RSU Roleplaying Game v2

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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Season 2 Episode 13
The Kra call for help

The day dawns with news of Huug probably surviving. Although he is presently still unconscious, there does not seem to be irreversible damage and the medical teams are hopeful. Other than that, Black Nebula personnel work overtime in securing the spaceport, and fixing their equipment. Orders coma soon afterwards and do not change the situation – the players are supposed to dig in and wait for reinforcements, the first of which come in the form of two infantry platoons early next morning.

While the platoons are getting to work in taking over spaceport operations, Meek-Ria keeps relying information from ILLI to the players. While they did well, others did not. The northern city of Vainerva, which was besieged on by the Kra clan, Shadow Flare and Weiss&Son, is holding the attack and has halted the progress of the invasion therein. The players are not ordered to reinforce, though, as Terniss spaceport is too important and opening it up for an attack is considered too much of a risk.

The day is uneventful, but as night falls, a sandstorm builds up in the badlands north of the spaceport. On its own, this wouldn't be too bad, but the players receive an S.O.S. from a Kra clan dropship that has been shot down while bringing reinforcements to the Kerva front. An accompanying encrypted transmission informs the players that a single surviving mech is seeking help while being pursued by enemy hovertanks and light mechs. Eurich and Alexander make an immediate call to take off and head north, flying as low as possible to avoid anti-air fire and plan to drop straight on the pursuers. Pilots are to field mechs with jumpjets and hot-drop to the zone.

The fear of anti-air was probably quite unfounded, as visibility is essentially zero and any air defense tower can't possibly hit them with this much particles in the way. However, they still have a pilot to save, and Alexander does his best to swoop in just as the pilot is cornered by Teask-Dumar assets.

As the pursuers do not have a sufficiently large force to resist a Black Nebula hot drop, they immediately retreat. Unsurprisingly, this isn't the end of the operation, as the remaining forces on Terniss spaceport report incoming forces on radar. Alexander knows they aren't going to make it, but hopefully the tanks and infantry present in the spaceport can make a difference while they are on the way. Such ends up being the case, as the tanks, now manned by ILLI troops, make a brave stand against higly mobile enemy mechs and vehicles, and delay them just enough for Entropy to fly overhead and deliver more friendlies to the battle.

When the battle is clearing up, a devastating explosion shakes the ground  and demolishes the northern hangar. Apparently Teask-Dumar's plan was to use an IED truck to topple the air defense tower, but this was foiled by one of the Devastator tanks which disabled the truck before it got close enough. Although immensely powerful, the explosion is not too close for comfort, and while it manages to disable Heem-Lyeh's mech, his augmented body protects him sufficiently to avoid serious injuries.

The battle ends with almost all enemy forces retreating, but Eurich manages to disable a Shadow Hawk that couldn't quite get away fast enough.

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Season 2 Episode 12
Outlier invasion begins

Atmosphere on the asteroid was tight. The players received word that Meek-Ria was returning and the original contract of Black Nebula was about to expire. This gave Alexander the opporturnity to vie for better pay and one could say that their negotiations were successful. Unfortunately, as a safeguard, ILLI demanded that Meek-Ria would step up from being a liaison officer to having the strategic command, which greatly aggravated Eurich.

The decision was almost a breaking point for him and the colonel threatened to ditch Black Nebula altogether, but after her return, Gunther managed to secretly convince Meek-Ria to issue a statement of complete trust and continue to defer full tactical command to him, for as long as ILLI's wishes were followed to the letter. Regardless of this, our german officer was deeply insulted, and demanded for Meek-Ria to accompany the players to the battlefield onboard his Battlemaster. As a response for this, however, Meek-Ria demanded that the mercenaries would accommodate and train her liaison-officer-in-traing, Tumak-Niva, who she had recently bought from the Karamat-Via. Alexander readily accepted, especially after hearing that Tumak was a pilot and they were already short of those. In the process, he ended up finalizing this web of demands and mistrust necessiated by the contract he had just signed. As always, Alexander was quite happy with the end result.

While this all was going on, Gunther was acting as the resident alien resources manager and interviewing one of Shadow Flare's previous support staff they chose to let go. Jiira, a weleka specialized in salvage and repair operations and rather desperate work, accepted.

After the last redistribution of resources, the flotilla was ready to go. Another briefing ensued and the mercenaries learned that ILLI had been placed on the forefront of the ground invasion, and given important targets. Black Nebula would capture Terniss, a medium-sized city famous for its orchards and seasonal underground water reservoir, while Shadow Flare and the Kra sisterhood, who had recently been placed uner Fuub's command, would assault a military base on the north, residing close to the city of Meak and its spaceport.

