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2 mos ago
If this is your first night at Waffle House, you have to fight.
6 mos ago
I'll never quit this hell site.
10 mos ago
The streets are safe again thanks to Status Bar.
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11 mos ago
Just go to Waffle House after midnight if you want to learn more about combat.
1 yr ago
Do you like Phil Collins?


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Aroxy watched Tarak’s Phoenix Hawk dance out of the way just in time for the inset barrel of the Hunchback’s AC20 to be pointed straight at them.


Merry took it right on the chin and it was like being smashed by a massive hammer that rattled the crew’s teeth, but the massive tank took it like a wave crashing against a pier. The lights and sensor screens inside the hull flickered briefly, but everything was holding, having absorbed the blast completely through her armor. She is angry. Aroxy thought to himself as he looked back up through the periscope, his view slightly marred by black, scorched soot from the explosion. The Hunchback attempted a kick towards Tarak, but missed and now they were barrel to barrel again, even closer than before, like two battleships in the stories of old and it was time to remind that stocky little bastard about the pecking order of AC20 shooters on the mountain.

“I’m gonna kill that son of a bitch.” Takka growled through gritted teeth. Aroxy wasn’t entirely sure if his gunner was referring to Tarak or the Crimson Fist pilot.

“FIRE!” Aroxy barked.

The answer of the Von Luckner’s cannon barked back through the pass and the tank shuttered as the high powered shell roared out of the barrel back at the Hunchback.

“Missiles!” Aroxy commanded again. “Give him both racks, Helma.” He knew again. He didn’t have to specify which. The direct hit from the enemy mech had the crew dialed up to eleven. It was real for them. No scratched paint, dancing around, showboating or giving speeches. Helma slammed the launch controls for both the Von Luckner’s short range batteries at the same time sending an angry cloud of missiles right behind Takka’s shot out of the main gun. “Keep an eye on that Crusader, Helma.” Aroxy said scanning, eyes darting fast, assessing, prioritizing. He didn’t have time to notice whatever had transpired as the Firestarter fell, but he was most definitely trying to keep the Knights’ more abused mech jocks in the fight. They needed to move. “Takka, shift left, make ready to fire again, don’t block the TAG beam.” He said watching Ziska’s battered Raven skittering by with an arm missing, but still keeping its nearly invisible TAG beam trained. He could hear Ansel working, knowing just by the sound of his loader’s movements where he was in the reload as he felt the tracks begin to bite in opposite directions and rotate the hull.
Jonathan McCord

Jon had piloted the machine beneath him almost his entire life, since he was tall enough to reach the pedals. Only his time in the infantry and as a regular in the Taurian Defense Force had separated him from Ossie’s cockpit. It was more than enough time combined with experience to know the feel of battle reverberating up through the ground long before he entered sensor range. The footing under the Marauder’s angular gait was treacherous even for a standard walker and he had to be patient with his own sense of urgency as several steps swung the weapon pods over nothing but empty chasms of rock and icy fog below. The wind blew harder and the snow picked up the closer he got, having left the regular trail some time ago. He wasn’t long on Espia, far before the coup, that he’d taken time to get to know the pass as a part of his territory under Cassandra’s contract as well as a shortcut that would make for an easy place to get lost. The battlemech stepped carefully, as if examining its footing cautiously under the reins of its rider. A few more twists and he would be there. A forceful wind blew up underneath the seventy-five ton machine enough to give him pause and remind him there was still one more point of business to handle.

Considering what he had learned about Gaius Wayne and his company, he was fairly confident the Colonel ran a high level of Opsec despite the flamboyant attitudes of many of his employees. Standard practice in any regular outfit was never to use the same signals plan twice so the frequency sets he’d been given at the dam engagement were likely useless at this point and he’d be talking to nothing but static. However, he did know how much the Colonel liked to direct battle from the ancient Mobile HQ he’d seen when he met the Knights back in the northern mountain. Assuming they had their antenna up, which he was sure they did, he needed to let them know of his approach before his again unknown IFF triggered a hail of fire from both sides when he arrived on the scene. Jon’s knowledge of the pass gave him a pretty good idea where the Colonel would have parked the ungainly vehicle after navigating the routes available to wheeled platforms. All he had to do was point a VHF radio burst in the right direction and hope he got an answer. He wasn’t worried about anyone intercepting the transmission. There wouldn’t be anyone crazy enough to be perched, freezing their ass off at just the right time to catch the transmission let alone understand it or further, do anything about it.

