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Master Balthasar

Master Balthasar.  Captain of the Fifth Company.  Keeper of the Ritual.  Something of an enigma.  All that is known in the canon is that he’s a long term veteran of the Deathwing, was a veteran sergeant there, and took over the fifth after his mentor, Master Zadakiel, was killed by the Chaos Marines of the Crimson Slaughter.  So let’s flesh out this Dramatis Personae a bit.

Master Balthasar passed through the Scouts of the tenth with notice, but no great distinction.  He served ably in the Devastator and Assault squads of the reserve companies, earning a reputation as an able, precise close quarter fighter, far more at home is the press of melee than in the distant thunder of the big guns.

He moved into the reserve tactical company, and demonstrated exceptional situational awareness, frequently commanding a combat squad when his squad divided during operations.  His stint in the reserve tactical companies ended when he received a call to the 5th company, taking his place in the assault squads, one of which he swiftly rose to command.  As every marine  leader does, he led from the front, preserving his forces with canny tactics, carefully marshalling his squad and executing precision strikes, demonstrating masterful control of his squad as an extension of his will.  Master Belial was quick to call him into the Deathwing, trading the speed and flexibility of his jump pack for the inexorable power and stolid protection of the tactical dreadnought armor.  Taking part in many campaigns against traitors and renegades he learned much of the fallen and took the news of their existence in stride, incorporating it into his plans and tactics flawlessly.  He ascended quickly again, to knight and then to Deathwing Sergeant.  Commanding his own squad of knights until, in a raid against the Crimson Slaughter; chasing rumors of the Fallen, he watched across the battlefield as an ambush caught his old mentor and commander, Master Zadakiel and fire tore him and his command squad apart.

The Fifth faltered, and Balthasar rose to the moment.  Dispatching his squad to continue their mission he loped across the field, desperation forcing him beyond the normal limits of the powerful terminator armor until he was amongst his old brothers.  Snapping out orders quickly and surely he rallied the company and led them through the Crimson Slaughter’s defenses, although their Fallen comrade had slunk away, the Fifth had found their new master, and Azrael’s decision to award him the title Master merely confirmed that which was widely known when the company returned to the rock.  Putting down the bone white armor of the deathwing, he resumed the dark green of Caliban and took up the mantle of Master.

Swamps of M’boto part II

Master Balthasar saw the blue-skinned xenos as soon as he crested the knoll, passing close to the copse of trees, with two squads to his left, and another working its way through to his right, his squad screened the Devastators of Sergeant Simuels 9th squad who would set up on the top of the knoll after Balthasar’s command group had cleared it.  Balthasar boomed out the Dark Angels battle cry “REPENT, FOR TOMORROW YOU DIE” He swung his relic blade into his left hand, hoisting the massive Combi weapon one-handed he fired a bolter into the squad of xenos blocking the road beneath, as a large, fast-moving hovercraft blasted down the shoulder towards the Chaplain’s attack.

“Bring down that ship!” Balthasar cried, even as Simuel’s Missile Launchers and Plasma Cannons barked several shots, smashing the sturdy craft to the ground, where it began to burn even as the survivors of the squad within tried to crawl free, into the bolter fire of the rest of the devastator squad.  The tactical squads to Balthasar’s left also raked the wreckage, keeping the survivors from rallying under their cruel scourging fire.  Balthasar’s attention was jerked to his right as a shell struck his shoulder pad.  Across the road at some distance las-fire flickered from a position that was held by humans.

“Matthias, the hunt is on, your quarry is across the road on the far hill, call for support when you have closed in”  Balthasar tongued the stud switching to his command frequency.  “Brother Librarian, Sergeant Matthias is closing on the enemy.  I believe the signal you seek is near him”

“Very well Master Balthasar, we stand ready to drop on his signal.  For the Lion”  came the reply of Brother Librarian Herod.  The Iron Armor of the 3rd squad crashed out of the trees at last, at point blank range to the defenders currently firing at Balthasar’s group.  Other positions across the road had engaged the squad’s to Balthasar’s left and the Devastators were engaged with vehicles trying to force the road before the Chaplain could break through.  The clumsy, heavy armor of the 5th squad shrugged off the surprised, desultory fire of the defenders of the road, and the staccato bursts of their bolters sent the survivors of the attack fleeing.  Balthasar ran forward, leaping the barricade “Fifth, secure the barricade and aid 1st and 3rd.  Matthias are you in position?”

“We are, bring in the reinforcements”

Even before Balthasar could speak the booming chime of a teleporter announced the arrival of the Deathwing.  11 suits of Terminator armor, in the midst of the traitorous humans pinned under the heavy weapons of Matthias fast-moving speeders.  Lasgun and Bolter fire smacked into the terminators, not even slowing them as they opened a lethal close range fire, silencing nearly all resistance.

“The xenos are breaking!”  Called Eleazer, at the left of the line.

“Judah, harry them and destroy them”

“As the Emperor wills!”  called Eleazer, even as the jet packs launched them into a headlong pursuit.  Balthasar raced up the hill as the Speeders orbited at a safe distance.  The Devastators had chased off the xenos vehicles, one of which was burning, and smoke indicated other damage to the ones that limped away.  The bone-white terminators were in a ring around a small, sunken bunker.  One of them, armor picked out in blue, called out as Balthasar approached.

