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Author Topic: Space Cowboys for Hire [Month 7] (New Blood Welcome)  (Read 27347 times)

ConscriptFive

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Re: Space Cowboys for Hire [Turn 6]
« Reply #390 on: February 23, 2021, 03:11:46 pm »

Mission Report Part (4/?)

Palantir's High School of Drama, (Part Two)

Like most people in the 'verse, Anna had no idea what lacrosse was until about a week ago.

Originally, a violent Native American contact sport known among the various tribes as "stickball," "they bump hips," or "little war," a Montreal dentist codified lacrosse into a collegiate sport in 1856.  Lacrosse remained a local hobby until 1876, when Queen Victoria observed a game and commented that, "the game is very pretty to watch."  High society read very much into the statements of the Queen, and by the turn of the century every respectable place of higher education in the Anglophile West had a lacrosse program.  This was especially true for girls' schools.  Lacrosse was even briefly an Olympic Sport in 1904 and 1908, but dropped after only two teams showed up.

Wrapping her pre-mission research, Anna came to the conclusion, "So it's soccer with some kind of basket-stick?  Piece of cake."

This was the first year in the New Worlds for a girls' lacrosse league, and it would be only natural for the best girls' school to take the cup.  Their first game was scheduled in a week, yet their coach had just disappeared under mysterious circumstances.  Enter "Assistant Coach Charleston" to save the day.

With a dozen young girls lined up on the edge of the pitch, your operator commands them, "Now young ladies.  I am Assistant Coach Charleston, but you can just call me Coach."

Coach Charleston slows walk down the line, making a show of carefully appraising each of her players as she speaks, "Now you Cranbrook girls may have the best the 'verse to offer, but I expect the best in return."

The girls are dressed in their team uniforms, loose sleeve-less jerseys over athletic shorts.  Catching your operator's authoritative tone, most are now standing up ramroad straight, like a formation of soldiers on review.

"Make no mistake, lacrosse is more than a mere game.  As any educated person knows, the socialist Iroquois savages sure were wrong about most things.  (They obviously should've known better than to stand in the way of the Manifest Destiny of the Free Market.)  But let me tell you, they were right in calling lacrosse 'little war.'  War is savagery, ladies, and this pitch shall become our battlefield."

Trying not to smirk as she stares down Nikita, she continues, "Now some people cling to the misguided Old World notion that women can't fight.  They see a girl like this, and...  ...say what's your name?"

Nikita pipes up sheepishly, "Nikki?"

Coach chastizes her, "Oh, you can do better than that.  Full name, and sound off like a REAL woman."

"Nikki Saylor, Coach!"

"That's more like it.  Step forward, Miss Saylor."

Nikki looks around anxiously and steps out onto the pitch, as if this was wholly unexpected, "Yes, Coach?"

"Now I want you to check me as hard as you can."

"What, Coach?"

"You heard me, young lady.  I'm both an athlete and a grown woman, I can take it."

Coach plants her feet in a sturdy stance as your diminutive operator tentatively grips her lacrosse stick and ineffectually pushes against her midriff.  She laughs dismissively, "Okay, that's enough young lady.  Fall back in line."

The other players choke back laughs as your pathetic operator slinks back into the crowd, "Now, now...  I'm sure someone here can do better than that."  Coach looks towards and eager butch girl she noticed earlier.  The girl meets her eye contact unwavering, and she knows she's game, "What about you.  Your name?"

She gives a macho chin wag, "Maartje Thyssen, Coach."

Coach winks and gestures to her side.  The muscular girl with short-blonde hair plods up to her on cue...

***

With practice over, Anna strips down to her Blue Diamonds in the locker room.  She played off the hit, but the dark bruising across her fair torso didn't lie.  It's obvious why Maartje Thyssen was on Dean Johnson's radar: the girl's on some serious anabolic steroids.  Of course, performance enhancing drugs aren't uncommon on the glitterworlds.  The shipside TI Clinic has even prescribed "bespoke pharmaceutical pyramid regimens" for all of your operators.  But besides trying to avoid organ failure, most also tried to keep their morphology within conventional norms.  While on a superficial level, the glitterworlds were supposedly LBGT+ friendly, ancient cis-gendered norms remain socially and culturally dominant.  That being said, the butch teen girl is clearly on track to become something other than hetero-normative.

A meek voice beckons, "Uh, Coach?  Can I talk to you?"

"Saylor, right?"  Anna winks, "You did good out there, young lady.  I'm about to hit the showers..."

***

Your two female operators luxuriate under unlimited hot water showers, "This was a great idea, Coach."

"You're damn right, Saylor.  Cleanliness is next to Godliness... That's one thing in the Student Handbook I can definitely get behind."

Nikita isn't used to having casual conversations while wet and naked, but tries to go with it, "So yeah...  My roommate is pretty cool.  She invited me to an off-campus dinner tonight, at Noldor."

"Noldor?  Sounds Elven...  Which means it's expensive.  Did your parents budget that much for your allowance?"

"I know, she said the Quenya Club was sponsoring it though."

Anna nearly drops her soap and clenches her teeth to hide her jealously, "Wow, aren't you the little social climber now?"

"I mean, that's why I'm here right?  Just wasn't expecting so much, so soon?  I could really use some good advice."

Anna shuts her shower off, "Good thing I prepped for this.  'My Fair Lady?'"

"Excuse me?"

"Yeah, that's an ancient one.  What about 'Pretty Woman?'"

"I think I know that one.  But wasn't she..."

"Classic Cinderella story.  Don't worry about it."

***

Disembarking from the Transcontinental John Galt Line, your young operator and her new friends find themselves in a picturesque wooded mountain valley.  Cathedral-like stone buildings stand against a backdrop cascading waterfalls.

Noticing how dumbstruck your operator looks, Kelsey Bennington deepens her voice in an Elrond impression: "Welcome to Rivendell, Nikki Saylor."

Caught off guard, Nikita fights the urge to fidget with her silver elf-tip ear cuffs, "Just kinda hits you like the first time, every time, doesn't it?"

"The finest works of 'men of the mind' tends to do that, eh?"

After a toll scan of their street passes, the girls walk the cobblestone streets to Noldor, an airy outdoor patio restaurant overlooking a spectacular waterfall.  Watery mists linger on the edge of the patio, casting rainbows.  Wearing a borrowed forest green organza gown, Nikita shies away from the spray of the waterfall.  Taking her new roomate under her wing, Kelsey grabs Nikita's hand take off at a sprint.  Cackling girlishly, they dive into the mist.  To Nikita's surprise, the mist is cool, but not wet.  Not water, but some kind of engineered illusion?

"Oh, don't be lame.  This is the best part."

Nikita plays along, "I know, I just haven't done this in awhile."

A dark haired girl in their group shakes her head in disbelief at the two girls' antics.

Kelsey calls out from the faux water mist, "Oh, don't be jealous Pratima.  BFF's!  Come on, in."

Pratima Ambani laughs in disgust and pulls back the sleeve of her dress to reveal darkened skin, "Do you white girls have any idea the amount of foundation I have to cake on?"

Kelsey shrugs and turns to her new friend Nikki.  She whispers, "Some people, eh?  We used to be super close, but she can be a real bitch sometimes."

Composing themselves, they find their table.  The Cranbrook Quenya Club is a small gathering, though large for a dinner party.  All of them are attractive young girls in the full-blossom of youth, dressed elegantly for the a night on the town.  Your operator counts twelve settings at the table, but many of the girls seem to be social butterflies, always on the move between the bar, the restrooms, and other guests in general.  Nikita feels like she's been thrown in the deep end of the pool, and she virtually clings to Kelsey.

When it's time to order, Nikita struggles with the menu written in Tengwar calligraphy, and Kelsey just orders for her.  "Oh, aren't you precious.  It's not that hard.  You'll learn."

"Oh, thanks.  I've never studied Quenya, but I always wanted to."

Your operator dines on a series of small fruit and vegetable plates that are aesthetically pleasing, but not very filling.

Getting up to "powder her nose," Kelsey excuses herself to use the restroom and looks at Nikki expectantly.  Your young operator pretends she doesn't understand the invitation, and declines.  Separated from Kelsey for the first time tonight, Nikita fidgets with her mead glass.

Pratima casually sidles up to her, "So you're Kelsey's new roommate?  Nikki, right?  Where are you from?"

"Oh, me?  The Bezos Planetary System."

"Not from Paramour, I hope?"

"Oh, no.  HQ4.  My parents thought this would be a good opportunity for me though."

"Yeah, well... parents always do, don't they?  Great families, have great expectations, right?  And sometimes that includes LARP'ing some old white guy silliness.  I suppose it could always be worse, right?"

"I guess that's true..."

"So what brings you to the Quenya Club?"

"It's such a fascinating ancient culture.  It came from a simpler time.  Not to mention the purity of it all?  It's so spiritual and in-touch with nature."

Pratima sighs, "Wow, a lot to unpack there...  Lemme, guess.  Kelsey invited you?"

"Yes."

"Hmm, ok.  Welcome, then.  I hope you're enjoying your free dinner.  What did you order?"

Tongue-tied, your operator gestures to her empty plates, "The fruit... plates?"

"Well that really rounds it down-"

Kelsey interrupts, "Pratima, I know you Ad Astra Academy kids can be a little autistic, but please play nice with the new girl."

"Nice?  Well I'll have you know, I was just going to invite her to a little after-party.  Some molly and dancing at a nice cozy chalet nearby.  Includes a nice place to crash once the uppers wear off."

Kelsey's interest is piqued, "Oh, really?"

Pratima taunts her, "I was hoping to hang with the new girl some, but I suppose you can come along too, Kelsey."

***

An impeccably well-dressed gentleman adjusts his silk tie in the full length mirror.  It was always good to be back on these high society assignments on the glitterworlds.  He'd already spent far more time on Anghabar than he would've liked.

Furthermore, he was having a lot more 'fun' on this assignment as well.  Sure it was all business, but why can't he have a bit of pleasure with it?  How could he be surrounded naive young women drunk on glitterworld luxury, and NOT enjoy himself?  While always a consummate professional, he wouldn't have been able to stay so long in the game without keeping an element "joie de vivre" in his operations.  Besides, if his cover persona was genuine, his dalliances would've been sincere anyways.  His clients had to know this was the case.

*DING* *DONG* *DING* *DONG*

He glances at his vintage Omega watch, "Right on time.  Punctuality, a desirable trait in an asset."

***

Kelsey admires the panoramic view of the valley from the living room picture window, "Wow, Pratima.  Your sugardaddy's got a nice piece of real estate here."

Pratima scoffs, "Bitch, please.  You know I don't need the money.  But, older men have experience and power.  Not to mention ruggedly handsome good looks.  You can't get that from some teen frakboi."

Kelsey licks her lips suggestively, "Oh... so you have?"

Pratima fumes, "It's not like that!  You don't-"

The well-dressed man enters from the kitchen, "-Ladies, you ready to party old school tonight?"

The two girls pretend they weren't about to fight.  Pratima beams, "I told you my White Tiger would show us something special tonight!"

"Special is right.  Ever heard of ketamine?"

***

If there's one thing Nikita isn't, it's a psychonaut.  She had already seen far too many lives ruined by drug use to even take part recreationally.  While Pratima and Kelsey are off tripping in disassociated states elsewhere in the chalet, Nikita idly pokes around at the decor, unsure of whether to stay or go.

"So I take it this is not exactly your scene?" the older man intones.

"Heh, I guess so?  I don't mean to be ungrateful-"

"No, no.  It's fine.  I would never make you do anything you didn't want."

"Oh, thank you.  I mean, I'm sure it's fun and all.  But is it worth it in the long run?"

"Wow, that's very wise of you." He pauses for effect,  "I can tell you're not like other girls."

"Um, what do you mean?"

“Not don't get me wrong, your friends Pratima and Kelsey are good girls, having a good time.  There's nothing wrong with that.  But you...”  He again pauses for effect and takes a step closer to her, “You're not like them, are you?”

Your young operator tenses up.  He's right: your undercover paramilitary investigator indeed isn't “like them.”  But does he know how right he is?

He continues, "You're very mature for your age.  It's a shame so many supposed adults still treat you like a child."

Your operator's mind races, “Maybe he does know, maybe he doesn't?”  Either way, she's unarmed with no backup in HIS house.  What could go wrong?

The well-dressed man places a hand on her cheek, "They don't understand you the way I do..."

***

ConscriptFive

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Re: Space Cowboys for Hire [Turn 6]
« Reply #391 on: March 04, 2021, 03:00:21 pm »

Mission Report Part (5/?)

Palantir's High School of Drama (Part Three)

The well-dressed man shoves his last duffel bag into his Aston Martin.  He had a good thing going here in this Rivendell chalet, but it was time to move on.  A Case Officer like him understood the importance of cultivating young impressionable teens into long term strategic assets.  Sure, they may be hot messes of inebriated hormones now, but in ten years they'd be running the 'verse.  But no, his clients were chasing short term returns as always.  (Do business schools not teach about long term investments anymore?)

Of course, they were happy that the Ambani girl was already delivering.  Her scheme was pretty damn ingenious, and she basically pulled it all off herself.  Even better, the risk was all on her.  There's no way he or his clients could be fingered.  Of course, an asset can always flip on you, but as a seasoned Case Officer, he had taken the necessary precautions.

Putting his leased Rivendell chalet into his rearview mirror, his conscience lends itself a moment of genuine concern for Pratima Ambani.  She'd get caught eventually.  Historically, all meaningful assets always do.  It was something that he reluctantly came to terms with early in his career.  As his mentors used to say, "They're all dead men; they just don't know it."  It first sounded like some edgy old school bullshit, but he now appreciated the truth in the glib saying.  Every asset signs their own death warrant, and you can only cheat the hangman for so long.  A lot of idealistic types were learning that the hard way on Anghabar right now.

But would they come down that hard on someone like Pratima Ambani?  Maybe?  Maybe not?  Best case scenario, she'll end up some Patty Hearst-type: a slap on the wrist, then end up some novelty socialite who hangs around the Westminster Kennel Club.  "You see, I was a classic case back then.  I was a rebel, in search of cause.  Besides, it's not like I killed anybody."

Imagine if all his assets could hire those kinds of lawyers and psychiatrists.  Less of them would probably end up face down in a hole in the desert.