Morse code, for the few that still knew it, remained a slick and easy way to put data in the air, particularly after the devastation of the Succession Wars and the general destruction of most high technology from the old days. Jon couldn’t brag about being particularly skilled, but as a recon infantryman he knew enough to satisfy the squad comms geek. As he hit a switchback in the trail with a broad shot up the mountain to where he reckoned the Colonel and his staff, of what looked like kids, would probably have the large vehicle parked. He tapped a few commands into the comms deck and brought up a list of quick brevity codes as the antenna went up on the back of the mech’s torso. He set the lines to repeat on the higher end of the spectrum and fired off the broadcast on repeat leaving a break between bursts:


With any luck, they would be listening, granted he was correct in the direction he aimed the transmission. A simple spectrum analysis would tell them what frequency he was on and give them a chance to answer and coordinate. He figured the kids would be lost to his subterfuge, but the Colonel would likely understand the use of the code and the seldom monitored frequency range.

“Fucking shit, is this a mech lance or debate team?!” Helma growled. The LRM rack flashed green on her display indicating the reload was completed and with Ziska’s NARC newly attached to the Crusader, she didn’t hesitate to put another salvo in the air. The missiles roared out the rack, arcing vertically in another processional line that went right after the beacon.

“Holy shit, does he ever shut up?” Ansel said, hurriedly finishing the loading of a fresh armor piercing round for Merry-Go-Round’s main gun as Family Man walked up nearby and the Shadow Hawk’s steps shook the ground beneath them.

Aroxy didn’t have much to say, but he calmly reached up and turned off the open band scan about halfway through Raven’s speech as he watched the Crimson Fists’ response to the initial ambush through the periscope. He shook his head a little at the constant talking of the Knights. These mechwarriors weren’t nearly scared enough and there was still a strong possibility that they could lose this fight. A group of mercs capable of the slaughter for which the Fists had just engaged were not to be underestimated and were far beyond haughty lecture.

“Somebody needs to put his ass on decaf.” Takka said right after the radio went silent. He was just about lined up again on the Hunchback and made a few last adjustments on the shot right as Ansel announced the gun was ready with a shout.

Aroxy’s face was stern and unemotional as both the mangled Ostroc and missile-scarred Raven retreated in front of the Von Luckner’s barrel. It wasn’t the ambush he would have planned, but Daschke was leading the element and this was the way she wanted it. He wanted to reposition, however he needed Takka to get his confidence back and putting more variables into the gunnery equation would only make it more difficult. It was a risk worth taking he had decided in less than the blink of an eye. They were still the Knights’ overall hardest hitter and his gunner’s aim had the potential to make the difference. “Check that wind, Takka.” He said, observing the black smoke rolling from the exposed arm socket on Susser Todd.

“Got it, Cap.” There was the confidence of a fresh shell in the barrel within his voice. Despite the calamity of their first salvo, he felt ready this time and his mind repeatedly traced the arc of the last shell through the air compensating in the angle of the barrel towards the broadside of the Hunchback’s main weapon.

Aroxy was right on the verge of giving the FIRE command when Tarak’s Phoenix Hawk came blazing right across Merry-Go-Round’s line of fire.

“WHAT THE FUCK!” Takka howled, jumping up in his straps at the sight of the humanoid mech vaulting right in front of his shot on the Hunchback. “TELL THAT STUPID COCKSUCKER TO GET OUTTA THE WAY!” He roared as Helma chimed in with a similar string of colorful epitaphs directed at the Mechwarrior. She could see the whole thing from her viewport.

