28/02/3050. Day 97, 06:00
28/02/3050. Day 97, 07:00
Pursuing the requests for access to the Gray Death Legion battle armour designs, in particular their primary battle armour the Gray Death Standard MkII, Ruin Dmitar met with Professor Anna Morozov and inquired about the EMP mines he had suggested previously.
Unfortunately the professor had not been able to make the mine effective over an acceptable radius, and instead had developed magnetic limpet-grenades that could attach to a battlesuit and then deliver a EMP and an electrical shock. The three prototype devices were designed to be attached to the backpack unit of a battle armour suit (preferably by stealth) and would disable a non-hardened suit.
28/02/3050. Day 97, 07:30
Ruin Dmitar met up with Jacques Dubois and briefed him on the plan. Jacque was to ‘test the new secret weapon’ on a Gray Death Standard MkII suit in the battle, then Professor Anna Morozov would be summoned to ‘provide medical attention’ to the stricken pilot and allowing her to obtain data on the suit.
28/02/3050. Day 97, 09:00
After ‘dawn’ gloomed on the cloud shrouded world of Atlantia (taking the ambient lighting level from ‘pitch black’ to ‘moonless night’) the four verse four verse four test battle commenced. The mock battlefield was a circle, roughly ten kilometres across and composed primarily of empty shipping crates arranged on the ice sea which had been added to over the many years the Atlantia Military Base had been in operation.
The power balance between the three suits remained the same:
- The Grenadier IID suits had the clear edge in firepower, but was slowest.
- The Hellstorm HM1 benefited from the highest mobility (and only jump-capable suits) but suffered for lacking stealth armour.
- The Gray Death Standard MkII suits had 10% less armour protection, and were weak in melee, but the only suits to feature improved sensor capabilities.
Jacques Dubois led the squad of four representing the Hellions and Special Project 17. He elected to hold position and attempt to elude detection, then to engage the other two factions once they had engaged one another. This did not go to plan, both other factions detected the non-stealthed suits and moved to engage the Hellstorm suits first. This resulted in them encountering each other on the final approach and a pitched close quarters battle erupted only 300 metres from Jacque’s position.
The Gray Death suits suffered under the superior firepower of the Wolf’s Dragoons suits. Jacque had his forces flank the Dragoons and help even the odds. The return-fire from the grenadiers forced the Hellstorms to withdraw. This became a feint to draw out the slower Grenadier suits. Meanwhile the fast and stealthy Gray Death suits used their edge in sensor capability to stalk the Hellstorms and the distracted Grenadiers.
In the confustion Jacques Dubois circled around one of the pursuing Grenadiers and attached one of the precious prototypes to the power-pack of the Grenadier, disabling it. He was then ambushed by a Gray Death trooper, and after a brief exchange of fire Jacque used his suits jump system to launch a flying melee attack, at the last moment opening the armoured fist of his suit to reveal the second prototype limper-grenade, which he slammed into the faceplate of the Gray Death suit.
Professor Anna Morozov was called in, and the cover story of providing medical aid became worryingly real now the discharge device had been attached directly to the suit’s helmet and the possibility of having shocked the pilot via the inbuilt neurohelmet system was weighing heavily on the professor’s mind.
A familiar voice challenged Jacque, using strange terms like ‘trial of grievance’, challenging him to ‘dismount’ from his armour and face her like a warrior, and accusing him of having cheated. Erica Leroux had forced her way out of her disabled Grenadier suit, and believed that Jacque had hacked the safety systems installed for the war games to cheat and remotely disable her battle armour. Unable to refuse the challenge, Jacque accepted the challenge.
Jacque and Erica squared off in near white-out conditions and darkness, both lacking cold weather gear but neither caring during the duel. They battled in close combat, but Erica showed the clear edge. Jacque honourably and resolutely refused to strike her with his now-augmented right hand, and suffered under a flurry of blows from the larger and stronger opponent.
Jacque landed a few blows, which Erica withstood easily, and was struck down by her determined attack. As he lost consciousness Jacques Dubois had a flashback vision of his early childhood, when he had been charged by a moose in the midlands of Strata. The moose had knocked him down when he tried to rise, twice, before the young Jacque had launched himself from the ground to solidly punch the moose between the antlers.
As the vision cleared Jacque saw the stunned looking Erica who had just witnessed the subdued ‘freeborn’ rally from his injuries and rouse himself from unconsciousness. Jacques Dubois fought with renewed vigour and with the strength of moose flowing through him (and/or a severe concussion) and laid low the trueborn Clan Wolf elemental.