"So it goes," he says to himself.

But it's not like his clients cared about that anyways, and "the customer's always right."  Anyhow, he now had bigger issues to consider than the fate of some naive teen.  Danny Ocean's crew was back, and making a helluva mess.

***

"So I got the frak out of there, Coach."

Your operator spots the other on the pull-up bar.  Coach Charleston barks out, "That's my girl, Saylor! Gotta get some meat on you."  Anna drops to more hushed voice, "Glad you made it out."

Growing up how she did, it wasn't the first time an older man had tried to "seduce" Nikita.  "He was just another pimp spittin' game, Coach.  I can't believe girls still fall for that."

"Clearly it worked on your friend at least."  Anna checks her surroundings one more in the gym, "So anything 'interesting' about this guy?"

Nikita drops down from the pull-up bar, "No, not really?  Probably just a sketchy old dude?"

"How old?"

"I dunno, like Greybush old?"

Anna winces with disgust, "He was naked?"

"No, no.  Like Greybush... Sim-"

"-Shit, my bad.  And you didn't get his name?  I might be able to research that"

"She called him White Tiger.  He actually never said his name to me."

"Huh.  What about the address?"

Nikita gets flustered at her shortcomings, "I mean, I can show you on a map?"

Anna tries not to sigh as she gets out her smartphone.  At least with her Scout training, Nikita is very comfortable with map tracking, and she has no problem mapping her 'night out' with Kelsey and Pratima.

"Probably nothing, but I'll take a look.  Anyhow, stay close with your roommate, but don't overlook her 'friends.'  We want as full a picture as possible."

"Yes, Coach."

Just in case any bystanders are around, Anna gets back into character and barks out, "Good workout, Saylor.  Hit the showers."

***

"...The economy is not some magic horn of plenty.  After all, it was only through the genius and hard work of the Founders than the New Worlds came into being.  Everything we have only exists because the greatest among us created it..."

Ever since she was a young girl, Nikita had always imagined 'education' as some sort of quasi-religious experience: a wizened sage orating mindblowing wisdom to rapt pupils, a chalkboard or arcane formulas describing the laws of the universe, young people of undeniable intelligence and ambition eagerly seeking truth in all things.  Cranbrook had since put those dreams to rest.  This economics lecture taught by some twenty-something Teaching Assistant (TA) was only the latest disgrace.

"...But what is wealth, and how do we define the value of something?  All things are not created equal..."

All the girls have their Cranbrook issued laptops open, ostensibly for taking notes.  Yet from the back of the room, Nikita can see all of the girls have web browsers open.  Most are on some sort of social media, while others browse Amazon.

"...The absolute arbiter of value is of course, the Free Market.  Something is precisely worth, what someone will precisely pay for it..."

Kelsey passes your operator a stainless steel thermos mug.  She whispers, "Looks like you need this mimosa more than I do."

Your operator takes a modest sip of the champagne and orange juice feigns a grateful nod to her roommate.

"...This is why the greatest among us, earn the greatest in compensation.  This is both a rational conclusion, and a simple, empirical truth..."

Your operator catches this part of the lecture, and quickly Googles "empirical."

"...But what of the unemployable who mooch off our own generosity?  Those with no net worth, are by definition, worthless..."

Your operator shifts awkwardly in their seat.

"...But in true Theory of Human Value, we must also calculate the tremendous financial burden these moochers place on us hard-working earners.  It then becomes obvious, that these people in fact, have negative value..."

Nikita's stomach ties itself in a knot.

"...And like vermin, they steal our hard earned food and shelter.  They claim to be starving, yet still manage to reproduce endlessly with reckless abandon.  Then they point at their increase in numbers, and beg for more..."

Nikita shuts down her laptop.

"...Once entertained, there is no end to this vicious socialist cycle.  It is of paramount importance that the New Worlds do not enter the same death spiral that destroyed Earth..."

Nikita can't resist the bait, and raises her hand.

TA Carter is surprised by the student engagement, "Oh... Yes?  Miss..."

"Nikki Saylor, sir.  But not everything earns, and somethings are priceless to one, but not another?"

"Great question, Miss Saylor.  For example, what is the worth of a cat?  Cats have value, because watching them provides pleasure to people.  The greatest among us have long found ways to monetize this in the entertainment sector.  As distasteful as we might find it, institutions like Flossmore and Swearengen's must be commended for creating value in these otherwise worthless human beings."

Hushed mutterings begin as the other girls tune in to the argument.

"But sir, how could everything be business?  Can everything really be defined by its price tag?"

"Indeed, that is the path to greatness, Miss Saylor.  Nothing is the 'verse is free.  Those who find value where others cannot, then commoditize and monetize, shall conquer all."

She loses her cool, "Why does everything have to be about conquest?  Just let everyone have their own thing, without somebody else trying to frak with it.  Shouldn't people have a right to that?  And you seriously think everything can be bought and sold?  Can you buy a the love of a parent on the Free Market?"

TA Carter lets out an awkward laugh, "Looks like somebody's been following the Greens on social media.  How about we talk about this after class Miss Saylor?"

***

"...It was this cyber-agression that ultimately triggered the Great Pacific War..."

Still wound up from her econ lecture, your operator stews through her history lecture.

"...But even the limited nuclear exchange that followed was merely a sideshow to the true conflict..."

Nikita's laptop chirps with a message from Pratima, "You just as hyped as I am for some more white guy mansplaining?"

Your operator chokes back a laugh and replies, "Totes."

"...In eradicating Chinese code from the IoT, John McAfee's AI conciousness went too far..."

"Thought I was done hearing this shit, but Cranbrook doesn't take Ad Astra credits.  Here I am, taking this pre-req when I should be in the lab.  Fraking figures, right?"

"Totes, bullshit."

"...Having just survived the EMP strikes of the war, McAfee's autonomous algorithmic cyberattacks risked overwhelming the systems of the Exodus Initiative..."

Pratima messages, "Blah, blah, blah, Grandaddy Elon I was right.  Blah, blah, blah, he really showed that pedo guy.  Blah, blah, blah, Savior of Mankind.  Frak me, Ad Astra never shut up about that.  They insisted it was what Elon I would've wanted."

"LOL"

"Supposedly it's a really sore subject around the Zuckerbergs.  You know, the decades of promoting and profiting off AI, and then they buy a ticket to the New Worlds when it all went wrong.  Then again, you could say the same about most of the Founders from the Bay Area.  Guess you can buy that on the Free Market too, right?  Think you can buy an apology though?"

"ROFL"

"...But culturally, we still suffer the effects of the Digital Dark Age.  EMP scrambled most magnetic media, and unrestricted cyberwarfare wiped anything connected to the Internet, 5G network, or GPS satellite..."

"Which is why we're stuck watching copies of DVD box sets of shit from the turn of the century.  All we have left of Old Earth was optical media, but they stopped using that stuff by 2020 or so.  They even used to have this thing called Netflix, where they just posted millions of dollars of new stuff every day.  Not some influencer rant or product endorsement; like legit two hour movies.  It must've been amazing."

"'The Fun They Had.'"

"I know right?  Hey, what did TA Carter say to you after class?"

"Oh, I don't know.  Mostly that I was wrong, and 'that kind of thinking never got anybody anywhere.'  I probably should've just kept my mouth shut."

"No, it was something that needed to be said.  He may not have been listening, but I was.  We're the new generation, and it's our 'verse too.  Someday, things are going to change....  You know, we really should hang out more."

Your operator smiles to herself.  She may have inadvertently put herself out as bait in econ class, but this might be the lead she's been looking for.

"Gee Pratima, I think I would really like that."

***

ConscriptFive

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Re: Space Cowboys for Hire [Turn 6]
« Reply #392 on: March 18, 2021, 12:23:37 pm »

Mission Report Part (6/?)

Palantir's High School of Drama (Part Four)

Inside the stadium locker room, Coach Charleston gives her team a final pep talk.

"Girls, it's the day we've all been waiting for: game day.  In a few short moments, we shall cross sticks with our enemy."

Most of the teen girls seem nervous, but your operator notes that Maartje Thyssen is eager to crack some heads.  Anna had used the WhiteFalcon kit to search their lockers the other night, and confirmed her suspicious that the butch teen was on a tremendous amount of 'gear.'

"Now some of you may be afraid.  Girls, that's okay.  Our macho male counterparts love talking about 'overcoming fear;'  like fear is weakness in and of itself.  But I'll tell you this, fear is a feature, not a bug.  It doesn't exist to hold you back, but instead to keep you on edge, and thus, keep you in the game.  ...and staying in the game?  Well girls,  I guess that's the meaning of life right there, isn't it?"

Your operator senses she may have gone of script a little too much, and recovers.

"But you know who else should be afraid tonight?  Our enemy.  No one could've possibly trained harder than we did.  We're going to hit them so hard, they'll never see it coming."

The girls nod in agreeance and slap each other on the back in encouragement.

"Alright, team!  Put your hands in!"

The entire locker room joins in a tight huddle, each putting their right hand in the center.  In unison, they cheer, "Strike First!  Strike Hard!  No Mercy!"

***

Coach Charleston stands tall on the sidelines, tablet in hand.  Although this gig was a technically just a cover routine, she was genuinely enjoying herself.  Who knew she'd finding such satisfaction in turning these young girls into strong confident women?  Still, this wasn't what she was being paid for, and with her team on the pitch, she takes the time to survey the crowd in the stadium.

The stadium is nearly full at the inaugural match of the Cranbrook Academy Lacrosse Team.  The crowd itself is a cross-section of fashion tastes from across Rivendell.  Cliques of elves are interspersed with a generally more business casual populace.  Certain others insist on the more Jack Dorsey Bay Area hobo chic, with long unkept hair and ratty hoodies.  Dark suited bodyguards sit stone-faced next a handful individuals, whose kids are presumably on the field.  Nannies and personal assistants tend to smaller children while their bosses idly scroll through their smart phones.  Vendors sell artisanal bottled water, Green Owl energy drinks, and a wide variety of packaged snacks.

From the first whistle, the Cranbrook team dominates the opening plays of the game.  Thanks to Coach Charleston, the Cranbrook girls are well conditioned, and play hard.  Nikki Saylor even proves a key midfielder, with the speed and stamina to sprint across the field every play.  But eventually Cranbrook loses the ball, and the other team makes a breakaway towards their goal.  Rapidly approaching the goal crease, defender Maartje charges the ball-carrier head on.  The girl jukes to the side, but Maartje still connects.  Hitting like a juggernaut, Maartje's lacrosse stick goes right into the girl's unprotected ribs.

Play is immediately stopped by the referee's shrill whistle and rising jeers from the stands.  The referee flashes a red card in Maartje's face.

Coach Charleston storms onto the field to defend her player, "That was a legal hit on the ball-carrier ref!  Two hands on the stick, to the side, below the neck!"

The injured girl is crumpled on the ground in a mess of agonized tears.  Her teammatess are crouched over her, trying to console her.

The referee turns to your operator with a mix of disgust and confusion on his face, "Coach, there's no body checking in girls' lacrosse."

***

Dean Marilee Johnson fumes, "What the hell were you thinking Coach Charleston?"

"Well Ma'am, I-"

"These are just girls!  Besides, you think we'd throw them out there without any kind of protection?  We're lucky no one got their skull cracked open."

Your operator was admittedly curious why the team didn't have helmets and pads, but figured it was a logistics or budgetary issue, "Ma'am, I thought-"

"Now I'm already getting calls from parents, claiming that their waivers didn't cover this kind of bloodsport.  Half are already threatening legal action, and I've yet to hear formally from the other team."

"Ma'am, contact sports-"

"And you came so highly recommended too!  Effective immediately, we are withdrawing the Lacrosse team from the season.  Furthermore, you are terminated with cause.  You have 24 hours to vacate campus housing."

"Ma'am, but-"

"Coach, do I need to involve campus security to assist in this matter?"

"No, Ma'am."

"Now load up your belongings in that little hick wagon of yours, and crawl back to whatever redneck shithole you came from."

***

Kelsey laughs, "Damn, Nikki.  Sounds like Maartje really went medieval there.  The Thyssen's go way back you know...  like, old European industrialist money.  Her Germanic beserker Nazi blood probably got the best of her."

"I dunno about that, but she told me her parents are pulling her from Cranbrook."

"Why, because their little princess turned into a big ole' bull dyke?"

Your operator looks at her stunned.

Kelsey rolls her eyes, "Oh, please.  Like I care about that shit?  It's the New Worlds, girl.  Mommy and daddy probably still cling to 'traditional Old World values,' though.  Maybe they expected Cranbrook would straigten her out?  Guess that didn't go as planned."

"Or she could just be lying low for abit.  She sent that girl to the hospital."

"True.  Sucks they shut the whole team down."

Your operator shrugs, "Yeah, it was fun while it lasted I guess."

"But there is an upside to this."

"Really?  What's that?"

Kelsey puts her arm around your operator's shoulder, "More time to party with your bestie!"

***

Nikita sighs as she returns to her dorm from an aborted night out with Kelsey.  Her excuse was weak, but it was enough to get her out of the nightclub.  (If higher wants to bitch about it, she can always cite the Cowboy Code.)  Furthermore, your operator is coming to the conclusion that Kelsey can't be the suspect they're looking for.  Her drug-use is nearly a full-time hobby, and she barely gets enough relatively sober hours to power through her homework.  She's a party girl who's apparently down for anything, but that doesn't necessarily include treason.  Nikita had tried to get Kelsey to talk about inter-planetary politics several times on this mission, but she'd shown no interest whatsoever.  But Palantir insists it was Kelsey's device that was flagged?  "It doesn't make any sense," Nikita says to herself.

Nikita opens the door to her room, to find Pratima Ambani seated at Kelsey's laptop.  They're both mutually startled, but Pratima speaks first, "Oh!  You're back from practice!"

"Uh, yeah...  Kelsey didn't say any-"

"-she needed me to fix something on it.  Latest update campus IT pushed really messed up some settings.  I probably should get going-"

"-I didn't mean to interrupt anything.  Do you do this alot?"  Your operate becomes acutely aware that she had never set up a button cam to watch the room in her absence.

"Not often... just as needed.  Like I said, I better get going."

Nikita shuts the door behind her, blocking Pratima's exit.  She holds up her phone, "Maybe we should text Kelsey to let her know you fixed it?"

