The instructions we received in the briefing were basically to infiltrate the mercenary force, posing as guns for hire, and report on the troop strength, hardware, battle plans, and so on. We are not to take any action unless instructed to do so. When the battle begins, we are to lie low and not take part. Royal Guard troops will be able to identify us thanks to the IFF transponders we have been issued, and will pick us up and take us to safety as soon as possible.
The idea is to gather enough evidence of an actual attack by Orionis on the Royal troops to go to the stockholders and undermine the stability of the company, with an aim to have it officially deregistered and broken up, thus eliminatng a significant threat to the Royal Government.
We have hired a car to make our own way to the outskirts of Rheydt city, where the Orionis corporation have an encampment. Serron has asked Iki Piki to wire the car with Plastex-B (which Viscount Conrad also supplied for us) so that it will explode if anyone tries to tamper with it or break in to it. Although currently in his lazy male phase, Iki Piki seems eager to comply.
Viscount Conrad: HQ to Paris, this is Viscount Conrad.
Paris: Ah, Viscount! Just reporting that we have been accepted into the Orionis compound and hired on as mercenaries. We've been told that we'll be shipping out in about 26 hours from now. They haven't told us where we're going yet, so we can't confirm your intelligence that the attack is planned for the Bluefields Royal Guard base. As soon as we have any details we'll let you know.
Viscount Conrad: Good work. Just keep a low profile and make contact if there are any developments.
Serron: Serron here, Viscount. It loks like they have about a hundred troops based here. Mostly human, but a good mix of other aliens too. The security is pretty tight. We're not sure if this is the whole attack force, or if more will be joining us from elsewhere.
Viscount Conrad: Okay... What sort of weaponry are they carrying?
Serron: Mostly blast and laser rifles, a few sidearm blasters. No idea what the vehicular hardware will be - we presume that is near the attack site already.
Viscount Conrad: Right. Well, keep in touch. If that's all the forces they have, it should be no match for the three hundred Royal Guards we have ready for them.
Paris: Roger. Over and out.
They are trucking us out to a small airfield near here later today, where sub-orbital planes will take us to Karawala. Apparently the vehicles we will be using in the assault are already located at another Orionis base near there.
Karawala and Bluefields are a few thousand kilometres from Rheydt, and near the planet's terminator, so the sun will be very low in the sky there, and the weather considerably colder than here. Icebergs appear only a few kilometres off the coast at Bluefields, and the icecap and the planet's dark side are not very far away.
Jarren: Jarren Surmik here. Go ahead.
Paris: Reporting that we've boarded the sub-orbital planes for Karawala, and are in transit.
Jarren: Roger that. We're tracking you on satellite images and ground based radar. Don't worry, we've got you covered. The Viscount has gone to sleep - he wants to be up and ready when the attack happens, to make sure you're safe. Call in when you can to let us know how many vehicles will be used and what their armaments are.
Paris: Will do. Over and out.
During our flight from Rheydt it was noticeable that most of our fellow mercenaries feel very confident that this attack will succeed. I'm not sure if this is mere bravado, or if they know something about the attack that we don't. On screen, the odds appear to be very much in favour of the Royal Guard - not even counting the fact that we know the Guard will be tipped off and ready for the attack.
At the moment I have slipped away from the rest of the troops and am in the process of sabotaging one of the APCs. I'm damaging the fuel lines and some of the electrical components. After half an hour or so of jolting through the swamp this vehicle should be crippled and unable to move. This will put the odds even further in our favour by taking out twenty or so of the Orionis troops.
Viscount Conrad: HQ to Iki Piki, this is Viscount Conrad.
Iki Piki: We're just about to be loaded on to an APC and set off through the swamp to Bluefields. They tell us the trip will take an hour.
Viscount Conrad: Good. Any details on where they plan making the assault?
Iki Piki: Not sure, but it seems we are just going to come in through the swamp and breach the base fence there somewhere. They're banking heavily on the surprise factor, I think.
Viscount Conrad: Okay. Well just keep low and let us know if anything else useful comes up. Over and out.
