Theft, Death and Mutual Deception….
WOB JumpShip Purity of Flame
Near Zenith Jump Point
Virtue System, Lyran Alliance
11 October 3071
After the Word of Blake Tramp class JumpShip Purity of Flame jumped into the Virtue system zenith jump point, Demi-Precentor Mirabella Lucas held a conference with her principal leaders in the JumpShip’s main conference room. This also included the half-dozen Manei Domini warriors that traveled with the Forbidden Fruit III mu raider force.
“Alright everyone. This is going to be another standard ‘smash and grab’ raid against the infidels. Hidden Blade and our fighters have already cleared this jump point of any possible threats. We are now ready to get to business.”
“Intel has updated reports on your consoles. Are there any questions? None? Everyone get to your ships and finish your pre-combat drills. Adept Tureau and Adept Stern. I want the two of you to stay behind for a few minutes.”
While both adepts wore the same white jumpsuits that Word of Blake personnel wore while not in their combat uniforms, they were a study in contrasts in every other way. Adept Victor Stern was Navy in every way, a short stocky man with short cropped graying hair in his mid forties. He wore a serious expression on his face as he stood there at parade rest. Adept Ursula Tureau was a tall, statuesque woman in perhaps her late 20’s or early thirties with long flowing auburn hair and a pale complexion. She was also unnaturally beautiful. Victor knew that much of this was the result of extensive cosmetic surgery.
Ursula’s incredible beauty concealed far more than her two prosthetic arms, IR enhanced prosthetic eye and other cybernetic enhancements. It also disguised a terrible hatred inside of her heart. She despised the Clans with a passion. Ursula’s entire family had been killed at Twycross by the Jade Falcons. Her hatred for everything else outside of the Manei Domini burned very nearly as fiercely, especially for the former Precentor Martial Anastasius Focht.
“Adept Omega Poltergeist Ursula Tureau. You are not going to participate in this raid. You will be staying here on the Purity of Flame. You will be in charge of security until I return. You will comply with Adept Stern’s instructions in my absence.” (I am leaving you behind with one of your fellow Maneii Domini. He will be continuing his interrogation of the prisoner. You will not interfere…)
“Why are you leaving me behind, Sir?” Ursula asked while coldly staring at a point about two meters behind the Demi-Precentor’s face.
“You know damn well why you are being left behind. I don’t care if that Adept did not agree with your decision to execute those prisoners. I don’t care if you are Maneii Domini. You do not shoot my troops….period. You will stay here away from the battlefield until I decide what I am going to do with you. Do you understand, Adept?”
“Yes, sir. I serve the Master and those he has appointed over me.” Ursula coldly said in an almost mechanical voice.
“Adept Stern. Go ahead and recharge both the K-F drive and the L-F battery with the jump sail. I expect that we will be to remain in system long enough to do a full recharge for both. Besides, we have pushed the K-F drive hard enough with double jumps lately. I want to give your engineering crew enough time to run full diagnostics on the drive and do any necessary repairs.” The Demi-Precentor instructed the JumpShip’s captain.
“The Blessings of Blake be with you.” Adept Stern said as the Demi-Precentor left the JumpShip’s conference room to prepare for the raid on the nearby planet. The beautiful Manei Domini followed her commander out of the conference room a few moments later, leaving the ship’s captain by himself in the room.
Seventy eight hours after the Purity of Flame released its Lion and Assault Triumph DropShips to attack the colony on Virtue II, its sensors picked up the signature of an incoming JumpShip on the far side of the zenith jump point.
“It looks like a standard Invader class JumpShip. Visual sensors indicate that it is carrying a pair of Mule class cargo DropShips.” Acolyte Gregor Moran announced.
“Are we due any new arrivals?” Adept Stern with a slightly raised eyebrow.
“Not according to our most recent intel, Captain.” replied Acolyte Moran. While Victor Stern’s official title within the Word of Blake was Adept, many of the JumpShip’s crew still referred to him by the traditional title of Captain. Of course, this was mostly when the Demi-Precentor was off of the bridge, Victor chucked to himself quietly.
“What are we going to do? She doesn’t look like a military ship.” Adept Tureau asked. She had quickly traveled from her quarters to the JumpShip’s bridge after learning about the new arrival.
