MechWarrior: Scorched Earth #1 "Enemy at the Gates"
Posted 28 June 2012 - 04:39 PM
Hastings, Minnesota, United States
North America, Earth
10 July 2039 Local
10 August 3059 Inner Sphere
The attack siren had jolted Rachel out of a fairly pleasant sleep, or at least the most pleasant she'd had since the low-stress last night on Outreach. Knowing just what the use of the siren meant, Rachel wasted no time in getting into her cooling suit. Her roommate Lieutenant Hawkins finished getting into her's just a second later and the two raced out of their room. The way to the 'Mech hangers became increasingly busy, though not congested, as they merged with the traffic of other MechWarriors on the way there or other camp personnel moving to duty stations.
There would be no briefings this morning. Everyone was loading into their 'Mechs the moment they got to the hanger. Rachel watched Major Pierce climb into his Axman and then looked further down. Alex was standing beside his borrowed Gladiator, in a position to intercept her as she approached her own bay. Rachel decided not to try avoiding him and walked in a straight line, avoiding mechanics as she did so. He didn't intercept her so much as hold up a hand. "Be careful out there, Rachel," he said to her.
"You too," she answered. "And remember your new promise, if you want to remember the promise at all."
He nodded in acceptance. "I'm going to do my damdnest to bring everyone home." And the look in his eye showed that he knew he'd fail.
Just don't let someone die for my sake, was the thought in Rachel's head, one that a selfish part of her hated. She didn't know if she could live with herself if she survived only because someone else had been abandoned to die. But deep back there in her mind, a scared voice thought, I'd rather have a chance to try though!
With her spine chilled with terror every step of the way, Rachel forced herself to walk up to her Thor. She'd survived two battles in it so far, and currently stood as the leading "ace" on the front (at least among Outreachers; she was third behind Dani and Becca due to their longer time on the front with better machines). But such luck couldn't last forever... could it? No, of course not. Eventually she'd... no, no, she couldn't think like that. Not without making her impulse to flee even stronger.
Rachel climbed up the rope ladder to her Thor's hatch and got in. She went through the usual ritual of switching the machine on, hooking her suit up to sensor and coolant ports, and pulling on her neurohelmet. Once in her command couch she put on her harness and went through her startup sequence. She hadn't personalized her machine like others had, keeping only the basic inquiries in use. Her checkphrase was simple: "I love my grandparents". What would throw off anyone who guessed it was that the phrase was spoken three times, in Spanish, Greek, and Italian.
With her machine come to life, Rachel waited in nervous tension for the enlistees in the hanger to direct her out. They put her behind Alex's Thor. Dani's fixed up Mad Cat was behind her. Steeling herself and working up her courage, Rachel followed Alex out of the base and toward the lit up sky to the west.
The 1st Battalion was being committed as a whole unit, and for good reason. The Falcons were attacking in force, using three full Clusters and a combined arms "Supernova" Cluster. IV Corps was staging a fighting retreat up the I-35 corridor toward the city, and from what Alex knew of their material situation and that the "fighting" part of that phrase was pretty much in name only. ComStar had shifted their two available fresh divisions to try and contain the breach and the 5th FedCom RCT was being rushed up by both land and DropShip to serve as a final line of defense. But Faribault was already in enemy hands, and the defenses outside Northfield were crumbling fast.
Their position was not far from I-35, in the rural areas outside Lakeville, on one of the hills that lined the area. Everyone present was hoping, beyond hope, that they could hold the Clanners here, because if they didn't that would mean the fight entering the populated areas of the city, areas where the diehard and the desperate had not evacuated and where even those willing to go were still waiting to find out where they could go. Cities of 3 million people didn't evacuate easily even in the best circumstances, and when the military's hogging the roads and rails and airlanes... then it became a slow and laborious process.
Kansas City, St. Louis, Memphis, New Orleans... Now it looks like Minneapolis will be added to the list. He tried to imagine the cities he'd called home in his life - Portland, Orlando, Jacksonville - joining this list of destroyed and war-ravaged American cities as well, and had to stop the thought before the horror choked him.
"We have confirmation from General Parkinson," Pierce said over the combat comms, referring to IV Corps' commander. "We've got at least two Trinaries on the way, 'Mechs and Elementals."
Let's hope it's just that, Alex thought. Even if they were numerically "larger" and on the defensive, the firepower of Clan machines had to be taken into account, especially since most of the unit was outfitted with Inner Sphere-quality weapons, not Clan.
Overhead the contrails of artillery rockets were streaking actively toward the south. American artillery represented the one weapon system that the Clans' BattleMechs and Elementals had to respect. But there were only so many artillery pieces, and even with rockets and shells being driven in daily from new factories in Madison and Milwaukee and Chicago, they never had quite enough artillery ammunition to satisfy everyone's needs. Fire support wasn't something they would enjoy in spades, not when ComStar and the rest of IV Corps would be calling for it.
Alex was in the middle of drawing a breath when he saw the red icons move onto his sensor display. In the distance his holotank showed approaching Clan machines. He could make out what was clearly a light Star and his IFF systems marked the enemy units with Inner Sphere designations. He swallowed at seeing the names Koshi, Dasher, and Uller. All Omnis. Not a single non-Omni among them. These guys are all frontline pilots.
There was more than this light Star, however. The names of various Clan mediums and heavies began to flash into existance over their distant profiles. Many of them were also OmniMechs.
Alex spit his crosshairs on one of the Ullers, which was carrying what looked to be a Gauss Rifle given the range. His targeting systems flashed to show he had a partial lock and he reacted by triggering his PPC. A bolt of lighting erupted from his 'Mech's arm and, given the range, missed. Not just missed, actually, but was completely avoided, as the Clan pilot gracefully shifted his 'Mech in the split second he fired. His mouth went dry from dread. These guys are damned good. Too damned good.
His shots provoked a barrage from some of the others. LRMs, laser beams, and PPCs lashed out, as well as the autocannons on the two JagerMechs in Charlie Company. Some of the shots made connections, but a distressing number didn't given the maneuverability of the Clan pilots. Nor did Alex get time to see if any shot was a lucky one, as a Gauss Rifle slug smashed against the shoulder of his Gladiator.
The Falcons returned fire with a devastating accuracy. Alex managed to avoid getting hit again, as did a number of his pilots, but the entire battalion took hits, especially given the Clan predilection to every warrior taking his own target. Nevertheless he noticed there was some overlap; the Falcons certainly weren't using Clan battle codes now.
A nagging voice in his head said This isn't going to work, we can't stop these guys alone, but Alex refused to pay it heed. Or, more accurately, he didn't have time to pay it heed, with a Gauss Rifle-toting Thor seeming to take a direct interest in him. He triggered his PPC at the same time the Thor fired its own, the twin lightning blasts moving past each other before they began incinerating armor. An LRM rack on the Thor's shoulder spat a salvo of ten missiles at him, seven acquiring and striking home. His own missiles, being shorter-ranged, refused to lock.