Pratima's face drops as she realizes the severity of her situation, "Well shit..."

Nikita knows she has her now, "I'm sure there's a good explanation here."  She puts her phone away and gestures to her bed, "Maybe we should sit down and talk for abit."

Pratima shakes her head in resignation but complies, "It's complicated Nikki.  But I know you're cool right?  You won't tell anyone?"

Nikki Saylor sits down next to her and looks her in the eye, "I promise."

***

"Hey Mom, hope you're doing well.  I just wanted you to know I got an 'A' on my assignment.  I guess all those things you taught me really paid off, huh?  My roommate wasn't a lot of help, but I made another friend who really pitched in.  Oh hey!  I know you're super busy, but could you make sure 'Tiger' is eating okay?  I miss him a lot, I want to be sure he's being taken care of.  I've got some serious studying to do tonight, but I wanted to let you to know.  Love you bunches and bunches.  Byeeee."

Anna Chapman angrily closes her voicemail as she pulls up to the mountain chalet.  Yeah, she got upstaged fair-and-square, but hearing from someone aping a teen girl voice only makes it more aggravating.  With her campus arrangement revoked, she was on her way back to the Mothership Leviathan.  As she'd expected, rooming near Cranbrook was too expensive, and overnight parking fees were almost as bad.  Living off the grid could be an option, but Rivendell was surveilled by a wide variety of private security forces.  The safest and cheapest option was just to fly back home early.  Banned from campus, it's not like she could do much here, anyways.

But Nikita did throw her a bone at least.  Seems this "White Tiger" was a POI after all.  Nikita indicated she couldn't securely explain further tonight, but Anna already has enough to check this guy out before she leaves the planet.  Her quick OSINT research pulled the property up as rental, so it's highly unlikely the property records would ID him.  But at the very least, she could 'bump' into him and maybe snap a picture?

After unhooking a cable from her ATV's battery, she checks her hair an makeup in the vehicle's mirror.  Undoing a few shirt buttons to show some cleavage, she smiles.  He may like them young, but she doubts an old perv would be a difficult mark for her feminine wiles.  She practices in her head, "Oh heeeyyy, do you know anything about cars?  Mine just broke outside your house!  It sure would mean so much if you could take a look!"

"Damn," she thinks as she strolls up the driveway.  She saw pictures on the website, and it really is that nice a property.  The contemporary style chalet features large picture windows, with a rear balcony overlooking one of the various waterfalls.  "Someday..."

*DING* *DONG*

No answer.

*DING* *DONG* *DING* *DONG*

Still nothing.  Anna thinks, "After ten on a weekday and still out partying?  Not bad for an old man."

The lights are off and it's clear nobody is home.  Time for Plan B.  Anna returns to the ATV, and after reattaching the battery cable, fishes the WhiteFalcon kit out of her packed bags.  Having used the snapgun to pop open a dozen locks over the last few days, she's eager to use it on the front door.  The torsion is trickier to get, but the rental property has pretty generic lock that's defeated after a few minutes.

Turning on the lights, the interior of the chalet looks as good as the website too.  The decor is tastefully abstract, with a kind of sophisticated yet minimalist chic that telegraphs wealthy but mysterious.  (She could see why panties would drop here.)  It's unusual that there's no family or personal pictures, but it is only a rental.  Maybe he wasn't staying long enough to get settled in?  Still, she had hoped to find something identifiable on the walls.

Anna pushes deeper into the chalet, surely the master bedroom would have something she could use...  But this guy sure keeps a clean house.  Checking out the bath, he doesn't even leave a toothbrush and razor out.  Incredulously, she opens the closets and then starts checking dresser drawers.

"HALT INTRUDER!"

Anna's hand goes to where her holstered sidearm would've been.

A bullhorn calls from outside the chalet, "This property is protected by the Riders of Rohan!  Property owner authorizes lethal force!"

As the bullhorn barks out presumably the same message in Quenya, Anna recalls the Riders of Rohan from her pre-mission OSINT.  They're local rent-a-cop outfit that caters to the whole elven aesthetic.  With their costumey earcuffs and elven "uniforms," they'd be hard to take seriously if it wasn't for their full-auto SIG MCX VIRTUS carbines.

"Intruder!  You shall not pass!"

In other circumstances, Anna would be laughing at their Tolkien schtick.  But unarmed, out-manned, and cornered, she's at a major disadvantage.  Except maybe not?  Anna dashes out to the back balcony.   Peering at the waterfall below, she kicks her shoes off.  Hey, it worked for Harrison Ford in 'The Fugitive.'

Spoiler: Mission Summary (click to show/hide)
« Last Edit: March 18, 2021, 12:46:41 pm by ConscriptFive »
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ConscriptFive

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Re: Space Cowboys for Hire [Turn 6]
« Reply #393 on: May 09, 2021, 06:06:13 pm »

Mission Report Part (7/?)

Potter Properties' Heist of Martinez & Sons (Part One)

Quote from: Reconciled Plan
Potter Properties
Personnel
Erik Heller (IC)
James Hoxworth

Hardware
1x Land Rover SUV
1x Gator ATV
1x FLIR Thermal Binoculars
1x WhiteFalcon! Covert Entry Kit
2x VAL SP-6 Carbine
All standard issue gear available (Although if we end up using plate carriers and firearms something has gone horribly wrong)

Plan
The team should acquire cheap lodgings somewhere relatively nearby such as the previous, and stake out the property to identify if a different pattern of life has changed since last time, using both vehicles making sure to use a mixture of vantage points to cover more ground, rather than only ever in the Land Rover.  If Mr. Heller feels confident, and infiltration to place cameras and microphones for additional intel is acceptable.  PIRs are as follows.
1) Has the daily schedule of the occupants changed since last month?
2) What/when is the longest or closest window for infiltration?
3) How frequently is the report checked in the safe?
4) Have any new access routes opened up due to the WhiteFalcon kit?
5) How long will the forging take before the document can be returned, if it will take a significant amount of time will a stand-in copy be needed?

Using these, the team should be able to identify the ideal times for a back to back infiltration.  Worst case, the team may need to produce a "stand-in" copy of the report that will survive cursory inspection in the case of the occupants checking on the safe whilst the client is making alterations.  Hopefully, this will not need to be any more complicated than a ream of blank paper to replace the report in its envelope/case.

During infiltration, Mr. Hoxworth will be positioned nearby, such as across the block as a lookout/driver in an ATV with Flir Binos in hand and AS Val under the passenger’s seat, and Erik will park close-by for infiltration, also wear balaclava masks during infiltration.  Consider doing "low-tech night vision".  Cover one eye with a cloth (or just keep it closed) so its already adjusted to the dark, just so we can minimize the "stumbling around in the dark" phase this time.  Pirated tested, FAA approved!  If caught at all, terms of engagement are for no lethality but only non-lethal takedowns as well as wearing plate carriers unless it affects combat agility for Erik.

"That's the thing, man.  I've grown up a lot these last few months.  I really was a believer back then; I thought we were a force for good.  But I guess I just really was that stupid and naive, wasn't I?  How can I stay in some immortal 'family' for a practical eternity, yet be a disbeliever?  Nothing personal, but once I lost my faith in our mission, this all became just another dirty job to hate."

Well after nightfall in Rattlesnake Ridge, Erik Heller the Blackbagger and James "Hoxton" Hoxworth pull up to the Shiraz hookah lounge in their Land Rover SUV.  Shiraz seemed like little more than a hole in the wall, but the technical writer from Potter Properties, Miss Khadija Gilani, insisted on meeting them there.  It's a neutral location that shouldn't readily expose either party's employers, but it's an attempt to hide in plain sight.  The 'customer always being right,' your operators oblige.  With their firearms and other tactical gear stowed at the apartment, your operators should easily pass as civilians.

Team Leader Erik Heller reminds Hoxton before going in, "Now remember, we're just two bros chatting up a girl on a Friday night.  I'll be doing all of the talking, you just gotta wingman me."

"You got it, man."

"I know it's your last dance and all, but I can't afford to have you going lameduck on me."

Hoxton tries not to roll his eyes, "You're gonna doubt me after all the work I put in with those Smilodons on Lossarnach?"

"Dude, you killed it back then..." he slips into his Australian accent, "...and if that ain't true, my name ain't Dingo Hella!"

They share a laugh before stepping into the smoky lounge.  The air is thick with a mix of tobacco, cannabis, and opium fumes.  Incense burners and flavoring agents take the edge off the second-hand smoke, but the musty odor of the place is still oppressive.  Your operators eyes water slightly in the acrid atmosphere.

Still, Erik can see why their contact chose this place.  It's a popular nightspot, but the atmosphere is low-key.  The lighting is set to the bare minimum, and each party stays huddled in their own secluded booth.

A dusky young woman gives him a gentle handshake in introduction, "Erik?  A pleasure to meet you..."

She gives a wry grin as she shakes Hoxton's hand, "And you are?"

"Hox-"

Erik interrupts, "That's Jim."

The woman turns back to Erik, "Oh, I see."

Sharing a hookah, the three go over their plans for the next few days.  Erik had already thoroughly cased the building last month with Anna.  They had located the report and confirmed the combination for the safe that held it.  Furthermore, they'd already established the delivery timeline.

Khadija laughs, "Well frak me sideways, sounds like you've got this Tranquility Hill case all buttoned up.  Inshallah, editing the document won't take long."

"You're compensating us well for this, and you get what you pay for, Ma'am."

Khadija rolls her smoky hazel eyes, "Ma'am is what you call my mother, Erik.  ...Not like you'd find her in an opium den like this...  My friends call me Dee."

Erik gestures to the shared hookah hose, "Wait, this is opium?"

Khadija shakes her head, "Nope.  I never liked the stuff anyways."

Erik follows up, "Me neither, really stops me up if you know what I mean."

Khadija laughs, "Too much information, my friend.  Though that's why there's dried fruit on the menu: traditional remedy, and also organic.

"Huh, I'll keep that in mind."

"Besides, cannabis kief hashish is more my jam, but the old man is pretty Puritanical about that kind of stuff and won't let me expense it for a business meeting."

Erik flirts, "Hashish in a hookha, well aren't you the traditional Arab?"

Khadija scoffs, "Arab?  I'm Persian, bitch."

"Hey, didn't mean anything by it-"

"-it's fine.  I get it a lot.  Anyhow, this is just tobacco.  Didn't want to get too presumptuous on the first date.  I mean, does SpaceX even let you smoke up there?"

Hoxton pipes up, "Yes, but no.  You can, but it's more trouble than it's worth."

She raises an eyebrow, "Oh, so he can talk after all..."

***

Team Leader Erik Heller finishes rigging up the new and improved button cams inside the SUV.  Firing up the upgraded Wave app, he smiles as multiple feeds come through on his smartphone.

He looks over to Hoxton in the driver seat, "Looks like we're in business pal."

Hoxton leans over to see, "Frak yeah, man.  Works as advertised."

"Now we just gotta park this thing, and let it do the work.  You know, back in the day, we had to do this all manually."

"You mean, last month?"

"Exactly....  There's a parking lot up here.  Just gotta pay the long term fare, and we should be good."

Equipped with the new cameras, the SUV becomes a passable persistant surveillance platform.  Your team only has to visit it daily to swap memory cards and batteries.  The backup Gator ATV proves its worth in the meantime, providing transportation in the SUV's absence.  Erik does task Hoxton to do some surveillance from some other vantage points in the Gator ATV as well.  With the FLIR binos, he's able to check the building at any hour.

Reviewing the footage back at the apartment, it doesn't look like much has changed since last month.  While they only have an exterior view of the Martinez & Sons building, the pattern of life seems unchanged.  Business hours are roughly 9 to 5, but Grandpa and Grandma Martinez still live upstairs.  The younger son, Miguel, lives with them, while the older son, Oscar, lives with his wife elsewhere.  Oscar brings his three kid to see their grandparents most days, but takes them home after dinner.  Miguel occasionally runs errands, but it's still lights out by 9 pm.

Erik considers additional intrusions to place cameras inside the building, but decides against it.  He's satisfied with the intelligence he has, and doesn't think it's worth the risk.

Erik finishes briefing Hoxton, "...that's what I did last month, and it looks like it'll be the same gameplan this time."

"A side window though?  Why don't you just pick the front door this time?  We got the hardware for it."

"Total rookie move.  The main entrance is always the most deliberately secure.  This one is also highly visible to bystanders, as is usually the case.  The side window is a pain in ass, but it's safe."

"Hey, you're the pro on this."

"That I am.  Anyhow, should be easier than falling off a log."

***

With their stakeout both automated and largely perfunctuary at this point, your operators find they have a lot of time on their hands.  Fast-forwarding through footage doesn't take that long, and Erik is comfortable enough in the actual breaking & entering that he doesn't need much rehearsal.  To pass the time, Erik decides its best to keep a low profile, taking extended "power naps" as rest.  Hoxton, on the other hand, pursues other forms of relaxation...

Khadija rolls over in bed to respond to Hoxton's musings, "Hey, I don't take it personally.  Maybe, Tranquility Hill really is that risky a development?  As the old saying goes, bad engineers kill people.  So, I guess I'm kinda a hired gun too?  I just try not to think too much about it I guess."

"Wait, you're an engineer now?  Like with trains?"

Khadija laughs, "Gorram you're adorable...  No, I'm a trained civil engineer.  I interned at AMR for a few years until they told me 'I didn't fit their corporate culture.'  Parents wanted me to get back to Lossarnach, but then I'd forever stay their little princess.  I'm overqualified and underpaid at Potter Properties, but at least I get to breathe out here on Harad.  Say what you will about Harad, but it's true freedom at a working class wage."

"Freedom, huh?  You know, I've been studying with Namata about that."

"Namata?"

"Doc Jack Barbera: The Raptor King.  Have you heard of him?"

"Oh yeah, his little circus is in town so to speak.  He lives up on the Leviathan with you guys, right?  My parents took me to one of his shows on Lossarnach when I was younger.  Sure was something to see dinos up close.  The guy himself is quite the entertainer too."

"Well he's so much more than just an entertainer.  Namata's a businessman, scientist, explorer, philosopher, and a visionary."

"Huh, the things an immortal idle-rich billionaire on a spaceship can 'accomplish.'  If only we all could be so lucky to inherit biotech patents."

