January 17, 2018, 09:46:58 PM

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Welcome Back again, now on Eagle News we go to special correspondent Riley Garrison, who has spent weeks investigating Blackthornes Dragoons. Riley?


Thanks Christina! I am reporting from the world Emeris IV, in the Duchy of Oriente, which is along the Capellan March of the Free Worlds League. It is here that over 70 years ago Blakthornes Dragoons arrived in their ancient Jumpship to take service with Duke Halas of Oriente. The history of the unit before accepting a long-term contract with the Halas family is not known, but their exploits since then are a matter of some interest to the people of Emeris IV and many young men and women from this planet have enlisted in the Dragoons over the years.


During the early years of their service to the Duchy of Oriente Blackthornes Dragoons initially made their mark in anti-pirate expeditions in the Periphery. While in the Periphery the Dragoons were responsible for the destruction of several feared pirate forces, including the Heart Guard, Fire Eyes, Kearny Ravagers, and Rusted Jesters. Not only did Blackthornes Dragoons manage to root out these pirate bands, but afterwards enlisted many of the former pirates into the unit. Through their efforts numerous periphery planets made agreements of friendship with the Free Worlds League and the Duke of Orientes' business interests in the region benefited as well.

In 3010 the unit distinguished itself by playing a key role in suppressing the Cap Rouge Rebellion a significant uprising that was later overshadowed by the horrors of the Marik Civil War that raged throughout the Free Worlds League. Documents that have been recently unsealed here on Emeris IV show that the commander of Dragoons at that time, Colonel Omar McGowan, convinced the Duke of Andurien to dispatch the unit to protect his interests in the Periphery during this period.


As a result, the Dragoons avoided being drawn into the vicious fighting during the early stages of the Civil War. The records become a little thin at this point, with some sections that appear to have been removed later. But it seems clear that at least a Battalion of Blackthornes Dragoons wanted to support Anton Marik in his rebellion.

During this time, a major supply depot owned by the Dragoons on the Periphery world of Aspropirgos was seized by the planetary government as part of their plan to get free of FWL rule and transfer their allegiance to the Magistracy of Canopus and House Centrella. This betrayal proved to be a flashpoint, with parts of the unit announcing their plans to join Anton Mariks' rebellion, and the remainder of the unit pledging to fight on the side of Janos Mariks' government in order to eliminate their brothers-in-arms.

The former comrades met in battle at a Dragoons base on the mountain planet Salur and the traitors were defeated and destroyed utterly. Under threat from Blackthornes Dragoons, the planet Aspirogos never followed through with their planet to secede from the Free Worlds League.

Back to you Christina.



It's amazing that you have found out so much about this unit thank you! In Part 2 of our report on Blackthornes Dragoons, Garrison Riley will share information about the current leadership of the unit and their ties with major industrial partners like Oriente Weapon Works. Until then, good night!

Eagle News

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BattleTech/Mechwarrior Role-Play / Eagle News - Unit Profile Blackthornes Dragoons
« Last post by Eagle News on January 11, 2018, 04:22:29 PM »
EAGLE NEWS


Welcome back to Eagle News! I am your anchor Christina Daily, and today we bring you a story about a little-known mercenary unit that has been in the news recently. With the recent decision by Captain-General Thomas Marik to appoint the Duke of Oriente as Lord Commander over all Free Worlds League Military forces, the officers and military units close to the Duke have been placed in positions of authority throughout the Free Worlds League Military.


One of these is the Blackthornes Dragoons, formerly a regiment-sized battlemech unit with long service in the  Duchy of Oriente. More recently, Blackthornes has grown significantly and is known to have close ties with major defense manufacturers like Oriente Weapon Works and StarCorp Industries.

After the break, special correspondent Riley Garrison brings us the results of his investigation!


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"wait wait wait.... i dont remember signing off on this, did rox tillysen agree to this shit? does he not remember its periphery firs-"

"Mr. President! we killed you off 2 months ago, go away!"

"alright, alright, sheesh. you go tell those wobbies i wont stay holed up in here forever though!"
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Note from the Editors: We have posted an update to this article correcting an error. The Ghosts of Nox regiment has taken service with the Duke of Oriente, not the Duke of Andurien as previously stated.
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Comstar News Network
1/2/3063



Mischa Karmoulitis, Political Analyst, Outworlds Foundation: We're back, with an exclusive interview with Lieutenant-Colonel Pandorah, commanding officer of the 2nd Battalion of the Ghosts of Nox regiment, currently listed as on Reserve by the OWA Military.