Aroxy grit his teeth, even more glad though that he had switched off the radio. Like the enemy before, his own side had committed the classical Mech Jock gaffe of forgetting about the ground armor.
Jonathan McCord

It didn’t take him long to pick up the trail. Like most outfits, it was a single file line to break up the mark of their prints in the Espian dirt, hide their numbers and make identification harder for scouts. Unlike ground vehicles with non-directional tires or tracks however, Battlemechs could never disguise which direction they were traveling. Jon’s eyes constantly scanned the expansive glass of the cockpit. Even though the territory north of Nui Awa wasn’t completely indian country, he regularly zig-zagged in his path over the Crimson Fists’ trail and kept his torso moving to keep his cockpit from being a steady target for an idling Manticore or Bulldog tucked into a treeline that might want to get fresh. The grassy plains thumped gently under Ossie’s full stride and the mountain range steadily filled the horizon in front of him. The trail ahead was familiar territory and good hunting ground. Plenty of cover and lots of snow and ice to keep the guns cool. He knew the Knights were going to catch them first, but what that encounter would look like when he got there wasn’t a guarantee and an exfil over the same open country, should they not be successful, was going to be a real shitty deal. He really wanted a cigarette.

As the terrain slowly elevated and shifted from soft plains grass to juts of sharp rock, he eased into a trot as the profile of the Fists’ trail diverged and they stopped for a moment. Ossie’s angular form rotated slowly as it hovered like a bloodhound at the conflagration that had apparently taken place prior to the ascent. Jon’s glance narrowed and he quietly named off the machines. “Firestarter…” The light mech's jaunty little legs took the lead position. “Crusader… Hunchback” The mediums fanned out on opposing sides. Footpad identification was standard training. Somewhere he had a very worn TDF issued stack of playing cards that had helped commit the images to memory over a multitude of poker games. “Whammer…” His brow arched a bit as another set emerged that hadn’t been in the datapad briefing. “...And a Panther” He looked around a bit further for a moment, pulling himself up in the straps to study the ground. “Why did you stop?” His eyes began to carefully follow the trail of the Warhammer as it appeared to turn and double back towards Nui Awa. Shit.. His eyes followed the tracks as they led away. The thought of pursuit crossed his mind, but he kept looking for another clue as to why the lance had stopped.

The rendezvous had been quick for sure, not even long enough to fully settle the tracks and just enough for the ‘Hammer to divert and for another to join in as a sub. Jon’s lips curled a bit. The birdlike prints of a Catapult were unmistakable against the muddy rock, joining in from the west. His eyes followed up the mountain as the lance rejoined in file and proceeded up the pass. Losing a Warhammer but gaining a Catty and a Panther, wasn’t exactly a break in their favor, however in the narrow lanes of the peak it would be harder for the lights to stretch their legs and for the ‘Cat to keep a sensor lock. The missile carrier instantly made him think about Marit first, but he knew at least two of the Knights’ mechs had jump jets. He settled back and throttled up; the machine beneath him leaning into the run, almost sensing the conclusion of the pursuit through his thoughts in the neurohelmet. He knew the Fists weren’t familiar with the pass as he was and would take the regular route before they risked a fall, but a few careful steps and he could save some time and meet them with a clear shot at their flank. He glanced up at the regular gray soup of Espian clouds and then at the time as he started the ascent. A break in weather could give him a glimmer of sunlight to his back, but he prepared himself to come upon the worst as he moved up the trail.

“It’s colder than a witch’s tit in a brass bra.” Takka grumbled. He again ran his gloved hands up and down his arms and watched his breath dissipate in front of him. Even though he was triple layered through extra gloves and jacket over his regular crewman’s fatigues, it was freezing inside the Merry-Go-Round. He fidgeted in his seat yet again trying to create even the slightest modicum of heat from friction. After they had positioned the Von Luckner and shut down, the lingering heat from the tank’s environmental controls hadn’t lasted long. Aroxy was initially concerned about the prospect of their wide and fresh seventy-five ton tracks being visible, but the snow and the wind through the pass, the same that now gripped them in a shell of ice, had done a fair enough job of covering them up. The backup batteries kept only the most basic of systems alive within the tank’s hull and he checked the readouts between glances up through the periscope.

“Speaking of witches, I hope the main gun fires.” Ansel quipped.