"See, that cynicism is just your intellectual shell impeding your potentiality."

"Is that even a word?"

"Your radiant soul wants greatness; greater than the boundaries you impose upon it."

"This 'Namata' says that?"

"Of course.  His family brought humanity Transcendent Immortality.  Who better to understand the human soul than him?"

Khadija tries not to laugh at him.  It's patently absurd.  But he's still young, and we all passionately believed similarly ridiculous notions at that age.

"That's why I'll be joining him after this last assignment."

"Join him?  Is he going to stick you in some circus getup too?  I'm sure your ass would look hot in some leather pants.  I think you'd need a boob job for the rest of it though."

Khadija tries to stay light and playful, but Hoxton starts getting frustrated, "No, it's not like that!  I must be rightly guided to continue my eternal transformation!  As his student, I shall discover and walk that path!"

Khadija recognizes she hit a nerve and decides to back down.  While this booty call has certainly gone off the rails, she did need him to complete his mission if she wanted to keep her job, "I'm sorry Jim, I was just playing.  Inshallah, you will find your fate with this man."

He calms down as well, "It's okay, Dee.  Most-"

She cuts him off, "-wait, who's 'Katy?'"

He's confused until she breaks into a smile, and then he realizes the pun.

Finally fully appreciating why Erik did the talking at the meeting, she moves to end this night on an upnote.  She pounces on him, "You talk too much.  Time to snap into a Slim Jim..."

***

It's just after 10 pm as your operators creep up to the side window of Martinez & Sons.  Per higher's insistance, both are relatively conspicuous in appearance, wearing balaclavas and tactical plate carriers.  With the additional weight in hardware, Erik is a heavy lift up to the window.  As Hoxton strains under the weight of the man on his shoulders, he's glad they made the call to leave the plates back at the apartment.  ("MacCauley said plate carriers, but not anything about the plates...")

With Erik clear though the window, Hoxton moves back to his ATV as lookout.  A firefight isn't expected, but an AS Val carbine is stowed just in case.  Erik has similar arrangements in the SUV parked in the side alley.

Once inside, Erik the Blackbagger pauses to get his bearings.  As awkward as it was, he'd managed to keep one eye closed since they left the apartment.  Upon opening it, it actually does assist in his vision adjusting to the darkness quicker.  As everything comes into focus, he makes his way to the dimly stairwell with the safe.

Accompanied by a long creaks, the safe door swings open.  Rifling through the office files, Erik looks for the Tranquility Hill file.  Finding the file folder, he pulls out the contents, replacing them with some blank paper he brought along.  Unless somebody decides to wake up in the middle of the night and open the folder, the swap should go undetected.  Hopefully Dee works fast, and they can be back before daybreak.

All is going well until he drops the folder, spilling sheets of paper all over the floor.  Swearing to himself, he feels around in the dark cleaning up his mess.

"¿¿¿Hola???"

***

ConscriptFive

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Re: Space Cowboys for Hire [Turn 6]
« Reply #394 on: May 22, 2021, 10:40:29 pm »

Mission Report Part (8/?)

Potter Properties' Heist of Martinez & Sons (Part Two)

Under the cover of darkness, your operators' Gator ATV pulls up to the back of Khadija Gilani's office.  Smoking a hand-rolled cigarette in the alley, the young woman takes the file folder off Team Leader Erik Heller's hands.

"How long's this gonna take, Dee?"

"Maybe fifteen minutes?  Maybe an hour?  Maybe more?  I haven't even taken a look at it yet.  You got somewhere to be?"

Heller takes a deep breath, trying not to lose his cool, "Seriously?  You know we got a tight timeline here..."

She flicks the cherry off her cigarette and stows it for later, "I know, I know.  But this ain't exactly easy.  Do you have idea how much White Out I'm going to be using tonight?"

Heller gives an incredulous look.

She laughs, "Just fraking with you.  Inshallah, this should be pretty straightforward.  Still, it'll take a bit.  You going to be waiting on it-"

He interrupts, "-no.  I mean, it's probably more secure not to loiter around.  Call me when it's done"

***

"You see any movement in the building?"

"Nope."

"And you got everything on the list?"

Hoxton gestures to a trunk full of cleaning supplies, "You were right, the 24 hour pharmacy had everything we needed."

Heller gives a sigh of relief and looks over a bottle of hydrogen peroxide, "Now here's the hard part..."

This wasn't the first time Heller had to clean up a murder, but it was the first time he'd have to do so under these kind of conditions.

It's after 11 as your operators re-enter Martinez & Sons.  With the amount of work to be done both thoroughly and quickly, both men make the intrusion this time.  They considered bringing a carbine or two, but already have their hands full with cleaning supplies and the soon to be filled body bag.

Keeping full light and sound discipline, your two men creep to the safe in the stairwell.  Crumpled in a mess of bloodied papers lies the body of Grandma Martinez.  She had the misfortune of discovering Heller's intrusion about halfway down the stairs.  He had tried to subdue her, but melee on a flight of stairs proved deadly for the octogenarian.

Heller had initially hoped he could rig the scene as household accident, but his second look confirms his misgivings of that plan.  In her tumble, the old woman took some major scalp lacerations, bleeding profusely on the walls, stairs, and floor.  Even without viewing it in full light, it must be horrific enough to look like a violent murder.  That alone wouldn't rule out a gruesome but tragic accident, though.  The real dealbreaker was all the loose paper covering the floors.  They didn't make any sense left in place, and cleaning them up would break up the natural pattern of blood stains and spatters.

He plays out the scenario in his head, "Grandma got up in the middle of the night and took a walk: never was seen again.  Psychosis from a medication reaction?  Senile dementia?  Some last ditch one-way-trip bucketlist fantasy?  She had a long and happy life, and maybe it was just her time, anyways."

If he and Hoxton could pull this off, her family think some version of that.  It's far-fetched, but so long as it keeps them from suspecting it had anything to do with the Tranquility Hill Report, that's all they needed.  Even then, the courier would pick up the report first thing in the morning, and the real estate closing was scheduled the next day.  They had barely 48 hours to blow the whistle, and the Martinez's would probably be too busy with funeral arrangements to even think about work.

"Just a simple plan," he thinks to himself as his gloved hands unfurl the thick vinyl body bag.

Wordlessly, your operators lift the 130lb woman wrapped in paisley nightgown into the body bag.  Carefully navigating the office floor, the ersatz pallbearers walk the bag out the back door.  With an unceremonious heave, the battered remains of Grandma Martinez are chucked into the trunk of your Landrover SUV.

With the body out of the way, your men get to work cleaning up the mess Heller made.  The bloodied papers are scraped up and into black trashbags.  This takes longer than it should, as some are already adhered to the floor by the victim's congealing blood.  With the incriminating debris gone, they break out the hydrogen peroxide.

If Ocean PMC had a staff biochemist (which they don't), they would explain the methodology as such:

"Hydrogen Peroxide (H2O2) is common and highly versatile oxidizing chemical compound.  It is a toxic by-product of various biochemical processes, that reacts and destroys proteins, lipids, and even DNA.  Thus, virtually all organic cells possess the peroxisomal enzyme catalase.  As its name suggests, catalase catalyzes the rapid decomposition of H2O2 into O2 and H2O.  When applied to damaged organic material, such as blood, the free-floating catalase produces an immediate fizzing effect with the H2O2.  Many metals also rapidly catalyze H2O2, which was how highly concentrated peroxide was used as 'monopropellant' in the Cold War space program.  In a monopropellant system, a 70 percent concentration of peroxide pumped through silver screen will instantaneously expand 5000 times its volume into a 1000 degree steam cloud.  As an oxidizer nearly as potent as liquid O2, high concentration H2O2 can also be ignited as a combustible rocket fuel as well.  Household antiseptic bottles thus are only in single digit concentrations for this and other safety-related reasons."

If Neil was here, this would be the point where he'd bring up that 'high-test peroxide' (HTP) was what Nazi Germany used as 'Substance T' in the their rocketry, most notably in the Me 163 Komet rocket interceptor.  Russians also used HTP for their torpedoes back in the day, leading to the disastrous loss of the submarine Kursk in 2000 when a torpedo leaked HTP onto a copper-lined torpedo tube.  All 118 hands were lost.

Heller instead has a more workman-like knowledge of his tools.  Peroxide works great as a destructive forensic 'indicator.' The foaming action quickly identifies the tiniest droplets of blood and other bodily fluids.  The destructive part is great for his kind of work, because it'll degrade (if not complete destroy) any compromising DNA evidence he may have left behind as well.  Also, unlike chlorine bleach, it doesn't leave a tell-tale scent either.

After several arduous hours, all stays quiet at Martinez & Sons, and the crime scene is thoroughly sterilized (both literally and figuratively).

***

"Mijo, is your mother out there?"

Miguel Martinez stretches as he gets out of bed in the morning, "No?"

Humberto Martinez shakes his head, "She's not here.  Could you check if she's downstairs?"

Miguel throws some pants on and trots down the stairs, "¿Mama?  ¿Dónde estás?  ¿Mama?"

The rear door is cracked open in the morning light.

***

Elsewhere in Rattlesnake Ridge, Hoxton wipes the blood off the Blackhawk! Thundermaul axe/sledge.  He doubts he'll miss this part of his old life.

***

Oscar Martinez's three kids bounce up the stairs playfully seeking their grandparents.  Opening the safe, he takes out the Tranquilty Hill report.  The courier will be here shortly, and they had a lot of money riding on this project.  A project this big was only the start of Martinez & Sons being sought for even grander work.  Humberto already had one foot out the door towards retirement, and Oscar hoped he could bring the family business interplanetary once the torch was passed.  Someday, one of his own sons might even open a branch office on Rivendell.  Imagine that.

"Seems prudent to give it a final once over," he thinks to himself.

Oscar takes the report out of the folder and goes to grab his morning Green Owl out of the fridge.  Leisurely walking through the office with the report in hand, he takes a long swig from his energy drink and flips past the cover sheet.

"Oscar?  We need to talk, Mijo."

Oscar sees his father standing direly, one hand on the wall, seemingly steadying himself.  "Is everything okay?"

"It's about your mother, Mijo..."

Oscar puts down the report.

Spoiler (click to show/hide)

ConscriptFive

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Re: Space Cowboys for Hire [Turn 6]
« Reply #395 on: June 18, 2021, 02:36:59 pm »

Mission Report Part (9/?)

IRA Gun Walkers for AMR CI/FP (Part One)

Quote from: Mission Plan
Personnel
Ethan Hunt (IC)
Victor Vega

Hardware
1x 'Beast' Technical
1x Tachanka LMG
3x Val SP-6 Carbine
4x Semtex Explosive Brick
All standard issue gear (Plate Carriers are actually recommended for this one)

Plan
Mr. Hunt will pose as the Arms Dealer and read the briefing packet, with Mr. Vega as his bodyguard. Mr. Hunt will drive the Beast to the meeting site accompanied by the AMR CI/FP smuggler transport (presumably a truck), with Mr. Vega in the gunner position. Mr. Vega will wear a balaclava mask to better imitate the bodyguard role, and to hide his poor acting skills and facial expressions during contact with the IRA, unless requested to take it off

Before the journey, the rendezvous and route will be analyzed for potential risk to the convoy, and the contents of the arms shipment examined. The client will be asked to provide acceptable price ranges to work with during negotiations. Ethan should focus more on getting the Arms Dealer acting right, while Vic maps out the RDV and route as well as purchasing a package of beer as an introductory gift to the IRA before they begin proper negotiations, even basic OSINT can be done by Vic to research whatever the most favorite local alcohol is.

Whilst at the RDV, Mr. Vega will stay on overwatch whilst Mr. Hunt performs the deal, co-opting the AMR operators as necessary for handling/demonstration of the shipment such as the Semtex Bricks from safety. During the negotiation, the following PIRs should be answered, under the guise of fishing for details relevant to further arms deals. If a firefight happens for any reason at all, the terms of engagement is a full retreat.
1) How many combatants can the IRA field?
2) What weaponry do they already possess?
3) What weaponry do they lack?
4) How capable is their supply/logistics?

Pulling the Beast into a garage outside the rural spaceport, AMR CI/FP Agent Charlie Lively closes the rolling door behind them laughing, "Jesus, that's some Mad Max shit right there.  But hey, it'll fit the whole 'shitty technicals' vibe the Black Masks have going on with their vehicles, so points for that."

Team Leader Ethan "the Gun Geek" Hunt plays into it, "Well that was the plan, right?  Go full native.  Didn't want to look too fancy."

Agent Lively points out the LMG atop the Beast, "That museum piece is a nice touch too.  I don't recognize it though.  Something Russian?"

"Chinese actually, but you're not far off.  It's a Type 53, a licensed version of the Soviet DPM."

"You don't say?  It doesn't look like an AK, so it must be pretty damn old..."

"I mean, it is the original Degtyaryor, a WW2 Soviet LMG.  It predates the Kalashnikov itself.  Of course, it would eventually be replaced by Degtyaryor's own RPD after the war.  However, the RPD switched to the short cartridge, so it's more of a squad automatic than an LMG.  At old as this baby is, at least it's still spittin' full length rifle rounds."

"Wait, the RPD was a Degtyaryor design?  Don't you mean Kalashnikov?"

Ethan is incredulous, "Did I stutter?  Or were you thinking of the RPK?  'Ruchnoy Pulemyot Degtyarova' literally means 'Degtaryar's hand-held machine gun.'  As opposed to 'Ruchnoy Pulemyot Kalashnikova.'  It's right there in the name."

Agent Lively grins with satisfaction, "Alright then, 'Mr. Samuel Cummings,' looks like you know your arms."  He notices Ethan's gloved left hand and there's a sudden flash of recognition, "Oh shit, I remember you!  Glad you're back out in the field.  How's the hand?"

Ethan laughs darkly, "Dumped into medical waste and probably recycled into a new pair of tits for some asshole's trophy wife."

"Sorry to hear that... That reminds me, you ever find that 'girl with the boobs?'"

Vic Vega can't help but overhear talk about tits and decides to introduce himself, "Sir, call me Pipehitter.  I'll be your security on this op."

Agent Lively sizes him up, "Apt moniker.  I look forward to working with you."  He looks at your now empty tactical vehicle behind Vega, "You do have a third man?  The driver?"

