It was early in the morning the next day when Captain Grey was approached by one of the camp gobbers, who efficiently, if in a way that is unrepeatable, summoned her to the pole they'd chained Sergeant Richmond to in preparation for his trial. After spending some time training and letting him wait, she made her way over to see what he had to say, and he presented her with his deal - if she dropped the charges, he would play the good little soldier and follow her orders. After some short and fairly one-sided negotiation, Richmond was unchained and back in the team with a few changes, primarily that he would be at reduced pay AND with Captain Close as his handler until Grey was satisfied that he would not be a liability. In return, he would play the good soldier, and her first mission on record would not end with a court martial and a display that she could not control her own troops.
Their differences settled, or at least put aside for now, the team reassembled in the officer's tent for their next mission. Surrounded by those who had come to view the trial, among them Major Katrina Lattimer and Earl Alexander Grey, Captain Grey's father, the team were given their next briefing. Even as he took out the dossier on their assignment, Commander Steele could barely contain the disdain he clearly felt for what was in it, multipled many times over to make it clear for the assorted dignitaries. Someone higher up - high enough up that it can remain a secret - has demanded their presence at a Llaelese fortress.
As far as the Cygnarans had been made aware, the fortress was essentially the Llaelese version of their own fort, watching the Black River and keeping it clear of Khadorans. There were only two problems; firstly, the fort relied heavily on costly mercenary forces to guard it and secondly, the few dedicated Llaelese troops were only experienced in guerilla warfare, and had no idea how to fight in a siege. The Cygnarans were primarily there to advise and oversee the final phases of construction. Requisitioning was brief and to the point - all the warjacks were up and running and put on a boat with enough ammunition and coal to keep them in combat for a full week. While they were there, Sergeant Fillion requisitioned a cart for the mechaniks who would be accompanying the 'jacks and Sergeant Killigan also hired a gobber to keep tabs on Sergeant Richmond, just in case.
After a two day trip upriver, the group arrived at what appeared to be the fort. Far from a small wooden construct that had been inferred, they found a small village surrounding a permanent stone keep and, even from a decent distance away, the fact there was something off was evident almost immediately - no sounds of life were coming from the village, no sounds of talking or of work, no children playing or soldiers drilling. Leaving the boiat behind, Sergeant Richmond stealthily moved in closer to scout the location and...
Nothing. No people, no 'jacks and, while there were signs of struggle, no bodies. A cursory investigation indicated that a large military unit had moved in in formation, fired wildly at the populace and then carried them from their homes as they hid. While their movements indicated military precision and years of experience, their gunshots had gone wild, suggesting they were entirely new to shooting. As this puzzled the team, they moved to the fort in the middle of the town, finding the doors closed but unbarred.
Inside, the team found a scene of carnage, with the corpses of many Llaelese soldiers and mercenaries in the courtyard, and every surface riddled with bullets. A quick search found the staff roster for the fort and, cross-referencing the names with the corpses showed that three names were missing - two privates and a corporal. One of the privates was found by Captain Grey and Sergeant Fillion as they investigated the buildings inside the walls, babbling incoherently about being attacked by "their own" and an army of "silent killers", while hints of the other two were found by Captain Close and Sergeant Richmond as they scouted the outsides of the town, notably two tracks of bootprints that came to an abrupt end next to a heavy warjack's.
While there was no sign of their bodies, the Nomad they had been next to was discovered in a hedge a full fifteen feet away with a single football-sized hole that had been blasted clean through it's chest and out it's boiler. There were no other bullet marks, and a cursory examination showed no blasting powder residue on the hole. Flummoxed, the team instructed the warjacks to drag the Nomad into the fort and sent the mechaniks and still visibly traumatised survivor back to to the camp to get reinforcements.
After burying the dead, the next five days were a boring slog as nothing happened while they remained on high alert. While Captain Close and Sergeant Killigan kept the majority of the watch, Captain Grey performed rudimentary last rights on the graves, practised with her guns and crafted more Rune Shots, Sergeant Fillion took to carving a piano and Sergeant Richmond took it upon himself to become unit cook with food scavenged from the surrounding village. On the afternoon of the fifth day, the boat arrived with reinforcements - a full unit of Long Gunners, the Trenchers from their last mission and a small group of CRS Investigators to look over the scene that had remained more or less untouched up until that point.
With the fort guarded by a group of professional soldiers and looked over by a team of investigators, the team returned to base to receive new orders, and hopefully give the Cygnaran military time to uncover details of this new threat...