He was quicker on the trigger with his Gauss Rifle. Before the Clan pilot could fire his own, Alex lined up his weapon on the arm-mounted rifle and fired. The enhanced targeting computer in his machine stabilized the limb and ensured the shot hit home. A single Gauss slug slammed into the muzzle of the Thor's weapon just as it was firing. His round, being the faster one, won the resulting collision, and in the process the charged up capacitors of the gun provided plenty of energy for a nice explosion. Hole in one!, Alex couldn't help but crow to himself.
The Thor pilot righted himself after the loss of the limb, a split second in which Dani's twin PPCs found him. They hit home on the center torso, the plasma getting right into the 'Mech's LRM magazine. A powerful explosion gutted the Thor and damaged its fusion engine. Before Alex could finish it off with his lasers, emerald and ruby beams converged on the machine's open wound and finished it off, sending the Clan OmniMech down.
He took a moment to take stock of their situation... and it wasn't good. The Falcons had only lost three 'Mechs in the general exchange, and that was due to people concentrating fire. The dispersed Clan fire had nevertheless been more accurate and stronger than the mixed Clan and Inner Sphere weapons of the 1st Battalion, which was down two 'Mechs and had suffered more damage in general among the remaining ones. And now the Falcons were really coming on strong, rushing forward with their speedy Dashers in the lead.
Alex saw a few shots go the way of the Dashers, but most of the American pilots were focusing on more threatening, heavier Clan machines. He wondered why the fast but very thinly-armored machines were racing into knife-fight range and felt a dark suspicion. He focused his holotank display on one and saw the answer in the five figures riding along on the Dasher.
He wasn't the only one to notice, as he heard a voice over the radio - Lieutenant Jiminez from Bravo Company - call out, "Toads!"
The volume of fire on the Dashers increased, but their expert Clan pilots avoided the shots with deadly grace. One Elemental was thrown off the lead Dasher when an LRM struck him directly. Another was killed by a PPC that had been fired at its ride. But all in all most of them were intact as the Dashers pulled close.
Alex spit his crosshairs on a Dasher and fired as it approached minimal range. His Gauss slug struck home on the 'Mech's hip and blew the limb off. The 'Mech fell over and flew skittering across the ground, where his medium lasers finished it off.
But the Elementals it had been carrying had jumped off as the 'Mech lost its leg. Most of the Elementals now proceeded to dismount, the Dashers carrying them firing off salvos of SRMs and LRMs as they fell back. Alex felt several of the missiles hit him, damaging his arms and legs. He triggered his PPC and, with the aid of his targeting computer, landed a direct hit on the back of one of the light 'Mechs. Its meager armor was no more effective than tissue paper against the lightning bolt, which engulfed the entire machine and destroyed it. A blown out husk dropped to the ground.
Seeing the approaching Elementals, Alex's mind was racing as he recalled their anti-battle armor training on Outreach. "Fall back to keep the range!", he shouted into the comms. "Don't let them get near you!"
"Captain, you will hold your position," Pierce insisted over the comm. "All light units, focus your firepower on the enemy infantry. And maintain position until I order otherwise!"
Alex opened his mouth to protest and thought better of it. With everything that happened a couple of days ago, he didn't need to deal with the problem of disobeying a direct order in combat. Then no amount of battlefield success would save him from being benched. And maybe Pierce has got the idea of it. We've got some high ground, and if we start retreating too there's no telling where we'll be able to make another stand.
20mm 'Mech-mounted machine guns, lasers, and other light weapons fired low at the oncoming Elementals. But they were difficult targets to hit and only one went down. And then they started to return fire...
Suddenly the ground in front of 1st Battalion began to erupt in explosions. "Cluster shells", Alex said to himself. Artillery fire rained down in front of them and massacred the Falcon Elementals, blowing them to pieces with direct hits and showering the others in shrapnel that could break through their visors and thinner armor.
Only a couple Elementals survived, with the 'Mechs behind them being mostly intact as well. One was heading toward Charlie Company, the other toward Alex's unit. He was too busy exchanging fire with a Black Lanner to do much about it.
Seated in his Raven, Patrick Wu was exerting most of his effort trying to keep himself from panicking at the approaching Clan forces. He had reason to be apprehensive. The Raven was built to be a stealthy recon 'Mech, not to remain in a confined area and fight.
The Elemental wasn't going for him, thankfully. After weaving toward Dane, he saw it slip over and head for Micki Lupo's Bushwacker. She was too busy righting her 'Mech from an autocannon burst hit to notice until it was too late; the enemy suit jumped up from the side and landed on her shoulder. He saw the Elemental extent its claw and bring its weapon arm up to begin breaking into Micki's cockpit.
It being too late to shout about it, Patrick swung the Raven over and slid his crosshairs over the Elemental. They pulsed gold and he triggered his medium lasers.
The result was sheer overkill. The Elemental hadn't fired his two SRMs yet and they exploded as the ruby energy sliced through their housing. The armor-suited Clanner was blown apart in the resulting explosion. Wu breathed a sigh of relief.
That is, until he saw the Bushwacker collapse.
Micki had been opening up on a Clan Ryoken - and with admittedly reduced effect - when the Elemental set off her proximity warnings. She was too late to direct her machine guns on it and watched it begin to clamber up toward her cockpit. Oh God, this is it, she thought to herself as she tried to think of how to avoid getting killed.
Suddenly ruby light played over the Elemental, cutting right though it and nicking her canopy. The Elemental exploded. She saw it do so and suddenly felt sharp pain stab into her shoulder and right side. She looked down to see bloody shrapnel sticking out of her left shoulder, more shards having been stopped by her cooling suit's bulletproof weave save for a really large piece which, given appearances, was likely lodged not far from her stomach.
With pain surging through her Micki was unable to keep the Bushwacker standing. It took everything she had to control the fall, letting it fall backward so that she could easily, she hope, get it standing again. Well, assuming she didn't bleed to death.
"This is Bravo 3," she said aloud. "I've been hit. I've got shrapnel wounds, they hurt like all ****, and I'm going to bleed to *** **** death if I don't get medical attention." And she knew that wasn't likely. IV Corps was running like hell behind them, and nobody was going to detach an ambulance to pick her up in a 'Mech combat zone. It'd just get the medics killed.
"I'll help you out," she heard Hoffman say, and she could see on her icon display his Rifleman start inching near her.
"New orders from HQ," Pierce said over the radio. "They want us to fall back into town. Now. We're abandoning this position."
What about me you ******* *******?! was the thought that went through Micki's head. She was relieved to hear Hoffman protest. "But Major, Sergeant Lupo needs medical attention, and there's no way she can..."
"Captain Penton, remind your First Sergeant of the chain of command, and heed the retreat order."
Micki sucked in a painful breath and waited to hear Penton condemn her to death.
"Major Pierce, I have an idea." was the reply that came instead. "Pull back Bravo and Charlie Companies. We'lll make it look like Alpha is covering your retreat. Then when the Clans start to flank us, hit them in their flanks."
"The orders from HQ are to retreat."
