RSU Roleplaying Game v2

Season 3 Episode 07
Securing the supply lines

ILLI was content with the results of the scouting mission and especially the initiative taken therein. Moreover, the repaired assets of Iron Pulse, Trident and Shadow Flare were securing the city, and while any large-scale conflict was being avoided, things were going relatively well.

There was an ongoing discussion of whether to attack now, or wait until further repairs. In about five days, the Erebos's orbit would be direcly overhead and there would be direct orbital reconnissance for a brief moment, which would set up a great timing and give a definite advantage, but at the same time, Teask-Dumar would have a chance to dig in and prepare for the conflict.

The discussion did not get very far, however, as pretty much all of the mercenary commanders were running their backup gear on fumes, and were as desperate for downtime as the enemy. Only Trident and Black Nebula were somewhat battle-worthy, but our players were lacking parts to repair their mechs and knew that should they move now, they would have to choose a very suboptimal set of materiel. Weighing all these considerations, waiting for the Erebos flyover seemed self-evident.

Waiting, however, allowed for a chance of almost full resupply for the attacking forces. It was decided that the third army needed relief the most, so the captured orbital factories would drop parts and replacements to the southwest and deliver them to the north by train, whencefrom a truck convoy would take them the last stretch, as the railway to the south of Feoul was still under enemy control. Along with several units from the other mercenary companies, two of the intact mechs from Black Nebula, namely Jiira's Jagermech and Günther's Marauder, would don an anti-aircraft loadout, rendervouz with the convoy and escort it to safety. The rest of the forces would try to maintain the contain of the fortress and the palace, so that the enemy could only attack by air.

The plan seemed foolproof, but as usual, execution did not end up being that easy. For some reason, the enemy attacked with almost a perfect counter considering what it could muster, as in an isolated stretch of hilly desert about a hundred kilometers away from the target, the convoy was ambushed by a large number of hovertanks, which had apparently slipped away undetected from the south. Fortunately for the defenders, the hovertanks' armor tended to be thin and easily pierced, and as such vulnerable to the same rapid-fire and cluster weaponry used to deter aircraft, but the fight was too close for comfort regardless, especially considering the crucial importance of the resupply. A bit too far from base and soon harassed by enemy fighters, any patrolling ILLI air assets were also of limited use. Jiira and Günther stood their ground, however, and used the hilly terrain to their advantage while trying to deny the enemy any flanking opportunities. For the third time in a row, the underwhelming and low-tech mech Jiira had managed to salvage, performed exceptionally well and saved the day, while Günthers ride was crippled, losing its side torso and most of its weapons.

The fight prompted the arrival of some reinforcements from the second army just in case, but another attack never came. However, the convenient timing and asset selection of the ambush made one wonder about the possible implications, and especially Heem-Lyeh became convinced that their plans were being leaked, prompting him to go over his information security measures once again. Also, speaking of espionage, Alexander's man-in-the-middle plant brought some fruit. Amid messages and connections from unrelated and unimportant sources, he caught a catalog of losses incurred during Teask-Dumar's initial invasion phase of the war, which gave some insight into the possible ultimate strength of their opponent and allowed Alexander to make some guesses about the amount of production capacity Teask-Dumar still possessed in Outlier. What's more interesting, it detailed the losses Teask-Dumar had suffered against pirates in the belt, which made the players re-evaluate the role of this wild card, as they had assumed most of the pirates were working with or for the enemy.

As customary for Alexander, however, he chose not to share this information with ILLI immediately, and was considering its value as the final preparations for the assault were being made. Everybody was doing the best they could and Jiira was working around the clock, while especially Charles and Ivan were considering options from the left field by plannign minefield positioning and creating improvised LRM carriers from the convoy trucks. Whether that would even work, remained to be seen.

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Season 3 Episode 06
Scouting mission

While the players and their serb squad had been busy recovering Meek-Ria's agent, ILLI command had been busy preparing for a decisive battle for Feoul. For that purpose, however, they lacked critical information on enemy troop strength and defenses of the fortress.

Fuub-Ark called a meeting in dawn and yet again involved all of his mercenary commanders. There was to be a scouting mission and it had to happen immediately. Information was needed of multiple targets, namely the Palace and the royal forces therein, the forces at the fortress and the forces currently stationed in the city.

Unfortunately both Iron Pulse and Shadow Flare were extremely ill-equipped to the mission and undergunned due to the assault on the industrial district, while Trident and Weiss&Son were occupied with defending the north front with the second army. Tumak-Niva, who had been given command of the combined mercenary air assets, reported that he could provide long-range reconnissance in the west and the south, but could not fly close to the fortress and probably should also avoid the palace. It was left to the players to perform the heavy lifting again. Fortunately, they had not suffered heavy material losses and were well-equipped for the task.

Alexander and Günther would again command the stealth hovertank and take the serbs into the desert, with the intention to get a direct visual of the fortress, while Heem-Lyeh, the russians and Charles would take all of the ECM-capable mechs and scout the palace from the mountains. Heem-Lyeh's crab could be equipped with an advanced sensor suite and cameras to enable long-range reconnissance. The mission would be timed in a way that any direct contact would happen in the twilight and darkness would cover retreat, should things not go as planned.

Alexander's mission was simpler, as the tank was mostly able to out-detect and outrun any hostiles it would encounter, but would have to be very careful not to get caught by enemy aircraft. Fortunately also the patrolling range of those would be much more limited in the environment. Heem-Lyeh's team, on the other hand, would be slower and much more visible, but also more capable of handling threats.

Tumak's air forces created a diversion early by drawing some of the remaining enemy air assets away from the scouting parties, while the mechs climbed towards the hills near the palace. Simultaneously, Alexander took a longe diverting route and came across an enemy relay tower, which he was able to hack with help from CheekyChic69. Naturally this did not provide insight into any of the actually encrypted communication through it, but CheekyChic69 set up a standard man-in-the-middle -attack, which could fool careless users and those who did not yet know the endpoint signature. After this, Alexander set up position in the hills to the west of the fortress and Heem-Lyeh's squad did the same to the north of the palace, beginning their observation. Neither was caught by patrols and enemy aircraft were sufficiently busy with Tumak's diversion that they also remained undetected from the air.