28/02/3050. Day 97, 10:00
The duel and Jacque’s spiritual apotheosis served as a perfect distraction for Professor Anna Morozov to do her work. Upon Jacque’s return she gave the first of many repeated warnings about her limpet-grenades “Do not apply directly to the forehead!” She had however obtained the data she required and ensured the safety of the Gray Death Legion test pilot. She also took a sample of the ‘excellent physical sample’ (Erica) when Jacque brought the unconscious elemental back, Jacque however failed to see this was an act for some reason. The professor, normally obsessed with ensuring that Special Project 17 had access to the best possible pilots for some reason failed to enthusiastically leap upon the opportunity that presented itself in the form of a captured elemental.
28/02/3050. Day 97, 10:30
The combat had been cancelled upon Jacque dismounting from his suit. The unusual circumstances behind the two other suits becoming disabled had been detected but not understood by the monitoring systems used for the weapon tests. However Jacques functional suit reported the pilot disembarking, and the extreme risk of injuring an unarmoured combatant led to an emergency stop of the testing. Jacque sought out a referee and protested that he had not been ‘defeated’ and the ref’ agreed, after seeing and inspecting Jacque’s undamaged armour.
The negotiation with the ref’ provided the professor an excellent opportunity to make a covert departure.
Jacques Dubois became tied-up in the after-battle report process, clarifying his position that his suit had not been disabled. As a result the Hellions won the contest, all four Gray Death suits had been disabled, as had two Grenadiers, but excluding Jacque only one Hellstorm suit had ceased to function, this gave the Hellions a win of 3 to 2 and 0.
28/02/3050. Day 97, 12:00
Ruin Dmitar sought out Professor Anna Morozov to get a copy of her findings. He also let her know the elementals were not quite human and were genetically engineered. Unlike Jacque, Ruin noted her less-than-fanatical interest and realised something was amiss. Pressing her he forced the professor to reveal she already knew about the clans and their trueborns, and it’s why she had initiated Special Project 17 to try to ready the Inner Sphere for the coming clan invasion. Once he had her on the spot Ruin pressed, forcing her to reveal she knew because she was the daughter of a Clan Jade Falcon trueborn Mechwarrior and as such knew of the clans technology and capability but did not have the scientific or technical knowledge. She had grown up and chosen her path to do as much as she could to preserve the Federated Suns which had (unwittingly) taken in her mother and given her sanctuary, and to preserve the cultures and the freedom of the Inner Sphere. Also the reason that the professor could maintain her extended periods of activity, often exceeding 24 hours of active duty before requiring rest.
Not lost upon Ruin was the fact he had extorted this information from the professor using the threat of telling Samara Hellstrom, and that in addition to her previous displays of pinpoint accuracy with small arms (in particular a tranquilliser dart pistol) but had just confessed to being the child of a clan trueborn, both indications Professor Anna Morozov was likely a skilled and elite combatant. Conversely, this also explained why the professor’s social interactions were odd at best and alien at worst, she was raised by a mother who knew nothing or normal life outside the warrior caste of Clan Jade Falcon.
Ruin let the professor know that Clan Wolf and the Wolf’s Dragoons knew about the ‘stolen iron womb device’ and were seeking to recover it. The professor had indeed stolen it, but even after the other revelations she would not confess how she had arranged it. The iron wombs were the artificial wombs in which clan trueborns mature, and Ruin was left with the strong and disturbing impression the professor was using the iron womb she had stolen to mature one or more test-tube-offspring of Jacque and the ‘test subjects’ such as Min or her sister Blade.
28/02/3050. Day 97, 16:00
Professor Anna Morozov met with Hauptmann Samara Hellstrom to inform her of the announcement that the weapons tests were in hiatus due to the live-fire problem and the over-gunned Grenadier IID suits. For the near future other tests such as mobility, melee potential, stealth armour effectiveness, sensor performance and so on would be continued.
Following the announcement Samara Hellstrom decided they could check out the coordinates for the Atropos HPG Station they had acquired from the previous station. The Exploration Plane was still available. With the continent of Atropos roughly 24 hrs flight from the Atlantia Military Base the Hauptmann decided they should set out in the morning, meaning they would arrive ready to explore the following morning.
01/03/3050. Day 98, 07:00
The flight for Atropos left the Atlantia Military Base. Only Samara Hellstrom, Ruin Dmitar, Jacques Dubois, Ingrid ‘Mouse’ Marsh and the two pilots of the plane flight team went. This left the very incensed Adept VI-Iota Michelle Abnett behind, and no doubt Ruin would face ‘consequences’ upon his return.
Suffering withdrawal from alcohol, Ruin was feeling increasingly ill at ease. Knowing this may have placated Michelle…somewhat.
02/03/3050. Day 99, 06:30
The plane landed and the ground expedition consisting of the four Hellions set out using a modified ‘long range’ Burro truck (with increased seating and inclusion of enviroseal at the expense of reduced cargo capacity).