“Cap let the dragon lady have her way with Merry,” Takka continued through chattering teeth though he defiantly rubbed the control column with a gloved hand. “I can tell she feels violated.”

“She should be good and angry then.” Helma chimed in from the auxiliary fire controls. Like the others, save for Aroxy, she hugged herself through multiple layers of heavy fatigues, lowering her helmeted head down into her collar.

“If yall don’t shut up, I’m gonna make you sit outside.” Aroxy growled. He placed his hand on the tank’s hull, feeling as much as listening through his own cold breaths and the howl of the wind outside. Moments passed again in silence until he felt the slightest tremor through the cold steel. The sensation in his fingertips grew until he was sure of the familiar march of battlemechs. “They’re comin, eyes up.’” He wasn’t in the mood for the crew's regular mischief today. The dynamic was much simpler now: kill the enemy, with prejudice. Not the desperation of the stockpile raid or the confused shooting gallery of the dam defense. The mountain pass wasn’t tank country, but was most definitely ambush country and he aimed to even the score for Merry’s drive gear getting mangled the last time they met the Fists.

Right on cue, the Firestarter emerged through howling sheets of gray and white with the lumbering silhouettes of its cohorts joining in shortly behind as well as another light mech, a Panther.

“Ohh, here kitty-kitty.” Takka grimaced at the additional mech in the lineup and sat up in his seat completely forgetting about the cold and looking through the reticle for the main gun as the unknowing figure of the slender mech passed through the elevation and range hash marks. They were still too far out for a high percentage shot, but lobbing a shell wasn’t out of the question.

“Missiles. Stream fire.” Aroxy said. He didn’t have to specify which missiles and Helma was ready by the secondary fire controls. “HE in the barrel.” Ansel nodded. Everyone understood. The Captain wasn’t going to waste a precious AP round on a lobbed shot, but they were most definitely going to send one down range. All that needed to happen now was for Daschke to spring the trap.

“No Warhammer?” Helma said, squinting through her own narrow glass on top of the hull.

“No.” Aroxy replied stoically. Even the single word carried a note of unspoken concern, but it was too late to worry about it.

“They haven’t spotted our position yet?” Ansel asked. Being the only one without a view outside, he was left to his imagination at what the others were seeing. Such was the life of a loader.

Aroxy watched as the Firestarter drew ever closer to Ramrod. He shook his head a bit. If nothing else, she had nerve. “They’re gonna get an education in about ten seconds.”

The furor started with a cloud of snow and light erupting from Susser Todd’s position. The heat emanating off of the mech’s opening volley instantly turned the snow around its hot barrels into steam as the beams found purchase into the utterly stunned light mech before it. Aroxy bit his lip as a flight of LRMs came sailing overhead from the other members of the Knights’ lance, not remembering to give their scout a chance to train her TAG beam or land a NARC beacon. Despite this, there were good hits and there also was also a sudden noticeable rise in temperature within the Von Luckner’s hull as the crew heard the melee begin. This ranged fighting was not their strength, but Aroxy remembered how the Fists’ had foolishly overlooked the Merry-Go-Round during their last engagement. As Alleycat’s Raven sprung to life seemingly out of nowhere, he saw the faint RF signal light for her TAG beacon light up among the basic sensors in front of him. What was even better, was watching her NARC beacon seek and angrily take hold of the Firestarter. It was almost a poetic reversal of their first encounter.

“Reactor, now!” Aroxy barked. Takka’s thumb had been hovering over the large starter button and the tank’s reactor ignited almost as soon as the order was in the air. The full array of systems came online just as he shouted: “Fire!”

Helma’s LRMs roared out of the launcher in a processional line or “stream” rather than taking flight as a singular cloud. The launch setting was preferred when taking on large, slow moving targets like battlemechs as the line of missiles more or less fell in a cascading column towards a mech’s center mass, pounding into the same point repeatedly rather than spreading over the whole of the target’s armor. Conversely, smaller vehicles or agile mechs could more easily dodge the volley.