“He’s in there.  I can feel him.”  His powerful fist clenched on the staff he carried.  Balthasar looked around him.  “Purify the battlefield” he directed his squad “Herod and I will attend to this”

Herod hefted his staff and Balthasar blasted the door with the Combi-Weapon’s plasma gun, then stepped back as the bulky terminator-armored Librarian rushed the door, allowing him to heft his relic blade and race in on the Librarian’s heels.  A robed figure in simple armor faced them.

“Brothers”

“You have forsaken us, and that word.”

“You have forsaken the Imperial Truth, and all the Emperor stands foAAHHHHH” he cried, as a halo of pink and purple danced around the Chaplain’s hood.  As the figure started to buckle; Balthasar leapt forward securing the prisoner.  The librarian was speaking with the ship on another channel.  Balthasar hefted the prisoner to his feet the Librarian reached out a hand, grabbing the prisoner roughly.  “Begin the withdrawal, we have what we came for, our campaign is over”

“It is indeed.  Chaplain Maccabeus, send our transports to grid 10371138.  Have the apothecaries see to the wounded, and the fallen.  Inform the guard we are required elsewhere, the battle barge will be withdrawing us soon.”

5th Company, Dark Angels Organization

Here’s the full force I have minus some additional tanks.  Currently it is all set up as a massive Battle Company army clocking in at over 3000 points.  I actually have an enormous proportion of this, with only a few specific models to pick up, and tomorrow I will be doing the painting thing to a good portion of it.  Certainly at least the first Demi Company.  The high-level view is a battle company, with 3 of the tactical squads at 6 men, in razorbacks, the other 3 at ten men.  6 man squads have a plasma gun, 10 man have flamer and Heavy Bolter.  Razorbacks are all twin lascannon.  Assault squads are all full with jump packs and twin flamers.  I am missing 3/4 of the assaults and this is the largest hole in the roster currently.  Devastators are all at 10 men although I suspect a lot of point shaving will happen here.  They are all in Rhinos.  The Captain’s Demi Company has the command squad, with banner and apothecary.  The Chaplain could get tooled up, and will probably steal the devastator’s rhino and combat squad if he can.

The Auxiliaries is where things get crazy.  First off we have the Terminator squads.  The close combat squad comes in it’s handy land raider, which I plan on using to blitz upfield and deploy the terminators.  There’s a good chance there will be some extra terminators in it at some point, including the librarian depending on the powers he gets.  The shooty squad will deep strike in with those nasty Deathwing deep strike rules.  To take full advantage of them, we have a Ravenwing element.  This will also get looked at more closely as I actually use it in games.  Eventually I plan on having a pretty hefty Ravenwing with at least 3-4 speeders and 12+ bikes.  The special speeders DA gets are just too much fun to ignore.

+++ New Roster (Warhammer 40,000 7th Edition v2012) (3087pts) +++

++ DA Lion’s Blade Strike Force (Dark Angels: Codex (2015) v2003) ++

+ Core +

········Battle Demi Company
············Assault Squad [9x Assault Space Marine, 2x Flamer, Jump Packs]
················Assault Space Marine Sergeant [Bolt Pistol, Chainsword]
············Command Squad [Apothecary, Company Standard]
················Razorback [Twin Linked Lascannon]
············Company Master
················Power Armour [Combi-Plasma, Infantry, Relic Blade]
············Devastator Squad [Armorium Cherub, 2x Missile Launcher, 2x Plasma Cannon, Rhino, 9x Space Marine]
················Sergeant [Boltgun, Chainsword]
············Tactical Squad [Plasmagun, 5x Tactical Marine]
················Razorback [Twin Linked Lascannon]
················Sergeant [Boltgun, Chainsword]
············Tactical Squad [Plasmagun, 5x Tactical Marine]
················Razorback [Twin Linked Lascannon]
················Sergeant [Boltgun, Chainsword]
············Tactical Squad [Flamer, Heavy Bolter, Rhino, 9x Tactical Marine]
················Sergeant [Boltgun, Chainsword]

········Battle Demi Company
············Assault Squad [9x Assault Space Marine, 2x Flamer, Jump Packs]
················Assault Space Marine Sergeant [Bolt Pistol, Chainsword]
············Chaplain [Crozius Arcanum, Infantry, Plasma Pistol]
············Devastator Squad [Armorium Cherub, 2x Missile Launcher, 2x Plasma Cannon, Rhino, 9x Space Marine]
················Sergeant [Boltgun, Chainsword]
············Tactical Squad [Flamer, Heavy Bolter, Rhino, 9x Tactical Marine]
················Sergeant [Boltgun, Chainsword]
············Tactical Squad [Flamer, Heavy Bolter, Rhino, 9x Tactical Marine]
················Sergeant [Boltgun, Chainsword]
············Tactical Squad [Plasmagun, 5x Tactical Marine]
················Razorback [Twin Linked Lascannon]
················Sergeant [Boltgun, Chainsword]

