Part 4: Polaris - Part 04 - November 24, 1177NC: Wild Geese ChaseNovember 24, 1177NC: Wild Geese Chase
This update is very text heavy, as we don't have anything to do besides ferry between two extremely safe systems and the writers harbour a fervent, undying love for Ireland.
Welcome to New Ireland.
The wedding turns out to be a very loud and jolly affair. The rites were solemn and beautifully written, and the sentiments of love and eternities spent together brings a tear to your eye.
Michaeleen's cousin, Riley Shaskeen, is so happy that you have delivered his errant cousin that he places you at the place of honour at the reception, between his unmarried and beautiful sister Sinead, and his best friend and brother Sean Shaskeen. The night seems endless, and is full of drink and song, fights and dancing. Men vie for the attention of the ladies, who treat them with a faintly mocking humour. Their tongues move like whips, and you find your sides hurting from laughing at their banter. Michaleen tries to teach you old drinking songs, and Sinead tries to teach you to dance.
In what seems to be only a few short hours, the night is over, and you stagger away to Michaleen's place to pass into a blissful sleep full of dreams of quick witted women and quicker-fisted men.
Morning finds you in a small bed in the home of Michaleen. You see him enter the room with a huge plate of steaming food, which makes your fragile stomach perform a couple of small flips. He thrusts it under your nose, and insists that you eat. As you weakly push the food down your gullet, Michaleen tells you that all the young men of the town must go to the bride's family home and collect her dowry, so they can deliver it to the newly-weds, and you have been invited to help.
"In fact," he says through a mouthful of his own breakfast, "I've been told not to show up unless I have you in tow."
You readily agree and spend another very enjoyable day in the company of these strange and hospitable folk.
New Ireland posted:
During the early years of colonization some of the troubled youth from a strife-torn province of Earth decided that they wished to leave. After many years of struggle, they made their home here. They decided that they wanted to leave behind everything they had grown up with, and slowly they, and their descendants, evolved a peaceful rural society. They have become an artistic, cultured, and hospitable people, but despite this remember that this world was colonized by people who had been forced to fight their entire lives to survive. Their skills have been passed down to the Wild Geese, perhaps the single toughest mercenary unit in known space, known for their fierce independence and near-suicidal bravery.
New Ireland has a special mission type available: Ferry Wild Geese Representative. It only differs from a typical ferry mission in that it pays twice as much. New Ireland also produces the special trading commodity "Guinness barrels" which are bought at the Wild Geese space station and the planet Skye, the other space-Ireland.
New Ireland's Bar posted:
You walk into a dimly-lit, smoke-filled, wood-paneled room. You are immediately struck by its overcrowding, the huge volume of noise and by the small sign on the bar that says; "Roughnecks Need Not Apply."
You and Michaleen are sitting in the bar, and you are considering how easy it would be to stay here and drink for the rest of your life. You notice that Michaleen has not been to work a single day you have been here. So far all he has done is swan about and drink in pubs. You ask him why he doesn't seem to have to pay for anything, and he looks at you in surprise.
"Why, don't you know who we are here in New Ireland," he answers, slightly surprised. "We're the Wild Geese, the best mercenary organization in the Universe. We fight for the best pay and the best causes, and we never lose. I'm one of the Geese, so I am more responsible for the income of New Ireland than many others here. So tradition has it that I don't pay for grog or food, nor lodgings either. You see, there is a good chance that I will die in the service of the New Ireland economy, so I don't pay taxes or for services. I'll cover any debt when I die."
You ask him further about the Geese, and you realize that most of the famous battles of the past have had the Geese somewhere in the field. They have a long tradition of being the savior of their employers troops, and when the day is all but lost, and most men are ready to break, the Wild Geese find a special reserve and push on, often winning the day single-handedly. Or at least that is the way that Michaleen tells it. By the time he has finished his explanations, many of the other patrons have begun telling their stories. They all involve fighting, women, and lots of drinking. By the time you leave the bar, you have a deep wish that you'd had the fortune to be born on New Ireland, or the Sol homeland, Ireland itself. At least then you could lay claim to this rich tradition of warriors and heroes. You tell Michaleen, who laughs until his face hurts.
"Musha," he waggles a finger at you "It's talk like that that'll cause folks to not let you leave. If you stay long enough, you'll look and think and sound so much like us, that a stranger won't know the difference. But unfortunately, I have to get back to Sol and collect my ship. Can you take me back?"
Indeed we do head back to Sol. It's an uneventful trip.
You tell Michaleen that you would be happy to take him back. Next day you head back to Sol.