The vehicle is still moving, so I assume the drivers did not notice the sound of the grenade over the engines. Once I have these other troops tied up I will use some of Serron's stim capsules to wake him, Spanners and Paris.
A few minutes ago I saw the APC that I sabotaged grind to a spluttering
halt in the swamp, so it looks like that plan was a success. The other
vehicles, including this one, are continuing on to the attack site.
Paris: I'll get the drivers.
Iki Piki: Carefuly there!
Spanners: What happened?!
Serron: She fell off the roof. She's okay... she's climbing back up the rope. I'm tossing the gunner off the roof and getting into the seat.
[Laser fire and explosions.]
Iki Piki: Nice shot! Look out! They're returning fire! Spanners, brace yourself, we might take a hit.
Paris: I'm in the driver's cabin!
Iki Piki: Nice work. She's thrown a driver out!
Paris: I've stabbed the other one - I've got control of the vehicle now.
Serron: Look out! Iki, get down there and drive!
Paris: We're nearly at the base fence!
Serron: I can see... that other gunner has blown a hole in it. Hang on, I'll take him out. [Laser fire.] Got him! That's all the gunners gone.
Iki Piki: Hold on! I'm going to ram that one!
[Collision and sounds of crunching metal.]
Serron: Good work! He won't be getting through that fence any more! I'm jumping across!
Spanners: What's happening?
Paris: Two of the APCs have made it through the fence and the mercenaries have jumped out and are attacking the base. The Royal Guard troops are trying to return fire, but it looks like they're fighting amongst themselves. Some of the Guards are turning on their own forces!
Iki Piki: Traitors!!
Paris: Paris to HQ, Paris to HQ. Viscount Conrad, are you there? There's no answer!
Spanners: He must have been behind this all along! We're in big trouble. What's our situation out there?
Iki Piki: Serron has rolled a stun grenade into the back of the APC we rammed, and blasted one guy who managed to climb out. A second mercenary has tried to get out too, but Serron's ducked behind the vehicle for cover and tossed a frag grenade, which seems to have taken him out.
Paris: Look! The traitors are winning! They're sending some of the mercenaries this way!
Iki Piki We have to get out of here! Serron, get back here or you'll be left behind!
Serron: On my way.
Paris: Look out! They're shooting at you!
Serron: Okay, I'm on... go!
[Loud engine noise and splashes of water.]
We have managed to contact some Royal sympathiser forces in Rheydt with the news. They offered to send help, but it will take several hours to arrive, and we can't afford to broadcast our exact location in case the Orionis forces intercept our communication.
In fact, we are planning to ditch the APC and make our way inland to one of the nearby towns on foot. Nueva Guinea is the closest settlement, so we are going to head inland up the river just to the north of Bluefields and then strike south overland. Iki Piki has volunteered to drive the APC downriver, then abandon it and swim upriver to meet us, who will take the rubber life dinghy upstream, so we leave no tracks betraying our direction. He is also going to booby trap the vehicle with some explosives, giving a nasty surprise to whoever finds it.
It turns out Smythe is not sure what has been happening, but Viscount Conrad seems to have disappeared. Jarren Surmik was with him, and they are both baffled by recent events. Surmik in particular expressed surprise and dismay at the turn of events here at Bluefields, and vowed to find Conrad and make him accountable for this treachery against the Queen.
Meanwhile, we have only a few emergency survival supplies and rations stripped from the APC. We also abandoned the life dinghy, sending it floating down river as a further decoy before we started south overland.
Iki Piki: Iki Piki here, Professor. What's the news?
Prof Smythe: Jarren Surmik and I have secured the Queen here in the palace. News of this attack has leaked out through the corporate media and they're playing it up as a breakdown in the cohesiveness of the Royal Guard and the Government. I fear violence may break out in the streets at any time. We have to get you out of there. Can you tell me exactly where you are so we can send a team out to pick you up?
Iki Piki: Not exactly, because I don't know exactly where we are. Serron and Paris have gone to scout the base and hopefully steal a helicopter for us. Spanners and I are guarding our camp.