Vic and Ethan share an awkward glance before Team Leader Ethan answers, "Well we were only contracted for two men...  I'll be driving myself."

Lively shakes his head and starts ranting, "Knew it was too good to be true!  Gorram Barclay shorted me again!"  He gestures to the cargo truck next to him, "So I gotta drive this thing out to the hills myself?  Frakin' figures."

"I'm sorry sir, but that's how the contract was written apparently.  There's-"

"I know, I know.  I'll manage."  He mutters under his breath, "...like always."

***

Driving on the muddy roads through the hills of Anghabar, it's rough going.  Agent Lively is a competent driver, but driving a cargo truck in these conditions is difficult for him.  Similarly, Ethan is struggling behind the wheel of the Beast.  Your technicians' ramshackle uparmor job succeeded in ruining the Land Rover's famed offroad capabilities.  With tons of additional steel, the 111 hp engine struggles on the uphill, and the brake pads practically smoke trying to slow the Beast on the downhill.  Turns and uneven roads are just as terrifying, as the center of gravity is too high, perilously tipping the vehicle.

Vic calls down from the turret, "Geez, guy.  I think my grandma can drive faster than this.  We got how many klicks to go?"

Ethan calls out from behind the wheel, "Don't make me turn this car around, asshole.  Seriously though, how the frak did Greybush drive this thing?"

"Don't ask me.  This is my first time riding in it.  I was out at Rattlesnake Ridge last month."

Ethan drops the playful tone as he remembers what happened to Salt, "Wow, yeah...  That thing with Trinity..."

Vic grunts, "Yeah..."

After an awkward pause, Ethan changes the topic, "At least it stopped raining once we hit planetside-"

Vic isn't ready to move on, "I ain't a coward!  It was her op, and she gave me the order to bail!"

Ethan wasn't expecting this turn, but tries to reassure him, "Nobody said that.  You were just a soldier, following orders."

But the Founder's Fifth Riots weren't the first time he had to stand by while Salt got in over her head, "She did the same shit back at Flossmore...  Back when she got nabbed.  What the frak was I supposed to do?"

"Nobody is blaming you.  I hate to say this, but she brings this shit down on herself.  You can't save someone who doesn't want to be saved."

"That some guru bullshit you picked up from Raptor?"

Ethan laughs, "Seriously though.  Some people just have to learn everything the hard way.  Hey, wanna hear a joke?"

"Sure, let's hear it."

"It's an oldie.  There are two ways of arguing with a woman, and neither one works."

"...was that it?"

"Oh come on, that was funny.  Perfectly relevant too."

"I dunno, kinda sexist though?"

Ethan sighs.

***

Sitting at a fork in the road, Agent Lively jumps down from the driver's seat of the cargo truck.  Team Leader Ethan looks at him expectantly, "So what exactly are we looking for again?"

"We're pretty deep behind enemy lines at this point.  As you might've heard, the Black Masks like to interdict routes into their turf with explosives.  Usually IED-type bullshit, but sometimes surplus AT mines.  Our contact was supposed to mark which route they want us to travel on."

Ethan arches an eyebrow, "And that'll be the safe one?"

"Assuming they don't want us to die, yes."

"..."

"It wouldn't make sense for them to want us dead.  At least, not yet."

"Wait, what do you mean, 'not yet?'"

"You read the briefing packet, Mr. Cummings?"

Ethan pauses, "Oh, 'The Salt?'"

Vic chimes in, "Wait, what?"

Ethan turns to Vic, "We'll talk about about it later, Pipehitter."

Lively continues, "So we're looking for a round rock on top of a square rock."

Ethan gestures to the rocky hillside, "Okay..."

"Yeah, an inconspicuous sign constructed with local materials.  Classic field tradecraft.  Plus these hillbillies are a simple folk, not exactly known for readin' and writin,' you know what I mean?  You gotta sink down to their level to work with these sorts.  Anyhow, you look left; I'll look right."

Ethan putters along, having never expected his life to depend so heavily on identifying roadside debris.  After a few minutes, he settles on an ellipsoid rock atop a rectangular one.  "Think I found it.  It's more of an oval on top of a rectangle though."

Lively calls back as he walks over, "Is it sedimentary, or metamorphic rock?"

"I'm supposed to be a gorram geologist now?"

"Geez, just kidding."

Ethan rolls his eyes, "Very funny."

"Thanks.  Well that looks like a pretty deliberate trail marker.  Naturally, the armored vehicle should take point though.  You know, just in case."

Ethan sighs.

***

Back on the road, Vic questions Ethan, "So what were you two talking about down there?"

"Apparently geology based humor is a thing.  It is Anghabar Mining & Refining after all."

"Uhh... okay.  Is that the thing you wanted to talk about later?"

"Oh, right.  That.  I mean, you read the briefing packet, right?"

"It was pretty long..."

"Yes, it was..."

"I mean, I'm the security element.  Do I really need to know all of that?"

"If you did, I wouldn't need to explain this..."

Vic is right, the briefing packet was rather exhaustive and not much of a page turner.  Somewhere between the Cummings dossier, situation report, intelligence summaries, contact reports, route planning, intelligence collection requirements, and weather forecasts, the true nature of the delivered arms was stated.  As you might imagine, AMR CI/FP would rather not legitimately arm their mortal foe.  While all the the munitions will pass visual inspection, numerous sabotaged specimens have been 'salted' throughout the shipment.

"I mean, who knew black market arms could be so unreliable?  Right, Pipehitter?"

"Effin' a, man.  That shit is evil."

"They didn't specify how though.  The salt could be dud rounds, or a Project Eldest Son-style infernal machines.  Who knows, maybe both.  Guess that's why this is a one-time thing."

"Though it was weird AMR was shipping so much hardware to these guys.  That explains a lot."

"Like the good doctor said, 'The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go.'"

"Uh..."

"What, you're parents never read Dr. Seuss to you?  I guess that explains a lot too."

"Frak off, pencil-neck.  But yeah, my parents weren't the 'book-learning' types.  Surely not anything from no doctor."

"I mean, I'm pretty sure he wasn't a real doctor.  It's a pseudonym."

"Pseudo-"

"A pen name.  Alias."

"Oh, I-"

Ethan cranks the steering wheel of the Beast hard, "Shit, shit, SHIT!"

***
« Last Edit: June 19, 2021, 07:07:27 pm by ConscriptFive »
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ConscriptFive

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Re: Space Cowboys for Hire [Turn 6]
« Reply #396 on: July 10, 2021, 11:49:41 pm »

Mission Report Part (10/?)

IRA Gun Walkers for AMR CI/FP (Part Two)

With a sigh of relief, Commander Byrne finds out the "tank" in his battlespace had been taken care of.  The so-called "revolution" wasn't going well as of late, but at least he had one less worry keeping him up at night.

A old roughneck in his early fifties, Byrne had been on this planet long enough to know this was going to get ugly.  But AMR hadn't given the workers of Anghabar any choice.  Administration always wants more for less ('efficiency' they call it) and the moment you stood your ground, they start looking for a replacement.  When Byrne needed a break, administration didn't care a lick about his decades of hard work.  Corporate had 'profit forecasts' to meet this quarter, and his shifts needed to be covered.  "So are you a team player or not?"

Unlike some of his colleagues in the IRA, Byrne wasn't a radical bomb-throwing anarchist; he just wanted his world to suck substantially less.  But like a wildfire in a windstorm, everything just got out of hand so quickly.  It was just supposed to be a general strike; making a stand and getting ARM where it really hurt.  (Of course AMR would ship in scabs and automation, but the workers of Anghabar had other allies working on that.)  When AMR was ready to break, the United Labor Movement (ULM) would sweep in, and mediate a solution: paid sick leave, safer working conditions, lower housing & medical paycheck deductions, and maybe even get all wages paid in AMR gift cards changed to standard currency.  AMR would keep their empire, but their workforce would be one step further out of the real of indentured servitude.

...and now he's a commanding officer in a revolutionary army, locked in mortal combat with the powers that be.  Even worse, Mr. Thiel's new personal army was now involved.  He had hoped Coalition Expeditionary Forcers would be something of a peacekeeping force in comparison to AMR's various goon squads, but recent news out of Mullaghmore stated otherwise.  Byrne was glad he shipped his family off to Harad early, but was AMR still even honoring the local tradition of self-exile anyways?  Grace O'Malley's bones would argue otherwise.  (He too had adopted a 'nom de guerre' like she did, but a whole lot of good that did her.)  "Commander Byrne" wishes he could walk away and again become David Kilcullen, just another aging inauspicious blue-collar schlub with a wife and kids.  But he had stuck his neck out too far, for too long.  He could no longer turn back to civilian life, and he sees no viable choice except to keep fighting.

Speaking of fighting, whoever the Black Masks are, they sure as hell weren't helping the situation.  Sure they were great fighters, but their bloodlust was causing more issues than they resolved.  Byrne, like many others in his command, was at the infamous Red River Refinery demonstration, when the Black Masks went after that bus full of scabs.  Byrne hated scabs as much as the next guy, but murder was over the top.  AMR thought so too, and that tragic incident triggered the shutdown of the ULM chapters and the ensuing martial law.  But with the ULM marginalized, the movement had to reclaim its identity before the Black Masks stole it from them.  The "Independent Republic of Anghabar" seemed both overly pretentious and an overreach for him, but it was better than being branded murderous masked terrorists.

As the IRA guerrillas escort your convoy into encampment, Commander Byrne waves a greeting to Lively, "Ah, you're late."

Lively shrugs casually, "Better late than never, Commander.  The goods I arranged are in the truck.  And this here is the man you should get to know, Mr. Cummings."

Your operator, Ethan "the Gun Geek" Hunt, steps forward on cue, "The name's Cummings, Samuel Cummings.  This first shipment is only a taste of the armaments I can provide."

Byrne gives a humble smile, "If you can deliver half of what Charlie says you can, you're about to become a very wealthy man with the amount of business we can send your way.  Say, is that war wagon behind you part of the shipment too?"

Your operator laughs, "That old thing?  Nah, I can do you better than that anyways.  Trust me, AMR will be jealous of the hardware I can kit you guys with."

"If you say so, Mr. Cummings.  We appreciate what you brought today, but we're going to need more than AK-47's and hand grenades."

"No worries, sir.  Once we have the financing and logistics secured, I can arrange a full table of equipment for your forces; not just small arms, but crew-served systems too.  I can also arrange support equipment such as commo and medical.  You get the cash and carry together, and I can get you whatever you need."

"Cash is king.  But of course I had hoped you'd be a bit more generous.  Surely a man such as yourself can smell an opportunity ripe for investment.  The writing is on the wall, and you're getting in on the ground floor of this revolution.  Once we take down AMR, we're going to own this planet and all its wealth.  Once we start running this place, we're going to need ongoing weapons contracts as well as other services.  Do you smell what I'm cooking?"

"I'm looking forward to that day, but right now I'm just a business man, doing business.  My sympathies aside, I do have to keep a profit margin, afterall.  Still, I'm not some mercenary..." He snaps figured authoritatively, and a masked Pipehitter trots up with a case of Guinness in his arms, "This is on the house; a gift to christen our shared future."

Byrne eyes the case of Guiness and bites his tongue.  Despite the brand's iconic status in pop culture, the historical Guinness family were upper-crust Protestant bankers who refused to hire Catholics well into the 20th century.  While they paid lip service to their Irish Catholic consumers, whenever the political situation got serious, the Guinness family sided with the Crown.  "Oh, wow.  Is that Guinness?  Haven't had one of those in forever."

Your operator gestures for his hired help to put the case of bottles down and then dismisses him wordlessly, "Figured you guys had been off-the-grid long enough to miss a good pint."  He pops the bottle cap off with his Gerber multi-tool and offers the first drink to Commander Byrne, "Got to love a nice dark stout, eh?  Practically a meal in itself."

A free beer is still a free beer, and Commander Byrne thinks better than to ruin a critical arms deal over this.  He emphatically takes a long swig, "Oh, yeah... that hits the spot."

"I almost brought a pale ale too, but didn't think we'd have the means to pour some proper 'Black and Tans' out here."

Commander Byrne tries not to spit take at this, "Heh, a 'Half and Half' would be nice.  But well... field conditions..."

Your operator doesn't understand how anyone could straight-up drink dairy cream, but figures it must be some weird hillbilly thing.  After exchanging a toast, the two men get settled in to talk shop.

***

"Osprey is confirmed in the nest."

***

"Well, that's a common misconception, my friend.  'Rocket Propelled Grenade' is actually a false backronym of sorts.  RPG stands for 'Ruchnoy Protivotankoviy Granatomyot,' literally 'hand-held anti-tank grenade launcher.'"

Byrne is impressed, "You'd don't say?  I did not know that."

"Very few people do.  'Rocket Propelled Grenade' just works so well, right?  Still, it also explains why so many Russian infantry systems began with the letter 'R.'  They were utterly pedantic in pointing out how everything was handheld, especially their hand grenades."

"'What's in a name?  That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet?' ... I honestly don't care what it's called, I just need that firepower in my unit."

"Well stated, and nice use of the Bard.  Of course, I'm sure you're aware RPG's are not just for anti-tank applications.  There's a wide variety of other warheads compatible with the common RPG-7 launcher.  I can get a hold of those bouncing Chinese airburst rounds if you really want.  You know, the ones that totally wrecked the USMC at Shenzen."

"Well you should've just started with that.  Yes, please!"

***

"We got it.  Prepare for movement."

***

Command Byrne explains, "Still, vehicles are always a problem.  Ideally, a problem not handled face to face either.  You can provide AT mines as well?"

"Command or victim operated?"

"Whichever works best."

"Well command detonated is sexier, but still needs a guy in the bushes holding a detonator.  Sounds like you want the classic victim operated pressure plate kind."

"'Classic' is one way of putting it, but yes."

***

"Sir, we're just going to let this happen?"

"This is only a reconnaissance mission.  There are concerns here that are far beyond your paygrade."

"Paygrade?  Last I checked, you're not even uniformed."

"Sergeant, I have been granted full TACON of this mission.  If you don't like it-"

"-Attention all personnel, armed enemy combatants PID'd."