“I was thinking of keeping a close eye on her for now” Victor replied calmly. “As you said, she doesn’t appear to be a military ship.”
“Her mere presence is a threat to us. She can report on our activities here unless she is neutralized.” Ursula sharply noted.
“We are getting a transmission from the Invader.” A communications tech reported.
“Put it on the speaker.” Victor ordered.
The woman’s voice over the speaker sounded weary and fearful.
“This is the JumpShip Santa Maria. We have had an explosion in our drive room, resulting in a misjump. We have numerous serious casualties including our medic. We’d like permission to bring some of our casualties over to your ship on one of our DropShips so that your doctor can help. Please help us. Several of my personnel have life-threatening injuries. We just can’t treat them all. Please…..”
“They cannot be permitted to approach this ship.” Ursula bluntly stated after the transmission ended.
“Agreed. But are we not going to do anything to help them? If we don’t help in some way, they will certainly be suspicious of us. We could send a medical team to them.” Victor replied. He had to come up with some alternative. Otherwise, Ursula would succeed in taking de facto control of his ship by sheer force of will.
“The longer that ship remains in this star system. The more likely that she will detect our true purpose here.” Ursula continued. She looked down at Victor, staring directly into his eyes.
“Adept Tureau. Our troops on the ground are under tight EMCOM measures, no long-range communications at all. The planetside communications array was among the first targets of our fighters. There is nothing to indicate that we are anything other than an ordinary commercial JumpShip with two Mule class cargo ships.”
“Please be patient. You will have plenty of opportunities for battle in the future.” Victor quietly continued with a friendly smile. Still, Ursula scared the hell out of him.
She smoothly walked up to Victor with a perfect smile of her own.
“I serve my Master without hesitation. His will is clear. We have been ordered to seize or destroy all assets that can serve our Holy Cause or can be used by the infidels to resist us. We have the means here with the Hidden Blade to travel to that JumpShip and seize it without its crew being aware of our threat until it is far too late for them to act. Our actions will please the Master. We will all be rewarded for our efforts.”
Ursula reached out her hand and gently caressed Victor’s cheek. The gesture seemed on the surface to be caring, perhaps even loving as she smiled down at him. But Victor was fully aware that hidden within the synthetic flesh of her cybernetic hand that looked so natural, were both a laser pistol and a vibroblade, less than an inch from his throat.
A natural human hand is normally warm to the touch.
The icy touch of Ursula’s hand sent a deathly chill down his spine.
Ursula moved even closer to Victor, purring into his ear.
“Do you know how I got these prosthetic arms and all of the other gifts from my Master? I was building a bomb to put alongside the main supply route for one of the Clan garrisons when it detonated prematurely. I lost both of my arms. My helmet visor shield and body armor vest blocked most of the fragments. One fragment pierced the shield and entered my right eye. My Master learned of my sacrifices and honored me by allowing me to becoming one of his Holy Hands. I received new arms, a new eye and even a filter implant to protect me against chemical and biological agents. I pledged myself to my Master’s service even before I received his gifts. I will do anything to serve my Master’s will…..anything at all.”
Ursula’s final words were chilling. Victor knew that Ursula would even kill him if she felt that it would accomplish what she felt were her Master’s wishes.
Victor heard his own voice speak.
“Yes.” He said as the color continued to drain from his face. “You can take the Hidden Blade to attempt to capture the other JumpShip.”
“Excellent.” Ursula answered with a tone of utter satisfaction.
As she walked away, Ursula almost casually commented.
“I will need all of your remaining security personnel transferred to the Hidden Blade for the attack. I will leave within the hour. Please be sure to tell our visitor that we will be sending assistance soon.”
A terrifying laugh filled the hallway as Ursula walked through it towards the JumpShip’s docking collars. Victor then remembered that Ursula didn’t mention anything about needing any medical personnel.
“They won’t let us come to their ship with out ‘casualties’, I’m afraid. Instead, they are offering to come here on their DropShip with medical supplies and several medics to help us.” the ‘Santa Maria’s communication tech reported. Once the transmission ended, her voice suddenly became far stronger, though with a twinge of disappointment.