Both targets seemed well-defended and recently hardened, with the palace obviously less so, but even that seemed to have two Calliope turrets to deter aircraft and outrange most incoming units. Apart from the two lances of tanks and a lance of medium to heavy mechs detected by Alexander, the mech lance noticed something more worrying.

Some of the Knights of Tileke they had scuffled with earlier were returning from combat and seemed moderately damaged, which promted Charles to suggest pouncing on them, but Heem-Lyeh observed that in addition to the two Mist Lynx and the Cauldron Born, the Knights also had an assault mech of unknown design on the defensive inside the fortress. Without access to information on its configuration and firepower, taking action against the knights, however wonded, seemed risky. Josef was actively trying to convince the others to take the risk anyway, but new developments soon diverted his attention.

The air assets reported that a train was arriving from the south with an escort. Alexander was immediately ordered to observe it and did so, while Heem-Lyeh's lance decided to move west towards the hillside facing the tracks.  When Alexander reported the cargo and the escorting hovertanks turned northward near the city limits, Charles and Josef hatched a new plan. The mechs would ambush the train as it would pass the mountainside, inflicting as much damage as possible. Alexander had reported multiple assault mechs and a lance of tanks as cargo, but it seemed that some of the tanks were geared for long-range fire support and would be easy to disable.

The fight was quick and intense. Firepower was concentrated on the fire support vehicles, and when they fell, on the weakest mech aboard. Critical hits on its legs fell the mech just as it was powering up under fire, and a daring jump from Josef brought him close enough to finish it with an LBX cluster round. The players had no intention to stick around and take return fire from the heavy tanks and the assault mechs, so they immediately retreated. The skirmish, however, brought attention from enemy fighters and the players' general location was soon investigated by a wing of Rusalka. Fortunately the players avoided detection for long enough that the enemy had little time to finish them off before they would reach friendly air cover, which in turn prompted the fighters do perform a bit too daring strike run. A lucky hit into the avionics of the leading fighter by Josef disabled the fighter and sent it flying headlong into a cliff face. The remaining fighter re-evaluated its options and decided not to engage four mechs on its own, allowing the players to escape.

This had happened a bit too many times already, but Black Nebula's pilots seem extraordinarily lucky when confronting aircraft. Whether their luck would carry them through the final assault on the city, still remained to be seen.

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Season 3 Episode 05
New BlackOps diversion in Diave Central
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Season 3 Episode 04
Hunting the Booby

In the early morning, before sunrise, two factions sought to contact the players. Firstly, an officer from Iron Pulse wanted to meet with Charles and a nun from Continuity wanted to meet Alexander.

The first meetings was concluded behind closed doors, but not in particular secrecy. Harlton was informed that his closest friend in the Iron Pulse was killed in battle in the east, while engaging one of the Knights of Tileke. This was regrettable, though not surprising, as Charles had also lost his mech on the same front just a moment ago. Said friend had earlier testamented several mementos to members of the company, and officer mentioned that he would deliver it as soon they finished sorting through his belongings.

Meanwhile, alexander invited his closest aides, which presently meant Heem-Lyeh and Bjornlöf, to meet with the nun. This meeting was indeed much more interesting, as she was human, which felt unusual for a nun of the Continuity, but obviously one would expect such philosophies to spread during times like these. The nun did not state her name and likewise refused to discuss any other personal matters, but requested that Gaussburg would be relinquished to their care. She was adamant that not only could they provide more competent treatment than the regular clinics in Terniss, Gaussburg would likely be able to return to the field sooner, should the players accept this proposal.

All of the present Black Nebula personnel were wary of the suggestion, however. The Bene Gesserit -esque reputation of the Continuity preceded them, and while most had already met the nuns while stationed on Mirika, there was something eery in giving one of their own into the care of the "crazy pity sex cult", as Josef so eloquently put it. While Heem-Lyeh interrogated the nun and tried to get her to reveal her ulterior motives, Alexander more quietly counseled Bjornlöf of the matter. Günther strongly felt that they indeed should allow the nun to take Gaussburg, as he assumed that the man would not pass this opportunity by, were he capable of making the decision. Furthermore, there were possibilities within the Continuity compound, which was probably filled with wounded from both sides of the conflict. Should Gaussburg return early enough, any information he might have had overhead and any connections he might have made in such a place could be of extraordinary value. Thus, the nun was given her answer, and Heem-Lyeh never got to find out what she thought about the purity of the soul of the human genome and their responsibility toward it.

When Gunther and Heem-Lyeh resumed their daily duties, both noticed that they had received more mail through Meek-Ria's agent network. Gannet was beginning to become desperate, and was certain that she would be caught before nightfall. Within the message was enclosed a keypair for a sending address of the same Meek-Ria was using, and through which Gannet implored the players to tell him when they could pick her up. She also gave them a code for a low-power tracking device and told that when given a time, she would attempt to move towards the main cathedral near the commercial district in Feoul.

As most of the others were occupied with repair and refit operations on their gear, Heem-Lyeh and Günther took it upon themselves to plan the mission.  After asking Josef for help and ECM-capable heavy weapons cover, they decided to wait for midnight and send off in a stealth transport much like the one they originally rescued Meek-Ria in. Alexander would drive, Günther would gun and Heem-Lyeh would personally lead  a squad of serbs in power armor. Stealth was essential, so they would run quiet and Josef would wait a bit further away, only coming to aid when called upon.

Initially the operation seemed to go well, but Gannet went silent before disclosing her final location. Alexander started scouring the streets to find a trace of the tracker signal and Heem-Lyeh and the serbs searched the nearby buildings on foot. The city was almost silent, with only a few lit windows, and though the rules of engagement were rather strict for all participants, it seemed that many residents had decided that it would be best to evacuate before BHI's assault would begin.