Lieutenant-Colonel, thanks very much for agreeing to this interview. Can you please explain to our viewers how the Ghosts of Nox Regiment ended up serving the Free Worlds League Military?


Lieutenant-Colonel Pandorah, Ghosts of Nox Regiment: Thank you Mischa, but actually I am going to have to start by correcting you on something. The Ghosts of Nox Regiment has arrived at an arrangement with the Duke of Oriente to provide certain services to his household, which may include working in an advisory capacity with units that are officially affiliated with the FWL military. But we are most certainly not FWL House troops nor are we a mercenary regiment under contract to the FWL.

Mischa Karmoulitis, Political Analyst, Outworlds Foundation : I’m sorry Lieutenant-Colonel that doesn’t make sense. The Duke of Oriente was recently appointed by the Captain-General of the Free Worlds League as overall commander of FWL forces. How can you work for the Duke and the Outworlds Alliance at the same time? And how does Blackthorne’s Dragoons fit into the picture?


Lieutenant-Colonel Pandorah, Ghosts of Nox Regiment: With all due respect Mischa, your inability to understand the situation doesn’t make it any less true. But I will try to enlighten you. Follow along closely; The Ghosts of Nox Regiment is legally the 3rd Alphertaz Defense Brigade. A number of personnel of the 3rd Alpheratz Defense Brigade are engaged in work as private citizens for the Duke of Oriente while they are on extended leave or Reserve status with the OWA Military. For simplicity’s sake and as a nod to their shared history, this group of personnel are collectively referred to as the Ghosts of Nox Regiment, but we are using battlemechs personally owned by the Duke of Oriente. As for Blackthornes’, we have long held their mechwarriors in high regard and now that we have gotten to know them personally that regard has grown into a deep mutual respect. As we carry out the duties that the Duke of Oriente assigns us, we expect to work very closely with the Dragoons. Simple, right?



Mischa Karmoulitis, Political Analyst, Outworlds Foundation : [Sour Expression] Thank you for your this very “enlightening” interview Miss Pandorah. Good day.

And to our viewers there, Blessings of Blake upon you. This is Mischa Kamoulitis for Comstar News Network, signing off.
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Comstar News Network
1/2/3063





Mischa Karmoulitis, Political Analyst, Outworlds Foundation: Happy New Year and Peace of Blake to you! We are bringing you a follow-up to our November reporting on events in the Outworlds Alliance.

Sources in the OWA Military confirm that they have completed a stand-down and are no longer engaged in any activities outside OWA borders. Also, a document recently obtained by our reporters on Alpheratz shows that the entire Command Company of the Ghosts of Nox Regiment is currently listed on "Reserve" status. OWA Military staff refused our requests for a formal interview about this.

However, some of these reserve personnel have popped up in the news hundreds of light-years away, in the Bondurant Sector of the Free Worlds League. Coming up next, we will have more on this story!



 
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BattleTech/Mechwarrior Role-Play / Re: EAGLE NEWS STEINER RAID ON BONDURANT!
« Last post by Eagle News on December 27, 2017, 11:45:39 AM »

Marcus Linden: That is truly an amazing story Ms. Vakarian. And can you tell us what happened to Puggs Hunter?

Lorelei Vakarian: Oh he's fine. Puggs and bunch of his guys from the Outworlds Alliance are in a meeting with the Commanding Officer of Blackthorne's Dragoons and the Duke of Oriente. He tells me that there is a good chance that they will be entering service with the Duke, so they might stay here on Bondurant for a while. I'm really happy about that! And after I turn in my thesis, I am pretty sure I will be able to find a job wherever I happen to be... so maybe I will be able to follow the Ghosts of Nox or Blackthorne's Dragoons to their next post. Wherever Puggs goes is where I want to be.


Marcus Linden: There you have it Christine, not only was this particular part of the Steiner raid defeated, but it seems that the Free Worlds League will be gaining new forces to boot!



Christine Daily: Thank you Marcus. That's it for this episode of Eagle News, thanks for watching!


