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9/10 Dentists recommend RPG status bar.
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Have written with both of yall. My RP memory goes way back.
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Uncharacteristically positive status bar right now. Good vibes.
1 yr ago
If a gym was haunted and the ghosts moved the weights around would the ghosts make gains or not?
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1 yr ago
When conducting interior painting operations, do it naked.
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Jonathan McCord

When they were permitted to lower their hands, Jon tucked his back in the front pocket of his sweatshirt. The pack of cigarettes was still missing and he glanced around for the little bastard that had taken them while Cassandra talked. She was in her element: Center of attention and a completely captive audience. Looking at the conditions, they truly had no choice but to accept whatever she was going to offer and from what he had witnessed of her regular business dealings, she would be squeezing the turnip for every ounce of juice possible. It didn’t matter that there was a war on, business was business. Standing next to her he returned the steady look of the Colonel, watching the way he walked and particularly the stiff nature of his left arm. Beyond that, the cave was a fanfare of makeshift mechbays, scattered equipment and a cacophony of smells that pulled and drifted towards the numerous ventilation shafts once used for the heavy equipment of the mine. He thought about the offer from the Crimson Fists then the rumors of the raid that bled through the grapevine of fighting men to Nui Awa. A Phoenix and Shadow Hawk, an Ostroc- something he’d never seen before, an Archer and a Raven, just like he had heard. His eyes shifted further, catching a glimpse of the turret of a Von Luckner tank around a bend in the cave, confirming his suspicions on the trail. All faced the Fists’ Longbow, Wolfhound, Raven and Jenner while protecting a convoy of unarmored transports. On paper it was a fairly even match given the conditions of battle, but he’d heard how they’d managed to still rout the Fists and escape. For a brief moment, he played out how he would’ve done it and his eyes zeroed in where he would have placed precision salvos across joints, hardware and cockpits. Where he would have set the ambush to kill them in one pass.

A crowd was forming and he looked over the assembly in the same way as he’d looked over the equipment. Not many had the same look as the Colonel or Sergeant Dalton. Uncertainty dominated. Then there was ample amounts of fear and fatigue. With the portable reactor and the medical tent they liberated, there was at least some measure of creature comfort restored, however it was an operation on borrowed time. There were even children roaming about. He let out a small breath of unease at the sight of them. The Fists would eventually find this place. Even though the mines were a maze of tunnels and connections, the process of elimination would eventually tilt the math in favor of the hunters. He was glad he stayed with Cassandra. Marching women and children off to Fort Tie Shan was not something he could have kept on his conscience. That place had its own set of rumors. He thought about a clear shot at the cockpit of a Battlemaster or a Longbow, the glint of sunlight off the tinted canopy, the muzzle flash over his shoulder and the hot-white hatred that shrieked out of armored gauntlets.

A cigarette would be nice.

Western Mountains
Abandoned Neodymium Mines
March 31st, 3030

Jon set the helicopter down near an abandoned cabin in a small clearing. He hadn’t flown in a while, but the sense of balance across the cyclic, collective, pedals and the throttle was not a far cry from the requirements of a neural helmet. When they’d left Cassandra’s lake property, he’d taken it slow in order to stay safely under controlled airspace and thankfully the weather was agreeable enough that the visibility was acceptable for low level flight. By the time he sat the gear down on the soft grass, he was looking forward to flying it again. After a few minutes spent folding the rotors up, he staked down the machine and threw an olive drab cover over the slick AVC paint scheme. A few more equipment checks: rifle, sidearm, pack and belt before Cassandra handed him a map with the coordinates of several seismic sensors. She had brought along a pricey satellite GPS which was handy, but he still kept track of his compass bearing as they set off.

Wearing a hooded sweatshirt, loose fitting pants, gloves and hiking boots, Jon looked more like a woodsman than a mercenary. All of his equipment was well-worn from outdoor usage, from his clothing to his rifle. His hair curled out from beneath a very heavily weathered baseball cap that simply sported the GM logo and had molded itself to the shape of his skull through years of rain, sun, sweat and now Espian salt mist. Cassandra on the other hand looked like her entire ensemble had just come out of the box and consisted of expensive outdoor brands that made her look like she had just arrived from a catalog photoshoot. When they had first set out from the lake property, she’d examined his ensemble with her typical, critical air, but rather than being judgemental, she seemed at least minutely curious about selecting something that wouldn’t result in her freezing her ass off in the woods.

The terrain wasn’t overly treacherous for a cross-country ruck and the years of pine needles, foliage, moss and dirt gave way gently underfoot in many places after days of rain. There would be at least a few miles of steady walking to hit all the sensors efficiently and Jon was a little concerned at first about Cassandra keeping up, but she surprisingly moved along and complained little about the conditions. What she did talk about though, nearly non-stop, was a range of her favorite subjects: Fashion and gossip, her ex-husbands, AVC history, her two daughters, Capellan treachery, her Magazine, and finally Ben Kahale and the other turncoat board members, their drama, and how there would have been no need for any of this lunacy if they had all just listened to her. Jon walked along mostly just listening. Much of it he had heard before, several times. He’d been in her office and seen her chew out her subordinates. Being there had made him a bit of a curiosity, but the coffee was the best he had ever tasted and the food from the restaurant was phenomenal- He could have as much as he wanted of any of it. To top it off, the women that worked for Cassandra were some of the prettiest he had ever seen. It wasn’t all work on Espia he’d thought to himself occasionally. All he had to do was keep trespassers off of Cassandra’s zoned properties and in that work he was completely indiscriminate. FPA, NPDRE, CCAF, ABCD- whatever acronym they decided to ride under didn’t matter to his guns.

They walked on sometimes crossing over and sometimes staying on a few logging trails. Occasionally, Jon would motion for Cassandra to quiet down for a moment and listen like he had heard something out of place. She played along at first, seemingly wrapt in the intrigue, but after a while she began to realize sometimes her hired help was just messing with her. When she called him on it, he just snickered a little, shrugged and kept walking. What he did explain though, was that beyond the obvious story that the seismic readings told on paper: that the sensors were picking up an unusual amount of activity in the mountains, the real trail was in the the washed out tracks which would have been impossible to distinguish as the NPDRE and the Crimson Fists searched from the air and from the cockpit of a mech. The abandoned mines were a maze of possibilities, but he had a good hunch.

How is your father doing?” Cassandra suddenly asked. The topic, for once not related to herself, immediately caught Jon’s attention.

Still not good.” He replied. It wasn’t where his mind wanted to be, but he had made the decision to tell Cassandra about most of his reasoning for forming his “one-man” mercenary crew during their initial interview. Amazingly, she’d been surprisingly receptive in his desire to get away from fighting for a change.

It makes you genuine my dear, not just another hired savage I could have pulled from the MRB registry. I need real motivated people to work for me no matter what my business may be. Half of these little debutants in my office can hardly fold a sweater without a focus group. It’s exhausting. Was how she had explained it. Jonathan, I’m not a commander or a general, or anything like that, but I understand people and the use of force, whether it may come from the barrel of a weapon or from Hyperpulse message. The newcomers to this planet and the natives alike, underestimate me at their peril.

Once he had become a known commodity on Espia outside of the influence of the former Capellan government, their would-be replacements in the NPDRE and eventually Crimson Fists themselves. The offers began to come in for him to leave his contract with Cassandra and pick a side, but he’d ignored them all. He kept his commitments.

Another half mile to a bend in the logging trail that opened into a clearing bringing up flat grass and good shadows from the tree line. Jon stopped and looked around while Cassandra continued to talk. He exhaled a bit and without a word, slowly unslung his rifle and placed it on the ground before raising his hands.

Jonathan, what are you doing?” Cassandra questioned sharply.

Put your hands up.

Excuse me, what?

There was movement from the tree line, two figures stepped out of the shadows weapons ready and moving quickly, a green patch visible on the sleeve. One held a shotgun. Cassandra immediately put her hands up. As they approached, she wiggled her nose to keep her sunglasses in position. There was never an excuse to not be fashionable.

Smarter than you look, Jonathan.'' One of the soldiers said mockingly and picked up Jon’s rifle while the other kept his sights trained.

I was waiting for y’all to come out.” The Green Knight began searching him as he spoke, immediately removing his sidearm and a large knife from his belt. “I got another one on my ankle” The soldier promptly rolled his pant leg up and tossed another handgun aside.

Not wearing any colors, we coulda just put you down. There’s a war on ya know.” This time he removed a pack of cigarettes. Jon frowned.

Not lookin’ for trouble.

Then what are you lookin’ for?” Another voice asked. A mountain of a man emerged from cover to their right, flanked by two more Knights with shotguns. His voice matched his presentation.

Jon watched them walk up from the corner of his eye. “I think I found it.

Sergeant Dalton snorted amusement at the reply as one of the men handed him Jon’s rifle. Another attempted to very awkwardly search Cassandra. “Dear child, try not to over-indulge yourself.” She said in a tone that came away like a knife being pulled from a silk sheath.

