model.
To comply with the mission parameters, we need a mek, kind of like a tiger (the beast, not the WWII tank); a solitary, powerful predator which hunts by ambush. We need:
We DON'T need many nor long-ranged weapons, big size (indeed,
better a small one), heavy armour nor extended range nor such
DESCRIPTION (lacking picture):
Similar to a Macross Veritech Fighter (it's able to change to the three forms but has the same performance
in all three) with an X-Wing Star Wars fighter wing array, with feline head, a large (I said LARGE) gun over the right shoulder, a pintle-mounted Meroka gun (the superb Spanish-made version of the Phalanx!) over the left one, and three external clamps to the rear (at the "small of the back") and two to the front (at both sides of the torso cockpit) to hold 5 Power Armours.
- The cost upper limit was set at 1628 CP (that of the Vogel, the most expensive "military standard" unit of the entire game). (Incidentally, it managed to cost exactly as was intended!!)
- In my original design, the transat, sublight and FTL was handled by a small cutter (1:1 scale, as the Packfighter of Mekton Z, page. 156) called DRAGON, and the mek, the TIGER, had cloaking. On SBB, there are no mek-sized cloaks, but there is no need for a specific design of a cloaking Cutter (the SturmKutter will work just fine, and it will also be roomier-kind off - for the long way home), and the TIGER now has basic clocking (She just called for it). It also has LOTS of ECM, silent running, IR spotlights, etc.
- The original design was a Mek-Hybrid-Fighter efficient transformable, the efficient transformation being rather to be able of both Humanoid and Fighter performance at the same time (as the GodGriffin or the Cuttle King from the "Mecha Manual"), but now I'd rather design a Hybrid (could be a Humanoid for better face changing, but I'm not so munchkin and the Hybrid looks beautiful!), then give it high speed and MV, then just CALL it an "efficient transformer" (this kind of things being specifically allowed in MTS, it would really SUCK not to use them). ;D
- The thought control is handled through a sophisticated datalink software; the control system is a voice-activated virtual one (halfway to the reflex); the I.A. is one of my personal design touches, the autopilot (note it's awfully low and it's not thought-controlled, it's NOT an A.I.); the "magnetic lens" actually represents several of many surveillance systems (indeed, "fine applications" of the ASP) able to locate people inside buildings, just like the Blue Thunder police chopper in the old movie; and the Tech Analyser is to help the operator to understand the sensors and locate the target of the extraction quickly.
- The four-wing verniers-thrusters were suggested precisely by the SBB, so it's no conversion here :). The H. Striker size is just appropriate for a Striker-Work unit ( ;) again). The weight was set beforehand at 45 Tn to honour the Phoenix Hawk (my preferred Battletech one); that's about a 50% reduction (actually, a 55% one), which is high but not excessive.
- The hot supercharged combustion powerplant represent a fusion one whose hydrogen-recycling system is not 100% efficient (just cause it's hot and supercharged) and last for some a week instead of some a couple months before recharge with water (if it's not still empty and can separate it in O2 and H2) or hydrogen (if it's dry; this is NOT advisable on a still-hot Mek ^_^). The 1000 l (1 Tn) weight is to make extra fuel's B-Mod easy to calculate.
- Finally, the co-pilot is a side-by-side (like on the A6 Intruder) ECM and radio operator, the passenger space is a trio of back seats (yes, the cockpit DOES look like a sedan! It ejects together, so it's mated and QCM-ed) and the five saddle mounts are external clamps and life-support-feeds for PAFS or power armours, ready to jump out (the E-seats) but vulnerable to fire, although protected by the ECM and the re-entry equipment.
Wing and Fuselage Hardpoints
An explanation of how to handle weapon hardpoints with MTS was posted in rec.games.mecha a while back by R. Tal. That post is repeated here.
Name: MM-SBB-XT KNIGSTIGER
Cost: 1628 Weight: 45 Tn Maneuver Pool: +284%
CONFIGURATION MV LAND MA FLIGHT MA HIDRO MA
Hybrid +2 6 (108 km/h) 31 (Mach 2.3) 10 (56 knots)
Notes: Actually it's a transformer who has no performance differences between modes.
CP 60.5 SENSORES TONS 1.5
SENSOR LOC RANGE COMM KILLS
Standard Head 7 Km 1000 Km 1
Backup Torso 1 Km 300 Km 2
Radio/radar analyser Head
x128 image intensifier Head
x128 sound intensifier Head
Target analyser Head
marine suite Head
magnetic resonance Head
CP 73.5 MOVEMENT SISTEMS TONS 6
SYSTEM MA LOC KILLS
Thrusters x4 4 each Wings
Thrusters x2 4 each RL/LL
Thrusters 8 Torso
Wheels/ Treads +2 RL/LL 1x6 per leg
Notes: Thrusters variable Hydrojets.