Aroxy’s eyes immediately shifted to the Hunchback, watching the stunned surprise of its pilot translate through the sudden hesitation and confusion in its step. It was still out of range, but he knew the pilot would more than likely fire out of reaction at what was directly in front of it before taking the time to realize the scope of the ambush. The “boombox” on the medium mech’s shoulder looked like the side of a barn through the periscope, nearly full broadside, but still a difficult shot at distance even for an experienced AC20 gunner. However, Daschke was the tip of the spear and they needed to give her a chance to continue to press the attack. “Takka! Hit that son of a bitch right in the ‘box.”

“On it!” Takka answered. Again the action came nearly in sync with the words. The turret’s drive gear whirred, rotating the barrel towards the Hunchback just as the Firestarter took another pelting of LRMs. The crew were thinking and moving as trained- as one. He could hear the LRM pod reloading and instinctively knew Helma would fire again just as soon as the cycle finished. Takka seemed to be happily talking to himself as the Merry-Go-Round’s gun hovered over the Hunchback and fidgeted vertically as Takka adjusted for the range and wind. “This one’s goin’ downtown!” He cackled and stomped the pedal. The tank recoiled from the shot, shaking off a cloud of snow that had settled on the hull as the sound of the AC20 billowed through the Hiyan-Chia Pass.

“HOLY SHIT!” Takka and Helma said the words simultaneously.

The shell howled out of the barrel like a banshee with such velocity that the drifting snow bands curled and whipped behind it in ghostly wisps. It streaked over the chasm and just clipped the top of the Hunchback’s main gun enough to draw a visible spark along the leading edge of the weapon before it angrily carried on over the far distant chasm behind the Fists’ lance and buried itself in the side of the mountain in a great plume of orange fire that caused a wave of snow to fall over the impact.

“Fucking black magic bitch!” Takka cursed. He frantically began adjusting the sights to compensate for the stunningly noticeable increase in muzzle velocity.

“You fucking missed!” Helma howled.

“I wasn’t expecting it to shoot that hard!

“Load AP” Aroxy barked. “Probably don’t need to put so much arc on it, Takka.” He looked hard through the periscope. While he appreciated the newfound ferocity in Merry’s main weapon, he wished they’d had time for a few test shots to allow Takka to adjust to the changes. It was like handing their cleanup hitter a new bat when the bases were loaded. “That was your practice swing, next one needs to be in the bleachers.” He said as Ansel hurriedly ejected the spent casing and began loading an AP round. “AP’s gonna be heavier, down angle some more.”

“I got it ‘Cap,” Takka tilted his head up to press his eyes harder into the rangefinder while his hands made a few more small corrections into the fire control. “Just not used to shooting a large laser, I’m a class twenty gunner.”
I have thought about this for a long time and could never really think of a way to make it work. It either becomes a tedious game of dice and stats or it goes nowhere. There's just no way to effectively make racing the centerpiece of an interactive story- at least not one that I found appealing as someone who follows a lot of racing.

Judging by the replies and the system you have in mind, it seems like you are looking for something maybe closer to car combat which may work with what you have put together. Depending on what you want in your story, racing has a lot of variables: the weather, track temp, driver ability/fatigue, tire performance, car type. The list goes on and on and that is what always kept me from really considering it. Once you start putting stats on one thing, it just leads to another.

The best advice I could give is that you'd have to be fairly discerning in your recruiting and then see how much dice the players are interested in before you invest more time. Depending on the interest you get, go from there. Some people are going to want to write more and some are going to want to roll more. The only thing that ever really felt "fair" to me was to roll for the true variables in any race: the weather, caution flags and mechanical failures. There are others, but those apply no matter the discipline. To determine a "winner" and assuming most drivers/cars are somewhat evenly balanced you could let the players just roll maybe three times (race start, halfway point and finish) for who has position and then let the writing take it up from there.

It's a rabbit hole for sure, so good luck to you.

