MechWarrior: Scorched Earth
"Enemy at the Gates"
"In War, the moral is to the physical as three is to one." - Napoleon Bonaparte
Nadir Recharging Point, Wolcott
Pesht Military District, Draconis Combine
29 July 3059 Local
28 June 2039 Earth
The latest dispatches from Outreach were arrayed as projections on the holographic display that dominated the DropShip's wardroom. A map of North America was prominent there; the blue representing the United States of America, a republican government that was just about as ancient to those in the room as the Roman one was, showed a dangerous cancer of red reaching up from its southern border. Major cities were marked out along the line: Phoenix, Denver, Minneapolis, St. Louis, Memphis, New Orleans. The markers for all but a couple were glowing red, indicating the reports had shown they were being contested.
"Marik's 7th Free Worlds Legionnaires continue to hold the city of St. Louis from Jaguar forces." The report came from the senior figure present. Clad in ComGuard fatigues and sporting an eyepatch over his lost eye, Precentor-Martial Anastasius Focht - Commanding General of the Star League Defense Forces - moved a hand over the projector. "The Clans' native allies have also been forced back across the Mississippi River by American forces acting independently of our own. With the Wolf Dragoons holding New Orleans, the eastern continental front in North America remains static."
He turned his lone eye to one of the room's occupants. Clad in the gray leathers of the Wolf Clan, Khan Phelan Kell noticed the cue he had been given and spoke up. "Along the west, my 16th Wolf Guards have checked the Falcons' Sigma Solahma Cluster at the city of Phoenix. Though the emblem flashes, my own reports from Star Colonel Fetladral state the city itself is not contested. The Falcons are content to hold back from fighting in a major urban center."
"I can't help but imagine your forces are planning to go on the attack, Khan Phelan," Focht stated.
"Aff... Yes, Precentor-Martial." Phelan's face slid into a grin. "We've been hoping for a chance to rip into the Falcons. Their solahma will have to do for the moment, unfortunately, as the Falcon 1st Dragoons have slipped away from the front. The only forces the solahma have aiding them are the Mexican national forces, and our reports are that they are not up for a fight."
"Yes. WolfNet has long ascertained their government's alignment with Armand Giuseppe's Earth Union is unpopular, and increasingly so now that they are at war." Focht looked over a piece of data. "Clan forces continue to threaten the cities of Denver and Colorado Springs. This is of particular importance to the Americans; their Cheyenne Mountain complex is near the front."
Noting the symbol of the House unit closest to the Denver marker, Focht looked to the shortest figure in the room and his senior aide. Prince Victor Ian Steiner-Davion, ruler of the Federated Commonwealth - though in effect only ruler of the Davion Federated Suns portion of it - had his arms crossed over his chest. "Your Davion Light Guards had difficulties, as I recall?"
"Because of logistic constraints on deploying them, they had to go in by company and battalion," Victor answered. "We lost half of the first company to one of the non-invading Clans. The Horses, I believe?"
"Hell's Horses," Phelan said. "They are one of the stronger Home Clans, though they suffer from being in a rivalry with the Ghost Bears."
"The Light Guards acted a little too enthusiastically, believing they were fighting a Clan solahma unit due to the presence of armored vehicles. It appears they were wrong."
"The Horses use armored vehicles in all their units, even frontline," Phelan explained. "And their Delta Galaxy is a good second-line unit, nearly front-line in quality, and would have been eager to prove themselves worthy of fighting the Inner Sphere."
"So they proved." Victor moved a hand up to the marker. "The entire RCT is mostly in place now. Hopefully that will be enough."
"The Horses have had to re-orientate their forces to face our 5th Army," Focht answered succinctly. "Their forces facing Denver are thankfully reduced now. But I suspect this will not last for long. Reinforcements are inevitable, and we know that just as we have provided BattleMechs, industrial machinery, and advisors to the Americans and their allies, so too have the Clans aided the nations aligned with Giuseppe. We have already seen Giuseppian 'Mechs in action in the battle for Memphis. The key will be here, I imagine."