Dalton looked over the rifle briefly. “Nice piece…” He said. “Where you from soldier?

New Vandenberg.” The reply came with an obvious air of pride and a smirk.

Taurus.” Dalton patted his chest with the unofficial hand sign of the Taurian Defense Force.

No shit?

Well, isn’t this lovely? I should have brought a picnic lunch for the happy reunion.” Cassandra piped in. “Now can we get down to business gentlemen?

Just out on a hike with granny?” Dalton said, ignoring her. Cassandra’s jaw nearly came unhinged.

She’s not my granny, she’s my boss.

Oh, so it’s like that huh?

The other Knights chuckled. Jon, still with his hands in the air, grimaced and shook his head.

How did you find us?” Native camaraderie was set aside, Dalton wanted answers pronto.

Followed the tracks.

Bullshit. Those tracks been washed out for days- How did you find us?

A tension returned to the air at Dalton’s words. The Knights were well acquainted with the tone and a couple fingers moved over the trigger of their weapons.

You got something heavy, I think a tank, with a damaged drive gear.” Jon replied, matching Dalton’s grim visage, soldier to soldier. “It cut an unusual track. You can see where the driver was fightin’ with it. Even after the rain, it’s there.

Dalton seemed somewhat impressed. Some of the other Knights eyeballed the trail, studying the mud and shoulders for what Jon described. “Fair enough.” He said. “But how did you even know to come here?

I had an AVC map in my back pocket.” Jon nodded towards the infantryman holding it. “It’s layed out with the old mining complexes and a bunch of seismic sensors y’all have been runnin’ over.

And how’d you get a hold of that? Dalton arched an eyebrow.

Because they belong to me.

Old Rose Hotel
Former Headquarters of Aqua Vitae Corporation
North Nui Awa
March 25th, 3030

There was never a time when the northern bank of the Tie Shan River was not picturesque. Stretching from the river itself out over hills to the mountains beyond, it was an explosion of painted eloquence all the way to the rocky horizon set in deep greens, tones of earth and on some occasions a whisping blanket of fog that moved so subtly, it looked as if it could be gathered in its excess to be given to some other world, perhaps where a creator had been less demure in their imagination. The view from North Nui Awa was particularly appealing, the city itself seemingly brushed into the landscape with centuries old architecture that was both tasteful, traditional- in the ancient Terran sense, and built to withstand generations of saltwater air. Within this enclave of spires, columns, archways and in many places, hand-placed stone cut by artisan engineers on the river bank centuries before, occupying a prominent bend in the river, was the “Old Tower” or the Rose Hotel, the original home of what had started as a meeting place for some of Espia’s most opulent families that eventually became the Aqua Vitae Corporation.

Over time as the business grew into an undeniable public utility, many in the company leadership moved to the modern construction of Balya Gora and a new tower near the spaceport that allowed for more direct oversight of the export of Neodymium from the mines- the true currency of Espia, and easier dealings with whatever of the Great Houses decided to plant their flag. However, a few remained behind and over the years, even fewer still as modernity encroached along with rest of the Inner Sphere, until only one remained; leaving the old boardroom, the penthouse executives’ level, the rich hardwood and the polished brass to the care and ownership of one Ms. Cassandra Jeong. Under her ownership part of the old hotel floors had been restored, reserved only for her personal guests, a posh restaurant and club occupied another floor while others hosted the local staff of AVC operations, rented spaces and a multitude of Cassandra’s other projects, most of which were overseen daily by people she had never met. When interviewed by the RIver Gazette, the local gossip column for both North and South Nui Awa, about her “waiting out” the other AVC board members to leave the Rose to herself she simply tipped her sunglasses and replied: “Patience pays, darling. Maybe you’d like to move in? If you can afford the rent. Maybe if you write for me, we could work something out?

In that penthouse level, now Cassandra’s personal office suite, framed on two sides by the view of the Tie Shan River flowing into the distance, patience did pay, the same as it always had. However, the game was different now and different than the predecessors of her family had ever had to play. Of course the usuals, those lacking patience, or for that matter, fortitude had already opened their bed covers for the self-styled “NPDRE” and their lackeys the, “Crimson Fists”. Even a casual mention of the over-the-top mercenary company name caused a nearly involuntary eye-roll for Cassandra. Never could she allow herself to be aligned with such a revolting lack of style. As for her counterparts, if they had only listened to her and pooled their resources, the same as the AVC had done for generations, they could have presented a united front and an absolute bargaining position, but alas, knowledge wasn’t generational and intelligence didn’t pass down through the bloodstream. As her father often remarked: Wisdom doesn’t always come with age, sometimes dumb is forever.

An aide brought her coffee. Like everyone else in the office, the young woman was impeccably dressed. She presented the cup, prepared in the exact way it was required every day, at the exact temperature and placed on Cassandra’s desk at the exact moment it was expected. Seeing no reaction from Cassandra, other than continuing to look down through her glasses at a magazine article, the girl knew the delivery was satisfactory and backed away slowly. Another aide slipped through the doorway behind her and the two nearly collided, both quickled looked back at Cassandra, mortified at their clumsiness, but thankfully received no reaction other than a turn of the page. The newer aide quickly recomposed herself as the former hastily departed. She was unaccustomed to working directly for Cassandra and for a brief moment studied the various framed photographs behind her employer, the largest of which was magazine cover, simply titled SPHERE, featuring a dramatic wedding photo op of Melissa Steiner on her wedding day at Hilton Head Island.

Do you have something to tell me, Angela?” Cassandra asked, not looking up. “Or did you just come to breath in front of me?”.

I… ah, uh-um. I’m sorry Ms. Jeong,” The girl stammered, but quickly shook her head to regain her focus. “Mr. McCord reports that he’s in position.” Her tone clearly denoted that she had no idea as to the context of the message she was relaying, but seeing Cassandra look up somewhat piqued from her magazine seemed to indicate she was delivering good news.

Ah, delightful.” She turned in her chair and waved a hand towards two large monitors. Of the numerous pieces of posh furniture and decorum, the two large screens were the only slightly modern looking set pieces. Taking the cue, the aide switched the displays on. One was a live news broadcast of the fighting in Yuzhny Portveyn while the other was a calm display that looked almost like a targeting screen with the word PASSIVE blinking in a lower corner. From different angles, both seemed to be focused on Putski Sports Complex. The frantic report of a newscaster came up immediately as the sound came on.

Mute.” Cassandra said flatly.

The aid silenced the display with one quick motion. The report continued with images of burning buildings and towering smoke plumes as laser and ballistics were traded in rapid pockmarks of light and fire against the ruined cityscape. A ticker scrolled along the bottom of the screen.

Darling, how far away are you now?” Cassandra asked aloud. She tilted her head slightly, gauging her own estimate on the scene.

There was a small delay as the message and the reply moved across several secure AVC owned networks. A man’s voice answered with some static in the line: “Two point three kilometers.

Prompt, exact answers to her questions were so satisfying, Cassandra thought to herself. She leaned in a bit resting her chin inquisitively in one upturned palm, looking over the utter chaos continuing to develop on both screens as if she were sizing up a finely tailored dress. “Do you foresee any difficulty in retrieving our objective?


Cassandra began to speak, but the muted channel suddenly changed to a familiar visage, that of former Governor Xiu. His voiceless lips moved with the typical haughtiness for which he was well known. “One moment, dear” She said aloud towards the disembodied radio voice, watching the other display once more. On screen the Capellan governor prattled on, clearly in distress.

Volume…” Cassandra groaned with annoyance. The aide quickly obeyed.

...Malenkov has told you his thugs would march into Yuzhny Portveyn and crush us under their heel, but the rightful government of Espia remains resolute! As their discipline collapses, I stand strong, ready as ever to serve the people whom I dearly love.

Cassandra rolled her eyes.

The Espian Guard is falling back, half-starved and in disarray, thanks to the incompetence of their leaders, the corruption of their staff, and the cowardice of their soldiery. The only power they wield is intimidation, and when put to the test, they wither like dried leaves and scatter on the wind. Malenkov can bluster all he wants, but in the end, the true leaders of Espia will restore order, justice, and peace!

The screen shook as the former Governor dove away and Cassandra thought she caught a glimpse of the explosion that struck near the building on the other live feed. The newscast was delayed several seconds behind. However, the image of the man that passed over the camera right before the broadcast was cut caused Cassandra’s whole countenance to drop in unbelieving surprise. Her hand fell on the hardwood desktop and her ringed fingers wrapped a sharp thwack! against the lacquered grain dishevelling some of the files and papers in front of her. The aide visibly jumped as if it were a rifle shot. Cassandra rubbed her fingers over her forehead and sighed with annoyance. “Impossibly stupid man.” She shook her head examining the two screens again briefly. “Well, we must give Benjamin credit for loyalty…” She said, picking her phone up from the desk. Her fingers moved with exacting precision before putting the speaker to her ear, her face growing into a burgeoning scowl of annoyance around pursed lips. Her eyes cut over to the aide. “At least tell me that the helicopter is en route?

