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Literature
Roaring Bear: Chapter 1
1
Jarett, Alshain Military District
Draconis Combine
25 April 3050

Jarett wasn’t exactly a choice destination for dignitaries, celebrities, high-ranking officers of the DCMS, or even the average tourist. The world sat in the Garstedt Prefecture, one of three Prefectures belonging to the Alshain Military District. Within spitting distance of the Free Rasalhague Republic and only a stone’s throw from the edge of the Periphery, Jarett was about as far from Luthien, the heart and soul of the mighty Draconis Combine, as one could get. Which was why Tai-sa Sonia Zev, the commander of the Ninth Alshain Regulars who were garrisoned on Jarett, had made an effort to properly welcome her guests. The base had been given an extra clean, the regiment’s BattleMechs spruced up, and everyone’s uniforms were spotless and neatly pressed.
    All of First Battalion’s MechWarriors were lined up on parade, ready for inspection. Tai-sa Sonia
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Lil' TARDIS Adventures 107 by DrOfDemonology Lil' TARDIS Adventures 107 :icondrofdemonology:DrOfDemonology 9 13 Commission - Dressed to Kill by Aphrodite-NS Commission - Dressed to Kill :iconaphrodite-ns:Aphrodite-NS 124 11 summer by EstetMF
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African Warrior 5 by FransMensinkArtist
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Dejah Thoris by diabolumberto
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Dejah Thoris 33 Cover colors by FabianoNeves Dejah Thoris 33 Cover colors :iconfabianoneves:FabianoNeves 328 9 Dejah Thoris 22 Cover Colors by FabianoNeves Dejah Thoris 22 Cover Colors :iconfabianoneves:FabianoNeves 589 23 Mother of dragons vs mother of rabbits by travisJhanson Mother of dragons vs mother of rabbits :icontravisjhanson:travisJhanson 376 51 Tracking unicorns  by travisJhanson Tracking unicorns :icontravisjhanson:travisJhanson 380 39 Every Observable Event Has A Cause by FunkyBytes
Mature content
Every Observable Event Has A Cause :iconfunkybytes:FunkyBytes 274 12
Roaring Bear: Cover by DrOfDemonology Roaring Bear: Cover :icondrofdemonology:DrOfDemonology 29 16 Zealous Thunder by NicolasRGiacondino Zealous Thunder :iconnicolasrgiacondino:NicolasRGiacondino 269 27 All the xp by travisJhanson All the xp :icontravisjhanson:travisJhanson 333 56 waiting by TheArtofChurchwell waiting :icontheartofchurchwell:TheArtofChurchwell 151 15

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Literature
Yesukai's Response Force TOE, 6 December 3053
Fourth Falcon Talon
Cluster Command Star
    Star Colonel Yesukai Shambag, Veteran, Summoner
    MechWarrior Logan, Veteran, Executioner
    MechWarrior Jeremiah, Regular, Kit Fox A
    MechWarrior Seamus, Regular, Kit Fox
    MechWarrior Diana, Regular, Kit Fox
Delta Nova
    Star Captain Rosa Osborne, Veteran, 5 Elementals
    MechWarrior Emilio, Veteran, Hellbringer
    Point Commander Brendan, Veteran, 5 Elementals
    MechWarrior Thora, Regular, Kit Fox A
    Point Commander Wilson, Veteran, 5 Elementals
    MechWarrior Jennifer, Regular, Summoner
    Point Commander Cheryl, Regular, 5 Elementals
    MechWarrior Harmony, Regular, Nova
    Point Commander Monica, Regular, 5 Elementals
    MechWarrior Arkady, Regular, Viper
Peregrine Eyrie Clu
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Literature
11- Eight Thousand
DropShip Lodestar
Persistence, Clan Jade Falcon Occupation Zone
6 December 3053
    Mike Holznecht scratches the side of his head as he listens to the audio feed from his wireless comm. “You don’t say?”
    “Seriously,” comes Liam Tyler’s voice. “A big-ass engineering vehicle, with a HIAB hoist and winch. Low-ratio gearing, plenty of grunt on the torque and only got eight thousand kays on the clock. All the toys; it’s even got decent cup holders. Best of all, it’s got a matching cargo trailer. Twenty-five ton capacity, easy.”
    “But, can you get it going?”
    There’s a chuckle in Mike’s ear. “Uncle Del taught me how to jack high-class aircars back on Gibraltar. This beast? No problem.”
    “Okay then,” Mike says, rolling his eyes. “See you soon. Out.”
    “Th
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Literature
10 - Highlander Fling
Jade Falcon Replenishment Depot Five, Bowerton’s Barrier
Persistence, Clan Jade Falcon Occupation Zone
6 December 3053
    Malky Duncan flicks the controls on his weapons array, disengaging the safeties. A set of little red lights turns green to confirm his Excalibur is ready for battle.
    The tactical plot being provided by his ’Mech’s KBC Starsight tracking array shows the oncoming Falcons quite clearly. They’re in an awful hurry to get into firing range, which more or less ties in with the idea that they’ve been bored out of their tiny minds standing garrison duty.
    Malky shakes his head. The three Stars of Falcon machines – and their attending Toads – are spreading out. The lake to the west of the supply depot, along with the wooded hillocks, present a barrier that even Clan technology can’t easily overcome.
    Well. Not his problem.
    Lunging
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Literature
9 - Had Me A Thing
Jade Falcon Replenishment Depot Five, Bowerton’s Barrier
Persistence, Clan Jade Falcon Occupation Zone
6 December 3053
    Star Commander Helena is having perhaps the second worst day of her life, ranking right below the time she was deemed no longer effective as a MechWarrior and reassigned to a garrison force.
    Shaking her head, wincing at the shrill, high-pitched ringing in her ears, she rolls over on the floor and scrambles to her feet. She spares a glance over at Bryce and Claude, and sees that they are both dead.
    Armoury, she remembers. That was where they were headed before the explosion took place. She reaches for her earpiece comm and cannot find it. It must have come loose in the blast. Not that it would do her much good with her hearing so badly affected.
    She stumbles away down the corridor, coughing and spitting on a throat full of smoke and dust.
    “These are yours,
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Mature content
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Literature
7 - Perseverance
Approaching Bowerton’s Barrier
Persistence, Clan Jade Falcon Occupation Zone
6 December 3053
    It is good to be down on a planet again, experiencing real gravity, and sitting at the controls of her BattleMech. The fact that bunches of angry Jade Falcons are about to show up in no way changes that for Brigitte Olafsdottír.
    She takes a moment to consult her tactical plot. Their DropShips have set down a little way south of the target site. It’s less to do with drawing hostile fire and more to do with taking advantage of the local topography. Shelving gently away behind her, to the southeast, is a broad region of dried-out, flaky topsoil that features a few sparse patches of the hardy native flora. The farther away from the settled regions of Persistence, the more the terrain reverts back to the planet’s pre-colonisation conditions. Why anyone would have chosen to settle here is a mystery.
    Regardless, the
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Literature
6 - Departure Stations
Camelot Command (Co-ordinates Classified)
Dark Nebula, Jade Falcon Occupation Zone
2 December 3053
    There’s a distant thump that is felt more than it is heard, and then the Lodestar is moving. Barely. With the docking clamps released, Seth Klassen is able to give the aft attitude thrusters just the smallest squirt of power, enough to start the DropShip moving at half a metre a second. Once the Lodestar is out in the middle of the vast tunnel that cuts through the heart of Camelot he nulls the drift with a burst from the bow thrusters.
    He glances up from his displays at the other bridge stations. Each is manned, as are the posts down in Lodestar’s MCR. There is no room for error. Not until they’re outside in free space again.
    Seth catches sight of Pearson’s Prize, one of the two pirate DropShips that came to Camelot, and suppresses a shudder. He remembers seeing it fo
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Literature
5 - Considerations
Fourth Talon Cluster Firebase
Persistence, Jade Falcon Occupation Zone
28 November 3053
    The Summoner is one of the true icons of Clan Jade Falcon. A 70-ton heavy OmniMech with a top ground speed of 86.4 kilometres per hour, it can jump 150 metres at a time. It has pod space for onboard weaponry totalling 22.5 tons.
    Star Colonel Yesukai’s Summoner has been standing idle in its assigned service cradle for months now. Her personal Tech has spent more time in the cockpit than she. It is a cold, ugly little fact that brings the taste of bile to her mouth.
    I have to get out into the field. Soon... or I will go crazy, she realises.
Camelot Command (Location Classified)
Dark Nebula, Jade Falcon Occupation Zone
    “We’re not going to fight over this, are we? Because I really don’t think I would win...”
    Zoë hangs her head and actuall
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Literature
4 - Readiness Check
DropShip Lodestar, Camelot Command (Location Classified)
Dark Nebula, Jade Falcon Occupation Zone
26 November 3053
    “Permission to enter, Captain?”
    Seth Klassen looks up from the repeater displays and grins. “Granted, Major. I haven’t seen you since I got back from looking over those pirate rot-boxes.”
    Brigitte Olafsdottír laughs and shakes her head. “I’ve been too damned busy to come down here.” She pushes off the bulkhead and drifts slowly across the Lodestar’s bridge. As she nears the central well, she reaches out and grabs hold of a safety rail, arresting her flight.
    “I’m guessing this isn’t you being sociable.”
    “You guess right. I’ve been talking things over with Colonel Snord. We’re looking at an objective raid.”
    “Huh. ‘Raid and run’, as my
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500 by Nuclear-Fridge
Mature content
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Literature
3 - Trials and Errors
Fourth Talon Cluster Firebase
Persistence, Jade Falcon Occupation Zone
23 November 3053
    Star Colonel Yesukai rubs at her temples and tries to focus on the report displayed on the holoscreen before her. It is harder going than usual, and she turns her gaze aside… to catch sight of another stack of data slates and requisitions dockets waiting to be reviewed.
    I should not have drunk so much last night, she realises glumly. Actually, I should not have had anything to drink at all.
    Up until the Fourth Talon’s posting to Persistence, the idea of consuming alcohol had left her cold. Now, Yesukai is finding that she is having trouble getting to sleep without a drink or two. How long before it is three, or four, or five?
    Talking things over with Bosha the night before had allowed her to vent a lot of pent-up pressure, true enough… but it had been lubricated by some o
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Literature
2 - Surface Detail
Anterior Surface, Camelot Command (Co-ordinates Classified)
Dark Nebula, Jade Falcon Occupation Zone
23 November 3053
    “You’re doing fine. Nice and easy does it. Don’t gun the throttle.”
    “Understood,” says Katsumi Kuramoto as she gently feeds a little more power to the Dragon’s leg actuators. The big 60-ton BattleMech takes a few more steps forward, and then suddenly she is out of the sally tunnel and onto… the surface.
    There is nothing between she and the distant stars but a thin casing of moulded ceramet plating and ferro-glass view ports. It’s a realisation that fills her with fear and exhilaration in equal measure. Pausing to check the integrity readings on her status display, she guides her ’Mech forward another twenty or thirty metres.
    “Quite something, isn’t it?” The query is coming from a stationary
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The Stuff of Dreams by Nuclear-Fridge
Mature content
The Stuff of Dreams :iconnuclear-fridge:Nuclear-Fridge 7 14
Literature
The Black Raptors' TOE, 5 November 3053
The Black Raptors’ TOE, 5 November 3053
Command Star
    Star Captain Mitchell, Veteran, Summoner Primary
    MechWarrior Walther, Regular, Lancelot
    MechWarrior Kenneth, Regular, Commando
    MechWarrior Octavia, Regular, Orion
    MechWarrior Lia, Regular, Trebuchet
Binary Alpha
Alpha Beak 1
    Star Captain Marat, Regular, Thunderbolt
    MechWarrior Bogdan, Regular, Longbow
    MechWarrior Orlando, Regular, Stalker
    MechWarrior Manfred, Regular, Crusader
    MechWarrior Lucille, Regular, Hunchback
Alpha Beak 2
    Star Commander Karina, Regular, Thug
    MechWarrior Harold, Regular, Crusader
    MechWarrior Yana, Regular, Thorn
    MechWarrior Felìcita, Regular, Quickdraw
    MechWarrior
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Literature
1 - Scrapheap Challengers
Camelot Command (Co-ordinates Classified)
Dark Nebula, Jade Falcon Occupation Zone
22 November 3053
    Jessie Danvers takes a step, almost goes flying, and manages to grab hold of a nearby railing to maintain her balance. A wave of nausea sweeps over her before she can regain her equilibrium.
    Gotta remember… This ain’t a planet. The gravity’s only fractional, she tells herself. It’s not easy: the tunnels and chambers of the massive complex could easily be buried underneath a mountain on a planet somewhere… not in the heart of some unnamed planetoid floating deep inside a nebula out in the hind end of space.
    She looks around, and is glad that no one saw her nearly brain herself on the floor decking. Swallowing down the last of the motion sickness, she surveys the hustle and bustle of the maintenance bay before her.
    The chamber is huge… but then, it ha
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Literature
0 - Introduction
Camelot Command (Location Classified)
Dark Nebula, Jade Falcon Occupation Zone
22 November 3053
    The broken frame of the 30-ton Uller creaks a little as it is lowered to the decking of the repair bay. The lightweight OmniMech is missing its right leg and there is a massive breach in its right torso, alongside the cockpit module. Great swatches of wiring, broken structural members, and shredded myomer dangle from the wound. The Techs have had to uncouple the entire right arm because of the compromised framework: better to remove the limb safely than have the thing tear loose while they’re trying to hoist the wreck.
    Angelica glances to and fro between her data pad and the brutalised ’Mech. She’s got a slightly angry look on her face.
    “What’s the matter?” She looks up. The Bomb is leaning on the guardrail beside her.
    “That. That… substandard hunk of
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Critiques


