RSU Roleplaying Game v2

Season 4 Episode 01-02
Commandos behind enemy lines - The Kruger episode

After returning to the helm, and even more so after the failed artillery spotting manouvere, Gaussburg was even more determined to slow down the enemy recovery process. It was pretty much given, that should the players wait and do nothing, the eventual attack would be impossible to defend against. However, unlike the Kra, Eurich was prepared to use far dirtier and controversial means to reach his goals, and to this end, the first operation was arranged in complete secrecy and only authorized by Gaussburg himself.

Kruger was chosen to lead a raid behind the enemy lines and attempt an attack on the enemy barracks. Pilots would be the preferred target, but anything similar would do. For this purpose, the South-African mercenary again loaded his squad on the stealth hovertank and set out to flank the enemy position. To avoid detection, Kruger diverted heavily to the south and descended to the canyon connecting to the Terniss basin. Having reached that, he circled west through the drying lakeshore and monitored the northern pass for a while before making the risky ascend. Eventually the tank reached the plains to the east of the spaceport without being spotted.

The first thing the squad noticed was that the airbase to the east was being worked on, and probably being refitted after being evacuated earlier. It was not an immediate threat, however, so Kruger chose to dismount and try to infiltrate the spaceport itself. Unlike he hoped, he was unable to ambush anyone from whom he could extract information directly, but noticed that the enemy had constructed makeshift lodging in a container village to the east of the hangars, where the mechs were being repaired, and that there was considerable traffic between the lodging and the hangars themselves. It was pretty obvious that the maintenance personnel was being housed there temporarily, and the flimsy temporary apartments would be an easy target.

Kruger and the serbians got to work. After waiting for nightfall, they stormed the village and begun shooting rather indiscriminately, hoping to cause as much damage as possible. As enemy patrols were active in the area, the whole strike was planned to last for less than two minutes, and their hovertank immediately drove in to pick them up. Despite the rapidity of their assault, also the enemy response was top-notch, and they were intercepted by a Commando while escaping. However, the tank driver did their best to avoid giving the mech a clear shot, and they escaped with minimal damage.

Meanwhile, Black Nebula leadership was discussing the future with ILLI and the other mercenary commanders. Everybody was ordered to fortify their position as best they could, and prepare for the attack. Ivan was assigned to lead the pioneers and oversee the construction of fortifications, which he vowed to do diligently. Fuub also informed them that he would address all the troops tomorrow morning.

The address itself was heartfelt and matter-to-fact. Fuub did not coat his words and was frank with the severity of the situation, but also informed the remaining troops that they were getting help from Karamat-Via and that due to holding the orbital resources, their manufacturing and supply capacity was vastly greater. Just as he was about to defer to the subcommanders and let them have their word, Kemva Amek reeled and collapsed, followed by a distant gunshot. Being soldiers, the dispersal was relatively ordered and the russians jumped to the stage in order to quickly cover for Fuub, while Alexander immediately ordered a search for the sniper. Unfortunately the shot had originated from very far away, and when Kruger arrived to the scene, he only found a camouflaged position and motorcycle tracks, which eventually lead him to the city limits only to disappear on the paved roads.

After this, the camp was alive with action. Fuub reaffirmed his explicit order to re-vet anyone whose loyalties any of the players were not completely certain of, and due to this, Heem-Lyeh told the pioneers to detain Gannet. While he had nothing to base his suspicions on and the presence of moles had long predated her retrieval, Heem-Lyeh was not happy about how unnaturally clean her internet and computer usage logs were. Gannet loydly protested, but luckily Heem-Lyeh himself was not there to defy him, and the pioneers delivered her to Tumak Niva, who they trusted to hold her for the time being. Everyone else was not as certain of the move, but Alexander felt that it was better to be safe than sorry, and approved Heem-Lyeh's actions.