"Yeah, and we will. After Sergeants Hoffman and Perez get Lupo into Perez's machine so he can run her back to the medics." Through the pain Micki could hear a surprising amount of steel in her staff weenie commander. "We can't leave people behind, not if it can be helped at all. Please, Major..."
Micki swallowed, and waited for Major Pierce to decide her fate.
Posted 29 June 2012 - 12:40 PM
Minnesota, United States
North America, Earth
10 July 2039
10 August 3059
Scott Pierce was not, by any stretch of the imagination, a highly creative man. He had some imagination, of course, but it was the fairly borrderline imagination you find in the general population. And years of military training and experience had not done much to enhance his creativity; the military, especially in peacetime and most especially in periods of reactionary entrenchment after forced reforms, was not known for tolerating free thinkers, or anyone really who was apt to interpret orders "creatively".
That's not to say Pierce was a "by the book" man. When the situation called for it he could be, if not creative, flexible. He'd done so in his call of letting Dani Verdes and Becca Shameel continue to pilot the Clan OmniMechs they'd pilfered back at Leavenworth and he'd done so in not pushing for charges against the latter in her verbal altercation with Lieutenant Dane.
Pierce's flexibility had limits, though. Right now they were being tested. He had his orders; retreat from his position. They were sound orders, too, as his battalion had little chance of holding its position now that the full wrath of the Jade Falcon Clan was coming down upon it. And he had Captain Penton trying to talk him into something that violated the very spirit of those orders.
But he found that Penton's suggestion was also militarily sound and wise. Sergeant Lupo was a rare veteran in the nascent American MechWarrior corps. Furthermore, the idea of flanking the Clans with a faked pull back and rear guard action offered a chance to inflict losses that might prove beneficial to their defensive efforts. And, when it came down to it, Pierce found he had no desire to see another of his charges from the Training Battalion killed by the damned Clans.
He took a moment to fire a laser at an approaching Clan 'Mech before giving his reply to Penton. "Good luck, Captain. Bravo and Charlie Companies, fall back. Delta, you help Alpha keep their position." He began to back up with his Axman, not wanting to present his weak rear armor to the enemy until he had some cover. Let's hope we don't regret this, Captain, he added as a thought.
Micki was gratified to hear Pierce relent. But she was also becoming worried; worried that in trying to save her they would simply lose more people. She was not so selflessly noble as to protest, however; her desire to live was simply too strong and basic to her.
She watched on her holotank as Alpha Company gathered in a protective formation around her, Delta Company behind them in turn to keep them from getting boxed in too quickly. That's not to say they stood still. Doing that would be suicide. But they were arranged to cover Perez as he brought his Talon close. Hoffman took a place beside Perez, a larger target capable of shooting back should any Clanners take potshots at the Talon.
As she waited for Perez to come, Micki summoned what strength she had left to unlatch herself from her command couch. Pain rippled through her side. Taking several breaths she steeled herself for more pain as she reached into the compartment where, among other things, her first aid kit was present.
At this point she almost gave in from the shooting pain that was rippling through her torn flesh, but Micki's will to live refused to let her succumb. With a trembling hand she opened the package and fumbled through it to find the gauze and bandaging that would help stop the blood flow that was very literally draining the life from her.
She was only starting to tape it down when her hatch opened. Perez loomed over the opening for a brief second before stepping in. "Come on, Sergeant," he said as he reached to pick her up. "We've got to get you out of here."
The Jade Falcons were advancing hard. Too hard, in Alex's view. They were eager to press past him and get into his rear, and he couldn't give any ground until...
A brief glance showed him a pair of humanoid figures leaving Micki's stricken 'Mech. Hurry up, Sergeant, hurry up Alex urged mentally. He brought his crosshairs over and laid them on a Falcon Loki as it took several hits from Rachel's SRMs. Mindful of his limited ammo he triggered his lasers and PPCs; ruby spears sliced open the Lokis arm and the PPC blasted away armor from its hip. The Clan pilot within was unable to keep his machine standing from the onslaught. It toppled over onto its face, revealing its weak back armor for Rachel to blast with her PPC.
Turning his attention away from that fight, Alex found another target, this one a Thor Charlie with a menacing twenty-shot autocannon on the arm. He brought his PPC to bear and fired just as two more lightning bolts converged on it from Dani's Mad Cat. One of her shots missed, but two PPC bolts was enough to blast through the armor. His was the luckier shot, striking the ammo for the left arm autocannon. An explosion gutted the Clan machine.
Alex felt his 'Mech rock hard from another autocannon impact, a lighter burst thankfully. But his battle damage was already such that he was showing severe armor loss on his right arm and degraded performance on his torso. He wouldn't be able to take much more of this.
Nor would the other members of his unit. They were fighting hard, but for every Clan 'Mech they took down with concentrated fire, it seemed there were two more in place. Nor were they doing very well in that; the Clanners were bred for this kind of thing after all, and they proved hard to hit decisively. A solid torso hit would, by a quick movement, become a glancing blow, or be absorbed by a fully-armored arm.
A feminine "Dammit!" came over the comms. He turned to see Becca's Vulture pummelled and even "bleeding" from a broken coolant line in her engine. She staggered and fired a volley of LRMs back at the offender, an autocannon-armed Linebacker Charlie. It fired a thick beam of green light that melted armor away from Becca's shoulder but which, thankfully, failed to strike the break in her armor.
The Linebacker was soon being hit by Dani's Mad Cat, but that left her exposed to an approaching Black Lanner. Rachel moved her own Thor to engage it. And with their unit down to less than 10 effectives, it was only going to get worse. Have to leave Delta where it is, they're our lifeline...
I've gotten my people killed trying to save just one, Alex thought in reproach. Stupid, Alex, stupid stupid stupid...
That was when Major Pierce launched his counter-attack.
The Falcon troops were already losing force cohesion, with individual ex-Cobras and ex-Sharks and ex-Ravens allowing their own desire to prove their worthiness to join the invasion of the Inner Sphere to overpower their formation discipline. When Pierce's two other companies came down on their flanks, their spread-out formation ensured they were unable to take the blow well.
It didn't mean much for Jack Hoffman, though. In covering Perez as he rescued Micki, he'd made himself a target for the Falcon "center", and even with Sakata and Dane covering his rear as best as they could, his Rifleman was taking abuse. His 'Mech's armor was almost gone. Both legs had superficial damage, though he could still move. His right arm was non-functioning and one of its pulse lasers knocked out anyway. And as it was about the slowest 'Mech in the unit... I'm not getting out of this one.
He saw Perez's Talon straighten up. "I've got Sergeant Lupo secured," he said over the radio. "Heading to a field hospital."
Alex Penton's relief was evident in his reply. "Alright everyone, begin falling back while the Major keeps them busy."
Hoffman began to back away. He couldn't present his back to the enemy, and there was a lot of them. Even with the others turning back toward the center, letting Pierce's unit draw attention. Fire continued to be exchanged, and this time it seemed they were actually doing better than the enemy as two Clan 'Mechs dropped from critical leg hits or other major damage while another one exploded from a strike to its missile magazine.