This sketch definitely has Firefly overtones to it, what with the scruffy jacket, gunbelt and holster. In keeping with the character, h...


Inverting the character truly 'sells' the idea of zero-G without giving the impression it's all done with wires or green-screen camera ...

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Fourth Falcon Talon
Cluster Command Star
    Star Colonel Yesukai Shambag, Veteran, Summoner
    MechWarrior Logan, Veteran, Executioner
    MechWarrior Jeremiah, Regular, Kit Fox A
    MechWarrior Seamus, Regular, Kit Fox
    MechWarrior Diana, Regular, Kit Fox

Delta Nova
    Star Captain Rosa Osborne, Veteran, 5 Elementals
    MechWarrior Emilio, Veteran, Hellbringer
    Point Commander Brendan, Veteran, 5 Elementals
    MechWarrior Thora, Regular, Kit Fox A
    Point Commander Wilson, Veteran, 5 Elementals
    MechWarrior Jennifer, Regular, Summoner
    Point Commander Cheryl, Regular, 5 Elementals
    MechWarrior Harmony, Regular, Nova
    Point Commander Monica, Regular, 5 Elementals
    MechWarrior Arkady, Regular, Viper

Peregrine Eyrie Cluster
Charlie Beak
    Star Captain Karsten, Regular, Lancelot
    MechWarrior Charles, Regular, Wasp
    MechWarrior Greta, Green, Bombardier
    MechWarrior Ernesta, Green, Kintaro
    MechWarrior Maurice, Green, Exterminator

Charlie Strider
    Star Commander Vance, Green, 5 Elementals
    Point Commander Hugo, Green, 5 Elementals
    Point Commander Cressida, Green, 5 Elementals
    Point Commander Dolores, Green, 5 Elementals
    Point Commander Alfredo, Green, 5 Elementals

Notes
    This is the combined force Yesukai was leading as of Chapter 7 of Persistence. It includes a Binary’s worth of troops from Star Colonel Bosha’s Eyrie Cluster. The Eyrie Elementals travelled aboard the OmniMechs of  Yesukai’s Command Star, since their outdated ’Mechs lacked the ability to transport them.
    Except where noted above, the Falcon OmniMechs are ‘Primary’ configurations for their type.
Yesukai's Response Force TOE, 6 December 3053
     The "mixed bag" of Fourth Talon warriors - many of them Tukayyid veterans - and the raw rookies of Bosha's freshly-qualified "sibbies".

     I have to note here that while I've used a handful of names and 'Mechs from the Jade Falcon Clan Sourcebook, I've modified experience ratings where I see fit. I've never liked how everybody in those early Clan force listings was "elite" status - except for newly-rated warriors from training, who were "veterans".
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DropShip Lodestar
Persistence, Clan Jade Falcon Occupation Zone
6 December 3053

    Mike Holznecht scratches the side of his head as he listens to the audio feed from his wireless comm. “You don’t say?”
    “Seriously,” comes Liam Tyler’s voice. “A big-ass engineering vehicle, with a HIAB hoist and winch. Low-ratio gearing, plenty of grunt on the torque and only got eight thousand kays on the clock. All the toys; it’s even got decent cup holders. Best of all, it’s got a matching cargo trailer. Twenty-five ton capacity, easy.”
    “But, can you get it going?”
    There’s a chuckle in Mike’s ear. “Uncle Del taught me how to jack high-class aircars back on Gibraltar. This beast? No problem.”
    “Okay then,” Mike says, rolling his eyes. “See you soon. Out.”
    “That has to be Liam… or perhaps Amber,” says a voice from the doorway to the CIC. He looks up to see Silver standing on the threshold, with a steaming mug in each hand.
    “What makes you say that?”
    Silver cocks an eyebrow and grins. “The look on your face just then. It said, ‘Why me?’” She crosses the decking and joins him at the main console.
    “Oh. Am I that easy to read?”
    The former Smoke Jaguar hands him one of the mugs and shakes her head. “Only when you think you are not being observed, Michael. Otherwise… no.”
    He gives her a look as she settles her shapely rear end against the edge of the console next to his chair. It’s the first time he’s ever heard her say no where she would say neg.
    “Well, you’re right. That was Liam. He’s happily hotwiring an engineering vehicle he found at that supply depot for our use.”
    Silver’s pale eyebrows rise as she takes a pull on her own mug. “I should not be that surprised. Sergeant Valentine’s progeny do seem to be armed with all manner of… unexpected skills.”
    That makes Mike chuckle. “What a wonderfully roundabout way of saying they’re really good at larceny, Silver – ow!”
    She’s just cuffed him on the shoulder with her free hand. Hard. “Please! Mind your language, Michael. You know that such talk… unsettles me.”
    “Oh.” He studies the severe expression on her face, and doesn’t buy it for a minute. There’s a sparkle in her clear eyes that has nothing to do with outrage. Then her cheeks turn pink and she breaks eye contact. Mike turns his gaze back to the displays.
    Unsettled. Right.