Focht zoomed the projection in to the northern front. The city of Minneapolis was prominent from its glowing name, and the Jaguar salient toward it. "The city of Minneapolis is crucial to America's territorial integrity. Lacking a real DropShip fleet and with only limited aircraft transport by our standards, they are still reliant upon roads. Minneapolis is the last major road hub linking the eastern and western halves of their nation; if the Clans seize it, the United States will be effectively severed into two pieces." Focht placed his hands on the projector to lean against it. "I have positioned two of my divisions to hold the line, but they have already seen some combat. And the Jaguars, we have learned, are reinforcing their units taking part and permitting Clusters from the other Clans to take part."
That drew an amused laugh from Phelan. "Lincoln Osis must be chewing solid titanium," the Wolf Khan cackled. "If he is reduced to allowing other Clans in to ensure his victory, he is getting desperate."
Focht silenced the laugh with a stern look. "Be that as it may, Khan Phelan, his desperation may yet harm our allies. The American lines are thin trying to hold their vast front. Their Army is reeling from the losses in manpower and material, not to mention key facilities in Texas and Kansas. If the Clans concentrate enough, they can take Minneapolis, and its fall would be grave. I would ask for more units to be sent in..."
"But you know that is not possible." A new voice joined the conversation; Hohiro Kurita, heir to the Dragon Throne of the Combine and leader of its elite Genyosha 'Mech Regiments. "The Inner Sphere has mobilized its JumpShip fleet to support our war here, and what reserve we have left is occupied in sending the material aid to Earth and sustaining our troops moving to protect the region."
"As always, the logistical needs of war remains our restraint. We have taught the Clans the importance of this, but it is a leash on us as well." Focht looked over to the last man at the table.
Kai Allard-Liao noticed the look he was getting and voiced his thoughts. "The spatial rift is at Outreach," he pointed out. "Why not supplement the forces we have sent with a mass hiring of mercenaries?"
"I have tried that approach," Victor answered. "But there aren't many merc units willing to fight the Clans. And once you tell them that salvage rights aren't absolute, most of the rest are opposed too."
"Jaime Wolf has laid plans to respond to a fall of Minneapolis with an immediate counter-attack with his Epsilon Regiment, but even if we retake the city upon its capture, I have no doubts that the Clans will be wise enough to destroy its bridges and roads, and the effect will be the same as its permanent loss."
"There is Task Force Serpent," Kai said aloud, though by his expression he knew that this matter was moot. "We assigned them a permanent fleet of DropShips and JumpShips. They can be sent in to recover the situation."
Focht frowned. "They could, and if it appears necessary to save the Earth from complete Clan conquest, it will be. But the units of Serpent are needed for a more vital role; destroying Huntress, and with it the Smoke Jaguar Clan. Remember, gentlemen, why we are here. There are six billion people on this Earth, but here in the Inner Sphere trillions live under threat by the Clans. We must balance both needs, and consider what will accomplish the most good." Focht manipulated the projection to show a globe of the world. Though many countries flashed the red of Clan-held or aligned or the gray of neutral, there were blue flashes. "Even if North America falls, there are other nations that we can support. China, Australia, Brazil, all of these nations remain opposed, to one degree or another, to the Clans and the nations under Giuseppe's control or influence." He pointed to the vast land that was toning mid-spectrum between gray and red. "Russia is another potential counter-attack point; its current government is Giuseppe-friendly, but its populace is not."
"The reports I read indicated they were also rather opposed to China as well, however," Victor answered. "If we side openly with one then the other could swing over to Giuseppe and the Clans." His thoughts went to those reports. They actually had a nuclear war. It might not have collapsed their civilization, but it still killed millions in both countries, and many thousands in others that were hit in some way by the general exchange. It's no wonder so many of our troops have taken to calling the planet 'Scorched Earth'.
"Yes, which calls into question the First Lord's decision to send troops to aid China even with no Clan invasion having occurred." Focht spoke rather carefully of their official leader, Sun-Tzu Liao. The ruler of the Capellan Confederation, he had been elected First Lord of the new Star League by his peers, though in truth as a result of manipulation and reaction by a far more dangerous House Lord (to the minds of those assembled at least); Victor's sister Katherine, known popularly as "Katrina Steiner" and ruler of the seceded Lyran Alliance. "Regardless, however, the point remains; while certainly vital to our efforts, the reduction of the United States will not inherently doom the planet to overall conquest, though it will certainly make a counterattack more costly depending on how much of it we can save. And as such, we cannot justify shifting Marshal Hasek-Davion's troops from their vital role simply to prevent the fall of Minneapolis. Instead, we must rely on another source."
