• Nobles of Null is a forum based roleplay site where sci-fi and magic collide. Here, Earth remains fractured and divided despite humanity reaching out to the stars. Worse still, the trans-human slaves of one major power have escaped, only to establish their own Empire, seething with resentment at abuses of the past. Even the discovery of aliens, though medieval in development, has failed to rally these squabbling children of Earth together with its far darker implications. Worse still, is the discovery of the impossible - magic. Practiced by the alien locals, nearly depleted and therefore rare, its reality warping abilities remains abstract and distant to the general populace. All the while, unseen in the darkness of space, forces from without threaten to press in. For those with eyes opened by insight, it is clear that an era is about to end, and that a new age will dawn.

Chapter One: Kick It In The Sticks


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Kick It In The Sticks

Orbit of Vice
Star Traveller

Once the Icarus docked and locked with the Star Traveller, the Star Traveller began orienting itself away from the orbital star port. Maneuvering into a slow lane of out bound travel, it engaged its drives. A great shudder reverberated through the ship before it settled on a modest near quarter earth gravity acceleration, the general standard applied to all Kingdom computations. Once underway to the outbound jump lanes, Chuan messaged Dav. As she was still in her business attire and position, she spoke with a formality drilled in from years of military service. She said, "Lochagos, we are underway. Do we have a destination in mind?" Dav picked up on the continued formality and responded in kind, knowing he would likely pay for any slight or social transgression. Dav said, "Capitan Yates, call a briefing in four hours for all command and frame pilots. I will forward our destination to your personal files and let you make any required notifications and preparations. I will be in the main briefing room if you have need of my presence or of any of my skills." He said that last part with a wink to Chuan, both as a promise as well as a small barb. She knew he preferred a more lax command and communication structure, believing a well oiled machine had no need of strict formal boundaries. She ... disagreed. It was a long running difference of opinions, which usually worked out if he let her run things in her way as it pertained to Aerospace operations and she let him run ground operations his way. As for integrated operations, it depended on who you wanted to adjudicate the issue. This usually lent more weight towards Dav as choice of arbiter, as he was the nominal boss and more likely to take other factors into consideration. But he would just as likely take his own some would say radical position as a moral compass and rule in favor of neither. He would often decide on a third decision, much to the despair of a pair of techs arguing about seniority. Both ended up in the bilge pumps and as bunk mates.

Chuan received the coordinates and punched them into the navigation AI computer. She was somewhat shocked of their destination. Dav knew the importance this place played in her history. Dav knew it would be hard for her to return there, the start of her journey to this new life. A painful memory quickly passed before she stiffly acknowledged her command. She would do her duty, as both the captain of the Star Traveller as well as the spouse of the man who was determined to upend every facet in her life, over and over.

Muk was in the mech bay running a check on the Doomcrakka’s systems and practicing interfacing with the AI. He sat in the cockpit with the neural jack in while his mechanic Braindaggah went over the mech with a metaphorical fine-toothed comb. Some of the information was beginning to reach him. The system was designed with a human brain in mind, so the AI was having difficulty mapping his neural pathways. He could now feel that the right arm wasn’t getting full power from the reactor and the targeting cameras were overcompensating by five degrees.

Satisfied with his progress, he unplugged from the mech and climbed out of the cockpit. Braindaggah greeted him at the bottom of the ladder. “’Ello, boss.” The oil-stained old Atraxian said. He held up a big cup of water for Muk. “What ya find out?”

“Need ta check the power to da right arm and fix the targeting cameras. They’s off by five degrees vertically an’ horizontally.” Muk said, taking the massive cup and gulping it down. “Gonna go wash off.”

Muk returned the cup to Braindaggah and went back to his room to take a shower. The humans appreciated it if he took a bath more often, he’d learned, and the book of Bro’seif advised cleanliness.

As Muk went up to his room, Lyon caught him in the hallway. The bearing teeth and the green skin still took some getting used to even after months of working together, but Lyon believed the Atraxian to be friendly, hopefully. "Hey Muk, can I get your men to help me modify the Secretary for combat?" He brought up a hologram with his data pad. "I need the interior overhauled and some armaments lifted and installed onto the surface."

Muk looked down at Lyon. He thought about it for a second and nodded, glancing back at Braindaggah. “’Ey Braindaggah! Get da boys. You guys help Birdman get ‘is mech ready.” He bellowed across the room. The mechanic acknowledged the order with a thumbs up.

Muk grunted at Lyon. “Ya got interesting tricks on dat thing. My boys’ll be waiting for ya. Give da design to Braindaggah and walk him through it, he’ll get em working. Best watch em like a hawk, though.”

Lyon nodded. "Thanks for the help. I don't think I'd be able to get all this refurbishing done in time before the next mission, by myself."

Once Icarus was locked down on the Star Traveler, Xir unbuckled itself and went to check on the security detail on the ship. Xir trusted that Beast would still be where it was left and Xir had a lot to do before the briefing. Just to be safe, Xir sent it's security in pairs to start combing the ship to make sure there are no stowaways. Rats always seemed to sneak on board when at port or space station and this would be a good to get the new teams to work together. With plenty of time to spare Xir made it to the briefing room and positioned itself where it normally sits, not far away from the entry door.

Jack took one look at his mech's new paint job and decided it would have to do. The new and very messy red and silver stripes did not mesh well with the bare steel grays the rest of the mech sported and even less with the half scraped away warning labels that still clung to the frame. He hoped it would be enough for him to avoid friendly fire in combat but doubted it. Returning the spray cans to wherever he found it he nearly fell flat on his face as his left leg seized on his way back to the Galvaneer.

Grumbling about crazy pilots and high G maneuvers the entire way back to his mech he sat himself down on one if its oversized toes so he could remove the limb in question. The problem was pretty obvious once he had the maintenance hatches opened, the repair itself was less so. One of the control boards had been rattled out of its connectors, it was that annoying one behind the thigh actuator.

As Jack was toiled away at his mech, Lyon and the Atraxians were busy converting the Secretary from an old science rover to something that could take a hit on the battlefield. The engines and suspension, the electronics were rugged enough, but decades of care lacking has left the rover's interior structure in a sorry state. Lyon's belongings were piled up on boxes and set aside while the Secretary's compartments were carved clean, replaced by support beams, armor, and redundant systems.


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Stretching Tantus opened his eyes. He looked at his quarters feeling it was rather bare. He felt excited all of a sudden for the first time in a long time. When everything fell apart last time he felt lost. Striking his lighter he smiled. " Home again, home again" He chuckled. Lighting his pipe.

Standing up he slapped his tail on the floor damn thing was still asleep. The tingling was annoying but no time to waste Dav hated when crew was late to briefing. When the briefing gets over maybe he could goad someone into a little gambling. Grabbing his deck of cards he took off to the briefing room.

Strolling in he thought he had finally beat Xir. " Son of a bitch Xir what did you sleep in here?" Tantus said smiling.

Xir unsurprised to see Tantus it responds, "Tantus my friend, it good to see you. I actually need very little sleep, and I hate showing up late. Besides the up side of bringing back on people that know their expectations it's easy to delegate. Beast also settled back in it's home rather easily. How about you? You glad to have returned?"

"Well it beats the hell outta bounty hunting. Did you know several of us are wanted in different systems. I had a lot of time to get info on where we shouldn't go" Tantus laughing took a draw on his pipe " Its good to see you my friend".

Never removing Xir's tentacles from it's protruding skill bones it responds to Tantus, "This outfit has always attracted The misfits from this sector of the Galaxy. It gives people purpose, structure, and a family to back them up. It's one of the reasons why I have adopted this unit. I see the discipline and good it does many people". as Tantus exhales his smoke Xir takes a small step back.

"True we are misfits but it's always nice to know what a man or beast is worth nowadays. Maybe we could get the new recruits in a little sparing after this " Tantus replied grinning his teeth shining from the lights in the room.

Xir took a moment and looked at Tantus before saying, "I understand the affinity for humanoids to have physical competition. I personally have no objection as long as that they're still up and ready to go for their duties. if I get the clear from our commander and you want to start a club for sparring then it might be good for morale. Allow me to discuss it with Dav and I'll get back to you. Yes I've spent quite a bit of Time on Vice being referees for such clubs.". Bowing up to full height and an increase glowing of the three eyes began to reinforce the next point, "Do not start something with out it authorization from Dav. And if I find that you are taking unfair advantage of the crew to make unnecessary profits or retaliation we will have issues. There will be no unexplained broken bones or knee caps busted. If debts build bring it to me. We on the same page Tantus?"

Tantus facial expression straightened "See Xir that's why I like you: straight to the point. Correct I wouldn't use any of my reptilian advantages to beat any of my brothers plus money is one thing, I'm in it for sport but nobody likes a broken soldier. No stupid violence just sport and you know I will only do as Dav allows. I wouldn't disobey or allow anyone to do so with my knowledge."

During the 4 hours on downtime Steven tried his best to understand and sorta warm up to Scott. Steven tried to start small conversation with him, helping Scott where he could help. He knew that he was very much younger than Scott but they shared a common bond-- technology. Steven tried to do the one thing that would interest Scott, Steven asked Scott " So What got you into mecha repairing?"

Scott glanced at the young scoundrel, gathering his pack of tools. I was always good with a wrench. When you grow up a poor boy from the outback, you do what you must to survive. That means fixin what's broke. New parts for frames can be expensive. Fixin old ones is cheaper.

Steven nodding, " I can understand that, I actually became interested in mecha because of the syndicate, I was given a free of charge scholarship, because I had lots of usable talent. I tried a hand in mecha engineering, with of course computer programming and engineering. I ended up making and designing the first mech for the syndicates of vice. I can understand growing up poor " i didn't have anywhere to go and was poor till syndicate took me

As it had turned out, trying to take care of Hendricks was a lot harder than Leo imagined. The little blue dragon was constantly curious, trying to make their way into every nook and cranny it could shove its snout into. It had knocked over or gnawed on a lot of Leo's belongings, and he was starting to really regret his choice to keep the thing. But at the same time, he didn't want to throw it out an airlock, and despite his annoyances the little bugger was growing on him. What did surprise Leo was that the little creature could actually understand what he was saying, after Hendricks brought him a cup of tea when he mentioned he needed one aloud. He was finally able to calm him down to stay in Leo's cabin for the meeting. "You promise you will stay here?" He said to the creature, who nodded happily in response. The door closed and Leo made his way to the meeting room for the briefing.


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Orbit of Vice
Star Traveller

At the appointed hour, Chuan dutifully opened the ship wide communicator and messaged the command and frame pilots. The message was short. It read as follows:

Briefing in one hour. The Lochagos has requested your presence for mission briefing in the main conference hall. Please be present and on-time.

After the message was transmitted, Chuan closed her data pad on her new command chair, the new smell still strong upon the poly and cotton blended fibers. Jessica, running diagnostics on the drives before the jump core was charged, glanced at Chuan. "Meeting time?", Jessica asked. Chuan nodded before responding, "Hold down the fort. I will be back after the meeting."