Then a Shadow Cat put a Gauss round right into his engine.
Alarms went off in his machine. The heat began to spike from damage to the engine shielding and coolant systems. His power levels dropped. Cursing, Hoffman retorted with his functioning pulse lasers and watched them stitch emerald energy all over the other 'Mech. It didn't do it much harm and the Clan machine retorted with laser fire that melted away at what was left of his hip. Red lights flashed on his status display, indicating the structural sensors considered the hip ready to snap.
"I'm covering you, Bravo 2. Come around me and turn," he heard Dane say on the radio. Say what you could about Dane's undesired "badass" attitude, the kid had guts.
"Negative, Bravo Lead," Hoffman answered. "I have leg and engine damage, and this crate is slow enough as it is. You and the others fall back, I'll cover your retreat."
"Dammit, Hoffman..." This time it was Dani's voice. "Not you too! We'll all cover..."
"Alpha 3, as your First Sergeant I have to remind you to observe comm discipline..." He had to stop talking as his 'Mech rocked, the Shadow Cat's Gauss rifle smashing into his chestplates again. Armor and internal structure was lost, but he had nothing in that area to damage thankfully. "And as your fellow TBer.... it's too late for me, Dani. You get Becca and get out of here. Get Micki back to health and stay alive."
"That's an order, Verdes. Get your *** in gear!" Hoffman hoped the roughness of his tone would get the rebellious woman to listen to reason. With a single motion he brought his left arm up and triggered his pulse lasers. One stream of emerald needles drilled a hole deep into the Shadow Cat's belly and the fusion engine within. The other effortlessly drilled into the cockpit of the machine and turned the Clanner within into a crispy critter.
But as always, you take one Clanner down and another one would just step up. This one was in an even lighter 'Mech, a Dragonfly, but it was in Bravo Configuration, so it was packing an ER PPC. It fired while he was waiting for his lasers to rebuild a charge in their capacitors. The hit blasted into his torso, inflicting further damage on his engine and taking out his extra heat sink systems. Even firing his reduced complement was going to be difficult now.
"Captain, you heard me!", Hoffman shouted over the radio. "I'll cover you the best I can, but get out of here!"
He got a reply that was depressingly subdued. "I hear you, Sergeant. God help you."
Not really a praying man, but I hope He does, Hoffman answered in his mind, further hoping that the Almighty didn't mind his occasional indulgences in the pleasures of life like fast cars and even faster women.
Alpha Company fell back quickly, each 'Mech turning and shooting to cover another 'Mech making a turn to move backward. Delta Company now played their role, those of their 'Mechs with long-range weapons helping to make sure no Clanner got a good lock on the rear of a friendly. The Clanners mostly ignored Hoffman for a short bit, considering him mostly defeated and no longer worth taking down, but after he put his pulse lasers into the Gauss Rifle of Thor and the cockpit of a Ryoken, he started taking fire again. Fire he couldn't avoid.
But that didn't matter. All Hoffman could think about - as his 'Mech was blasted to melted scrap under him and darkness came to claim him - was that he hadn't let his nightmares become true.
With the Clan 'Mechs in pursuit - now being checked by ComGuard forces - and the buildings of Lakeville now around them, the others had long lost visual contact with Hoffman. Hoffman's Rifleman was no longer transmitting its IFF code either. He was gone.
I held everyone back to save one pilot, and I lose another instead, Alex thought to himself as he brought his battered Gladiator up toward a ComGuard Excalibur. Pierce's own Axman looked little better. His autocannon was out of commission, courtesy of a laser strike that had melted part of the muzzle-side barrel. Just one battle and the unit looks to be in shambles. Can we really win this?
An accented male voice, using what he'd learned on Outreach was considered "Star League English", came over the radio. "Major Pierce, Captain Penton, this is Demi-Precentor Ratchlin. We have mobile repair units on standby for you, but I'm afraid they can only do basic armor repair and reloads. You'll need full facilities to repair damaged equipment."
"Just so long as we can get our 'Mechs back up to fighting shape", Pierce replied.
"Our techs will do their best, Major. Go ahead and decide on the order..."
Alex found himself blocking out the rest of the conversation. He only responded when Pierce directly called him to get his machine fixed up. He moved the Gladiator over toward the MFB vehicles. Techs juiced up on stimulant drugs, including lots of coffee, began to clamber over to his machine with plasma torches and the other tools of their trade.
As he waited for them to cut and fit on improvised armor slabs and to slip in reloads for his Gauss Rifle, Alex reached over to his radio control. "Hey, Sergeant Perez, you out there?"
"Just got back, sir,", Perez answered. "And since I know you'll ask, she almost didn't make it, but the field medics think Sergeant Lupo will live."
Alex drew in a sigh of relief tinged with regret. It meant that losing Hoffman hadn't been an entire waste... but it had still happened. And if he'd just been faster, or better, maybe Hoffman could've made it out too.
"I'd say Major Pierce has reason to feel good about things regardless, sir, given what I've been hearing," Perez continued, as if sensing Alex's thoughts.
"What is what, Sergeant?"
"Your little fake retreat worked wonders. The Clans are down two whole Trinaries worth of "Mechs and infantry now, and supposedly they've stopped moving forward for the moment to consolidate and repair."
Alex drew in a breath. "Well, good to know...."
A little idea suddenly popped into his head.
As he was considering it, Perez ventured a careful, "Sir?"
"Sorry, Sergeant, just thinking of how I'm going to phrase this request to the Major," Alex answered.
"What request, sir?"
"Well, Sergeant, you know what they say." Alex allowed himself a thin smile. "Sometimes the best defense is a good offense."
3rd Army Headquarters
St. Paul, Minnesota, United States
North America, Earth
Tanner had to admit to being impressed as she and Colonel Sinclair looked over the data. With the 87th Division of the ComGuards setting up to fight a delaying action west of Lakeville and the 167th having shifted to cover the east thanks to the Jaguar losses and pullback, it looked like they might have time to get IV Corps out of trouble and hold the Falcons below the Minnesota River. This was especially true thanks to the drubbing the Falcons had taken outside Lakeville against the 1st Battalion. It had lost over half a dozen units and suffered major damage to many of the remaining units, but with a clever false retreat they had prompted the Falcons to expose their flanks and counterattacked, inflicting major losses.
"Still, eight pilots down is almost a fifth of the battalion," Sinclair noted as he looked over the data. "We can't sustain those kinds of losses and keep the unit coherent, not with our current limited pool of pilots and machines."
"I agree with you on that, Colonel," Tanner noted. "But we need those 'Mechs active right now. And given the news coming from Colorado, I'm damned sure not going to disperse my battalion like that ***** Tolen..." Though she harbored her own doubts about 'Mechs as a logical combat vehicle, Tanner found Tolen's fanaticism on the issue to be idiotic. "And I suppose it's a good thing that damned camera was watching Alpha Company a few days ago. Given Major Pierce's report, I might be have been premature in telling you to take that lawyer off the field."
