(Note: the Mule [seen above] and all the BattleMech illustrations I use in these blog postings are the property of Catalyst Games Labs. I took the images from the most excellent sarna.net Battletech Wiki. I have no claim to any ownership over any of the images and use them for illustration purposes only.)
Looking at my post count, I realize I've now made more blog posts this year than I had in the previous two years combined. I'm a bit surprised that I've managed to continue writing this blog for over four months straight, twice a week.
The Battlecorps stories continue on, but work on the Valiant RPG and the original novel have taken up much of my time this week. I figure most of the weekend will wrap up the Valiant first draft work, and now that I've unraveled the knot on the novel, I can work that alongside the Battlecorps stories.
But back to Running From the Past, Part 8.
Ten minutes later, they had a dozen volunteers, armed and ready to go. Three were assigned to protect the prisoners, while four were sent down to Homer to strengthen the defenses there. That left five ex-prisoners to join Jägare, Takezaki and Reece to continue the takeover of the DropShip.
They went up to the top cargo bay, this one, from the number of bunks, lockers, and personal items scattered around, was used as the quarters for the Brotherhood’s foot soldiers. No one was there and a quick ransacking of the lockers produced a few knives and pistols that were added to the assault team’s equipment.
Jägare spotted some half empty bottles of cheap alcohol in one corner of a bunk. He picked them up and gave them a quick glance before he put them down again and picked up a dirty and greasy blanket. Using his knife, he cut several strips from the blanket and laid them next to the liquor.
“What are you doing?’ Takezaki asked from the other side of the room.
“Makeshift Molotov Cocktails,” Jägare replied, stuffing a strip of blanket down the neck of a liquor bottle. “Not as good as an Inferno round, but it should give the Brotherhood a nasty shock.”
After handing out three of the bottle bombs to the former prisoners and Takezaki, Jägare lead the way up to the next deck. The deck was laid out with one corridor running north-south, another corridor running east-west, all meeting at a central ladder from the deck below. At each end of the north-south corridors, an elevator went up to the deck above, while ladders were at the end of the east-west corridors. The corridors had an air of hard use, unwashed bodies mixing with the smells of grease, tobacco, liquor, and some other smells Jägare recognized as illegal drugs.
Leaving two of the freed slaves in the intersection to watch the elevators and ladders, the rest of the group quickly searched all the deck’s compartments. They found no one on the deck.
“They must all be up there,” the marshal said, pointing a thumb at the ceiling, “waiting for us.”
Jägare scanned the corridor until he saw what he was looking for. The hatch marked was marked, ‘life support.’ A couple of strides took Jägare to it and he quickly unlatched it. “Need a moment,” he said to the Marshal,
“What are you doing?” Takezaki hissed.
“Taking out an insurance plan,” The hunter replied, as he slipped inside. The Marshal watched as Jägare took a brief glance around the small compartment before he stepped forward to a trio of cables near the far wall. His gaze still on the target, Jägare removed several cubes of explosives from his pocket and molded them around the cables. He stuck a detonator in the putty-like explosive, then repeated the process to several circuitry junctions on either side of the cables. After he was done, he looked at Takezaki. “If we fail, this DropShip won’t be going anywhere.”
“You mean to destroy their life support system.”
“Can you think of a better way of stopping them if we fail?”
“But what about all the people below? They’ll be killed as well!”
“Then we’d better be successful in taking this ship then!” Jägare snapped. He then inhaled slowly, fighting down his anger. “Sorry. We have fifteen minutes before these go off. That’s too short a time to launch this ship, even if they started count down procedures right this minute. The second these go off, there’ll be alarms all over the ship. There’s no way they’ll launch then, and by the time they repair this, Marshal Jackson will have the entire Cascade Militia on top of them.”
Takezaaki nodded. “You have a lot of knowledge about sabotage,” he said.
“And I’m using it in a good cause.” Jägare shoved the last of the detonators into the explosive and stepped out into the corridor again. “The bridge is above us, along with every armed member of the Brotherhood that’s left on this ship. A straight out charge up those shafts would be short and bloody – for us. We could wait for the Militia, but we don’t know how long we've got until the rest of the pirates show up. One ‘Mech and several riflemen will not slow a determined rush for them, especially if they’re desperate. Speaking of which....” He took out his radio. “Hunter Three-One to Two-Three. You still there, Homer?”