Focht brought up new data on the screen. It was a roster of names. Victor didn't recognize any of them, but he wouldn't expect to. "The Dragoons have released the first cadre of American trainees to return to their planet, with 'Mechs assigned and ready for combat. The Americans now have their own 'Mech striking arm with which to fight back. And unlike the training battalions, the Dragoons provided these MechWarriors with modern machines depending on their effectiveness score, including the fruits of their own Clan production capability." Focht noticed the looks among the others and continued. "I am aware their training has not been much longer than those of the Training Battalions, but as you have all trained at one time or another with the Dragoons, I believe you know just how effective even a short period can be?"
The others exchanged looks. With the exception of Phelan, all had trained together on Outreach in 3051, during the lull in the Clan Invasion caused by ilKhan Leo Showers' death. That training had forged bonds amongst them that transcended the rivalries between their Houses, and prepared them for the resumption of the Invasion.
Seeing their looks and guessing at the thoughts, Focht continued with his own. "A hundred MechWarriors may not seem like many to you. But remember that before you were born, and before the technological renassiance that followed the last Succession War, a mere thirty to fifty 'Mechs was considered a sufficient garrison for entire planets. This was, I admit, due to their rarity, but it is still fitting..." Focht looked over the roster himself. "The fate of their entire world may rest in the hands of these few, these hundred young MechWarriors."
DropShip Minobu Tetsuhara, Approaching Earth Orbit
Earth Solar System
1 July 2039 Local
1 August 3059 Inner Sphere
The Overlord-class DropShip was on the final hour of its thirty-nine hour trip from the Outreach rift to Earth. Had the vessel been a civilian liner, it would have presented a beautiful sight to those traveling, but as a military transport vessel the Tetsuhara was not so accommodating. Instead, the passengers were finishing up the securing of their belongings as they prepared to return to their homeworld.
All save Alex Penton.
The twenty-eight year old American was seated at his berth, bags already mostly packed, an open laptop in front of him and the keys clacking as he typed. He was a well-built figure, about six feet three inches in height with close-cropped brown hair, and months of intense training on Outreach had given him a toned physique, though not a largely muscular one. He quietly breathed the words he was writing to himself. "...is clear that the text of the formal agreement with the Star League rigidly defines the limit of the House units' authority to their basing. As such, the case of Prince Victor Davion vs. the State of Illinois is clearly in favor of the defendants, as the FedCom personnel were off-base and under the jurisdiction of the City of Chicago, and thus the State of Illinois, at the time of their offense and of their arrest..."
His concentration was broken by a loud "Hey!" shouted from another berth. He looked up into a pair of gray eyes that did a lot to showing their owners' propensity for mischief and hell-raising. His red-haired friend, a six footer on the lanky side of having a strong build, plopped himself down on Alex's cot beside him. "More lawyer ****? Hey, Alex, you're not JAG anymore, you know?"
Alex looked over at him with a glance partly born of amusement mixed with annoyance. "Just as you're not Army Aviation anymore, Eddie."
Edwin Dane shrugged. "Eh, **** the choppers. You know if it wasn't for my eyesight I'd be Air Force."
"And you'd probably still be on Outreach, training with the Dragoons to fly aerospace fighters," Alex answered. "But at least you've got your commission." He pointed to the single silver bar on Edwin's duty jacket.
He made a face. "Honestly I thought Galvariz would get it. I'm not really command material." Smirking, Edwin added, "But I probably shouldn't say that to my commanding officer, should I?"