“It’s not your fault, Jessi. Everyone is a bit on edge lately. While a Tramp would have been quite a prize, I’ll take a Mule full of cargo too.” The Black Diamond’s Captain Jackson Farrow smiled.
“OK, everybody. You know the drill. We have visitors coming. We want to properly greet them. Now, let’s get to it.”
At the airlock door for Number Three docking collar, a pair of armed crewmen were setting up a cylinder at the adjacent bulkhead.
“What’s the cocktail for today?” Lieutenant Julia LeGrande asked with a little chuckle as she prepared her weapon and hostile environment suit.
“ND-42. It’s a delayed action nerve agent that is absorbed via inhalation. We are going to use a light overpressure in the airlock to push it back into their DropShip. They won’t suspect a couple of extra PSI. After thirty seconds, they will start feeling the effects. By then, there will be enough agent inside of their ship to kill or incapacitate everyone aboard. After an hour, the agent degrades to a harmless compound.” One of the crewmen replied.
The DropShip expertly docked with the Black Diamond. Armed personnel in both ships prepared to assault the other. But neither ship was aware of the true nature and intent of the other.
A green light intermittently flashed on the docking collar’s airlock. A frustrated sounding male voice was heard over the intercom.
“Sorry, folks. The explosion has badly damaged all of hydraulics and our internal pressurization system. You’re going to have to pull pretty hard on the outer and inner doors to get them open because our air pressure is running a little high right now. We really appreciate your help though.”
Adam Teach almost couldn’t keep himself from laughing before he shut down the intercom system. He could see from the video screen, several crewmen from the DropShip in medical garb pulling hard at the airlock door. Adam finally unlocked the door. He could hear the hiss as the air and nerve gas mixture bled into the DropShip’s lower pressured atmosphere. He smiled as he spoke to his friend Emilio Franklin as they, among others, hid behind the cover of several crates in preparation for the ambush of the incoming personnel.
“We’ll give them about thirty seconds so that plenty of gas gets into the DropShip’s environmental system, then I’ll unlock the inner airlock door too. We’ve got some extra air pressure here too to keep the gas flowing in the right direction. The funny part is that they are all already dead. They just don’t know it yet.”
He was almost right….
Finally, the inner door opened up. A tall, beautiful, auburn-haired woman, followed by over half a dozen men and woman, all dressed in medical garb and carrying yellow cases marked with first aid symbols, stepped into the compartment. They also wore standard magnetized footwear since this was a Zero-G section of the JumpShip. The visitors saw that the compartment was littered with boxes and crates, ancient-looking, dirty as though it hadn’t been cleaned in a hundred years. They also didn’t see any people.
“Where is everyone?” One of the men standing near Ursula asked.
“I don’t know.” She activated the IR imaging in her prosthetic eye and scanned the compartment. She started to see the traces of heat signatures when one woman, then several of the men in her team began to suffer tremors before going limp, foam spilling from their lips.
“Put down your cases and put your hands in the air.” A voice called out from behind one of the boxes.
Fighting the tremors racking his body, Acolyte Terrance Wilson opened his case and pulled out a submachine gun. He sprayed the room with bullets before a woman wearing a hostile environment suit lifted up from behind a case and shot him through the heart with a laser rifle.
“Get back in the ship!” Ursula screamed as she aimed her right arm and fired its internal laser pistol through the head of one of the ambushers that had come into view. None of the men and women who were with Ursula survived to dash the short distance back to the Hidden Blade. They had all either succumbed to the gas or had been shot by the numerous pirate ambushers in the compartment. As Ursula turned to run, she was hit in the back multiple times but the body armor that she wore underneath the medical garb stopped the rounds. The impacts knocked her down hard though. She got back up immediately and ran back into the DropShip, passing a dozen of her fellow jihadists that had been poised to assault the JumpShip but instead died from the spreading nerve agent. Ursula was so stunned by the turnabout in events that she did not even try to close and lock the airlock as she ran through it.
“Let’s go get some loot from these bastards!!!” joyfully cried out several of the pirates as they quickly followed behind Ursula and secured the airlock into the DropShip. Another twenty pirates flooded into the Hidden Blade and split up into two groups. One went to Engineering while the other headed for the DropShip’s bridge.