After dodging enemy convoys for a while, Alexander noticed a familiar form on radar. The knight with the Mist Lynx was moving west and escorting a convoy of trucks. Fortunately, through clever use of the tanks' spoofing and jamming capabilities and the fact that Heem-Lyeh's serbs were running very light power armor, the players remained undetected. Soon after they also picked up the transponder signal and Günther got out of the tank, determined to fetch their agent.

All did not know as planned, however. When he kicked down the door to an abandoned aparment, instead of Gannet, Günther was faced with an old, hardy-looking awese, who, after uttering a surprisingly well-articulated and polite greeting in german, pointed a machine pistol towards Günther and let loose.

It was a trap, as they say.

All hell broke loose. Given that his opponent looked deathly serious and very experienced, and based on the number of impacts on his chest, Günther didn't feel confident that he could beat the old man in firefight, so he turned tail and ran down the stairs as fast as he could. This was of little help, however, as power armor in the roof of the opposite building uncovered themselves and fired upon the tank, forcing Alexander to either move or be killed. The firefight soon became prolonged, as Günther did his best to stay alive, while Heem-Lyeh and the serbs faced the enemy power armor. Josef was immediately called for support, but it was obvious that he wouldn't arrive on the scene for a while. Without a gunner and strained for attention in behind the wheel, Alexander was of little help, but tried to cover for both parties while trying to maintain enough speed to make himself less of a target for the enemy.

The fight with the power armor was bloody. Heem-Lyeh's squad outnumbered the enemy three to one, but the enemies were heavier and better armed. Two of the serbs fell to recoilless rifle blasts right through their torsoes and Heem-Lyeh himself was only spared due to the much-improved resiliency of his cyborg body. Fortunately, after the serbs destroyed one of the powersuits, the other did not stay behind to push his luck, and also Günther noticed that whatever cover he was ducking under received much less fire than just a moment ago.

Returning to the abandoned apartment, the players found Gannet, bound and gagged, and immediately made their escape after releasing her. They were soon also accompanied and covered by Josef, who told them that he had briefly skirmished with two enemy helicopters, but scared them away.

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Season 3 Episode 03
Advancing towards Feoul while harassed by Knights of Tileke

After recovering Jiira it also became clear that he wasn't seriously hurt, but Gaussburg would be out of action for a while. Similarly, Heem-Lyeh was experiencing a dissociation attack and was sent back to the hospital with Gaussburg. As absurd as it sounds, this left Bjornlöf with seniority and responsibility, which he wasn't too happy to accept. Alexander was himself slightly injured, and asked Fuub for more pilots, since so many of theirs were incapable of continuing the operation. Fuub relayed the information to the rest of the active mercenary companies and told them that he would try to send at least one substitute.

Handling the communications, Gunther read through recent bulletins. The agent named "Crane" had apparently been unable to reach Mihail Nemsov and also complained that he had not been paid or given better instructions or information for a long time. The message ended with the note that the cell would be deactivated until further notice. Another note was from agent "Gannet", who stated that she was about to be discovered and needed extraction from Feoul inner city. This note was accompanied by a secure return address for response and a desperate plea for immediate response. Gunther discussed both matters with Alexander, and they resolved to address this as soon as possible, possibly assigning the task for the serbians if necessary.

Meanwhile, Jiira didn't think too much of his condition and desperate for some gear, set up to the battlefield to salvage something for himself. The most suitable target was the Jagermech, which had not suffered serious damage, and as Jiira was extremely crafty with old human technology, it wasn't too difficult to throw out the unconscious pilot and hotwire the console. This couldn't have happened at a better time, either, as Entropy started receiving artillery fire from afar.

The players were perhaps too optimistic with their assumptions about controlling the battlefield, as their salvage operations could not be completed without problems. Keeping the dropship on the ground was too risky as the artillery started zeroing in, and Gunther did the only reasonable call, immediately ordering the vessel to take off. He only waited for the engineers to run in, which left both Ivan and Jiira on the battlefield, as they were too far to reach the ship in time. Fortunately for both, their mechs were mostly intact and ready to fight, when a familiar Mist Lynx appeared on the horizon.

No longer spotting the dropship for the artillery, the Mist lynx proceeded to perform a small skirmish against the two pilots. The encounter lasted for less than a minute, during which the mech attempted to stay out of the effective range of both pilots and snipe them with its single ERPPC. However, this didn't work too well, as the anti-aircraft configuration in the Jagermech allowed superior range. After making a single poke and trying to eliminate Ivan, the Mist Lynx decided to retreat.

While the skirmish was ending, both Shadow Flare and Iron Pulse reported that they were heavily engaged in their fronts. Both were requesting information about the players' progress and possible relief. Gunther was forced to admit that they had been intercepted and stopped, but this was unacceptable to Fuub, who immediately ordered them to resume their assault towards Feoul. Before the end of the day, they were to reach the loading yard for the industrial district and cut off the supply route towards the city, whatever the cost. Fuub also reported that they would only have limited air cover, as while Shadow Flare reported that they had succeeded in capturing the western one, the eastern air defense platform was still intact and Iron Pulse was retreating west. Mindful for the agent's plight, Gunther requested for stealth vehicles for the extraction operation, and Fuub assured them that one would be on its way.

This forced the players to choose mechs in reserve in order to continue and leave their current forces for repairs. Fortunately for the players, Lietnutant Charles Harlton from Iron Pulse reached them around this time and reported that Iron Pulse would be bringing a mobile field base with them. Entropy and the field base would act as the forward outpost when they reached the industrial district.

