At the end of the Fifth Frontier War      Imperial forces in the Emerald system (Jewell Subsector) were at the bleeding edge of liberation, handling atrocities left behind by the retreating Zhodani. The only ships out handled evacuation of forces needed elsewhere and/or those being evacuated for treatment. No one else was leaving...Period.
Mikah Kirlim had been a senior Imperial Navy NCO in the medical division aboard the Troop Transport INS Udiid. As demobilization hit the Emerald system, her command informed her they were instructed not to accept re-enlistments. So she was planted, and found no other options but to volunteer her medical skills in the recovery effort.
Zimzod Egosion had seen it all. He had begun his career in the Imperial Navy and washed out because of his very physical nature. He had then enlisted in the Imperial Marines for four years before a paperwork snafu led to his not being re-enlisted. Finally, just before the outbreak of the Fifth Frontier War, he's enlisted in the Imperial Army though he still considered himself a Marine. At the end of the war, he was a Paramedic with the 3187th Counter Insurgent Brigade as it cycled into the Emerald System to keep order during the recovery. But there was less need for law and order than evacuation, so the unit fell to cost cutting and was demobilized. With no ride home, Zimzod was stuck.
Brian Montgomery was Fourth Officer and senior engineer aboard the Far Trader IMS Urlaegidl, owned by the Dankunlig Trading Line ( Inthe/Regina ) as it ran a chartered naval supply route to the Emerald System. He was unexpectedly stranded on Emerald when the ship was commandeered by the Imperial Navy and re-staffed with naval personnel. With no chance to get out of the system he volunteered for recovery projects.
That was their situation, until they were surprisingly summoned to a naval operations office. It seemed 'someone important' needed help and an old R Class trader named the "Star Singer" was being commandeered for an out-system mission. Asked if they wanted to volunteer, the three joined three other "volunteers", under the ship's owner, named Grift, and his wife. From there, they traveled from the Emerald System to the Garda-Vilis system (Vilis Subsector) under Naval orders. There they were briefed on a mission to recover a team of Imperial diplomats being held by a Sword Worlds Confederation government in a secure base in the Hrunting System (Sword Worlds Subsector)
The Briefing      Trade is the life's blood of any star-spanning empire. When the Fifth Frontier War broke out, trade across the Spinward Marches was interrupted and it needed to be restarted. Duke Sir Norris Aella Aledon held as fief one of the spinward-most duchies in the former war zone. He also held an Imperial Warrant, giving him sweeping authority. He tried to restart trade between the Imperial worlds and systems still controlled by Joyeuse (Sword Worlds).
To build trust, Duke Norris used his warrant to get control of an Ancient artifact which was held by the Imperium, but beyond Human understanding. Norris offered a "good faith exchange" of that Imperial artifact for one under Joyeusi control by small groups of Imperial and Joyeusi ships to meet between the Margesi(Vilis) and Hrunting(Sword Worlds) systems. To prove his intentions, the team of diplomats sent to offer the deal also offered themselves as "good faith hostages". The Sword Worlders could hold them until the trade, to be made in deep space, was done. This was the key act of faith that convinced the angry remnants of the Sword Worlds to accept the offer.
This act was betrayed when members of a team in the Imperial Naval Intelligence, who'd suffered due to Norris' actions, uncovered it. They worked with teaams supporting former commanding Admiral Santanocheev, who Duke Norris had relieved and humiliated, and who had powerful political friends. A team of Humans and an Aslan were smuggled aboard the Gazelle Light Escort tasked to deliver the artifact in cargo containers. They were to take control of the ship and the artifact, diverting it to another port while the Admiral "dealt with" the Joyeusi.
The Aslan was unaware he was to be killed and his body left drifting in the wreckage to confuse any investigators and protect the conspiracy. Lucky for Norris, and the Aslan, he had to appear to have died in a ship battle, so they could not kill him right off. That didn't stop them knocking him out and putting him in chains. As the Gazelle left jump, the Aslan got free and convinced the legitimate crew he was duped and would help them recover the ship before surrendering himself for his crimes. Still, they were only able to re-take the ship after the first shots were fired between fleets, and the Joyeusi ships fled as Norris' ships recovered from the surprise appearance of Imperial warships.