Reya Wyatt

Reya had to turn her head away from the holovid. Even before the most gruesome clips aired, she knew where it was leading. Instantly she was reminded of when she’d gone with the raiding party to the supply depot and seen firsthand what the ‘Boys had done to the NPDRE defenders. That was at least a fight among soldiers, no matter how outmatched the sides might have been, however she could vividly remember the blood splatter and twisted forms of those who had tried to oppose them. It didn’t take a lot for her mind to build a ghastly mental picture of what happened to the townspeople. Like them, she’d had to run for her life before and visualizing herself as one of them was enough to make her stomach lurch to the point where she thought she was going to be sick. Women and children mowed down and trod over like insects no different than when she had grabbed up Sunny and ran for it. They hadn’t even been able to save Diego and the thought of his innocent face still cut her heart to the core the same way every single time.

Never had she seen the Colonel so visibly upset and it reminded her of his actual nature as a fighting man and not so much the fatherly-type he’d sort of become in the last few weeks of their desperation. She was a little bit afraid to look at him for fear of perhaps doing something to make the situation worse by not being able to stomach what was propagated against the Knights. Ironically it reminded her of being a child when her father was particularly upset, so she mostly stood behind Tarak and hid herself from his gaze. The Mechwarrior’s stance was firm with no sign of apprehension without even a question. It was what she liked about him most. It gave her some strength and she took a breath and stood a little straighter holding on to his arm at the elbow. Save for maybe Raven, there was something about the rest of them she could never understand about their ability, for the most part, to remove the humanity from a situation. She knew they probably felt it, hopefully, even Ziska, but the only emotions she could observe and sense were directed at being framed whereas she could only see the people in the video.

Then came the news of her role in the plan. A part of her wished so badly not to hear her name. Just when she was getting back into doing what she was best at, she would be pulled away again and the assignment gave her an uneasy and foreboding feeling that she hadn’t expected. She was comfortable representing the Knights to just about anyone and understood the supreme level of trust the Colonel was placing on her shoulders; however, Comstar was never an audience she had envisioned. Images of cloaked figures, ritual incantations and a feigned technological theocracy flashed through her mind along with how universally just about everyone she’d ever met couldn’t stand them. At least like the, “holy Blake”, she was an engineer and maybe that would count for something in their eyes, but she doubted it. She let out a small sigh and looked down at her dirty ensemble realizing she’d have to get cleaned up again in a hurry. Sensing Tarak’s gaze she glanced up at him, not really feeling anything from Ingrid’s pontifications and knowing he didn’t really either. The Colonel’s words ran through her mind. It was going to be an ugly fight. A brawl against murderers.

She touched his face and looked at him, eye to eye. “Come back with your shield, or on it.

Jonathan McCord

At the outset of the coup, Jon knew his relationship with the Crimson Fists was destined to go only a very few ways and after seeing the holovid footage and the grandstanding thereafter he was even more satisfied with his decision to ignore their invitations and keep that particular path mostly closed. Since the beginning, he afforded them respect as soldiers and they seemed to respond in equal measure despite his loyalty to Cassandra. Merc life wasn’t often glamorous. Sometimes you held the whip and sometimes you held the post. He’d been on both sides of the equation and understood the roles could reverse rapidly- as the Green Knights unfortunately found out. Outnumbered more than ten to one, he made peace with and reasoned if he ever had to throw down with the Fists, they at least weren’t going to get the jump on him the same way and he was going to go to Valhalla hauling brass like no one they’d ever seen. His face was its regular stoic mask as the thoughts passed. When he first considered his relationship with the other merc squad, it was also under the conclusion that he was dealing with a professional adversary, and they certainly were, however the holovid “production” that had been broadcast on endless loop all morning indicated they were something else as well.

It didn’t make a lot of sense and it felt like something to which he wasn’t privy, had apparently made Espia very personal between the Fists and the Knights for them to commit to action that just seemed… desperate. He shook his head and rubbed the stubble on his chin as Cassandra’s underlings moved about her office level bringing items to her attention and then scurrying away on some new errand. He normally didn’t play these scenarios out in his head. Politics, espionage and propaganda were not his wheelhouse. Maybe he had overestimated them, both in projection and principles. The thought continued to gnaw at him. A side that was “winning” didn’t need to stage a frame-up against a merc company that barely had a complete lance. He knew if he had their resources, he could have tracked down the Knights long ago, as he’d personally demonstrated, and over a long enough timeline, even if the Fists’ couldn’t force a conclusive battle, attrition would favor the greater force if the Knights couldn’t secure a way off-planet. He shook his head a bit again, slower and more contemplative before dismissing the whole mental exercise. He wasn’t sure about any of it and it didn’t matter. The die was cast and the final path was becoming much more clear.