    Climbing down from the skimmer’s passenger seat, Jerry Bishop takes a moment to adjust his glasses and get his bearings. They’ve set down five metres from where a temporary aid station has been set up, in the lee of a crumpled Falcon OmniMech.
    “Bish,” Brigitte Olafsdottír says as she waves him on over. “Everything okay back in the bay?”
    “Sure, Skipper. It’s all in hand. Armour patches and some ammo reloads. Nothing serious.”
    She nods, although she seems distracted to him. She watches as a Falcon MechWarrior, a female strapped to a gurney, is loaded onto the skimmer. Bish glances over at the injured woman, but she seems to be asleep or semi-conscious.
    “Problem?”
    Brigitte seems to snap back into the here and now. “Maybe. Walk with me.”
    They head away from the aid station, making towards the smashed-open hulk of the Gladiator. Even dead, the monster machine gives Bish an unhappy shiver. It’s quite the biggest Clan Omni he’s ever seen.
    “I want you to give that thing the once-over. Just to see if it’s worth dragging away with us when we lift.” She holds up a hand. “I know, the engine’s an obvious loss, but maybe the rest of it’s worth saving.”
    Bish nods. “Okay, that I can do. Now… What’s bugging you?”
    Her dark eyes regard him narrowly. “Have you been talking to Tyler?”
    Bish sighs. “Nope. Just that… You look like you’ve got a problem. A real big problem.”
    The observation gains him a brief smile. “Pretty much. That ’Mech jockey on the gurney back there? She’s the Star Colonel in charge of the Falcon garrison on this rock.”
    “Damn.” Bish lets out a whistle. “Was that thing her ride?”
    “No. She was in the Thor back there. Malky gave her the full ‘I don’t like you’ treatment.”
    “Okay. So, what’s the problem?”
    Brigitte stops walking and looks down at the ground. Her expression clouds over. “I think I may have just killed that woman.”
    The rueful admission shocks Jerry Bishop to his bones.

    Rocking and swaying, utterly helpless in the unyielding grip of her disabled battlesuit, it is all that Dorota can do to keep from moaning in fright as she is winched up off the ground. It does not help that her field of view is so limited. She can only see straight ahead… or straight up, at the moment. The remains of her armour’s faceplate, to left and right, are so fogged up and abraded by laser damage that they are effectively opaque.
    “Good… Good… Keep it coming… Okay. Hold it there.” It is Sharyl’s voice, coming from nearby. Then her face comes into view directly over Dorota. “Hey, you still with us?”
    She nods, not really trusting herself to speak.
    “Okay. We’ve got you in a sling hoist. We’re going to lower you onto a trailer. We’ll take it slow, but I’ll be right here. You can’t fall; I won’t let you. Nothing to worry about.”
    Dorota bites down on her terror and manages another nod. “Thank you.”
    Sharyl reaches in through the ruptured armour and rests her palm on Dorota’s forehead. “Okay, kid. Relax if you can. Not far to go now. Just a little bump.”

    Amber Tyler grins as she examines the toppled heavy-class ’Mech lying on the ground less than thirty metres from Midge’s parked-up Zeus. “That’s some pretty neat shooting there,” she says, pointing at the concentration of missile and autocannon damage that is centred on the Lancelot’s right hip joint. The right leg has been severed, dumping the 60-ton machine on its face.
    Midge makes a noncommittal sound as she walks over to join Amber. She takes a long pull on the canteen in her hand. “Dumbass just came storming straight in at me,” she says. “It was like popping a tin duck at a sideshow.”
    “Still, it’s a nice clean hit.” Amber nods at the severed leg lying behind the immobilised ’Mech. “Even if Del and the gang can’t reattach that thing, we must have some parts back at the barn that will fit…”
    “Maybe,” Midge allows. “I seem to remember that one of the storage containers is holding a frame that kind of looks like that beast there.”
    Amber peers at the top of the Lancelot’s head and sees that the explosive bolts haven’t blown off the escape hatch. “The pilot just gave up?”
    “I was going to kick in the cockpit if he refused,” Midge replies. “Turned out he grew a bit of sense and saw the light.”
    Amber hears the odd little tone in Midge’s voice and wisely doesn’t comment. She knows the older MechWarrior has been having some… problems… lately. The thing is Midge doesn’t have any way to give vent to them.

    The sickbay aboard Lodestar isn’t roomy by any measure. It doesn’t take that many people to crowd the place out.
    “Who’s your ‘plus one’?” Mike Holznecht gestures at the bespectacled brunette being checked over by Monique. Tyler glances up from his examination of his burned body armour and follows Mike’s finger.
    “Her name’s Ingrid. Scientist caste. Helped me to get the armoury doors open.”
    “She looks scared half to death. Poor kid,” Mike smiles sadly.
    “Don’t figure she’s seen much in the way of combat. Anyways, she’s staying with us. Can’t imagine that there’s stuff-all back there she wants to go back to. Given the way she was being treated.”
    “Let me hazard a guess: Warrior caste. Fracking arseholes,” spits Holznecht.
    “I hear that, Mike. C’mon, give me a hand up. I don’t bend in the middle like I used to.”
    “None of us do, Staff,” grins Mike as he helps to haul Tyler up with his free hand.

    Leaving Bish to look over the disabled Gladiator, Brigitte catches the next skimmer ride back to their landing site. She needs to have a talk with Adele and Monique about the Falcon Star Colonel and her situation. Make that another talk with Silver and Juno as well, she realises as the skimmer speeds away from the replenishment facility. What the hell had the woman meant by her ‘children’?
    She hasn’t got the answers, and she realises she needs to find some – and fast.

    “Well? What’s the verdict, Monique?” Tyler asks as he sits down next to Ingrid. “Is she gonna make it?”
    “I believe my patient will survive. Despite your ill-conceived notions of chivalry and assistance.” Monique grins at him. Tyler raises his eyebrows.
    “I believe that you’re spending too much time around Doc Rot, young lady. You’re starting to sound just like her. Hell, just what I need! A younger version of Crayford!”
    “She is more than a match for you, Staff Sergeant Valentine,” laughs the young medic as she packs her case.
    “Staff Sergeant Tyler to you, young lady.”
    “Aff, Staff Sergeant Valentine.”
    Scientist and warrior caste do not talk to each other in such a fashion! Ingrid thinks numbly, looking from one to the other. It is… unheard of! It is…
    “Your name is Valentine, quiaff?” she squeaks as she stares at the man who has saved her life.
    “Yeah. Problem?”
    “You do not look like a ‘Valentine’,” she smiles weakly.
    “You don’t look like an ‘Eeep’, either,” Tyler counters. “Too damned pretty.”
    She stares at him for several long seconds.
    “Really?”
    “Yeah, really. Now don’t you dare start crying. You’re just going to go set me off, kiddo.”
    Scientist Ingrid throws her arms around him as she bursts out crying. The MechWarrior clutches her tightly, before casting a scowl in Monique’s direction.
    “Welcome to freedom, Ingrid. You’re gonna like it here,” he mutters.

    Brigitte Olafsdottír stops. And stares.
    Her senior non-commissioned officer is hugging a girl. A weeping girl.
    She wipes the tear away from her eye, and hurries off before anyone in the sickbay notices her standing there in the entrance.
    You’re not nearly the monster you make yourself out to be, Valentine Tyler. You’re a big old teddy bear. A big old softie.
    The smile on her face is luminous.
    “I think I just fell in love with you,” she whispers.