Because of this, the battle for the Gazelle became just the opening gambit. Once control of the ship was retaken, the Captain asked all loyal officers to stand down and arrest the resisting officers. But crews loyal to the rogue Admiral opened fire. Knowing what had to be coming, they were already on the outer hull of the gazelle as fire came arcing in. And they made an EVA jump as the gazelle had her back broken by the incoming fire. The Aslan led an EVA-team across space to grapple with the flagship's hull, and board. They fit in, in Imperial Naval uniforms, and there was no resistance after they forced a hatch and got into the dreadnought.
They ran into very few moving crew members as all the crew were at their battle stations. And once they revealed the treachery, many of the flagship crew began to fight among themselves. As fire from Imperial-loyal forces rocked the flagship, more ship to ship combat broke out. The Aslan led an attack on the flagship's CiC, incapacitated the Admiral and helped loyal officers take control of the ship and command a stand down. Out-gunned and without a leader, the Admiral's former commanders surrendered. Despite the end of combat, the Sword Worlds fleet had jumped and the lives of the hostage diplomats were forfeit.
Launching The Mission      Once Mikah, Zimzod and Brian arrived at Garda-Vilis, they had their mission explained to them. The IMS Singing Star was to be transported to the Margesi system( Vilis Subsector ) and would jump from there on its own. Their destination was the Hrunting system, a frozen iceball on the Sword Worlds / Imperial border. The bleak mainworld of the system was populated only by a Sword Worlds military base dug deep into the icepack. The base also supported a science mission, given operating space in the base. It was so isolated that it was the perfect place to hold the diplomats. And a hell of a place to have to get into for a rescue.
The Singing Star made its jump to the outer fringes of the system with the best intelligence the local Imperial command could offer. The benefit of a system so sparsely inhabited was the significantly low amount of observation they'd have to avoid. This despite being a system with a naval base on a hostile border. If they increased velocity and set their course well out-system and cut their power, they might be able to drift in close to the mainworld undetected. Then they'd have to make a power dive into the atmosphere and land where the Sword Worlder's weren't watching.
From there, the plan was to move in close and locate scientific packages placed by the research teams. After disabling a package, they planned to wait for the egg heads to show up to fix it. Then, after a few rounds from a sniper rifle, Zimzod and an Army intelligence type named Quinn would impersonate the team and get inside the base's motorpool, which was the base's upper-most level. The rest of the team would follow behind on the ship's air/raft at a distance which allowed the fake science team to get through the vehicle portal and gain control of it. That way, they could hold the barrier open until the rest of the team arrived.
The plan would have gone off without a hitch if the tech on door duty was not the observant type. Having killed the team, Quinn and Zimzod couldn't use their spacesuits. So they cut the fronts off the suits and used water to freeze the cut-outs onto their combat armor. Still, it looked odd, even at a distance, so the tech, who was watching intently as they got close noticed something was wrong. Watching him as they came in close, Zimzod realized the game might be up and decided to try and take the man out as they passed.
Sadly, the shot went wide enough that the man was only wounded and knocked down. After he got up, the tech started towards the control panel. But Zimzod was off the snow-cat, before he was even sure of his results, with his gauss rifle as Quinn hit the breaks to stop the sled. Zimzod brought his weapon up for a second volley and killed his target...just after the man had hit the alarm. Now Zimzod had to try and find access to the base below before they were locked out. Meanwhile, Quinn worked the garage doors to keep them open until the rest of the team arrived. Getting his warning call, the team sped up to reinforce the pair and secure the garage.
The Battle      The air-raft made it just before based controllers finally forced the doors closed enough to block the entry. But the only access Zimzod could find were now sealed doors. The doors held even after they found a vehicle with a weapon mount and Quinn opened up on them with a VRF Gauss Gun! All he managed to do was wound Zimzod as some of the shattered rounds ricochet and lightly wounded him. As Mikah patched the testosterone poisoned Zimzod, the rest of the team continued the search, eventually finding a lift under a pile of cargo.
Soon, Zimzod was bandaged, drugged with pain killers and uppers and operational again. So the team used the lift to drop into a warehouse level directly below the garage compartment. Again, they started looking for access below and made use of the confusion their presence in the warehouse caused as defending teams arrived. Because the alarms were in the vehicle bay, they were able to direct first responders to a defensive point near the lift. One of them shouted that intruders had opened the lift and begun to fire on them from above!