Shadow Flare reached the district first, which probably spared Black Nebula from total annihilation, as the defensive forces on the loading yard were light. Once again, the knight in the Mist Lynx was there to hamper the offensive, but this time Josef made a fast advance and managed to shoot off the right arm which housed the TAG. It was questionable whether the mech had artillery support available anyway, but the loss of the arm and further damage from Josef forced it to retreat anyway, especially as Ivan harassed the mech from the other flank. This victory was minor and short-sighted, though, as Josef got swamped by tanks and was forced to eject, while Jiira, Gunther and Charles Harlton were trying to deal with enemy Rusalka fighters. Eventually Ivan had to give up chasing the Mist Lynx, as the fight escalated and ended up going way too close for comfort.

After destroying Josef's Warhammer, all four tanks advanced towards the mechs, which were constantly retreating and trying to stay out of their optimum range, while two enemy Crusaders tried to zone Charles and eliminate Gunther. The critical point came when Ivan forced the Crusaders into melee combat before the tanks managed to down Gunther. It's safe to say that Jiira's anti-air configuration and superior range saved the day, as he himself downed both of the aircraft and three of the tanks mere seconds before they were able to tear down his lancemates.

Behind them, both Iron Pulse and the players' own supply forces were approaching the loading yard. It would serve as the beachhead for the assault towards Feoul, but first they would have to address Gannet and her troubles.

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Season 3 Episode 02
Orbital situation worsens and ground battle escalates

After the capture of the princess and her mentat there was a short lull in the fighting.  For a couple of days, the players did not receive any change of orders from their high command, and were simply patrolling and reinforcing their position. On the fourth day, this changed, however.

Gaussburg was invited to a briefing reserved only for the battlefield commanders of the various mercenary forces, and told that the orbital situation has deteriorated.  With the help of assault ships of unknown affiliation, the PPC destroyer in control of the TDHI forces, codenamed BLACK PETAL, had achieved decisive victories against the orbital forces and forced BHI to retreat to the relative safety of their few large installations (namely, the support carrier Erebos and the weapons factories captured from Hea-Neer). Most of the mobile forces were occupied with resticting BLACK PETAL's movements and protecting the BHI orbital shipyards above Kersia. In other words, the control of the orbital theatre had been lost, and the unknown assault ships were running amok destroying BHI spy satellites. While Gaussburg did not divulge much of this information to his subordinates, they would soon hear that something was up, as the next briefing also concerned them.

BHI had to change gears. Relying on attrition and broken enemy orbital supply lines was no longer an option. Fuub informed the players that there would be some restructuring – Kra would be handed over to the second army and both Iron Pulse and Trident would be assigned to him, thus reinforcing his third army consisting of Black Nebula, Shadow Flate and Weiss&Son.

Both Gaussburg and Alexander briefly tried to mingle with the commanders of the new mercenary establishments, but given the haste involved, they only reached an introductory level. Iron Pulse appeared to mostly consist of British forces with a history similar to that of Cracked Mark, but commanded by a surprisingly jovial and young officer named Appleton, while Trident was a newer outfit apparently formed by troops from both sides of the Kersia conflict. The players did not get an opportunity to talk to their leader, but he appeared to be a southern european man little past middle age, and closely shadowed by a sharp-looking middle aged woman with silver hair.

When Alexander and Gaussburg told the rest of the crew about their new orders, especially the russians expressed concern about the escalation of the conflict. Knowing that the enemy also controlled very experienced fighting units, they and Alexander made a plan to tip the balance a bit more to their own benefit and contacted their old friends in the Cracked Mask.

It was surprisingly easy to convince Weston Devine to take part in such an unofficial negotiation, but so it happened. During the dead of night, the commanders of the two mercenary units sat down to discuss both of their futures in the middle of the no-man's land. True to his stereotype, the meeting was held beneath a starry sky while drinking tea, as Devine's two lieutenants in ECM-equipped mechs watched over them, while Josef and Ivan were covering for Alexander.

The players were slightly baffled by the eagerness of Devine to parley with them, but from their past history, they knew that he was a true gentleman and not very fond of the aliens. This soon became even more apparent, as he openly suggested a secret truce to preserve both of their lives and forces in the case of an eventual conflict. Devine openly stated that beyond his professionalism, he had little loyalty for his employers, and that the expected the same from Alexander. They were to let their masters wage their war as they saw fit and abuse the aliens' plight to the best of their ability. Devine considered Black Nebula to be the most talented of his enemies, and preferred that they would never meet in the field of battle. To this end, he suggested that they would head towards different battlefields, should the option ever present itself. Also, he suggested that should they actually meet, there should be a proxy battle, or even a knights' duel, instead of a real one.

Alexander was inclined to ask for some type of a guarantee, as he was painfully aware of the difference in the strength of their respective units. For this, Weston suggested a contract and a sizeable collateral handled by the escrow agencies inside Mercnet, but now Josef, who had been constantly listening to the negotiation, finally objected. Talking back to his commander over a secure channel, Josef stated that he believed he had an easy, clean shot at Devine, and that with Ivan, they could easily beat the enemy lieutenants. Alexander would not need to negotiate, and had no need to bind their resources in a meaningless collateral. They could just kill Devine, and cut off the head of the snake right then and there. It would be a great risk, but manageable, and would tip the balance of power toward their faction.

Alexander, however, was troubled by this. Devine's gesture of goodwill weighed heavy on him, and he didn't want to stain his name as someone who would not respect the sanctity of an old-fashioned negotiation. Not listening to his subordinates, and slightly to spite them, he agreed to Weston's proposal and increased the associated bounty to an absurd size. Certain that the decision would come back to haunt them, Josef cursed in his ear, but that was that – the decision had been done and tomorrow the war would continue.

As the dawn arrived, the players were ordered east. Iron Pulse and Shadow Flare were to assault enemy anti-aircraft emplacements while Black Nebula was to follow the train tracks, pushing through towards the loading yards in the Feoul industrial district. As BHI had no air cover and only very limited drone coverage, they were mostly blind, but Fuub was almost certain that their forces had a numeric advantage. Their lack of intel cost Black Nebula, however, as they were intercepted by an enemy force well north of the loading yard, in the middle of a resort near a lake.

