Rio Grande Space Port
May 1st 3049
Everyone arrived at the spaceport early. Smith arrived second to find Captain Watanabe standing alone by the Leopard class dropship that StarCorps Industries had sent to bring them to Son Hoa. It wasn't the largest dropship in the universe but it was perfect for a single lance. Someone had painted Beautiful Brick just under the cockpit glass. The jagged StarCorps Industries Fed-Com logo was displayed across the main cargo doors. The ships technical crew could be seen moving around under the landing gear removing hoses, cables, and safety flags. Soon they would begin the massive fusion engines warm up sequence, before removing the chalks. Soon they'd be on their way off of Outreach, out into the black. Watanabe had a large olive drab plastic suitcase with DCMS markings in one hand and a small animal in the other. The creature was vaguely dog like; it was very small with the largest ears Smith had ever seen.
"Who's your little friend?" Smith asked as he walked up behind her.
Watanabe seem startled as she turned to face him. "Mr. Smith, my apology's I did not hear your approach."
Smith responded, smiling. "That's okay, I'm sorry I had no intention startle you."
"This is Inuyasha. He is a fennec fox; a parting gift from my sister before I left the Combine."
"People don't normally leave the Combine do they?"
"No, it's not very common "she answered.
"What convinced you to do it?"
"There was nothing left for me in the DCMS. There was no way for me to gain honor for my family; except to marry, and have children."
"You were a Tai-I in the First Sword of Light. That's not enough honor for your family?"
"I was a Mechwarrior with the Fifth Amphigean Light Assault Group before that My entire life up until then had been training. When I was very young I convinced my father that the best way for me to serve the Dragon was as a Mechwarrior; without any sons he embraced the idea that his daughter could serve the Coordinator, but I was defeated in battle on Vega. Afterwards I was no longer able to pilot a Battlemech; so I was reassigned to work as a command and control operator."
Smith was well beyond shocked. All he could do was listen to her. All those years; and there was the enemy standing right there in front of him; except she wasn't the enemy anymore. She was something else now, a coworker... a friend even. Smith cursed himself for making friends so easily. How the hell was it that he could actually feel bad for her? The Fifth Amphigean LAG was the enemy on Vega. They had killed so many of the other rookie pilots; so many friends he had trained with; so many older guys he looked up to.
"That's a tough break" was all he could think to say. "What happened? Why can't you pilot a mech anymore?" he asked.
"I was on a recon raid; we had been dropped into the night by a Leopard much like this one." She pointed to the beautiful brick. "Except that ours had been totally refit for special operations, and painted in matte black radar absorbent materials; we called it 'Black Lotus'. We must have been twenty or thirty clicks out beyond the front line... I remember that it dark, so very dark; like the sunny had gone down on the every system in the Inner Sphere. Our assignment was to test the defenses around Cosby Myomer's R&D facility. I had a Jenner, Locust, and Mongoose out in front of me about five hundred meters. My Dragon was the firepower for that lance. My lance mates crested this big hill and disappeared. I followed; running up the hill full tilt. That's when Gunjin Sato screamed contact over the radio. I crested the hill; to a surreal landscape of laser light, and muzzle flash. Your Snord's Irregulars had put out a recon lance to patrol the facility that night. Afterwards; I must have watched that battle ROM a thousand times. I know the engagement only lasted four minutes forty three seconds; but it felt like hours, maybe even days. I watched Gunjin Sato's Locust go up like a roman candle when something punched his SRM bin. He never punched out; I still hear him screaming sometimes; on dark nights, alone. I was all the way over the hill now. I joined the fight with everything I had. I can still remember my LRM lock blaring in my ears as I dumped round after round out of my autocannon; I connected with a Flea; a light shone brightly in darkness as the little machine came apart at the seams, then dropped to the ground. Looking out from my cockpit I found the night lit by the burning corpses of my friends, and enemies. I watched as a very talented Spider pilot finished off Gunjin Eto's Mongoose; without pause he turned and put a medium laser right through the cockpit of Gunsho Nakamura's Jenner. I got a lock on him and fired with everything I had; a mix of long range missiles and autocannon fire hit him. His armor was light; one of his legs came off. I remember the way he fell; tumbling out of control into a stand of trees. I turned towards a Cicada, just in time to watch an autocannon round bounce up off my dragon's center torso. It exploded with a bright flash as it hit my cockpit glass. It happened so fast; my career was over in an instant. A piece of Ferro-carbonate from my shattered cockpit came back and hit me in the head. I lost the vision in my left eye, and my inner ear was damaged. The loss of depth perception, along with acute vertigo has kept me out of the cockpit ever since."