As the Sword Worlders moved to the lift, the rescue team used the portal left open behind them and got into the base proper. Now, the most dangerous part of the mission was to be faced. They had to get to a computer, hack into it and figure out where the diplomats were being held while the base was directing security forces to take them out! Counter to all sensible doctrine, the rescuers chose to split up and try multiple routes to lifts, to infiltrate down to various levels of the base and hunt. Zimzod and Mikah ended up teamed up as they moved into what looked like administrative offices, managing the warehouse.
But as they moved into the area, they soon ran into a responding security team. The confusion of the moment was not enough to cover the Imperial model of battledress Zimzod was wearing, and there was a brief exchange of snapshots as the Sword worlders fired and retreated. Alarms started spreading as Mikah followed Zimzod's advance. He moved to take the team out before they got reinforced. The two advanced as the defenders fled in fear they faced larger Imperial numbers.Mikah and Zimzod lost sight of the Sword Worlders just before coming to a split in the passages.
Hunkering down to assess the situation, Zimzod decided to try a passage. Telling Mikah to remain hunkered down and ready, Zimzod lobbed a grenade down the right side and counted. He rose just as the grenade exploded around the bend, and he charged into the roiling smoke and debris,hoping to use the explosion as cover. Sadly for Zimzod, the Sword Worlders had made it further down the hall and set up a defensive position in an office. So he was the one who drew fire as he emerged from the smoke.
With his armor eating the rounds as he drove in on his foes, Zimzod opened up with his weapons and took the troopers down. After that fight ended, Zimzod made his way back through the still-roiling smoke, made thicker by burning bits of office space from his grenade and the other weapons fire. As Mikah sat hunkered down, she saw a figure coming toward her position in the smoke and was sure Zimzod would have called her on comms to say he was coming back. So she put a burst from her gauss rifle into his gut.
After seeing the figure go down, Mikah moved forward to confirm her kill and possibly move in to see what happened to Zimzod. So she was understandably surprised when she realized she'd shot Zimzod! Lucky for her, the medical suite in his armor was already in action, and that kept him lucid enough to crack the armor and allow her to use her medical skills. Once he was patched and drugged enough to get back on his feet, they also received the team recall.
It seemed that Quinn, teamed up with Kandisima, a female former-Imperial intelligence agent on their crew, had not only located the diplomats but got them to one of the base's upper levels. The issue from there was getting them through the warehouse and motorpool compartments, which were filled with base security. The only good news was that alarms of intruders had been spreading throughout the base so the security forces were spreading all over. Brian and his team had been hacking the base computer system, spreading false alarms while hidden in the warehouse level. So they were perfectly placed to support an escape with surprises and confusion!
After being comm'd and even threatened, Brian and his teammate joined the fight directly, opening up with the full wrath of their carried weapons! On a level that had been determined clear, the sudden eruption of fire panicked the security teams holding that space. Adding to the panic, the other rescue teams made assaults from two sides and the Sword World security teams were certain they'd been tricked into a kill zone. As they fled with little return fire, the rescuers were able to make their way up to the vehicle bay and set explosives at the portal. They blew the outer doors after manning a vehicle and drove out onto the icepack.
Escaping The Base And After      As a result, they were clear and heading back to their ship while the base commanders were still trying to sort out what was really happening? The many internal alarms also kept the defenders from looking outside as the team fled in their vehicle. Despite wounds and setbacks, the crew succeeded in recovering the diplomats and getting back to their ship. Burning off-world hard, they made the outer edge of the system well ahead of any pursuit. There, they were picked up by an Imperial carrier which had made a stealth entry well out-system and drifted to the agreed on position.
That carrier transported them back to the Garda-Vilis system while naval medical personnel treated the wounded and hostages. There, the Duke of the Vilis Subsector thanked the crew heavily and created them all Knights of the Imperium. While they needed to have their titles confirmed, they were each granted rights or properties which pulled many of them in different directions. Along with their Knighthoods were awarded certain rights and perogatives.
Sir Grift and his wife, newly Knighted, were also awarded an Imperial subsidized trade route and left quickly to take up their responsibilities. Others went their own way until only Mikah, Zimzod and Brian were left to get their titles confirmed. Having to meet the Dukes of Regina, Rhylanor and the Grand Duchess in the Mora System, they embarked on a Grand Tour of the Marches. Regina was close and fairly easy, as Duke Norris of Regina was a personal friend of their patron Duke. They were even brought to Regina by the Vilis Duke. From Regina, with a confirmation from Duke Norris, the trio took high passage on a liner for Rhylanor intending to travel in high style.
_________________________________________________________________________ Next: An Interrupted Party