Eagle News

   
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BattleTech/Mechwarrior Role-Play / Re: EAGLE NEWS STEINER RAID ON BONDURANT!
« Last post by Eagle News on December 26, 2017, 05:01:12 PM »
The next day…

Puggs smiled as he and Lorelei reclined on a blanket and sunned themselves on the beach, occasionally lifting cold drinks to sip. Their hands met on the blanket between them and playfully twined as a group of five young women walked up, waving brightly at the pair. Comfortably buzzed from a few drinks, relaxed from the warm sun and cool breeze and certainly pretty tired from a night that had included very little sleep, Puggs only half-followed Lorelei’s conversation with her sorority sisters. It sounded like they were planning to go on another party cruise with veterans from Blackthorne’s Dragoons.

Lorelei was clearly invited, but she begged off. She and Puggs had plans to try a new restaurant that night then turn in early in preparation for a trip to nearby Mount Saturnus the next day. There was a chance that they might get a little more sleep tonight than the night before, but judging by how energetic Lorelei had been, Puggs doubted it.

At that moment he heard several distant sonic booms and sat up, listening carefully as he looked around. The sounds might have come from dropships headed to the nearby aerospace port, but multiple ships approaching at once would be a rarity for such a small port. About thirty or forty meters away there was a small knot of personnel from the military base on the other side of the dunes. They were standing in a loose circle with what looked like Coyote and Roadside from G_NOX, apparently chatting as a bottle made its way around the group. It looked like the FWL guys were wearing radios and they didn’t seem alarmed, so Puggs slowly eased back down onto the blanket.

“Everything okay Puggsie?” asked Lorelei, using the embarrassing pet name that she had come up with for him last night.

“Yep, everything is fine love” he replied, taking her hand back in his.

They lay there sunning for a bit longer, chatting about Lorelei’s upcoming thesis. Nearby the party boat pulled away from shore, loaded to the gunwales with scantily-clad BPU students and Blackthorne’s personnel, some of whom were wearing even less. The boat smoothly accelerated and went across the harbor, throbbing party music growing faint as the ship pulled away. 

After a few minutes, Puggs jerked upright again as a deep bass “boom” rolled through his body, followed by three more in quick succession. Most of the nearby beachgoers were up on their feet, talking excitedly, wondering what the source of the sound was. Some of them swayed and fell as yet another rumbling “BOOM” rolled over the beach and Puggs leaped to his feet. One hand darted into his duffel, emerging with a massive Sternmacher 10mm pistol, while the other gripped Loreleis’ hand hard, pulling her to her feet. “Please do whatever I say now dear, it’s very urgent.” He calmly said, turning to Lorelei and seeing her frightened nod of agreement.

A sudden crashing wave of water erupted out of the ocean, rising knee-high on standing adults and carrying those who had been lying or sitting farther up the beach. A massive shape emerged out of the water, streaming sheets of foamy ocean in all directions as the white painted death’s skull of an Atlas battlemech emerged.

Puggs turned towards the small group of Blackthorne’s and G_NOX pilots and shouted “Run for your mechs!”

Now waist-deep in the ocean, the Atlas turned slightly, raising its arms to point ashore towards the Garrison Depot. Intense green beams lanced from each arm, raising a high-pitched screech that was followed immediately by the sound of metal being sundered inside the compound. A swarm of missiles spat from tubes on one side of the huge battlemech, sizzling and twisting as they raced over the beach and into one of the shut-down battlemechs standing inside the base. Everyone on the beach was then flattened by the rippling CRACK as the heavy autocannon on the Atlas opened up, sending a hail of hypervelocity rounds slamming into the parked ‘mech.

Puggs jerked Lorelei to her feet, racing towards the dunes as the wave of water displaced by the Atlas began streaming back down towards the waterline. Despite the resistance of the sucking water and the soft sand, the running couple covered the distance in mere seconds, vaulting over the top of a dune and landing flat on their stomachs on the far side.

Just a few meters away the small group of G_NOX and Blackthorne’s personnel were crouching, peeking over the top of the dune at the attacking battlemech. From this closer distance Puggs could see that all four of the Blackthorne’s Dragoons were wearing cooling vests under their open uniform shirts and his heart sank. The four mechs in the depot would be useless unless these pilots could somehow run from right under the enemy battlemech’s guns and get to them.