The travel itself was uneventful, but at the end of the counterburn, TDHI revealed an ace, as one of the Nea-Heer orbital installations was hiding a PPC destroyer quite like the one our mercenaries had seen on the military base archive footage. Immediately, it opened fire, and while the beam wasn't aimed at them, even the diffraction was bright enough to blind Alexander's sensors. What followed was the as-of-yet biggest and most important space battle of the corporate war, but Black Nebula wouldn't be there to witness it.

Meek-Ria's orders were simple: dive down and carry on with the mission, and so they did. While descending, more recent satellite data came available and Eurich made the bold call of assaulting the Terniss spaceport directly, being aware that it should have the same kind of defense emplacement as the one in Mirika, which would make combat operations extremely lopsided in the long run. Dry canyons would provide the perfect cover for an approach, and while they couldn't stay undetected, a surgical strike was still deemed to be the best approach.

The full force of Black Nebula was in play. Alexander and Tumak were flying Samurai medium fighters, while Heem-Lyeh was piloting a Corsair. Eurich had dragged Meek-Ria to his Battlemaster, while Gunther, Josef, and Ivan piloted their signature mechs. Huug-Gun chose to field Juho's King Crab and Jiira drove his very own Thunderbolt. What they ended up facing was a wing of enemy aircraft, a battallion of tanks and two elite pilots on high-end mechs. It was to became both the most difficult and most costly fight Black Nebula had yet to encounter, as the enemy were holding a defensive position and their fighting was more coordinated than of the units they had faced before.

An enemy bomber opened with two successful runs on Huug's King Crab, and the tanks also concentrated fire on him, giving the old biotechnician a hard time. Meanwhile, Josef was losing an one-on-one fight against an enemy Black Knight, which left him behind with two engine criticals and virtually disabled. Meanwhile, an Annihilator, a cheap but effective long-range weapons platform, focused fire on the targets that suited it best.

The turning point of the fight was that despite the covering fire of the laser defense platform, Black Nebula pilots won the air battle and forced the enemy interceptors to retreat, while taking down the enemy bomber. Eurich held the line, fighting almost carelessly, as if to impress and intimidate Meek-Ria. Indeed, LBX shrapnel pierced the cockpit and the spy was visibly distressed, but way too proud enough back down. This drove Eurich to an even riskier move, as he charged behind enemy lines in order to deliver spotting data for their dropship, which was delivering cruise missiles from beyond the horizon. This bombardment indeed did take down the enemy LRM carriers and together with Ivan, the colonel eventually faced the Annihilator, which couldn't fight against their combined close-range firepower.

Unfortunately, while this was going on, Heem-Lyeh took a direct hit to his left wing from the defense laser. Even though the fighter barely survived the blast, Heem-Lyeh was unable to retain control and was forced to eject, forced to watch as the brand-new corsair streaked down against the southern canyon walls. Also, Huug-Gun was trying to fend off the tanks while stubbornly refusing to eject. He almost managed to retreat into safety, but with armor breached on multiple locations, surviving the last salvo from the Annihilator was a hopeless prospect. An ammunition explosion shattered the King Crab like porcelain doll, and everybody feared for the worst. This almost wasn't the last loss either, as the Black Knight was just about to execute both Gunther and Jiira. Fortunately, Tumak managed to strafe it from behind, landing a critical engine hit and forcing a shutdown. Cooling off in his immobilized mech and staring down the barrel of Gunther's pulse blaster, the pilot chose to eject.

When the dust cleared, the tank crews saw that they were surrounded and without air support, being forced to surrender. Furthermore, Huug-Gun's transponder was still beeping with life signs, so there was hope, but the mercenaries would have to capitalize on their position quickly.

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Season 2 Episode 11
Neutrino detector capture attempt

Meanwhile, ILLI forces were gathering at TDHI-R-397. The situation was dense, since a retake effort of the asteroid was expected. Shadow Flare had lost a significant amount of their forces, being even more strained as a fighting force that it already was, and there was not much for the players to salvage, making them appear rather under-equipped.

Reinforcing the base defenses and fixing the gauss towers was ongoing, and our mercenaries themselves were cannibalizing the Killer Whale launcher of the tower for their own use. As usual for their trade and accustomed to corporate squabbling (though perhaps not on this scale), the extraplanetary workers present weren't particularly loyal to anyone and were happy to accept pay from BHI, which certainly made the restoration operations work smoother than expected.

It's said that time crawls when you wait, and while Black Nebula had waited quite a bit recently, the standstill was still quite excruciating. The end result was as unsatisfactory as previously, though, as the attack never came. Under the prying eyes of the defenders, a small approached from the inner system and rendervouzed with the local garrison, but insted of making a move for their position, the combined force headed back towards the inner system, abandoning the garrison.