Muk walked into the room wearing his new piloting bodysuit. It was form-fitting but not tight and colored black with red accents. The Blood Cross logo was emblazoned on the chest over his heart. He sat down close to Dav and waited for the briefing to start.

After hearing the announcement Xir walked away from Tantus and sat its hind legs down, like a feline, next to the raised platform where the podium would eventually have Dav give the briefing. Crossing it's arms and tentacles Xir remained there, imposing itself, in preparation to listen to the briefing. There Xir waited nodding it's head to those that entered and found a seat.

As Lyon continued working on the Secretary, his data pad buzzed, alerting him that the meeting was soon to happen. He looked around at the armaments to be mounted, a procedure that'd have to be executed by Braindaggah. Lyon sifted through his belongings and took some sentimental items and threw it into a backpack.

"Braindaggah, finish up installing everything. You and your guys can take everything else here." Lyon pointed to the remaining boxes, then scurried out of the hangar to attend the briefing.

He found the conference hall soon enough. The Icarus wasn't unfamiliar to him. Lyon yawned and found a chair to lean into, taking the opportunity to get some rest after spending multiple hours on his craft.

Once Jack got the infuriating limb functioning again he started the search for where this briefing was supposed to be held. He accomplished this through, wandering aimlessly through the ship, asking everyone where said briefing room was and prodigious use of his mechs remotely accessed sensor equipment that was supposed to be used to map out caves in asteroids not ship corridors, but eventually Dolly made it and with some time to spare surprisingly. Upon arriving he was unsure of where he was supposed to sit and so remained standing, hoping that the repairs wouldn't fail and send him crumpling to the floor.

Tantus pulled a pack of playing cards from his pocket and began to shuffle and fidget with them. They were old made of waxed paper and human skin fused together. They were beautiful hand made.

He took them off a cheater he had to gun down after his ego got the better of him. With the small conversation with Xir out the way he waited leaned up on wall of the briefing room. Inspecting the new recruits as they shuffled in like lost sheep.

After the conversation with Scott, Steven rested up, got some food, looking refreshed up he strolled in the conference room taking a sit and waiting patiently for the long discussion to start Steven thought to himself " this is gonna be a long briefing"

Leo was making his way to the meeting room, taking the long way around to grab some tea. As he made his way over, Leo made a mental list of other tasks he needed to take care of after the meeting. Most likely retrofitting the Sagi for the job they were gonna do, and getting some last minute checks in before combat. When he got close enough to the meeting room, he say Hendricks had decided to break out of his cabin and explore the hallways of the ship. Leo fumed and scooped up the dragon, chastising him. He didn't want to leave Hendricks back in his cabin, as he might break out again and get into trouble. But at the same time bringing him into the meeting may bring a whole other issue. Leo decided eventually to bring him along. "You promise not to be too noisy and cause trouble in here, ok?" Leo asked the him, who nodded in agreement. Leo entered the meeting room with Hendricks on his shoulder, sitting down and letting Hendricks slink down onto his lap to where he petted him as he waited.

Dav, busy finishing up the briefing preparations in the conference room, took a short break to down a electrolyte drink and protein bar. While not the most challenging Vendetta he had taken on in his career, this one would challenge the emotions of the Blood Cross beyond anything they had faced before.

Dav met Chuan, tracking her via transponder in her communicator. A tear was welled up in her eye as she maintained her stoic façade. He gazed upon her before collecting her into a strong and deep embrace. Dav whispered to her, "It will be fine, my love. If you want, I can ask Jessica to pilot the Icarus."

She responded with a hard bite to his left bicep, her teeth pushing but not breaking the ballistic mesh protecting his body. He winced, realizing he was wrong to allow a dodge from her duty. She clearly wanted to face this demon following her for so long. He nodded silently as she eased her jaws from his arm and squeezed him, gripping his clothing tightly. tears fell, a small rainstorm within the ship corridor. A few moments passed, her tears spent. She used his rough clothing to wipe away the excess, replacing her mask of command. She regained her stoic demeanor. She said calmly, "I'm ready." Silently, he walked beside her to the main conference hall. No words needed to be said right now. There would be plenty of time for that soon.

Dav and Chuan entered the now filled room. Some new faces mixed with some old. Some lost through combat. Some with a parting of ways. This was the hurdle they now faced. Forging this crew into a working team to defeat another company. Dav help seat Chuan near the head of the table, himself taking the podium at the head, the six inches of raised area filled with presentation and projection technology. Dav cleared his throat once and began the briefing with "Sweetie, Bring up file Blood Debt One."


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Orbit of Vice
Star Traveller

Chuan sat, her visage dark. This was not a place she ever thought she might return to. Certainly not a place she wished to return. This was the place that everything began, or ended. She wasn't sure about the beginning and ending part. She was sure this was a place of sadness and despair. As Dav's voice began to describe the place the Blood Cross was to travel to, Chuan's mind drifted to the past. An incident few knew about of and fewer which who knew the details of...

January 28th, 2317
Battle-cruiser Cameron's Call
Delta Zagreus System

"We have arrived in system, Admiral Yates", the navigation officer, a fox like anthro recruit in a junior midshipman uniform informed the commander of the 37th expeditionary fleet. This fleet, responsible for expanding the frontier rim ward along with a dozen more, was comprised of a Legion class battle-cruiser, several Indigo class frigates, and over a dozen Invictus class fold-ships loaded with a variety of Fortress and Star Union dropships. Over a thousand souls from more than a dozen planets in the Kingdom. Most of the crew and soldiers were of modified human gene stock. While gene-sculpting was the current trend, a variety of mammalian styled anthropomorphic humanoids, they were accented by a universal constant: the House Virtu service uniform.

"Scan for hostiles and keep at yellow alert." She ordered to nobody in particular. First of her class at Ice Point, almost five years before, Chuan Yates proved herself an adept bridge officer, both in function as well as politically. The advantages of the exotic as well as the alluring often proved a valuable combination to those who mistook her sensuality for weakness. Chuan often proved them wrong, in a variety of ways. She also angered many of her colleagues, earning both a promotion as well as a banishment to the far edge of the Kingdom. Commanding an aging Battle-cruiser, with barely half of it's weapon systems operational and the Star Fighter wing more illusion than reality, mostly either hot shot pilots who broke the rules too often or the noble sons and daughters of the minor houses currently out of favor. The equipment, third rate hand me downs from across the Kingdom's supply depots. Luckily, her XO was a grizzled old veteran, with more experience crossing the stars than nearly any five spacers. His sin to be posted to this five year mission? Becoming "involved" with an Admiral's eldest daughter. Of course he still kept in contact as much as possible, still a great believer in the romantic ideals of love and devotion.

Chuan, her hungers known throughout the fleet, kept order through her prowess and cunning. The last depot she stopped at before folding into the edge of the Kingdom, she was able to exchange her future replacement fighter squadron, slated for god knows when, for an actual fighter squadron of Phantasm multi role gunships, a company of Warmonger battle mecha, and enough supplies to top off her stores of foodstuffs and fill every nook and cranny with all of the depot's spare parts. The price was as expected, and loved by her command; several favors as well as multiple nights with the aged colonel.

"Scans completed, Admiral", the operator responded, snapping the admiral back from her daydream. "Minimal technology signatures from the third planet of this system. Telemetry from the Rollabout and the Landsdown have placed the tech level at level 1 and 2. "Prepare the Drop-ships. Have Colonel Shin Pu connect with me in my ready room. It is time to bring these savages into the Kingdom's fold." With that order, the Admiral marched off, her hips swaying from long practice.


Colonel Shin Pu sat in his command/acceleration chair. While the newer Drop and landing ships in the Kingdom incorporated artificial gravity technology, His Baron class drop ship, Heaven's Wrath, was not one of those. Six ancient ion thrusters propelled the ship towards the inner part of the system from the nadir point above the system's star. Ten thousand displacement tons with a variety of mid and small weapon systems dotted the surface of the spherical ship, a figurative fortress for the pacification team to rely on for support.

Over a dozen such ships burned at a comfortable one standard gravity, having to accelerate and decelerate towards the target planet both for the comfort of the crew via artificial produced gravity as well as to make the best possible time. Other ships travelled towards the other astral bodies, from long range fighters, to a pair of scout corvettes carried inside the Cameron's Call. All stones of value were to be harvested for the Kingdom, thought the Colonel, even this mudball at the edge of nowhere.

A flashing light upon his command console indicated the admiral was calling. He answered, stood at attention, and saluted.

Shin Pu said, "Good evening Admiral. The pacification fleet has begun to deploy."

Yates replied, "I am aware, Colonel. This system is meant to be claimed for the Virtue family, as is our duty. I have been also asked by the king himself to harvest the population for trade to the Paizenzia family. A new deal has been struck, so I am told."

Colonel Shin Pu barked in disgust. "I will do no such thing. My house has a stake in the population. We had an agreement, Chuan."

A vicious smile crossed her face as she replied, "And pray neither I nor my masters alter it further."

Shin growled but bowed his head. He didn't know how he would get even, but he would bring this minx down, even if it cost him dearly.

"Very well, admiral. We shall comply with the Kings request."

"See that you do, Colonel. Yates out."

Taking a long orbital pass, the Heaven's Wrath took some long scans of the planet, feeding the data into a holotank, a virtual three dimensional interface for the ground commander to plan his campaign. "Let's land near that settlement, at the clearing in the middle of the major vegetation zone." Shin Pu ordered, leaning back into his seat.
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Chuan? Chuan?

Chuan realized the room was all watching her intently. She blushed, a ruddy hue accenting her dark facial fur.

Dav repeated, "Chuan? You ok?"

Chuan smiled, "Yes Lochagos. I'm ready to brief."

Dav stepped away from the podium, a look of consternation briefly crossed his face. As Chuan reached the podium, Dav moved to take her vacated seat. He stopped briefly behind her and whispered so softly only her augmented hearing alone could hear it. Dav said, "Good luck, my love. If you need me to take over the briefing, step away and I will finish it."

She smiled but shook her head in the negative. She could do this. After all, she wouldn't have to face the inhabitants once the fight was finished.

Chuan pressed a space upon the bio interface of the podium and a small step extended from the floor. This raised Chuan to a height that commanded respect and gave all in the room a clear view of the diminutive captain.

Chuan barked once, both to clear her throat and draw attention to herself. The lights dimmed as a projection appeared above the table, the full power of a holotank engaged.

A typical star system appeared, a white dwarf surrounded by not to scale planets orbiting in sync with reality but at a 1000 to 1 speed. Orbs of green, brown, and blue circles the bright white orb, a majestic display of lights swirling above the table.

Chuan began, "This is the Delta Zagreus system. We have been contracted by the House of Sorano to engage in a Vendetta against a fellow minor house of Virtu, the Fraser Clan. House Sorano assures us their representative is already on site to take delivery of the spoils or to surrender their stake. What we are battling over was not disclosed to us, but the terms have been. We are to land upon the main land mass and engage a prepared company not to exceed twelve frames and associated support vehicles and infantry. The target for capture is this warehouse within this compound."

Chuan swiped her hand and the tank zoomed into and towards the main green planet. Through simulated thick cloud cover the view rushed, the near feeling of condensation washed over the meeting participants before settling upon a view at 10,000 meters.