***

With security inside the guerrilla camp out of his hands, Pipehitter takes the time to prep the Beast.  After pouring a jerry can of fuel into the tank, he begins tidying up their trashed interior.  The trip took longer than expected, and with a skeleton crew manning the vehicle, they hardly could take a break if they wanted to.  Food wrappers are everywhere, and tightly-capped piss bottles were carefully stowed.  (Pipehitter has found MRE's don't agree with him, and packed his own field rations.)  Under other circumstances, he would've expected his colleague Ethan to pitch in, but such menial labor would be unseemly for some pseudo-VIP.

"Vin Tores?" teenage male with a thick country accent calls out to your operator.

Pipehitter nearly drops his snack of prunes at the unexpected call, "Sorry kid, the name's Pipehitter.  I just got here and don't know anybody yet."

"On yer back, guy.  That gun a Vintorez?"

A mildly embarrassed Pipehitter catches on, "Oh, the carbine.  Nah, it's a Val, the Vintorez's scrappy brother.  Not as fancy, but just a lethal and still crazy sneaky.  ...Hey, you were the kid out on the road right?  Sorry our truck almost didn't see you there."

"Kinna tha point ova ambush, innit?"

Your operator laughs, "You got me there."

"No biggie.  Shit happens."

"Hell yeah.  Tell you what, I'm gonna show you something."

Pipehitter fishes the spare Val carbine out of the Beast.  After pulling the magazine and clearing the chamber, he hands it off to the teen's eager hands, "Check that shit out."

The teen handles the weapon with surprising deft and mimics shoulder firing a burst, "Friggin' badass, guy."

"Frak, yeah kid."

"You know, I think tha Eighth Commandment dude and tha thicc chick copper had 'em at tha Red Riva.  Somma tha guys got it on vidya."

Pipehitter adjusts the balaclava concealing his face and begins sweating under his full USMC vintage body armor and helmet, "Video?"

"I mean, yah, they baddies, but it was some good violence.  Lemme pull it up on me phone, guy."

"Say, it was fun meeting you, but I really need to get back to work."

The teen excitedly shares his phone, "Hey, here it is.  Take a look-"

*CRACK-BANG* *CRACK-BANG* *CRACK-BANG* *KABOOM*

***

ConscriptFive

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Re: Space Cowboys for Hire [Turn 6]
« Reply #397 on: August 02, 2021, 02:43:14 am »

Mission Report Part (11/?)

IRA Gun Walkers for AMR CI/FP (Part Three)

Ethan hits the deck just before he's shredded by the shrapnel from the exploding truck of arms. 

Commander Byrne calls out from the ground, "To arms!  To arms!  Anybody see what hit us?"

A large bearded man with a gigantic sniper rifle joins them on the ground.  "Sir, are you hit?"

"No Cormac, but what the frak was that?"

*CRACK-BANG* *CRACK-BANG* *CRACK-BANG*

Ethan becomes acutely aware his mission wasn't assigned either of Ocean PMC's fancy binoculars.  It sounds like something large caliber and automatic though.  "Maybe a .50 cal?" he thinks.  "Shouldn't have set the truck off like a Michael Bay flick though.  Unless the 'salt' really was that hot."

*CRACK-BANG* *CRACK-BANG* *CRACK-BANG*

Breaking through the cacophony of IRA sergeants trying to get SITREPs and rally their privates, somebody calls out, "North ridge!  North ridge!  I saw muzzle flashes!"

*CRACK-BANG* *CRACK-BANG* *CRACK-BANG*

"Three round bursts... that's good fire discipline.  ...CoFor maybe?" Ethan muses.

"Jesus," Cormac grunts, "It's the tank."

"What?  There were two?" questions the Commander.

"No offense to our distinguished visitor, but that thing over there ain't a tank.  But this sure as hell is."

*CRACK-BANG* *CRACK-BANG* *CRACK-BANG*

"A tank without a cannon?  Unlikely.  They should be hitting us harder." interjects Ethan "the Gun Geek" Hunt.

Cormac gestures around them to the camp in chaos, "Seems to be doing the job just fine.  Besides, they're all buttoned up.  Might as well be a tank as far as my rifle goes."

*CRACK-BANG* *CRACK-BANG* *CRACK-BANG*

"Fine, let me take a look," Ethan says as he grabs for Cormac's sniper rifle.

"Frak no, buddy.  Nobody is taking my gun except from my cold dead hands..."

Commander Byrne intervenes, "We don't have time for this drama.  Cormac, hand it over."

Trying not to visibly savor his victory too much, Ethan takes the rifle from Cormac and complements it as an olive branch, "Classic Remington 700 receiever, huh?  This a US mil Mk 13 in .300 Win Mag?  Good choice."

Cormac is caught off guard, but sufficiently flattered, "Thanks.  Wait till you try out the Schmidt & Bender scope too.  5-25 mag and beautiful light transmission.  Costs almost as much as the gun itself."

Ethan laughs, "All good optics do, don't they?  This bipod is nice-"

Commander Byrne tries in vain to hide his growing frustration as he interrupts, "-seriously, gentlemen.  Display some sense of urgency."

***

The teen stands up his dirtbike and waves Vic onward, "Git on."

The plan was crazy, but it could work.  (Besides, it's not like they had any better options.)  Your operator crams into the tight seat of the dirt bike and clutches onto the young man's waist from behind.

As they clutch, nut to butt, the teen reads Vic's mind, "No homo, guy."

“At least it's not a Vespa.”

***

Ethan pokes the rifle around cover and searches for the shooter.  Using a large rifle for this is more awkward than binoculars, but beggars can't be choosers.

*CRACK-BANG* *CRACK-BANG* *CRACK-BANG*

Catching the muzzle flashes that time, he fixes the rifle scope on the location.  He has to admit, the vehicle did a good job on concealment.  Some kind of camo netting is stretched across the front of the hull.  It vaguely resembles a tank, but it has wheels.  Some kind of BTR probably?

Yep, a BTR, or some kind of knock-off of one.  That would explain the gun: the KPV 'Krupnokaliberniy Pulemyot Vladimirova,' literally Vladimir's large-caliber machine gun.  Towards the end of WW2, the Soviet figured out .50 cal/12.7mm could no longer defeat Nazi armor, so they went and made a HMG in 14.5mm.  The war would be over by the time it got fielded, which was probably a good thing, because at over 108 pounds unloaded, it was no longer a man-portable system.  Furthermore, it wouldn't be able to penetrate a late WW2 "light" tank.

But on the upside, it still hit hard enough to kill most APCs, and more importantly, could be put in a towed quad-mount to engage low-flying aircraft.  Thus the 14.5mm replaced the 12.7mm Dskha in their towed ZPU AAA turrets ('zenitnaya pulemotnaya ustanovka,' literally anti-aircraft machine gun mount.)   As the Cold War dragged on and the US pushed air assault doctrines and a reliance on close air support, the the ZPU was widely exported throughout the Warsaw Pact and the developing world.  Used in nearly every armed conflict of the Cold War, North Vietnamese 14.5mm ZPU's were even considered the most deadly threat to US helicopters at the time.

Ethan would love to explain this all right now, but he realizes he probably should be more focused on killing it.  Cormac was right, the thing had enough armor that .300 Win Mag at 1000m wouldn't do shit.  Maybe there could be an opening?  He examines the armored vehicle through the scope, looking for weak points.  Just needed to threaten the vehicle enough to make it break contact. "Hey Cormac, just how good a sniper are-"

*CRACK-BANG* *CRACK-BANG* *CRACK-BANG*

***

Vic hangs on tight as the bike ascends the dusty switchback.  The bike's overloaded with the two of them aboard, but the teen sure knows how to ride.

***

Ethan jolts back to cover as a burst of heavy machine gun lead impacts all around him.

Cormac calls out, "Sir?  You hurt?"

"Not this time...  Though I do have bad news."

"Other than we're pinned by fire and can't do shit about it?"

Your operator fishes the borrowed sniper rifle from the line of fire, "So the bad news is that your rifle got hit.  The good news, is that I'm your new arms dealer, and I'll definitely replace it in the next shipment.  Free of charge, of course."

Cormac takes the rifle and shakes his head in disgust, "Damn shame.  Real solid of you to take responsibility though."

"Like I said, us arms dealers get a bad rap out there.  I'm not a merc-"

Byrne interrupts again, "We can all give each other handjobs later.  Now, the SPG-9 from Mullaghmore, is it up and running?"

"The recoilless rifle?  No, sir."

"And no RPG's?"

"None, sir."

*CRACK-BANG* *CRACK-BANG* *CRACK-BANG*

Your operator and the two IRA men make break for it as the KPV tears up the earthmound they were using for over.  Wordlessly all three had decided to sprint for boulder 50 meters away.

*CRACK-BANG* *CRACK-BANG* *CRACK-BANG*

The KPV gunner is fixated on them, and tries to engage them with a another burst.  Green tracers streak between them, with their heavy rounds ricocheting and skipping along the earth.

*CRACK-BANG* *CRACK-BANG* *CRACK-BANG*

Your operator and Cormac make it to safety in a huff.  But after an agonizing moment, it becomes apparent Commander Byrne isn't coming.  As the dust settles, Cormac spies a crumpled body.

"Commander!  Can you move?!?"

*CRACK-BANG* *CRACK-BANG* *CRACK-BANG*

Not anymore.

***

"Good kill!  Good kill!"

"Sergeant, I will have you court-martialed for this."

"Court-martialed?  Nah... I'll probably just get chewed out.  I've been chewed out before."

*BANG* *BANG* *BANG*

***

On the dirtbike, Vic knows they must be getting close.  Regardless of how much camo netting you put up, a heavy machine gun turret booming away with impunity isn't a very stealthy weapon system.  Pulling up behind a bush, they can just see the rear of the armored vehicle.  Setting the bike down, Vic and the IRA teen ready their Val carbines and divvy up a satchel they brought with him.  Pulling out the red clay bricks, Vic asks one last time, "You've used these before?"

"Yeah, seen it done, guy."

It wasn't the answer he was hoping for, but rigging up 4kg of Semtex in combat conditions can't be that hard, right?

*BANG* *BANG* *BANG*

***

"Keep it up.  Fish in a gorram barrel."

"Roger that, Sarge."

*BANG* *BANG* *BANG*

***

With a 4kg charge rigged with a blasting cap on a spool of wire, they're unsure of what to do next.  "Alright kid, you run it, then I clack it when you're clear?"

"I ain't dumb, guy.  You ain't the boss of me either.  You run, I clack."

"You shittin' me kid?  Fine, coin toss?"

"Coin toss."

***

Agent Lively finds your operator behind the boulder, "Well this turned into a shitshow, didn't it?"

"I mean, it's gotta run out of ammo at some point right?"

Cormac adds grimly, "Assuming they're solo, that is.  If there's a manuever element out there, we're fraked."

Lively tries to refute him, "There shouldn't be any OPFOR in this AO for that."

Ethan laughs, "Then who do you think is trying to kill us then?"

*CRACK-BANG* *CRACK-BANG* *CRACK-BANG*

"Beats me.  Say, where'd your man run off to?"

"Huh, what?"

"The big dude.  Your gun truck is still here, but I swore I saw him jump on a motorcycle."

Ethan is still clueless, and lacking tactical combat leadership experience, forgot to check on his only subordinate "Uh..."

It then comes to Team Leader Ethan's mind that the written plan was to 'break contact,' and abort mission on hard contact.  Naturally, he couldn't excuse himself from the rest of the IRA encampment at this point, but who knows what Pipehitter thought he could pull.  Acutely aware of his prosthetic hand, it wouldn't be the first time he was left to fend for himself on Anghbar either.  “Maybe, he really did leave Salt to the wolves twice.  'Twice is a coincidence, three times is a pattern,'” he thinks to himself.

***

Trying to handle the plastic explosives as carefully as possible, Vic creeps up on the back of the armored vehicle.  As they suspected, it's just one fully buttoned-up vehicle, with no apparent infantry support.  He's tempted to fling the hastily assembled charge, but thinks doing so would probably dislodge the blasting cap.  Hopping like a basketball layup, he places the Semtex atop the vehicle just behind the turret with a dull thud.

***

"The frak was that?"

"Wasn't me.  They shoot back finally?"

"Dunno.  Lemme- FRAK, FRAK, FRAK!  Contact rear!  Five meters!"

*BANG* *BANG* *CLICK*

***

The teen sees Vic go down in a burst from the vehicle's KPV turret, and squeezes the clacker.

*KABOOM*

***

ConscriptFive

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Re: Space Cowboys for Hire [Turn 6]
« Reply #398 on: August 31, 2021, 01:53:21 pm »

Mission Report Part (12/12)

IRA Gun Walkers for AMR CI/FP (Part Four)

Vic "Pipehitter" Vega lies motionless on a stretcher in the middle of the IRA encampment.  The scrappy kid points to the two fentanyl lollipop sticks protruding out the corners of his mouth, "Guy narc'd himself out.  Shame 'bout the teeth though."

Ethan pulls the two partially dissolved sedatives out of Vic's mouth, and tears open his body armor.  Vic's still breathing, and no bleeding besides some scrapes from shrapnel.  He does look funny without his dentures though.

"Guess that wasn't a tank, but this guy sure was, eh?"

Ethan shakes his head in disbelief, "I guess so.  Mind if I get that Val back from you?"

"Fun while it lasted.  I even got ta yell 'Eighth Commandment, motherfraker!' when I hosed them down."

"'No greater joy,' eh?  You did a helluva job out there.  I'll put a good word in to your Commander... the new one I guess...  What's your name?"

"Logan Kenny, guy."

Agent Lively interrupts, "So, we got a problem."

Ethan gestures to his man on the cot and the IRA rebels collecting the bloodied body parts of their comrades, "Yeah, no shit."

Agent Lively pulls Ethan aside and waves off Logan as he tries to follow, "Mommy and Daddy need to talk, kid."

Logan gives them the finger and then storms off.

After glances around furtively, the AMR Counterintelligence Agent explains that he just helped search the enemy bodies, and he definitely recognized one of them.

"I trained with him back in the day."

"Are you sure?"

"100 percent.  Hadn't seen him in months, but we used to be tight.  Tag-teamed a midget stripper once."

"Wait, what?"

"I mean, not my kink, but you kinda have to try it, right?"

Ethan recoils in a mix of disgust and confusion, "No, I meant the other part.  What are you trying to say?"

"Barclay fraked us."