    There is a dull, tearing crunch that Dorota feels all the way from her waist to her armpit on the left side. One of the Techs leans his bodyweight onto a tool she cannot see, and the buckled breastplate of her suit reluctantly lets go of her trapped flesh. The HarJel rips away a fair amount of her coolant undersuit with it.
    Despite herself, the young Elemental lets out a long, relieved breath.
    “No injuries or burns,” reports the attending Medtech. “I think the suit just overreacted when it got blasted; it dumped too much anaesthetic into your system.”
    “Good to know,” Dorota replies, fighting to keep her eyes from welling up. She had been secretly terrified of the idea that she might have been left paralysed from the waist down.
    “It will take a few hours to wear off fully,” the Medtech cautions her. “You may find you have no bladder control for a while.”
    “I think she’s figured that one out for herself,” says Sharyl, patting him on the arm. “Still, thanks. Good work. You too, Daniel,” she adds, nodding to the Tech who just broke open the suit’s main section.
    “No problem, Sharyl,” he says. He glances at the segments of Dorota’s armour that are lying discarded here and there on the DropShip’s deck. “Sad to say, there is nothing left we can make use of from this suit. It is a total loss.”
    “Wrong,” Sharyl replies. She points at Dorota. “We have her.”
    Now that she has been freed from the wrecked suit, Dorota wants to sit up… needs to sit up… but her body is still a numb, dead weight from the hips down. She props her upper body up on her elbows, wincing as cramped muscles complain at all the sudden activity.
    “Slow down!” Sharyl reaches out to give her a hand up, then pauses to take in the sheer mass of teenaged muscle in front of her.
    “Sharyl? Do you need some help?”
    She looks up at the enquiry and nods. “Yeah, Tomasz, I do. Well, she does, but there’s no way in hell I can help her sit up!”
    Tomasz shrugs. It’s not unlike watching a small earthquake in action. “Here. I shall assist you.” He kneels down next to Dorota and helps the shaky youngster to sit up. Her face goes pale for a moment as sensation starts to seep back into her lower body.
    “Easy does it,” the male Elemental cautions her as he holds her steady. “The next hour or two will be very unpleasant. I have been there.”
    Dorota nods queasily. She looks like she wants to throw up again.

    “Maybe we ought to catalogue this stuff before we pile it into the DropShips…”
    “Forget it,” says Rainy O’Malley over the tactical link. Her Commando lowers itself onto one knee alongside the flatbed trailer. It has a modular crate of tools in its hands, similar to the half-dozen already stacked neatly on the trailer. Moving with remarkable delicacy, the light BattleMech places the container next to all the rest.
    As she guides the modified COM-2D upright again, Rainy continues her thread. “We just don’t have the luxury of time here. You have to assume that the Falcons know their Boss Bitch just got taken down. That means whoever’s next in the food chain is going to be coming after us just as fast as they can.”
    Liam Tyler has to concede the point. “Yeah, I guess so. Okay… Another three just like that one and we can strap the lot down.”
    “Coming right up.” The Commando turns towards the open bay doors leading into the supply depot.
    Liam takes a moment to scan the lettering spray-stencilled onto the lids of the storage crates. Most of it is cryptic serial numbers and all of them feature that stupid-looking green bird-with-a-sword emblem. A couple of words here and there tell him that what they’ve got here is mostly testing and calibrating equipment. Stuff that is light-years better than the best that the Inner Sphere nations can produce.
    He glances up in the direction that Rainy’s ’Mech has gone. The ‘heavy transport’ truck has been driven out of the bay and is parked up to one side, out of the way. Grizz is going to be taking that wagon out to the landing site with its cargo of spare parts.
    So far, so good. Yet he feels a bit uneasy. True, they did take down a handful of Falcon ’Mechs and smoked a whole bunch of Toads… but most of the remaining ’Mechs withdrew in good order, and half of the Toads with them pulled out when they realised they were facing some serious weaponry. As tough as Toad armour is, it doesn’t make its user indestructible.
    Off in the middle distance, Liam catches sight of a recovery team at work on the latest Uller to experience the hypersonic wrath of Malky Duncan. From what little he saw during the fight, the small Omni has been cored out. Nothing remains of its fusion engine, gyro housing, or indeed anything much of its central framework. Still, they ought to be able to scavenge some useful pieces from it.
    From what he’s been able to gather from listening to Angelica, Daniel, and a couple of the other Clanner Techs, the arms and legs on an Omni can be unhooked and replaced as complete units. The idea still amazes him. If your machine’s legs have some major armour damage, no problem: you just unbolt them and attach a spare pair in perfect shape. Then you can fix up the damaged legs without having to take the whole ’Mech into the shop.
    It makes him think for a moment about his own worn-out Enforcer. That threadbare old Davion-model bucket was the only machine that Colonel Rubinsky was prepared to part with when Liam and Amber decided to not renew their contracts with the Light Horse and instead make for Galatea to link up with their father and the other few surviving Grave Walkers.
    I only got a good deal on it because it was falling to pieces, Liam concludes grimly. It still is, except now I’ve got the likes of Uncle Del to work some repair-bay voodoo on its sorry metal carcass
    It really doesn’t help that the machine isn’t set up for his preferred style of fighting, but he has to admit that he hadn’t had a lot of choice back in the St. Ives Compact. The old beast can jump, but that’s about it. Wonderful.
    But, he reminds himself, if it weren’t for my old piece of junk, I’d never have met Honey
11- Eight Thousand
     Sharyl and Liam Tyler haul Dorota back to the Lodestar, the Norns work on emptying the supply base and salvaging wrecked Falcon 'Mechs, and Brigitte Olafsdottír loses her heart...

     Most of this chapter was written by Rob - specifically, the pieces with Ingrid, Brigitte, and Valentine Tyler. I'm just along to fill in the bits involving broken BattleMechs and stolen equipment.

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Jade Falcon Replenishment Depot Five, Bowerton’s Barrier
Persistence, Clan Jade Falcon Occupation Zone
6 December 3053

    Malky Duncan flicks the controls on his weapons array, disengaging the safeties. A set of little red lights turns green to confirm his Excalibur is ready for battle.
    The tactical plot being provided by his ’Mech’s KBC Starsight tracking array shows the oncoming Falcons quite clearly. They’re in an awful hurry to get into firing range, which more or less ties in with the idea that they’ve been bored out of their tiny minds standing garrison duty.
    Malky shakes his head. The three Stars of Falcon machines – and their attending Toads – are spreading out. The lake to the west of the supply depot, along with the wooded hillocks, present a barrier that even Clan technology can’t easily overcome.
    Well. Not his problem.

    Lunging up and over the low hill at Brigitte’s ten o’clock is a Wasp, dressed in Jade Falcon livery. It lets go with its shoulder-mounted SRM pack as it descends for a landing, but the warheads go wide of her Axeman.
    She ignores it as a flight of LRMs from Tyler’s Crusader brackets the Clan recon ’Mech. The Wasp has bigger, heavier comrades backing it up. Crashing through the straggling trees capping the hill come four more ’Mechs – a medium and three heavies. All of them are blasting away as they catch sight of the mercenaries waiting for them.
    The heavies are a Bombardier, an Exterminator, and a Lancelot. They’re packing enough weaponry to pose a credible threat, mostly lasers and LRM pods. The medium – a Kintaro – poses a danger all of its own, Brigitte realises.
    Since reaching Camelot Command and seeing some of the Star League vintage machinery used by the Irregulars, she’s been reading up on the BattleMechs once fielded by the old SLDF. The Kintaro is a machine designed around its central weapons system: a Narc beacon launcher, just like the one carried aboard Amber’s Raven.
    Given that the Jade Falcons are supposed to be ultra-conservative when it comes to their tactics, Brigitte isn’t sure if they’ll be even trying to use that Narc launcher to best effect. It doesn’t really matter; she wants that machine down and out.
    She takes a moment to brace her ’Mech’s legs and swings her targeting crosshair onto the 55-ton Clan BattleMech. She hits her main trigger the instant she gets a lock.

    “Gah!” Sharyl yelps as a hail of laser shots slams into her Dervish’s upper hull and arms. Chunks of armour, most of them burning, are blasted away. “Bastard!”
    The EXT-4D Exterminator, its arms held out before it, is drifting around to the left. Its pilot is obviously trying to get around behind the Norns’ machines, and it has the foot speed to do just that.
    Not while I’m here, Sharyl decides. She opens up on the heavier ’Mech with everything she’s got. Most of her LRMs go wide, and those that do lock on are cut out of the air by the Clanner’s high-speed Buzzsaw anti-missile gun, but to her astonishment every single one of her medium lasers converge upon the Exterminator’s right arm, slicing upwards from the elbow to the shoulder joint. There’s a cloud of white-hot sparks and then the arm is neatly amputated at the shoulder. The Exterminator lurches sideways, almost falling as its gyros are thrown out of cycle by the sudden loss of so much mass from one side of its frame.
    As bad as that is, it pales compared to the shattering explosion way off to Sharyl’s right. Out of the corner of her eye, she catches sight of a massive fireball that can only be the result of an ammunition bay hit.
    Is that one of ours, or one of theirs?

    Trading fire for fire with the Bombardier, Valentine Tyler doesn’t really have time to offer colour commentary on his commanding officer’s marksmanship… but he has to admit that Brigitte Olafsdottír has outdone herself this time. A sustained burst from her Axeman’s heavy autocannon brought the Kintaro to a sliding halt, plates of ferro-fibrous armour shredding and splitting away from its right torso, moments before she achieved a breach on the ’Mech’s starboard missile storage bin.
    The Kintaro’s pilot barely had time to eject before their machine tore itself apart in flames.
    Tyler puts his attention back on the Bombardier. The Clanner at the controls has brought their ride to a stop on the near slope of the hill, and is launching another spread of LRMs at his Crusader. Thankfully, it’s a pretty lousy spread. Less than a quarter of the rockets actually strike his ’Mech, and all they do is chip away at the shins and left forearm.
    “You okay, Sarge?”
    “I’m good, Midge. Take care of that Lancelot for me, will you? I’ve got this idiot.” Tyler grins as his targeting system reports a solid lock with both of his Streak SRM launchers. He fires them off, and a moment later follows up with the LRM packs.
    The Bombardier’s anti-missile system engages the oncoming hail of high explosives, but it’s only able to detonate two of the Streak rockets before the LRMs arrive. The overlapping detonations ripping at the Bombardier’s central-front torso look like the engine exhaust of a small DropShip.
    There’s a secondary explosion that vents a shower of burning shrapnel and red sparks out of the spine of the Bombardier, and the stricken ’Mech topples over backwards. The moment it hits the hillside, it breaks apart. The left arm and torso section actually split away from the mangled, smoking framework, as does the right leg.