This made Fuub curse his luck, as for him, this meant that TDHI was playing it extra safe and ILLI wasn't ready. The BHI main flotilla was still being prepared and the players were forced to wait yet more. In the meantime, however, Fuub received Meek-Ria's word about the missing warheads from a courier pod, and sat down with Black Nebula to consider their options. What was important to know right now was whether the weapons had already been used, and if so, how recently and where. The best way to know would be to possess a neutrino detector and hope to catch a trace of the explosion. However, BHI had none, and the only existing ones in the system belonged either to the government or, possibly, to the public universities down on the Outlier. The latter was a much easier target, but far out of reach for now, as ILLI couldn't afford to send Black Nebula operatives deep into TDHI space so close to their planned invasion. However, Fuub knew that the government detectors were orbiting the star just inside the perimeter of the asteroid belt and the closest of them was easily reachable in a few days.

A plan was set in motion. Black Nebula would board the detector, get the data, and get out. Analysis would follow later. Heem-Lyeh was chosen to fly the Aquila left behind by Juho and the rest would suit up in power armor in wait in cargo capsules. The remaining air assets of Shadow Flare would assist the operation and fly escort to them. Herein Fuub gambled heavily on the assumption that the detectors would be relatively lightly defended. Despite their possible value in a wartime situation to detect powerful nuclear reactors such as those in capital ships, due to their status as government property and primarily scientific devices, they would likely be considered stricly out-of-bounds in the current corporate conflict. However, for this very reason, secrecy was paramount, and no traces of the raid would be acceptable. Everybody would fly IFF off and any logos and distinctive markings would be painted over.

The plan was superficially sound, but in the end, things did not go smoothly. Having decided to also take part in the away team and directing the operation from inside the cargo capsule, Gaussburg's situational awareness was compromised. Combined with a passing government patrol ship making an almost clairvoyant call of their intentions, the players quickly found themselves being intercepted by a fighter wing. Despite trying his very best, Gunther couldn't couldn't come up with an excuse good enough, and the choises were clear – fight or run.

Disppointed with his earlier calls, Gaussburg deferred the ultimate decision to Heem-Lyeh, who highly suspected Shadow Flare's ability to defend them against a trio of heavily armed medium fighters. Even calling off the raid turned out to be a close call, as the required delta-velocity was great and Heem-Lyeh had to do his very best to avoid giving the fighters a lethal firing solution. Fortunately he was able to reach the relative safety of the Shadow Flare support ship, degenerating the situation to another standstill and allowing for a controlled retreat.

Unfortunatly, with the patrol ship reaching the detector and their plan clearly visible, the window of opportunity had clearly vanished. ILLI officials quickly recalled the force to TDHI-R-397 and continued the preparations for invasion.

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Season 2 Episode 10
The mafia is no match for a squad of pioneers

The players waste no time in contacting Lidia and Joe and telling them of the situation. The orbital investigation is scrapped and the two are scheduled to head down immediately, with the orders to act as the ears and eyes of the squad in-city, while the rest continue with the operation.

Marianne assumes that Mr. Xu's immediate target would be the very place he invited the actors to, and this is to be their target too. Immediately, during the same night, the players hijack one of the local touring helicopters and its pilot, heading west towards the forest compound. Setting down in a meadow in the dead of night, the pioneers soon reach the estate, which seems to be a hefty-sized forest retreat with a well-kept english garden. Surprisingly, it is not particularly well defended, and after a short but efficient infilitration scene, the pioneers found neither the police nor Mr. Xu himself.

Interrogation of the present waiting staff, prostitutes and the living guards revealed that Mr. Xu took a detour to the hospital and was expected to return shortly. With this information in hand, it was decided that Lidia and Joe were to follow his whereabouts in town, while the rest of the squad set on doing what they do best – combat engineering. A crafty and improvised tactical barrier was prepared on the yard, while waiting for the gangsters to return.

Lidia and Joe attempt to infiltrate the hospital to some extent, but it was crawling with police and Xu's own men. Posing as a nurse, Lidia answered a job advert and got toured around a bit, albeit failing to find out anything too conclusive about their opponents. A much more substantial bit of information was the amount of men Xu had with him, when his convoy eventually started heading back to the compound. Apparently due to being quite a bit above the law and luckily for the players, the police made no attempt to follow him or approach the compound theirselves.

Apart from a brief encounter with preteen awese youngsters herding conifer parasites for fun and profit, the actual building of the tactical barrier was uneventful. Its abilities came to test perhaps a bit too early, when McGibbs mis-times the detonation and failed to properly catch any of the arriving three vehicles. What ensued was a long and bloody firefight, as Xu's numerous mooks and personal bodyguards defended themselves furiously. McGibbs got to know true fear when one of the bodyguards, a huge man in full body armor wielding a handheld blaster cannon, barely missed his hiding spot in the balcony. The resulting shockwave completely demolishing the room and left his ears ringing. At the same time, Yao Zi, Xu's nephew, prepared to make short work of Joe after seriously wounding Lidia. The lives of the squad were mere inches away, but Jean eventually managed to take down the enemy heavyweight and Marianne fended off Xu's remaining men, saving McGibbs and forcing the gangster to surrender.