It was obvious that the pilots had arrived at the same conclusion and the two G_NOX warriors that had been drinking with them bravely joined them to increase the chances that someone would get to the mechs. As one, the six men surged to their feet and sprinted across the dunes towards the parked battlemechs, zig-zagging as they went to make it harder for the Steiner pilot to hit them.

The sizzling throb of lasers sounded again and one of the intense green beams slashed across a dune right beside one of the Blackthorne’s warriors. White sand was instantly fused to glass by the ravening beam and while the beam didn’t actually touch the running warrior, a spray of fused glass streamed over him, sending him sprawling as he screamed in agony. He was being burned alive.

Lorelei suddenly tore her hand from Pugg’s grasp, dashing to the writhing mechwarrior and kicking sand onto his smoking back. Puggs felt tears welling in his eyes as she kicked fresh sand onto the screaming man to cool the glass stuck to his back, then went to her knees and began frantically pulling the half-cooled glass away from his skin, heedless of the savage burns she was getting on her hands. Holy hell this girl was brave!

Trembling with the need to act, Puggs calmy rose to his knees and lifted the heavy sternmacher pistol in both hands, aiming directly towards the towering battlemech standing at the waterline. With the huge war machine still almost waist-deep in the ocean and Puggs kneeling atop the dune, he was almost at eye-level to the darkly-tinted glass of the Atlases’ cockpit. He thumbed the selector on the side of the massive pistol to “explosive”, setting the gun so that as each of the fifty rounds in the clip were fired, the gun would ignite both the propellant and the explosive tip, unleashing a hail of ten-grain explosives wherever each 10 mm round hit.     

Puggs could dimly see the startled face of the pilot as he took up the pressure on the trigger and began firing a steady stream of explosive rounds right into the cockpit glass. The explosive rounds had literally no chance of breaching the heavy armored glass of the cockpit, but Puggs knew from experience that the flashing explosions and terrifying “crack” of the rounds exploding on the glass were enough to ruin any pilot’s aim.

The pilot panicked, hitting the triggers to all of his weapons and unleashing hell above Pugg’s head and into the empty dunes behind him. Puggs felt the skin of his face and shoulders crinkling under the heat of the twin lasers slashing overhead and it took every ounce of his self-control to keep his aim steady and keep hammering away at the cockpit of the huge mech. Anything else and he and Lorelei were likely doomed.

By the time the Atlases’ weapons cycled and were ready to fire again Pugg’s clip was almost empty. He fired off the last two rounds then leaped to the side and downward as a volley of fire spat from the huge battlemech and into the dune. A spray of fused sand flashed into the air, and Puggs felt the dune quiver and then explode underneath him as autocannon rounds and short range missiles exploded in the dense sand. Puggs flew almost five meters into the air and then slammed down on the backside of the dune, rolling in a splash of flying sand and coming to rest at the bottom.

Then the Blackthorne’s mechs finally joined the fray. A Bushmaster battlemech opened up on the Atlas, the rotary autocannon on the nose of the smaller mech unleashing a tearing stream of rounds, some of which impacted right on the smoke from the pistol rounds. Another Blackthorne’ mech came to life, this one a Griffin that was shambling awkwardly with an unfamiliar pilot at the controls. In the cockpit was Coyote, who climbed into the empty mech after its pilot was hit by the sidescatter from one of the Atlases’ lasers.

He was having trouble trying to control the Griffin, but the medium ‘mech mounted a powerful Particle Projection Cannon in its right arm and Coyote was an expert with PPCs. He carefully aimed, then triggered a blast of man-made lightning from the PPC squarely into the cockpit of the Atlas. Ravening electrical energy and cannon rounds scoured the inside of the cockpit, instantly destroying the pilot and leaving the huge battlemech motionless.

The battle was won.
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BattleTech/Mechwarrior Role-Play / Re: EAGLE NEWS STEINER RAID ON BONDURANT!
« Last post by Eagle News on December 26, 2017, 05:00:47 PM »
The next day….