Sinclair didn't permit himself a grin. "They say the good lawyers are the creative ones. And Captain Penton was considered a very good one."
"Let's just hope his creativity with orders doesn't go too far," Tanner remarked. "I know you would like to give them a chance to repair fully, but I need you to keep them in the field until further notice. The Falcons seem to be slowing due to the punch to the chops the 1st Battalion just gave them, but these Clanners won't stop just over that."
"Knowing the Clans, the prospect of a tough fight will just make them more eager."
They discussed the situation on the front a bit more, but Sinclair seemed to finally let his curiosity get the best of him. "And what's going on with Tolen's probing attack in Colorado?"
The reply he got was a deep frown. Tanner hit a button to move their holomap over to that region, and Sinclair soon saw why.
Eastern Colorado, United States
North America, Earth
After a day in battle, Roland could feel his body starting to protest being kept awake with stimulants and sheer adrenaline. It was an old, familiar feeling, one that actually gave him a bit of a rush and reminded him he was alive.
Not that he'd stay that way for long.
SRMs impacted on his Thor and blasted away the little bit of armor protecting his right side and hip. He raised his PPC arm and returned fire at the Horse Goshawk that was attacking him. The PPC blasted away melting chunks of armor from the Horse 'Mech's left side. Roland followed up with his medium lasers, ignoring the heat increase, and while one of the red beams missed and only sliced off armor from the belly of the enemy machine, the other stabbed into the open wound left by his PPC and found the Goshawk's SRM battery. The left side of the 'Mech erupted in a fiery explosion that threw shrapnel everywhere. Roland tried not to think of how it might effect any infantry nearby.
But the 'Mech was still alive, if badly hurt. Even worse, with his specialized targeting computer systems the Horse was able to direct the pulse lasers mounted on his right side to devastating effect on Roland's Thor. The skeleton of his machine melted away from the emerald pulses of the laser on the right arm drilling through his weakened armor. Darts of ruby light drilled deep into his flank and barely missed his exposed hip actuator. Clanner ain't going to miss again Roland realized. Feeling no choice, he raised his Gauss Rifle and fired.
The kinetic-kill slug that erupted hit home. It smashed through the Goshawk's chest armor and struck the fusion plant within. This extra blow was too much for the machine's damaged engine, which went offline and brought the Clan 'Mech crashing to the ground.
No longer faced with immediate danger, Roland took a quick stock of their position. Which was not good. His two surviving pilots had battered machines, including a knocked out jump jet for Schuler while Barker's Goshawk was missing its right arm and thus its most powerful weapon. Bravo Company was getting hammered, along with the tanks and mechanized infantry they were supporting. A Horse unit was coming in from the east on their flank and allowing the force they'd been driving back to counter-attack as well. Fine ******* job the higher ups at Army HQ did on this op.
Personally... his 'Mech was generally covered by a patchwork of armor and the structural material that kept it standing, he was down to just one last shot with his Gauss Rifle, and the next solid hit to either hip would immobilize his machine completely.
"Lieutenant Roland!" He recognized the voice as that of Staff Sergeant Gideon Kalter, the second-highest NCO in Bravo Company and, in his view, a sergeant worth his stripes. "We've lost Captain Westen. You're Company CO now."
Damn. She was pretty good. Roland hoped she'd punched out, though even that wasn't enough of a guarantee of survival. "Okay, everyone start coming together. If we don't get back west the Horses are going to be on our ***** and we'll be the ones in a bind." Roland keyed his radio to get in touch with whatever Army ******* was commanding the armor and infantry. "This is Lieutenant Roland, now in charge of Bravo Company 2nd 'Mech Battalion. It's time to fall back, before the Horses run us over."
"I agree, Lieutenant, just making sure Division HQ does too, or it'll be my ***," he heard as a reply. On his holotank view he brought up his crosshairs on a Horse tank gunning for a Bradley trying to pick up a couple wounded troops. His PPC and lasers fired in tandem, the PPC blasting into the turret and one of the lasers finding the tank's right tread. Schulter's PPC came from the side and struck the turret again, shearing it straight off.
"Your *** isn't worth the same as the lives of hundreds of good American kids," Roland retorted angrily, watching another Horse tank open up with missiles that came down around the Bradley. Thankfully it had upgraded armor plate and could take a couple of hits from Clan missiles, sparing the troops inside from a messy fate. "Either we withdraw now or we're going to get pinched in and smashed by the ******* Clans!"
4th Army HQ
Fort Carson, Colorado, United States
North America, Earth
Tolen had stepped out of the HQ to take a call from the Pentagon, leaving Palmer and other officers to observe as his probing attack progressed further into becoming a disaster.
Oh, the first day had apparently gone well. Faced with superior numbers and an effective artillery bombardment, the Horse Clusters had fallen back. Four of their Trinaries had been lost outright in the day's fighting, though they had inflicted fair loss on their own, and it looked like Tolen's plan was succeeding.
But then the Horses sprang their trap. A Cluster on each flank, with plentiful aerospace support, and now VIII Corps was in shambles. Half of the 2nd 'Mech Battalion was gone. American casualties were already far beyond what Tolen had been convinced they'd be.
And worst of all, Tolen hadn't approved a retreat. General Selachii, CO of VIII Corps, had begged for one. All the divisional commanders were warning of an imminent collapse. But Tolen refused to be disturbed in his office, where he was currently arguing with the Joint Chiefs for permission to throw the rest of 4th Army into what he called "the invasion's decisive battle". And while committing IX Corps would clearly stabilize the situation, Tolen wanted to toss in X Corps too to "destroy utterly the Hell's Horses forces in the Rockies Combat Region".
Palmer, as the ranking officer in the room, was the one informed that another request for general retreat had been given by every division commander. Tolen wasn't here to give a no, and all eyes looked to him. His authority to legally approve such was non-existant, and Tolen would erupt in fury and have him court-martialed...
But if I let my division and all the soldiers I'm commanding get killed, I don't deserve my post, he thought to himself. He gave a nod. "Inform VIII Corps and all divisions. Pull back to defensible locations. And while you're at it, get me Precentor Pardeau and Marshal Riffenburg..." Palmer frowned. "We're going to need our allies to pick up the pieces."
US Army 1st BattleMech Battalion Command Post
Lakeville, Minnesota, United States
North America, Earth
North Lakeview High School had been converted into a command post for local units, including the 1st Battalion. A computer lab had been hastily converted for Major Pierce's use and his staff bused over from Hastings. They were now going over the paperwork and 'Mech battle-ROMs to put together an official AAR.
Alex tried to block out jokes that came to mind while standing at attention at the teacher's desk in the lab, now converted for Pierce's use. Both men were still in their cooling suits, as were the other company commanders. Pierce was looking over the map printout Alex had just handed him. "Captain, you realize that this plan is... bold beyond words?"
Pierce's remark caused Alex to nod. "I understand, Major, if you have reservations, but if the Falcons are pausing for now to repair and refit, it gives us an opportunity."