“I can’t let them take this ship intact.” Ursula said to herself as she kept just ahead of the intruders. As she ran towards Engineering, she saw dead and dying crewmen everywhere. But she was practically unarmed herself. She had not been able to pick up a weapon from her fallen crewmen. Also, a hit to her left arm had damaged her spare power cell at the beginning of the ambush. She now had little power left for her imbedded weapons as well.
She stopped for a moment and heard footsteps coming towards her. Slipping off to the side of a passageway. She saw an arm slowly appear with a laser pistol in it. Without thought, a vibroblade popped out of Ursula’s right arm, activated and flashed downward across the exposed forearm. Immediately, she heard a scream and the impact of the severed arm and pistol on the floor.
Ursula seized the pistol even as its former owner ran away, blood drops floating in the air. Using her available weapons, she brutally shot and slashed her way through any small groups of pirates she found heading towards Engineering.
Finally, enough boarders arrived to drive Ursula back with their sheer volume of fire. She was hit repeatedly, her legs mangled. Ursula found herself sitting behind a control console, her own blood welling in the air around her. Bullets were ricocheting off of the walls and through her body armor. She was also struck in the cheek losing an eye and tearing apart half of her face. Her vaunted beauty was being taken from her, bit by bit, along with her life.
“No enemy of the Blessed Blake will profit from my flesh or my death. I shall strike even as I give my life for my Master.”
At that moment, she detonated all of the self-destruct devices imbedded in her implants. The explosion tore apart several control consoles and sent shrapnel flying through several of the nearby pirates.
The ship was suddenly silent as the surviving pirates watched in shock at what one woman had done to them and to the DropShip. The bridge crew had all died as well. Most of them died from the effects of the gas, but the others had fought the pirates to the death as well. The Word of Blake Pocket WarShip Hidden Blade now belonged to Captain Jackson Farrow’s pirate band.
Demi-Precentor Mirabella Lucas stopped for a moment, surveying the battlefield from the cockpit of her Cerberus MR-6B. A warbling tone in her neurohelmet warned her that she was getting a long range message from the JumpShip.
“What’s the situation, Adept Stern?” Mirabella asked. The distance between the planet and the distant JumpShip meant that there would be several minutes of delay between transmissions.
“Ma’am. We had another JumpShip enter the star system at the jump point. They told us that they had a medical emergency and needed assistance. Adept Tureau took the Hidden Blade and a Level I of boarding troops with the intent of capturing the JumpShip and her two DropShips. The Hidden Blade docked about two hours ago. We have received several audio transmissions from the other JumpShip claiming to be from our personnel. The messages say that resistance is much heavier than anticipated but that slow progress is being made towards taking the vessel.”
“Figures that Ursula would rush in and get over her head, even if she is a Manei Domini. But if you are getting messages stating that they are making progress, what’s the problem, Adept? I’m still busy fighting against the infidels here.”
“Ma’am. The messages do not conform to protocol with their lack of video and authentication codes. I strongly suspect that these transmissions are coming from the enemy. This would mean that our DropShip and its crew have been compromised.” The JumpShip captain said in an emotionless tone.
“Oh, that’s just great….. If an enemy force has control of Hidden Blade, then our entire force will be vulnerable. I want you to begin to prepare to jump. We are going to evacuate our forces from here and returning to you ASAP. If Hidden Blade begins to return to you but is not confirmed as being in friendly hands, you are to jump out of system immediately. You will then recharge and jump back to rendezvous with us in 200 hours at the system nadir point. Redirect all recharging to the K-F Drive. Confirm orders upon receipt.”
“Calling all Word of Blake units. Let’s pack it up ASAP. Return to your DropShips. All three Angel flights will conduct saturation bombing runs in 30 minutes to provide separation for your withdrawal.”
“Crap!!! We were within 48 hours of completely neutralizing all resistance and procuring targeted enemy assets.” An irritated Mirabella said to herself as she fired her Gauss Rifle at a distant militia Zeus. A Raijin II from her team had provided targeting telemetry to Mirabella’s Cerberus through the C3I datalink. A pair of Pretas along with a Gurkha were stalking several militia light ’Mechs about half a klick to the south. The last member of Mirabella’s unit; a Vanquisher, was engaging a Banshee-S at extreme range with its twin light Gauss rifles.