The girl fumbled quickly for her datapad again. Cassandra began hearing the line ring on the other side. She sat back in her chair, preparing to give one of her infamous scoldings. The fact the call was into a warzone and to a fellow counterpart on the AVC board of directors was irrelevant.

The helicopter is-” The aide began to report, but stopped suddenly as one of the displays suddenly flashed with a massive explosion that engulfed what looked like the entire Putski Sports Complex. A shockwave shook the camera feed as a towering plume of rolling dirty-gray smoke began to blossom up from the ground.

The call went to voicemail.

Both sets of eyes shifted to the news broadcast almost simultaneously, anticipating the delay. The angle was better, much closer. The explosion erupted once again, leveling the main complex in a flash of fire. The camera cut to static and then to a shocked news anchor back at the studio who seemed to mirror Cassandra and her aide’s expression through the screen.

Mother of God…

The smoke column continued to rise on the other screen and Cassandra realized her mouth was slightly agape. From the phone in her hand, Benjamin Kahale’s voice informed her, through a crisp professional tone, that he would respond to his voicemail at his earliest convenience. She continued to watch for a moment as the reporters on screen scrambled to continue the broadcast however another message message broke through hijacking the broadcast:

Cassandra looked over her desk slowly and took in a deep breath lacing her fingers together to gather her thoughts. Her eyes cut to a folder she had placed with a green tab among other fashion articles and gossip headlines from the Inner Sphere. She took another slow breath and let her shoulders relax, glancing over the office floor beyond her desk area. Her other staff continued on, undisturbed that there was a war on. Hands moved in conversations, phones rang, and the work continued. There wasn’t a single person on Espia that wouldn’t want to be in this building and in this room. For some reason the thought, a statement that she regularly told her new hires, crossed her mind.

Call the helicopter back.” She said sternly. Her fingers wrapped another quick moment of contemplation on the desktop before she plucked the green-tabbed folder away from the others. She tucked it under one arm and began gathering her things together to leave the building. The aide seemed surprised and unsure what was happeneing Again, Cassandra looked back up at the one steady display. “Jonathan, I want you to meet me at the lake property tonight.

The voice on the other side of the transmission seemed to ignore the breach in protocol. With chaos that had just unfolded, it was doubtful that anyone was listening. “Yes, ma’am.
Reya & Tarak

Tarak makes his way through the rabble-rousing that is happening throughout the cave. Their mission was a success, they gained supplies that would allow them all to survive longer. They acquired munitions that would allow them to start striking back. Even with those who had died, they gave the rest something they were unable to find, hope. Now many people here are able to live longer, they are able to fight longer, and they can finally think about something other than the cold and thirst. As Tarak moved through he chuckled and laughed with some as his eyes finally landed on Reya as he whistled and said, ”Heyo! Reya!” Tarak started waving to her to get her attention.

Having her name called was a pretty common occurrence since the raid. Can you take a look at this? What do you make of that? How does this work? Were the usual followups, or, her personal favorite: What is she drinking now? In relation to a certain mechwarrior. Reya turned from her work, inventorying some of the more valuable salvage brought back from the battle, at the sound of Tarak’s voice. She was fairly rested for once and Sunny was off playing with some of the other children. Other than being in a cave and having nearly been blown up several days ago, things were feeling a tiny bit normal. She arched an eyebrow in Tarak’s direction. “Yes?” It was easy work, but she feigned annoyance with him as he approached, chewing on the stylus to her datapad as if she were considering something more important.

Tarak saw Reya’s face and immediately realized that she seemed to have been doing something maybe important as her voice carried a similar weight. His face changed from that of happy to that that could be described as ‘yikes’ as if he might have screwed up, as Tarak made his way over he said, ”Ah, hey, Reya. It seems you were doing something important, sorry about that, but I do have something I think you’d be quite interested in”. As Tarak pulls the stereo out from behind his back with one hand while his other hand does a flared jazz hand. The Stereo look pretty good, it had a solid housing with an even magenta paint job as Tarak said, ”Tada!”

Seeing that he had taken her seriously was amusing. It didn’t take her long in her younger years to realize how easily she could manipulate people, particularly men. She eyed Tarak up and down briefly seeing that he appeared to be precariously off-balance from whatever he was trying to hide, so she stepped towards him to make his presentation even more awkward; like he had missed a step in a dance. Her head tilted a bit like she was examining a rookie astech and she leaned forward a bit. “Does it look important?” She could see the magenta edges of whatever it was which piqued her interest slightly. Giving him a modicum of an opportunity to improve his position, she stepped back slightly.

Well, someone’s been thinking about you, a lot. She thought to herself amidst a wave of his ridiculous “jazz-hand” reveal. The fact that he even included a tada! made it hard for her to even keep a straight face. “Don’t tell me you brought that back from the mission?" Then she instantly remembered the bizarre thumbs-up he’d given using Black Phoenix’s hand controls. “You did, didn’t you?" She couldn’t decide if she was impressed or flattered. If the Colonel knew a Mechwarrior had taken time to hunt for gifts in the middle of an operation, he would’ve had a heart attack. Still, she had to ask the next obvious question: “Does it work?

Tarak saw Reya’s face change and thought he was in the clear as he loosened up. When asked, Tarak said, ”Yeah I got it on the mission. I pulled it from a vehicle and got some other parts and pieces for it while we were looking for supplies. Then when we got back I had Sammy go and rig it up with speakers, an internal power system so it can be charged, and then a housing with a new paint job so it doesn’t look trashy”. Tarak chuckled as he thought something similar to what Reya did, if the Colonel found out how much Tarak took for personal reasons, he’d probably die on the spot with the amount of brain hemorrhaging he’d have. As the final question came down as a smile came to his face as he said, ”I don’t know~, wanna find out?” As Tarak holds up the Stereo and then holds out a tape for her to put in, as the tape says, Classics.

Uh-huh…" She regarded him as if she were listening to the tale of a child that had misbehaved on the playground. “...So you stole a stereo for me.” That was certainly a new approach. She gave him a look of some cautious amusement. At a closer glance, the “homemade” nature of the device was more apparent. The look of incredulity across her face was only half feigned and meant to make him even more embarrassed, but he persisted, which she liked. “You already know that it works,” She said. “You just want to be dramatic.” She plucked the tape from his hand, reading the label for a second before dropping it into the open deck. “This better be sappy love songs or I’m gonna be really disappointed, just sayin’” She said, mashing the play button.

And disappointed she was, it was not some sappy love songs, though it did cross his mind at some point for the hilarity. No, it was something much more on-brand, as when the tape was put in and the play button was hit the song began. Tarak began bobbing his head and getting into the music as he started lipsyncing with the music and playing an air guitar as he looked to Reya with a smile and tried to get her to start getting into the music the same way he did.

Technicians and staff of the Green Knights began to look as soon as the first riff hit out of the speakers, then others as the tempo picked up. It was louder than she expected. The regular sounds of tools and machinery had become so routine that the sound of music was foreign and drew instant attention. People were really starting to notice about the time Tarak broke into unashamed air-guitar and lip-syncing. Reya didn’t know the lyrics or the chords. She’d never heard anything like it, but her countenance was quickly burning flushed red as they had become the center of attention. “Oh my God! Okay-okay-okay!” She went to turn back what looked to be a volume control, but the switch was backwards causing the sound spike even louder before she frantically twisted it the other way. The other Knights were having a hearty laugh and shouts went up for Tarak to continue before Reya snagged him by the arm and led him away amidst even more whoops and hollers. “You are crazy!" She proclaimed, thoroughly embarrassed, but smiling broadly and trying not to laugh even more.

Tarak was getting into it as he saw more and more people show up, he was trying to seem as into as possible to get as many people into this/ As Reya seemed to get more and more flustered she tried to stop the music, yet it was too much and Tarak was left laughing as he was snagged and dragged away from the area by Reya. He saw the broad smile and proclamation of his craziness as he laughed out, ”Always have been”. As ocne they finally made it away from the source of the commotion Tarak was still laughing as he said, ”So, it seems like it works. Like it?”

Yes,” Reya replied, shaking her head. and still laughing a bit. "You did surprise me.” She looked down at the rudimentary digital display, blinking slightly under Tarak’s grip before she realized she was still holding onto his arm and stepped away somewhat awkwardly. She made a small production of straightening up her jacket and crossed her arms like she was recomposing herself. “Well, it’s a good thing you pilot your mech better than you perform as a singer.

Tarak chuckled slightly as he saw the little display of Reya trying to recompose herself before speaking once more. Tarak laughed as he said, ”Dang I thought that would have been my big ticket. Guess I’ll have to figure something else out”. Tarak shrugged after saying that as he then said, ”I am thankful that you do like it, I know things are hard. But it’s the little things, you know?” Once he said that Tarak tossed Reya a small smile.