Puggs sat at the bar, nervously sipping at a beer as he waited for Lorelei to appear. It was already a couple minutes after six and for some reason he was fighting to suppress a rising feeling of fear. Why would a beautiful young woman like that want to have anything to do with a clapped-out old mechwarrior like him? He should leave right now and start working on what G_NOX was going to do now that they and the former President were outcasts from the Outworlds Alliance…

The bitter internal conversation roiling in Puggs’ head was brought to a crashing halt as he felt a light touch at his shoulder and turned to see Lorelei standing there. Puggs felt his mouth go dry as he took in the sight. Lorelei had her long hair pulled back and held in place with some sort of white-colored comb that made the auburn highlights stand out even more. Her face bore only the lightest of makeup and she was dressed in a simple, gauzy dress printed with tropical flowers that gently moved around her legs when the sea breeze blew.

“Sorry I am late Puggs, I had to drop off some of the girls that are going on the cruise and getting them all ready to go somewhere is worse than herding kittens”.

Puggs felt his tension and the negative thoughts spinning in his head dissolve. “It’s nothing, I was relaxing and enjoying a beer anyway. But I am pretty hungry, any chance we could start off with a little dinner?”

“I was hoping you would say that!” Lorelei answered. “I haven’t eaten since this morning.”

Rising from his stool, Puggs extended his arm for Lorelei to take and said “Then I place myself in your hands.”

Lorelei giggled and placed her arm through his, then pointed up the boardwalk “Well my groundcar is parked in the lot up there. Let’s go and I will show you where you can get the best seafood on Bondurant!”

Midnight…

The small six-seat groundcar eased to a stop in the white-graveled lot in front of Pugg’s hotel. After an amazing dinner of local seafood, they had spent pretty much the entire night strolling arm-in-arm around the small downtown area of Garrison Depot Beach, browsing through the little shops and stands, laughing and talking until the shops closed and the street lights went out. Before Puggs could work up an awkward goodbye and climb out of the car, Lorelei got out and walked round the front of the car, waiting expectantly for him. Puggs got out as well, carefully closing the door and walking forward to find Lorelei reaching to take his arm.

Puggs had tried not to talk about himself too much, but had finally let slip that he was a high-ranking officer in the Outworlds Alliance Military and even its former Vice-President. Lorelei was happy to tell Puggs about herself; she was a graduate student at BDU who already held advanced degrees in both Star League Socio-Technical History and Biology. She was working on her thesis and had good prospects of landing an associate professorship at a major university.

Now they stood in the lot and Puggs looked down at Lorelei and raised one eyebrow quizzically. “Don’t you need to pick up your sorority sisters from the cruise?” It was hard to see well in the dim light of the parking lot, but it looked like she blushed a little at the question.

“Actually, the cruise ended a couple hours ago, but I arranged in advance for someone else to pick them up.” Looking towards the steel and glass façade of the hotel she said “I have always wondered what the ocean views from this hotel are like; I’ve never had the money to stay there.”

Smiling at her, Puggs replied “Well it is pretty nice, let’s take a stroll around to the other side and look at it.”

A moment later they stood behind a polished aluminum railing, looking out at frothy waves washing up on the bone-white sands of the beach under the light of Bondurant’s two small moons. Lorelei gripped Puggs’ arm tightly and leaned against him, sighing contentedly.

Puggs looked down at the top of her head, marveling at how the light reflected softly from her auburn hair. At that moment he felt a mix of feelings surge; desire for this woman battled a powerful urge to protect her. She was so intelligent, so attractive, secure in herself and at the same time made him forget all of his cares.

Lorelei turned and looked up at him, a little smile playing on her lips. “You have been the perfect gentleman tonight Puggs, thank you for the lovely dinner. But I think it’s time that you be a little bit less of a gentleman – I am twenty-seven years old, not some little blushing teenager. And you are the most interesting man I have ever met. Don’t you think it’s time you…”

Puggs crushed his mouth to hers in a fierce kiss before she could even finish her sentence. Within minutes they were in his suite and all that night Puggs did his best to be as un-gentlemanly as Lorelei wanted him to be.
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BattleTech/Mechwarrior Role-Play / Re: EAGLE NEWS STEINER RAID ON BONDURANT!
« Last post by Eagle News on December 26, 2017, 04:58:43 PM »
The Battle of Bondurant

Puggs Hunter sat quietly at a beachside bar, shirtless and nursing a tall glass of excellent whiskey poured over ice, enjoying the amazing view. Bondurant was a beautiful planet, just as the travel advisors had promised; in the distance soaring mountains nearly touched wispy clouds in a deep blue sky. Nearby the glittering turquoise ocean lapped against a white, sandy shore. A line of deep green foliage obscured the luxury hotel that Puggs and his fellow travelers from the Ghosts of Nox regiment had checked into when their flight arrived the day before.
 