    A cold shudder runs down Dawn Kester’s spine as her targeting system sounds an urgent warning. Toads!
    Bounding towards her position are twenty… no, twenty-five of them. Worse, they’ve got ’Mech support. A Thor is moving up behind them, skirting the edge of the lake, while behind it to the right, a hulking Gladiator is churning its way forwards through the water, struggling to make headway in the shallows.
    “Could really use some help here,” she says anxiously as she opens up on the incoming Toads. Her pulse laser shots sweep across their armoured hulls, and one of them is blasted into blobs of glowing slag.
    “Right with ye, hen,” comes Malky Duncan’s voice. “Just as soon as I… There we go!” Dawn rolls her eyes as a Falcon Uller is blasted clean off its feet by a gauss rifle hit, the projectile tearing straight through its centre of mass and slamming the fusion engine and gyro out the back of the torso in several pieces. Score another one for the Highlander Hooligan, she admits. Malky really seems to have developed a major hatred for those Falcon scout ’Mechs.
    SRM and pulse-laser fire from her Battle Hawk wingmen rip into the Elementals before Malky’s Excalibur adds in its LRM rack. As tough as the Clan battle armour may be, it hasn’t really got much of a chance against so much concentrated firepower.
    Then the interior of her Battle Hawk’s cockpit lights up with a hideous electric-blue radiance and every display and screen turns to static for an instant. Instinctively, Dawn throws up one hand to shield her eyes.
    Particle beam. It missed her ’Mech by less than a metre. If it had hit, it would have torn a hole in the Battle Hawk’s hull or even destroyed an entire arm.
    It came from the Thor. The OmniMech’s pilot is out for blood, she guesses, for how the mercenary ’Mechs have treated their Toad comrades.
    “Break right!” It’s Malky’s voice. “I’ve got the bastard.”
    Dawn doesn’t need to be told twice. She opens the throttle all the way and sends her light ’Mech into a lurching run that will take it out of the Excalibur’s line of fire… and past the left side of the Thor.

    “Neg! You are not getting away from me,” Star Colonel Yesukai snarls as she tries to track the Spheroid ’Mech with her main guns, traversing the Summoner’s torso and reducing forward speed at the same time. The overwhelming need to shoot something is making her vision turn red at the edges.
    Then something hits her OmniMech like an asteroid collision. Yesukai has a moment to register a rash of red warning lights, the wail of an alarm, before her head slams back to strike the frame of her command couch and it all goes black.

    The Gladiator is still slogging onwards through the shallows, but it is getting close enough now to take an active part in all the shooting. Brigitte, urging her autocannon to reload faster, puts as much power as she can to the Axeman’s leg actuators. She needs to intercept that monster, and quickly.
    Then she notices what Dawn Kester’s doing, and her blood runs cold.

    The Battle Hawk, weighing a little more than a third of the Gladiator’s mass, is charging the thing head-on. Emerging from the lake, the Gladiator simply cannot miss.
    Except that it does. A barrage of LRMs streaks over and past the racing Battle Hawk to scatter a hail of explosions across the Omni’s upper hull. Its aim spoiled, the pair of large-laser shots from the Clanner machine misses Dawn’s machine by a whisker.
    Then she’s in close enough for her lasers to be effective. The trio of wrist-mounted Defiance P5M medium pulse lasers hammers out a volley of high-energy shots that capitalises on the damage already done by Malky’s Excalibur. A ping announces that her Streak launcher has a lock, so she fires that as well.
    The pulse lasers chew a line of smoking holes in the Gladiator’s torso, at a diagonal from the waistline up to the right shoulder. The weakened armour is vapourised, exposing the Omni’s innards to view.
    Then the two Streak missiles detonate right inside the breach, and a vast plume of white-hot steam erupts from the Gladiator’s guts. Twisting around, the 95-ton ’Mech pitches over flat on its back, making the ground quake as it hits.
    “Nicely done,” comes Brigitte’s voice over the comm. “You must have fragged his fusion engine.”
    Dawn manages to let out a breath; her heart is pounding fit to burst. She realises that she’s still alive. “Whoa,” she sighs. “It looks so much easier in the ’vids.”
    “Yeah, it does. You okay there?”
    She looks at her hands on the Battle Hawk’s throttle and joystick. They’re trembling from adrenaline overload. “Yeah. I will be, Skipper.”
    “Good. Check back in with Tammy before she blows a valve. I’ve got something I need to see to.”

    Yesukai comes to in a rush, her eyes rolling as she tries to focus. All she can see is the bleached-out, cloudless sky of Persistence. She can smell smoke, ozone, and the distinctive scent of expended rocket propellant. She tries to sit up.
    A sudden blast of white-hot pain seizes her and she gasps. Yesukai slumps back in her command couch’s five-point harness, groaning as cold sweat breaks out on her skin. She can see the source of the pain now: her right forearm. At least one of the bones is broken there.
    She rocks her head back against the headrest. Through the cracked visor of her neurohelmet, she can just catch sight of the oily black smoke that is billowing up from the wreckage of the training cadre’s Bombardier. Then the breeze changes direction and the view is hidden by the flapping folds of her command couch’s parachute.
    Struggling with her left hand to shove the fabric aside, Yesukai realises something, something she had not noticed at first. It is remarkably quiet. No gunfire. No more explosions. That means…
    Neg. Neg neg neg. It cannot be… She swallows down on a surge of bile. They are Jade Falcons. They cannot have lost to a pack of hired guns. They cannot.
    Except… They just have.
    There is a sudden, heavy thump off to her left, the footfall of a large BattleMech. Then another, closer now. A shadow falls across her.
    I cannot let myself be taken by… by mercenaries. Not with my blood future at stake! I have to enact bondsref before they reach me. The thought spurs Yesukai to scrabble at the pistol holster strapped to her right thigh… with her off hand. Her right hand is useless. Perhaps if she can just get the gun free…
    She gets the flap open and plucks at the butt of the handgun with thumb and forefinger, trying to slide it out. A single round is all that she needs.
    Except that fate, and the awkward angle at which her command couch is lying, conspire against her. The pistol slides out – and clatters away off the buckled side frame, falling out of her sight.
    Yesukai throws back her head and lets out a howl of pure distress.

    “What a mess,” Cameron says as he climbs down from the flatbed’s cab an hour later. The vehicle’s parked up in the lower bay of the Lodestar. “From what I’ve been hearing over the comm, that depot’s a scrapyard of Falcon machines.”
    “Yeah,” Delaney says. “I saw some of the gun-cam footage. Malky’s popped yet another one of those 35-ton clockwork toys. Blasted a hole clean through it.”
    Cameron Mackenzie chuckles. “He hates those bloody things.”
    Del glances past Cameron at the passenger in the flatbed’s cab. He’s put in mind of an owl… maybe an owl chick. “We’re recruiting again?”
    Cameron blinks. “Oh, right. This wee young hen’s called Ingrid. Scientist caste. She got handed over to me by Tyler, by way of Zoë back there.” He indicates the quintet of armoured Elementals clambering down off the vehicle’s cargo bed.
    “Val’s a damned bad influence,” Del notes wryly. “He corrupts people just by being around them.”
    The lid on Zoë’s armour unlocks and swings up to reveal her face as she clomps over to join the two Techs. “You speak from long experience, then,” she says.
    “Sure, I can… Hold on.” Del’s eyes narrow and he reaches up to prod at the chipped and scarred armour protecting her right biceps. “You didn’t say that you’d taken a hit out there.”
    Cameron manages to keep a straight face as he watches Zoë’s confident expression turn to one of embarrassment. He really wouldn’t want her to thump him one.
    “I… Well, it really is nothing. A scratch,” she replies hastily.
    Del’s forefinger traces down to the inside of the elbow joint. “Three centimetres farther down and that idiot would’ve put a slug into you. The joints are the weakest point of these suits, you know that better than I do.”
    Bloody hell, she looks like she wants the ground to swallow her up, Cameron realises. He glances at Delaney’s face, reads the look he sees there, and decides to turn around and help Ingrid down from the cab’s bench seating. Zoë would only smack him. Delaney, he’s sure, would shoot a hole or two in him.