Reya’s glance narrowed slightly at the sudden contrasts in Tarak. When it was just the two of them, he seemed hesitant and unassertive, but in front of others he was animated, unafraid of embarrassment. The court jester approach was cute and entertaining, however she had people competing for her attention all the time. Hopeless suitors, even in their current situation, tried their best to impress, seemingly unperturbed by the gravity of their struggle for survival. The gift was definitely useful and unique, but she liked the more debonair Tarak. The one that took her hand as she stepped from the bottom of a scaffold and could read when she’d been upset and lonely. The confident mechwarrior was what she wanted, not the stereo salesman.

She eyed him closely for a moment, knowing the right words would do the job and that no one else was listening. “I’m not worried about that stuff, Tarak.” She said, looking him in the eyes. Her glance was as piercing as a PPC bolt and her tone matched it. “What I want is for you to go out there and kill them.” She tilted her head only slightly after the words, watching his reaction. “Kill them that did this to us, all of them... With your mech, or with your gun…” She retrieved the stereo from his grasp like she was accepting something that had never belonged to anyone else, as if it were her rightful property. “...Or with your hands, whichever…

Tarak had a smile on his face as he was there, yet he felt the atmosphere shift. Reya seemed to have wanted something, something from him, as her eyes told him what she thought, while her words told him what he needed to know. Tarak’s expression changed almost without thought his stance changed as his full height seemed to have been diminished before. His eye sharpened from the soft crescents they made from his smile to that of complete focus. Giving his eyes the look as if they pierce through what they landed upon.

Once Reya took hold of the stereo, it was hers’, so Tarak let go of it for her to take it as once she finished he responded, his smirk never wavering, ”Of course. It never crossed my mind to allow them to liv-e”. As Tarak reached over to Reya lightly as he brushed some of the hair that fell to her shoulder before saying, ”-You don’t have to worry about that”. As Tarak’s head tilted as he threw her one last smile as he began leaving and said with a wave, ”If you want to, you can come by anytime, I have plenty of tapes that would love another set of ears to listen to”. Now as Tarak waved and walked away without looking back, his face was cold, almost as if completely focused on something. He needed to blow off some steam as he could feel the tension building in his back. He felt his anger rising as he was just reminded of something from Reya, the Fire Witch got away.

Reya & Raven

Hidden within a small box of treasures that managed to escape with her in the Green Knights retreat from the capital and stored in a place she knew no one would ever find- because some would indeed be looking; bright white, rolled crisply and never folded, handmade with pure linen, was one of the Green Knights’ most unorthodox, but well-known accompaniments, the vaunted, Engineer Reya Wyatt tablecloth. Having just had another shower, her hands were clean as she unraveled it, but not before breathing in the still clean scent of the fabric and for a moment being a table to just taste a glimmer of home and civility. She looked at it, knowing it would soon lose its fragrance and cleanliness, but rather than letting it lose its luster slowly stored away, she decided it was time. The Knights’ spirits were still high from the success of the raid. There was plenty of food and water to go around and certainly no shortage of alcohol either. Work on the mechs had them nearly ready for another sortie. Over her one small table outside of the small area she and Sunny shared, Reya carefully let the fabric settle. The subtle, hand-stitched gray threads of a Kuritan Dragon curling through clouds fell nicely over the round surface. For a moment she allowed herself to just look at it and let her mind travel light years away to another place.

There were two places set. One for Sunny and one for herself. She had one extra chair that would likely belong to Pops if he decided to stop by. He liked to pretend that he was too rough and tumble for a proper sit down, but Reya could tell that some form of proper femininity took his heart back through memories long gone. For Sunny, it was at least a small sliver of what might have been considered “normalcy” and how families set themselves together for a meal. She thought about Lena and the missing chair.

Naturally the meal itself wasn’t quite the exposition as the cloth it sat over. Sergeant Dalton assured her, after his many years in the field, that the “Terra Prime Adventure Meals” MREs were shockingly tasty. Reya could see Sunny instantly turning her nose up and was thinking up various creative descriptions she could use to sell the meal to a ten year old. Admittedly however, she was having a hard time convincing herself to experience something called “biscuits and gravy” alongside “chicken fried rice”, beef stroganoff and assorted freeze-dried fruits and granola. One eyebrow arched as she looked at the package. On a positive note, thanks to the Espian Guards, there was evaporated milk for the tea though it was still served in barbaric tin cups. Still overall, it was forming into a surprisingly quaint scene and she couldn’t deny her love for some of the old ways. She looked at her watch as it would soon be time to put the call out for Sunny and set the meals to their quick cook time before she placed the last two items on the table: Diego’s Marauder action toy, which had simply become something of an unspoken set piece and finally, two volumes of Comstar Scholastic Press Primer - Grade 6. Lena had done her best to tutor her younger siblings and Reya often tried to help. Hilariously, and to no surprise, neither one of them proved to be the most effective instructor. In the time since the escape and the raid, Reya hadn’t been able to keep Sunny’s schooling up and with the work on the mechs being ahead of schedule, she felt like it was at least time to try.

Stealing a few brief moments to herself, Reya picked up one of Sunny’s issues of Never-Ending Hearts Revolution and started thumbing through the pages.


Reya could hear footsteps coming closer to her; booted feet from a younger man than Pops. It was Raven Rivers, his face still unsmiling and eyes still turned downwards, while his mouth opened and closed again, before he reached where Reya was and forced a smile for her sake, before asking, “Hey, do you have a spare seat? I know that one is for Pops…”


Seeing Raven was a surprise. Ever since the retreat from the capital and his family being captured, he was not himself, or at least not as she had known him in her time with the Green Knights. After the raid he effectively had made himself into a sort of pariah among the crews. She looked at him for a moment, sitting at her ornate table display and before anything else, could hear the words of her father instantly talking to her from her childhood: Never kick a man when he is down. Honor must dictate. It was the Dragon’s way. She couldn’t imagine what Raven had to be going through and the fact that he had found his way to her, meant that he wanted to talk to someone other than another mechwarrior or a soldier. Her hand motioned to the open seat. “It’s fine, I think he’s busy, sit down if you like. Tea?


“Thank you,” Raven said as he casually sipped it, before saying, “You know, Andrew really liked you. He’s a fine kid; always wondering why the Colonel was always so ‘sharp’ with you. Then again, he was four when we left House Davion’s service…”

He chuckled and continued, “Katrina once scolded Andrew when he said he wanted to marry you, both because you were beautiful and because he wanted your noble title. Let’s just say I was glad not] to be at the end of that death glare.”

A half-sob escaped his lips as he said, “They’re going to be killed, I know it. Katrina, Andrew, I’ll never see them again, Reya. I’ll never see them again…”


Reya was happy to see him accept her offer for tea and very daintily filled his tin cup in the proper way while thinking in the back of her mind how Ziska would make fun of her absolute love affair for proper dining edicate. Having an unexpected guest as soon as she rolled out the fine linen seemed like a sign of good luck. She set Sunny’s book aside and just let him talk. It was clear he had a lot on his mind and with his family gone, essentially had no one left to confide in. She gave a small shrug when he mentioned nobility. Everyone assumed so much that she was some kind of royalty, but within the Combine, hers was just another wealthy family, not even part or related to the lineage of the Coordinator. It was easier to just let them believe it and a small part of her liked the idea of royal titles.

It was no surprise that he was about to break down and some part of her knew it was probably for the best for everyone in the squad for him to let it out. She thought of herself, having her own moment in Ziska’s Raven when no one was looking. At the time there was nothing anyone could have said to console her, it just had to pass. She considered her words to at least try and build him up: “I already lost my best friend and I’m still here…” She said softly. The words came out more tenderly than she expected, but her thoughts flashed with images of Lena. Again she looked at the empty chair for a moment. “I even went on the mission… We don’t know what will happen, but I know you’re tougher than me.


Raven chuckled again, before saying, “Don’t sell yourself short. I may be a big tough guy on the outside, but to tell you the truth, I’ve been getting ‘sicker’ since our time on the fringes of the ‘Marian Hegemony’. Remember that time they almost got near our civilian contingent that one time? And that other time they managed to cut off a shipment of vital medicine and Andrew’s best friend during that time died?”

He then sighed and said, “I had nightmares about the Marians - Those Pseudo-romans - getting to the civilian contingent and enslaving everyone. Of Katrina being… used while Andrew grows up in bondage, his spirit crushed before it truly grew. Now those nightmares are gone but replaced with something new.”

Another sob wracked him, before he continued, “I’m not a bad father. But I am a bad person. I’ve blundered so badly that I might end up breaking from the strain. The enemy lacks mercy, kindness, compassion, and they still regard themselves as the ‘good guys’. And I let myself get egged on by their trash talk, and now they’re going to find some way of using that against me - If they find out who exactly my family are...”

