RSU Roleplaying Game v2

Season 4 Episode 04
Closing in on Lusk - The beginning of the counter-invasion

The meeting with Doris happened in a restaurant at the edge of the town. Doris has brought her own security and was clearly better prepared than last time, but the encounter turned out to be uneventful, which made all of the Russians question her assumed motives.

Instead of actively trying to buy them out or even starting a ruckus, Doris's display was rather uncharacteristic, as she calmly ate her meal while delivering a warning about backing Fuub in this day and age, stating that the commander of the first army (Bivo-Ak?) is very  likely to supercede him. This was probably a threat, but the delivery was muted enough to make it not feel like one, and the russians failed to see the point to it. Due to this, Alexander did not agree to anything, and chose not to pursue any kind of further discussion. Though usually oppoturnistic, Josef agreed with the line of action, very aware of the fact that loyalty was never a fault for a warrior, and likewise certain that their future actions would strengthen Fuub's position.

After returning to the camp and making sure that Gaussburg was already making the final touches to their own invasion force, Alexander was confronted with CheekyChic69, who finally seemed to have coughed up the courage to ask for a better deal. The programmer was insistent on being paid too little after all, and reminded Alexander that he had already participated in highly risky operations and constantly secured important information using his skills. Instead of haggling, Alexander immediately offered a partnership with half a percent of the total assets. Being good in math, this immediately set the programmer into trance and quieted him down, also securing a signature immediately.

This also reminded Alexander that their company was quite unprepared to actually fight a legal battle against Karmat-Via over the remaining Iron Pulse assets. Risky as it might be, the only easily accessible resource was Booby, who had just been placed under house arrest. As Heem-Lyeh was no longer there to voice his concerns, Alexander could immediately phone Tumak-Niva and ask him to deliver her back, to which Tumak readily agreed due to "her presence being psychologically taxing". Alexander, of course, now had to placate their courtier, who was furious for being detained. After a one-sided shouting match over demands, she decided to settle for an outrageous monthly compensation, more personal resources and free reign over the issue.

[continue later]

- Wild Spinward, or at least Yolanda and Shanelique and their salvage operation

- Battle in the hydrogen refinery

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Season 4 Episode 03
Preparing for a counterattack

In the aftermath of the battle, Gaussburg wanted to act immediately and capitalize on the presently relatively undefended base, ordering another commando raid on the premises. As previously, Krüger took his serbs in power armor and the stealth hovertank, and started circling around the base, this time from the north. Jiira accompanied the crew in the hopes that they could catch the base personnel pants down and secure a mech before anyone could react.

While the tank was indeed faster and preceded the returning assault forces, whoever was in command of the base had clearly learned from his past mistakes. The security was much tighter, with constant patrols by light mechs and tanks, which the power armor and the stealth tank could not hope to beat on open ground. Especially the hangars and barracks seemed to be heavily guarded, so Kruger decided not side with caution and not to approach too close. However, the incursion was reluctant to leave empty-handed, and everybody agreed to circle a bit southward and close in on the less military-focused parts of the base in hope of at least acquiring some intel. After nothing much was found, Kruger decided to risk it anyway and started approaching the air control tower from the south, staying in the cover of the civilian buildings.

Infiltration of the air control tower didn't go too well either, as even if the facility was lightly manned, the tower itself was electronically locked and any break-in attempts would surely alert the cavalry. Instead of doing things the hard way, Krüger chose to search for employees who were switching shifts or taking a break in the civilian areas of the building. This was surprisingly easy, and soon the serbs and their squad leader were crossing the courtyard back south while carrying three newly acquired prisoners.

Unfortunately, this was when the operation started heading south also figuratively in addition to literally. One of the serbs had made a serious mistake in anticipating the patrol route of one of the Patton tanks, and the whole squad was in plain view as it turned the corner. What ensued was a very brief and violent battle, where the incoming hovertank covered the area with smoke while the powersuits used it as a cover and jumped on top of the tank in order to attack any vulnerable locations. The serbs were lucky, and though multiple troopers were wounded by LBX shrapnel, they managed to immobilize the tank and sustained no losses.

By this time, the base was on full alert, however, and while the hovertank was fast enough to avoid the intercepting Commando, it was not fast enough to outrun the Shade fighter launched from the airbase to the east. The enemy pilot was on top of them before they could really divert their course or seek cover, so running and hiding was pretty much doomed to failure. When it was clear that the pilot had picked them up on radar and was beginning an approach, our commandos abandoned the tank and scattered to the sparse undergrowth. They soon witnessed how the Shade zeroed in on the tank and easily skewered it with a single Heavy PPC shot.

While the situation was precarious to the extreme and our heroes were behind enemy lines without transportation, they still had the benefit of holding stealth-oriented power armor and the fact that the enemy had too few forces to comb the entire desert. After hiding in the mountainside until nightfall, it was relatively easy, albeit slow, to slip over the border zone and head back towards the Kra compound.

Despite the loss of the tank, due to obtaining crucial information about the operational status of the airbase and the composition of the enemy forces, Gaussburg and Krüger still considered the mission a success.

Meanwhile, Alexander was preoccupied with a different dilemma. Fuub had informed him and the Kra that he was being recalled into orbit to give a full report of the recent events and that his performance would likely be put up for review by a jury of his peers and superiors, and unfortunately, also his enemies. Simply put, his grasp was slipping, and the position was extremely fragile. For this reason, Fuub asked the Kra and the players to launch an assault and create results as soon as possible, and keep him informed of this during the hearing, so that he could convince his prosecutors.