That brought a chuckle from Alex. As a JAG lawyer he was already a commissioned officer, and had made Captain a few months before the Smoke Jaguars' DropShips first showed up near Earth. But he had found that his history hobbies, military and otherwise, had translated quite well when on Outreach in unit-level trainee exercises. Apart from his high MechWarrior scores - he'd been the second highest-scoring MechWarrior out of the first hundred, which is why the Dragoons had given him a Mad Cat OmniMech - he had been among the highest scoring officers in the simulated and live exercise unit command exercises. As a Captain he was already at rank for company command, but he had not only gotten it but been placed near the top of the list to command the next frontline 'Mech battalion the United States Army would field. "Ed, you think you have it bad? I thought Major Barsdale was going to vomit when he heard I was getting Alpha Company. He and the other combat arms officers certainly don't think I'm command material. At least not for combat."
And they might be right, he added ruefully to himself. The Dragoons had certainly wrote some glowing reviews of his performance in the exercises, and Colonel Sinclair - the highest ranking of the trainees on Outreach and the commander of the as-of-yet-unorganized 1st US BattleMech Regiment - had echoed them. But exercises were just that; exercises. Real war was something he only knew of from video documentaries and written materials. Now I have to be ready to tell Ed here, or any of the 'Mech pilots in my company, to go die, if it comes down to it, he thought. I have to be willing to die too. The thought was... terrifying.
"Eh, **** 'em." Edwin slapped him on the back. "You spanked everyone in the exercises. Hell, you and Sinclair even beat some of the Dragoons. The Clanners won't know what hit them."
Alex tried to smile back. "Yeah..."
A voice came over the intercom. "Attention all passengers and crew. We are now thirty minutes from final approach. Please secure all items now."
"Well, guess we're home," Edwin said while Alex, dutifully, saved his document and stowed his laptop away in a reinforced case. "Don't they have you meeting the trainee battalion MechWarriors being assigned to us when we get there?"
"Yes. And so will you, XO," Alex answered. "So make sure that we make a good impression."
At her own bunk, Rachel Galvariz finished stowing the bags of things she'd brought with her to Outreach and waited patiently for the signal to strap herself in. Clad in her duty uniform - which she preferred over the tighter, more revealing MechWarrior jumpsuits issued on Outreach - she laid back on her cot and took in a breath. So this is it. I'm a soldier now. She absent-mindedly played with the single brass bar on her collar, marking her a 2nd Lieutenant.
Normally being an officer would make her the commander of a lance - platoon she corrected herself - she had been a little behind the scores of other command-candidates on Outreach, such that she'd been assigned to Captain Penton's command lance. As a company commander he had to be free to give orders to the others, leaving her to direct the two other MechWarriors as needed if he was distracted. She was alright with this; Rachel didn't know if she could fight in combat, much less command during it, having earned her officer's commission as a linguist working in signal intelligence.
Rachel reached down and took out a heart-shaped locket. A memento given to her by her maternal grandparents, it had belonged to her mother, and showed her and her father when they were newly-wed. Rachel had been conceived five months after their wedding. But she had only been a newborn, being babysit by her grandparents, when a drunk driver had slammed his large pickup truck vehicle into their compact at high speed, killing her father instantly and fatally wounding her mother. Rachel had thus grown up with two sets of parents who constantly moved her between San Francisco - the home of her maternal grandparents, the Vallejos - and Grandma and Grandpa Galvariz's home in Orlando's Winter Park neighborhood. Though her grandparents were both Hispanic (one Mexican, one Venezuelan), her Grandma Vallejo had been Greek while Grandma Galvariz was Italian. As a result, she grew up in a pair of households where English, Spanish, and either Greek or Italian were used almost interchangeably. She spoke all four languages fluently by the time she was ten; middle school's offer of French was almost laughably easy as a result, and in high school she became so bored with the offered German (and considered taking Italian just to have the easy A) that she enrolled in summer college courses for Russian and Chinese. And with full time college beckoning and tuition bills that would strain her grandparents' savings accounts, the gentleman from the United States Army offering her free college in exchange for joining ROTC had been awfully tempting....
Oh God, I'm going to die was the thought that went through her head. She'd be piloting a Thor due to her high scores as a MechWarrior. It was an impressive war machine, but lightly-armored for its mass, and the Dragoons had been brutally clear that the biggest weapons would kill a MechWarrior instantly if they landed a direct hit on even an un-harmed head module. She tried to fight the terrible fear gripping her stomach and freezing her heart. I'm not going to cry again. Not again. Blinking back tears from that fear, she turned in her cot and found herself staring across the way from Alex Penton. He saw her looking his way and, whether from reading her mind or just some innate friendliness, gave her a friendly smile and nod.