Then Raven shifted subjects, “Andrew also wanted to marry Ingrid, but my behavior as a bad squadmate probably made that beyond impossible instead of ‘impossible’...”


Reya winced a bit at the thought of an arranged marriage of anyone to Ingrid. The subject of arranged marriage was something which she was certainly acquainted. “I suspect they’re more bitter now after losing one of their mechs to us,” She glanced over at Ziska’s Raven on the other side of the cave. “A pretty expensive one too…” There was some satisfaction in her voice, but it trailed off a bit as she again thought about the matching cannon on the Merry-Go-Round and the Crimson Fists’ Hunchback then the haphazard supply depot the Espian Guards had so easily folded on, now ruined. She could see their twisted forms after Sergeant Dalton’s men had erupted on them like a vengeful fire of buckshot and solid slugs. The images stayed with her, though she had quickly forced herself to look away. “I’m not sure everything going on here is what it seems to be.” She said, looking back at Raven. “Maybe I’m crazy, but just call it a woman's intuition.


Raven looked her in the eyes, nodded, and said, “I’m not completely blind; I know for sure that there are greater players out there manipulating the scenes. If Andrew were here, he’d confidently say that this coup was probably sponsored by a neighboring stellar power as a ploy to steal a planet from the Cappellans…”


Reya sipped at her tea cup, watching Raven’s reaction to what she’d said. It seemed like she’d managed to at least get him to start thinking like a leader again while some broken part of her was scoffing at the entire exchange. A few weeks ago, she wouldn’t have been near as gentle with the man, but her whole world was turned upside down and there were pieces of her “old self” lying all over the place within her psyche. The part of her that was deftly accustomed to manipulation to get what she wanted was being eclipsed by another part that had shockingly realized what was actually important in life. Raven’s situation had become swifty relatable to the latter. She refilled his cup. “You know, you’re my first unexpected dinner guest.” She said, smoothing a slight wave in the linen cloth. “I think that’s a sign of good luck.


The response was a smile and a quip, “I don’t think everyone else would regard me as lucky.”


Reya gave a small shrug and a smirk in return, tipping her cup back at Raven. “Then you’re welcome.


Raven smiled wider and mimicked Reya’s gesture, tipping his cup back at her before saying, “Anyway, on the subject of whoever is backing the ‘Democratic People’s Republic of Espia’... What are the nearest powers to this planet again? I don’t think we’re so far away from the Marian Hegemony, sad to say…”


Reya shook her head as mentioned the “nearest powers”. It just sounded so pedestrian, like there was a nice picket fence between them. The expression was the difference between their cultures in a nutshell, she thought to herself. Raven came from the Federated Suns. In the Combine, the “nearest powers” were the enemy, period. She could think of better terminology for some of the other “Great” Houses, but for the moment she had at least succeeded in getting Raven to go from sobbing to smiling in fairly short order. So smart, Reya. You could have been a therapist too! A passing voice commented in the back of her mind.

It’s not that simple, I’m sure we’re dealing with something, or maybe someone else, more subversive.” She said, leveling a bit of authority back into the conversation. When she got a twinge of intuition her mind moved like a guided missile. “The only thing valuable on Espia are the Neodymium mines… There’s nothing else here other than jump points and the HPG.” Her expression narrowed a bit. She had another thought go out on a tangent, but stowed it quickly. Some things she would have only confided in Lena or maybe Pops. “Everybody involved, at least so far, hates the Capellans, and us specifically by extension… but they won’t show who they really are…” She looked at him, dead in the eyes, her countenance uncharacteristically dark at the thoughts that came up behind her words: “These Espian Guards? They’re a joke. I saw what Sergeant Dalton’s men did to them in the raid. They barely put up a fight. Some of them even looked glad to surrender to us…They were terrified.” She leaned forward. “Did you know when the ‘Boys swept the admin office of that depot they found a Captain that had shot himself? A Captain. Right before we got there.” She tilted her head slightly to drive the question: “Does that make any sense to you? What was he so afraid of?


Raven arrived at a conclusion instantly, but without jumping to it, if it made any sense, “The puppetmaster. The ones behind the Crimson Fists and the New Regime. Maybe the Crimson Fists are connected with the puppetmaster or potential mysterious benefactor who wants the Neodymium mines?”


Reya shrugged and relaxed some back into her chair. “I’m sure it’s a piece of the puzzle, maybe not even the main piece.” She took another small sip and replayed the thoughts in her head for a moment. Her memory was nearly perfectly photographic as she recalled the drone zipping up and down the lines of containers taking pictures and video at rapid speed. “When we were on the mission, I had my drone take a lot of pictures for the intel squad.” She sighed tiredly as she thought about it. “We’ve been so busy, I haven’t had time to look at them myself, but I’m going to.


Raven nodded and asked, “Want another pair of eyes to help analyze it? I want to do something more useful than whining and getting angry all the time… Which will happen again once the enemy finds out who exactly my family are and harms them because of my psychotic breakdown or finds some other way of making me look like a frothing berserker, which I was during that time.”

His next question was, “Also, we need to know the official propaganda line of the current regime as regards the attack on their supply lines, or do you guys already know that but I’m just left out of the loop?”


Reya recoiled a bit at Raven’s prognostications. His self-centeredness was revolting. “Raven, listen to yourself, you can’t be like that. This company, these people who are still alive here cannot afford it.” She wanted to drive the nail. There were plenty of others who didn’t have the title Mechwarrior in front of their names on the roster that had family killed or captured just the same, herself included, but she remembered her father’s words again and stayed the hammer. “And for God’s sakes, let the Colonel worry about propaganda lines and what not. There is nothing you can do to influence any of that.” She shook her head a bit, trying to remain thoughtful with him though her hands were becoming a little animated. “You are one of the most experienced people we have with one of our best mechs. Get your head in the cockpit and fight the enemy.” She said. “You have all the power and talent you need for that and I know you have more discipline than what these dregs have managed to bring out in you,” Some part of her became keenly aware that she was sounding a lot like the Colonel and wasn’t quite sure how she felt about that in the middle of a conversation. “So it’s time to be a leader again, yea?


A Leader. Raven had never thought of himself as one; had let his own skills in that direction atrophy during his time in the Green Knights, but at the same time… He knew Reya was right. He had a streak of self-centeredness which can screw over the Green Knights - who were friends and also family - in the future if it continued to rule him.

He smiled again and said, “A leader. Been a long time since anyone relied on me to do any of that.”

I could do it if I can get over myself. I can do it if I can get over my emotional myopia; the near-sightedness which makes me see only me, Katrina, and Andrew as the only ones important. So his next words were, “Everyone has flaws; you just called me out on mine. Very well, if you trust me that much… Time for me to prove you right.”

The egotism, perhaps even arrogance, was still there. But it was subliminated into a confidence in his skills, into a desire to prove that he was what Reya thought he was. He wasn’t blind to the mix of flattery and force the engineer had brought to bear, but he wasn’t overly cynical about it either - He knew she was sincere.

He got up and said, “Time for me to blow off some steam; the whiny angst I just showed won’t fully go away unless I’ve had a good spar or simulated battle. Want to help me find a sparring partner if, say, Tarak isn’t available?”
Reya & Ingrid

Her sense of timing was disjointed, day and night crossed together inside the cave and it was ironically not unlike being in a jumpship. A sensation she had not known for some time. In the same way, the Knights had taken to “simulating” evening and day with the floodlights to keep everyone on some form of the same schedule. Though at times, on rare occasions when the weather outside was good, there was some sunlight visible through the rocky crevasses in a few places, but it was still an unnatural feeling. In the days that followed the raid there was so much work to do in repairs, refit and inventory, that it was easy not to think about it, but the unbalanced feeling was always present. As short as they were on technicians, her extra hands and eye for details had helped Sol’s operations considerably. The mechs were running ahead of schedule in repairs. However, she was tired, being the only person that went on the mission and then actively participated in the resulting service. About the only saving grace was the blessed shower. During the raid, when she had gone over all the loading manifests, it was the medical truck, she noticed, that included provisioning for a full mobile field hospital and also a small desalination unit with showers. Additionally, with the portable fusion reactor, it could be plumbed and properly hot. Thinking about it made her heart soar. She could take as many as she wanted and anyone caught peeping would face an involuntary scrapyard match with Sergeant Dalton.

