Chapter 4: Turncoats and Conspiracies

Unknown Location

Unknown region of space

3rd August, 3079

"Just why are we sponsoring this mercenary unit? You know the problems that will arise if we are discovered – especially if we are unprepared."

"Because I believe that the man we have put in command is something more than a regular person – even if he does not realize it."

"So why go to all this trouble? Why not simply bring him in and find out directly?"

"Because, sponsoring this unit will allow us to keep a close eye on him while learning more about him in his natural element. If he is what I believe him to be, then we will be the first to know about it."

"And just what is it you believe him to be that is so important?"

"I prefer to keep my suspicions withheld until I have more of a certainty, my Khan."

"Very well. I shall defer to your judgment in this matter."

"Thank you, my Khan. I have sent another one of our agents to help watch him and report to us on his… progress."

Main Spaceport

Old Connaught, Arc-Royal

The Lyran Alliance

5th August, 3079

The clerk sitting behind the customs desk looked half asleep as the last passenger made their way off the newly arrived DropShip. He only glanced at the red-haired woman long enough to ensure that her face matched the one displayed on her passport.

"Name?" he asked.

"Wereday. Christine Wereday." The woman replied. She had almost no kind of discernible accent; the kind of voice that could be from almost anywhere.

"Purpose of your visit?"


"And what do you do?"

"I'm a DropShip navigator. I was offered a job on a ship based out of here."

"Very well." The man looked at the visa attached to the passport and stamped it. "Enjoy your stay on Arc-Royal."

"I'm quite sure I will." Wereday grinned.

Mercenary Sector

Old Connaught, Arc-Royal

The Lyran Alliance

5th August, 3079

Steven sighed as he watched Bourbon and Lo Hung yacking about some obscure subject yet again. He had to admit, after seeing him up and going two mornings ago, the man had the fastest recovery from a hangover he'd ever seen. Sitting Indian-style on a plasteel crate, Steven glanced around the hangar. Rhodes was working on a final tune up to the group's mechs before heading out, while Dmitri was helping out when not engaged in other matters. Steele was off running his lance through the simulators for the umpteenth time, and Rhodes' lance mates were playing a game of cards while Hasegawa sat reading a book a short distance to his right. Overall, each individual member had managed to adapt fairly well in their short time with the unit.

Kobayashi was still keeping mum on the details of their first mission, claiming it to be a 'necessary security measure'. Steven hadn't liked being kept in the dark any more than his subordinates, but there wasn't much he could do about it. All he knew was that tomorrow morning, they would be lifting on the SS Badger, an Overlord-class DropShip contracted for use during their mission. Besides that, he had nothing. Damn lawyer.

Main Spaceport

Old Connaught, Arc-Royal

The Lyran Alliance

6th August, 3079

"Their mechs are onboard, but there's no sign of them." Kobayashi looked around at the busy landing field. "I must say, I'm a bit disappointed."

"What's to be disappointed about?" Steven shrugged. "We've got their mechs, so it's not like they're gonna be running off, exactly."

"True, but Bourbon is wanted for theft of military property in the Capellan Confederation. It is possible that the Maskirovka, or some other such agency, has sent someone to 'take care of him', as it were."

"Good luck to them: Rhodes is with him, and he earned the call sign 'Buckshot' for killing a Blakist assassin with that sawn-off of his."

"How do you know that?"

"I asked him." Steven jerked his thumb at a Taxi that had just pulled up to the foot of the Badger's cargo ramp. "And here they are now."

Bourbon stepped out of the taxi, stretching in the early morning light, followed closely by Lo Hung and Rhodes. Bourbon and Rhodes wore t-shirts that proudly proclaimed 'The Sultans of Swing: Steiner Unplugged Tour' and looked like they had been slept in. The other members of Rhodes' lance stepped out behind them, looking rather the worse for drink.

"Mornin' boss. You too, Major." Bourbon walked past the two men standing in the DropShip's entrance. "We gonna get this show on the road or what?"

DropShip Badger

Outbound, Arc-Royal

The Lyran Alliance

8th August, 3079

"Well, I'm glad that everyone managed to find the time to be here today." Steven glared at his assembled command as they filed into the Overlord's briefing room. "Now we've settled in onboard, time to finally tell you where we're going."

The holo-projector built into the large, rectangular table hummed to life as a 3D map of the Lyran Alliance flickered into existence above it. Everyone sitting around the table moved closer to try and get a better look, trying to orientate themselves in relation to the map hovering in midair.

"We're currently here." Steven tapped a control, and an icon appeared next to Arc-Royal. "And our first mission is here," he hit another control, bringing up a new icon next to another system. "A military outpost on Clermont. Apparently the garrison unit went turncoat and are putting the local guys up to some kind of ransom…

"Not that I have a problem with going up against these guys," Six Gun raised his hand. "But who are we working for? Who's signing the checks?"

"This mission is more of a chance to prove that we can work together as a team, so the owners are the one's paying for it." Kobayashi leaned against a bulkhead in the shadows, smoking a cigar. "If you manage to pull it off, I can start looking for some proper contracts."

"Yeah, but still, fighting a group of rebellious soldiers?" Charlotte 'Charlie' O'Hara, O'Conner's 2IC questioned. "It almost feels like we're participating in a government backstab mission or something."

"I second that one." Bourbon nodded. "It don't sit the best with me, either, despite what they did…"

"Quit griping, you slackers!" Steven snapped. "Look, any of you want out, than you can stay on the boat during the mission; no harm, no foul. But do that, and we'll cut you loose first chance we get, got it?"

The room fell completely silent, apart from the ever-present throb of the DropShip's powerful engines. Everyone could tell that Steven wouldn't make such a threat if he wasn't willing to see it through to the end.

No one moved.

"Good." Steven crossed his arms. "I would suggest that we all spend as much time as we can in the simulators. This mission is literally going to be a baptism by fire, make no mistake."

Wereday stood outside the briefing room, listening intently to what was being said inside. She had already known the details of the mission; her superiors had made sure that she knew even more than Steven and Kobayashi did.

What really interested her was the way that the unit had responded, and how Steven had handled them. She was impressed; the man had quickly and forcibly asserted his authority over a group of rather extrovert individuals.

She smiled to herself. She liked Steven immediately.