After a couple more salvos, a radio message from one of the Blakists’ Aerolances prompted everyone to start pulling back.
“This is Angel Flight Beta coming in with a mixed load of inferno and cluster bombs. You might want to start moving back now before you find yourself with a bit of a hot foot.”
The tree line lit up a few moments later with hundreds of explosions and dozens of massive fireballs following the roar of a pair of passing Spad aerospace fighters. Several militia ’Mechs were caught in the explosions and fell within the flames. Behind them, a company of militia armor and dozens of infantry squads fell back from the roaring inferno.
“Alright everyone. Let’s get back to the DropShips…fast!”
It took over five hours for Demi-Precentor Mirabella’s troops to get back to their DropShips, offload the technology that had been looted from the planet and then get their equipment secured for takeoff. She paced furiously on the bridge of the Assault Triumph DropShip Dagger of Truth after reading the reports that had come in from their JumpShip. She had a videolink open between the DropShip and Purity of Flame.
“Adept Stern. Why in Blake’s name did you allow that…woman….to take Hidden Blade to that other ship. That damned cyborg has cost us a DropShip, half of our fighters and even a nuclear missile.” She growled after reading the last of the reports.
“Maybe we can send more troops over to try to take the Hidden Blade back?” Acolyte Julius Martin, one of the bridge crew of the DropShip asked.
“We are going to have to wait and see what happens. If the Hidden Blade has been captured by hostile forces and made operational, it could destroy our entire force in a matter of minutes without even bothering to use the Santa Ana that they have. But we have to be sure first.” The Demi-Precentor replied gloomily.
The bridge of the pirate JumpShip was a flurry of activity. Technicians and engineers scoured the displays for information on the Jihadist Tramp and its two DropShips that were going to shortly dock with her. As Captain Jackson Farrow looked from the main bridge viewport, a short, intense looking brunette with her hand cupped over a radio transceiver earbud walked up to him.
“There are half a dozen aerospace fighters in the lower cargo bays of the captured Mule. They all appear to be upgraded SLDF designs. This ship has also been heavily modified with over half a dozen capital missile launchers. There are over two-dozen missiles still in the missile magazines. We’ve already found that at least one of those missiles has a nuclear warhead.
We did find something else unusual. There was a prisoner tied up in one of the compartments. Fortunately for him, it was sealed off from the rest of the ship so he didn’t get a dose of the nerve gas.” reported Sarah Bucholtz, the Black Diamond’s first officer.
“I wonder what the Robes were trying to get from him. Something very important, I imagine. The Mule sounds like one of those Pocket WarShips that we had heard rumors about. I wish that we could use her right now. Those fanatic Robe cyborgs not only killed more than a dozen of our people, but they also blew the hell out of the bridge and engineering sections with some sort of suicide charges.” Captain Farrell noted.
“I’ve got Moriarty working his magic on the DropShip’s computer right now. He says that it will still take over a month to get this ship running, even if we can get the parts.
We will have enough booty in the Mule’s cargo bays to pay for repairs on all of our equipment. But that Tramp and her DropShips will make us all rich if we can seize them.” Sarah replied after pausing for a moment to receive reports through the transceiver bud in the left ear.
“We need to find some way to get to that Tramp before she jumps away. We’ve already gotten signals intercepts on the other two Blakist DropShips. They’re burning at high-G and will be back to their JumpShip in less than an hour. If they think that we are sending one of our own DropShips, the Blakists will know for sure that we have captured their ship and disposed of their crew. We’ve been sending audio messages pretending to be the Blakists ourselves as it is. We’ve been saying that the Blakists have made slow, but steady progress taking our ship in spite of heavy casualties.” Sarah continued.
“Do you think that the Robes have believed our messages?” Captain Farrell asked.
“I don’t know for sure. At least their DropShips aren’t coming our way.”
“I need to ask Moriarty something.” Captain Farrell said, before talking into his personal com unit.
“How’s my electronic genius?”
“I’m doing alright in spite of having to try to piece together the bridge of this DropShip. I really hate exploding cyborgs.” Moriarty replied over the comlink.
Captain Farrell smiled as he presented a question to his electronics tech.
“Do you think that you can copy their IFF signal?”
“Hell, yea!!! I broke their crypto nearly twenty minutes ago.” Moriarty excitedly replied.