Sitting on the back of the Von Luckner, legs crossed, head resting in one hand, she didn’t seem particularly enthusiastic at a glance. The scene in front of her was not unlike what she had worked out for Ziska’s Raven, only bigger. There were more screens, more cables and a hydra of connections that stretched up onto Ingrid’s machine. Her free hand tapped rapidly on a mobile console unfolded like a suitcase while her eyes briefly scanned the other displays. Some distance behind her the portable reactor hummed along happily and momentarily she grabbed a wad of her hair and smelled it, taking in a long pleasant breath of what remained of her coffee scented shampoo and searching for the ever encroaching aroma of grease, exhaust and sweat. If she could just get a music player of some kind, that wasn’t Pops’ makeshift guitar, a modicum of civility might be restored to La Casa Cueva as she had taken to naming it, to herself. She checked her watch. Still some ungodly hour by any normal standards and most everyone on the “day shift” was sleeping best they could. Ingrid’s dedicated tech crew were long turned in for the night after having helped Reya fit four brand new Holly SRMs into Susser Todd’s main launcher which was the current source of her frustration.

The missile diameter was the same, thankfully, but the Holly’s were shorter and lighter. The firewall had to be moved up which wasn’t too bad, but getting the mech to recognize the adjustments was… challenging. Unlike Ziska’s Raven which was happy and new and generally receptive to whatever Reya willed for it, the Ostroc was old, ornery and more often than not seemed to viscerally hate everything she tried to do with it. Several times she had to rerun the dryfire program, translating through multiple computers to “trick” the machine into thinking it was firing the correct ammo. The process was still not perfect and every failed attempt required a complete rebuild of the logic to generate a successful launch. In the mix of code and ancient dialogue the Lyran mech spoke, she was sure it was cussing her out in German. A red message boldly flashed across one of the other screens titled ACHTUNG! followed by some other 2500s era lingo. Reya gave the machine the finger.

She let out a sigh and rested back on her palms, feeling the cold armor of the tank beneath her and stared up at the rock ceiling for a moment. The problem was somewhere between the ignition and boost sequence, both of which happened in fractions of a second at the command of a trigger pull. Missiles were not her specialty, but she understood the principles perfectly. It was just getting the execution… A walk would be nice, she thought. Maybe some fresh air would help. Take a stroll and maybe chat with the perimeter guards just to clear her head and then come back. There was no way she was going to go to sleep. Not until she was satisfied and she was determined to earn even more of Colonel’s stoic approval. The coolness of the plating beneath her crept up her arm gave her a chill and she leaned back forward to her previous warm spot. She was wearing one of Lena’s hooded sweatshirts. Uncle Bucky’s Urbanmech Emporium The worn, cartoon logo on brown fabric reminded her of her friend when she wore it and Reya, busy as they had been, remembered that she hadn’t even thought about Lena since she had worked on the Raven. She shook her head. The thought left her feeling guilty and suddenly, very lonely. Her glance shifted over to where she had set up a crash pad for Sunny and herself, where the young girl presently slept in their little tent and container fort, but the feeling was different than before and she knew it had to be from going on the mission. She didn’t feel like the victim any more, or at least not as much.

Though it was perhaps a moment too quick to decide that, if only for different reasons.

From the shadows that lay just past the illuminated, makeshift repair bay, past the sleeping girl’s tent, came the ever-grim glare of the Duchess. She stood there, half-lit, and surprisingly didn’t immediately come with demands and grunts of dissatisfaction. No, once Reya’s eyes met hers, she stood there silently for a few seconds more before coming out to meet her. Now in the light, Ingrid could be seen wearing something quite unfitting with the image she had previously built: satin pajamas in a light blue, with gold lace, and by the way they seemed to bulge at the waist they were probably being worn over other clothing as well. Though as disheveled as anything in this cave, their opulence suggested that they were a rare article that escaped both the flight from Poulsbo and the good grace of Espia. The last time these had been seen within the Green Knights’ illustrious quarters was a year ago, and at that point, someone called them cute. She hadn’t been seen in them for a second prior to this moment.

Nevertheless, her expression seemed just as negative as ever, but just a bit more tired than she usually would let on. Any kind of anger on her part was too much effort for the night, perhaps. She had a similarly muted effect in her speech.

“Ms. Wyatt,” she said in a half-whisper once she was at the base of the Von Luckner. “I heard that some modifications were performed on the Ostroc this evening. Given my knowledge of my technical crew, I take it you were the one responsible?”

Seeing Ingrid’s ensemble, Reya nearly did a double take. As usually concerned with image as the Duchess could be, the garments were as surprising as the individual wearing them being awake. What was no surprise however was the blonde’s typical demeanor. The phrase, “factory settings” blinked through Reya’s mind as she looked back up at the Ostroc and then down at her main display once more as the woman approached. A tiny smirk worked its way around the corner of her lips that Ingrid could not see before Reya stowed the thought and continued a few more steps again through the tedious launch sequence knowing the woman would have questions.

The Colonel asked me to go ahead and modify the launcher to suit the new missile ordnance we liberated.” Reya answered, sticking to the facts as she knew Ingrid preferred. Being in an elevated position, on top of the tank, made it easier to bring up the Colonel’s orders, but she could also sense fatigue in the woman’s voice. A sentiment not missing from her own. “Your tech crew helped me move up the firewall and we did a test fitment on all four tubes.” She said. Her eyes examined the rather exquisite garments for a moment as Ingrid stepped closer, right at the base of the tank. “All the hardware is good, I’m just finishing up with the software now.” She continued and tapped a few more commands, concluding with a sharp, matter-of-fact keystroke she knew would make the same red warning message appear again. “Susser Todd has a very succinct way of talking.” She said, tilting her head slightly towards Ingrid and turning the other display so she could see.

She wasn’t terribly happy when the word ‘modify’ was uttered, but that was just a brief flash. Her arms crossed, and her head went up, though a little too far back - her usual perfect posture degraded by the time of the night. It’s no wonder she rarely stays past curtain call to drink, beyond the social barrier keeping her locked out.

The display came up with the same call for attention as before, and its demands were succinct but authoritative. It was as Ingrid would explain: “Ostmann Industries…protective of their warranties.” She settled as she leaned into the side of the Luckner, giving the screen a disappointed look. “Half of my pre-sortie checklist is clearing errors from this poor thing. It’s not been well since my exodus, and it lets me know that…” Further disappointment from her, though who it could be aimed at is made a little less uncertain. “No fault of you and your technicians,” she added as more of an afterthought than a statement to save face, “It simply is a fact of life. Something this old…”

Then, Ingrid looked up at Reya. “I’m sure you would find this amusing; at the side of the Daschke family for generations were the Micheners. A few worked for our house otherwise, but the vast majority, for almost 500 years? In your position. A lineage of solely Battlemech technicians, all under our employ - and they plied their family trade well. It made sense, we were on the border. The Mariks came and visited often enough to where the family Ostroc and Starslayer didn’t simply sit in a bay for a century at a time.

A little, wistful sigh escaped her.

I can take care of those for you.” Reya said, referring to the parade of startup errors Ingrid mentioned. She tapped a few keys and then worked with both hands momentarily belting off a rapidfire chain of inputs across the keyboard. “I noticed them when I first hooked everything up, you should have said something before.” She tilted her head and bit on her lower lip with some amusement at the screen in front of her, hands slowed to allow Ingrid room to talk, listening to her wistful story as she continued.

All the mechs had personalities and often the machine reflected the person in the cockpit. Susser Todd was a diva, but she kind of liked that about it, the challenge. It didn’t just let her have her way. She could remember several ice cold professors that only viewed mechs as metal and computers with no personality and to be fair, a part of her adhered to that philosophy, but still another part of her knew there was more. They moved, they walked, they talked to her through the terminals, they made mistakes- they got hurt and they accepted a piece of the pilot’s persona. She’d seen it herself.

I wish it’d been that straightforward where I’m from…” She relaxed some back on one palm, satisfied with what was in front of her and turning her glance back to Ingrid. There was a hint of scorn in her voice at the thoughts. “I’m the only engineer in my family and the first one.” She said. “I think both my parents would have preferred to have married me off, but here we are.

Reya shrugged and turned the screen once more towards Ingrid. The list of startup errors were displayed. “Look familiar?"

It seemed as if it did. Her eyebrows arched in consternation; the same sort of look you’d give when you saw your beloved dog - once again - take a leak on the carpet before you could let it outside. A problem, and not enough to be so easily forgiven, but far too common to put too much of an effort into feeling anger. She drummed her fingers across the cold metal of the hull. “Yes. Yes, it does look familiar.”

She leaned a little closer to squint at the screen, but the speed and patter with which she read it out suggested it was at least partially committed to memory. “Warning, internal servo-motor diagnostic check failed under such and such place in the arm, deliver error code x0394-so-on-and-so-forth to technicians immediately. Laser focusing lens alignment outside of expected parameters (despite being realigned every time it’s been sent out), firing of Feursturm-B M-class LTR may result in catastrophic failure (it has yet to do so). Upper anterior cooling fan has broken, reinstall immediately or pilot death may occur…and to replace it would mean disassembling half the cockpit. The same as usual.”

Another squint, and she briefly ran her finger along the list. “But if you’ve stopped it from barking about that missing, never-existing heatsink, you’ve put in good work. The Micheners never figured that one out,” she said with a rare tone of reverence.