Chuan continued, "This is the contracted battlefield. We are limited to observational aerospace assets only and no more than a dozen frames. The Vendetta must be resolved within five kilometer radius of the warehouse target. As part of the contract negotiations, we are allowed to use whatever tactics we deem necessary to accomplish the disabling or destruction of the opposition forces. This also was allowed of the defenders. We also have a one month window to engage and complete the Vendetta. This is unusual in that most Vendettas are scheduled for a specific time and place. This one appears to be a hard bargaining point of House Sorano to allow their representatives latitude in planning and engagement."

Chuan paused a moment then continued, "The terrain is rugged hills with a variety of jungle foliage with variable densities. Unlike the last planet, the trees here do not explode nor do they disrupt sensors. Or at least not any more than any other tree does."

This caused a slight chuckle from a few of the veterans of the Blood Cross. The newer rookie pilots stared blankly or glanced around. Surely the joke must be an inside one.

Chuan swiped the battlefield away with a twitch of her well manicured finger, a metallic paint in a block code adorning her sharpened claw. A head shot replaced the battlefield.

Chuan's face darkened as the rotating head and shoulders appeared. She said, "This is Dominik Fraser. He won the ownership of this stretch of land from the previous owners in a personal Vendetta. The vid of that combat is attached to the briefing files you will receive at the conclusion of this briefing. I suggest you watch it. He is not the most imaginative man, but quite cunning. He is likely to repeat the same tactics as before. This is not his second or third Vendetta over this battlefield, but his fourteenth. His preferred tactics are guerilla snipe and run with a wolfpack attack and fade. Make no mistake, these people know their backyard. What we seek must be valuable to many a family as they participate in Vendetta regularly over this warehouse and its contents, whatever it is. I assume, based upon the Fraser lineage, it must be some advanced coital robot resembling a cousin or sister of the head of the Fraser family."

This quip resulted in a few quiet chuckles but nothing too disruptive.

Chuan swiped with a different clawed finger sporting a similar block code. A new slowly rotating list appeared in large galactic trade font so even those at the back of the room were able to easily read the lettering above a galactic map with a model of the Star Traveller moving from the Reservoir system to another system and then to a third system tagged Delta Zagreus . Once the model Invictus class foldship reached the Delta Zagreus system, the table zoomed in to watch a model Icarus detach from the Star Traveller and orbit the planet once before merging with the green orb.

Chuan said. "Our plan is simple. One, We fold to the Gleeko system followed by another fold to the orbit of Zagreus III in the Delta Zagreus system. The Icarus will detach and make a hard drop to this field just outside of the combat area. The Icarus will take extensive topographical scans and compare them to any public surveys on record. This blitzkrieg attack should spoil any prepared defenses they may have in place to foil our frames or strategy."

The battlefield display returned with the list superimposed over the sky, an angel displaying its glory. A miniature Icarus proceeded to land, a cute animation of a small red flag popping out of the top with a white numeral one.

Chuan smiled, "Two, we disembark and stay close together. We are unsure of the armaments' of the Frasers, but I expect lighter frames with extensive ECM and ECCM suites, probably Warmonger Mark ones or twos, though a Crusha isn't outside the realm of possibility. Prepare for close quarters fighting and swap any guided munitions for unguided varieties or armaments'. We move as a group towards the objective slowly, taking particular care to watch for discrepancies from our orbital scans. We will also have additional supplies attached to various external hardpoints as well as carried by some of our frames for resupply."

The Angelic list updated with the new objectives as a small animation of a squad of frames fast marched to the warehouse model. The lead frame planted a new red flag on the warehouse sporting a numeral II. A large timer appeared upon the angelic list at the bottom, quickly timing down from 30 standard days. While the timer continued to drain, Chuan finished the briefing.

Chuan said, "Once we have laid claim to the warehouse, the Frasers have the remainder of the month to dig us out. Whomever holds the warehouse at the end of the 30 day window wins the Vendetta."

The final animation was a big fireworks explosion from the holotank complete with confetti and little flags with the Blood Cross symbol saying "YOU'RE A WINNER!"

Chuan deadpanned the room with a stare before asking, "Any questions?"


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Jack did have some reservations about this plan, firstly his mech wasn't the fastest thing in the ship and not designed for combat closer than 50 miles and would most likely just be a massive target, if a very well armored one. Secondly due to his main armament being a massive artillery piece that brought up the question of how much collateral damage would be allowed without the minor house getting pissy about costs of rebuilding. Third and finally he was very new here and didn't know how he should phrase these questions and so looked like he really wanted to ask a question but didn't know how.

The mention of House Sorano piqued Muk’s interest. He had previous dealings with them and trusted that they would be well rewarded for this mission. Lengthy contracts like this were usually very profitable. He was ready to get some real money. Living on pocket change was getting tiresome. He was already imagining the lovely scrap they would get from the Frasers, scrap that could make his Doomcrakka even more deadly.

He had no real concerns about their success. This Fraser guy sounded like a one note villain from a human child’s holo show. He noticed one of the humans looked like he had to go piss really bad. “’Ey, Jack humie. Ya better not piss on the floor or I’ll hit ya on da schnoz with a rolled up newspaper.” Muk said, making an ‘I’m watching you’ gesture with his fingers.

Jack snapped out of his downward spiral of how to ask what were really simple questions and stared at the Atraxian half in confusion and half in indignance. "I don't need to hit the chamber pod, I'm thinking over how in the world me and Galvi will fit into this here plan? She's a heavy hitter yah, but as slow as a damn snail compared to most frames and near useless in such close quarters." His two cents given the miner quickly shut up and took an extra step away from the green giant.

Tantus closed the pack on his cards and looked up "Ya don't know much about this house of soprano do ya? There's no telling we capture this which we will I have full confidence in that. Then we hold for the remainder of the time and they double cross us. I'm looking at 4 of us who have sizable bounties that are valid in that system."

"Sorano don't have the best track record of honest dealings. Dav to hell and back, I'm in just breathing caution these are not good guys we're working for" Tantus lit his pipe and leaned back on his chair thinking and listening.

Steven raising his hand very slowly, so Dav could notice. After Dav called on Steven " Dav, once I'm in the warehouse I can control a the computer systems in it and if this is a common fighting place I can activate any defensive weapons, setting up shop for me is easy, I have a history with these sorts of things, especially on Vice"

Leo chimed up, Hendricks had fallen asleep on his lap and was petting him quietly as he spoke. "The Sagi had a couple earthmoving equipment attachments before retrofit, their collecting dust in my bay. If we bring them down with us after the initial assault I can help set up some basic defenses to help block line of site and clear a few patches of forests."

Lyon shook his head and countered, "You'd be wasting the Sagi by relegating it to clearing paths." He thumbed to himself. "Give me the equipment and I'll strap it onto the Secretary. I can handle it. The Secretary won't be doing much in the first phase of the battle other than disrupting guided ammunitions. Just focus on delivering lead."

Leo nodded. "That sounds like a better plan, I'll look into it and see if I can make the attachments compatible to the Secretary. I just think its best to try and set up some quick defenses once we take the target warehouse."

" Personally I love some good pitfalls and trenches they really live up to the whole gorilla warfare of older years " Tantus grinned.

Dav stood up after letting the discussion proceed for a few minutes. He was certain his group of warriors were up to this challenge. The quiet from the other pilots was a clear indication this was the best plan. Dav said, "You are right, Tantus. Even though the Sorano family hasn't crossed us yet doesn't mean they won't. We will keep eyes open from the Icarus in case this job goes tits up. We have most of a company in the hold. The Sagi, Secretariat, and Galvaneer will also guard a salvaged Crusha frame driven by Scott. This will be Charlie Team. You will be carrying our supplies and earth working equipment. Xir will scout and hunt ahead of the team. Muk, myself, Tantus, and Steven will form Alpha team. We will vanguard the Beta and Charlie team. Beta team will be formed from the other new pilots and protect the Charlie team. Beta team is comprised of our three extra Lion class chassis but they are inexperienced pilots. They will need support as well. Submit your loadout to Scott and he will assign any extra techs you may need to get ready."

With that, the meeting was adjourned.


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May 27th, 2320
Delta Zagreus System
Zagreus III orbit.

Once the unnatural shift from hyperspace to real space completed, Chuan indicated to Jessica to release the Icarus from the Helios docking clamp number 4. Chuan and Jessica had decided Chuan would pilot the Icarus and Jessica would enjoy the benefits of micro gravity upon her growing body, at least for a little while.

The Icarus released smoothly, Chuan's mastery of Aerospace maneuvering on display. Gravity within the armored sphere remained nearly consistent as the crew rushed to their stations within the cramped hallways.

Dav stepped off the small personal lift attached to the retractable gantry holding the Dark Horse in place, his helmet tucked under one arm. The techs attached to his frame via magnetic grapples were finishing loading the armaments' into their respective magazines as well as pumping fuel and coolant into the various reservoirs. Dav stepped into the cockpit and activated the verbal command interface with his frame A.I. "Good morning, Sweetie." he said.

Sweetie replied, "Good morning, Dav. Running initial diagnostics and checking e-mail. Would you like to hear more?" The anachronisms he enjoyed always bothered Chuan like an itch that couldn't be scratched. She insisted he "get with the times". He smiled at the fleeting thoughts and replied to Sweetie, "Transfer the email to my tertiary monitor. I will read them once I settle in." Dav donned his helmet and, like a thousand times before, began the start up procedure.

Muk climbed into the seat of the Doomcrakka and started up the hulking mech. The holographic avatar of his mech’s AI, a provocatively dressed blue humanoid alien girl, appeared above the consoles. “Morning, Muk. What would you like me to do?” She asked in a smooth, almost seductive voice.

“’Ello Liala. We’re heading out ta fight, connect my neural interface and do a system check for me, luv.” He answered.

“I would be happy to become one with you.” Liala said, giving him a little wink. “Giving your equipment a glance. All systems are functional, big boy.”

He looked at the AI strangely. “Gonna have to ask someone how to change the personality on this avatar.” Muk grumbled. The neural interface jack plugged into the back of his neck, a controlled trickle of information on Doomcrakka’s status entering his awareness.
“Top Dog, Pastor and Doomcrakka are ready for action.” He said, mentally switching to the Lance-wide comms channel.

Jack picked up his voidsuit off the bottom rung of his mech. He looked at the mass of metal and fabric before sighing and wrestling himself into it. It really could use a wash but Jack hadn't found the time to do it. Once the suit sealed around him he quickly climbed up into the cockpit of The Galvaneer.

Tantus catapulted up onto the front of Artio cracking the seal then slipping in. Seating himself he fired up Higgins his AI. "Higgins run diagnostics and begin to disembark I got hunting to do." Tantus smiled as he inhaled from his pipe. "Yes sir running diagnostics now, how were your travels? You win a lot? What happened to that massive green lady on echo prime?" The AI cheerfully went on.

"Her name was Rathk and she tried to cut out my kidneys after I fell asleep. I was gonna let her after what she did with the liquor bottle I didn't care. But Dav message was waiting for me. Thays enough talk Higgins setup the neural link we gotta get to work." Tantus replied cheerfully.