You and Michaleen land on the Kane Band with a minimum of fuss. It is odd that you get clearance so quickly. You have seen waits at least ten times longer than the one you had. Michaleen is in high spirits, and together you set off to the Impound Office to arrange for Michaleen's ship to be released. You are nearly there when you see a group of burly figures walk out of an alley ahead of you. They turn and wait for you to approach, and you glance over your shoulder. More men are there, and a sudden sweat breaks out on you, as cold as the pit of your stomach. They are all armed in some way. Michaleen stops, and gives you an almost imperceptible nod. The hour is late, and traffic on the walkway is thin, made up mostly of the dregs of the port's population, the night-walkers who only appear after most regular folk have gone to bed. There is little likelihood of outside intervention, and you are forced to let the other men make the first move.
"Footsoldiers," Michaleen whispers from the side of his mouth, "They work for a black-hearted bastard called McGowan. He runs a pirate organization in the Galactic North. He has a lot of backing too, mostly from the Bureau of Internal Investigation. Hard to prove, but still fact. The big bastard in the middle is 'Bull' John Pennant. He is McGowan's man in this sector, and a real piece of work too. The only problem is I owe them money, and lots of it. That and the fact that I bedded with Pennant's wife. I don't like the looks of this little party."
"Michaleen Houge, you worthless muck-shoveller," Pennant steps forward, casting back his overcoat to reveal a sawn-off shot-blaster, "You have a lot of nerve showing your ugly face about here. We was tipped off you'd be droppin' by, so I thought I'd get myself a little payback while I'm here. Boss wants his money as well." He starts to walk forward. The men behind you begin to close in.
"If I don't get out of this in one piece," Michaleen whispers urgently, "get back to New Ireland and find Eamon Flannigan. Tell him what happened, and that I'm sorry about this."
The men behind you charge, and Pennant opens fire with the shot-blaster. Michaleen pulls a hidden blaster from his cloak and returns fire, and you turn to face the charging men behind you. You fire at one of them, but you feel a sudden pain in your back. You fall into unconsciousness, and the ensuing blackness is the heaviest you have ever known.
Boy. That could've gone much worse, eh?
When you regain consciousness, the area around you is covered with blood. Some of it is pooled in places, but all of it indicates that the bodies of the fallen have been removed. You lift your head, and you see Michaleen. He is sitting slumped against the wall, covered in blood but smiling still.
"I've never seen that tactic before," he grins merrily. "Deliberately knocking yourself out to trip up the enemy. Maybe I can do that next time and you can take care of them after that."
You smile, and immediately wish you had not, as the skin across your face feels like it has been mashed with a mallet.
"Yeah," Michaleen laughs at your obvious discomfort, "I've never seen someone head butt another man's foot so hard! Very good thinking though, you did break his foot! Nothing like using your head in a fight as Flannigan always says."
"Oh well," he grimaces as he levers himself up and helps you to your feet, "we had better get back to New Ireland to inform the man himself of what has occurred, because I very much doubt McGowan will be prepared to leave this one alone."
You look surprised to here the obvious trepidation in his tone.
"Fighting Pennant and his lap-dogs is one thing," he shakes his head, blood still dripping down his face from several cuts on his forehead, "telling Eamon Flannigan about it is another thing. You think I look bad now, you wait until the next time he drags me along to one of his training sessions. I'll be in hospital for months!
"You don't think you get to be leader of as unruly a mob as the Wild Geese without being able to crack together a few heads," he grunts as the two of you head back to your ship, "now do you?"
Despite the pain you cannot help but grin at Michaleen and his wonderfully warped view of the universe.
Why is there a two-screen monologue on Auroran martial arts inserted here? It's probably not important, given that the Auroran storyline proper doesn't even spend that many words on it.
As you pilot your way down through the atmosphere you cannot help but notice a couple of deep energy-discharge craters not far from the spaceport, and you wonder what has happened here.
As soon as you land Michaleen takes a deep breath to steady himself and motions you to follow him.
"C'mon," he mutters, looking more cowed than you would have ever believed possible, "we may as well get this over with."
He leads you to a side-building off the spaceport and into what appears to be an office block. For the commander of a mercenary unit you are surprised that this Flannigan has no personal body guards, but as you enter his office, you see him training with some other men in a side area. As you watch you see ten men rush him, only to be repulsed by him. He moves in a way that you have seen no other man ever move. He weaves around them as if he controlled their movements as well as his own, and that each step taken was part of some elaborate (and painful) dance. By the time you begin to piece together what your eyes are telling you, the man has moved on further. It is amazing to behold.