“...but yes. It is all familiar, though I have a feeling that most other manufacturers don’t make such dire warnings like that.”

Ingrid’s rare seal of approval did not go unnoticed. Reya’s hands worked over the keys again and she briefly glanced between the display and the mech. The Duchess never specified to actually wipe the error codes, so Reya memory banked them in one of the maintenance subsystems where they could be pulled later and would stop bothering her during the startup sequence. “They all speak their own language.” Reya said. The other screens became animated once again. “Some just like to talk more than others.

Reya finally crossed her arms and exhaled slowly, running one finger over her lips examining the work on the SRMs once more. The ambient noises of the cave filled the air for a moment as the techs and laborers of the “night shift” went about their work with various tools and conversation. “You should feel a difference in the helmet with your balance,” She said finally. Her face had become a careful study while her eyes seemed to be absorbing data rapidly. “These SRMs are much lighter than your old ones so it should be more comfortable.” Her fingers tapped a few keys. “They’re gonna come out of the tubes like angry hornets.” She pointed to a line item highlighted in red. It seemed like Ingrid was following along so she continued: “The Ostroc’s ignition sequence for these is hardcoded and really was never meant to fire anything else but the heavy Totschlagens” Her German was surprisingly on point, even hitting the accent. “...So you’re gonna get an increase in velocity for sure. It won’t cause any more damage- but you will probably get a tighter grouping and be easier to hit with.

For once, someone’s pronunciation of a language that rarely leaves Lyran borders was not corrected. Ms. Daschke leaned harder onto the hull, her eyes briefly fluttering as she listened to the explanation. Her brow furrowed, first with effort to keep awake, and then with regards to Reya and what she had said.

“It would initially sound well and good,” she said, some more effort put into enunciation compared to her sleepy pronunciation earlier, “the idea of improved performance…but there is an issue I can foresee.”

She held up two fingers. “One, we have already been cut from supplies for this long; we can’t afford a live fire test. I’m sure the most basic simulations could give me numbers, but the feel,” she cradled an invisible pilot’s stick in her left hand while the two problem fingers shot forward, “it is not something I wish to rely on in the middle of a proper fight.”

She then withdrew her second finger after realizing she only had one issue to discuss.

Reya wasn't sure if Ingrid was going to fall asleep on her feet as she leaned further into the side of the tank below her. The Lyran was not much of a night owl, but she was right about the live-fire test. Though they were setting on a healthy supply of the new SRMs, she couldn’t see the Colonel allowing for any to be used in test shots. Not to mention the attention it could attract. Reya paused for a moment, watching Ingrid’s hands then looked up over the blonde at the rest of the cave, scanning for a moment and getting an idea.

That stranger that came here… We still haven’t recovered the mech he claimed to have hidden in the woods.” As tired as Ingrid was, Reya wasn’t sure if she was following any longer. “The Colonel will send a recovery team with him to get it, but I know they don’t trust him and I don’t either.” She said. In her mind she was still putting the pieces together and her glance narrowed a bit at nothing in particular “If you go out with the recovery squad, you’ll at least get a chance to get used to the balance again and if he does anything shady, you can give him test fire.” She had no doubt Ingrid’s ability to put down hick Espian randos, but it would ultimately be up to the Colonel to decide.

Well, there were hardly any better people to make that request to within this company. Her suspicion had clearly laid on him since he waltzed right in, and it wouldn’t take a huge leap in logic to imagine, once he was fully vetted, her continuing to see him poorly with his peasant, low-born nature. She had not often acted in discrimination to the non-noblemen and women of this establishment (presumably because that would be just about everyone here), but some did complain of what they could only call a ‘nobler-than-thou’ air about her.

“I think you may be onto something…wise. Wise…”

She rubbed her eyes, arching her neck and back in a vain attempt to keep awake.
“If you need me to move now, I’ll go out into the snow for a minute, that’ll wake me…”

Ingrid stared upward for a bit. Gears turned, sluggishly but consistently. “Ah. You…probably meant for the morning. Or later. Hmm. So be it,” she held up a hand and stifled a yawn, “You’ve got the Colonel’s ear far better than I do. Do your worst...”

Just as soon as she arrived, she had left, heading back to parts unknown. Keeping that stick up her ass must keep her exhausted.
Reya Wyatt

The return of the Knights had completely changed the atmosphere in the cave. The somberness and defeatism were gone completely and there was sudden, palpable energy among the staff and techs that had stayed behind. The raid had been a morale victory as much as it was a strategic and logistical one. There were a lot of smiles and pats on the back as Reya walked with Sunny, many from people that would have normally been too afraid to engage with some of her moods, but things were different now and she was not accustomed to such direct and genuine praise. She had put her life on the line the same as the Mechwarriors and the ‘Boys at a time when it mattered more than ever. It made her think if that was partly what the Colonel had wanted in sending her out there. A tired smile formed on her face and she couldn’t deny that the connection she felt with everyone had also changed dramatically.

Children study tactics, men study logistics...” Lieutenant Lyons said with a sharp smirk as they looked over the footage from Reya’s drone. First controlled by Sergeant Dalton and then by Reya, ending with the only access route to Supply Depot F-10 being completely demolished. “...But today it was a woman.” Lyons continued. “Nicely done.” She said. “There’s a lot to unpack here, but it should help us figure out who we’re really dealing with; the Colonel will be pleased..”

Also, check the manifest for the ammunition truck that survived.” Reya replied. She eyed Sunny about to push one of the many flashing buttons inside the command section of the Mobile HQ and snapped her finger and pointed. The young girl stuck her tongue out back at her, but relented. “They were storing Bryant 120mm rounds for an AC20, which is the same as the Merry-Go-Round...” Reya rubbed a hand over her forehead and brushed away loose strands of hair that had become a proper mess after a day of running, sweating and being trapped inside a piece of military equipment. She suddenly remembered how tired she was and that they still had to get to the formal briefing. “We got really lucky with that, but it doesn’t make much sense.

Understood, we’ll check it out. Get some rest and something to eat, you’ve certainly earned it.


Making her way to the debriefing, Reya carefully looked over the rest of the Green Knights battlemechs as she walked. Archie and Black Phoenix looked okay for the most part, same for Raven’s Shadow Hawk, just smashed and scorched armor, but Susser Todd looked considerably worse for wear and Merry-Go-Round had broken suspension. Bizarrely, looking at the varying levels of damage, reminded her of one of her lecture classes back at the Imperial Institute. The concept of Combat Loss Grouping or CLG- that damage would be spread among the entire lance until one unit fell at which point, they would all fall in quick succession. CLG was evident among the Knights and likewise had affected the Crimson Fists, it had only bitten them harder and bitten them first thanks to Ingrid’s order to focus fire. That lecture felt like it was a million years ago, another life entirely. She walked on, but a voice called causing her to stop and turn.

“Miss Reya!” Magnus Licht, one of Ziska’s junior astechs ran up and presented a thermos along with a freshly liberated pack of wafers from the haul. “Brought you some tea, ma’am. Thought you’d probably be exhausted.” He was young, arrogant and interested in moving up the tech ranks as fast as possible. Reya represented a direct path of knowledge for him to ascend; that and the fact that she was considerably easier on the eyes than Ziska’s chief technician, Benidito Davids.

Thanks…” Reya replied, not really in the mood for the younger man’s ass-kissing after just being nearly blown up, but accepted the items nonetheless. It would save her another stop. “Where’s Ziska? Is she okay?

“Already at the debrief,” Licht replied. “Doc Yuri had to threaten her with a sedative to get her to sit still. She-”

“Holy shit! It’s a whole pallet of Fiesta Pail!” An excited voice declared among the din of movement around the convoy’s unloading crew. A raucous clamor of voices arose in response and Licht appeared torn on what to do next.

Reya looked past him momentarily at the feverish work already underway at Ziska’s Raven.“If you don’t get back on that mech, Davids will have your ass.” She said flatly.

“Uhh… Right!” Licht stammered. He backed away before turning into a half sprint. “I’ll catch up with you later!”


There was an open spot right between Ziska and Tarak and Reya ungracefully plopped down between them, far too tired to care about etiquette. She winced a bit as she examined Ziska’s bandages. “Are you okay?” She was pretty sure she already knew the answer. The newly opened bottle of Tikinov Vodka pretty much indicated Ziska was where she wanted to be, but it felt cold not to ask. The Raven pilot was her last remaining best friend and they had nearly lost her in the same way as Lena.

@Abstract Proxy
Reya Wyatt

Even strapped in securely, the last explosion had nearly lifted her out of her seat and she was sure the large wheels of the APC had momentarily left the ground from the blast force. Barely after she could even begin to reconcile this new horror, there was a new sound: rain. Pounding and torrential rain that washed over the lightly armored hull with such volume that all chatter within the small vehicle was ceased as the chassis lumbered and maneuvered towards the rally point as speedily as its driver dared. It was like a great curtain being pulled by some invisible hand over a small scene in her life that had brought her closer to death than she had ever been. The dim lights in the small space flickered over the rougher terrain and Reya, all adrenaline within herself completely spent, felt like she was being rocked to sleep in stark exhaustion. Within a few kilometers she was out and her head fell over like a ragdoll on Corporal Tucker’s shoulder.