    “Shit and biscuits,” Liam Tyler says with no small amount of surprise. “I got a live one here!”
    “That makes three so far,” Sharyl says as she picks her way around a half-buried chunk of broken ’Mech armour. She’s got a machine pistol slung over her shoulder, and a pack of gear on her back. “How’d you spot it?”
    “She just threw up,” Liam explains, indicating the broken-open torso armour and visor of the downed Elemental before him with the business end of his shotgun. Half of the occupant’s face is visible through the breach. Her mouth and chin are coated in vomit. She’s lucky she hasn’t choked to death.
    Sharyl glances at the weapons mounted on the suit’s hard points. They’re wrecked. The missile pack has been blown off, the battle claw is a fused lump of alloy, and the big support laser’s barrel has been split apart like a kid’s joke cigar.
    She kneels down in front of the disabled suit. Thick, gluey trickles of HarJel have congealed around every joint, sealing off potential damage… and locking the occupant’s arms and legs in place.
    “Can you hear me? Are you in any pain?”
    The Elemental coughs, and then hiccups. “I can hear you. I… I think I am hurt. I cannot feel my legs or below my waist.”
    The Tech-turned-MechWarrior nods, and pulls the pack off her back. She fishes out a bottle of water. “Okay. First thing we’ll do is clean your face up. You’ve got a cut on your eyebrow there. We can rinse that spew off at the same time.”
    Standing off to one side, keeping an eye on the proceedings, Liam isn’t too worried that the Toad trooper will try anything… but he’s also a big believer in caution. Besides, if anything happens to Sharyl on his watch, Ben Gleason would come after him with a welding torch.
    “What’s your name?” Sharyl asks as she dampens a folded gauze wad with water and starts cleaning the immobilised Toad’s face with it.
    “Dorota,” comes the reply as soon as her mouth’s clear.
    “I’m Sharyl. That’s Liam. Here. Just a sip… Swill your mouth out and spit. Get rid of that shitty taste.”
    Dorota obeys without a murmur. Now that her face is clean, the two Norns can get a better look at her. Pale skin with a smattering of freckles, brown hair, sky-blue eyes… and to Sharyl’s amazement, the lingering traces of puppy fat in her cheeks and along her jaw line. For all her formidable size, she is very young.
    “How old are you, Dorota?”
    “I am eighteen, Sharyl. Almost everyone in our training cadre is the same age.”
    Liam raises an eyebrow. “Training cad… You mean, those old-style ’Mechs back there?”
    Dorota nods. It’s all she can do for right now. The HarJel has her stuck fast, like a fly engulfed in amber.
    Sharyl reaches down to a bulging wad of the stuff that’s swelled up and out of the joint under Dorota’s left arm and taps it with a fingernail. “This crap’s like cured ferrocrete,” she observes. “We’d better get Angelica and Daniel over here to show us how to crack through it without hurting Dorota.”
    “Hold on,” Liam cautions her. “We don’t know for sure if that black shit is plugging any serious injuries. We could do her some major harm if we open it up.”
    That gives Sharyl pause for thought. “Huh… Okay, we bring a truck over here, and have one of the ’Mechs load Dorota into it. We get her back to the landing zone and turn her over to the medics. Sound better to you?”
    “Sure. There were two or three cargo wagons at the depot we didn’t shoot the living shit out of. One of them should do.”
    Sharyl nods, and then turns her attention back to the young woman in the ruined battlesuit. “Hang in there. We’ll get you out of there.”
    Dorota looks down, seemingly flustered. Her fair complexion reddens. “Thank… Thank you. Thank you both,” she says.
    “No problem,” Sharyl says as she rips open a sterile dressing packet to treat the facial cut. “Now, you’ll have to close the eye for me. I need to tape this down.”
    Liam steps back a little to get out of Sharyl’s light and shakes his head. How’s that for bedside manner, he wonders. She should have been a medic… or maybe a full-time mother.

    “I will need to run a scanner over the arm as soon as possible,” says the Medtech from the Iron Tower. Brigitte can’t remember his name at the moment. He’s one of Leonard’s small staff.
    “Fine. The skimmer’s due back from the Lodestar shortly. You’ll have priority on it.”
    The Medtech nods and straightens up from the woman secured to the gurney, allowing Brigitte Olafsdottír her first good look at the Jade Falcon pilot who had tried to blow her own brains out in front of her approaching Axeman.
    Her broken forearm has been wrapped in a preserving sleeve to protect it from further harm. She’s still wearing her lightweight coolant gear, a lime-green weave of tubing that covers her body from collarbone to toes. Strands of long black hair are plastered untidily across her forehead and cheeks.
    Her features make Brigitte think of Katsumi, if Kat were maybe two or three years older. Strongly Asian in looks, with good cheekbones and dark, fierce eyes. There are small subtle creases at the corners of her mouth and eyes that make Brigitte think of stress rather than smiles. The restraints fastened across her legs and chest seem hardly necessary. The woman seems somehow… listless… as if something vital has been removed from her.
    “I’m Brigitte Olafsdottír,” she says, and waves a hand at her parked-up Axeman. “You were in that Summoner… Star Colonel.”
    The mention of her rank sparks a momentary flash of life in those black eyes, and the Falcon woman glances up at Brigitte’s face for the first time. “Aff,” she says at length.
    The Summoner – or Thor, to use the Inner Sphere name for the design – got dropped in its tracks by Malky Duncan as it tried to get a firing lock onto Dawn Kester’s Battle Hawk. A tight grouping of LRMs had savaged the upper torso of the OmniMech before a Gauss rifle round slammed into the chest plating less than half a metre below the cockpit section. The ’Mech, resting on its knees not too far away, looks like an angry giant grabbed ahold of the top of its body and peeled it back.
    “You tried to take your own life. I saw you.” Brigitte folds her arms. “I thought that Jade Falcon warriors viewed suicide as the coward’s way out.” The verbal jab hits a nerve, she can tell. The injured woman visibly tenses.
    “Not… Not always,” she replies through gritted teeth. Her good hand has balled into a fist at her side. “Sometimes, it is the honourable way. I tried to commit bondsref before you could claim me.”
    Bondsref. It’s yet another one of those baffling Clan concepts that Juno and Zoë have tried to explain to her, and Brigitte is sure that she hasn’t really grasped yet. Refusal of the bondcord, Juno had said. Warriors defeated in battle had the option of taking their own life rather than submit to servitude. Once their new master placed the bondcord on their wrist, the warrior was committed to serve with honour. Suicide after being claimed was seen as a despicable, craven act.
    “It must be very important to you,” Brigitte says softly. That gets her a surprised look. “The reason you wanted to die as a warrior instead of being taken alive as isorla.”
    The Falcon turns her face away, but not nearly fast enough to conceal the look of despair Brigitte sees there. She makes a choked-off noise that might be a cough, or a sob.
    Olafsdottír kneels down at the side of the gurney. “Look at me,” she says to the wounded trueborn.
    When the Clanner finally does, her eyes are streaming with tears and she is struggling not to start wailing aloud. The reaction, this depth of violent emotion, takes Brigitte aback. She hadn’t expected any of this.
    “What is it? What’s wrong?”
    It takes the Falcon MechWarrior a minute or two to regain her voice. When she does, she looks even more exhausted than before.
    “My future,” she says simply. “My children. I have lost them.”
10 - Highlander Fling

     When I wrote out the rough draft for this battle sequence, I was listening to the Aliens soundtrack... In particular, the music for 'Combat Drop' and when Ripley takes the APC into the bowels of the atmosphere plant to extract the Marines. Lots of percussion and wind instruments. I love James Horner's music.

     As we gamed out the battle, Sharyl's laser hits just left Rob and I startled. Right Arm, over and over again. Malky Duncan, in his own way, has become an accented engine of destruction with that salvaged Steel Viper Excalibur. Show him an Uller, and he'll treat it like it's a clay pigeon. BLAM.

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Jade Falcon Replenishment Depot Five, Bowerton’s Barrier
Persistence, Clan Jade Falcon Occupation Zone
6 December 3053

    Star Commander Helena is having perhaps the second worst day of her life, ranking right below the time she was deemed no longer effective as a MechWarrior and reassigned to a garrison force.
    Shaking her head, wincing at the shrill, high-pitched ringing in her ears, she rolls over on the floor and scrambles to her feet. She spares a glance over at Bryce and Claude, and sees that they are both dead.
    Armoury, she remembers. That was where they were headed before the explosion took place. She reaches for her earpiece comm and cannot find it. It must have come loose in the blast. Not that it would do her much good with her hearing so badly affected.
    She stumbles away down the corridor, coughing and spitting on a throat full of smoke and dust.

    “These are yours,” Tyler tells Ingrid as he hands over her spectacles. “You okay?”
    Ingrid tries blinking her tears away as she fumbles with her glasses... and fails. Miserably. She makes a sound like a hiccup and then the tears are flowing freely.
    “They always hit me,” she sobs as she sinks into his arms.
    “Not when I’m around,” Tyler says as he gives her a hug.
    “Why? Why do you care?”
    “Because I’ve never liked bullies. Had me enough of that back on Circinus. Always picking on people who they think won’t fight back. Can’t stand people like that.” Tyler shrugs. “Not that I really see ’em as people.”
    “You are not like the barbarians we were told to expect when we came back.” She looks up at him through the embrace.
    “Let me guess: Worse?”
    “Better,” she smiles at him.
    “C’mon,” he grins back at her, “we’ve really got to get that door open.”