"You want me to detach your company and launch a raid into the enemy rear area." Pierce's remark wasn't a question. "With some of your 'Mechs still not 100% as well."
"Preferably you'd let me have Charlie Company, sir. I can coordinate with Captain Markenson..."
Pierce frowned. "Captain, we just lost eight pilots. Eleven machines are gone or too badly damaged to be combat capable. There's no way I can send more than half of my remaining strength on some foolhardy behind-the-lines raid."
"Then Alpha can do it alone. Just give me a few pilots to restore my strength to 12."
"All it'll take is a Clan Binary to tie you down and get you utterly wrecked," Pierce pointed out.
"All I need is to raise enough of a ruckus that the enemy sends that Binary after me. The longer we delay their next push, the more time the 5th FedCom and the Brits have to get into position."
Pierce looked over toward the other company commanders. Whatever misgivings they had about their "staff weenie" peer no longer seemed quite as evident. "I'll take it up with Colonel Sinclair and the higher-ups, Captain," Pierce said finally. "We'll see what they say."
Alex nodded. "Thank you, sir."
Posted 29 June 2012 - 02:31 PM
Better yet, he needs to die to the Clan forces he's so completely underestimating.
Posted 30 June 2012 - 07:57 AM
US Army 1st BattleMech Battalion Command Post
Lakeville, Minnesota, United States
North America, Earth
Despite being in a war zone, the municipal water for Lakeville was still active, at least for now. This was a blessing for Becca, who was taking the time to enjoy a nice shower in the girls' locker room of the high school. The pay-for-use soap dispensers still had some left and enabled her to fully wash, though she wouldn't be able to shampoo her poor hair.
Not that it'd last, of course. Soon enough the fighting would take out a water pumping station, maybe a missed laser shot would cut deep enough into the ground to hit a water main, or enough homes and structures would get pulverized enough that their own water lines broke. And then there'd be no water, and it'd be just like it was in the frantic attempt to hold Kansas City, or the fighting outside Rochester...
She saw movement at the corner of her eye and turned. Becca's hopes of it being Dani were thwarted at the sight of Rachel (not that it was a bad sight, of course) entering. "How's the water?", she asked.
"Still warm," Becca answered. "Are you sure that you should be in here? I mean, you're an officer, not..."
"Ah, warm shower water." Rachel let out a sigh as she turned on another stall and reached for the small bottle of skin conditioner soap she'd brought. "Warm showers are a luxury on Outreach." She rather consciously avoided any response to the issue of their rank differences.
"Really?" Becca blinked, rubbing down her own arm again and hoping very much to get the stink of sweat off her. "I would have thought such an advanced society would be capable of something so simple."
"Oh, they can make hot water easy. But they only let us enjoy them once a week. The Dragoons were big on denying us creature comforts."
"Well, even cold water is good compared to going two weeks without even a dip in a river," Becca answered. "During the fighting for Kansas City."
"I remember getting news of the battle during training," Rachel said. "The Dragoons made training scenarios in the simulators based on the fighting, and in the command classes we had to write our own AARs and alternative option reports based on them."
"So you Outreach wonders were all being groomed for command?" Becca smirked at her. "Isn't that asking for too many chefs to be in the kitchen?"
"No, only the officers," Rachel explained. "Or enlistees who showed a lot of promise, like Dane. We didn't have enough officers to fill out the eight companies they figured we'd have."
Becca laughed. "Dane was considered good officer material? The guy thinks he's a God damned action hero."
After letting out a small chuckle, Rachel shook her head. "He's just... really excitable. And he's not that bad compared to some of the other yahoos who tried to go through the class."
"It's no wonder you Outreachers got on our bad side. And I know Dani is already blaming Wu for what happened with Micki."
"She's alive," Rachel pointed out. "If that Elemental hadn't been stopped, there'd have been no saving her."
Thoughts and feelings that Becca had been trying to hold down began to swell up as she thought of Hoffman and Micki... and thus so many others. "You don't understand, Lieut... Rachel. You can't understand. There used to be thirty six of us. Thirty six, and that doesn't include Major Pierce. Now it's just me and Dani."
"...is alive? Sure. But she got hurt pretty bad, and even if she recovers they'll probably reassign her elsewhere and.... hell, Dani and I'll probably be dead by then."
Before Rachel could say anything, Becca simply collapsed to the shower floor and leaned against the wall crying. She mewled a few words in what sounded like Hebrew - a language Rachel hadn't yet studied - and smacked her hand on the wall.
Rachel automatically began to wash herself, trying to think of what to say to console the other woman, but her own doubts about their future made everything she thought of saying seem hollow. The rational part of her mind kept thinking about the casualty rate today. Six dead pilots, one MIA and presumed dead (that being Hoffman), and Micki, who had barely survived and would take weeks and a couple of surgeries to heal. Eight out of forty eight. Five more battles at that rate and they'd all be casualties.
The Clans train all their lives to be warriors. And in the Inner Sphere even the enlistee MechWarriors spend three years in training and classes, and a MechWarrior's not even considered average until he or she has had about five years of service. In contrast we had what, three months of basic 'Mech piloting training and six more of intensive training on Outreach? Even if the Dragoons' idea of intensive training makes that the equivalent of a year in an Inner Sphere academy... Again, the math foretold likely doom. She and her comrades, and likely the cadres after them, were being thrown to the wolves to buy time. And we're not doing it well enough.
"Becca? Becca!" Rachel turned to see Dani enter the shower area, a towel in one hand and a bar of soap in the other. She absentmindedly dropped both - ensuring the former would get soaked in the runoff - and went over to her girlfriend. "What's wrong?" She put her arms around Becca's shoulder and put a hand up to Becca's chin so she could see her face to face.
"We're all going to die, Dani," Becca answered, sniffling. "All of us. That's what happens to TBers. We get vaporized and sliced up and..."
"No, no no no Becca..." Dani ignored the water pouring over her head and pulled Becca close, nestling her head under her own and against her neck. "I won't let it happen. We'll get out of this." As Becca continued weeping, Dani looked up and over at Rachel. "Hey, what kind of cold ***** are you? Just standing there showering while my Becca's crying her eyes out..."
Rachel's jaw dropped slightly, but only slightly. For only a brief moment she thought about protesting, but she found herself caught, as she so often was, between her rational side and her emotional one. I just stood here and let a comrade, a fellow pilot, go to pieces... maybe I am a cold *****.
No, I just didn't want to lie and claim they'll both survive when all the indications say otherwise, she thought in disagreement to herself. As usually happened, Rachel allowed her rationality to take control of the situation. "I wasn't going to lie to her," Rachel answered simply. "And..."
"You wouldn't be lying to her," Dani growled. "You'd be giving her a boost that we all ******* need right now."
A boost. What, by deluding her into thinking both of you are invincible and there's no way one, or both, of you can get killed out there? The math says you'll.... God dammit Rachel, stop thinking about "the math" all the time! Rachel lowered her head and softly apologized. "You're right, I should have said something, I'm sorry." She picked up the half-filled container of body wash and went over to where her dry towel was. Almost absentmindedly she picked up Dani's discarded, now thoroughly-soaked towel and hung it up before recovering her own and wrapping it around herself from shoulders to hips.