The players had not come unprepared, but the enemy was better positioned and could use cover while the players were approaching from the relatively barren steppe The TDHI defenders fielded relatively cheap, sturdy units and several fast high-tech skirmishers, that attempted to flee once the blunt of the damage had been done. Unfortunately, while the confrontation should not have been particularly close concerning their forces' relative strength, the battle went badly for the players. Their dropship only had a single cruise missile and could thus offer only limited support, while the enemy fielded long-range units which whittled their down during their assault. Both Alexander and Josef suffered critical damage early into the fight, but the most unfortunate shot was a glancing headshot from an enemy Thug which damaged Gaussburg's Battlemaster and forced an ejection. This also endangered Jiira, who was a co-pilot in the Battlemaster's dual cockpit The only saving grace was that Ivan managed to eliminate the fleeing skirmishers as they disengaged and spare the fate of meeting them again in the future.

As the smoke cleared, the players radioed their dropship and requested advance support. The fate of both their commander and Jiira was still uncertain.

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Season 3 Episode 01
The princess is not on another train

After the wake, Fuub-Ark has kept less contact with the players and Tumak-Niva has not returned, but on the day following the occassion, the pioneers who did not remain on the scout ship (which they talk as a Tinnitus-class) return to the fold.

As solving Meek-Ria's riddle is considered the most important task right now, there is a large Black Nebula internal conference where everyone pitch in ideas. Various ways to interpret character sequences are attempted, but eventually Na-Kra finds the phrase "What is a map?" from inside the message. This gives the crew some leads which don't produce any returns, but Josef, with the aid of Hune, soon corrects this to "What is a man?", which has a very definite answer. Even this is not the immediate solution, but CheekyChic69 crunches  iterations and derivatives of it over the data and finds one that hits. Overall it seems that Meek-Ria had made the riddle easy, but with sufficient entropy that a rainbow table attack without knowing the key was completely unfeasible.

The store itself does not seem to contain a very large amount of data, as most of the useful material had been included in the reports which Fuub had already had access to. However, three things stand out.

Firstly, there is a pair of encryption keys labeled "eye".

Secondly, there is a list of six informers and instructions on how to reach their data feeds. The list contains a pair of keys each, the other of which is labeled "under duress". There are no apparent ways to contact the informants, so the information channel seems to either be strictly one-way to protect the agents, or Meek-Ria didn't seem it fit to divulge this information to anyone else.

Thirdly, there is a document which catalogs the human mercenary companies under BHI control and either speculated or direct sources of how they got wind of their future employer. This is an investigation, wherein Meek-Ria seems to have been alone in, and it lists mainly companies which she had, at some point, had direct influence over. The list is as follows:

  1. George Pellegrino (KONG Interstellar, Trident)
  2. Fiorella Aufréne (Iron Pulse, 552th Strikers, TAW5)
  3. Mihail Nemsov (Weiss&Son)

Black Nebula and Cracked Mask are indicated on the same list with a ?-sign. Why Meek-Ria has investigated this is not discussed to any great degree, but the mere knowledge that these persons have also influenced Black Nebula is suspicious.

Despite this information, Alexander is ready to relay the data to Fuub-Ark and permanently disband the Black Ops unit. According to him, it was originally formed to address concerns which are external and irrelevant to the players themselves, but both Ivan and Heem-Lyeh contest this. They are adamant that the matter requires immediate investigation and that sacrificing resources to uncover such matters is, in fact, in line with their own interests. Alexander caves in and the operational lead of the Black Ops unit is jointly redelegated to them. Gunther and Heem-Lyeh also convince Alexander to be careful with relaying information, confident that keeping at least some of the contact details for themselves would be most prudent for now.

While the travel-weary pioneers get to suit up and prepare to head back toward Diave A, it becomes evident that the rest of Black Nebula don't get to sit idle either. One of Meek-Ria's agents, codename Gannet, transmits sensitive information to his/her contact box. Apparently princess Tileke, the youngest of the ruling family in TDHI, is about to travel towards Vainerva from Feoul, the administrative city, which opens a possibility for an attack. Alexander and Josef initially vocally disagree, knowing full well that assassination missions are frowned on by the Awese corporate war code. However, the others get on board and instead suggest a capture mission, which, while more difficult to pull off, would potentially grant a lucrative ransom. Nobody tells anything to Fuub and the rest of ILLI, of course, because they would likely not agree to such actions.

The players select six fast mechs for the mission and focus on mobility and electronic countermeasures. They choose an ambush point before a narrow ravine  and plan to blow up the track ahead, forcing the train to divert. Gunther, Heem-Lyeh, Na-kra, Josef, Ivan and Jiira choose to take up the task and head out. Alexander stays on air and is ready to provide backup.

At first, everything seems to go well. The Black Nebula mercenaries manage to direct the missile to its target and cut the track. The train is forced to stop and Josef boards a cargo cart, successfully intimidating the drivers to do his bidding and forcing Tileke's guards to stay put. There is a minor scuffle with Tileke's personal knights fielding advanced, yet light mechs, but being severely outgunned, they are soon forced to flee.

Unfortunately, while the players are retreating toward their own base, the first rapid response troops reach them well before the train is under BHI air defense cover. Alexander has taken this into account and leaked information about the operation to ILLI, forcing them to join the fight, now that there is a lot at stake and success seems probable. Shadow Flare and Iron Pulse assets are brought to bear and the situation soon escalates into the largest aerial battle of the eastern front so far. On the ground, the players are mostly unaware of it, but they are aware that they are being tailed and start receiving fire from extremely long range weaponry. Josef is left to guard the train as the rest of the crew decides to hold back the pursuing force.