    “I mark two down, Zoë,” Colin says into his helmet comm. He is covering the blasted, smouldering reception area with his main weapon. A glance at his damage display shows a number of minor impacts to his chest plate and thighs. Nothing serious.
    He supposes for a moment that he could just have cut down the troopers with his laser, but the SRM pack offered the better odds of taking them both out quickly. Colin blinks to magnify the scene, and frowns. Two bodies, and three handguns
    “I mark two down. A third has escaped,” he reports, crunching forwards across the gravel driveway.
    “Acknowledged.”

    “Whoa,” says Tyler. It seems appropriate.
    The armoury is filled to the rafters with all kinds of crates, boxes, and containers. Everywhere he looks, he sees that shitty Jade Falcon icon, identical to the one on Ingrid’s lab coat. Right away at the back, half concealed by a dustsheet, is a complete suit of Toad armour. There’s enough ordnance stored here to start a fair-sized war.
    “Okay, come on,” he says, ushering Ingrid in over the threshold. The kid is wincing as if expecting the place to be lethally radioactive. Her cheek is already turning red and swelling up from where that frack-wit Falcon goon struck her. He’d almost knocked her head off her shoulders.
    A glance at the doorframe confirms his guess: thick, reinforced ferrocrete and steel bracing. That’s more than enough to withstand small-arms fire. Good to know.
    There’s a desk off to the left, complete with a chair and an inventory terminal. The young Scientist sinks into the seat as if in shock. Probably not all that far from the truth, Tyler concludes, taking a step back towards the doorway.
    He taps his comm. “Ground One lead to November Actual. You read me?”
    “Actual here. I read you. Sitrep?”
    “I’m at the armoury. I… Standby.”
    Ingrid lets out a squeak of terror as he spins on the spot and lashes out with the gun in his right hand. The butt of the weapon crashes down onto the top of Star Commander Helena’s left shoulder just as she launches herself through the open doorway at Tyler.
    The impact drops the woman to her knees and before she can rally herself, Tyler’s left fist slams into the side of her face, snapping her head sharply to the side. She’s out cold before she lands on the floor tiles.
    Tyler heaves the armoury door shut and locks it before turning his attention back to his would-be assailant. He checks for a pulse, shrugs to himself, and straightens up. “Losing my touch,” he says to no one in particular.
    It takes Ingrid a few moments to calm down enough to find her voice, time enough for Tyler to locate a coil of nylon line on one of the storage shelves.
    “How did you know she was there?”
    He flips Helena over onto her front before answering. “Experience,” he tells her. “It all went a bit too quiet just then. Usually means someone’s about to attack me.” He sets about lashing the Falcon officer’s wrists together behind her back.
    Ingrid is about to ask him another question when his comm starts beeping at him.
    He sighs. “Sorry, Actual. Had me a thing to deal with… It’s okay now… Yeah, the armoury’s secured.”

    Three kilometres away, perched on top of a ridge, Amber Tyler’s Raven overlooks the Jade Falcon resupply centre. The height advantage allows the scanners and tracking gear built into her scout ’Mech to search for incoming hostiles at much greater range.
    She is taking a swig of water from her canteen when Blackie’s computer chirps at her for attention. Setting the canteen aside, she studies the data on her primary display. Heat signatures… magnetic anomalies… seismic readings consistent with a lot of walking metal travelling at speed. Amber taps two buttons and a map overlay appears on the display.
    “Mike, you getting this?”
    “Sure am. Looks like… Three Stars, I’d say. Can’t get a handle on weight classes. Not yet, anyway.”
    “I figure they’re about an hour out at their current speed. Better flag the Skipper.”
    “Copy that, Amber.”

    Yesukai glances at her tactical panel and is pleased to see that her Command Star is maintaining its formation precisely. They are moving at the maximum speed of their slowest machine – which is Logan’s Executioner, in this case. A touch slower than sixty-five kph. True, it can manage short bursts of greater speed by using its Myomer Accelerator Signal Circuitry, but that option is only for emergencies.
    Flanking the Executioner and her own Summoner are the three remaining ’Mechs of her Star, a trio of lightweight Kit Fox Omnis. All five machines are loaded with Elementals, a Point to each ’Mech.
    Behind and to the left of her Star is Yesukai’s Delta Nova, a combined force of five OmniMechs and a Star of Elementals. Dependable warriors, every one of them.
    Behind and to her right are the five machines of Bosha’s trainees. Old designs dating from the first days of the Clans, for the most part. Classic SLDF models.
    Yesukai pulls up a map to check on the layout of the replenishment depot. As she suspected from the first few reports, there is no radio contact with Star Commander Helena or anyone at the facility. Not that she is all that surprised. She just hopes that Helena’s collection of failures and fossils might have killed a few of the Spheroid raiders before being wiped out.
    “Elementals, stand by to release,” she orders over the tactical net. Once the shooting starts, she wants her two Stars of Omnis to have full use of their guns.
    The map indicates obstacles in her force’s path: rolling hillocks and trees, as well as a small lake. Yesukai considers the information for a moment, and then shrugs inwardly. A little geography is not going to keep the Fourth Talon from its revenge…

    “They’re steaming on in at full tilt,” Amber’s voice relays over the comm. “I’ve got eyes-on now. Two Stars of Omnis, both loaded with Toads, plus a Star of older ’Mechs. SLDF classics by the looks of ’em.”
    Brigitte nods. “Got it, Amber. Get yourself back here as fast as you can.”
    “On my way.”
    Olafsdottír switches channels. “Ground teams, this is Actual. Pack it up and get out of there now. Saddle up. Company’s coming.”

    “Is that you, Zoë?”
    “Aff, Sergeant Valentine.” She raises her arm in greeting as he emerges from the armoury... and pauses. Tyler is not alone.
    “Sergeant... who is that with you?”
    “This is Ingrid. She helped me out.”
    The girl – hardly more than a child, Zoë judges – is sticking to Tyler like a field dressing. The glasses and the white coat mark her out as a Scientist, and to Zoë’s experienced eye she lacks any trace of Warrior blood. Almost certainly a freeborn, Zoë concludes.
    “We have to move.”
    Tyler nods. “Yeah, I got the word. Look, get a hold of Cameron and get him to swing back with the flatbed. Get your crew together and take Ingrid here with you. She’s under my protection, now. I’ve got to get back to my ride like yesterday.”
    “Understood.”
9 - Had Me A Thing

     Star Colonel Yesukai is about to get her fondest wish: the chance to blast some filthy Inner Sphere vermin into the afterlife... but you know the old saying about being careful what you wish for...

     Meanwhile, we get to see why trying to sneak-attack Valentine Tyler is unwise, and his daughter Amber offers a little colour commentary on Yesukai's oncoming force of Jade Chickens. Again, co-written with my brother, Rob. I think you guess the bits he's done! Geez, Rob is Tyler's alter ego...

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Jade Falcon Replenishment Depot Five, Bowerton’s Barrier
Persistence, Clan Jade Falcon Occupation Zone
6 December 3053

    The sound of gunfire is getting closer. Overlapping blasts and the shattering of glass. She recognises the Warrior caste’s signature all too well.
    Scientist Ingrid has backed up as far away from the door as she can. She is huddled in the corner of the lab, curled up into the foetal position underneath a counter. Her mouth is dry and she can feel cold sweat forming on her back.
    “I don’t want to die here,” she whispers, flinching as someone howls in agony just outside the door. “I don’t want to die here. I’d like to kiss a man who I like first. Before I die. Someone who doesn’t shout at me… For what I’m not doing.”
    It is at that precise moment that her laboratory door bursts open and a bald man falls flat on his face on the floor tiles.

    “Please tell me that you called for room service?” Valentine Tyler looks up at the terrified youngster in the far corner. He can smell something burning. It’s the back of his ballistic-armour vest. That scrawny little fracker with the hand flamer nearly had him.
    “Eeep!” The kid sounds like a squeaky toy that’s being trodden on.
    “Name’s Tyler. Cover your ears, sweetheart,” he tells her as he rolls over, smothering the flames. He unhitches a grenade from his belt, yanks the pin out, and hurls it out at an angle into the corridor. “This is gonna be loud,” he notes as he kicks the laboratory door shut.
    “Eeep!”
    There’s a deafening explosion from just outside and every single fixture in the room rattles. A fine cloud of dust falls from the ceiling, along with a couple of the insulation tiles.
    Now that he has a moment to spare, Tyler looks back at the young woman and grins.
    “Sorry, didn’t quite catch your name.”
    “Eeep!”
    “Darned peculiar kind of name, if you ask me,” he says with a frown. “Did you lose a bet, or something?” He gets up onto one knee and takes his first good look at the young woman cowering away from him. Her wide, unblinking eyes look huge behind the spectacles that are about to slide off the tip of her nose. Her mouth is moving but there are no coherent words coming out of it. She looks to be maybe seventeen or eighteen years old. If that.
    Tyler glances around, taking in his surroundings: computer terminal, microscope, specimen jars, and scanners. There’s a big map covering most of one wall, with lots of little coloured flags stuck into it. He looks back at the girl in the white lab coat.
    “Are you sciencey?” She manages to nod back at him. As he gets to his feet, he smiles at her. “I’m guessing your name isn’t really ‘Eeep’, is it?”
    A small shake of the head, by way of confirmation.
    “I’m Tyler.” He holds his hands out, away from the small armoury he’s carrying, “and believe it or not, I’m not going to hurt you. What’s your name?”
    “In… Ing… Ingrid,” she whispers, staring up at him.