Within moments he has defeated the men. You expect them to be smashed...broken...bloody; yet they stand, slowly for some, but they are not injured beyond possible bruises. "Better, gentlemen, much better. Now go and practice among yourselves. I have business to attend to." He turns and walks towards you. "I can see you are impressed," Flannigan waves behind his head at the practice mat, "The skills of a mercenary are varied. Some situations require force, others non-force. It is something I learned during my time with the Aurorans. The House Heraan use a specific style of Martial Arts; the Heron Style. I am a master, but I have started teaching my men here a variation of it. It is an amazing system."
You nod in agreement, and ask what the principal basis is.
"In learning Heron style, you are taught to read and direct the "Weave" of combat. Subconsciously, all of us fight to a pattern and rhythm. Heron Style teaches us to detect it and control it. It isn't so much that you defeat your opponent, but he defeats himself, if you force the "weave" to do so. It is hard to explain, but once felt, and mastered, it makes all combat easier, from one on one, to mammoth battles between hundreds of ships. There is one teacher Karlaekar, to whom the most promising students are sent. It is said he imprints the ability to read and control the "weave" on the student subconsciously. This makes their "weave" unreadable, and therefore very dangerous."
You nod, even though most of what Flannigan has said escapes your understanding.
"So," he says, turning to Michaleen and eyeing him wryly, "Not 12 hours ago we beat off a well-planned and well-conducted raid by ships that appear to be untraceable, and then you come home looking like a whipped dog. Why am I not surprised? When I told you to try and infiltrate McGowan's organization I didn't mean you had to piss off all his lackeys in the process. Let me guess, you had a run-in with Pennant?"
Michaleen nods, his eyes downcast.
"All right," Flannigan nods as if having made a major decision. "Meet me in the bar in a few hours, and I'll detail you a new set of orders. In the mean time Michaleen, go and get your training gear on. If you're going to get into all these fights, the least I can do is show you how to survive them without having to go through major surgery all the time."
Michaleen sighs and despondently turns away, and you notice a quick smile crossing Flannigan's face. He looks at you and shakes his head after Michaleen leaves.
"There are days," he grins, still shaking his head, "when I swear I could throttle that boy. If he wasn't so damn good at what he does, I reckon I probably would have by now. Regardless, he seems to have taken a shine to you, and whatever his faults are, he's a fine judge of character. If you want to drop by the bar as well, I could use you, if only to try and keep Michaleen from straying too far into the wilderness."
So Michaleen has his income guaranteed, was on a mission, and still couldn't get enough money to pay parking fees on his ship. Either the New Ireland bureaucracy is legendarily dense or he tried to park it on the President's lawn.
You are sitting quietly in a corner booth in the bar, when a man walks in and walks straight up to you. "Jack Burton?" he asks you in a lilting voice. You nod, noticing that the man is very heavily armed, carrying a sawn-off shot-blaster, two heavy blaster pistols and a laser rapier.
"I'm Flynn Brereton. Eamon should be along soon, as should be the others." Others? You wonder just what is going on, when another two men saunter towards you. They are identical, with a shock of red hair, and are both very large. They nod a greeting to Flynn, and sit down. Again you notice the newcomers are heavily armed.
"I'm Sean O'Driscol," one of them says "This here's me brother Ryan." The other grunts, and waves for two ales. No sooner do the drinks arrive than a slim, athletic woman approaches. She sits, and begins to polish a throwing dagger. You introduce yourself, and she smiles shyly at you "I'm Tara. Tara Collins. I'm pleased to meet you."
"Don't mind her, Jack Burton," says Flynn. "I've been told that she talks more eventually, though I've known her three years meself, and nary an errant word does she say to me." Tara shoots a wilting look at Flynn, before returning to her blade. You are about to ask what is going on when Eamon Flannigan stalks into the bar, followed by three others including a brow-beaten Michaleen.
"Ah, Jack Burton, I see you have already met the others," he begins almost brusquely. "These with me make up the rest of the Wild Rovers. The Rovers are the closest thing the Wild Geese have to Special Forces. The eight people you see here are the most resourceful individuals on all New Ireland. They are used primarily as spies, but are also capable of demolitions work, assassination, anything really. Now, I've called them all here to outline the plan against Pennant and the Sol Sector branch of McGowan's organization."
Eamon goes over the background of the situation, of how Michaleen was tasked to infiltrate the organization and assess its strengths and weaknesses; how he got into trouble when he owed the criminals a lot of money, and how they responded by trying to kill him. The Rovers are quiet throughout the meeting, silently drinking their drinks and listening to Flannigan. You get the impression that at any other time they would be a lot of fun, but that the current situation calls for a certain level of professionalism.