The nearby aerospace port served a good deal of tourist and academic travel; there was a sprawling college campus just a couple kilometers away and several more hotels for visitors who wanted to enjoy Bondurant’s unique combination of rugged mountains and tropical beaches. The port certainly also served the small FWL Military post situated just over the dunes behind the bar… and Pugs would be shocked if the House Troops and Mercs occupying the base didn’t spend plenty of time at the bar and beach. 

A gust of the ocean breeze ruffled Pugg’s salt-and-pepper hair as he turned his head to glance at some of the other scenery that he had been watching for a while. A few meters down the beach from the cabana bar there was a crowd of young people sunning, dancing, playing games and of course drinking. They had a lightweight marquee of bright blue material featuring a large logo that said “BPU” providing some shade and loud music of some sort blared from a player.

The focus of Pugg’s attention was a particular young lady whose light brown hair was kissed with auburn highlights. She was slightly older than most of the others, probably a graduate student or something like that, but to the former OWA officers’ practiced eye she was the most attractive of the bunch. She was well-tanned, long-legged, wearing tinted glasses to protect her eyes from the bright sun and a tiny neon-yellow bikini bottom and a printed top that did more to accentuate her charms than to conceal them. Along with a handful of friends, the auburn beauty had been tending the music player and coolers full of drinks while chatting, frolicking and generally having a good time.

Puggs was pretty sure the girl had caught his glances a time or two and he was almost certain that he had gotten a small, white-toothed smile in return. Chuckling ruefully to himself, he started to turn back to his whiskey when a raised voice caught his attention. Looking back over at the college students, he saw the auburn-haired lass trying to hold back a muscular youth who seemed to be trying to get to the coolers. Puggs narrowed his eyes as he looked at the young man; his slight sway, flushed faced and the slur in his speech all pointed to the kid being extremely drunk.

As the G_NOX officer watched, the auburn-haired girl pushed at the chest of the drunk and pointed for him to leave. The drunk responded by growling something unintelligible then leaning in and grabbing a handful of tanned flesh and giving an unwelcome squeeze. The “crack” sound of the girl slapping the drunk across his face cut easily cut through the beach breeze and Puggs’ glass tipped over as he stood.

Snarling, the drunk pulled his hand back for full-armed slap but just as he began to swing he suddenly felt something lock around his wrist like a vise. Turning and straining to pull himself free, he came face-to-face with a middle-aged man wearing cutoff camouflage shorts and no shirt. The man’s grizzled chest was more lean than muscular, but despite being smaller than the college youth, there was no strain in his voice when he spoke.

  “Son I think you may have had a little too much to drink. Why don’t you sit over there in the shade and have a little cold water?”

The young man pulled hard trying to free himself and started to curse a reply, but sudden agonizing pressure at his wrist ripped the words right from his mouth and he sank to his knees. The old man leaned close and his piercing blue eyes locked onto the kids’. “You started to say something but I couldn’t hear it. Why don’t you let me help you up and let’s go get you that water?”

The young drunk slumped, nodding wordlessly, then felt the relentless pressure on his wrist ease. The man helped him to his feet and walked the boy over to a shaded spot and set him down, then handed him an ice-cold bottle of water and released his arm. The drunk cradled his throbbing wrist, holding the cold bottle against it. “Thanks” he croaked out.

The older man rose and gave him a wink. “No problem, just watch yourself around ladies like those. I know what it’s like to have a few drinks but people can get hurt if you forget yourself, right?”

The kid nodded wordlessly, and Puggs turned, almost running right into the auburn-haired girl who was standing right behind him. “Oh, hello” he said, backing up half step.

The girl, who at a closer look was certainly all woman, favored Puggs with a brilliant smile that actually weakened his knees. “Sir, thank you so much for helping with that guy, he wanted to get another bottle of vodka from the cooler and there was no way I was going to let him get any worse!”