Steven started up mute, with the humming of Mute's engine, Liz speaks," well hello Steven, diagnostics is 100% fully operational, CECM online, weapons online, computer connected and online ready for use." Liz blurted out " Its seem we are back home, Steven" Steven nodding very slowly " its seems we are my dear, but at least we are with blood cross rather than syndicates, its time to face our Demons

Leo underwent the final preparations for what was needed to be done, making sure the Sagi was buttoned up and ready for the show. he was able to convince Hendricks to stay on the Helios while he went down to fight. The Sagi purred and came to life while he looked over the systems. "Its good to be back" He said with a grin.

Soon, the Icarus was in a descent orbit, scanners and sensors drinking in the data ocean as the altimeter aligned with the local atmosphere and magnetic poles. terabytes of data flowed into the memory banks of the Icarus, The AI sorting the data in preparation of analysis once the processing power from reentry calculations was freed up. Soon the friction from reentry began to obscure the sensors, blocking communications with the Helios but not the recently established descent link with the ground tower AI.

Chuan opened an announcement channel to the crew. She said, "Attention Icarus, you have five minutes to secure yourself and any equipment. Brace for turbulence. Combat pilots, we are in the pipe, five by five. Prepare for landing.

The techs assigned to the Dark Horse began to quickly detach the hoses and retractable munition loading arms. The techs closed the cockpit, checking the seal. A thousand small items checked in preparation for the final countdown to landing. Once Dav received the tech summary email from Scotts subordinate Hermione approving deployment, the fusion engine fired up. Sweetie was eager to join in combat as well, Dav thought. Usually she would ask before beginning the engine start up procedure. But not this time. In truth, he was a bit eager to engage in combat as well. There was always one week per month he wished to be scarce and this was the second day of that week.

All of the tubes and autoloaders disconnected from the Doomcrakka. Muk was excited to get out there and back into action. The avatar above Muk’s console danced sensually, locking eyes with Muk. Even though he had no interest in such things anymore his big green heart skipped a beat.

The Galvaneer disconnected from its scaffolding and stretched its legs out a bit to get a more stable. The Railgun lowered and the systems moved to their ready state. With the mecha started up he put his helmet on and let his suit connect to the pilot seat as he sunk into the mechs control systems.

Tantus grimaced as the neural fibers adhered to his spine. He was connected he could see everything. Munitions full , guns green, core 100%, coolant exceptional. With a wall of steam and sparks Artio was freed from the wall of the Icarus. He stretched his hands out to the control sticks. Firing up comms Tantus exclaimed " I'm not gonna overheat now"

The techs disconnected mute from the scaffolding and released the rest of the compression and ammo tubbing sealing the cockpit airtight. Mute looking much like a chicken without wings, rotated the antenna like ion cannons. Mute look very different from most of the mecha in blood cross, giving the impression it was very alien like even from the most diverse worlds of vice. The head and legs swiveled back and forth as if stretching from a long slumber and getting ready for a long stroll through the streets if

Leo made sure the Sagi was disconnected from any mounts, the moved the arms of the mech almost like he was rolling his shoulders. While he didn't have that advanced of an AI on board to talk to him, he could almost feel what the Sagi felt like. He's lived with it longer than some of grew members have been alive, and to him the mech was almost like an animal. He felt the whirr of the reactor, the ticking of mechanisms and machines inside the beast. Leo closed his eyes, and let the sounds and feelings flow through him. Like all other mechanisms on the mech, he was just one that made the whole, Leo was just another cog for the Sagi to unleash its power. With an exhale, he opened his eyes again and was ready to fight.
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Zagreus iii

Dav settled in to his happy place as he and the rest of the Blood Cross descended through he thick atmosphere. Two slowing orbits allowed for the scans Chuan and Dav required to avoid any surprises lain for the assault team.

Terabytes of data flowed into the Icarus data banks. Chuan, hands at the controls, barely glanced at the tertiary monitor performing overlays and threat analysis. Her focus was upon guiding the egg shaped building down safely upon an ion cone of balanced thrust. Intelligence analysis could wait a few minutes.

Clouds parted under the fiery ball of ceramic, steel, and heavy water, yet no wax peeled from the Icarus. Soon, the sphere settled upon a moss covered plain. Nearby jungles awaited the Blood cross. Thick foliage adorned the tall, thick trees. Alien kudzu vines adorned the native foliage. Dav thought for a moment, " is this what humanity was?" Quickly Dav closed the outer monitor feed, refocusing on the task at hand.

Once Icarus settled, the primary drives quieted. Dav released the gantry locks and moved out of his assigned bay towards the exit door nearest to the Dark Horse. Other Frames in the deck above began to move, tremors vibrating the whole of the structure.

Within a few seconds Dav emerged under the alien sun. The canopy darkened to filter out the excessive radiation from the midday sun. Even then, the brightness nearly blinded him. Dav grimaced and said, "Sweetie, turn the opacity to 100%. This planet it too damned bright."

Dav opened the comms." Blood Cross, form up." He said, readying his weapons and sweeping the territory between the Icarus and the target warehouse with his own sensor array.

Doomcrakka’s A.I. Liala received the signal from the Icarus that the ship had landed. Once the door opened and the ramp touched down, it released the gantry locks keeping the mech from being bounced around. Doomcrakka stomped out of the mech bay and down the ramp onto the surface of the planet. Muk shielded his eyes with his arm. The intense light was even brighter than he was used to on Atraxis. The cockpit automatically darkened 25 percent in response to the discomfort Liala sensed from Muk.

Muk lowered his arm. He looked out at the abundance of green and felt an immediate kinship with this world. At his direction Doomcrakka took position beside Dav. “Pastor in position, Boss. Ready to rumble.” He said excitedly.

Guessing the ship to have landed Jack waited for the faster mechs to pass his dock before joining in the exit line with the loud clangs of metal on metal as the Galvaneer walked down the exit ramp.

It took his helmet a few moments to adjust to the brightness that his cockpit let in but once he could see in anything that weren't his mechs sensor readouts he looked at the battlefield with a combination of amazement combined with twinges of fear and regret. Living in asteroids the majority of his life Jack had a small amount of reverence for the life giving plants that kept the atmosphere clean. He had just never seen it in such quantities or variety.

This quickly passed as Dav called to form up and he remembered why be was here. He sent a command and there was a dampened thunk as one of the massive pitons in his mechs feet drove into the earth. Using the small shockwave this caused, Dolly got some fuzzy sub surface scans, the fact that all the heavy machinery were stomping around him didn't make it any clearer.

Retracting the piton back into the leg the quadraped moved to take up position next to the Crusha piloted by Scott.

Tantus pushed Artio forward out the mech bay down the ramp stepping foot on the tropical planet. Removing the dimmers on his mech glass he felt the UV flow over his body, warming scale after scale. It was invigorating.

"Some of you humans might want to let a little sun in you all look so pale." Tantus smiled inhaling from his pipe. Moving Artio into formation by Xir he scanned the local area awaiting orders.

As Steven felt the rumble of the mecha bay landing, he piloted mute to the blaring sun in his face through his cockpit window. He has never seen so much sun in one place. with black spots from overload of visual sensory organs, while not being able to see for a few seconds. Steven ask Liz " Liz, I please adjust tinting on the cockpit window to 69% please?" As the tinted windows started to adjust he slowly started losing the black spots within his vision. He readied Mute's weaponry and covered the Dark Horse's rear, keeping the mission in mind


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May 27th, 2320
Delta Zagreus System
Zagreus iii

With the Blood cross formed up and prepared to move into the engagement zone, a lone Warmonger appeared outside of the range of most of the weapons of the Blood Cross. Dozens of micro drones appeared from the trees, hovering above the soon to be battlefield. The frame began to broadcast on an open, unencrypted channel using old RF signals.

"Blood Cross. Welcome to Zagreus. This is your one and only chance to back down. We have defended the interests here and will keep defending the interests here. I declare this battlefield an autonomous zone. As the corporate aggressors, I order you to leave this planet and forfeit your claim here on behalf of your employers. You have been warned."

Dav ignored the speech for what it was -- bluster meant to hype up the ratings from all the observation drones. Dav locked his weapons onto the enemy combatant and moved forward into the combat zone. "Xir, go hunting and see what you can find for us to eat. Vanguard, keep close to the supply and support convoy. Our goal is to make it to the target in one piece. Steven, Get those telemetry overlays downloaded from the Icarus. Let me know if something looks off. Leo, Jack, Get moving. If you think you have a solid shot, take one. The vanguard will hold their ballistic and missile fire for now. Energy weapons only. No sense in wasting our shots snipe hunting. Blood Cross, lets roll out! "

With that, Dav urged the Dark Horse forward, leveling his arm energy pods towards the blustering fool and released a blast.

With an exhale Jack's railgun coils rolled back down to their idle charge. Seeing the bluster for what it was he decided to follow orders and not waste ammo on a shot that his sensors couldn't guarantee. With all the root systems his seismic sensors were having a hard time determing everything but the general direction the enemy mecha were in and most of his visual sensors were blocked by greenery and trees. Adding that to his notes about possible things to find a workaround too he kept forward alongside the convoy.

Leo kept close to Jack, keeping himself in the best position to defend in case something came up. He was getting a bit anxious, he hated the buildup. "Looks like we have an audience this time, how fun." He said sarcastically. There was too much noise on his sensors to really get anything meaningful out of them, so he kept at it. "Jack, looks like there's a denser area up ahead. We may be able to break away from the convoy without them noticing and get you into a good firing position."

"I agree though don't count on them not noticing. Galvi ain't exactly sneaky." Jack responded after bringing the map up from his corner view. He did like the small hill nearby as a firing point, while it only had a few small rocky outcroppings for cover it was rather clear of foliage and the ground looked firm enough for him to bolt down properly. "This place look good?" He send the map coordinates to Leo as he kept an eye out on the surrounding forest.

Leo looked over it. "I don't see any better options" He said as he plotted the best way to it. "Just rather at least have a chance of sneaking through then none at all. I'll lead the way and you tail, I can take any potshots on the way."

Muk wanted to respond to the arrogant mech pilot. He wanted to punch the guy in the face and shut him up, but he let Dav do the talking. It was getting easier to restrain his violent impulses, he noticed. He wondered if he liked this change in his behavior or not. Growing up on Atraxis violence was the only way to survive, even among the aliens of Diej Prime. It was stupid and dangerous to think any other way. He decided that violence was just a tool, and like any tool, sometimes there were things it couldn’t solve.

Doomcrakka’s momentum slowed to keep pace with the convoy. He reached out for sensor infestation from the combat zone and Liala sent the data directly into his brain. The information was limited to anything his mech could detect and anything his teammates AIs shared with him. Electronic attacks could disrupted the connection but for now his knowledge of the battlefield was deeper than ever. He was starting to like this A.I. thing the humans were so fond of.

Tantus inhaled deep then snuffed his pipe out " Hey Muk I know you really wanna kill that guy so I promise I'll leave him for you. But you gotta let me get the others that are hiding behind that loud mouth." Tantus could feel Muk's bloodlust before he calmed himself.