Smith didn't know what to say. He had so many questions; but he didn't want to pry any further into her personal life. More than anything else he wanted to know if Joker had been that Spider pilot. Just then Joker arrived with Bull, and Colt. He decided to drop the subject for now.
The group watched as loader mechs and cargo haulers moved Battlemechs, spare parts, and ammunition into the Beautiful Brick. The process took almost half an hour; as they finished the five Outreach Irregulars boarded the vessel and made their way to the guest quarters. The Brick came off the ferrocrete of runway one right on time at 0500. After three days at a one G burn they docked with a waiting Starlord jumpship at the Zenith recharge station. Then, in the blink of an eye the Outreach Irregulars had left Outreach behind.
Zenith Jump Point
August 3rd 3049
Smith sat on his bunk in the guest quarters of the Beautiful Brick, waiting. Outside the Jumpship was charging; they'd been in the Madiun system for six days now, but soon they'd make that last jump, and this trip would be behind him. Smith hated space travel. The jumps made him sick to his stomach, and the waiting gave him too much time to think. He'd done his best to put the time to good use; spending the last three months getting to know every member of his team just a little better between jumps.
He'd learned more about Bull's combat record with the Dragoons. The man was an excellent tactician and they'd worked together in coming up with some future lance strategies. He'd learned about the Kittery Training Academy, and how Justin Allard had saved the first class of cadets from a Capellan attack. He learned how one of those cadets had gone on the teach Colt when he was in training there. He'd even learned that Joker had been that spider pilot on Vega. But he never told Joker or Watanabe what he knew. Maybe something's were better left unsaid. Mostly he'd learned that he enjoyed spending time with Yoshimi Watanabe. He wasn't sure what that meant, and he had no idea what to do about it, but he knew it was true.
In the corner an alarm sounded over the loud speaker; a warning that the ship was about to jump. Smith turned to lie down; it was normally easier that way; then, without warning, they jumped, and for just an instant his guts where thirty light years away. Smith threw up. The PA announced arrival in the Son Hoa system. 'Finally'; Smith thought, as he picked himself up and stumbled to the small restroom.
Beautiful Brick Nadir Jump Point Son Hoa System Federated Commonwealth August 3rd 3049
Smith took a shower and brushed his teeth before making his way down to the galley. The rest of his team was gathered around a small table next to the door. They still had a five and a half day trip to the surface, but at least they were in system.
"You're all green in the gills there Smith" Bull said as he approached.
Smith sat down at the table before responding. "So I'm the only one happy to be done with all those jumps?"
"I hate 'em too, man" was Jokers response.
Colt chimed in with "I just don't understand what people don't like about it. One second you're in one place and the next you're light years away... I think it's cool."
Watanabe looked paler then usual but if she was sick she wasn't going to say anything about it. After a long moment she said
"We are on our way to the current rendezvous point. The customer should be sending orders along to us en route."
"Straight to business then, alright Captain." Smith replied "Are we all ready to disembark under combat conditions? For all we know the whole planet's been overrun by bandits and we have to make an orbital insertion during the night to catch them be surprise." Colt, and Joker burst out laughing, even Bull had a smirk on his face. Watanabe was less impressed. Smith suddenly remembered her story about the night time insertion behind enemy lines. "I'm so ready to be off this ship; I'd be happy to take Sidekick sky diving from orbit" he said. After more than three months in the Leopard they all needed some fresh air. "I look forward to more information on our upcoming mission Captain; thank you."
"As I understand, we will be briefed by StarCorps Industries as soon as we make planet fall as to what sort of work we will be doing."
"Sounds great" Joker said as he poured himself a cup of stale coffee.
They all sat around drinking coffee and playing cards for the next couple hours. Joker told some great stories about life on Kentares. Eventually they all went their separate ways.