She nodded back and tried to smile. It occurred to her that his friendliness might stem from attraction, and she'd be lying to say she wouldn't return it. At least he was tall, handsome, and a complete gentleman, unlike some of the men on Outreach - Spheroids and her fellow Americans - who had leered at her and made suggestive comments. That she was attractive was something she couldn't deny, but that didn't mean she wanted horndog mercenaries and sexually open ex-Clansmen in the Dragoons propositioning her on the spot.
Rachel had started to nod off when the fifteen minute warning went off. Obeying the officers commanding the Tetsuhara, she left her cot, locked it in place, and found a secured chair to sit in, next to a Japanese woman - Yumiko Sakata - and Alex Penton. She fastened herself in and, for a brief moment, looked over toward Alex, just to see he was deep in thought.
Hopefully he's thinking how to not get me and the rest of us killed, Rachel thought ruefully as the ten minute landing warning came over the intercom.
ComStar/US Army Bivouac
Hastings, Minnesota, United States
North America, Earth
A loud warbling of a military bugle ripped Corporal Rebekah Shameel from what had been a tender sleep to full wakefulness. Her brown eyes snapped open as her brain sleepily protested being awoken after only five hours of rest. She saw the time flashing, shouted "Oh ****!," and went to slip out of bed.
Doing so caused the weight against her to shift. Becca didn't turn to face her bunkmate as she went to the closet and the duty uniforms inside. "Come on, Dani! We've only got ten minutes!"
The bugle alarm had stirred her partner and "wingmate" as well. A pair of frustrated green eyes flashed sleepyness and wrath at Becca as Dani slipped out off bed as well. She was a solid six-one, very tall compared to Becca's five-seven height, though Becca was just as lithe and athletic. Seeing Dani stumble over to her own closet space, and the duty uniforms within, brought a blush to Becca's face as she found herself admiring Dani's figure. If only we weren't in combat all the time..., was her wistful thought. When she told people she and Dani slept together, she was being very literal, and unfortunately sleeping was about all they did. I just had to fall in love in a war, didn't I?
"Hurry up, Becca!", Dani cried out, buttoning up her duty blouse. "Major Pierce will have our heads if we're not there to meet our company!"
Jostled out of her thinking by Dani's reminder of their CO's demand that they finally show a sense of military punctuality - put at risk by their oversleeping again - Becca finished buttoning up her own blouse and reached for her uniform dress. Dani picked the dress as well - which was good as all her pants had been ordered a size too small and made Becca very distracted whenever Dani wore them - and immediately after she put them on started fitting her hair into the mandated bun. She's really taking this seriously, Becca thought, remembering Dani's preference for a pony-tail as she fit her own bun on.
Taking care to put their handful of ribbons and their name tags in place, plus the newly-commissioned "BattleMech" branch insignia - a humanoid BattleMech figure with crossed cavalry sabers in scabbards, with a brass disk for them as enlistees - as well as their Silver Stars (Awarded to them two months ago for their adventure in capturing the Clan OmniMechs they now piloted) and the couple other medals given to them for their service in the fighting.
Once fully dressed Becca almost had to run to catch up with Dani, cursing her partner's longer legs as she struggled to keep up with Dani's brisk pace. In the recent weeks she'd noticed Dani getting more and more tense and directed, a far cry from the "care-free, shame-free sensual lesbian" she'd been when dragooned by the US Army into the 1st 'Mech Training Battalion. Like Becca, Dani had been a civilian who had tested high for having an excellent and conductive nervous system - a marker for being a natural 'Mech pilot - and like Becca she had been drafted as a result. She'd become an ongoing annoyance to the disciplinarian military officers and sergeants she'd been forced to obey, and Becca had found herself aiding with that, even if it meant enhanced PT or visits to the brig as disciplinary measures. They had been little rebellious acts to reinforce the individuality the military was trying to strip from them, and which they were so unwilling to see taken.