Smiling he was so glad to be up front. Priming his laser hoping for action he unhinged his battle axes. Sparks ran along the ground as he dragged then each one time. The system check was green as he fell into line with Muk and Dav.

Right after Dav barked to Steven, Steven rolled his swiveled his chair to his computer, and started downloading telemetry overlays. Steven radioed back to Dav " overlays downloading boss, should take no time" Steven saying this with enthusiasm
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May 27th, 2320
Delta Zagreus System
Zagreus iii

Dav's shot went wide, nearly at the maximum range of his weapons. It wasn't meant to actually score a hit. Rather, it was to respond in a way these hillbilly rust jockeys would understand. Dav began to lead the formation forward, his as well as the other A.I. constructs processing the scan data. So far, no discrepancies had been detected. But that didn't mean the historical scans weren't modified or inaccurate to begin with. Dav felt a great unease as the Blood Cross moved forward at the speed of their slowest vehicle.

Dav reminded the company, "Stay in formation. Keep those fire lanes clear. I doubt very much we will make it to the objective without some surprises."

Once they reached the denser patch of forest Jack swiveled his cockpit and the four legs swapped their rhythm to move in the new direction. "Come on Leo, let's go." Careful to not crush any of the odd trees though the some of the vines inevitably got caught on the C-Steel blast shields.

Leo followed close behind him, trying his best to keep the Sagi low and out of direct view of the enemy. The strong joints and arms of the mech made it quite easily to knock any branches or trees out of the way as he traveled.

Tantus engaged the A.I. for auto lock and fired the laser. Following his leaders decision. With a loud crack the laser tore thru the foliage. Landing a few feet to the left of the enemy mech.

Tantus watched the scout mech back off out of range "Well you miss all shots you don't take" he chuckled. Keeping with formation he ran diagnostics all green. Smiling with anticipation while also keeping look out.

Doomcrakka moved forward slowly in formation. Muk watched the trees for any signs of movement and listened with Doomcrakka’s sensors for any changes. He anticipated an attack any second but he had no idea where it might come from.

Steven called LIZ his A.I, " Liz keep an eye on the overlays while I'm providing support, and do please tell me when things get heated on the reactor side of things" Steven programed Liz to be more human than most, making her more unique than others but she is the only good thing he kept from the many years of vice.

Steven made sure to keep firing lanes open as best as he could, firing the ECM missile would overload the core reactor of the mecha to give blood cross enough time to open fire on the mech before they could fire back, Steven turned on the CECM, over the comms " CECM online targeting should be no problem"

Steven asked Liz, "What the overlay completion time at the moment?"
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May 27th, 2320
Delta Zagreus System
Zagreus iii

Several minutes went by as the convoy snaked its way towards the objective building. Once the fullness of the convoy was within the engagement area, the world of Zagreus iii changed. A hellscape erupted.

Dozens of explosions rocked the convoy, overturning several vehicles, rock and plant matter spattering the legs of Sagi and Galvaneer. Several of the antimissile systems began whirling to life, a prelude to a fusillade of guided munitions. Several contacts beaconed to life on Dav's neutrino sensors up ahead on the ridgeline. Clearly at least one enemy was calling in some sort of artillery support from nearby. Dav messaged Xir. "Go find those cowards", he said. Dav quickly barked orders to the Blood Cross. "Vanguard Charge. Support, lay down suppression fire. Hit what you can, but give us time to get in close."

With a bit of Deja Vu, Dav willed the Dark horse forward, weapons seeking a lock on the half dozen active frames and their fusion reactors.

The world erupted with fire and dirt. Tantus watched as the shells rained down over the radio he heard Dav signal Xir to find them. "Xir the mortar fire came from the north side behind the warehouse I believe it's only two pods" Tantus responded over the radio.

Pushing forward to the right of Dav he aimed for the 6 mechs heading to engage the vanguard. Locking on with the right shoulder missile pod he aimed for the 2 closest mechs and fired. The pair of missiles streaked outwards, one shredded by an antimissile system. The other connected with the enemy frame, shattering armor plating but failing to penetrate the armored hide of the enemy machine.

Four loud crunching thunks were heard as the Galvaneer's pitons broke through the root systems. Jacks reaction time wasn't as good as most of the other pilots but the cockpit rotated around to face the reactor signals. The capacitors whirred to life and the railgun swiveled to face the reactor signals. Giving the loading mechanism a quick check he saw a frag shell in the barrel and had a small smile behind the helmet.

Aiming for the largest concentration of targets he set the fuse to explode mid air and fired with a loud boom. Once the shell was out of the barrel he listened to the subsurface sonar and waited for his next shell to load.

The mid air explosive detonated high above the cluster of enemy mecha, raining death down upon the machines. While no frames seemed to be damaged save the loss of a few armored plates, several dozen hidden anti-mecha mines detonated in the field before the advancing Blood Cross vanguard.

Muk saw the targets appear on his sensors and heard Dav’s orders. He urged the Doomcrakka ahead at full speed, eager to do some damage. If the enemy didn’t have a visual they wouldn’t be able to spot for artillery support. He knew they had to take those mechs down or this was going to be a short engagement.

The enemy made this their only option. Muk was certain they would have surprises waiting for the Vanguard. He tried to get a lock on any of the enemies on the ridge. He thought if he started shooting they might fall back, but he didn’t want to waste any shots..

Steven moved mute forward as still providing CECM and ECM for himself allowing the alpha team to move forward without having to take any significant damage. Steven said " Liz, I want the Ion missiles to not hit bit explode next to the turret to scramble the turret"

" I need an update on the overlays sweetie" Steven called to Liz

Liz began feeding telemetry data into the fire control system, "Sure babe, target lock in six seconds." She replied.

Leo had the Sagi rotate to a more advantageous angle, and quickly cycled through the targets. He focused on the one that Tantus had been able to hit and fired his two plasma cannons at it. Since the Sagi was next to the Glen, twin blasts reached out, one missing barely. The other struck the side of the aging warmonger, digging a deep furrow along its flank, coolant spraying from a ruptured line.


The half dozen Warmonger machines began to back off, letting loose a fusillade of laser cannons from shoulder mounts as they began to squat and back up. The lack of fluid movement was clear to both Dav and his A.I. these were either being piloted by the chassis A.I. only or the pilots themselves were no better than raw recruits. Most of the shots missed wide, save one hit to the heavy frontal armor of the Galvaneer's right front leg. Some armor boiled and popped, but failed to breach the armor plating. Once the first fusillade was completed the enemy warmongers began backing quicker towards the ridge of the hill. Like a flock of earth geese flying backwards, a uniform vee shape developed.

Smiling Tantus advanced forward knowing the enemy mechs were a joke no real combat experience. Firing up the dual rail guns he fired at the point mech when in range the roar was deafening. The pair of ferro aluminum slugs punched through the armor of the warmonger frame, though no secondary explosions or crippling strike resulted. The pair of slugs buried themselves into the ground behind the targeted frame, kicking up earth and plant matter.

These mechs were clearly luring them in now, Muk was sure of it. The mines were likely just the first trap the enemy left for them. “Too easy. It’s a trick.” Muk spat. “Keep your eyes open. Bet they set up an ambush.” Such weak men couldn’t hope to defeat the Blood Cross in a straight up fight. Disgusted with the enemy, he got a good shot on the closest member of the enemy V and took it.

Doomcrakka continued to stomp forward. Purple bolts of plasma spat out of Muk’s four light cannons. He was moving too fast to get a good shot with the Third Eye from this distance, so he continued to hold back from the urge to launch an Alpha Strike.

Shots peppered Muk's target, the small pops from damaged armor barely audible to Muk within his cockpit.

While Jack wasn't quite deafened by the subsurface sonar receiving the detonations but his ears would be ringing for a while. This didn't stop him from firing the second frag shell that loaded into the railgun but it did stop him from detecting if there were any other underground traps until his sensor units reset.

As the group of enemies moved further away Jack retracted the pitons back into the Galvaneers legs and continued up the hill. "Come on Leo let's get into position."

"Don't gotta tell me twice" Leo said continuing along with Jack, trying his best to keep his mech between Jack and the enemy. He fired the plasma cannons a second time, kicking up the dirt around the mech. Seeing an opportunity he fired the missile rack on the Sagi's back into the enemy formation. It was less to damage and more for hoping to disrupt them. While the plasma cannon blasts missed wide, the missile barrage cored the targeted frame, the missiles overwhelming the point defense system.

Dav slowed his rush, allowing the second artillery shell from the Galvaneer to do its work. More secondary explosions rocked the countryside, evidence of more antivehicle mines positioned along their intended travel pathways.

Scott used his hand actuators to right the few flipped trucks. The bodies of the fallen were placed in the back of the medical truck. Not going to be the last, Scott surmised. The disabled vehicles were hooked up to be dragged or towed, their precious cargo still needed.

Beta element stood guard, still shaken from the initial bombardment.

Charlie element bridged the gap between Beta and Alpha with their slow but heavy frames, moving forward towards the ultimate goal, the warehouse.


Dav took stock of the battlefield. Blood Cross one, hillbillies zero. The remaining Enemy frames moved behind the ridge, severing line of sight. Dav ordered Muk and the rest of Alpha element to halt. "They are pulling back. I'm sure there is another trap waiting for us over the hill. Lets track around the hill with the earth moving equipment. And cut our own path to the target."

Xir notified Dav. "I have eliminated their rocket artillery battery, Captain. There was moderate resistance in the form of a dozen medium vehicles with primitive ballistic weapons who have also been eliminated. Beast has taken a few wounds and we will need to withdraw to recover."

"Understood, Xir. Retreat to the Icarus and protect our ride."


The earthmoving continued a slow pace with several secondary detonations, old mines dug up in the drive towards the target building. As the earthmoving equipment capped the edge of the lee of the hill, scans from Steven showed several hunting blinds abandoned along with eleven sets of frame tracks along with a dozen heavy tracked vehicles leading towards the town.

Jack stomped around the hilltop he and Leo had chosen until he settled into a decent position. Putting the mechs back against a collection of boulders he deployed the pitons which broke into the stone anchoring him in place. "Galvaneer in position and ready to for targets."

Muk was bored out of his mind. He had been reading up on scripture but he could only read for short periods of time. In the first two days he’d exhausted most of the material he’d brought for entertainment and resorted to borrowing content from the other pilots. Some of them had questionable taste in movies. He’d gotten a terrible collection of movies from one of the new pilots with awful acting and far too many scenes of humans mating.
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May 30th, 2320
Delta Zagreus System
Zagreus iii

Three days later, the Blood Cross arrived at the target zone. Dav as well as the rest of the Blood Cross waited behind the last hill ridge leading down to the target. On Dav's orders, Steven released a camera drone to survey the area. A small cluster of shacks made of sheet metal and local timber stood in the clearing. A dozen heavy vehicles rested within concrete tank defensive fortifications facing the direction of the approaching company, their turrets exposed. Nowhere were seen the frames, though the tracks ended in the settlement.