***

Bandying about niche terms like "agent provocateur," "third force," and "false flag," Lively tries to explain the situation to your operator.  It doesn't help that Charlie Lively (if that's even his real name) is a smart guy who talks fast when he gets really fired up.  Your operator does gather than the the so-called "Black Masks" are not, and perhaps, never were, a homegrown resistance organization.  Lively had even personally done operations supporting them.

Your operator retorts, "What?  AMR CI/FP is doing all this to AMR proper?  That doesn't even make sense."

"Exactly, it's not supposed to.  People like to think all CI does is defensive shit;  And we prefer it that way.  'Force Protection' sounds about as boring and defensive as it gets, right?  If you guys only knew..."

Of course, Anghabar had long been no stranger to labor discontent.  Sure AMR may have ran their workforce just as hard as any other major employer in the 'verse.  But if an employee didn't like their job that much, they were always free to find another one.  Except basically the whole planet was a company town for AMR.  The Unions couldn't force AMR to break up their empire, but at least they got AMR to fund the 'Amnesty Flights' to Harad.  Love it, or leave it: AMR had you covered.

"But that wasn't good enough for the new generation, was it?"

Ethan shrugs, "I've never been to Harad, but isn't it kinda primitive out there?"

"I dunno.  Me neither.  They should think of it as an adventure though!  Kids these days, and their lack of pioneering spirit."

Eventually, activists weren't leaving Anghabar anymore, and the Unions became accordingly more militant.  Underground social media emerged, with activists posting 'political content' under alias.  AMR security apparati like AMR CI/FP got to work trying to suppress these malcontents, finding ways to send the most problematic off to Flossmore.

"Got my first commendation working as a junior agent on the Grace O'Malley case.  Frakin' crazy where that all went.  No one thought Graywater would take a hard left turn like that, either.  Guess anybody can buy you mercs after all."

But in the long term, they were merely 'throwing small shells against the tide.'  Activism grew despite their repression, and they gained support from organizations offworld;  Some less savory than others.

"They even started cutting deals with those Godfather wannabes at Casa Nuova.  At least Tyrell Dynamics finally cleaned that shit up with Task Force Orion."

Ethan gets impatient, "Don't get me wrong; I'm appreciating the history lesson here.  But how do the Black Masks figure into it?"

"Does the name Okhrana mean anything to you?"

"Is she another stripper you tag-teamed?"

Plagued by anarchist assassinations (including six attempts on his own life), Romanov Tsar Alexander II created the Okhrana secret police to address anarchist terrorism in 1880.  Seven months later, Tsar Alexander II was still assassinated anyway.  In the wake of his father's assassination, Tsar Alexander III rolled back democratic reforms, made all Imperial police subordinate to the Okhrana, and basically empowered them to do whatever was necessary to infiltrate and neutralise anarchist terrorist groups.

"And gorram did those Slavs get creative..."

Taking double agent operations to a whole new level, the Okhrana created entire fake institutions that they puppeted.  Within a few years, the Okhrana was financing, editting, and publishing the anarchists' official newsletter.  Hoping to quash revolution even sooner, they eventually got into astroturfing unions.  The Okhrana were even early backers of Lenin and the Bolsheviks, noting that they were relatively non-violent and tended to antagonize other activists.  Accordingly, an Okhrana agent took over the Bolshevik's official newspaper, Pravda.

"But the hardcore part was just how deep they'd let the conspiracies go.  They had an agent so deep in the anarchist terrorists, that he participated in the successful assassination of the Tsar's Minister of Interior.  That agent then won the unquestioning trust and respect of the terrorists.   A few years later, the same agent kept the ruse up by assassinating the Tsar's uncle."

"No offense, but surely Barclay knew how this all ended?"

"Hey, I'm just a soldier following orders here.  Senior decision-making is above my pay grade."

"Mine too, but where is this all going?"

"Do you see me carrying a crystal ball, pal?"

Ethan sighs, "Frak me, skip to the part about why an agent in a tank just tried to kill us."

"I thought we all established it wasn't a tank."

Ethan stares Lively down murderously.

"Geez, sometimes you gotta laugh so you don't cry...  We've been burned.  A human sacrifice for grander machinations in the Great Game."

"Well that's the obvious part, but why?"

Lively shows your operator an SLR camera body, "Looks like it had a massive telefoto lens that your man blew the hell up.  The SD card still reads though.  Turns out my old friend got some pretty solid pics.  Professional quality, UHD."

"Of what?"

"Some off-world agitator running guns to the IRA."

"Well, shit."

"I don't think CoFor going full interventionist was part of Barclay's plan.  It won't be long before they bring Palantir in, and he needs to pin a fall guy before they start investigating our ops.  I'm sure he would've loved to blame this all on some off-world leftists, but I guess a bunch of shadowy space mercs will do in a pinch, eh?"

***

Finishing loading your sedated operator in the the backseat of the Beast, Lively slams the door shut, "Big guy is faded out pretty hard, but you shouldn't need him with the route we discussed.  He contracted you to take me back to the original spaceport, and won't expect the change."

Ethan smirks, "Or they'd think, that we'd think, that they'd think, that we'd think..."

Lively laughs, "Gotta love analysis paralysis.  Don't overthink this.  Our mission didn't go as planned, but neither did theirs, so we're still one-step ahead."

"Makes sense.  So what about you then?  Going native for real this time?"

"Like I have a choice?  Looks like I'm a full-time commie pinko now, whether I like it or not."

Lively scribbles on the back of a business card and hands it over, "Switching to a new burner.  I'd advise you to do the same.  Keep in touch though, I might be able to unfrak this."

***

Back on the Mothership Leviathan, Sam Goldman is furious Agent Barclay refuses to answer his calls.

Spoiler (click to show/hide)

ConscriptFive

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Re: Space Cowboys for Hire [Month 7] (New Blood Welcome)
« Reply #399 on: September 17, 2021, 03:11:30 pm »

Month Seven

"Finally some good news from Anghabar!  They smoked that commie pinko doctor."
"How long did he think he was going to get away with it all?"
"Dumbass was on borrowed time for sure.  That Maoist bullshit needs to stay in the Chung-hwa system."
"Oh yeah, they're real amenable to revolutionaries there."
"Touche.  But did you hear the crazy part?  Dr. Throckmorton had joined them."
"Gullible frakin' moron.  He got what he deserved."

                     --Overheard gossip at Twenty Forward Lounge on Mothership Leviathan
                  
Contact Phase

Samuel Goldman Esq. greets you in the conference room with a smile, "Congratulations, Mrs Ocean.  Under your leadership, we've had our second highest grossing month this cycle."

Operation's Chief Neil McCauley shrugs, "Despite how much they bled, our men brought home the bacon.  Shit got wierd for Templar with CoFor, but he pulled it all off.  We're still not exactly sure what happened with Chapman, but her body was returned to us by courier from Palantir, and Taylor's intelligence collection still met client needs.  Heller brought in the big bucks from Rattlesnake Ridge in a flawless op..."

He pauses.

You and Sam look at him expectantly.

Neil takes a deep breath, "So, Hunt's gun walking op; we need to talk about it."

You wrack your brain recalling the mission plan you wrote, "So was it him or Vega who screwed the pooch?"

Neil smirks, "Actually, neither.  I'd even say Vega performed with exceptional valor.  He got banged up hard, but the Clinic ducktaped him back together.  I've put him on light duty this month, but enshallah he'll be good to go next month."

"So what's the problem then?"

Neil and Sam exchange a knowing look.  Sam takes over, "To put this delicately Mrs. Ocean, a client has egregiously broken our contract."

Neil rolls his eyes, "Is that what we're calling this ratfrak?  Barclay betrayed us."

Sam concedes, "To put it plainly, yes, you could say that..."

Sam and Neil explain the situation to you.  Agent Barclay, a Counterintelligence Agent from AMR, was puppeting the worst actors of the insurgency on AMR.  Now that Mr. Thiel is formally involved, Barclay's looking to pin the blame on Ocean PMC for fomenting a radical leftwing insurgency.

You laugh, "Good thing we blow this popiscle stand in two months, eh?  Can you say no extradition agreement?  Direct all subpoenas to the trash folder."

Sam and Neil visibly cringe in their seats.  Neil explains, "Under normal circumstances, yes Ma'am.  We've been burned by asshole clients before, yet we're still in business.  But with Danny gone, we're now the new kids on the block to the One Percenters.  And you know the two things the elderly really hate?  New things and communism.  We're in a bad place right now."

Sam continues, "And of course the bioterrorism charges..."

Neil replies, "Maybe I'm being optimistic on that one, but I kinda think the Musk clan has our back on that one.  I mean, letting rip a bioweapon in Bezos' backyard?  I bet they're laughing their asses at that kind of schadenfreude."

Sam cracks a smile, "True, but are they willing to pay for it?  If that were the case everytime we benefited a third party, we'd own half this ship by now."

Neil fights back, "Now I may not be a political guy, but we wouldn't still be here if they didn't support us.  New Monaco's chance to boot us was after Paramour, but instead they threw us a memorial service."

Sam shakes his head, "Yes, but now we're positioned against Mr. Thiel's interests.  He may not be the juggernaut Bezos is, but he's the most respected of the Founders.  He's the Godfather of the PayPal Mafia.  Something of a kingmaker back in the Old World.  He personally made the fortunes of half the families upstairs in New Monaco, especially the Musks and Zuckerbergs.  When the Exodus Initiative came along, his Founders Fund was the first to buy in.  He may have lost a lot of capital on paper, but those transformative investments in the New Worlds bought him even more respect and influence.  It's safe to say he could turn New Monaco against us with just a few phone calls."

You interject, "But we didn't cross Mr. Thiel, and we can prove it.  We have correspondence, signed agreements, invoices, wire transactions..."

Sam winces, "Can we though?  On a superficial level, confidential documents can be forged.  We could show wire transfers, but this client used unlisted intermediary accounts.  In context and full totality of evidence, we could explain it, but then we'd have to really 'open our kimono' so to speak.  We'd potentially expose other clients in the process, which could destroy our whole business model going forward."

You sigh in frustration, "So we just have to take it then?  There must be some option?"

Sam and Neil exchange another glance.  Just as Neil is about to begin, Sam speaks first, "As your Legal Counsel, I would advice you to expand your legal representation."

Neil laughs in disgust, "Of course you would.  How much would that put us out?"

Sam sketches out some figures on his tablet, "A junior attorney and a paralegal at least.  Ideally on full retainer.  Remote work probably isn't the best choice either.  Thus, we'd also need to arrange ship access for anyone we hire from the planets.  250k upfront minimum for a 9-month fiscal cycle."

Neil gripes, "That much money just to hire more people to tell us how screwed we are?  Ma'am, I recommend a more proactive solution."

You look to your Ops Chief, "Proactive?"

"We're looking at a kill or be killed situation, Ma'am.  The silver lining here is that Hunt managed to secure an insider with AMR CI/FP as a contact.  He got fraked by Barclay too, and should be more than happy to help."

Sam concedes, "Such a kinetic action would certainly fall under the Ops Chief's purview, and I will gladly entertain this contact should you so wish, Mrs. Ocean.  In terms of other updates to the contact list, it's safe to say Agency Barclay is no longer a client of ours.  Furthermore, I'm sure you've heard about Doctor Throckmorton on the news.  Accordingly, I doubt the IRC are in a place to do anything in the Thiel Planetary System anymore."

"Here's an updated list of contacts for the month."

Spoiler: Contact List (click to show/hide)

"With how much Potter Properties just paid us, I doubt they can again afford our services so soon.  On the other hand, the heat should have died down enough on both Disney and Tyrell by now.  Palantir and the Expeditionary Forces likely have plenty of more work for us with how the situation is unfolding on Anghabar.  I have already been contacted by Mr. Lively, if you would like to develop him as a client as well."

Quote from: Contacts Vote (pick 5)
(0) Lossarnach Country Club:
(0) Potter Properties:  **LIKELY UNAVAILABLE**
(0) Anghabar Mining and Refining:
(1) Tyrell Dynamics: Sam
(1) Disney-Fox-Universal-Comcast: Sam
(0) Los Tornadoes:
(0) Swearengen's Gentlemen's Club:
(0) Slavic Vor:
(0) Casa Nuova:
(0) Goodhaven Sheriff:
(0) Harad Marshals:
(0) Flossmore Warden:
(1) Coalition Expeditionary Forces: Sam
(0) Interstellar Red Cross:  **LIKELY UNAVAILABLE**
(0) Amnesty Interstellar:  **LIKELY UNAVAILABLE**
(0) United Labor Movement:
(0) United Green Party:
(0) Interstellar Geographic Society:
(1) Palantir Technologies: Sam
(1) Agent Charlie Lively: Sam

You get back to your office and flop into your office chair.  Until today, everything had been going relatively well business-wise.  But who could see this coming?  Your Danny was unshakeable, but you can't help but think that even this would get under his collar.

In the privacy of your own office, you decide that getting comfortable behind your workstation is the least you can do right now.  After kicking off your heels, you unclasp your bra and let your ample breasts hang loose.  After pulling you white silk blouse back on, you take a moment to fold the black lace bra with a pink fringe reverantly on your desk.  (It's one of your nicer bras after all.)

With a deep sigh, you stretch your aching lower back.  The current fashion on the ship is to keep things top heavy, something you knew your late husband definitely approved of.  As a dutiful wife, you always felt obliged to maintain yourself according to his tastes.  To be fair, you certainly enjoyed how he kept his body of the years too.  But as the new head of the family business, you now had a coterie of others to satisfy.  Even though you aren't truly of the upper class, a certain sense of physical beauty and fashion was expected from you.  With regular Reju-Renu service from the TI Clinic, you don't have an excuse not to play along.

"Excuse me, Ma'am.  Do you have a moment?"

Caught off guard, you must've left your office door open, "Chief?  Oh, sure.  What's up?"

Neil goes ahead and seats himself in your office, "Well Ma'am, we got so caught up in today's meeting that we forgot to discuss upcoming personnel plans."

"Oh, right!  Can we pick up that old Greywater guy to fill Hoxton's billet?"

"Yes, Bauer certainly is an interesting prospect isn't he?  He does have some baggage though.  We definitely should interview him for that billet however, along with some other prospects.  I've already cleared this with Legal, but I'd like to expand our roster."