But then the war started, their friends and fellow trainees got blown away in the fighting in and around Kansas City, and now..... now the invaders were almost to Minneapolis, Dani's home city. And Becca could see it was driving the woman she loved near-mad with fear and anger.
They left the confines of the building. Summer was in full swing now, and the air was hot. Becca was familiar with heat - her family had spent vacation summers in Florida at Orlando and West Palm Beach - but unlike Florida, Minnesota had no Gulf Stream seabreeze to provide relief from the temperatures if they became sweltering, and right now they were grasping for ninety degrees. Sweat was already collecting on Becca's brow as she drew closer to Dani and, beyond, the group of people waiting for the arriving DropShip. She saw Major Pierce there, standing beside a ComStar Demi-Precentor, and saw him look over and flash them a surprised grin that made her blush. Of the other figures present she recognized Sergeant Jack Hoffman and Corporal Micaela Lupo, two of the survivors of their company in the 1st Training Battalion.
Hoffman was a cocky figure, a tanned Caucasian maverick who kept his dirty blond hair dangerously close to reg limits. Becca knew him as a major ladies' man - with her and Dani having both been hit on by him at times - who could usually cash the checks his mouth wrote. He flashed them wide grins; not out of any lecherous intent, but genuine respect, as he had praised them for "having the balls" to go toe-to-toe with Clan frontline machines and for actually managing to steal them after being shot out of their own.
Beside him, Micaela Lupo cut a good figure. Her uniform blouse was a size too small in Becca's opinion, though she wasn't going to protest it very much given how it worked in emphasizing a curvaceous, lithe figure that rivaled Dani's in attractiveness. She had opted for pants as well, tight ones that flattered her and in doing so showcased her own devil-may-care tomboy streak. Becca actually felt a tad jealous toward her; piloting one of the US' new "Trainer" BattleMechs in Kansas City, "Micki" had actually downed a light Clan BattleMech before being shot out of her own far-inferior machine. Until Becca and Dani had started claiming Clan machines with their stolen OmniMechs, Micki had been the only one who had earned a kill marker for her machine.
A ComStar Acolyte handed out earplugs, and for good reason. Even with them, and with the DropShip landing pad a distance away, the roar of the massive ship's engines was audible to Becca. She watched the ovoid vessel settle onto the prefab landing pad with struts extended. The 'Mech bays opened and columns of BattleMechs exited, adorned with the white star used on US-assigned machines. Becca saw a few were Clan designs, though most were Inner Sphere 'Mechs of varying designs, including some she didn't recognize.
A set of 'Mechs, led by a looming machine that made Becca swallow as she recognized it as a Daishi, stomped over. They came to a stop in front of the waiting group and, one by one, their hatches opened and figures climbed down from them. The lead figure who came out of the Daishi was African-American, a balding head covered by his officer's cap, and the eagle insignia of a Colonel on his uniform jacket. He had a Major with him, as well as three Captains and three 1st Lieutenants. Becca and Dani gave obedient salutes as these figures approached, as did Pierce and the others present. The Colonel, who's nametag read "Sinclair", returned it, as did his subordinates.
"Major Scott Pierce, sir", Pierce said. "I'm here representing Colonel Fisher."
The other colonel nodded. "Yes. I heard about what happened at Leavenworth. He's a good man, he'll pull through." He looked to the others. He was first introduced to the ComStar Demi-Precentor, Brian Callero of the 467th Division's Level III unit "The Trumpeters". After a couple other officers were introduced, Sinclair came to Becca and the others. "So this is the cream of the crop?"
"Yes sir," Pierce said, looking to them. "Sergeant Hoffman and Corporals Lupo, Verdes, and Shameel. We had about twelve other survivors who are still fit for service, but these ladies and this gentleman have been our stars."
"So I've heard." Colonel Sinclair looked to them. "I'm Colonel Charles Sinclair, commander of the 1st BattleMech Regiment. Or, rather, what passes for it." He allowed himself a grin. "You four have been selected to be transferred to our 1st Battalion."
Becca bit back the bitter thoughts she had. She knew, deep down, that all four of them should have gone to Outreach; they had consistantly outperformed the others in the Battalion, as had a couple others who'd been killed (fruitlessly!) in trying to stop the Clans from taking Kansas City and Fort Leavenworth. Now these fresh bodies were here and would lord their advanced training over them. And probably steal our hard-earned 'Mechs!