02/03/3050. Day 99, 08:45
The expedition arrived in the vicinity of the coordinates and commenced investigating. Following the artificial geographical contours of an old nuclear detonation crater the team discovered the HPG Station. Inside they found a makeshift morgue with 29 frozen cadavers in corporate uniforms and 65 in civilian garb. Most of the civilians and many of the corporate casualties showed combat wounds, but one civilian and a portion of the corporate dead showed no wounds.
The upper floor was offices, and unlike the subsidiary HPG station explored previously the upper floor of this station had survived the nuclear strike. The last document was dated 05/05/2784.
Once power was restored the team used the elevators to proceed to the next level down where one person had died. The corpse was found with a SMG in one hand and a note in the other. The note was the man’s user name and password.
The man had been the last survivor, his name was Michael Briggs and trying the username and password gave the explorers access to the his Personal Log. This gave some insight into the events of the Fall of Atlantia, but raised as many new questions as it answered. Ingrid ‘Mouse’ Marsh began infiltrating the computer system, and other than some odd data corruption it appeared the other logs confirmed one another.
02/03/3050. Day 99, 11:00
The expedition headed out looking for the site referred to in the survivor’s journal, and the presumption this was a Star League military base, or rather the site of one which was targeted by at least one nuclear strike and by orbital bombardment.
02/03/3050. Day 99, 14:30
Following the directions in the journal the explorers found themselves rising into the foothills of a mountain range. By a virtual process of elimination they found one road into what appeared to have been a restricted area, and followed it to find the entrance to a primarily subterranean base built into the side of a mountain.
From the outside it was clear the ancient fortification had withstood a direct nuclear strike to the armoured gate, and subsequently a near hit meteor strike. In fact the remnant was the vault, the upper half of the base and all surface structures had been vaporised by the orbital bombardment. The base had not survived the orbital strike, however, two cracks through the mountain range had opened the interior of the base to the incredible heat generated by the meteor strikes, incinerating most of the base’s occupants and then engulfing all that remained in an inferno.
The team entered through one of the breaches in the armour, and explored the interior of the gutted ancient fortress. They discovered amid the wreckage a battlemech scale elevator shaft leading down, though the lift had been reduced to slag. At the bottom of the hundred meter shaft however the doors had held and what lay beyond had withstood the ancient devestation.
The armoured vault at the base of the shaft proved impervious to sensors, much to Ingrid ‘Mouse’ Marsh‘s frustration. The Hellions advanced, gaining entry to a small strange chamber. The room featured an obscenely high security biometric reader and secured door, and a series of twenty holes at chest height on the semi-circular opposite wall. With her technical knowledge and her interest in the Star League era, Mouse quickly determined that any attempt to hack the security system or to cut (or blast) through the door would likely result in the vault’s contents being destroyed, and she also recognised this as a old Star League virtue challenge in which the virtue of those seeking entrance would be tested. Unfortunately, with no way to guess which virtue was being tested, no answer presented itself to her. By this point Samara Hellstrom and Ruin Dmitar were noting that Mouse was unusually rattled and flustered by something, probably her inability to unravel the technology based puzzle.
The explorers realised quickly that the holes were arm holes and there were two handles within, both just out of sight. The Hellions tried different holes and handles individually to no avail, until two had placed their arms in at the same time. At this point the test activated, locking both arms in place, and starting to gradually fill the room with water. With Ruin and Mouse trapped, Samara tried one additional hole and when she did Ruin was released. Ruin tried another hole releasing Mouse, and when Mouse tried one Samara was released. The pattern that when the third person inserted their arm the first was released was established. Jacque tried his cybernetic hand, which appeared not to register.
Realising that the trap would only trap two arms at once, Ruin inserted both of his arms to free everyone else. This, however, was the correct answer to the test. By being willing to sacrifice himself to save others, Ruin proved worthy. When the ancient mechanism detected the same person had put in both arms (after two separate people had been trapped) it signalled the test had been passed.
The secure door opened, revealing a darkened cavernous chamber within. Using the battle armour mounted searchlights, the four pilots entered and discovered a Star League era ’mech bay, two chambers were vacant but a pair of Star League Catapult battlemechs remained, standing above their discoverers. These were the prize the old Star League test was defending, and forcing entry would have seen the battlemechs self destruct.
One catapult appeared to have a conventional weapon load-out (for a catapult) but its armour looked odd, the other also had the unusual armour appearance and an unconventional design featuring a gauss cannon in place of the pair of large LRM racks.
However, there was no way the plane could carry a scout battlemech let alone one of these 65 ton heavy battlemechs.