Dav streamed the the video to the Blood Cross frame pilots. Dav said, "Any thoughts, team?"

Jacks helmet extended over his head as yet another empty packaged meal of beans, rice and possibly some of the worst cookies in the world joined the others in the trash box. He was quite used to sitting, sleeping and completing daily bodily function in his cockpit but the heat outside mixed with the rather lack luster cooling systems the Galvaneer had made it a bit harder than usual.

Tantus inhaled surveying the land. They knew we were coming this recent he thought. He keyed the communicator up exhaling " I feel in my expert opinion that they're underground waiting to pull us in then ambush. They know we got the experience but a surprise is still a surprise" he chuckled

"I can be bait if you want but there gonna end up behind us somehow just hadn't figured it out yet. Its there only play heads up we win."

Jack almost couldn't believe what he was hearing so he decided to clarify the possibly moronic or strategic idea. "You aren't suggest'in that they burried a team o' mecha in the ground like some damn commando squad? Right?" While it wasn't completely impossible Jack severely doubted that such a thing would be very viable.

Tantus inhaled "Jack I'm not sure how they're gonna do it but the only way we lose is a pincer attack by mechs. Xir is destroying the mortar and rockets as we speak." Exhaling "it's just my opinion Jack all I have is my gut."

Jack would have disagreed with that last part but he didn't see much point in further annoying one of his new team mates, even if he was being a bit stupid. "In ane' case. Why not just let me peppa the place a litt'l? Would encourage those tin cans ta get outa cover and make them easy targets for the rest of ya."

Leo had spent most of his time napping and staying in his mech, as the two talked he cleared his head and surveyed the situation. "They could have built the sheds around them," He said, "They are built shoddily enough that they could just walk right out of them". While he talked he went over his weapon systems and making sure none had gotten any mud and grit in them from the days spent in the field. Leo nor the mech were used to planet-side environments, they were more comfortable with being in space.

Muk shook his head in disbelief. The situation was not that complicated. The enemy didn’t need a fancy plan, they just had to keep the Blood Cross from taking the warehouse. “Too much thinking.” He spat over the team channel. “Kill the tanks first. They ain’t coming up out of the building if we just sit here lobbin’ shells. We gotta hit em where it hurts humies most — in da bank!”

He pulled up the surveillance footage and the information they had on the enemy. “They got what, 12 mechs and tons of vehicles? They could fight us straight up an’ maybe win, but they ain’t. Bet they’re broke as shit. We break their toys they’re gonna get mad.” He finished.

Steven looking at the survey drone footage, saw the the fortification. Steven spoke up " well what's probably happening is when the tanks can't take us out they will call the frames if that don't think they can hold us off. We need to cause a distraction to their ranks so they get confused before we attack, cause confusion, then attack them on the outside"

Jack pressed his hands to the sides of his helmet where his temples were, while he couldn't rub the actual places without removing his helmet it still felt relaxing. Unlike his profession where all he had to do was keep asteroids coming into the mining bay and being a glorified point defense system this whole strategy thing was a lot harder.

Thinking of his normal job did spark an idea and he pulled up the current inventory of the convoy. After confirming the materials were there he opened a private chat to the nearby mecha, "Hey Leo? Remember 'ow to pull off a 'ook and shatter?" Jack was referencing the mining maneuver where an asteroid was herded towards a mining bay then set with charges to shatter into smaller chunks as it entered the bay. "Cause we do 'ave those mines t'at we picked up on our way here. Wouldn' be hard to do somet'in similar here. Right?" He sounded a bit unsure of the idea but he thought the idea was at least something to go off of.

Leo thought about the plan, he knew what he was talking about and was seeing how it could be executed. "I think I get what your going for, some sort of cluster bomb or somethin'? That could work to confuse em' ".

After hearing the ideas from his top pilots, Dav decided upon a course of action. Jack would use targeted artillery strikes and area attacks to remove any mine fields and destroy the defending tanks one at a time over the next two weeks. Dav was sure to specify to save a dozen rounds for the final assault and eventual counter assault from the defending frames still unaccounted for. The rest of the Blood Cross would install the recovered mines and shore up their defenses in the lee of the hill. Close to the objective was just as good as on the objective. Or at least for a while anyways. The plan was to hold onto some territory for the month, after all. Dav and Tantus would be on continual guard duty. Steven was to scout with mini drones in the area, getting the lay of the land. Muk, his boys, and Leo were tasked with earthworks and guard duty. Idle hands and all that, they say. Once the last tank and possible mine field was cleared, they would push into the town. Unless of course, the lost frames showed up. There was always that possibility.
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June 15th, 2320
Delta Zagreus System
Zagreus iii

As the bright sun rose one the morning of the 15th day, Dav opened his battle kit. Usually full, he retrieved the last of his stimulant packs, bottled water, and protein bars. He injected the stim into his left bicep, swallowed the protein bar in two bites, then chased the package down with the whole of the twenty ounces of water. Gods, he felt like crap, Dav thought. Dav was sleep deprived and half starved as was most of the rest of the Blood Cross. Small explosive munitions, not in any way dangerous to the heavy frames, but very to the supplies, had been fired into the camp every night. Sensors had failed to pick up the stealthy hunters and their hand held rocket propelled grenades. As such, spare parts, food, and water were beginning to become scarce. Sleep for most of the team as well. But today, now that the bombardment was finished, it was time to push the base, their target, and now most importantly, their food and water supply. They had to. They wouldn't survive another 15 days in this state. Dav sent the message on the local network, a group of runners kept near Dav's Dark Horse. He assumed the hillbillies were watching and listening, so he sent runners every day, even if the message was the same. But today was the day they would move. No need to advertise the advance.

Jack poked at his ammo counter with worry, much like the other lord knows how many similar actions the gauge refused to change. The six thumper shells, three HE and three AP rounds left in his clip weren't helping his paranoia. The enemy frames hadn't appeared and being this far away from the convoy, ammo and protection was starting to wear on the miner.

All in all, Leo was doing pretty ok. He had run mining ships on less food, water, and sleep before in his teenage years. The Sagi, however, he was more afraid for. She was an older model, harder to replace her parts if they got damaged in a bombardment. But when the order came to push for their base, it caught his attention. "Think that's our call to head out my friend" He said to Jack as he sat up in his seat.

Letting the ammo counter go for now Jack shook his helmeted head. "Yah let's get going. Would hate to get caught out here with our helmets off when shit hits the airlock." With that said the miner put words to action. The Galvaneer's pitons retracted and the legs started their slow thudding gate towards the rest of the team. Though Jack was keeping a close eye on the subsurface scans to be sure he didn't step on a mine on the way.

“It’s about damn time.” Muk said, stuffing his mouth with the small food and water rations. “Too much longer I was gonna start eatin the newbs.” He was in the same state as the rest of them. It was the longest he’d gone without a decent meal since the day he got purchased by the Desert Gang. He started up Doomcrakka and connected his neural interface. The device clicked into place. He ran a diagnostic on the Frame’s systems and waited for a report from Liala.

The sun was bright it warmed Tantus Skin exhaustion was in every part of his body. He dragged hard on his pipe and exhaled. Exhausted he still heard the footsteps of Dav's runner coming up behind his mech. Same report he thought. The runner yelled "Dav said push the warehouse immediately" Adrenaline flowed over him from his head to his tail. The fatigue was gone jumping backwards into his mech he latched in. Muk sounded off on the comms He just heard the news from his runner.

" I agree Muk. I was dying to fight." Tantus howled over the comms. Checking systems all green he smiled.

This was a first for Steven and hopefully the last, being like this was miserable for him, he did not take well to the lack of sleep and rationed food and water. After taking the stim cocktail, it made Steven feel like he had had a weeks worth of sleep. But he knew what would come when the drug finally wore off. Steven turned on mute, letting Liz take the full control.

Like Every day of the past two weeks, Dav mounted his machine. He went through the checkoff suspended in the air before him by Sweetie. With his fatigue grown stronger than his stamina, Dav had enabled her pilot override. Couldn't have him blowing himself up with a startup sequence misstep. Chuan would never forgive him or let him live it down. This thought brought a smile to his face. While they chatted about inconsequential matters every evening, he missed her touch, her massages, and most importantly, her bed. Gods he missed her bed. The cooled gravity gel mattress, ten million thread count synthsilk sheets... He could go on but that would just begin to lull him into a fast slumber. Then the stim finally hit his system. Eyes bloodshot but open, his heart racing, his breathing quickened. Dav waited for the worst of the stim side effects to wear off before doing the unexpected. He opened his comm channels to the Blood Cross: "Blood Cross, time to form up in the lee of the hill and Charge. Bravo Team, defend our logistics as they pack up and move into the town. Charlie, give us cover. Alpha team, time to get em." With that, Dav moved the Dark Horse to the lee of the hill, pouring power into the frame systems. He was ready to end this farce of a vendetta.

Muk looked over the readouts floating in his vision. Everything appeared to be working just fine. He dismissed the display with a wave of his metal hand. With his other hand, he thumbed off the cap on his stim and injected the chemical cocktail into his arm. He followed Dav’s orders, moving Doomcrakka up next to the Dark Horse.

“I will execute great vengeance on them with wrathful rebukes. Then they will know that I am the Lord, when I lay my vengeance upon them. Pastor is ready to lay down the Lord’s justice.” He said, grinning. The stim took effect, enhancing his natural Atraxian bloodlust. He howled into the microphone like a lunatic and laughed. “Let’s fucking go!”

The Galvaneer stomped up behind the team and glared at the ammo counter again, while he had been able to load a few more shells, twenty four total wasn't exactly much in the grand scheme of things. Though it was a damn site better than the twelve he had left after the bombardment.

The less paranoid miner tapped at the screens in his cockpit and swapped the artillery firing situations for direct fire, the ranges that any combat would be in being too short for arcing fire to be viable. The railgun clunked as it's mechanism lowered the mass of capacitors and magnetic rails to point straight ahead as something akin to weary excitement sparked in Jack's chest. "Galvaneer ready."

Emptying his pipe he packed a rich orange tobacco in 1/4 oz to the brim. Lighting and inhaling his rage grew, reasoning dissipated, pure raw animal fury flowed through his veins.
Tantus Smiled "Your stims just don't cut it for a Specimen like me y'all need to try Supernova." Advancing, his fury kept growing.
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June 15th, 2320
Delta Zagreus System
Zagreus iii

Dav led Alpha down the hill, his targeting matrix scanning for any active hostiles. the Dark Horse plotted a straight path along the shredded ground. As expected there was many dense minefields in place between the advancing Blood Cross and the target settlement. Unsurprising, the buildings seemed to be shells from Steven's scans. Merely window dressing. This wasn't always the case and Dav's respect for his foe increased minimally. The dozen tanks hammered by Jack's bombardment seemed to be non functional now. All was quiet save the heavy footfalls of the advancing frames.

Doomcrakka surged forward, barely able to keep up with the Dark Horse’s charge. Muk scanned the terrain ahead for any unusual activity. He noted the dead tanks and the remains of several minefields. He maintained position to Dav’s right. “Cowardly assholes.” He growled. “Must be too busy suckin face with their sisters to fight us.”