“What are you planning on doing?” Sarah asked the grinning pirate commander.
“Sarah, I want you to move every warm body with a gun that you can over to the Buccaneer’s Dream. You’re going to pretend to be their DropShip and try to board them. Fortunately, both Mules are externally identical, even down to the standard commercial paint scheme. If they don’t let you dock, get in close, open your gunports and demand their surrender. Up close, we are at least as well armed as they are. A Tramp is far too fragile to risk a knife fight against a very heavily armed DropShip. If you absolutely have to though, blast them all to hell. We’ll just salvage what is left.”
“I understand.” Sarah noted while continuing to work on her noteputer.
“Let’s go to it. Let’s play a little ‘shell game’ while we are at it. ”
“Yes, Sir.” Sarah answered as the preparations for battle continued.
“Launch the Buccanner’s Dream.” Captain Farrow ordered almost two hours later.
The Black Diamond shuddered for a moment as the docking clamps released for two of the Mules.
“A Mule from the Invader is slowly accelerating towards us.” Acolyte Martin reported from his bridge console.
“Is it the Hidden Blade?” Captain Stern asked.
“I don’t know. The Invader turned around its long axis before detaching two Mules. One of them started to accelerate towards us while the other remained beside the JumpShip. Since both DropShips were blocked from our sensors briefly by the JumpShip, we couldn’t visually confirm which one was which. However, the Mule approaching us is squawking Hidden Blade’s IFF code.” Acolyte Martin replied.
“Have we established visual communications with her yet?
“No. Audio only. They still say that they are having commo problems.” A communications tech responded.
“Well, they’ve got her. Whoever ‘they’ are….and they will be in capital missile range in less than three minutes.” Captain Stern solemnly responded.
“Oh Merde…” gasped another acolyte on the bridge. They knew all too well about the effects of a nuclear missile detonating against a target in space. Only they had always been the ones launching them at other ships in the past.
“Alright, everyone get to your jump stations. Navigator, prepare to initiate jump.” Captain Stern calmly ordered. Demi-Precentor Lucas had already strapped herself into one of the open bridge chairs. There was nothing more that she could do at this point.
A few seconds later, came the order; “Jump….”
“Scheisse!…” growled Captain Farrow as he saw that before Buccaneer’s Dream could reach firing range of the Blakist JumpShip, the Tramp had jumped out of the star system and disappeared. Fortunately, the Buccaneer’s Dream was outside of the JumpShip’s distortion field and suffered no damage.
“Damn it!!!” the first officer loudly grumbled. “Not only did we lose the chance at capturing that JumpShip, but the Blakists have now ID’d our ship.”
“Yes. It was a missed opportunity.” Captain Farrow calmly said as he played absently with his moustache. “But, the Blakists are far too busy with their Jihad against the rest of the Inner Sphere to go chasing after our little band of pirates.”
“Besides…..All they saw was an Invader carrying a pair of Mule class cargo ships. That makes us look like more than half the JumpShips in this part of the Inner Sphere. They still have no idea of the long, sharp teeth and claws that we have.” Captain Farrell said with a predatory smile.
While Captain Farrow said this, he was patting the builder’s registration plate that had been part of the ship since she was first constructed….a brass metal plate that proclaimed the ship’s name as the Rim World Republican Navy ship Appaloosa.
“Navigator. Set jump coordinates and prepare for jump as soon as the two Mules are docked with us. We need to go to a friendly system, replace our losses, finish repairs on that Pocket WarShip, and sell the booty from her cargo hold. A nuke will certainly fetch a very good price as long as we are very careful. We can’t have the ‘wrong’ people learn about our new acquisitions, now can we?” Captain Farrow said with a smile on his face.
“We’ve all been deceived and taken our licks. But we still got the better end of the deal, haven’t we?”
Cover Letter for Theft, Death and Mutual Deception
Theft, Death and Mutual Deception…. (4998 Words)
By Gerald L. Hall,
3681 Bellville North Rd, Mansfield OH 44904
When the pirate band Farrow’s Marauders has an encounter with a Word of Blake raider unit, neither side is aware of the true nature of the other. When the lies are finally uncovered, violent action and brutal death will be the end result.
Gerald L. Hall