It should be 3 wheels and 3 treads per leg, but it's a 6-big-weels in line array per leg (gamewise identical, aesthetically better)
CP 0 COST MULTIPLIERS +x3.02
POWERPLANT SOURCE XS MV MA MP COST
Hot Supercharged Combustion 5 +2 +2 +67% x-0.03
Notes: Water or H2 fuel, 1 week (aprox.) for 1000 l.
CONTROL SYSTEM MP COST
Voice-Activated Virtual Reality (TM) +50% x0.7
SYSTEM NOTES COST
Verniers +3 MV Mated with Thrusters x0.3
Thought Control (pilot) +2MV, +67%MP,+1WA,etc x0.5
Combat & Fire Control x0.65
ACE +100% MP x0.2
Nivel 1, Mecha Pilot x0.04
Notes: I.A. is only an autopilot, able to fly back home avoiding obstacles or threats, but not of much more!
CP 93 SERVOS & ARMOR TN 57.5
SP DC KILLS LOCATION LVL ADD+ ARMOR TYPE
7 4 5 Head HS - LH Beta
7 4 6 Right Arm HS +1 LH "
7 4 6 Left Arm HS +1 LH "
7 4 6 Right Leg HS +2 LH "
7 4 6 Left Leg HS +2 LH "
7 4 12 Torso HS - LH "
5 4 3 R. Upper Wing ST - HS "
5 4 3 R. Lower Wing ST - HS "
5 4 3 L. Upper Wing ST - HS "
5 4 3 L. Lower Wing ST - HS "
CP 80.35 WEAPONS TN 31.85
WEAPON WA RNG DMG SHOTS KILLS LOC
Hands +1* - 1+1 ea - 1/1 R/LA
Mek-Buster Laser +1* 12 16 K - 19 Torso
Meroka Gun +4* 3 1 K v 14.4 T WM
Anti-personal / Phalanx
Meroka ammo (+1) - - 40 17.3 T WM
Riot Control -1* 2 "5K" 10 1 RA
BV inf, Hydro, "Clip"-Fed, Water Gun
4 Extra Water clips - - - - - LA
Chain Cutter -1* - 11 K - 10 1h AP
Notes: All weapons have +1 WA from T. Control.
1 Hydro clip also stores enough water to fuel the mel for 1 week
CP 22.5 SHIELD TN 5
CLASS TYPE DA SP DC LOC
MW Beta -0 10 4 LA
CP 108.85 ADDITIVE SYSTEMS 2 TN + 4.1 TN
CREW LOC TYPE ENCLOSURE
Pilot, Co-pilot, 3 passengers Torso Voice/Virtual Armoured
Mated E-Pods for 5
5 Commandos Torso Saddle
E-"Seats" for 5
SYSTEM LOC NOTES
4 x Wing Wpn Mounts + QCM Wings Hardpoints
Torso Weapon Mount + QCM Torso QCM x 10
E-Pods, Limbs, Head and Wings
QCM + E-System Torso For Powerplant
Stereo, Liftwire, Deluxe Anti-Theft Torso
Storage Pods + E-System RL/LL 1 Tn
2 Spotlights, 1 IR Spotlight Head
Micromanipulators x2 RA/LA
Damage Control LA
Silent Running 5 For each of Walk, Flying, Wheels
Tech Analyser Torso +1 TEC +3 COOL
ECM 5(All types) / ECCM 5 Torso Mated
1000 Km Fuel (4.1 Tn)
Weight Efficiency: 117.7 CP (-58.86 Tn)
375.7 CP before multipliers
03.85 Tn before efficiency
1508.3+117.7=1628 Cp total
And Michael Gilson has some more information about the Ram.
I noticed an error in the stats for the Howitzer, I wrote that the weapons accuracy was 0 but I meant to say it was -2 (due to the long range option).
If anyone asks, the reason for the 3 variable antimissile pods was not increased firepower or missile defence but increased survivability through redundancy. The same thing could be done, and cheaper, by designing a non-fragile 3 kill variable antimissile system efficiencied to 3 spaces. But I made the assumption that designers would go for an off the shelf system even if it was more expensive.
The pods are deliberately not linked because I don't see a need in the antipersonnel role and they will actually stop more missiles firing separately.
"We're here in the Engineering Section of the Starship Enterprise
where we have replaced the fine dilithium crystals they usually
use with Folgers crystals. Let's see what happens."
Shawn Hagen <firstname.lastname@example.org>
On to Chapter 35