Jack kept and eye and ear on his sensor readouts as the Galvaneer stood locked on the hilltop. The miner made sure to watch his rear and the convoy in general as well as keep his eyes on the battlefield in front of him. He kept the railgun coils charged and something kept the hair on the back of his neck from calming.

Keeping left in a spearhead formation Tantus scanned the area. The tank bunkers were trashed. "Good job Jack on the bunkers." he said.
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June 15th, 2320
Delta Zagreus System
Zagreus iii

As the Blood Cross entered the area they walked through the cleared fields. Heavy foot falls compressed the turned earth and fragments of exploded mines. As Dav and the rest of the Vanguard reached the center of the settlement, it became apparent this was a stage. The buildings lacked the usual accoutrements of habitable buildings. They simply represented buildings, lacking power, plumbing, or even functional doors. Whatever the mystery of what they were fighting and dying for would not be revealed here and now. Dav's curiosity suddenly shifted to alarm as his sensors echoed what his A.I. was squawking. The enemy was there.

The Vanguard began to turn towards the approaching enemy, half a dozen enemies closing on the flanks of the support column. The rookie Beta squad turned into the fusillade, if with a bit of staggering from the formation change, armor sagged from the left sides of the frames like melted wax. Dav frowned at the delay. Every second counted when combat was engaged and they lost a precious few with tangled fire lines from the shift towards the left. Laser and particle beams lanced back and forth between the two groups, more misses from the Blood Cross than Dav liked to see.

Charlie accelerated towards the potential safety of the settlement, trucks bouncing along the rough ground. The Sagi turned his frame torso and let go a small fusillade from his arm mounted weapons. Despite the firm, calm sound from his mic, Leo's aim belied his inexperience in frame combat. Most of the shots connected but caused no penetrating damage.

In fact, no shots from the Blood Cross Beta squad penetrated the armor hide of the defenders. Dav wondered where the other enemies were located, but focused upon one of the enemy warmonger frames on the right. He lined up his targeting reticle and unleashed a volley of fire from his arm weapon pod and shoulder cannon. Simultaneously, a wave of heat from the energy drawn from the fusion reactor cause sweat to pool in his helmet. His frame rocked backwards as the cannon shell left the barrel. The nickel iron slug missed high followed by a double impact of a pair of plasma bolts, one of the anti-missile machine guns melted and some armor damaged along the right side of the Warmonger. Slight burning from the salt in his eyes prompted Dav to say, "Have at em, Blood Cross. Take... Them... Down!"

Jack quickly signaled the plasma reactor to start up and the cockpit warmed noticeably. The coolant system strained as head of the mech swiveled around bringing the charged railgun in line with the new targets. Taking the fraction of a second to check what shell was loaded, Jack shifted his aimed for the center of mass for the leading frame. The thumper shell that had been loaded launched out of the barrel clearing it for the HE shell Jack wanted to fire at the mechs. The shell cleared the weapon muzzle, the projectile streaking across the short distance. The targeted frame twisted and squatted, deflecting the projectile with the armored casing of its left arm, detonating left and above the enemy frames. a thick furrow was etched into the cooling jacket armor, but was otherwise unharmed. Jack imagined the enemy pilot grinning at the attempted unsuccessful attack

Muk turned the Doomcrakka towards the approaching enemies and found the nearest enemy. He opened fire with an alpha strike, aiming for center mass. “Come on, boys!” He yelled. Muk felt the spike in cockpit temperature as his fusion reactor struggled to power all of Doomcrakka's weapons. The third eye opened and belched fire, the slug missing the enemy frame by millimeters. The plasma rounds fared much better, four of five striking along the torso. Armor plates popped but no plasma breached the armor.

Looking closely there was only 6 enemies mechs advancing. Firing a rocket pod now half the distance as last Tantus knew he would hopefully critical one. Half a dozen warheads streaked out, many destroyed by the collective anti missile systems enjoyed by the enemy frames. But a pair slipped through, one buried itself deep into the left arm of a damaged frame. the explosion bisected the arm from the chassis, pinwheeling it off behind the charging machines.
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June 15th, 2320
Delta Zagreus System
Zagreus iii

With the moderate damage traded, the enemy Warmongers closed to point blank range. The weapons audibly cycled and charged, the enemy Warmongers holding their fire for but a second. Their intentions were clear to Dav. They were going to use the inexperience displayed by the Blood Cross thus far to close the shrinking space and use the enhanced mobility of the Warmonger battle frame to dance around the heavier armed and armored Blood Cross machines. If the Blood Cross didn't establish dominance now, many more of Dav's comrades would die. He couldn't let that happen again. Unnoticed to Dav, but not to Sweetie, was the five new neutrino signatures approaching from behind the newly established firing line of the Blood Cross.

Jack really didn't like the range the opponents were getting into. As soon as the HE Shell loaded into the barrel Jack fired it off at the nearest enemy and retracted the pitons from the stone under the soil. With little distance between him and his target, the high explosive shell connected with an enemy machine. While failing to breach the armor, the force knocked the frame onto it's back, power continuing to register on Jack's sensors but the enemy pilot not moving the machine.

"Need a little 'elp here." Jack stated as the auto loading mechanism reloaded the main cannon on his frame. The Galvaneer was by no means the fastest mech in the world and with it's four legs it had no chance of out running any advancing mech that tried to catch up. The paced thuds of its four feet as the artillery mech tried to pull back from melee range slowly sped up as the mech gained what little momentum it could.

Lights blinked all over the console proximity alerts for the other 5 mechs had somehow worked to the rear. Tantus roared " I knew it they're flanking us. Shit" over the comms.

Angered by the enemies arrogance he fired the light rail guns on both sides of his torso at the approaching damaged mechs in front. Five of the six rail munitions connected with the left sided damaged Warmonger. As multiple rounds punched through the savaged armor, a variety of fluids poured out of the machine. a second later it collapsed like a marionette with its strings cut. He knew if any got closer, it was melee time.

Muk cursed at the enemy's speed as his Third Eye narrowly missed its target. He would have to hold off on firing for a few seconds to recover from the recoil. Liala fed the information from his sensors directly into his brain, alerting him to the danger of being flanked. If they could quickly eliminate several of the mechs they were dealing with, they could turn to face the flanking force.

"Focus fire on the damaged gits! We krump da bastards an' we can turn to face da sneaky buggers!" He bellowed, still riding high on stims. He could feel the chemicals peaking in his system. That meant he had maybe 30 seconds left before a crash.

Eager for blood, he kept pursuing the approaching enemy in front of him. "I got the one with half 's torso armor gone!" Muk said. Doomcrakka pushed closer to the enemy, trying to close to melee range while its chainsaw arm spun up. He took careful aim with his plasma cannons and unleashed another volley, superheated gases flying towards the third Warmonger illuminating the enemy with blue light. Five superheated balls of plasma shot out of Muk's machine. Even with it's newly enhanced cooling capacity, a wave of heat washed over him. His mind raced back to his home planet of Atraxis for a moment, the thrill of battle combined with the heat of his cockpit filling him with euphoria. As if Bro'sief guided his hand, four of five plasma balls scoured the armor from across the warmonger's torso and leg, the fifth missing high. Then Doomcrakka connected with the enemy in a purely physical fashion. The whirling blade of the diamond edged saw bit deep as one hundred tons of Doomcrakka impaled the smaller machine. Doomcrakka’s chainsaw tore right through the enemy’s cockpit and kept going through the mech’s engine, a bloody mess of gore coating the blades as it emerged from the mech. A giddy baritone laugh easily identifiable as Muk echoed through the team’s helmets.

Dav locked onto a triplet of machines, now less prepared to stave off a missile barrage due to the loss of several of their anti missile systems. Sweetie chirped in his ear, "Ready to launch, Boss"

Dav squeezed his control buttons, including the right pinkie interlock. This disabled the heat shut down override, a sometimes necessary safety function in the heat of battle. The power demands on the Blackwell 325 fusion engine made the cockpit consoles dimmed and warning klaxons began to sound as heat parboiled Dav's skin through the cooling suit. Almost fifty missiles launched out of the dozen tubes located on the shoulders of the Dark Horse, two dozen corkscrewing towards the left and right fresh machines, bracketing the plasma bolts and a nickel iron penetrator into the central third. The missiles overwhelmed the AMS, dozens of missiles connecting with the Warmongers. The overwhelmed machines began to disintegrate from damage, the pilots ejecting. A one, two pop resounded to the air drones as the pilots were carried away from the battle. The pair of projectiles, one plasma and the other purely kinetic, torn through the leg of the charging machine. It maintained it's balance by firing its jumping jets. The additional power coursed through the limbs, propelling Dav and the Dark Horse forward. Dav's vision began to blur and he spoke calmly, "Sweetie, engage battle pattern delta tango. I should recover in a minute or two." Dav missed the response as The Dark Horse accelerated towards the nearly crippled enemy machine. The Dark Horse's battle claw reached out and punched through the side torso, wrecking the engine on the third machine. As waves of heat poured off the Dark Horse, it turned towards the new wave of enemy machines, armor panels popping from the intense heat, heat sinks blowing seals. Before Dav slid into darkness he muttered to no one in particular, "Never again..."

The rest of the Blood Cross, Bravo and Charlie groups turned to continue down the hill towards the objective at Dav's continued robotic orders. Jack, Muk, Tantus, and Dav stood against the remaining five approaching warmonger frames.
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June 15th, 3020
Delta Zagreus System
Zagreus iii

The five remaining enemy Warmongers divided, three approaching the Alpha group while two split off to engage the convoy of Bravo and Charlie groups. Lasers and autocannons began to reach across the distance as Bravo and Charlie traded fire with the pair of hostiles. More armor melted, arms removed, and pilots ejected. One of the Warmongers as well as three of the Bravo machines had pilots rocketing above the battlefield. The Sagi, its leg removed, toppled to the ground. Seconds later, it powered down and opened its cockpit hatch, the signal of surrender. The last of the convoy frames stood against the onrushing Warmonger, his vents blowing thermal pollution across the field, stirring up micro dust devils. Scott, the head of maitenance and repair, now stood alone against a rough but elite pilot.

The Dark Horse, still leaking coolant, readied the overshoulder railgun, lining up a shot at the left approaching machine. The round broke the sound barrier as it struck a shoulder mount, tearing off a rapid fire gatling cannon along with almost two tons of armor and exposing the right arm shoulder joint.

The return laser fire sweeped across the remaining squad, flaying armor. A pair of high energy laser cannons sweeped across the top of Doomcrakka, slicing off the high mounted plasma cannon as well as damaging armor. The heat from the laser beam cracked the thick tempered aluminum viewscreen, leaking ozone into the cockpit from the surrounding atmosphere.

The Galvaneer shielded it's torso with the leg shields, one melting off before the heavy laser beams cored into where its magazine resides. Fortunately for Jack, that ammunition bin was long empty.

Artio took a pair of laser beams to the center torso from the lead machine. Clearly this was their leader as the laser beam control was steady as he approached. In the span of but a pair of seconds, the armor covering the center torso was all but removed in an artistic figure eight pattern.