“Yeah,” Homer replied. “The pirates tried one more time after you left, but I don’t think they’re too eager to try again anytime soon. Thanks for the reinforcements, but they’re a little too eager to kill slavers. They’re standing up and hurling insults at the survivors, trying to piss off what’s left of the camp into making another charge up the ramp so they can kill them.”
“Keep them under control, Homer. If the rest of the Brotherhood show up before we’re done, they’ll have more then enough targets to settle their bloodlust.”
“Understood. Just don’t take too long, all right? I’m getting antsy just sitting here waiting.”
“We’ll try to be as quick as we can. Hunter One-Three out.” Jägare slipped the radio back onto his belt, then froze for a moment.
“What’s wrong?” Takezaki asked.
“I have an idea,” Jägare replied. “Depends on whether or not they've made major changes to the ship’s layout when they started using this DropShip as a slave transport. Anyone here have knowledge of electronics?”
“I do,” Takezaki replied. “I was three-quarters of the way to an electrical engineering degree when I decided to become a Marshal.” Jägare gave him a look of disbelief. The marshal shrugged. “I got bored with school.”
“Better then I hoped,” Jägare replied. “Reece, take everyone else and cover the ladders. Marshal, come with me.”
Jägare lead Takezaki to a hatch some five meters down the corridor from the life support compartment. The heavy hatch opened slowly, as if suffering from disuse. Inside it was dark and quiet. Jägare stepped into the compartment first, followed by Takezaki. “What is this place?” the marshal asked, looking around the room.
It was a plain-looking compartment, just a few consoles, several chairs, and a few blank monitors on the walls. With the exception of a few cigarette butts and a few pieces of trash, there was little evidence that people had been in here for a while. There was a thin layer of dust on the consoles and chairs, adding to the air of disuse.
“Central communications facility,” Jägare replied, striding over to a console. “Since the Mule is a commercial-class DropShip, it needs to communicate with commercial agents and others who have cargo on board. This setup lets the cargo masters to talk to the clients without tying up the ship’s main comm system. It also enables the DropShip to receive updates on market and local conditions that might affect the bottom line.”
“So why are we here?” Takezaki asked.
Jägare reached under a console and flipped a couple of switches and lifted the top of the console. The front of the console top came up slowly, clearly on some hinges, until there was a click and the top stayed up. “What isn’t as well know,” Jägare continued, “is the Mule’s entire communications systems runs right through this console.” He pointed a thumb up. “Including the comm station on the bridge and the internal signal boosters for the personal radios.”
Takezaki’s eyes narrowed as he nodded his head. “You want to cut the ship’s bridge off from the outside world.”
Jägare nodded. “At the very least, it should make it harder to coordinate any attacks with the survivors outside.”
Takezaki stepped over to the console. “What do you want me to do?”
Jägare closed his eyes for a moment, calling on some old memories. “We need to bypass the main comm line at circuits AA-14 and F-2, the secondaries at B-12 and C-11. The internal signal booster can be degraded by removing the Delta and Epsilon chips from circuit TY-3.”
The Marshal nodded. “And the external loudspeakers?” he asked.
Jägare shook his head. “Sorry. I don’t know. We never did cover that in ‘DropShip Sabotage’ class.”
The burly Marshal grinned. “I think I can find it without too much of a problem.”
Reece stuck his head in the compartment. “We’re ready out here,” he said. “We’ll be able to keep them bottled up, but not forever. If they come at us from all four directions at once, well, we’re screwed.”
“They’ll have to climb down the ladders,” Jägare said, removing a small rolled up pouch from a box attached to the console. He rolled it open, revealing a compact tool kit. “The elevators are death traps and they know it. They could try just dropping down the shafts, but unless you know what you’re doing, there’s a good chance you’ll end up with a broken ankle or worse. Doing while someone is shooting at you. . .well, you either have to be highly trained, or insane.”
“Or both,” Takezaki added.
Reece gave them a irritated look. “Well, hurry up,” he said.
“Keep them off our backs,” Jägare directed, “We’ll do the rest.”
It took them ten minutes to locate, test and bypass the circuits for the bridge’s external comm system. They worked in silence, with the exception of asking each other for certain tools from the kit. Finally, Jägare wiped his brow and said, “Done.”