"Wait... 'expand our roster?'  Aren't we fixed at ten shipboard billets with full citizenship and TI Clinic membership?"

Your Operations Chief goes on to explain that he has plans to create a clandestine "B-Team" of planetside operators.  Through ownership by shell corporations, they'll appear unaffiliated with Ocean PMC, and can be plausibly denied if killed, captured, or otherwise compromised.

"'Killed?'"

"Well Ma'am, we can't extend them the same benefits of our 'A-Team' now, can we?  No way we could afford TI mods for them, and would ruin their deniability if we did.  Hell, once we hit Chung-hwa, we won't even allow them shipside.  Of course we'd have to book them in coach class each FTL jump, but that's better than cutting them loose for 27 months at a time."

"It's sure an interesting proposal, Chief.  ...But won't that change operations?"

"Yes, and for better..."

Without ship access, these operators must go full native, living planetside like a true interstellar migrant.  As permanent boots on the ground, they can support our A-Team as only a native can.  They'll become de facto guides to their chosen area of operation, and may be developed into other capabilities as appropriate with their placement and access.  And of course, the B-Team could turn into something of a farm team for us, placing promising prospects into a longterm pipeline as a full-on TI modded shipside operator.

"That's intriguing Chief, but it's a helluva change to how we do business.  It also sounds expensive?"

"I hear you, Ma'am.  It's ambitious, but it should still fall within our budget surplus.  Definitely a better choice that another gorram lawyer getting fat on our dime too.  And with so many places going to hell in a handbasket, half the prospects on my shortlist would probably pay us for a ticket out of here anyways.  Still, I don't need you to fully commit now, we have to see how the interviews go this month."

You gesture for him to further explain.

"We're in a very niche line of work.  It would be nice if I could just walk over and enlist some patron out of the Twenty Forward Lounge, but our operators are cut from a different cloth than that."

You grin in agreement.

"Ma'am, we find our operators on the battlefields we fight on.  Men and women we've seen in action, and proven their mettle.  Whether they knew it at the time or not, all of our current hires had been previously encountered by on-duty operators from Ocean PMC."

You raise an eyebrow at that last statement, "All of them?"

"Yes, Ma'am.  We don't explain for obvious security reasons, but I'm sure they've all figured that out by now."

"So we've already met all these prospects then?  You're going to just fly down there and shake some hands now?"

Neil shrugs, "I wish, I could.  Half of the people on my shortlist are fugitives in a warzone.  Even if that weren't the case, senior personnel are too valuable to endanger planetside, and our field operators have actual operations to attend to."

You joke, "So what, you just slide into their DM's on social media?  'Wanna see the 'verse and live forever?  CLICK HERE!'"

"I was thinking more like 'HOT SINGLE MILF WANTS YOU FOR ACTION!'"

You weren't expecting that edgy a joke from Neil and it hits hard.  You double over in your seat laughing, but then sober up as you feel your untethered jugs wobbling all over the place underneath your thin blouse.

You catch the man's eyes fixated below your neckline, but he quickly recovers and meets your gaze,  "Well Ma'am, there's a contracted intermediary.  We've used them for decades without fail.  They can discreetly get anywhere and always keep their NDA's.  A Mothership Leviathan citizen too."

"You don't say?  No offense, but sounds like we should've recruited them to our little family by now."

Neil smiles, "Great point.  I asked Danny that about that once.  Said he already tried.  They like the freedom of being an independent contractor."

"Can't blame them for that.  So we give them our list, and then?"

"They dispatch small airmobile messengers to the exact location of the prospect."

"Like drones?"

"No, Ma'am.  Birds.  Very special ones, obviously.  Owls to be precise."

"The things they can do with biotech now..."

"I know, right?  They then deliver a handwritten letter.  Old fashioned I know, but keeps the whole exchange secure and off the grid."

"Nice."

"But the letter itself is more than it seems.  It can recognize its recipient, as well as communicate back to the sender that it has been read."

"Huh, impressive."

"And of course, we use the standard letter head: Ocean School of Mercenaries and Spies."

Quite satisfied with himself, he pauses dramatically and watches you for a response.  Confused, you answer him with only dumbfounded silence.

He tries to hide his frustrated disbelief, "You know... like Hogwarts?"

"Oh, I'm sorry," you say.  "I'm really regretting having never read any Tolkien these last few months."

"But..." Neil sighs with resignation.

Putting the joke aside, he explains everything about contracted intermediary part was true, except for the whole owl part onward.  For 20k, they'll interview five prospects anywhere in the planetary system.  By the end of the month, you'll receive a written report with supporting audio logs.  They have their own interview script, but they'll ask any additional or specific questions you request.  This month, you'll keep our identities and work details generic, in case they back out.  Next month, another 20k for follow-up interviews, medical screenings, and initial contract negotiations.  If there's someone who definitely fails first round interviews, you can try to replace them with a new prospect for the follow-up month.

"It's a service that's worth every penny, Ma'am."

"If only they had owls though..."

Neil laughs, "Indeed, Ma'am.  Of course, contract signing is done right before we hit FTL, then we have a whole month to onboard them before we hit Chung-hwa.  Now as for my recommendations for prospects, we've already mentioned Bauer-"

You interrupt him, "-excuse me, Chief.  I'd like to take my own shot at this."

He's caught by surprise, "Oh...  Okay... Well there's also Goodhaven-"

You stand and wave your hands frantically to cut him off again, "-seriously, Chief.  I got this."

Seemingly jarred by the unintentional frenetic jiggling of your unbridled space age knockers, he makes eye contact with you again and backs down, "...Well Ma'am.  You're the boss.  Let me know if you have any questions."

Quote from: OOC: Prospect Scouting
Name five NPC's you'd like to pursue as prospects.  These can be any living named NPC you've encountered so far.  In addition to identifying a potential prospects skills and aptitudes, assess if the person would actually want the job you plan to offer them.  It's an obvious waste to spend a limited interview slot on a talented operator who ultimately won't sign with Ocean PMC.

As usual, this Event will resolve by Mission Phase.

Stirk

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Re: Space Cowboys for Hire [Month 7] (New Blood Welcome)
« Reply #400 on: September 17, 2021, 03:50:52 pm »

1) Agent Barclay. If we hire him we don't have to track him down and murder him and he doesn't have to be tracked down and murdered. This works out well for all parties involved!

2) Peter Theil. Having his vast influence in our network can only be a bonus! See if they can use actual owls to increase recruitment chance.

3) Martinez & Sons. They're going to need new jobs after they all get fired and I feel kinda bad for them :(

4) Dr. Throckmorton. We die a lot. We could use a doctor to not die. If he is a good enough doctor to undie himself, he can consider himself hired.

5) Maartje Thyssen. We need more rioded up muscle heads on our team.

Thoughts? I picked more from the later half of the game since its been two years and I forgot most of the early people's names.
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Shadowclaw777

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Re: Space Cowboys for Hire [Month 7] (New Blood Welcome)
« Reply #401 on: September 18, 2021, 11:06:48 pm »

Quote from: Contacts Vote (pick 5)
(0) Lossarnach Country Club:
(0) Potter Properties:  **LIKELY UNAVAILABLE**
(0) Anghabar Mining and Refining:
(1) Tyrell Dynamics: Sam
(2) Disney-Fox-Universal-Comcast: Sam, SC777
(0) Los Tornadoes:
(0) Swearengen's Gentlemen's Club:
(1) Slavic Vor: SC777
(0) Casa Nuova:
(0) Goodhaven Sheriff:
(0) Harad Marshals:
(0) Flossmore Warden:
(1) Coalition Expeditionary Forces: Sam
(0) Interstellar Red Cross:  **LIKELY UNAVAILABLE**
(0) Amnesty Interstellar:  **LIKELY UNAVAILABLE**
(0) United Labor Movement:
(0) United Green Party:
(1) Interstellar Geographic Society: SC777
(2) Palantir Technologies: Sam, SC777
(2) Agent Charlie Lively: Sam, SC777

Reasoning, we have five operators for this month and it might go to six if make Agent Bauer, the point is this is the month where we should have at least have one safe-ish mission, and to me that goes with IGS because we might get a bird-watching mission or something, just make sure they 100% know that any ocean-based exploration is off the table. We have like 2 people do the IGS mission, including Vic since it’s the most likely to not involve combat, and then we send 3 people to do the PT or the ACL mission. We could also do 2 on PT, 2 on ACL, and 1 on bird-watching (Vic) on IGS if we want to be daring. Slavic Vor because their Chads and homies and I like just seeing what mission’s criminals give us, drug trafficking? Bodyguard protection? So many interesting options

Well annoyed that we can't just have Jack Bauer just instantly send an interview to become a TI operative to replace Huxton, we still have the buyout money for a new one, from Velociraptor King right?

My picks would be I guess Janet “Holla” Hollaran, Agent Charle Lively, Doctor Throckmorton, Raja Chatterjee, and some Southeastern Asian that we’ve previously met (The only one I can recall is the military guy we talked too on the Task Force Orion mission I believe?), my mind is blank on this as well as finally Bauer, and the most likely person to replace is probably Raja and become a TI operative.

Holla is the most willing to leave planet maybe, has deputy experience and some of our previous training, and has lost a wife. Maybe this will be the push to go off-world?
Agent Charlie Lively may want to leave off-world now that he got backstabbed, may want to stay in Harad or something
Doctor Throckmorton lost a job and is already going revolutionary in the Chung-Hwa system, so it seems like he would like to join
Jack Bauer, is the most optimable person because he had previous Greywater Experience or whatever to become the next TI operative
Raja Chatterjee, because he’s a language translator and maybe he wants to leave CoFor management, might already be in a service contract.

Maybe we can just put an Ad in the main AMR cities looking for Eastern Asiatic ethnic operators to join us, because they would be the most ethnically-similar to the new region, and I can’t recall someone we know who is of this and also willing to leave their profession to join
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Kashyyk

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Re: Space Cowboys for Hire [Month 7] (New Blood Welcome)
« Reply #402 on: September 19, 2021, 11:58:47 am »

Spoiler (click to show/hide)

I made a list of all the times someone named showed up and then didn't die.

My votes would be for Agent Charlie Lively and Dorothy Miller (nee Wilder) to start, as they both have shown competence in stressful situations, don't have much tying them to their current location and probably want a fresh start under new stars. They've also both got some useful skills as an Intel Operative and a Combat Medic, respectively.

I'd also second Janet "Holla" Hollaran, as she seems pretty competent and quick to learn. No obvious reason I can see either for or against leaving beyond the standard "Go to interesting places. Meet interesting people. Shoot them", angle though.

If we want more guns, Lt Rogers and Sgt Sen from CoFor would be useful as well.  Neither of them seem particularly pleased with the crap CoFor is having them pull.

Finally, a couple of slightly out-there options. Maartje Thyssen might want an excuse to be her person out from under her parents thumb, although she doesn't have any obvious perks beyond beef. Khadija Gilani is only working for Potters as it gives her freedom. Perhaps the freedom of going interstellar will be what she wants? Finally, Sid the Velocirator. He probably still needs a home, and screw you all for denying us a dinosaur.

Will think about contacts in a bit.
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Stirk

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Re: Space Cowboys for Hire [Month 7] (New Blood Welcome)
« Reply #403 on: September 23, 2021, 11:37:59 pm »

Spoiler (click to show/hide)

I made a list of all the times someone named showed up and then didn't die.

My votes would be for Agent Charlie Lively and Dorothy Miller (nee Wilder) to start, as they both have shown competence in stressful situations, don't have much tying them to their current location and probably want a fresh start under new stars. They've also both got some useful skills as an Intel Operative and a Combat Medic, respectively.

I'd also second Janet "Holla" Hollaran, as she seems pretty competent and quick to learn. No obvious reason I can see either for or against leaving beyond the standard "Go to interesting places. Meet interesting people. Shoot them", angle though.

If we want more guns, Lt Rogers and Sgt Sen from CoFor would be useful as well.  Neither of them seem particularly pleased with the crap CoFor is having them pull.

Finally, a couple of slightly out-there options. Maartje Thyssen might want an excuse to be her person out from under her parents thumb, although she doesn't have any obvious perks beyond beef. Khadija Gilani is only working for Potters as it gives her freedom. Perhaps the freedom of going interstellar will be what she wants? Finally, Sid the Velocirator. He probably still needs a home, and screw you all for denying us a dinosaur.

Will think about contacts in a bit.

I never actually made the connection with the Dorothies until this post. Goes to explain why the Sheriff doesn't care for immigrants if he blames them for killing his grandkid with space disease.

Anyway I'll reiterate my choice of Jack Bauer. The best choice for a space mercenary is a space mercenary. He's got the experience, the talent, and a good rapport with our troops considering he already helped them out at several points. Unlike the other choices we've seen him in action and he managed to get the job done competently. I don't see much use for an army medic who doesn't seem to have seen any action and retired (medics are first responders with 16 weeks of training, while she is competent in first aid we can't expect her to pull miracles like the possibly late Doctor did). Agent Lively might add some skills we don't already have as an Intel Agent but every job he's touched we've failed. He's clearly bad luck.
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m1895

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Re: Space Cowboys for Hire [Month 7] (New Blood Welcome)
« Reply #404 on: September 26, 2021, 03:44:28 pm »

Quote from: Contacts Vote (pick 5)
(0) Lossarnach Country Club:
(0) Potter Properties:  **LIKELY UNAVAILABLE**
(0) Anghabar Mining and Refining:
(1) Tyrell Dynamics: Sam
(3) Disney-Fox-Universal-Comcast: Sam, SC777, m1895
(0) Los Tornadoes:
(0) Swearengen's Gentlemen's Club:
(1) Slavic Vor: SC777
(0) Casa Nuova:
(1) Goodhaven Sheriff: m1895
(0) Harad Marshals:
(0) Flossmore Warden:
(1) Coalition Expeditionary Forces: Sam
(0) Interstellar Red Cross:  **LIKELY UNAVAILABLE**
(0) Amnesty Interstellar:  **LIKELY UNAVAILABLE**
(0) United Labor Movement:
(0) United Green Party:
(2) Interstellar Geographic Society: SC777, m1895
(3) Palantir Technologies: Sam, SC777,  m1895
(3) Agent Charlie Lively: Sam, SC777, m1895
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