+ Auxiliary +

········Deathwing Redemption Force
············Deathwing Terminator Squad [Assault Cannon, 2x Chainfists, 4x Deathwing Terminators]
················Deathwing Sergeant [Storm Bolter and Power Sword]
············Deathwing Terminator Squad [4x Deathwing Terminators, 2x Pair of Lightning Claws, 2x Thunder Hammer and Storm Shield]
················Deathwing Sergeant [Thunder Hammer and Storm Shield]
················Land Raider Crusader [Multi-Melta]
············Librarian
················Psyker [Level 2]
················Terminator Armour [Force Stave, Storm Bolter]

········Ravenwing Attack Squadron
············Ravenwing Bike Squad [5x Ravenwing Biker]
················Ravenwing Attack Bike [Multi-Melta]
················Ravenwing Sergeant [Bolt Pistol]
············Ravenwing Land Speeder [Assault Cannon, Multi-Melta]

Created with BattleScribe (http://www.battlescribe.net)

WoW, Raiding

So week one of legion raiding is in the books.  For us non-mythic types anyway.  And we got a bunch of bosses down!  I was with the guild for 5/7 on normal, and the guild went 7/7 and 2/7 on heroic.  I just couldn’t raid more than two nights this week (or, ever if I want to stay married)

wowscrnshot_092216_210751

Nythendra was a bit of a joke on normal.  We wiped once, and I died the second time when I trapped myself in a sea of green, then self-rezzed out of it.  Enhancement has some amazing utility and a great toolkit, but its survival is a bit crap at the moment.  Especially if I can’t plan ahead.  We then wiped on trash for a bit (actually we wiped on trash before Nyth, it might be the hardest part of the raid) and pressed on to Ursoc.

Our tanks took a while to get it down.  He requires a TON of tank swaps and healers have to stay on their toes, mostly to top up the tanks constantly rather than tons of raid damage.  For DPS you can tunnel like a kobold for 90% of the time then either step back or intercept a charge.  Not a challenge.

wowscrnshot_092216_220503

Night one ended with 9 wipes on Il’gynoth.  We were not doing the damage we needed in the right place.  I kind of disagreed with how we were handling some of the adds, but I also didn’t speak up.  We had a lot of damage but our application of damage was all over the place.  I also popped a flask, like a nub, with 10 minutes left on my existing one, on our last pull of the night.  Sigh.

We then went back a couple nights later, killed the Dragon, which was frustrating because pretty much everyone made dumb mistakes (including me, now healing instead of dps) before getting a pretty much perfect pull and crushing the boss.

Elerethe was up next, the spider/bird boss.  This was a LOT of fun, we wiped once just learning the fight then cruised through it with some sharp play, people avoiding damage, and heals keeping people up.  I think this was a fight I should have been DPS to be honest, but I can see it both ways.

Finally it was back to Il’gynoth.  The wipefest continued with more healers than the other night.  Our healing wasn’t the problem.  Our raid team was taking way too much damage.  going from 3 healers to 4 didn’t make a difference, going to 6 wouldn’t take a difference.  People have to not stand in bad.  Finally we brought in another DPS (who was already locked out from gear) and one of our DPS changed the way he was handling adds to allow him to not die as much and we had an amazing clear.  I went from spamming all my cooldowns and healing constantly, to spot healing and even doing some damage.  Looking at the logs I went from healing 49 million HP to 42.  The fight didn’t last as long but my casts per minute were about the same, but the damage I was able to contribute (and healer damage matters) went from 14 million (in a longer fight) to 22 million.  So I healed more HP / second, by using more efficient heals, with better throughput, AND did a ton more damage.  Oh and I was alive to use bloodlust on the final phase.  Might have made a difference.  This is one fight I’m NOT looking forward to on heroic.  I also got a bunch of gear.  I got a DPS weapon upgrade, I got boots, and I got a ring.  Not bad for first week of raiding in… forever.

This week I want a full clear of normal and I’d like to kill everything up to Il’gynoth on heroic.  I really think Il is going to be the big hurdle for us (and most other casual raids) Also I’d like to remember to take screenies on all the kills.

EDIT:  Found the Il’gynoth kill pic!

wowscrnshot_092516_000143

That someone hid me on by mounting….

So Who is Corelin

Hi, I’m Corelin.  I’m a gaming persona that was built up over years.  I’m sarcastic and bitter.  I’m savage and insightful.  I’m brutal and cruel.  I’m compassionate and caring.  I’m a courageous leader.  I’m a back bench back stabber.  I love filling the skill roles.  I hate responsibility.

I almost always end up in leadership.  I hate seeing things done badly and my sarcasm usually results in the “WELL WHY DON’T YOU SEE IF YOU CAN DO BETTER” and I usually manage it.  Not always, and never perfectly, but I do.  I play EvE.  LotRO.  WoW.  LoL.  FF XIV.  I FC.  I tank.  I Heal (badly).  I rarely back down from a challenge and if I leap to accept you had better ask who really challenged who.

I’m not Machiavellian but I do like my clever ruses.  Still and all I tend to stick to the simplest plan that will be effective.  Multiple converging strikes look great on notebook paper and history books but rarely work in a game.

Currently I’m doing two things I never thought I’d do.  Play WoW as a raider (first raid tomorrow night) and main a Shaman.  An Enhancement Shaman at that.  Raiding requires at least a casually intense gaming schedule, and Shaman… Shamans are weird.