    Midge Fairchild looks around the corpse-strewn control room. One Jade Falcon trooper is sprawled backwards over the sparking, crackling framework of a holomap display table. He still has a look of surprise on his face. “Clear!”
    Behind her and to her left, Liam Tyler takes a moment to shovel some more cartridges into his shotgun. He’s got blood on his cheek from where a flying glass splinter caught him five minutes ago. He doesn’t take his eyes off the two Falcons he’s just blasted at point-blank range. Satisfied that they’re not faking being dead, he nods back at her. “Clear.”

    Listening with one ear to the comm traffic coming from the ground teams, Brigitte Olafsdottír stifles a sigh of annoyance. Ben, Marc, and Tyler had been very firm with her the night before touchdown: she was not about to play ‘Commando Connie’ and maybe get her head blown off by some washed-up Falcon.
    Trying to get comfortable in her Axeman’s command couch, she eyes the tactical display. She and her two OmniMech escorts have parked up directly in front of the entrance to the replenishment facility. Anyone trying to escape the place in an aircar or truck won’t be getting out past them. The remainder of the BattleMechs have been split into two parties that are camped out on the perimeter, covering the entry of Tyler’s group and Zoë’s Elementals.
    She’d still rather be down there with them.

    Zoë frowns behind her faceplate as a wild burst of SMG fire rips out through the entrance to the facility’s on-site generator. She glances at the scanner modes on her display and selects the infrared option.
    There. To the left of the entrance is a huddled body that is a rainbow of red and yellow, lying in a splotch of warm orange that the Elemental knows is spilled blood. To the right, she can see wisps of orange curling from a heat source just out of sight behind the doorframe. The Falcon is reloading his weapon.
    She switches back over to normal vision and regards the single-floor structure. The wall does not appear to be hardened or reinforced. It is robust enough to protect the generator equipment from the weather, and that is all. Not nearly enough to withstand an Elemental...
    Zoë takes aim with her support laser, settling the targeting crosshairs at roughly waist height, and a metre in from the edge of the doorway. She fires, and as the sustained beam punches through the brickwork, she swings the laser blast to the left.
    The brick wall robs the laser of a great deal of power, true, but the shot is still enough to deal with the Falcon sentry sheltering behind it. Zoë hears a gasp and a clatter over her external audio scanners and nods to herself.
    Checking to see that the sentry is dead is just a formality. Her shot has sliced him apart at the hips. Yet she learned in the sibko always to make sure that her foes are dead. One of her sibs did not, and it cost him an eye.

    “Ingrid? That’s a lovely name,” Tyler beams at her, “like a name out of a fairytale. Much better than ‘Eeep’. Couldn’t really picture you as an ‘Eeep’. You’re far too pretty.”
    She blinks at him and a little voice in the back of her head says: Wait a second! Did I just hear that right? Did he just say that he thinks I am pretty?
    “Ingrid,” he continues, “I really need your help. There’s some bulging-eyed psychobitch in charge here and she’s going to use some of the equipment here to hurt people and I honestly can’t let that happen. I really need your help so I can stop that. Will you help me?”
    He is Inner Sphere. He is the enemy. He is carrying enough small arms to start an invasion all on his own. He is obviously Warrior Caste, but... has not shouted at her or struck her across the face. There is something inherently decent about the man before her and Scientist Ingrid believes, suddenly, that he would never strike her. And he just told you that he thinks you are pretty. Nobody has ever said that before
    “I will help you, Tyler,” she manages to croak as she accepts the proffered hand.

    “Say that again?”
    “We have the command centre, but the base commander isn’t here,” Midge’s voice reports in Brigitte’s earphones. “I guess she’s headed for the armoury. Futile last-stand shit, you know?”
    “Do we know where the armoury is?”
    “Kind of.”

    “Why do you carry so many guns, Tyler?” Ingrid whispers as they move carefully down the corridor.
    “Don’t usually have time to reload,” he tells her matter-of-factly. “Testy folk always blasting back at me. Makes me feel fairly unwelcome.”
    “Well, if you are trying to shoot them, I can see – oof!” She yelps as she walks smack into his back. He pulls her down into a squatting position just before the junction.
    “Cover your ears again. Loud noises coming. Arseholes falling over dead. Couple of seconds.” He un-holsters two automatic pistols and glances around the corner. Almost faster than she can register, Tyler fires eight shots and nods. The two guards he has just engaged are out of the equation, permanently.
    “Are they... dead?” a tiny voice behind him asks. Ingrid peeks around him to gaze at the sprawled bodies.
    “Doing a darned good impression.” He shrugs. “C’mon. We still have to get that door open.”

    “‘Kind of’, Midge?”
    She exchanges a patient look with Liam and Grizz. “Sure. I just heard a couple of Python automatics firing off. Thirty C-bills say that’s the Sarge on his way to the armoury.”
    “Stand by,” says Olafsdottír. “I’ll have Zoë circle around to the front of the base, make sure there aren’t any guards out there with heavy stuff.”
    “Okay,” Midge replies with a shrug she knows Brigitte can’t see.

    “Scientist! What are you doing?” The bellowed demand makes Ingrid almost jump out of her skin. “That is a restricted area!”
    Ingrid freezes on the spot in front of the blast-proof door. Hands grab her shoulders and spin her around. She recognises the big man with the blond cropped hair and the old burn scars on his cheek. It is Point Commander Adrian, one of Star Colonel Yesukai’s thick-necked trueborn kin.
    Her breath leaves her as he pushes her away from the security door and into the wall. He slaps her face, hard, and she sees stars. Ingrid’s glasses come flying off as she sinks to her knees.
    It is just as well her glasses came off: she doesn’t get to see what happens next. Twenty-five centimetres of razor-edged steel get rammed into Adrian’s neck from the side. Tyler twists the blade and rips it out as the astonished, dying man crumples to the floor at his feet.
    “Don’t you ever fracking hit her,” he snarls, spitting on the soon-to-be corpse.
8 - Reaction Time
     The majority of this chapter is written by my brother, Rob... In particular the scenes involving Valentine Tyler and Ingrid of the Jade Falcons. "Sherlock Tyler" deduces that Ingrid's a Scientist from available evidence - lab coat, microscope, scanning equipment and so on - and enlists the kid's help.
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  • Eating: Chicken Chow Mein
      A little while ago, I encountered a man that had been in my school year. After we’d exchanged the usual “how are you doing” greetings, he asked me if I’d heard about the upcoming school reunion for our age bracket, and would I be interested in attending. I said that I wasn’t really sure I’d be interested…

     What I came to realise later was that I had no intention of going. I hadn’t gone to the school reunion ten years before, and I certainly wasn’t interested in attending this one.

     I was sure that the whole thing would have been organised by a couple of the women who – back in our teenage years – had come across as control freaks in the making. They’d be the ones trying to upstage their ‘friends’ by talking endlessly about their recent holidays in the Mediterranean, or describing their wonderful children...

     “Oh, but I’m so proud of my eldest, Charlotte-Louise! She’s doing so well in her Theatre Design degree! And did I mention that she’s spending her gap year hiking in the Algarve?”

     Added to that the minor detail that I couldn’t stand some 97 per cent of the people I was in school with – which wasn’t so bad, since nobody ever really seemed to like me – and I started feeling a bit nauseous…

     Why would I want to meet any of these people now? I haven’t seen most of them in 35 years. They’re effectively complete strangers. Not to mention, at least a few of my contemporaries will have passed away, so I would have had to stand and listen to endless tales about Hugh, or Simon, or Michael, who really should have listened to their specialist, but, well, too late…

     I can’t imagine doing anything more depressing. Plus, I’d have had to pay an entrance fee since the event was being held at the local golf club.

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Nuclear-Fridge
Chris Price
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MartyMartyr1 Featured By Owner Nov 28, 2017  Hobbyist Digital Artist
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Thank you for accepting me! :D
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Thank you for the watch!
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No problem! You're welcome! ;)
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Thank you for adding me to your watch list Nuclaer-Fridge.
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You are very welcome! :)
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Happy birthday sir :D
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Thank you! :thumbsup:
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HAPPY BIRTHDAY! :happybounce:

I hope you have a very enjoyable day, m'friend :D :party:
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I did indeed have a great day... Re-watched Mars Attacks!! and cheered on the aliens as they vaporised the stupid humans. Ack-Ack.
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