Jack didn't like how hot it was getting in his cockpit nor the slagged mess that was one of his blast shields. He liked even less how close he was to being a charred corpse being flown through the air via explosive ejection. The legs moved apart as the cockpit swivled around when Jack saw an opportunity to make sure one more opponent wouldn't be getting back up.

As the HE shell loaded into the barrel Jack raised his back leg and brought it down with all the strength the hydraulic system could apply on the downed mech. While it wouldn't make a perfectly stable launch position Jack was sure it would be adequate. He deployed all four pitons three of which thumped into the earth and the fourth tried it's hardest to punch through the mech and anchor into the ground. His rear leg punched into weakened torso, the piton driving through the frame. The power signature faded and Jack grunted in satisfaction.

Taking his focus back to the actual threats, Jack felt the burning steel in his veins as he took one look over the battlefeild and had to choose. He probably wouldn't be able to get another shot off before one or the other team got too close to his allies to risk firing more than thumpers or AP. So he made a choice and shouted over the comms. "Scott attack him now!" The rail gun fired and the shell arced shallowly towards the mech charging at Scott timed to detonate around or hopefully inside the damned machine.

Unphased by the heat and noise of battle, Jack lined up his shot. His target was zigging and zagging, but after half a second Jack's instinct for pattern movement kicked in. One - two - three, one - two - three. Jack squeezed the trigger. The high explosive armor piercing round launched, flew the micro second it took to cross the space and detonated in front of the charging machine. Like the 25th of April, green white and red sprayed from the ad hoc firework. The unique butterfly arc blossomed, coating the warmonger. Thousands of prescored tunsgen fletchets sprayed the front of the charging frame as the shockwave tossed the machine, head over heels. It tumbled to a stop, but began to almost immediately struggle to stand, smoke pouring from its fractured chest plate.

The fire from its left flank caused the heavy mech to shift slightly to one side as it suddenly got a little lighter. Muk straightened it out again and turned towards the group that was trying to flank them. He decided to stand and fire, keeping his right side towards the enemy as much as possible.

Muk exposed just enough of Doomcrakka's left side to get a clear shot with the Third Eye. Noting the accuracy of the pilot targeting Scott, he took aim at that mech and unleashed the Third Eye and the Doomcrakka’s four remaining plasma cannons on it. The already hot cockpit became almost liquid hellfire. A haze appeared within the cockpit, the viewscreen to Muk's right sparked and died. A warning klaxon began to sound, red lights flashing on his remaining data screens. The quartet of plasma rounds chased the gaze of the third eye. Three of the plasma bolts breached the ruined torso armor as the third eye amputated the right leg at the thigh. Having enough, the enemy pilot ejected. Scott breathed a sigh of relief and begun to back up towards the objective. He fired upon the charging triplet of machines, scoring a solid hit to the right leg of one.

Smiling Tantus howled, "Look Dav these guys might not be amateurs after all. I'm outta rockets and rail ammo. I'm getting up close and nasty." Cutting power to range weapons. Tantus engaged the plasma axes on both arms.

The core flooded the cab with warm air. Inhaling his pipe deep and exhaling orange smoke. He thrust his joysticks forward charging the leader. Smelling blood, he saw the whites of the poor pilots eyes.

Like a beserker of old, Tantus charged ahead while the enemy weapons cycled. With a one two swing, Tantus brought the plasma axe down on the left leg of the leaders machine, the other grazing the ground. Four thousand degrees of ignited hydrogen flowed along the hardened edge of Tantus's axe, biting deep but not severing the limb. armor parted along with myomer musculature molten metals and cracked ceramics falling like rain. The shattered debris and stray plasma from the dodged axe swing set the ground aflame. The enemy leader slowed his machine as he circled around his newest opponent within a ring of fire. A dance to the death. The performance both craved.


Wiki Moderator
June 15th, 3020
Delta Zagreus System
Zagreus iii

Dominik Fraser was growing worried. Most of his team was down and out. These Blood Cross boys were better than he expected. At first he was worried about the atrocity unleashed by the Blood Cross, but it was fairly easy to neutralize. Like a whipped dog, it slunk back to its masters. yes it had wrecked their artillery battery but his cousins Lulu and Frankie had injured it. Bad enough that it retired. What Dom hadn't anticipated, and the subsequent worry, was the patience and artillery support the Blood Cross had brought. That one frame had destroyed his support company of heavy tanks did not relieve him. He usually relied upon those heavies to draw out or deal the final blow to would be interlopers. That left only the span of time when the Blood Cross moved into the target zone for him to attack. After that, the Blood Cross would be dug in with their earthmoving equipment and without the artillery, he would have to assault with his frames. Not a pleasant proposition as the Blood Cross outweighted him almost 2 to 1 in frame weight, weapons, and armor. When the McCullock family charged the flank of their support elements, he whooped and cheered. The McCullocks were some of the best Melee pilots he had ever seen. If they reache melee range, they were all but ensured another victory. But then the devil in the red Tiger returned with the vanguard and ruined those dreams. Like a pack of maniacs, the vanguard had quickly cut down the entire family.

That left him, his cousins, and sister, Lulu. Lulu took Frankie, the other lady frame pilot, and charged the Blood Cross support elements. Maybe if they lost enough machines, they would surrender. Spraying the armor of the Vanguard had drawn some of the enemy's fire, but not enough. Both Lulu and Frankie went down under the combined fire from all of the Blood Cross save the red devil. Then the green and grey frame turned and charged him. He tagged the machine Berserker due to it's configuration and increased the cycle rate of his quad of heavy laser cannons. The heat in his machine wasn't bad yet but with melee against this berserker trash pile, his heat was sure to spike. Dominik spoke as he slowed and turned his machine to deal with the beserker, "MacGreggor, Stew, take them Vanguard down. I will deal with this "muc" and follow soon."

Stew and Mac responded in the affirmative, picking their targets and firing as they closed the remaining distance.

Mac, the pilot in the damaged warmonger took a shot at scott, removing his left damaged arm at the shoulder, a hot scalpel removing ligaments before turning and closing with Dav. The trio of heavy lasers missed as the Dark Horse promptly squatted, almost unnaturally fast.

Stew focused upon the larger artillery mech. Stew had a bone to pick with that one. big boi had injured his sweetheart, one of the tank commanders. The beard he loved so much would never grow properly again. a quad of laser beams shot out, three striking the damaged leg. The Galvaneer's front leg was amputated as Megajoules poured into the unprotected joint and the already ruined ammo bin.

Dominik targeted the center torso once again, locking onto the neutrino signiture. one beam missed wide as Tantus turned to face the circling leader. The other three carved a deep trench into Artio's chest. The waves of energy pierced the already damaged armor on the chest, melting the laser assembly located beneath the cockpit. Heat spiked in both cockpits as energy was released and transferred by focused laser beam.

Jack almost lost bowel control as one of his legs got severed and the lasers dug again into his hull. He quickly regained it as his ammo boxes didn't explode though the alarms ringing didn't exactly even his mood out. Retracting the pitons with a screeching sound of tearing armour as one of the now three legs ripped itself free of the dead mech.

The Galvaneer's new three legged movements were a lot less stable than it's original four. However said forth leg wasn't fully destroyed, though amputated, leaking fluids and with one melted blastshield, the piton was still in the ground and keeping the foot standing. Dolly made use of this by hoping that enough hydraulic fluid had leaked out or would be pushed out as he did this. Shoving his mech against the leaking hydraulic leg Jack attempted get as much cover as possible from further incoming fire.

Unable to direct fire the HE shell that was now loaded into his railgun due to the mix of functional and non-functional legs in his way he needed a firing arc. Wishing for an AI for the billionth time he tilted the railgun up and lobbed the shell over before pulling the barrel back into cover as fast as possible. The shell would either detonate up close or get shot down. Either way it would hopefully get him enough time to fire another shell before needing to pop the chute or for his teammates to come get his slow ass out of a fight he probably wouldn't win. Against all odds, the Warmonger closed the distance. Preparing to jump atop the galvaneer, it ignited its jump jets. As the enemy Warmonger peaked above what little remained of the blast shields on the front of Galvaneer, Jack instinctively pulled the trigger. Almost instantly the shell detonated. The blast from both the unstable shot as well as the high blast pushed the galvaneer deeply into the churned mud as well as forcing Jacks helmeted head into his chair. The moorings of the command chair tore loose on the front, flipping Jack from an upright position to on his back. Suddenly without breath and an intense migraine, Jacks body decided a nap would be appropriate. He would later get a chance to see his handiwork, called the "Miracle Shot by the Holy Blood Cross". The Warmonger took the heavy high explosive round through the cockpit, turning the frame into a rain of metal and expanding plasma. A small sun temporarily ignited before going dark.

The lack of attention Muk was getting from the enemy was insulting on a deep, personal level. A burst of sudden anger added to his heightened adrenaline from the stims. An ear-piercing noise somewhere between a howl and a growl emerged from Muk’s throat, followed up by a message to the Blood Cross and the enemy. “Boys, we’z gonna show dese rednecks da wrath ov da Cross! Dey will rememba da name ov Dav SteinBar and ‘is bodyguard, Muk Skullcrusha!” He said in a thunderous voice.

Tantus smiled hearing Muk over the comms. Heat flowed into the cab warming his reptilian blood. He looked thru the front glass of his cockpit and mouthed " Your Fucked" to the mech leader who looked back puzzled. Thunder erupted beside Tantus and he knew it had to be Muk's Third Eye opening.

With Scott no longer in danger, the gaze of Muk’s Third Eye fell on the enemy who circled in melee with Tantus’ Artio. Dominik made a fatal error in ignoring the Doomcrakka. Muk centered his crosshairs on the enemy leader, leading the shot due to his circling motions. After the huge shell flew out of the barrel with a boom, Muk pushed the Doomcrakka forward at full speed towards Dominik’s mech, revving his chainsaw for a melee attack if he could close the distance. The huge armor piercing shell connected with the circling Warmonger in its hip joint. A flash from nearly 200 kilos of high explosives removed the right leg just below the hip. Gravity and the momentum of a turning multiton vehicle suddenly without half of its supports caused the frame to plow into the soft loam and rich dirt. Dominik shook himself from the shock quickly enough to see an enourmous frame fill his cockpit half a second before a chainsaw buried itself deep into the back of his frame, killing power to the cockpit.

Sweetie, now in control of the Dark Horse, lined up another shot with the over shoulder magrail cannon. Like a machine, she targeted center mass and smoothly fired as the charge reached maximum. The kinetic penetrator struck center mass at the charging machine. While failing to penetrate the armor over the engine shielding, it did throw the machine off balance, like a charging knight suddenly stopped by a thick spear. With the sudden jolt, Mac realized he was the only Warmonger still standing. behind him was a pair of lightly damaged but very dangerous heavy frames to his left was a crippled but still active artillery frame, and before him was, according to his onboard A.I., the leader. Dav was still transmitting orders, if a bit sluggishly. That math said four to one. Odds he wasn't about to die over. He signaled his surrender. The battle was over. Victory to the Blood Cross.