A gentle shrug woke her and she could see the other ‘Boys calmly preparing to disembark as her eyes slowly blinked open. Other voices could be heard outside amid the echoing rumble of a closed atmosphere.They were back at the cave and the stiffness in her neck ached badly. She massaged one hand over it beneath her hair and tried rotating her head around slowly. So tired she had been, that she hadn’t even loosened the belts and her shoulders and waist likewise ached from being held firmly in place. As she drowsily moved to unbuckle herself, Corporal Tucker stood up to fall in line with the rest of the company under Sgt Dalton’s command. She could hear the big Sergeant’s booming voice outside without even a hint of fatigue. He sounded the same as when they had departed. Tucker gave a small nod as they filed out and she was left alone.

Her hands moved slowly. Even though she had apparently slept for the vast majority of the return, she didn’t feel refreshed at all. The loose belts thunked against the hard seat and she let out a long sigh that dropped her shoulders.

Never in her life had she been so terrifyingly afraid. When they had fled the capital, she could at least see the threat and there was an idea of safety with the others and a tangible goal of escape. Even then, somewhere deep down, as arrogant as it felt to think, she didn’t believe they’d get her- and she was right, but the raid was completely different. Trapped inside a thin hull of metal, completely blind to the outside where a ferociously determined enemy had sought her violent death, her entire life had come down to random chance. Reya Wyatt, citizen of the Draconis Combine, heir daughter of Wyatt Interstellar, graduate of the Imperial Institute, dead on the backwater world of Espia where she had given up a bright future, voluntarily, to play war with a bunch of mercenaries.

She caught herself staring blankly.

Glancing outside, no one had yet noticed her with the lumbering arrival of the mechs. Reality was setting back within her mind and she immediately felt darkly regretful of the selfish thoughts. Still, as she looked at the ramp some part of her knew that she was now different from when she had stepped onboard.

REYA!” Sunny shouted gleefully, running with arms wide. Reya Reya Reya, REYAREYAREYA REEEEEEE-YAAAAAAA! The young girl nearly took Reya off her feet and she dropped the case containing her drone on the cave floor. For a few seconds she didn’t speak and just held the embrace a little longer and a little closer. It was the same way Sunny often greeted Lena upon her return from the field and in some way, Reya felt like it restored her some measure of humanity.

Did you get to do anything cool?! Sunny asked excitedly looking up.

Reya looked around briefly, still holding her arms around the girl. They were two supply trucks short. One of the missing told her exactly what the violent explosion had been before the rain and she shook her head slowly. Four people lost that could have just as well been her. At least the portable fusion reactor that she and Dalton had liquidated survived and there was already a crowd gathering around the unexpected prize. “Not really this time” She said, immediately seeing it wasn’t the recounting that Sunny was hoping for. “It was just-” Her voice trailed off when she spotted Pops’ ragged guitar. “Was he playing that depressing music again?"

Oh my God, YES. He wouldn’t stop!" Sunny proclaimed with a dramatic measure of depleted ten-year-old patience. “I told him, I knew you’d be back, but he said it would be a jinx!

Reya shrugged wearily. “Maybe he was right…” The exchange was cut short as she watched Dr. Yuri and one of her assistants hurriedly making their way to Ziska’s stricken Raven.

Is miss Ziska gonna be alright?” Sunny asked, genuinely concerned. Even her young and inexperienced eyes could tell the Raven in particular had taken a colossal pounding.

I think so…" But she wasn’t sure. Even injured, Ziska had managed to pilot the small mech all the way back, through a storm, with no problem. Reya wanted to go over, but knew better. Like herself, Dr. Yuri was a professional and she would only be in the way, especially with an energetic and inquisitive child in tow. She grabbed Sunny’s hand and picked up the drone case once more, “C’mon, I need to turn over all the footage my drone captured, after it’s copied, you can fly it around the cave all you want.
Reya & The ‘Boys

Green Knights, this is Gawain Actual…Hostile mechs inbound, rendezvous at nav-point Echo! Repeat, hostile mechs inbou--

As soon as Sergeant Dalton heard Gaiwan’s voice, he knew it had to be bad news. He shook his head and stood up as the APC rocked underneath him, steadying himself with an overhead handgrip. Speaking with his booming tone both on their channel and to the men of Alpha and Bravo Company right in front of him who had all heard the Colonel’s message same as him. “Got work ladies!

In the second APC with Charlie and Delta Company, Reya had heard the message as well.

What did he say?!” She gasped, eyes wide. No one answered, but they had all set into a seemingly well-rehearsed plan of action. Two large cases were brought down from the bulkheads of the APC, nearly as tall as she was, but she wasn’t interested. She knew what she had heard.

Dalton opened the hatch on top of the APC and stuck his head out just in time to watch the Crimson Fists darting for the column and the first volley of LRMs obliterate one of the haulers not far behind him. He recoiled slightly resting on his elbows like a tank commander and surveyed the rapidly evolving carnage. “Son of a bitch,” He growled and brought his binoculars up. In the far distance was the unmistakable form of what he knew to be a Longbow. It had been a while since he had seen one and he had nearly forgotten what a bizarrely inhuman silhouette they presented. The enemy pilot’s taunting words broke through the open channel and Dalton’s lips twisted in disgust. He turned and barked down the hatch behind him. “Bring me the talkin’ stick!” He tilted his head slightly to speak clearly into the mic against the rush of outside air. “On deck, ‘Tuck.

The ground beneath Charlie and Delta’s APC rumbled like they were driving across a bass drum. Reya was white with fear and gripped Corporal Tucker’s uniform so hard she could feel her manicured nails pinching through the fabric of his sleeve and into her palm. Hearing Dalton’s orders, he put one hand over her wrist firmly. “Be right back,” He said, speaking as if he were addressing a small child. He reached past her as he got up and tightened the buckles in her seat making sure she was secure. “Just gotta take care of somethin’.”

Reya felt the rough texture of his BDU drop away from her grasp. She was too terrified to protest.

The Talking Stick was Sergeant Dalton’s favorite Inferno missile launcher and the words were haphazardly scribbled along the side of the tube in a white paint marker that had become worn over time and over many launches. A member of Alpha Company passed the long cylinder up the ladder until it lifted up from his hands in Dalton’s vice-like grasp.

The moving battle continued to erupt around him as Dalton hefted the launcher up through the hatch, sitting it as gently as he could on top of the APC as it bucked and rolled over the uneven terrain beneath him. He shook his head and steadied himself with one hand while locking his legs against the ladder beneath his boots. It wasn’t going to be an easy shot. He glanced back at Charlie and Delta’s APC a few lengths behind them. Corporal Tucker was in place and shouldering his launcher. As the ‘Boys best sharpshooter, Tucker was also their steadiest hand. Dalton slammed his armored gauntlet angrily on the roof of the APC. “Keep this damn thing steady!” He roared at the driver knowing full well the man behind the controls was doing his level best and was most definitely as scared shitless as everyone else, but Dalton just needed a patch of flat land and a couple seconds.

The Jenner passed by close along with the mangled Wolfhound. Both presented good targets but the terrain was too rough and he could barely get the launcher shouldered quick enough. They were gone before he could flip open the targeting screen and he cursed a long line of expletives as the motion beneath him seemed to get worse instead of better, like the driver had plowed right through a ditch. A second flight of LRMs closed in as he readied his aim. He paused to watch the arcs come in, knowing for the moment the convoy wasn’t being targeted by their trajectory, but seeing Ziska’s Raven get hammered, he knew which Crimson mech would have to take a lesson from the Stick. Unfortunately, with the Raven’s slim profile and agility, it would probably be the hardest shot of the three- but they didn’t have a choice. The Knights wouldn’t endure another volley and the next one could likely come for the unarmored convoy. He took a deep breath and shouldered the barrel snugly as the mech’s bird-like nose came around, sprinting away from Ziska and telling him which way to lead it. He activated the targeting computer.

The rotating crosshairs on the small screen snapped into an instant lock. For a split-second he didn’t believe it. It had to be a malfunction, but then he saw it.

Tucked into the side of the torso was Ziska’s NARC beacon.

Dalton didn’t question good fortune any further and squeezed the trigger. The missile angrily roared out the tube next to him, flying almost completely straight and true, barely correcting itself along its suicidal trajectory towards the beacon. He realized, as it soared away and the wash of heat from the blast passed over him, that in all his battles, he’d never once hooked an inferno shot to a beacon planted by a mech. It was the first time… and about as soon as that thought crossed his mind, Corporal Tucker’s shot came rocketing overhead, just as murderous in its intent.
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