“Good,” Takezaki replied. “First test should be us contacting Marshal Jackson and bring him up to speed.”
“Good idea. Jägare went to the doorway. “Reece!”
“Anything from upstairs?”
“Nope. Quiet as a church. Don’t like it.”
“As long as it stays that way, I can live with it.” Jägare took his radio from his belt. “Homer?”
“Still sitting here,” Homer replied. “At least the captives have stopped baiting the slavers outside. Still too quiet.”
“Stay alert. Out.”
While Jägare was talking to Reece and Homer, the marshal had lowered the console’s top back down and locked it into place. “Here goes,” he said, pressing a few buttons. The console hummed to life. Takezaki adjusted the frequency. “Here you go,” he said, pointing to the mike.
“What?” Jägare asked.
“You talk to Jackson.”
Jägare shook his head. “I’m not a Colonial Marshal. He’s your superior, not mine.”
“But you the run running this team!”
“And it’s your job to keep your superiors informed. Besides, the conversation is likely to be recorded and used in any trial. Who’s going to sound better when it’s played back in court, a Colonial Marshal, or a no-name Hunter?”
“But I’m not leading this team!”
“As far as those people on the deck below us below are concerned, you are.”
Takezaki gave him a long hard look. “You did that on purpose, didn't you? You set me up as the leader to those people.”
“Yes, but only because those people are more likely to believe you then me.”
“But we’re lying to them!”
“So?” Jägare replied. “As a Marshal, you automatically command respect the first time someone meets you. Doesn’t matter what your age is, your looks or your actual competence at doing the job. All those people who saw you just now will see and know you as the upholder of law and justice out here in a region that most citizens of the Inner Sphere couldn't find on a map. The only lie we’re telling them is that you’re in charge, and that’s is a small one. Sometimes, lies are the best weapon you have, or the only ally.”
Takezaki sighed and spoke into a mike “Marshal One-Six, this is Marshal One-Five, can you hear me?”
“Marshal One-Six here,” Kove Jackson replied. “What in the Hell took you people so long to call?”
“We've been busy,” Takezaki replied. He removed a small device from a breast pocket and looked at the small screen. “We’re at coordinates seven-three-six by five-seven-one. There’s a Leopard and a Mule Class DropShips at this location. The Leopard has been neutralized. We hold most of the Mule’s decks, but we’re stretched thin and we have at least two hundred civilians in cages to protect. Orders?”
There was silence for about ten seconds. Then Jackson said, “You have been busy. We’re about twenty kilometers west of your location, still in pursuit of the Brotherhood strike force. Tell Jägare that the Hunters are putting the fear of God into the Brotherhood. We've counted thirty slaver bodies so far and have managed to rescue about a third of our people. The Raven is crippled and the Panther was abandoned when a booby-trapped tree fell on it. Jägare’s boys know how to play rough.”
“I’m beginning to see that,” Takezaki muttered, giving Jägare an appraising look.
There was another stretch of silence, then Jackson said, “The estimated enemy force is now about thirty men, three vehicles and that Warhammer. At their rate of travel, I’d figure they’ll be at your position in about forty-five minutes. We’re about ten minutes behind them. Can you hold out for that long?”
“Maybe,” Takezaki replied. “We've isolated the bridge from the outside world, but we don’t know how many there are up there.”
“Hold out the best you can. I’ve just ordered two cargo choppers with a couple of militia platoons into the air and headed for your location. Their ETA is about twenty minutes.”
“We can use them,” Takezaki said. “There’s a clearing about fifty meters west of the DropShips. Not enough space for both VTOLs to land at once, but large enough for each one to make a drop and touch. Make sure they’re aware of hostile forces around those DropShips.”
“They know. Any idea of the opposing force on the ground?”
“Anywhere between a dozen to two dozen, mostly rifles and pistols. They had an APC, but it’s toast now.”
“I’ll pass on the info. Good job. Marshal One-Six out.”
Takezaki looked at Jägare. “We’re about finished here. Want to send a surrender demand upstairs?”
“You do the talking, I’m going out to give Reece a hand.”
“I knew you were going to say that.”
Sorry to cut it in mid-scene again, but this is a long section. The rest Tuesday!