Simultaneously with this spectacle, Fuub had called Gaussburg to a tactical meeting, from which he returned with another mission for the South-African mercenary. Somebody had gotten wind that the Iron Pulse and Shadow Flare wounded had been delivered to the same Continuity hospital that they had just departed from, and that it would be best if Kruger would investigate the issue and deliver some information to them. This time in civilian clothes, he would enter the hospital, contact Frank Appleton, Ever-Vees and their closest commanders and deliver the gifts containing coded messages that Gaussburg had prepared, then return back to base as soon as possible.

Coincidentally, Günther's contact in the court informed them that he had been able to squeeze in a slot for them at the experimental treatment clinic, albeit with an extremely high cost. This meant that Heem-Lyeh's road towards recovery, as well as Vergennes's, from whom Gaussburg had bought information from, would begin. All of the three boarded civilian transportation and departed for their own destinations, hoping that the trains were not very thoroughly monitored, and that if they were, TDHI would respect the rules of engagement enough to allow them to pass. This seemed to be the case, as none of them were stopped or harassed en-route. While it would take time to find out what Vergennes and Heem-Lyeh's fates would be, Kruger reached the hospital uneventfully, was admitted in uneventfully and delivered his gifts uneventfully. The following night, however, was not uneventful, as the hospital came alive with commotion, and Kruger got to witness most of the higher-ups in both Shadow Flare and Iron Pulse getting poisoned, apparently due to an unknown assassin. Determined to get to the bottom of this, he phoned back to CheekyChic69 and wired him in to try to dig up something from the security camera systems inside the hospital. However, despite getting access to some of them, the duo was unable to find anything out of the ordinary. Either the assassin was quite the professional, or they has just missed him on the records.

Regardless of the situation, the hospital was now very hot, and Kruger was very aware of how bad the whole incident would make a conveniently present alien mercenary look when the authorities would start snooping around. Slipping away in the dead of night, he made it to town, and on first light, rented some personal transport with which to avoid detection a bit more securely than taking the train all the way back behind their own lines.

From here on, things escalated quickly.

[jatka kotona]

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Season 3 Episode 10
Winding down, season finale

Whether the game was a winning game or a losing game, Fuub was on top of it. Alexander received an immediate order to retreat west, towards the Kra compound, and stop by at the Continuity hospital to fetch Gaussburg. The players knew they were at risk, but also knew that enemy reinforcements were an hour away or so, and that they had time to land the dropship and haul in some of their damaged equipment. As time was scarce, it was not possible to salvage the whole battlefield. However, with Jiira's direction, the players managed to gather their own units and the two Wolverines from the enemy recon lance. Attempting to move the enemy assaults, however, was unsuccessful, as Cracked Mask's forces drew close and forced them to evaquate. During the final stages of loading up, Ivan and Alexandar took the opportunity to destroy the remaining materiel on the field, so that it could not be salvaged by the enemy.

Without really asking for permission, the players landed on the vicinity of the Continuity hospital in Terniss, promptly ruining its orchard and garden. They asked even less permission when demanding for the release of Gaussburg, Gunther and other high-ranking officials stationed therein. This invasion was not particularly well-received, but upon discussing directly with Fuub, the hospital staff complied, to the extent that they felt that it was safe to move the patients. ILLI promised to recompensate the damage to the property, but at least Alexander could not tell whether the operation would be stirring up any bad blood between the faction.

Avoiding the Terniss spaceport, now under enemy control, the players swung southeast and landed on the improvised airfield to the west of Kra's position. Not having seen the compound before, most of the new arrivals, including the players, had an opportunity to be surprised of the efficiency of the convent. A small secluded valley in the hilly ground had been flattened and both improvised lodging and mech hangars had been excavated into the rock facing the valley. While only the most critical assets had an earthen cover or were completely protected by rock,  the position appeared relatively well-fortified, especially against air attack. Missile turrets were scattered amongst the hills and a road had been constructed to meet the city in the southwest.