Right now I’m geared up to where I can basically spend a couple nights a week on maintaining readiness (dailies and such) and a night or two a week raiding.  I have a spot as DPS which is… weird.  In FF I tanked, in LotRO I was usually doing small enough content that I did whatever.  Enhancement is a very interesting spec.  It has lots of little windows for good but not great burst damage, and they come at random times.  Sometimes you go on a drought where your cooldowns are staring at you like “USE ME” and there’s just no procs to use them on.  Sometimes the procs are coming so fast all the cooldowns are gone and you’re still doing good DPS.  I don’t really like how random it is at time.  On the other hand there’s so little ramp up time it’s very handy for add phases and any time I need to swap damage.  It’s like an instalock BC in EvE with no drones.  All my damage just starts hitting the other guy.  Now getting it on the right guy is the fun part of that “Ballet” I used to talk about raids being.  Expect more on that later.  For now, expect some activity from the blog.  Maybe even some screenies.

The Tourney Scene

So I’ve never hidden the fact that I really, REALLY hate tournaments in tabletop games.  With a blinding passion.  It keeps me up at night.  It forces good games into “metas” that leech the fun out of the game.  In my area, Warmachine / Hordes tourneys dominate the scene so much that finding a good casual game takes herculean efforts.  Recently I’ve noticed X-Wing has become rather toxic at times.  Fortunately it hasn’t taken hold in my local area but some of the things you see online.  Well.  Let’s look at this:

TO THE DEATH!

The short version is that there’s a lot of situations at X-Wing tournaments where an intentional draw is to the advantage of both players, and tournament mechanics combined with how FFG has enforced certain wordings has encouraged it.

The short, short version is that people are being rewarded to not play the game.

Now I don’t like games getting to the point where people play ultra competitive, soul crushing lists that don’t bring much fun to the game.  Where they rules lawyer every point bringing in every observer to haggle over the tenth of an inch long after the fun has been sucked away, beaten, dissected, dried up, turned to ash and blown away.  Even by that standard this is farcical.  People can gain an advantage by NOT PLAYING and this hasn’t even been responded to?

I play games for enjoyment.  The only FFG tourney I attended I ended up taking home cards.  After edging out a win in one match and getting WHOMPED in the second.  And I’m fine with that.  I love showing up on nights and playing a couple casual games where people are trying out fun and interesting lists.  Right now even with tourneys all over X-Wing is in a decent place meta-wise.  The new wave has shaken things up and while regionals are up, as well as a charity tourney this weekend, people are flying some interesting stuff.

This isn’t affecting me directly.    I can avoid the LGS on tourney prep nights and during tourneys.  I like playing a couple games a month and weekly play is on tap here, but just knowing this mindset exists is deeply disturbing, and hearing that FFG has even condoned it (hopefully only as a mistake) also disturbs me.

Strangely, the game that seems least affected by all this is 40k.  I know that there is a tourney scene, but you see more leagues than tourneys, partially due to the epically long games that any GW product can generate.  40k and Games Workshop in general is in pretty poor condition, but hey, they don’t have to worry about ugly tourney scenes.  Which is nice.

To wrap up this messy post; tourneys can take a fun game and turn it into a competitive mess.  X-Wing has pretty good meta management, but letting this intentional draw foolishness go on really damages the brand.

Jumping Around a Bit

So while I work out some transitions, here’s a scene with a bit more oomph to it.

Lieutenant Upham called us together.  22 of us, crewing 10 trucks with a handful of the best yokels filling the empty seats.  Still less than 30 of us total.  The trucks were lined up in two chalks, herringboned out on either side of the road.  Even though half the sun was over the horizon, even over the waist high shrubbery that seemed to have replaced grass in this weird climate, the yokel brigade was still struggling to get out of bed.

I focused in on the Lieutenant.  We had already gone over the briefing last night, and nothing had changed since the yokels went to bed, but you never knew if you’d missed something.  The plan was simple.  Drive our armored trucks up the road, pause at the village and provide support while the yokels grabbed the village.  Then we’d sweep around and skirmish forward to grab a crossroads that would let the rest of the division get assembled.  The route was straightforward, recon was nonexistent.  I would ride in Sergeant Mikkelson’s truck.  Last in line.  We ran with a light autocannon in the turret, as well as recovery gear.  We needed that to fill our primary job of dealing with casualties.  Our patrol rolled out as the first Yokel troops started to form up on the road.  We left them coughing on a cloud of dust as we started the 5 miles to the village.  We raced the first mile in a couple of minutes, but the hills forced us to slow down.  An hour later we were still barely coming in sight of the village and the first vehicle had barely started down the last hill when the guns opened up.

A deluge of fire plastered us from the ridge running perpendicular to us south of the village.  Our guns opened up but stacked up on the road and driving straight at them we had a hard time getting more than two sets of guns firing, and at this range we’d be lucky to hit the ground let alone the guns.  Shells fountained the dirt around us.  Upham called out the only orders he could and we raced forward, the Flaks engines pushing the massive bulk of bolted on armor and weapons into a lumbering, brain-rattling drive.  I put my foot in, eyes on the screens linked to the cameras on either side of the truck.  Rotating through the views trying to divine through the clouds of dust, flame, dirt and smoke whether I needed to brake, turn, or just plow forward.  One of the Flaks took a direct hit.  With the sound of an axe splitting a bucket the shell punched through the armor over the bed, then the concussive blast of the charge tearing the back half apart, the vehicle rolled forward, engine undamaged, before rolling off into the bushes.