This time the fight is much tougher. The Knights of Tileke are supplemented by a heavier advanced unit dropped by an overflying cargo plane. Despite still being heavily outgunned, the knights manage to eliminate two of the player units before succumbing. The possibility of capturing advanced tech is intriguing, but with extremely few forces left and facing further pursuers, salvage is impossible. However, as they both field melee weapons, both Na-Kra and Ivan cut off the forearms of the enemy mechs, thus acquiring some weaponry.

Meanwhile, Josef is still onboard the train and staring down a wing of VTOL vehicles. However, he still manages to convince the royalty that he WILL shoot should they advance, and the situation defuses as the train passes the first friendly air defense installations, where the VTOLs cannot follow.

Upon reaching the supply depot on the east border of Terniss, ILLI troops immediately take possession of Tileke and her retinue, which is revealed to also include Seleke, her personal mentat and the minister of social politics in TDHI. Fuub is silent about the implications of all these events and promises to contact the players later. His demeanor, while more secure than in the past, seems to indicate disappointment and threat, and it is still evident that losing Meek-Ria, especially when faced with such a crisis, is a heavy blow.

Heem-Lyeh does not feel too well and suspects that his body is detoriating under battle stress, but refuses to divulge this to anyone else. Huug, on the other hand, finally awakes from his coma. Determined to turn a new leaf and get sober, he resigns from Black Nebula and asks to join the Kra monastic order, thinking that some ascetism, humility and philosophical guidance would be most prudent at a time like this. When asked, he states that he will return eventually, but refuses to give hard deadlines.

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Season 2 Episode 16
Kra assault the Terniss fortress and the players deal with the aftermath of Meek-Ria's death

In the same vein as the first aerospace battle in the campaign, the session opens with the Kra fighting the last defenders of the Terniss fortress. The battle isn't exactly fair, as the Terniss garrison no longer has serious mech forces and their tank battallion has been captured, but the air defense towers still do double duty as a reliable form of base defense. In brief, Ongea, Grifollet, Myap, Nier and Seruna field the resqued Kra mechs against a pair each of LRM carriers, Schreck PPC carriers, Demolishers, Uziels and Calliope turrets supported by a lone Raven. The Kra forces are supported by an ammo truck, which also has a retractable blade replacement system.

In the beginning, the battle goes extraordinarily well as the defenders suffer casualties without seriously damaging the Kra forces, but eventually the missile barrage from the LRM Carriers and turrets damage both Nier and Seruna too much and they have to fall back. This allows the Uziels to gang up on Myap and kill her with a lucky headshot. However, Grifollet persistently harasses the flanks of the enemy, taking care of the LRM carriers and sniping the ammo stores of one of the turrets, taking it and a large portion of the base wall out of the equation. When Ongea finally deals with the Demolishers and the PPC carriers, the fight is over.

While the Kra forces mop up the rest of the defense turrets and secure the way for BHI ground troops, the players deal with the aftermath of the fight in the orchards. Meek-Ria is dead, and with her, an incredible breadth of information gathering and administrative competence has been lost. It does not take long for Fuub to contact Alexander, but the security chief sounds more defeated than anything, well aware that Meek-Ria herself chose to pilot the Battlemaster, most likely as a way to win back some necessary respect from Gaussburg and the other mercenary battlefield commanders. He simply terminates the call with the words "Do you have any idea how invaluable she was?" and gets to work on fixing whatever he can. This is almost immediately followed by an order to recall Tumak-Niva into orbit for further training, which Black Nebula immediately complies with.

As Terniss is now deemed safe and completely under BHI control, it is obviously the most suitable foothold for the BHI third army. In the following days, the players observe as the rest of the forces in the northwestern front (mostly rest of the Kra, the remaining Shadow Flare forces and Iron Pulse) retreat to the city and assist in fortifying it. Typical garrison duties are only interrupted by a joint decision to hold a wake for Meek-Ria, which also the higher ILLI officials choose to attend.

Amidst the low-key festivities, Fuub-Ark reveals that he is unable to recover all of Meek-Rias files due to lacking a certain cryptographic key, but hopes that a posthumous letter sent by a dead woman's switch will help to decipher it. As the letter also contains material directed towards Black Nebula, he shares it with the players on the condition that should they discover the key, he will be kept in the loop. The letter itself, while atypical for communication from Meek-Ria, seems to promise information about how to succeed her, which is obviously of great importance to Fuub.

For the status of injured Black Nebula soldiers, the medics seem to think that Huug will soon regain consciousness. Heem-Lyeh, on the other hand, experiences a serious derealization attack when reading the letter, which he doesn't seem to be able to shake off. Similarly unable to ascertain whether it is due to the letter itself or caused by his condition, he keeps this information to himself.

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Season 2 Episode 15
Greater drama unfolds amidst base sabotage and a battle in the orchards

There is a hiatus of several days which makes everyone grow weary. The enemy does not seem to be making any moves, and the rest of the BHI forces are not making any progress, preventing the Terniss front from receiving reinforcements. Fortunately this gives the players time to fix both their mechs and those of the Kra, bringing the combined fighting strength of the forces in the spaceport up to around five lances (including Weiss&Son).

The calm before the storm, however, is interrupted in the early morning on the third day after the negotiations by a lone radar dot flying towards the base. Suspecting a bomber, the laser battery opens fire while everyone is scrambling their forces and getting the fighters into the air. However, before the dot reaches the port, it turns tail in an attempt to avoid anti-aircraft fire the mercenaries suddenly notice that the tower fails to recharge its capacitor banks and is unable to ready another shot. Immediately after this, voltages drop and the whole base falls to secondary power.

Meek-Ria calls Alexander immediately and orders Black Nebula on full alert (as if they weren't already). It appears that the reactor of the spaceport is nonfunctional and nobody knows why, because the engineers in charge can't be contacted. Furthermore, transmission from orbit informs the players that a train with an escort is approaching from the east towards the Terniss power station.