Upon setting up camp, Fuub immediately called a meeting for the remaining commanders, as it was time to assess their remaining combat strength, which didn't look good. The players were the only ones who had managed to win on their front, and as a consequence, the only ones without severe losses. Weiss&Son was ruled completely destroyed, with even their dropship captured by the enemy. While Trident had managed to retreat, Shadow Flare and Iron Pulse had been effectively eliminated, with only their transports intact. The commanders of both units were unaccounted for, as were practically all their mechwarriors. The Kra had risked less materiel on this action, and thus were not ruined by any means, but they were significantly weakened. Also, due to their recent losses and the need to fortify their own compound, any assets from the north which were assisting the first army, had been recalled. The earlier acting commander, Ongea was also unaccounted for, but the new acting commander, Grifollet, had good reason to believe that she was dead based on the battle reports she had received.

Fuubs associates set out to more carefully assess Iron Pulse's and Shadow Flare's situation and see whether Trident had anything left to use, while Fuub concentrated on discussing the situation with the players and the Kra.

The first orders were crystal-clear. It was time to re-vet all personnel, as information was, without a doubt, being leaked, and that espionage had quite possibly lost them the entire battle, if not the war. Heem-Lyeh set out to redo everything again and switch all encryption keys, but apart from that, the players had little ideas on how to proceed. Concerning Gaussburg, Fuub was relatively open about his position and direly needed another competent battlefield commander. Ever confident, Gaussburg straight-out promised to win the war, should his demands be met, and Fuub seemed to agree on this, but it was unclear to the rest what the deal was about.

When discussing present actions, Gaussburg stated that he wanted to take a small detachment of artillery and scout mechs and pinpoint the position of the enemy mech hangar in order to perform a surgical strike and hinder the enemy salvage effort. While this was a rather natural course of action, Gaussburg believed it to be essential in surviving a counterattack, which would inevitably happen once the enemy finished bolstering their forces with the all the forces they managed to capture. Fuub and Kra agreed, and the latter instated a bounty on their materiel captured by Cracked Mask, which the convent clearly valued highly. Grifollet and Seruna were also quite clear on their wish, that should the players fail to retrieve the mechs, they should be destroyed if possible.

The first army loaned the players some Sniper artillery pieces, but while the operation was planned carefully, it ended up being quite a failure and was aborted quickly. Most likely due to the high alert state of the Terniss spaceport and because Cracked Mask was obviously expecting such action, Black Nebula scouts were unable to find a clear vulnerability in the enemy defensive line or position the a way that they could cause serious damage before having to retreat in the face of enemy disciplinary action. After a brief staring contest with enemy scout mechs that the players managed to drive away, Gaussburg considered repositioning the artillery and sacrificing it to have a chance of destroying one of the hangars, but quickly decided against this. An order to return to base was given, and the players were left to consider other avenues while the enemy continued their salvage operations unobstructed.

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Season 3 Episode 08-09
When shit hits the jet engine

(The second part of this episode was played on 2018-02-04, but I condensed this to a single adventure log entry due to the actual battle taking two nights to finish, with most of the actual roleplaying content already being resolved on the earlier date.)

As the dawn of the concluding battle became more imminent, more and more sketchy rumors began circulating in the camp. Kruger heard from his old squadmates that significant sums had been offered from the heads of Alexander and Appleton, and more and more people were growing fearful and weary. The events culminated on the evening before the final battle, when the polish battle suit squads invited the russians for drinks and both Ivan and Josef were surprised of the amount of vodka that was being downed and wages which were being gambled away.

After throwing some money away recklessly, Ivan regained his composure and cleaned the table. Seeing the poles indifferent attitude, he confronted them about their behavior and heard that their squads would be stationed on the eastern front, aiding Black Nebulas skirmish detachment against the Knights. Most considered this to be straight-out suicide and openly questioned the sanity of their leaders, as the battlesuits could not hope to match the speed of the nobles' mechs in an open battle. While the troop disposition was not a matter that either of the russians were privy to, they nevertheless questioned this division of labor and took upon them to phone Heem-Lyeh for details. Things soon escalated and were relayed upwards – within minutes, Alexander was in Appleton's tent discussing the matter with all of the other battlefield commanders.