“Left! left! left!” Mikkelsen called, taking us opposite the damaged truck.  I’d been moving my hands to turn right and quickly corrected, smoothly pulling the truck over unmasking our cannon to take the gunline under fire.  The heavy chook-chook-chook of the autocannon spitting tracers downrange into the flaming muzzle blasts reassured me even as a shell hit close enough to rattle shrapnel off our armor.  We were only a few hundred yards away and as we deployed into line abreast our guns quickly silenced the artillery.  12 guns had been emplaced in scraped out shelters, most of the crews in yokel uniform scattering down the opposite slope of the ridge even as Upham’s truck rolled over the first gun, heavy machine guns blazing down the hill.

“Keep the skeer on ’em!” Upham yelled as our trucks crested the ridge.  We pulled behind our line, leaving them to it as Eyallo moved into the back, getting the tow hooks ready.  We pulled in front of the damaged Flak, Eyallo managed to hook up without even getting out, almost like we designed the system with that in mind, and we hauled it to what had been the command post for the guns.

Upham called out over the platoon push just as we reached the laager, “1 through 4 plus 7 rush the town, the rest of us will go ’round west of town and catch them as they flee, looks like it’s only yokels here and god knows when the infantry will catch up”

“Shit.  L-T wants to win the damn war his own self.  Eyallo unhook that Flak,” he paused to push a button “order of march, 1, 7, 4, 2, 3.  Crags keep that grenade launcher pointed up the upper windows, rest of us watch ground floor, don’t give ’em a chance to aim, just level ’em if you see movement.  Get moving, GO GO GO” he yelled as 1 rolled out as soon as he heard the order.  I was already gassing it and Eyallo barely had time to scramble back to the passenger seat while Mikkelsen reloaded the cannon’s cumbersome clips.  The village was barely a quarter mile away and we took it at a run, the troops in it were facing East, and we were coming in from the south where, only minutes before, friendly artillery had been holding the line.  We hit them before they’d even come up with a plan to deal with the new threat and caught another battery of guns limbered up in the town square.  As soon as we opened fire the garrison of the village lit out for greener pastures.  Most of them never got there, unless you count Elysium.

We still lost another truck.  Tail end charlie got it.  One of the guns managed to get off the limber, and the gun captain, a grizzled old bastard, probably a former merc, had popped a shaped charged shell off, it had buzzed right down the line, missing every truck until it smashed square against the driver’s door on the number 3 truck.  The shaped charge went off, spalling and molten metal rattling around inside the crew cab turning it into a horror of burnt, bleeding dead meat.  The Flak seemingly stunned by the demise of its crew, shuddered to a halt.  Before it stopped the gun captain exploded as 2 trucks heavy machine guns turned him and his crew into pink mist.

We pushed on past the town, meeting up with the rest of the patrol.  Upham’s crews were trading shots with the last guns of the hostile Yokel’s artillery battalion.  We didn’t dare cross the three miles to them, and with two broke trucks and damage to the others starting to pass from “inconvenient” to “dangerous” we decided to hook up the damaged trucks and fall back on the advancing friendly brigade.  We didn’t hook up too fast.  By the timeline the Yokels should already be assaulting the village and we expected them to show over the crest of the ridge east of town any minute now, but once we were hooked up we moved out.

The drive back was odd.  Upham was in the lead, we were second, barely any dust screening our view.  No sounds of gunfire ahead, but no communications with the yokels.  We drove faster than we had on the drive out, even towing two trucks and with a couple others hammered by shells to where their alignment barely let them drive straight.  Barely a mile from where we’d started we ran into the Yokels.  A Major flagged us down, manning a checkpoint on the road with almost two platoons of troops behind sandbags, with heavy weapons, a radio, and trailers with the smell of fresh food conveniently at hand.

“Brigadier Moltz decided to halt the march.  The troops are tired from yesterday and he though marching through the hills and then fighting a battle would be too much to ask for, especially with the sounds of the fighting we heard!”

Upham said nothing.  3 dead, 2 wounded, and a wounded yokel in return for two thirds of a battalion of guns and a shattered couple of yokel battalions and our own guys give it up for a siesta.  I looked back to see Eyallo turning from dark brown to nearly purple.

“Easy, E.  Long as they pay us we fight the war for ’em.  Help me patch up Red and Sonny back there in 8 and get the Yokel turned over to these yahoos.  God help him.”

Something Different: Getting Dirty

I grew to hate the flak in a hurry.  Do you know how many lubrication points a vehicle that size has?  How many potential leaks, cracks, whines, creaks and bumps that you need to check for?  After a while I started to wonder how this vehicle had such an awesome reputation.  It’s a rare vehicle that looks good when you’ve been staring at it from below for 6 hours trying to figure out where the hydraulic fluid is coming from.  That was after only two days.