Alexander and Gaussburg soon put two and two together and suspect that the reactor has been sabotaged to put the laser tower offline. This would give the air defenses of the fortress superiority within the Terniss bowl and allow the enemy to bring in reinforcements with air cover. Orders are dealt swiftly by Meek-Ria and delegated downwards. They are as follows:

  1. Heem-Lyeh, as the most technical of the group, is to investigate the reactor and bring it back online
  2. Gaussburg will take all of the fighters in the base and attempt to establish air superiority
  3. The rest of Black Nebula will board the dropship and try to secure the Terniss power plant. This would then be used to repower the tower even if Heem-Lyeh fails to fix the reactor.
  4. The Kra will assault the fortress, given any opportunity
  5. Weiss&Son will remain on the spaceport for defense

The plan is set in motion and its individual pieces soon fall in line. Alexander flies Entropy towards the power plant, facing little resistance on the way. The plant itself is defended only by a battallion of tanks, which can not effectively respond to the firepower and range presented by the dropship. and the players' reinforced mech lance of mechs. This gives Black Nebula the opportunity to force the tanks to surrender and drop their serbian infantry to capture them. The dropship is of little use from here on, though, as two wings of fighters from Vainerva arrive to complicate matters, forcing Alexander to retreat and making Gaussburg quite busy.

The forces in the fortress seize this objective and march towards the power plant, forcing the players to react. The Kra begin marching towards the fortress to cut them off, but lacking fast transportation, they can not directly influence the upcoming fight, which breaks out within the orchards.

The enemy force consists of the assault lance from the fortress, with one Atlas, one Battlemaster, a Black Knight, Rifleman and a Crusader. Luckily for the players, the enemy is geared towards long-range combat and the cover from the orchards works to their advantage. This does not mean that the battle is easy, however, as the enemy commander who is piloting the Atlas seems to be an elite gunner and deals enormous damage, as does his right-hand man in the Battlemaster. While the Atlas is geared for close-range combat, the Battlemaster has a mixed configuration suitable for all ranges and the rifleman attempts to take a position to control the battlefield, staggering fire with its quad ER Large Laser configuration. Ivan and Josef try to act as problem solvers, but the Rifleman denies good flanking positions while the enemy assaults advance to close range combat. The fight is especially problematic in the beginning when the players lack air cover, while the enemy does have it, but eventually Gaussburg manages to bring Entropy within friendly air defense and break off to defend their own.

The turning point of the skirmish happens when Tumak-Niva, fielding the Aquila, manages to drop a full bomb load directly on the Atlas, crippling it. This victory is short-lived, however, as the last autocannon round from the commander's gun blows Meek-Ria's cockpit clean off. Despite being occasionally antagonistic with their liaison officer, this event shakes Black Nebula to the core and evens the fight. Fortunately the enemy Crusader is unable to get anything done and as Josef, Ivan and Jiira corner the Battlemaster, the Rifleman doesn't have enough firepower to protect it. The battle does not end without further losses, though, as Jiira's mech goes down and many of the player units suffer heavy damage.

Meanwhile, supported by a squad of power armor, Heem-Lyeh descends to the power plant below the spaceport and appraises the situation. The power plant is an old and cheap, yet rugged fission installation with a surprisingly high output. Designed to be almost completely autonomous and low-maintenance, it has remained comparatively untouched for some time. However, now the control room has been sealed and the personnel are nowhere to be found. While Heem-Lyeh cuts through the doors and tries desperately to understand the gauges and controls, some of the soldiers go through recordings and find out that no extra personnel seem to have been allowed inside in. Considering that the engineers in charge of the reactor were nowhere to be found, it is safe to suspect that they were loyal enough to TDHI to act as saboteurs themselves. This complicates matters as it soon becomes evident that the reactor has been broken a bit more effectively than one would expect from simple thugs and multiple failsafe mechanisms have carefully been dismantled. Trying to compensate for the power draw of the laser tower, the reactor had adjusted its power output, but also caused itself to fail as its critical subsystems had been damaged.

Most importantly, the primary coolant system hds been breached in order to vent radiactive steam out of the primary coolant loop and the motors responsible for the control mechanisms of the reactor had been burned. With no apparent automatic means to make the reaction subcritical, Heem-Lyeh decides to enter the reactor chamber himself, risking the radiation exposure and operate the machinery manually. Failing this, he returns to ask for assistance, but the soldiers with him are hesitant to follow, realizing the great personal risk. After being promised an insane sum of money, two of them agree to throw their lives on the line. By manually forcing the machinery responsible for the control rods, they manage to turn the reaction subcritical, and by opening the safety valves and flooding the reaction chamber with secondary coolant, they avoid a meltdown and steam explosion. This takes longer than expected, which does not bode well for any of them.

As the Kra march towards the fortress, the situation starts to finally defuse. Alexander makes the questionable call of contacting the incoming reinforcements and threatening to cut the track in front of them with a cruise missile, but with the situation with the defenders growing more dire, the reinforcements turn back. Despite receiving best possible care (which, under the field situations present, isn't all that great), both of the engineers helping Heem-Lyeh eventually perish of radiation exposure, but Heem-Lyeh himself barely stabilizes. However, it seems that most of his remaining internal organs are on the brink of failure and that our cyber-radist does not have long to live.

What is most worrying is that like Sybaris, TDHI demonstrates that it is willing to sacrifice critical infrastructure to deny its enemy its own resources, which is in direct conflict to the agreed-on rules of engagement. Along with the loss of Meek-Ria, these developments do not bode well for our players.

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Season 2 Episode 14
Unnecessary peace talks

As the day dawned, the occupying forces had even more things to repair. The northern hangar was damaged, as was the second dropship landing pad. Fortunately, more aid was coming, as the attack on Vainerva is called off and part of the forces are diverted to Terniss spaceport. Most importantly, Weiss&Son, the unit leasing their dropship from Black Nebula, lands on the functional landing pad.