The paper trail was short. It seemed that Nigel Ashcorp, who commanded the battlesuit squardrons in Iron Pulse, had been hacked and his e-mail identity had been used to deliver faulty information to the men. Realizing what was at stake, a briefing was called to session immediately and all of the men were to be reinstructed of the course of events, so that any misinformation could do no more damage. Fuub himself was extremely worried due to the ever-increasing amount of leasks and espionage, that he quite couldn't nip off, but he also knew that the information advantage on the following day would be instrumental to winning the fight, and dared not delay the attack any further. The deployment would commense mere minutes before the orbital surveillance window opened in order to reserve as much of it as possible to providing information during combat. The final orders were as follows:

  1. Black Nebula would send a fast skirmish unit to delay the knights and try to force them into a favorable engagement, either in the city or by baiting them and allowing Shadow Flare's slower assets to engage them fully. This unit would consist of the russians, Heem-Lyeh and Charles on fast, yet powerful mechs such as the Crusader, Griffin, Phoenix Hawk and Thanatos.
  2. Shadow Flare's assets were to aid the skirmish unit.
  3. Iron Pulse would assault the enemy fortress aided by Black Nebula's heavier assets (two Battlemasters, the Highlander and the improvised fire support vehicles Charles and Jiira had crafted leading to the fight).
  4. Trident was standing on reserve, and was to either aid whichever group required assistance, or respond to any unforeseen threat.
  5. At the same time, on Fuub's request, Kra from the second army group would investigate the possibility of doing some damage to Vainerva in the north, and while doing so, provide cover for their assault.

However, as is often customary in war, plans are of limited use and the situation unfolds differently. Rarely had this been as true as it would be today, as the players would soon observe.

Firstly, when the surveillance came online, it became apparent that Cracked Mask had already mobilized, and was just leaving Vainerva to both flank them and attack Terniss. While this was definitely concerning, there was some confidence on Weiss&Son's ability to hold the spaceport. Not wanting to leave this up to chance, Alexander immediately ordered the players' dropship to reinforce the Terniss spaceport with the two mechs they still had on reserve. It would be much more likely that they would be needed there and all of the commanders considered holding Terniss to be of extreme importance, should they be forced to abandon their position in Feoul.

However, the surveillance satellite had more sights to show them. Cracked Mask had much more materiel than they had anticipated and it was questionable whether Fuub's third army could beat both the Knights and the fortress defenders, and still be in a position to face them. This was debated intensely during the advance, but regardless of how the situation unfolded, the commanders had hope that they could use their satellite data to outmanouver the enemy and either regroup with the Kra before facing Cracked Mask, or in a worst-case scenario, retreat west to Terniss.

That, however, would remain to be seen, as there really was no turning back, and everyone turned to focus on the battle ahead. Concerning it, any in-depth analysis already suggested that the situation was nowhere near hopeless, but things would soon turn out further in their favor, as it seemed that just about everyone had misjudged the Knights' position and motivations.

Instead of engaging the players' skirmishing unit, the Knights kept their distance and opened a communication channel. A slick-looking sable-feathered hybrid-class male calling himself "Pitch", spoke on their behalf and proposed a deal – they would immediately withdraw, if princess Tileke and her mentat Seleke would be returned to them. The alternative, of course, would be that the Knights would crush their army or die trying.

While the representative failed to speak any language Alexander could understand, he could nevertheless feel that there was something strange in this persons' demeanor and the comms came alive with whispers of Pitch's past antics. Iron Pulse pilots were assuring everyone that he was deadly accurate and notorious for deliberately shooting to kill in this gentlemen's game of mech combat.

While Alexander and the rest strongly questioned the validity of this deal, especially faced with these testimonies of Pitch's character, the Shadow Flare's leaders and Fuub, who ultimately made the call, seemed to value the integrity of the Knights promise greatly. It was not divulged exactly why this was so, but it could be said that Fuub accepted almost immediately. He was not to be disappointed either – the Knights made sure Tileke and Seleke were unharmed and withdreq immediately, greatly tipping the balance of the battle to the players' favor. Only Jiira seemed discontent, as he had became fixated in besting the Mist Lynx pilot in battle, and was not happy to be denied the opportunity.