The ship was leaving the next day.  Nearly forty of us going to various companies, even three to the Vedettes.  The roughhousing had stopped, between the threats and the humiliation of the first group, and the larger numbers of people the idiots kept their peace.  That and being so damn tired all the time.  I watched my back but honestly it seemed like a wasted effort.  We’d learned how to move in our gear, how to safely carry weapons, not that they gave us weapons, simply heavy rubber mock ups, but if you flashed the muzzle over anyone they made you do push ups until you were too tired to lift the muzzle high enough to “flag” someone anyway.  I figured it was a good idea even if it resulted in me spending an hour holding a 6 pound weapon at arms length for an hour for my own mistake.  Try it sometime.

We were all in our racks for the grav deck test.  Apparently running around if the thing spikes to 4g leaves a bit of a mark.  Naturally after a two hour buildup and lying flat on our backs, still as a corpse for another hour, we felt absolutely nothing and went on about our day.  The training shifted in those last hours.  We spent most of the time in the classroom learning the laws of land warfare.  The actual codes were simple.  The implications were not.  Some things they drilled into us over and over and over and over.

“Do not surrender to yokels.  Ever.  Always surrender to mercs.  Mercs follow the rules.  Yokels have their own and they do not like us.  Especially the ones that didn’t hire us.  Your fellow mercenaries, even the ones on the other side, have a vested interest in making sure the rules are followed.  They will ensure that in the event of your situation becoming untenable, that you are repatriated to your comrades based on the conditions of your bond.  For most of you that’s return as close to immediately as makes no difference, some of you that means being sent to a neutral world, like New Paris where you can arrange to return to your unit.  It never means a bullet in the back of the neck.”

“Never?”  One of the skinny kids in the back.  A farm kid from a company farm who had heard a lot of lines and farmed a lot of food he’d never get to eat.

“It did happen once.  Marko Rubaric’s Retaliators lived up to their name.  During a prolonged siege they captured several members of other companies.  When they couldn’t lift the siege they executed them.  Publicly.  The Bonding corporation immediately voided their contract, their bond, and all their escrows, and used most of that money to bring in the big boys.  Marko, all of his officers and about 2/3 of his men were killed and the few survivors are still doing hard labor.  The only ones that avoided any punishment were off planet support staff, and even they were barred from mercenary employment.  Planets that mistreat mercs often run into trouble, and usually their own mercs abandon them, but fire someone up over a flag or a cross or who knows what and they get stupid.  Stick to money people, and don’t trust anyone who ain’t another merc.”

We learned the esoterica of laws on some of these planets.  On Levant I wouldn’t be able to drive.  On Masada the men couldn’t shave unless gas attacks were believed imminent.  Many of these laws got ignored as impractical but what it meant was that when we weren’t fighting, we were mostly in our own enclaves, especially on worlds settled by people fleeing what they saw as persecution.  We learned how to search and secure detainees.  We learned a lot of first aid and survival skills.  We learned, we learned, we learned.  Somewhere in this mess the ship lifted and headed to New Crimea.  We all crowded the tiny observation bubble when it came time to jump.  The ship thrust out to the small point in space that let it violate the laws of physics, then the impression of a wave of bluish-violet light swept over the outside of the ship, and we were in the New Crimean system.

New Crimea started as something unusual.  A mix of ethnicities, Tartars, Ukranians, Chechens, Belorussians, Armenians, pretty much everyone but the Slavs, who were busy killing the ethnically unpure, had managed to get the UN to ship them out to a world that wasn’t too awful.  Over the course of a decade nearly 3 million people were shipped to New Crimea, and they took advantage of their skills with the land to do the one thing New Crimea seemed capable of doing.  Growing a shit ton of food.  Most planets struggled to be self-sufficient.  New Crimea was exporting food before the last of the “original” colonists shuffled off the ship.  Of course the biggest buyer of their food was inevitably, Russia.  The same slavs who wanted to give them only a swift death now were selling them whatever they wanted, and most of what they wanted was implements of death and destruction themselves, never wanting to be in the boat they were in to give up their homes in the first place.

Now New Crimea has plenty of food and lots of guns, Earth begins its final slide into barbarity as Russia cannot feed its people and the US politicians can no longer lie to enough people to keep order.  The outer planets, mostly colonized with the annoying minorities that the great powers couldn’t stand had lost their entire support system.  So they all banded together and worked to ensure that everyone had enough to survive, if not thrive.

Alternatively a couple of the fastest thinkers started hiring “Surplus Population” as mercenaries, arming them, and sending them to planets with valuable resources, not so much minerals or farmland, but factories capable of building technology, or even ships.  New Crimea was one of these planets.  Soon they realized the real money wasn’t in employing mercenaries, but in arming them, supplying them, and providing them with financial services, including escrows to make sure they got paid, and didn’t cheat their employers.  Now there was a whole subcontinent more or less set aside for mercenary training, arming, shipping, and all the myriad support services that kept them happily shooting, somewhere else.

We landed and shuffled off, one duffle bag on our back, one on our front and one awkwardly perched on top of the one on our back.  We were corralled through a pathway to a gauntlet of NCOs in myriad uniforms.  A slightly overweight corporal with a 5 o’clock shadow in the uniform of the Vedettes beckoned me over and helped me toss my bags onto a small 4×4.  Grabbing the others from our ship he told the driver of the 4×4 where to take our bags and took us back on the ship to get our trucks.