Jubilant at seeing their comrades once again, a reception celebration of sorts is organized, albeit with strict controls on alcohol consumption due to needing to be on high alert. Amidst the party, Alexander and Eurich set out to sell their excess inventory to Weiss&Son and Bjornlöf finds out that Na-Kra is diametrically opposed to narcotics. Luckily for the players, and especially for Jiira, Bernard Weiss is very interested in buying extra gear and also cashes in on the engineer's old Thunderbolt. Jiira then manages to convince Alexander to relinquish the Shadow Hawk to him in exchange for all of his present assets and a half-year contract without pay.

While earlier repairs are still ongoing and Jiira still modifying his new acquisition, the base is put on high alert due to reports of an incoming force. The players scramble to their mechs only to find out that this is supposedly a diplomatic entourage lead by Vlaslav Kirga, commander of Teask-Dumar western army, who wishes to negotiate with the commander of BHI's 3rd invasion army, high security chief Fuub-Ark.

There is a brief discussion about the whole operation being a trap, which seems unlikely, given the apparent willingness of the enemy commander to meet on area controlled by ILLI. Encouraged by this, Meek-Ria opens communication channels, declares herself to be in command of the 3rd invasion army Terniss front and accepts the call for negotiations. As expected, the current acting commanders of Kra, Weiss&Son and Black Nebula are asked to accompany her.

Alexander is extremely paranoid of the whole situation and suspects Vlaslav of being a suicide proxy, simply attempting to assassinate either Meek-Ria or all of them. His weariness is only slightly sated by Kirga's identity checking out, and insists that only Meek-Ria is in the actual negotiation room, with the rest taking part via video link. Vlaslav isn't happy with this, but eventually succeeds, stating that his message is more important than having everyone physically present. This indeed seems to be the case, as the negotiation actually ends up being a legal discussion, where Kirga warns Meek-Ria and her acting mercenary commanders of possible repercussions due to the war effort against Teask-Dumar. Specifically, it is stated that since a successful invasion campaing would lead to the elimination of TD, the war can be seen a blatant attempt of monopoly creation, which is in direct conflict with Awese Corporate War Law, articla six. In response to this, Meek-Ria notes that articla two guarantees a corporate conflict participant the right for self-defense, up to and including war goals equal to the aggressor party.

After this, the conversation devolves, as both sides have a differing idea of the initial aggressor and initial conflict goals. Regardless, through the discussion, Vlaslav places heavy emphasis on the perceived legal self-responsibility of associated mercenary commanders and their eventual fate in the hands of Miave war tribunal, whether BHI wins or loses the conflict or not. Meek-Ria is visibly aggravated by this notion and terminates the discussion, shooing Kirga off and sending him back to his bodyguards.

While this is going on, the russians, Na-Kra and Heem-Lyeh, but most of all the russians, grow bored. A suggestion is made to consider a surprise attack towards the fortress, but given that the enemy expeditionary force is relatively small, it is assumed to be too heavily defended. Another suggestion is to go and see whether the enemy evacuation of the airbase is well-defended enough and whether any relevant assets can be captured. This is deemed a sound plan by all, and preparations for the excursion are immediately in progress. The crew is to take powersuits and hitch a ride on Josef's Thanatos. The mech will utilize its ECM cover until they are close enough and then act upon the perceived best course of action.

All is well until the mech encounters an anti-armor minefield. Vigilant as ever, any casualties are avoided, but the crew decides to camfoulage the mech in the rocks and carry on on foot, post-haste. They will have much less to work with without mech assistance, but information gathering is more important anyway.

Upon arrival, the airbase is found to be in total chaos. Almost everything has been ransacked and the last trucks are ferrying equipment up north. Sneak around in the almost abandoned warehouses and hangars, the mercenaries eventually find a nook where a lone squad of soldiers is emptying the last corner out of comparatively worthless equipment. Ivan is disappointed about not being able to immediately steal something valuable, but Josef remedies this by suggesting that they capture the truck, head into the military base in Vainerva and do a better job there.

Unfortunately this means that Na-Kra and Heem-Lyeh won't be able to attend, due to their distinctive physiology. The two are to head back through the minefield and take the mech back to base, while the russians hijack the truck and do their best. This proves surprisingly easy for both parties, as it is not particularly difficult to capture a single truck with power armor in total ransacking chaos, and even though Heem-Lyeh triggers a single mine, the Thanatos is not damaged heavily enough to keep it from moving.

The trip north is uneventful and the security on the receiving end is comparatively lax. Amidst all the incoming equipment and soldiers, two russians in power armor are almost too ordinary to note and considering that the truck contains precisely nothing unexpected, the arrival inspection is uneventful. The inside of the base, however, is anything but, with a flrry of activity and a cacophony of orders and sounds of repairs and construction. What the russians find out is interesting, as amidst the chaos and signs of battle, two of the air defense towers in Vainerva still stand. Not particularly surprising considering that the Kra transport was shot down, but certainly surprising how poor BHI intel is. The russians don't think much of this, though, as they simply locate a remote hangar and proceed to steal as much as possible while being as discreet as possible. Ivan't experience with logistics and warehouse accounting software surely helps here, and he is able to acquire a sizable XL engine in convenient-sized parts. As a final note, Ivan leaves the explosives they were carrying on an empty shelf in the warehouse and primes it to explode in a couple of hours.

Knowing that they have limited time and the chaos of the retreat is bound to subside, Josef takes a minor detour through the dropship staging areas to at least slightly appraise the possible opposition. It is indeed substantial, and the northern front commands a fearsome amount of equipment, further emphasizing BHI's troubles therein. Most interestingly, though, Ivan spots Cracked Mask markings on some of the dropships, noting that their former allies seem to have switched sides.

On a pretext of still having something to fetch on the airfield and the security for outgoing equipment being of even lesser importance than incoming, the truck is allowed to depart without incident. Josef extends an offer of employement for the already coerced driver and after such a departure, he is indeed eager to switch sides. They arrive at the base way after nightfall.

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