Prof Smythe: Jarren will order loyal troops on to standby to evacuate you as soon as we can. Let us know as soon as you have a pick-up location for us, or if you can manage to get out on your own.
Iki Piki: Will do.
Spanners: Good. Where is she? Is Serron there?
Iki Piki: She's up a tree. We're just outside the southern fence of the base. She looks unconscious. I can't see Serron anywhere. Hang on, I'm climbing up and reviving her.
Iki Piki: It's okay, it's me. Looks like Serron has been using you as pincushion again.
Paris: So, what's been happening?
Iki Piki: I don't know!
Paris: Where's Serron?
Iki Piki: I was about to ask you the same question.
[Huge explosion, muffled by distance.]
Paris: Do you think that explosion had anything to do with him?
Iki Piki: Very likely. Come on, let's go.
Spanners: What was that?!
Iki Piki: There's been an explosion on the base. Looks like one of the berthed starships has blown up. There's people running everywhere. This could be our chance. They're all running for the starships pads. Spanners, we're going to circle around the base and come in through the swamp side and try to steal a helicopter.
Spanners: Okay. Keep an eye out for Serron too. He must be in there somewhere.
Iki Piki: Look! It looks like something's happening in that hangar.
Paris: Maybe the prisoners have broken out. Now's our chance!
[Sounds of running and panting for breath.]
Iki Piki: We've reached a helicopter. Paris is starting the engine. All the mercenaries and disloyal troops have raced over to the hangar, where fighting has broken out. We're going to lend assistance. Paris, fly over there... I'll man the gun.
[Helicopter engine. Laser and blaster fire. Yelling and screaming.]
Paris: Iki has blown a hole in the roof of the hangar. We can see the prisoners in there, fighting to escape. There's Serron! Hang on, we're going to land on the roof and use the gatling laser to disperse the enemy troops.
I sneaked in amongst the ships and planted an explosive charge in the wheel bay of one. Unfortunately I was spotted and chased by some of the troops. They captured me and took me to the hangar where they were keeping the loyal Guard troops prisoner. They didn't discover the explosives, however, since they went off at the time I'd set, creating a diversion sufficient for me to overpower the guards posted to watch us, with the help of some of the loyal troops.
I just about had the situation under control when Iki Piki and Paris arrived in the helicopter and helped to get the mercenary forces to surrender. We took control of the base and have now rounded up most of the hostile troops.
We've radioed Royal forces in Rheydt with the news and they are sending out reinforcements to hold the base and planes to pick us up and take us back there. Paris is flying out in the helicopter to retrieve Spanners and our gear from the forest.
Prof Smythe: Please... I'm on your side. And we are in the presence of the Queen.
Queen Natasha: These are the people who helped save Bluefields?
Jarren: Yes, your majesty. If I may present Captain Paris Smith, Serron, Iki Piki and Spanners.
Queen Natasha: I thank you for your help in these desperate times. I understand the traitorous Viscount Conrad promised you a fusion engine and a total of 350,000 sovereigns for your service in his dastardly plan. I shall do my best to see to it that you receive these rewards, but unfortunately events have conspired such that we have much more urgent matters on our hands. With the corporations in charge of the manufacturing facilities, getting an engine will be almost impossi...
[Muffled blaster fire. Screams.]
Guard: Get back, your majesty! [Slam and thud of doors. Blaster fire.] Aaargh!
[More blaster fire.]
Jarren: Quick, this way!
Iki Piki has a blaster wound to the arm, after diving in front of Queen Natasha when the corporate forces broke into the audience room and opened fire. Serron and Spanners returned fire and gave us enough time to escape via a hidden passage to the garage, where we burst our way out of a blockade in the Queen's car.
Thankfully we managed to lose any trailing corporate mercenaries in the confusion of our escape from the palace, but we have guns ready to defend the Argonaut if they trace the Queen here before we are ready to leave.
Queen Natasha has expressed a desire to travel to Inverness, where she expects to be able to rally off-world support for a military assault on the corporate forces and retake control of Rubilith. Serron is making the astrogation calculations, and we expect to be underway within a few minutes.