The situation was quickly disarmed, and Mr. Xu, as a reasonable man, gave Meek-Ria the information she wanted. The extent of this information was not that great, however, as the only things Xu truly confirmed was the already present suspicion that Ivispe was indeed the buyer of the weapons. An interesting detail, however, was that Ivispe demanded the weapons, or hollowing charges, as they actually were, to be left in their initial condition without the warheads extracted for easier use or transportation. This suggested that their intended use was not warfare after all.

Hearing this and considering the mission a success, Meek-Ria ordered most of the pioneers to return to Diave B immediately. For Marianne, Jean and the two pilots, however, she has other plans.

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Season 2 Episode 09
BlackOps is what BlackOps does

After confirming where the theathre troupe was headed, our BlackOps team headed to the surface of Diave Prime. Marianne, Jean, Hune-Boo, BB and McGibbs were chosen to descend while Jim and Lidia remained to sort things out in VGT.

Due to dangerous substances and equipment embargos, transporting weaponry was technically illegal, but Meek-Ria arranged personal weapons to arrive in the next shipment. This meant, however, that the heavy equipment they were fielding would not get to the surface and our soldiers would have to do without powersuits and other force multipliers.

The descent itself was uneventful, with the exception that Marianne got to witness anxiousness from Meek-Ria. The former spy just siad that she doesn't trust the space hook containers and other unpowered methods of travel. It wasn't as if their cabin couldn't fall from the sky at any moment, or wasn't technically already doing it.

Diave Prime, the capital world of the system itself, was a cool planet being terraformed from an ice ball state. With toxic, cyanobacteria-ridden seas and too high atmospheric carbon dioxide content, it was just becoming habitable, but not quite there yet. What was most interesting about it, however, was the focus on very ambitious civil engineering projects, the most importantof which was the equatorial railway. Of course, tourism was low priority, so they waited for their munitions shipment and set on their way west, towards Kukawa – The City of Expressive Art.

Various strategies were discussed and some of the team members even suggested assaulting the train Du'an would board, but this was deemed too risky. In the end, Marianne still opted for efficiency and immediate action, planning to hit the very first performance of Ms. Lynn's troupe. BB was chosen to deliver a fake secret message from Sheryl to Mr. Xu and get him to head backstage after the play, while the rest would ambush him and his bodyguards on the spot. McGibbs would be the getaway driver waiting on the street.

The first part of the plan went admirably and Du'an swallowed the bait whole. However, everything else did not. Not only did Mr. Xu choose to shock the audience by inviting the entire troupe to his mansion in the countryside, but this caused enough of an uproad that the backstage became filled with fans and press immediately afterwards. However, when given the choice of pulling out or going forward, Marianne hesitated only for a split second, giving the order and kicking the rear doors of the theathre wide open.

Mr. Xu had the pleaure to see Lynn smash the door on his face mere seconds before the players pounced on his bodyguards, eliminating them all in the matter of seconds. Rambeau got a bit excited about the situation and let loose, wounding a bystander, but hopefully not fatally.

The chinese gangster, however, was not fazed by the situation, having encountered numerous assassination and usurpation attempts over the years. He simply kicked the door in and ran through the dressing rooms, finding a back door that lead into the wardrobe and storage. The players gave chase, and onlookers got to witness a truly epic escape scene, while Marianne and Jean were forced to admit that they had seriously underestimated the physical fitness of their middle-aged target. It didn't help that Hune-Boo was completely inexperienced with firearms and BB, in her vanity, had chosen a ridiculously elaborate and impractical dress for the occassion. At first, both foreign legionnaires were reluctant to shoot towards Mr. Xu, but when it became evident that they couldn't catch him otherwise, Marianne gave the order to shoot him in the legs. This final decision, however, came too late, as even if Jean managed to impair him, Xu's hecnhmen arrived with their own car to pick their boss up in the nick of time, forcing the players to retreat.

Before this open display of firepower, Kukawa had been one of the least violent cities in Diave, so understandably tensions were high and the players tuned in to listen to special broadcasts of their exploits. McGibbs drove like mad to find a reclusive location while Marianne phoned Meek-Ria for further orders. Such followed promptly – the players were to find a motorboat in the docks and head north to a riverside camping ground, where they would stage the next part of the operation. The mission was still active, and operational time would be very limited – the city grounds were swarming with police and more were expected to arrive from nearby cities.

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