While this was going on, also the enemy comms came alive. Vlaslav Krga, who apparently commanded the fortress's forces, simply couldn't keep his cool in the face of these developments. He cursed the shit-coloured bird to the lowest circle of hell and told him to say hi to brutus, but the Knights were utterly deaf to these words and left him to his own devices. Vlaslav would nevertheless play to win, and started to retreat into the safety of he fortress, seeing that he couldn't hope to beat everyone by himself. This, in turn, allowed Fuub and the players to reassign their responsibilities.

Black Nebula would cut the retreat off, and if unable to do so, would refrain from attacking the fortress and contain Krga's forces. All of the rest would turn around and face Cracked Mask, which would ensure that they had well enough forces to soundly beat them. Once Cracked Mask was taken care of, they would have immense numerical superiority and taking on the fortress or simply forcing a surrender would be merely a matter of time.

Alexander was a bit greedy, however, and wasn't content on merely containing Krga. Knowing the enemy route, he set up an ambush with the fire support vehicles in firing range and took further advantage of the russians' ECM cababilities by flanking Krga's faster mechs which were trying to flank him. The battle was well contained and the players had almost perfect information, but regardless of all these advantages, the fight would probe to be extremely close and bloody. Vlaslav was an able commander and he fielded a sizeable force of assault mechs and tanks, with the force composition heavily focusing on range and survivability. He also spread his forces just enough that the cruise missiles from the players' dropship were not as effective as they had been in the past, and Alexander's decision to only fire three of them almost cost him the field.

Unlike in most of their fights, the players were out-tonned and out-armored. The improvised fire support vehicles were also too far back to be used to their fullest extent. Krga was well equipped to trade shots and whittle down on the players' more fragile units without losing any heavy hitters of his own. Heem-Lyeh's Warhammer was lost early into the fight, and when an enemy Malice disabled Charles's Crusader, Alexander was on the brink of ordering a retreat. However, Jiira managed to trade his Battlemaster for the enemy Victor and the threat of cruise missile impacts succeeded in forcing the enemy tanks out of position for long enough that the improvised fire support vehicles had time to do their damage. The final tipping point of the battle was when Ivan proved too much for the enemy Wolverines to handle and Josef pierced a Malice's armor, causing a devastating ammo explosion. Despite the odds stacking against him, Krga refused to surrender and ultimately faced the same fate as the Malice pilot, dying on the field.

As the smoke cleared, Alexander ordered the Hemostasis to return and begin hasty salvage operations. However, the day had not yet exhausted its supply of surprises, and the players' expectations were to be defied once again.

The Cracked Mask forces reached Terniss before Kra could aid Weiss&Son, and even though the brits were outnumbered, they possessed reinforced defensive positions and had a clear advantage. However, due to bad luck and a few bad calls from Bernard Weiss, the battle was eventually lost. Furthermore, when Kra tried to recoup this loss and assaulted the weakened enemy forces, the Cracked Mask commander quickly manned said defensive positions and managed to drive back the attack, thus securing the spaceport and dealing a devastating blow to the convent.

Reeling from this blow, the forces in Feoul prepared to face their own share of Cracked Mask, but this time things managed to turn even worse. The polish battlesuid squads, who had been reprimanded earlier, betrayed the defenders on a critical moment and detonated hidden explosives in the joints of Iron Pulse's commanding mechs. The defenders fell into disarray and the battle became extremely one-sided, with both Shadow Flare and Iron Pulse being utterly crushed in the field and only scraps of Trident escaping within an inch of their life.

Alexander and Heem-Lyeh could do nothing but listen to their comms as Fuub-Ark's army crumbled before them, with its dropships taking flight and heading west. Many of their allied officers were dead and they themselves were now deep within enemy lines, battered, beaten and trying to salvage their own disabled equipment while an army was approaching from the north.

This time, Murphy's law had really done a number on them – not all was lost, but most of it, certainly. Alexander stood dumbfouned and could barely register the chatter on the comms as Fuub was trying to gather the strings and form some kind of a plan.

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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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