Thus, The Trident, Kra and Black Nebula held a long and comprehensive war council and considered their options. Eventually, much due to pressure from Grifollet and Seruna, who apparently had already thought things through, the participants agreed to launch an all-out attack the day after Fuub was being recalled. Trident would act as reserve and hold the base, while the Kra would advance towards the Terniss-Ivispe waystation and cut the supply route that connected the two border cities. Meanwhile, Black Nebula would cross the canyon in the south, capture the (more or less?) neutral industrial area of Lusk and then push north and capture industrial area in eastern Terniss, taking control of the power station and the train freight train stations therein. If successful, this would leave the Terniss airbase and starport completely isolated and allow a pincer move therein. Open questions were whether Trident could cover the Kra as they would eventually advance, and whether there were any forces in the east which could harass Black Nebula during their advance. The schedule for the attack was rather tight, but Trident possessed a mobile field base and the damage everyone had sustained in the previous battle was extremely minor. Unfortunately there would still be some complications before they could begin.

The next morning, Alexander awoke to both a contact request from Doris, whom he recalled to be some kind of a spy working for Fuub's adversaries, and to the Russians reporting of huge commotion going on in the Iron Pulse and Shadow Flare camps. Arriving on scene, it became apparent that both companies were under a sudden and quite literally hostile takeover from Karamat-Via, with Veer-Niva herself in the scene directing her men and appropriating resources. The old witch, as he decided to call her, had already set up a booth and was recruiting Shadow Flare's men and negotiating with the remaining higher-ups about rather unfavorable leasing contracts, obviously pressuring them both with a promise of employment and with neuropsychological tricks arising from the caste discrepancy. This did not work as well on the Britons, however, and the engineers and crewmen of Iron Pulse were vocally complaining about being roughed up and resisting their eviction.

Disgusted with the sight, and with the only one present with sufficient rank and influence to really oppose Veer-Niva, Alexander simply had to step in. While carefully avoiding the minefield of Awese war law, he contested Veer-Niva's claims of repossession towards the underused and leaderless resources with vague promises about a competing offer for their control and similarly vague threats of open conflict, should Karamat-Via refuse to withdraw from the premises. He further backed up these statements with stories of past deals and contingency plans with the Iron Pulse leaders, the proof of which he would of course shortly provide. It also helped that the russians and Gaussburg actually walked in a couple of mechs to "observe" the situation. This barrage of unsubstantiated claims and implications forced Veer-Niva to either escalate the situation by a considerable margin or step down, at least momentarily. Unfortunately, despite Alexander's efforts, Shadow Flare, seemed beyond saving, as the players lacked any kind of a true foothold on the minds of its worker-caste men, and could only witness as the company was dissected before their eyes.

The remains of the Iron Pulse were quite inspired by the display, which painted Alexander as quite the hero in their eyes. After a good fifteen minutes of rather uplifting, yet xenophobic rhetoric, which was readily gobbled up by the men, Alexander felt quite touched by his own words and vehemently promised to take care of the remains of the company himself. If all went well, looking after their best interests would mean that he could simply offer the men a fine deal himself and simultaneously expand his own holdings just a tiny bit. It really paid off for humans to stick together in this cold, hard universe!

Confident that he handled the situation with style and extremely pleased with himself, Alexander ordered the Russians to accompany him and set out to meet with Doris. It was time to see if she had something better to offer than her usual thinly veiled threats.

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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 some 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. It was difficult to see what exactly was going on behind the scenes, but the local Continuity monastery made an almost immediate announcement denouncing the assassinations and promising both an investigation and potential retaliation. This, in turn, made the forces stationed in Terniss take the initiative.

Due to the lack of satellite surveillance, the response was not immediate, but fast enough to give the Kra and the players time to prepare and take up their positions. Ivan's fortifications were quite helpful here, as they forced the TDHI-Cracked Mask detachment facing them to fight uphill and against fortified positions. Even if the enemy had a large number of artillery and spotting scout mechs, the shells were not particularly dangerous fue to the cover from Ivan's fortifications, and the attack soon fell flat. Similarly, the position was protected from air attacks by a reinforced flak tower overlooking the scene, which the enemy scout mechs were unable to take down.

Unlike the last time, however whoever was commanding the enemy commander was expecting this. Instead of committing fully to the attack, he or she waited to see whether the scout mechs could clear the defense turret and did not push into the minefield which almost downed one of the scout mechs. Instead, the commander disengaged and retreated early to minimize losses, also sparing the enemy scouting assets. The players charged down the hill, but couldn't catch the retreating forces. Fortunately they made a couple of lucky shots and were able to down both a Cataphract and an Archangel, in addition to two armored personnel carriers which were trying to push trough from the southern flank.

The Kra and Trident reported similar results, and reported that the enemy commander utilized great restraint and avoided overcommitting his or her forces, which remained far from beaten. Apart from two other captured mechs and two destroyed sniper artillery pieces, the defenders had failed to even dent the enemy. In their own part, Tumak-Niva reported that he had lost a single ground attack plane while trying to neutralize the enemy artillery battery. Regardless, an easy victory after their recent string of defeats and uncertainty was truly called for among the ILLI forces. The players even benefited quite a bit financially, as the Kra paid a hefty bounty from the return of their Archangel.

While the others started talking finances and repairing the damage, Gaussburg chose to not stay idle. He begun drafting a small counteroffensive, and called yet again for the serbs and Krüger, who seemed to see no end to work lately.

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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

- Back at Diave Central

- Mihail Nemsov has vanished

- Confronting Fiorella Aufrene, does not know anything, really

- Empty house, monitoring, search

- Secret home server, old e-mails to a young lover (swedish scientist)

- Trip to the arctic, kidnapping the girl

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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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