The sun threatens to set on a sky luminous with strange dust and debris. All around you is the hum of distant energy fields as the planet’s magnetism tries to warble back into some semblance of respectability. Your battlemechs, built for high energy warfare, are unaffected by the catastrophic ripping away of electrons from weak bonded electronics. After a few minutes of restarting your systems, you were fine and back onto the dropship. You imagine, though, that back in New Paris, power is out and hovercraft are falling from the skies. Oh well, at least their alive. It’s better than you can say for the various shanty towns and overgrown mining camps that spot the rest of the planet, or spotted, you suppose.
The proliferation of energy and dust leads you to believe that there’s not much left on this rock by way of civilization. You hope that the energy fields block the scanners long enough for whoever launched the attack to miss out on the fact that New Paris is still alive and kicking, but as you have no idea who, or what, hit the planet, you have no idea what they intend to do about invasion. Maybe they’ll just pass by. Asterion 3 and 4 being much more wealthy planets, and there being still three more habitable systems floating around out here in the Asteroid Field they call the labyrinth.
The Blood Hawks were as good as their word at least. They restored the system logs to your dropship before boarding the Phoenix and waiting inside the secured area for drop-off. Relay recognizes the man who seems to be in charge, short and dense. Black eyes, dark hair, and a thin mustache. He introduces himself as Vasco. He has a duffel bag. Mostly its your usual stuff, guns, duct tape, flashlights, various attachable hacks and readouts. Pretty much the same kind of stuff you intent to carry into the Peace Field. He’s in charge of four others, three are human and dressed in standard techie garb: tools and droids. The fourth is a tall legless alien shaped like a bowling pen riding a hoversled. Up near the neck, are four radial arms ending in three fingered clamp like hands. It’s head is tiny, bug-eyed, and beaked. Vasco introduces him as the Penguin. If you squint, the nom de guerre works with his coloration. He doesn’t bring any gear aside from a blaster pistol.
Loading the remaining salvage safely into the dropship would have been an afternoon’s work. Luckilly, Horus the Junkman seems to know his way around a magnetic tie-down. During the process, he managed to tell every member of the Phoenix at least once how much more easily this might have gone if he’d tied the mechs down to the barge first and then just loaded the barge into the holding bay: “like putting a roast into an oven,” were his exact words. He’s not subtle. He wants off the planet and is not afraid to suggest his usefulness in order to hitch a ride. You understand. You want off the planet too.
There is no mistaking the path of the lightning that arcs out of the dust ridden crème and orange sky. It is moving sideways. Your radar is worse than worthless. It’s filled with ghosts. Only telemetry from the dropship helps you triangulate where you’re going in all this. When you see the walls of dust roll past on winds strong enough to buffet your forced to brace despite the Phoenix’s stabilizers. Eventually, even the heightened scanners on the dropship aren’t enough and you’re forced to stop. You’d plug the coordinates into CAT to see what it returns but you can’t find any signal out there at all. The sattelites that relayed the ansible must have been knocked out of the sky. No telling but maybe they were the intended targets. Whoever is out there, they don’t seem to mind who they piss off. Transgressions on PanGal with what amounts to war-crimes and transgressions on Comstar… Who the hell would be stupid enough to do that?
As the last dust storm clears away, you hear over the com that you’ve got a good half hour before a wayward wall of iron-heavy soil comes flying in your direction. No telling what’s waiting for you out there, or if the Blood Hawks will be good to their word. The others, the mechs and their masters are still out there at half strength. No telling whether the other one’s, the one’s with the nukes, are coming. The mules drop out of the ship, as you hover over the sight and glide down to the surface.
An old broken down ranch sits amongst the shanties and the abandoned mining camps made with corrugated iron and painted with rust. It looks like nothing more than the pin for whatever beasts these old badlands once saw haul unrefined minerals out of the ground to be sold by the ton on Asterion 3. Just an old wood structure, unpainted, falling apart even as you look at it. Casey points out the other features of the landscape: the spots on the hills where any strategist would have put gun emplacements and where now there are only the scar of craters; the various tunnels that look like they might have something to do with ventilating mines even though they’re all in the wrong place and, then, of course, there’s the thin slice cut out of your arc of radar perception, when you try to get a sense of the place with your radar.
Inside the Peace Field
The characters plan was a general snatch and run. They looked for the off button to the Peace Field. Their goal was then to find a hanger down to the mechs and launch away. The door to the hanger could not, however, be overridden in the time the characters had available. Taking down the Peace Field would require the characters to fix the four pumps that were overheating.