Flannigan concludes his briefing with an outline of the plan to come. The Rovers would separate and enter the Sol system. Each two man team would be responsible for the destruction of a different sphere of McGowan's organization. When each team had finished their tasks they will return to New Ireland. "O' course, we could always use another man," he says as he claps a hearty hand over your shoulder.
Off we go to Mairim. There are two fighters in orbit on patrol - I land before I even notice them move to intercept.
You tell Flannigan that you would be honored to take part in this operation, and that you owe McGowan and his sidekick Pennant that much.
"In that case," he grins good-naturedly, "I want you to go to Mairim in the Hannaford System. Flynn will go with you, and he'll be in command of a team of our special operations commandos. When you get there you will need to locate the wreck of a freighter called 'South of the Border'. It crashed nearly 80 years ago on the icy steppes. McGowan has made the wreck habitable again, and has been using it as a Tobacco and Hammerhead processing facility. It is a handy arrangement for McGowan. Mairim is close enough to Sol that it doesn't take too long to ship the product back. However, since Mairim doesn't have any official government, McGowan has been able to have a steady influx of income without having any police trouble. I want you two to go and fix the situation. All of the workers there are convicted criminals that McGowan has been able to secure as part of a governmental work contract. It is a good indication that the Federation cares little for the state of its criminal justice system. Terminate them. Teach them the folly of dealing in destructive drugs. After that, meet me back here for the next phase of the operation.
"One final thing," he mutters, looking straight at you, "as the new member of our team, if at any time things get too out of hand for us to survive here, look up my friend, Professor F Cook, on Misfire in the Trishka system, and I won't be far away."
After avoiding the orbital patrols you and Flynn quickly move through the facility smashing and killing everything you come across. Flynn is just a whirling dervish of destruction and whenever you find yourself getting pinned down he somehow manages to pull off the impossible and pull you out of trouble.
After the better part of an hour of fighting your way through the crashed ship, everything is quiet and Flynn plants his charges and the two of you take off as soon as possible to avoid any further entanglements with pirate goons.
No bar here
A sparsely populated planet, Mairim is a breathtakingly beautiful world. Cold, and often dangerous, Mairim is home to a brave few who eke out a living hunting the sleek ice-cats that live on the steppes. Few ships land here, and those that do are welcomed indifferently by the aloof hunters and their families. There is no official government, and taxes have not been collected here since before the last census.
I suppose we wouldn't be getting very friendly service anyways. Returning to New Ireland, I'm surprised to see Eamon Flannigan himself escorting us in his Mod Starbridge, despite also riding co-pilot in our Thunderhead. One of life's many mysteries.
You land on New Ireland with the memory of your assault on the 'South of the Border' still fresh in your mind. You and the Wild Geese team moved through the derelict like the wraiths of death itself. The workers tried to repulse you with small arms fire from numerous blasters, and the sentinel gun emplacements slowed you down for a while, but nothing could stop Flynn. His heavy repeating blaster spat an unending stream of destruction, and soon enough it was time for the up close fighting. In battle, Flynn became a wild killing machine, hacking and slashing without fear. Men fell before him like wheat before the scythe, and many turned and tried to flee. Flynn pulled his pistol and he and his team wreaked a bloody vengeance upon their massed ranks, and it was over in less than an hour. You looked out of a porthole and watched the survivors flee across the icy steppes, safe in the knowledge that the extreme cold would soon end their lives.
We need to free up some cargo space for what Flannigan has in mind. Should we continue the mission to Kontik to drop off the scientists or abandon the mission, stranding them on New Ireland? Or kick them out of the airlock in an uninhabited system? For reference, Kontik is on the very edge of the Galaxy, meaning we will have to explore our way through large tracts of Auroran space.
You remember standing guard while Flynn quickly set a number of microfusion charges before both of you returned to the Limozeen. As you passed over the site, Flynn depressed the detonator, and the entire wreck disappeared in a ball of white light, rapidly expanding to a sphere of flaming debris. The hulk was simply vaporized.
You and Flynn report the details of your assault to Flannigan, who grins happily at the result.
"That should upset our friend McGowan somewhat," he says a little cheekily. "He just lost a sizeable portion of his drug production capability. It took him almost a year to set up the site, and it took the two of you and a strike team an hour or so to utterly destroy it. Wait for me in the bar, I'll have something else for you to do in a few hours."