Quick Update

So my old keyboard was throwing tantrums.  Some of the keys were doubling or not entering inputs at all, I cleaned it with air, I removed the keys and cleaned the contacts, nothing worked.  SO I splurged, spent some birfday monies and got me a sexy new Blackwidow Chroma keyboard.

TOMORROW you get this weeks story update.  MONDAY or TUESDAY you get next weeks.  SOMETIME next week you get my thoughts spurred by an interesting conversation with my dad (a longtime attorney) on how much fun it would be to pick a non lawyer/judge for the open supreme court seat.

Something Different – There’s Plenty of Space, up in Space!

The ship wasn’t anything to be proud of.  A simple tramp freighter of a design that had proved almost completely un-economical.  Originally, spheres had dominated designs, it offered the best volume to surface area ratio.  Then some wag had remembered that these spheres had to bludgeon through atmosphere and someone else pointed out that most cargo traveled in shipping containers that just didn’t fit into spheres very well and suddenly there’s dozens of ships selling cheap because they are barely worth operating.

SMS Pinafore was one of these obsolescent ships.  A mostly broken down hauler of miscellaneous bits of cargo that didn’t require much speed or delicate handling.  Perfect for fresh mercenary recruits on their way to their units.  Once I walked up the ramp, duffle slung from my shoulder, I was greeted at the hatch with a grunt and an outstretched hand.  I reached to shake hands and the man laughed.

“Right missy, look I just need your order chip to see who is nursemaiding you for this run.”  He offered his hand again.  I handed him the chip, he swiped it with his datapad “Right, you’re in B group.  In the hatch, straight down the hall, last door on the left then last door on the right.  When you realize you’re lost look for anyone in a green jumpsuit and tell them you’re in B group, right off you go!” he chirped out the last with some cheer, and slumped back against the frame of the hatch.

I walked down the hall, the low ceiling and wide corridor making me uneasy as I paced its length.  I felt sure I must have walked out the far side of the ship by the time I turned left, and the right turn was almost immediate.  “B Group?”  I ventured to the back of the man at the desk by the door.

“Steel on target missy, orders?”  He held out his hand as he turned, a solid slab of a man, built like a retaining wall, with a face behind a mustache so well groomed I wondered if he took it off at night to preserve it.  He smiled to himself, humming a martial ditty as he swiped my orders.  “The Vedettes!  Damn good outfit.  I’ve seen them on many a field, they’ll do right by you I expect.  Hmmm….. let’s see, coveralls, utility kit, ‘tronics kit give your scores, field gear, and looks like you’re down for extra cold weather training?  Oh right, damn Finns.  Take this to the shop at the back, check everything before you sign for it then find yourself a rack.  I’d give you the tour but I can’t find my legs right now.  Damn pranksters” He swiveled his chair around so I could see the stumps of his legs.  “They think I won’t get them back.”  His smile turned to that of a hunting cat and I took a few steps back before mumbling my thanks.  I walked across the bay, the back wall curved down and to the left, apparently my group was in the edge of the sphere.  A bored looking heavyset woman looked up as I walked to her cage.  I handed her the form the man at the desk had handed me.

“Waitrightheremissy.”  She didn’t move, then breathed in deeply  “I’llgetcherstuffforya”  She waited again then shuffled off, wheezing.  I looked around the bay.  A double line of bunks sheltered under the curve of the wall, fans hung from the ceiling, and back towards the central corridor a partition blocked off most of the area, not a permanent bulkhead.  I squinted at the doors, able to make out “Latrine” on one, “Classroom” on another, but the last I couldn’t quite make out.  A hacking cough turned me around to see the woman swing a heavy plastic basket onto the counter.

“Dufflebag.  Check”  She opened the bag and handed it to me.

“Coveralls, 4.  Check” She shoved the four garments in the bag.

“Boots, 2 pair.  Check”  She clomped the boots on the counter, then waited for me to dump them in the bag.  She sighed as I placed them on the ground next to me.

“Utility belt.  Check”

“Electroncs kit.  Check”

Wet Weather gear, cold weather gear, hats, scarves, gloves, socks, underwear, liners, covers, cleaning kits, mess kits, it seemed the basket was bottomless, and the slow diction and action of the woman made it seem like twice as much.  Grandad had warned me about this moment.  I checked everything again before signing.  Half of what I’d been given was worn down, torn, or missing pieces.  The electronics kit was so damaged it wasn’t worth the bag she’d handed me.  She glared daggers at me for every piece I asked her to replace, and she shuffled off to the back to replace the items I’d rejected even more slowly.  The whine of electronics announced the powered chair of the man at the desk.  “Christ, Mary and their little dog she tried to fleece you blind.  Oye, you’d better get it right this time!  The goal isn’t to try to kill these people before they even get to their companies you damned skinflint!”

He insisted on checking everything I was issued, including the things that I’d accepted.  I spent the next hour waiting on the two to argue out their differences.  Lucy and Jeremiah went at it hammer and tongs while I sat back and folded acceptable items for storage.  Eventually I had everything on the list and a few things that weren’t but the other two showed no signs of stopping their argument, so I edged back and to the side.  I locked my bags in a footlocker bolted to the floor, then headed to the latrine.  The other door was labelled “Range” and had an array of locks and clipboards on it.