She looked back at the sight of Dani trying to console Becca. They should be on leave, not in another major battle, Rachel thought. They've been through so much... Not knowing what else to say, she quietly slipped out and left the two alone.
Alex was standing in a corner of the battalion HQ that Pierce had set up when Dane found him, Sergeant Perez and Lieutenant Tsukara already present. "Hey, Alex, that was some awesome thinking back there. We gave them a good punch to the nose."
"And we lost Hoffman in doing it," Alex answered gravely. "Sergeant Perez is taking up First Sergeant duties for now. But until we know for sure about Hoffman I'm not going to make it official. With Lupo with the surgeons and Hoffman MIA, Verdes and Shameel are going to be in a fragile state."
"Heh, by all rights all four should be behind the lines right now," Dane said. "Training newbies, unwinding from all the combat."
"We need them in their machines right now, unfortunately," Alex reminded him. "So, where is... ah, here we are."
Everyone looked over and saw Tsukara walk up. "Reporting as ordered, sir," Tsukara said, giving a little salute.
"Not really necessary here, Anthony," Alex answered. "This is a brainstorming session, gentlemen. Major Pierce is over at the divisional HQ right now, presenting a proposal from me to the division command and Colonel Sinclair."
"And what proposal is that, sir?", Dane asked.
"Simple. We gave the Falcons a black eye today, and it's got them a little skittish apparently. We're going to make use of that." Alex put a finger down on a road map of the area south of the Twin Cities. "Last we noticed, the Falcons have mostly ignored Northfield after levering the 18th Division out of the town. But we know they moved up some of their mobile supply dumps to the area. We're going to hit it."
Dane whistled. "*** ****, Alex, I like it. These Clan ******* can't shoot their ******* Gauss Rifles at us if we've already melted their slugs to slag."
"Sir, we'd need at least two companies for the raid to work," Tsukara insisted. "Do you think Pierce or Sinclair will give them to you?"
"Actually, I think we can make it work with just a single company, though maybe reinforced with an extra lance," Alex answered, absent-mindedly switching to Inner Sphere organization thanks to the Dragoons. "The key is going to be getting in fast, hitting their supplies, and getting out before the Falcons can divert enough force to smash us."
Tsukara's response was to shake his head in disbelief. "With all due respect, sir, you pilot an Assault. We can't do this fast."
"Good thing my Gladiator has MASC, then."
"Hey, I'm all for it," Dane announced. "It'll put a dent in these Falcons for damned sure."
"If we're doing this, sir, we need to keep in mind that it's a hit and run and not let ourselves get sucked up into a direct fight."
Alex nodded. [i}And that's why you were always being touted as an excellent raid commander, Anthony. You like your hit and runs.[/i] "We might be able to get some long-range arty support if we're close enough to the front, but I'm only going to call for it if we absolutely need it. The front will probably be taking up the lion's share of fire support."
"So it'll just be us against some Jade Chickens," Dane said, his grin turning wolfish. "Gonna enjoy this..."
In the school's cafeteria, Pierce was looking at the image of Sinclair on a plasma display. "I've gone over Captain Penton's recommendation," Sinclair said, holding a noteputer. "It reads like something he'd come up with. I'm inclined to say yes, Major, but I don't mind you putting in your two cents."
"Well, sir..." Pierce drew in a breath. "I see the benefits, but taking out just one supply depot isn't going to turn the tide of the battle much. We'd need to hit multiple targets to get the full effect the Captain is looking for. And at that point I think the risk starts outweighing the potential benefits."
"So let's cut him orders wide enough to let him hit more than one target, if the opportunity presents itself, but which emphasize getting his people out if resistance becomes too heavy" Sinclair answered. "Penton's creative and a little too bold, but not to the point of recklessness. I think Welch was a good education to him on letting his boldness go too far. Transfer enough people to him to get his company back to standard strength and give him another platoon or two to give him some firepower. We'll turn him loose in the enemy rear and see what kind of mess he can make of their logistics."
Pierce nodded slightly. "Very well, sir. I'll let him know your decision and have him get his people ready."
"One more thing, Major." Sinclair seemed to let his jaw tighten a little. "Make sure he knows that the important thing is to get his people back. We'll give him leeway on where he's going, but he must keep his unit intact. Roughing up the enemy supply lines won't do us any good if we've lost an entire company of 'Mechs in tthe process."
"I'll pass that on, sir."
The school's fields were being used as an open-air 'Mech lot. Helping weary mechanics and 'Mech pilots traverse the distance were the electric golf cart scooters normally used by campus security staff, now appropriated by use for young enlistees assigned to division HQ. Tsukara tried not to think too much on the young man driving him, finding him hauntingly-close in age to his own younger brother Jason who would be, soon enough, getting a draft notice in the mail.
Arriving at his Firestarter, Anthony gave the young private a respectful salute and sent him on his way. He looked up at the 45 ton war machine and wondered how long it'd last him. Twelve machines so far were completely lost out of fifty they'd come with (not counting Colonel Sinclair's 'Mech), and as Lieutenant Galvariz might've pointed out, the math didn't lie.
And now Captain Penton wants to send us back into the furnace. Tsukara liked some of the Captain's idea, but the timing was very tricky. The last thing they needed was to get drawn miles behind the lines and then have the enemy start advancing full speed ahead again. On the other hand, mobile warfare was something Tsukara found eminently preferable to slugfest defensive fights, and the chance to do damage to Clan logistics... well, that would be a golden opportunity.
Tsukara looked over to Wu's Raven and saw the kid there, seated on his 'Mech's foot. Granted, he was only 27 himself, so thinking of a 20 year old as a "kid" was a bit of a stretch, but Wu had a way about him that made him look like he hadn't quite moved beyond being a teenager. He'd proven reliable under fire, at least, and showed some promise as a light 'Mech pilot. It was clear from his expression, though, that something was bothering him. "Hey, how are you feeling?" Tsukara knew the past few days had been rough, and they'd only just begun really.
"I almost killed Sergeant Lupo, Lieutenant," Wu answered, rubbing his forehead. "I mean, I wasn't thinking, I just threw everything I had at that Elemental."
"Hey. You know how tough the Toads can get, you needed to hit him with the lasers just to get his attention. You couldn't help that his SRMs cooked off."
Wu shook his head. "I almost hit my SRM launcher too. I could've killed her."
"But you didn't... hey, listen to me Wu." Tsukara sat down on the opposite 'Mech foot. "We do what we have to out here. You can't let it pull at you, otherwise you get pulled completely under and then, well, then you'll really run the risk of getting someone killed, if not just yourself."
Wu nodded and, by looking up, allowed Tsukara to see he'd had some tears flowing. "Not sure how much longer I can hold up under this," he admitted. "But God knows I'm trying."
