A future less fortune

June 20th, 3058

Marduck, Federated Commonwealth

 

The Jumpship Ibn Ali burst into existence at the nadir point of the Marduck system, its needle shape already oriented to enable a quick sail deployment for recharge.  On the deck the ship’s captain deftly unbuckled his safety harness and turned to his guests.  A short slim woman with a hard expression and graying hair sat in the jump seat eyes slowly opening.  She reached under the seat into some cargo webbing and pulled out a severely beat up cowboy hat and placed on her head.

“Goddamn Burke, what knucklehead do you have plotting those jump calculations? I thought for sure we were going to end up inside-fucking-out on that jump.”

Burke smiled, he knew that she was perfectly aware that he did all the calculations himself; and he was the best at what he did.

“I think you’re just getting old Major.  Maybe the marauding life of a merc is just too hard on that body of yours?”  Burke’s eyes twinkled as his words provoked the reaction he had hoped for.

“You shut your damn mouth mister… and keep my body outa your head!”

“Captain Burke we are getting a hail from another jumpship, the Ken Yasuda.  I think it’s the one we were supposed to meet.”

“That it is; put vidcom through.”  Everyone turned to face a screen at the front of the Jumpship’s bridge where a man with a shaved head appeared.  His face was horrifically scarred with evidence that he had suffered wounds from both gunshots and shrapnel.  The off-white tissue of a poorly treated burn peaked from the collar of his uniform.  The uniform bore the DCMS logo on the right arm and on the left a patch featuring a Tsunami filled with stars, the Genyosha.  The ghoulish Draconis Combine officer smiled.

“Burke, good to see you.  I assume you’ve brought me some old friends?”

“Aye, Sir.”  Burke motioned to the woman in the cowboy hat.”

“I can’t believe you still wear that thing Smalls, how are you?”

“I’m fine Talon, but Jiminy Christmas what the hell happened to your face?”

“Service to the Coordinator often requires sacrifice.”

“I’ll just fucking bet.  You and the Dragon paid for this expensive-ass excursion.  Shall we meet and talk contract terms?”

Talon smirked and then frowned through his ruined face.

“I’m sending a shuttle over.  Grab your senior leadership.  This contract is about as covert as it gets and it will not be broadcast, even over tight-beam.”

“Got it. Talon?”

“Yes?”

“It’s nice to see you again.”

“Same.”

The transmission ended and Smalls set Burke to gathering her staff in the jump Ship’s cargo bay.

 


 

The cargo bay was stuffed with food stores and replacement parts for the old jumpship.  It was amidst the piles of crates and webbing that her and her senior staff met.   Her XO was portly mechwarrior from Tharkad named Yohan.  He ran Alpha Company, better known as the Reavers and was affectionately known as “Big Yo” by its members.  Alpha company was a scout and harassment mixed-arms affair with hover tanks, VTOLs and a lance of light and medium mechs.

Beta Company was run by a wirey red-headed clanner she had found wandering galatea who called herself Almira.  The warrior was stubborn, impatient, a social nightmare and so completely competent at her job Smalls had wondered why and how she had come to be abandoned in the inner sphere.  Smalls had gotten Almira drunk and to pry the secrets from her.  She had found out Almira had been defeated in battle, captured, enslaved and sold many times by something called a “bandit-caste.”  She had been set free when the bandits had been annihilated by a task force.  She hadn’t gotten everything but knew that the leader of the bandits had been called the Red Corsair.

Beta Company was her main line assault force and ran nothing but heavy and assault mechs with a mix of missile and energy loadouts.  Her final Company Captain was a man who had been drummed out of McCarron’s Armored Cavalry.  She knew he had a bad conduct discharge, but knowing the scummy crap McCarron did for his Lai master’s she considered that a badge of honor.  Rutger McGonegal was a hands-off leader, but he managed to get things done ahead of schedule as if by magic.  His unit was a series of mixed weight mech lances augmented by 2 squads of jump infantry.  They had the job of helping her shape the battle and drive the enemy into ambushes or other places of strategic advantage.

The last two members of her staff were her intel-officer, Rasmuson, and her long-time friend Kade.  Kade was in charge of all her support staff and the unit’s families.  She was a combination head mechanic, supply and logistics officer, mayor and occasional back up mechwarrior who would lead the home defense squads if they were ever attacked.  For a moment Kade thought about Mac, and wondered if he was still running a circus on the periphery.  The events on Zathras so long ago had been hard on everyone, but Mac had laid down his arms afterward; too scarred by everything to keep fighting.  She knew that he and Kade sent messages, but it had been a decade or so since they had been on that side of the inner sphere.

All told Smalls had done well with her Revenants, they had grown over the years and were now an enhanced mixed-arms Battalion with aerofighter support, a rare overlord dropship, a union class dropship, the good old leopard dropship that Cotton had left her and some aerospace assets.  Burke and his jumpship were just a happy coincidence.  He had retired to a life as a cargo runner after the Zathran war.  He had gone on to make a small fortune as a blockade runner during the 4th succession war and clan invasion.  Now he outright owned a jumpship and had a couple dozen dropships and jumpships on lease, contract and retainer.  He was almost a respectable shipping magnate.  Almost.  She had noted his name on the transport contracts and reached out.  He gave her a discount for old times’ sake and the chance to catch up on the long journey.