The Latrine was a large and public affair, toilets, urinals and showers all clustered around the complicated pumps and filters needed to recycle water and keep it flowing.  I washed up and came out to see a group of three at the counter, two men and a woman, all skinny, grubby looking kids.  They looked vaguely familiar but I couldn’t put names to them.  They took bunks as far from mine as possible and played cards together, glancing at me as I read on my pad.  Lucy and Jeremiah kept to themselves and around 9, without a word, walked out and turned off the lights.  I read for a bit longer before getting up to use the latrine, checking my things in the footlocker and going to sleep.

I woke up to a loud crash and a cry of pain.  In an instant I was up and behind my bunk.  The two boys had trapped on a line I’d strung up at the base of my bunk.  The room was pitch black, and the two were tangled up in each other and on the line.  I slipped around the bunk and waited for them to start moving, I swept my leg hard at ankle height and took them down again, before throwing myself down on them with elbows and fists riding my advantage ruthlessly.  I’d learned long ago that depending on the kindness of others was nice but that pain taught more permanent lessons.  I dragged them across the floor, using the pad as a flashlight, and tied them to their bunks with my line.

At four in the morning a new voice shattered the darkness.

“SCUUUUUUUM!”

The lights came on with the kind of intensity usually seen in close orbits of the sun, shouts, grunts and a scream echoed from the other side of the room.  I stood up as straight as I could.

“WHAT IN THE NAME OF CAESAR’S LEGIONS ACHING SOULS IS GOING ON HERE?”  He bellowed at the two boys tied to their beds.  “WHAT KIND OF FREAKY SHIT ARE YOU BOYS INTO?”  He yelled looking down on the bruised and beaten faces still tied to their beds.  “YOU HAVE EXACTLY ONE MINUTE TO GET OUT UP AND AT ATTENTION FUCKNUCKLES!”

He turned his attention to the girl and I “And you ladies!  There’s green tape on the floor marking out a route.  You have 30 seconds to get into fatigues and start running that tape.  10 laps.  MOVE!”  The girl was out the door 10 seconds before me.  The boys were still struggling.  I hadn’t made it easy for them to escape.  The route wound around the ship like a snake, up and down ladders, with arrows indicating the direction of travel.  I figured it was about half a klick, I was well into my fourth lap, and well behind the girl, before I saw the boys.  They were staggering a bit, with rope marks on their arms.  They avoided my glance as I passed them in the halls.

After the run the man that woke us up was lounging in his chair at the desk.  “Fair time, fair time.  Wash up, breakfast is in the galley.  Back across the main hall, first door on your right once you get across.  We start at 0630 so move!”

The boys didn’t make it to breakfast.  We sat in a classroom where they munched on a couple biscuits the instructor?  Drill Sergeant?  Asshole?  had brought them.

“Now I don’t know what happened last night.  I don’t care what happened last night.  If anything like it happens again I’m throwing all of you out the nearest hatch in whatever you are wearing whether we’re here or in hyperspace, capiche?”

We nodded.  He sighed and hung his head.  “Yes?  No?  Fuck you?”

“yes…” we mumbled.  He sighed again but let it go.

“This ain’t like the movies.  You’re all on contracts and have bonds posted.  You can walk away at any time and only forfeit your bond.  Yes you will get screamed at and it will be hard and if you are endangering anyone you can and will be summarily shot, but in general you will be treated a lot better than the soldiers you see in the vids.  You will also be expected to do more than you ever expected.  Every bedroll, tent, cot, meal, and drink of water comes from somewhere.  Every bullet, band aid and bean has to be carried out there.  And paid for.  You will do more with less than even the rudest colony world could prepare you for and that starts with training.  Sometimes you get to your unit and the first thing you do is get in a convoy and drive down a hot road through ambushes and bombs to link up with your unit.  You have to know enough to live long enough to get there, so every unit pools together some resources to train folks on the way, with retreads like myself, Jeremiah, and even Lucy to chivvy you along.  Today we set up your gear, and integrate a few latecomers.  This evening you meet your new best friends.

The next few hours were spent assembling the gear we’d been issued.  Then helping the 8 new folks, 6 guys and three more girls, with all their gear.  It all had to go together in identical assemblies, and we added first aid gear, and empty magazines to it.  The reason we put it all together the same?  If you find a body and need his first aid kit, you need to know where to look.  We ate a hurried lunch as we finished the task of assembling our kit, then threw on packs and belts and raced downstairs.

“The Fleming and Karkov 8-wheel 8-ton truck.  Affectionately known as the Flak 88.  Story goes that for every tank, plane, truck and man destroyed by the old Flak, this one has saved 10.  It’s a heavy utility vehicle, that serves as a command post, a recovery vehicle, a scout vehicle, a forward observer, a prime mover for field guns, a fuel or water truck, and even a supply vehicle.  The crew cab seats 5, driver, TC, gunner and two specialists, usually 1 on commo one doing whatever, and the back can carry up to 50 people, or more if you don’t like them, a fighting compartment for up to 5 more weapons, 8 tons of cargo, a mobile command center, a 5,000 gallon tank of water or gas, or a generator big enough to jump start this ship.  Every unit in the galaxy uses it and so, before you leave this ship, you will learn how to use every piece of equipment to maintain and operate this beast”