“It was no problem” replied Puggs, “He just forgot himself for a moment – and please don’t call me sir, unless you want me to feel even older than I am! Call me Puggs.”

The young lady blushed a little as she replied. “Puggs, you definitely aren’t an old man, my name is Lorelei Vakarian.” She extended her hand and Puggs took it in a delicate grip. “And please, you have to let me thank you in some way!” With that she hit him with another one of those devastating smiles.

Puggs had to battle not to stammer “Well I couldn’t bother you, you’ve obviously got your hands full here with all of your college friends and...”

She startled him into silence by reaching out and placing a slim, tanned finger over his lips. “I’m the outgoing president of my Sorority and I am just here to keep an eye on our pledges. Tomorrow night a bunch of my sorority sisters are going on a party cruise with some of the mechwarriors from the new unit that arrived at the depot last week – but I can tell you are visiting here and I would rather show you around than go drinking on a cruise for the thousandth time. And I won’t take no for an answer!”

Puggs grinned at her as she pulled her finger away. “Well in that case I guess I had better say ‘Yes’ I have already seen what you do to fellows that make you angry!” With that he tipped his head towards the young man that Lorelei had slapped.

Lorelei let out a little silvery peal of laughter that sent a shiver down the back of Pugg’s neck. “That’s right, mister. So let’s meet tomorrow night at Tom’s Cabana, six o’clock.”

“It’s agreed then, see you tomorrow Lorelei.” Puggs started to turn to walk away but was surprised by a sudden crush of very feminine softness against his arm and shoulder as Lorelei leaned in and delivered a loud kiss to his cheek.

“See you there!” she said, turning away to trot over to a group of younger girls who were standing near the marquee, whispering and giggling as they watched.

Puggs muttered to himself as he waked back over to the Cabana. “What’s got me all in a twist? It’s not like I’m sixteen!”

As he approached the bar he found that Soaq and Roadside were already there. One of them had righted his stool and ordered a fresh drink to replace the one that Puggs knocked over when he ran to Lorelei’s rescue.

Roadside Fury raised his glass as Puggs sat, smiling whitely from within his dense black beard. “So we’re on-planet one day and you’re already trying to line up some local poontang? Well-done Puggs!”

Both of the G_NOX warriors laughed as Puggs sputtered to come up with a reply.

Soaq leaned closer, eying Puggs critically. “Holy shit, he’s blushing!” He clapped Puggs hard on the shoulder, laughing uproariously. “Sorry boss, it was just so funny watching you running to help a damsel in distress!”

Puggs finally managed to growl a reply. “Well a fat lot of help you two were, sitting over here chugging drinks while I wrestled with a damned nineteen year old!”

Roadside and Soaq looked at each other and suddenly started laughing even harder.

“What the hell is so funny!?” demanded Puggs.

Soaq chortled, wiping a tear from his eye and gasping for air. “It’s the damndest thing, you obviously were in good shape with that drunk kid, but I swear when that beach-gal smiled at you it looked like you got shot with an AC/20!”

“Yeah” quipped Roadside “And from the way she was lookin’ at you, I bet you will be wrestling with a nineteen year old again soon… only this time I am pretty sure it’s going to kill you!”

Puggs shoved angrily at Roadside, but his half-hearted push barely shifted the big mechwarrior on his stool. “Lorelei is not that type of girl you knuckleheads, and I am taking her to dinner tomorrow night and I am going to be a gentleman!”

Soaq and Roadside positively howled with laughter at that, leaning against one another to keep from falling off their stools entirely.

“You know what?” shouted Puggs “The hell with you two!” With that he lowered his voice. “See if you can avoid getting so drunk that you miss a chance to get to know the guys from Blackthorne’s Dragoons, will you? I am sure this is their watering hole and I want to find out a little bit more about them before I try to set up a meeting with their CO, Ray Razer.”

“Sure boss, sorry” gasped Soaq “We’ll hang out here and see what we can find out about them.”

Puggs drained the last of his drink then slammed his glass down on the bar and walked off towards his hotel, stiff-backed and hoping that Lorelei hadn’t noticed those two idiots laughing. He needed to check for messages from former President Naterist, who was supposed to be joining the group soon… and he also wanted to unpack his luggage and look for something suitable to wear on a date.
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