“Alright y’all we just met up with our Drac contact and he’s sending a shuttle.  That means only a few of us are going over.  It’s going to be me, Kade and Almira.  Now, Almira I need you to be on best behavior because the Dracs got a big grudge hard-on for you and your extended family, understood?”

“Aff, Major.”  The clan warrior gave a brief salute.

“Everybody else just follow the XO’s lead as he makes sure the kids are in school and we are prepped to change jump ships or whatever else needs doin’.  Any questions?”

“Make sure to charge ‘em double for dragging us all the way out here.”  Rutger smiled voraciously.

“They are already paying just for us to come out here and talk and you all know how damn cheap the Dracs are and how much they loathe us mercs.  They are gonna pay top dollar guaranteed.”

The meeting adjourned and everyone had set about their business as they waited for the shuttle to dock.  Kade had taken a moment to relay instructions to her son Archie and daughter Andrea before approaching Smalls.

“Is it really Talon we are going to see?”

“It is indeed.”  Kade looked lost in her own memory for a moment.  “It’s going to be ugly isn’t it?”

Smalls smiled.

“Honey, it can’t be any uglier than what we’ve been through in the past.”  Kade didn’t seem to believe her, and Small knew she didn’t mean it either.

The shuttle arrived with a dull thud and after the usual docking procedure everyone boarded for the short journey to the Ken Yasuda.

 


 

Talon had greeted everyone warmly enough, but when it became apparent that one of Smalls’ officers was a clanner the amenable but stern atmosphere in the briefing room turned decidedly tense.  Talon pressed forward with formal pleasantries before getting to business.

“The Combine has a job for you.”  Small’s ears perked up. “As you know things are changing and the great houses have put aside some differences.  The Combine, and the new Star League as a whole, are about to embark on a very long and dangerous mission.  We need certain things to pull it off, and one of these things is an agent who has been doing some preliminary work on a Clan held world to scout it out and gather intel.  The agent is stranded and we need them recovered.  It’s a semi-stealth mission, and so you will only be able to take a lance, but it will pay as much as a 2 year Battalion garrison contract upon completion and you will be given preferred access to our supply chain for any refit or replacement needs after.”

“That’s it, a snatch and grab?  Why us and why so much money?”  Smalls’ face was wary, cunning.

“The agent is very important and the operation is important.  We need deniability, so you will be made out as pirates.  The contract will be bonded in secret with Comstar’s blessing.”
“You’re holding something back.”

“I am.”

“Tell me.”

“Not until you sign and accept the job.”

“You complete fucking asshole!”  The Kuritans in the room stiffened visibly, ready to fight.  Talon Laughed.

“Yes, but you knew that.”  Smalls chuckled.

“That I did, pass that contract over so I can ink this deal.” Talon passed a noteputer to her so she could fill the forms out.

“So tell me, what’s the top secret stuff you aren’t saying.” Talon waited until she had signed the documents and verified the contract was complete before answering.

“We are going to wipe out one of the clans, to last man, woman and child.”  Small was shocked, she could see a similar reaction on Almira’s face.  “To do that we are assembling an enormous task force, one that is in fact already training and nearly ready to strike.”

“Jesus, Talon.  This is huge, when is it gonna’ happen?”

“I can’t say, but I can tell you that the intel this agent has is going to help us liberate a few planets; and I can trust you to get this person back to me.”

“Alright, so whose bacon are we pulling out of the fryer?”

“Leah Anand.”

Smalls exploded into a tirade of foul language that could be heard through the deck.

 


 

Smalls was still angry even as the Renegade dropped through the planet’s atmosphere at breakneck speed.  The contract had been finished months ago but her rage and discomfort at the coming meeting with Leah Anand had kept her hotter than a fusion reactor.  Kade had refused to go on the mission, which Smalls understood and so it was just her, Almira and 2 of her lance leaders.  She was going to rescue that bitch Coryphee just like the contract said, but maybe she would get in a good punch or too once they were safely away.  Coryphee had sided with Rama in the Zathran war against her, the Lord Commander and her nephew.  Archibald had been killed in the final battle for the capital city; his Atlas covered in flames as a Firestarter hidden in a building burned him alive in his breached cockpit.  Zokolov had been badly wounded, losing his leg in a botched ejection.  The Lord Commander and Erasmus had surrendered after that.  No one was prepared for the insanity that would follow.  Everyone knew Rama wasn’t who he said he was, but no one was prepared for his despotism under the auspice of caring.  Thousands were killed by his forces as the populace starved.  The Lord Commander tried to oppose him politically but was found dead in his campaign headquarters one morning.  The official cause was suicide, but no one believed it.  The Renegades and remaining Marauders had fled Zathras leaving Coryphee and her blood drenched husband behind.  A year later the planet had been conquered by the Taurian Concordat and the Emperor killed.  Sokolov had returned to the Dragoons, leaving a pregnant Kade behind.  He never made it home to his unit, a bad jump on an old transport had left the crew and ship fused into an unrecognizable mess.  No one knew what had happened to Coryphee; until now.

“We have contact with the agent’s beacon Ma’am!”  The tinny speaker in her neurohelmet barked to life “Expect 15 more minutes to target, we count 2 bogey’s chasing our quarry.”

“Roger that, get the Renegade clear after we drop, I’ll call you in once we have the LZ.”  Time passed and smalls felt the dropship decelerate hard and begin to hover over the landing zone.  An alarm blared 3 times and then she was free falling into the night; a Revenant sent to settle old scores and bring them into the light.