Orginally written: 8-SEP-1989

Operation Cashbox: Into the Butte Hold System


From the Operation Cashbox campaign log:

Pride of Trudeau transited through five other systems to the target system with no further stops or incidents, and arrived in the target system at 0304 hrs Local, 3-Oct-3026.

From the Journal of D N Quinn:

Julienne and I were awakened by the hour warning klaxon. We were floating lightly tethered together in Bernadette's secondary hold, which was rather empty at the moment. At the klaxon, I automatically tried sitting up, but only succeeded in developing a roll that I could not stop until Julienne hauled herself to a stanchion and then reeled me in.

She giggled at me as we slid on our jumpsuits and then became quiet and just stared at me. "Come on, time to go," I said. "I've got to get ready. What's wrong?"

She looked like she was going to say something, then just shook her head. She turned and led the way out of the hold up throught Bernadette toward the docking extension. When we got there, she turned at me, frowning.

"I don't understand this warrior thing. I don't understand how you are with your... others. The soldiers. So cold, so precise. I don't understand why you are going."

I began to explain again the purpose of the mission, but she interrupted me.

"I don't want to hear it again. It's a different you than I was just with. Just come back for the ride home, oui? Lord portect those that go down to the land in ships." Then she kissed me on the cheek, flipped, and slid through a bulkhead hatch, graceful as a diver.

Far more awkwardly, I pulled myself along the docking head into Pride, around the K-F drive core to Fall Safe's collar. Jones and Ensign Waverly were there, ready to seal us up. "Everyone else aboard, Mr. Waverly?"

"Yes, sir. You're the last. Captain's complements and you are invited onto the bridge for Jump." I think Jones was smirking.

I pulled myself along to my cabin. Hsiu Zhiao was battening everything into place. He had left out a fresh jumpsuit. He looked at me in the quiet set-in-stone way he has when I think I've pulled a fast one on him - the sort of thing my mother's next letter contains.

"You have time for a shower before you need to be on the bridge. Although I checked earlier, I have the Techs checking the equip- ment bays. I must go gather their reports. Mr. Larkin, Lt. Taylor-Wu, and Lt. Wzreranski report that all personnel are ac- counted for." He left as I zipped off the suit. I had no guilt. I covered all I needed in my briefing last night.

On the ground (rock-bound, as Julienne says), showers are refreshing and delightful places for reflection - given adequate hot water. Not so under zero-G:

  1. Shipboard, water is rationed and needs to be conserved. It always feels used or worn. I know that's physically impossible, but that's how it feels.
  2. To keep the water in the water system, the shower is nearly fully enclosed and the air becomes very damp - almost unbreathable.
  3. Worst of all is the vacuum running to drain the water. I've never heard one quiet enough that you didn't need to shout over it, not to mention think over it. And you better keep your feet steady or important parts will feel the vacuum up close and personal.

Maybe dropship showers are kept that way so no one uses too much water. The ones on the ride'sspin deck are much more normal, though the coriolis effect is noticeable. I had considered waiting until after jump, but Hi-G showers are not much better (unless you're into flagellation) and I was not about to wait on de Pantolli's bridge smelling of sex. I had a bad feeling this was as clean as I would feel until we returned to Somerset.

I quickly checked in on the troops. I had to explain to Weiner again that there was no purpose to getting into our 'mechs for this. Either we'd be clear on the other side of the jump - or we wouldn't. There was little we could do in 'mechs to help. We'd have a two day fall to Butte Hold. He nodded and sat down looking rather anxious. I told Larkin quietly to keep an eye on him.

Wzreranski's infantry were tense but quiet in their kit. In the unlikely event that we were boarded, they were our heavy shipboard defense - although they were not trained for Zero-G ops. I guess that's de Pantolli's nightmare. Not much I can do except keep the KK70 close.

I arrived on Fall Safe's bridge with fifteen minutes to spare. Steiner was already there in one guest seat. He grinned at me. Captain de Pantolli acknowledged me with a nod. Hsui checked in to report that the vehicles were secure. The cargo master confirmed that. The bridge crew checked with SEs all over the ship that was prepared for jump. They kept a running patter of checks, double-checks and cross-checks with Pride's bridge crew.

The most important issue I was concerned with was Fall Safe's defensive measures. The gunner's stations were all green lights, but I couldn't hear much of their conversation. I plugged in a headset and thumbed to the flight ops channel. The Carter twins were rechecking their pre-flight list.

I briefly checked in with them at a break in their proceedings. Stan was business and Steve was cheery. As usual before ops. I pitied them as they would be on alert all the way down to Butte Hold, and all the way back. Other than planning, simulations, drills, and inspections, there was little I could do until we touched down.

If we jumped into trouble, Fall Safe would undock for use as a gun platform. The brothers Carter would be ejected for action. Both dropships used only the connections needed to hold us through jump. The same precautions had been used for the last five jumps, but there was the added tension of a potentaial hot reception with this last one.

Steiner kept trying to start a conversation:

"How are you this morning?"

"How was your breakfast?"

"Sleep well? Last chance to get some in zero-G, you know!"

All with that near-leer. I was still tired and disinclined to talk much with him, so I gave polite but short answers. I realized I had missed breakfast, and suddenly felt very hungry.

Final checks were completed a minute before. It all became very quiet on the bridge, mostly the hum and murmur of equipment, or a mumbled reply. We piped into Pride's bridge for the final countdown.

Then jump started and the bottom fell out. Then we came out. And I was glad I hadn't eaten breakfast after all.

Written and © Copyright 1989 by Mitch Schwartz.
Battletech and Mechwarrior are Copyright © FASA Corporation, and whomever bought their Battletech IP when FASA went under.
Space Vermin Battletech Page
Eclipse's RPG Links 
Space Vermin Fiction Page