"You've been assigned to Alpha Company of the 1st 'Mech Battalion," Sinclair explained further. He indicated two of the men with him, a tall and fairly well-built man with captain bars and a lanky redhead with a silver rank bar. "Captain Penton and Lieutenant Dane will be your company commanders."
"Sergeant, Corporals." Penton shook hands with each of them, as did Dane. She could already see she'd prefer the latter; Dane had a mischievous streak obvious in his look, but Penton looked like a typical military officer. "Alex Penton, and this is Edwin Dane."
Each said "Sir" as the handshakes were had.
Sinclair, meanwhile, introduced the other company command officers, as well as Major Allen Hall, a Gladiator pilot and CO of the 1st Battalion. With the introductions settled, Becca spoke up. "Sir, if I may? Are you going to be moving Dani and I to different machines?"
Pierce shot her a look. Sinclair waved off his imminent protest with his hand and looked toward her. "If I had better pilots for the ones you've got, Corporal, then yes. But I was reviewing your testing scores and confirmed actions while we burned in from the Outreach rift. You and Corporal Verdes are doing well in your machines and have acclimated to the configurations you've been put in. So I'll be keeping you in them, unless your company commander believes a reorganization is needed."
Seeing he'd been cued to respond as well, Captain Penton shook his head. "No sir. I've been reviewing their combat records too, all four. I've already decided to keep them in their current machines. Corporals Verdes and Shameel will be joining my platoon, in fact."
Becca and Dani gave each other looks, neither knowing what to expect.
Before anything more could be said, however, a shrieking came from all around them. Demi-Precentor Callero shouted, "Air Raid!"
Everyone ran for cover, and not too soon. Overhead Clan Aerospace Fighters were coming in, laser fire and PPCs spraying deadly light everywhere. The ComGuard anti-air personnel manned their guns and emplacements and returned fire, filling the air with the sharp cracks of autocannon fire and roaring missiles. Dani grabbed Becca and began pulling her toward one of the buildings.
They each stopped as a missile crashed in front of them, finding a military car that in turn exploded. We're dead! was the thought that ripped through Becca's mind in the instant before a powerful force knocked into them from behind, sending both women down and protecting them from flying debris. The weight lifted and Becca looked up to see Captain Penton had been the one to jump on them. His right shoulder was bleeding, a piece of shrapnel showing through the torn fabric and flesh with blood welling up through the wound. "Get to cover!" There was an intensity in his eyes as he pulled Becca up while Dani, being more limber, got to her feet on her own. They continued on, around the burning car.
Powerful beams of emerald and azure light played above them, joined by the brief sonic booms of Gauss Rifle fire. The Tetsuhara's weapons were engaging fully, joining the air defense emplacements in swatting the Clan machines from the sky. Finally finding cover in one of the 'Mech bays, they squatted down together. Becca looked back to Penton, his wound now fully obvious to her. "Thanks," was all she could say.
Grimacing and finally seeming to notice the piece of metal in his shoulder, their new commander gave her a brisk nod. "You're welcome," he said. "And in times like this, call me Alex."
Becca nodded. "Then I'm Becca." She put a hand on Dani's shoulder. "And this is Dani."
"We need to get you medical attention," Dani said.
"Yeah, well, we'll wait until the Clans let off." Alex's hand moved up, as if to rip out the metal. Becca grabbed his wrist to stop him. "What?"
"Don't. Not until a medic is here," Becca urged him. "You might tear yourself up more and increase your blood loss rate." She pulled off a shoe and the sock beneath, which she pressed against the wound. He snarled and hissed at the action, but did nothing else. "God, we really need to get you help."
"Yeah, I think so too," Alex gasped. When silence answered him initially, he smiled despite the pain. "I think we chased them off."
"They'll be back," Dani grumbled. "They like to annoy the **** out of us like that."
"Well, Sir..." Becca smiled. "I hope you're ready for life here on the front. It's going to be a lot more of this."
"That's what I'm afraid of," Alex groaned.
Edited by Big Steve, 06 June 2012 - 09:12 AM.