A soldier was something of a medium between the endpoints of policeman and criminal. Decisions had to be made, often in precious seconds that could mean self-preservation or death. To become judge, jury and executioner, or murderer, over and over. A warrior made peace with that as he’d done his whole life as a fighter. He’d seen innocent people killed before, but never flagrantly or on camera for the purpose of deception. Killing people was hard, or it was supposed to be for a man that kept himself centered in the balance. Having served in the infantry, he recognized being in a machine took an element of the personal out of the equation, but he told himself, in his soul, when it got too easy to pull the trigger that it would be time to stop. A still fresh image of the routed Heavenly Sword fighters flashed through his memory. Defeated men shockingly broken in body and spirit all at once- but they’d at least had the choice to put their faith on the line in the contest… then he again thought about the footage from the holovid, how there was even a certain flair about the presentation of the Firestarter as it scorched over unsuspecting people running for their lives.

Jonathan, are you alright?” Cassandra’s voice asked poignantly.

Though his face was neutral, Jon noticed he was gripping one arm of the chair so hard the fabric cracked under his grip, fraying it from the polished brass buttons that ornately held it. She looked at him from behind her desk, over the rim of her glasses. “Yeah, sorry.

Cassandra blinked, “It’s fine, we’ll get another one.

She had summoned him to her office building in North Nui Awa not long after he’d just made it in the night before. Caesar finished up the post-op and reload and he headed back out- meaning he’d only just missed the Crimson Fists’ lance. The multitude of scenarios for that encounter played in his head several times as well. Cassandra pushed a datapad across her desk that Jon knew was intended for his eyes only without her having to say a word. She had a look and an aura about her that was different than any other time he’d seen her before. A vengeful energy, like an ancient witch delivering the dispatch of a wraith. A role he accepted as he took the pad also without having to speak.

This intelligence comes from Colonel Wayne and his sources; some of our people in the field have also verified it.

Jon’s glanced narrowed over the text and images as they scrolled under his thumb. “I know this pass.” The projected route of the Crimson Fists’ criminal lance was practically Jon’s backyard, traversing much of the territory still held by Cassandra and AVC properties. It was like handing a fugitive’s torn shirt-sleeve to a bloodhound. He could feel his pulse quicken slightly as he visualized the pursuit.

Colonel Wayne’s forces will be there first in waiting, but you should be able to catch them not long after they find one another. I’m going to be taking a helicopter to the capital. I still have a good relationship with our Precentor. He’s a level man, not a fanatic. He will listen.” She rose and donned a pair of exquisite black leather gloves and collected an equally posh matching purse from behind the desk. Jon stood as another one her staff quickly appeared and brushed by him, placing what looked like a brand new jacket on her shoulders. She came around the desk, stopping briefly to appraise him. Her fingers straightened the worn AVC logo on the hooded sweatshirt she’d given him months ago and evened out the drawstrings. “Go there, kill them.” The words felt new and sharp. This was no longer a protection detail for the company. The players for Espia’s future were putting their cards down and now she was going to place her own.

Yes ma’am.

She looked briefly like she wanted to say something else, but stepped away and was gone.
Reya Wyatt

All of the mechs had a certain personality about them, particularly when broken down to their base components, whether it was a large laser, a missile rack or the delicate arrangement of systems around the gyro designed to interpret the pilot’s sense of balance. Ziska’s Raven still had a sleek “newness” about it despite how ruggedly she treated it while Ingrid’s Ostroc was old and grumpy and seemed to hate everything, including basic maintenance. Both Hawk’s had a similar feel almost like they were brothers. They were soldier’s mechs, agreeable and made to be serviced. They suited Tarak and Raven respectively. Marit’s Archer was similar with a likewise “male” presence that fit its casual nickname, but bigger and stout to carry its payload on the shoulders. At some point in her time with the Knights’ Reya had seen the inner workings of each of them and knew their quirks, however there was one that remained. One she hadn’t managed to get her hands on and the curiosity pecked at the back of her mind for a long time. Now that they were free from the caves and in semi-proper facilities with morale higher than it had been in weeks, it was to see if Aroxy would acquiesce.

Unlike the battlemechs, the Von Luckner was pure machine. Grease, gears and guts fitted together on a Star League assembly line. The complex systems she was used to seeing of feeding ammo and maintaining balance were absent- Even the original autoloader had been removed. The thick aroma of diesel from the backup engine permeated everything inside the turret along with the chemical smell of spent ammunition and the somewhat colorful aroma of the regular crew. However, none of this bothered Reya in the slightest. Long ago she could remember seeing some passing article about “hot rod culture” and how the denizens of that hobby threw away their disposable income souping up land vehicles. The idea didn’t make a lot of sense at the time, but as soon as she stepped down through the hatch and had a look around, it was the first thing that came to mind. Her smile was wide and it unexpectedly felt like coming back to the familiar. She wasn’t a soldier or a spy, she was an engineer. This was correct. Her mind soaked in the machine. The turret was past-due for an overhaul, particularly after the last action and she was going to make sure the next round out of the barrel departed at no less than factory velocity, maybe even a little more.

Tarak’s gifted stereo blasted overhead. In the open air, against the competing noises of the scrapyard, she could turn up the volume much louder than in the caves, loud enough to be heard with the tank’s hatch open. It was warm down in the hull of the machine and her lips mouthed the lyrics as she worked: You gave me fortune, you gave me fame… You gave me power in your god’s name…. Black soot from the main gun smudged her arms and she attempted to carefully wipe away a bead of sweat with the back of her wrist. Their new hosts had provided a proper technician’s coveralls, albeit large, so she didn’t have to ruin any more of her clothes with stains and snags though she had rolled and tied the top half at her waist to give herself more freedom of movement leaving her upper body covered by a black sports bra. Her hair, pulled up in a ponytail, brushed against her back feeling as weighty and laden with perspiration and grime as the rest of her exposed skin, but it was fine. Things were getting better. They were going to get Lena back and they were going to link up with the FPA and they were going to put their enemies in the ground. Not to mention they now had a nuclear warhead. The thoughts were energizing and she nodded to herself that the tides were rapidly beginning to turn.

Someone shut off the music instantly drawing a momentary arched eyebrow of irritation, however the unexpected silence that followed drew her face up towards the hatch in a narrowed glance.

“Meetin’s on sugar-tits.” Takka’s rugged visage popped over the edge of the hatch blotting out the otherwise blue sky above.

Reya stared back blankly at the boney face grinning towards her from above. He offered a slimy hand to help her up the ladder, but she handed him a wrench instead and climbed out.

The outside air felt great, but instantly she recognized the sudden tension in the air and immediately looked first for Sunny, finding some relief when she saw her scurrying across the yard away from a gathering at a holovid.

“Hope ‘Cap knew what he was doin’, lettin’ you service the gun.” Takka said teasingly enough though there was a hint of a jab in the comment.

Just worry about hitting what you’re aiming at.” Reya replied. She pulled off the spent pair of black rubber gloves she’d been wearing and stuffed them in Takka’s chest before wiping away a smudge she could feel on the side of her face and looking for Tarak.

Still holding the wrench, Takka accepted the gloves with toothy chuckle and eased his gaze down Reya’s back while her glance turned toward the Phoenix Hawk. “Some things are hard to miss.”

Reya shook her head and rolled her eyes. Whatever this was about, she wouldn’t mind a small break to stretch her legs a bit and get some fresh air. Another walk, even a short stroll around the mechbays would be perfect. She looked at Tarak for a moment while he didn't notice her, watching him work. As much as she loved Sunny, she hadn’t realized how much she needed some semblance of normal adult interaction that wasn't heavy drinking or military talk. It was almost therapeutic. “What’s going on?

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