"Yeah, He does. And so does everyone else. We're all in this together Wu." Tsukara gave him a reassuring pat to the back. "All of us."
With fresh rations in her stomach and a fresh BDU cooling suit, Rachel was as ready as she could ever be to deal with what would come next. Or, at least, that's what she thought before she stood before Alex and the others and heard what they were doing. A raid?! He's... he's crazy! We almost didn't make it out of...
What Rachel was thinking came out, loud in clear, in the Brooklyn-Italian accent of Lt. Sonya Samari, commander of Charlie Company's Bravo Platoon. "With all due respect, Captain, you're out of your f.... out of your mind!" Sonya gestured toward the grass lot where their 'Mechs were standing silently, having barely caught herself before her language got coarse. "We barely survived that delaying action, now you want to drive into their territory?"
"We'll slip through to the southeast," Alex explained. "Near Lake Byllesby and where the Jaguar and Falcon lines meet. The Jaguars have everything they've got left tied up trying to hold their line at Cannon Falls and the Falcons are concentrating to the south. If we slip around their flank at the Lake we can be clear to Northfield, maybe even Faribault, before they know what hit them."
Samari didn't look like she was entirely convinced, but she did give a shallow shrug. "Ah, I guess I can't hold off judgement any longer anyway. Mind if I visit Father Kazlowski before we head out? I probably won't have time to do any proper penance, but..."
"If you hurry, Lieutenant," Alex answered. "We can't wait any longer, the Falcons will probably be resuming their attack tonight or early tomorrow."
Samari excused herself to go fulfill the needs of her faith. Alex looked to Tsukara and Dane. "Anthony, I've got Specialist Simonov for your platoon to back up Wu. Ed, you'll have Corporals Miller and Olafsson, assign them to yourself and Yumiko as you see fit. "
"Cool. I teamed with Olafsson a few times back on Outreach. They oughta give him another one of those Axman machines and let him go all a-Viking on Clanner *****." Dane smirked. "We'll be kicking *** and taking names."
"I'll settle for blowing up supplies and getting the hell out," Alex answered. "Now get your people together, everyone. We've got a raid to pull off."
Jade Falcon Forward Post
Near Lakeville, Minnesota, United States
North America, Earth
Alex Crichell was flummoxed. He had expected some stiff resistance from ComStar, and perhaps a spirited, if badly-fought, defense by the Americans themselves. But instead he found himself down two Trinaries due to the faked retreat by American 'Mechs, a loss that had enabled ComStar's reinforcements and the desperate American conventional forces to plug the hole in their lines - for now anyway - and make him stop to consider how to distribute his forces.
The advance up the I-35 corridor was still the best one to him. It would only get worse though; they were entering one of North America's largest cities, an urban and suburban combat environment that would reduce and even negate the range advantages of his troops, and in which destroyed buildings might become strongholds from which Americans could use their laser designators or RPGs or other weapons to cause his forces mischief.
He considered shifting forces to the west flank and an attack that would lead them to the Minnesota River to the southwest of the city, enabling the Falcons to perhaps catch the enemy in the flank. But new reports from arriving DropShips indicated a fairly-sized enemy force was moving in from the west; he would turn the enemy flank just to have his own struck. No... there would be the direct approach, he thought. That would be best.
And to clear the way and ensure his east flank was secure, maybe even force the enemy to look toward their eastern lines again... Alex looked up from the primitive LCD display he was using, gifted by their native "allies", and toward one of his aides. "Star Captain Elizabeth," he said. "Get me Galaxy Commander Weaver." He allowed himself a small smile. "It is time for her Jaguars to pounce once more."
Posted 01 July 2012 - 09:28 AM
4th Army HQ
Fort Carson, Colorado, United States
North America, Earth
General Palmer found that commiting career suicide was not as painful as he imagined. He watched quietly as his retreat order, in defiance of his superior General Tolen, was carried out. The battered VIII Corps and what was left of the US 2nd 'Mech Battalion was pulling out of the jaws of the Horse trap. If they were fortunate, the 86th ComGuard Division and Davion Light Guards would be able to counter-attack with enough vigor to throw the Horses off and prevent them from stampeding the wrecked US units.
The quiet ended, of course, when Tolen returned and saw the progress of the operation. "Why are the troops retreating?", he asked aloud. "My orders were explicit; to hold as long as possible!"
"It wasn't possible for them to hold any longer, sir." Palmer kept his voice level as he spoke. "If they didn't begin pulling back..."
"So you just figured you could ignore my orders to the contrary." Tolen had the look about him that said he was a volcano waiting to erupt, but for the moment he was keeping a cool demeanor. "You knew I'd have you court-martialed for this, didn't you?"
"I was pretty sure of it, General." Palmer maintained his own coolness in facing down his irate superior. "But I'd rather be court-martialed than stand by and let thousands of Americans get slaughtered."
"In case you haven't noticed, Palmer, this is a war," Tolen growled. "I don't like sending good American kids to die either, but we're trying to save our country. And that means some of our kids are going to die. If you don't have the stomach to accept that then you should have refused a combat unit command, Palmer."
"General, there's a difference between..."
But Palmer got no further. Tolen turned and barked, "Security!" When the two young privates came through the door, Tolen stabbed a finger at Palmer and said, "Take this man to the brig. He's going up on charges."
Naturally the two young men were skittish about hauling away a General, even at the orders of another, but Palmer simply stepped up to them and nodded. One put a very, very careful grip on his arm and they walked out of the room.
As the door closed behind Palmer, he could hear Tolen demanding that hold orders be issued, and that IX Corps be sent in to the battle.
Minnesota, United States
North America, Earth
10 July 2039
10 August 3059
Coming down the shoreline of the lake, Alex followed the streaks of laser fire from the others as they sliced their way through a Vixen, piercing the reactor and sending the light machine down. It joined other Clan machines that had already suffered its fate, leaving the slagged remains of a Falcon recon Star that had gone through the misfortune of running into Alex's company.
"All platoons, check in," he said into their command channel.
Rachel was first, speaking for herself, Dani, and Becca, and reported no damage. Dane and Samari reported the same. Tsukara had armor damage to report on two of his machines. So far, so good Alex thought to himself. I just hope it stays this way as we finish this job.
Nu Galaxy Command Headquarters
Rochester, Smoke Jaguar Occupation Zone
North America, Earth
Galaxy Commander Weaver looked up from her desk as the aide gave her the notice. "So that preening fowl runs into unexpected trouble and wants me to attack now?" Curling her nose in disgust, Weaver used her noteputer to bring up a display of the battle front. The enemy had begun to shift over, but they were not yet entirely devoted to holding back the Falcons. If she attacked now, her forces would take undesired amounts of losses.
And for what, in the end? A glorious victory for those preening Falcons? Sending her warriors to die for the glory of the Smoke Jaguars was one thing; letting them be used as glorified flank guards another.
Even as she bristled at Alex Crichell, Weaver knew she couldn't just refuse to launch the attack. She was a Clan warrior and had agreed to abide by her bargain. No, there would be no question of that...
...but she didn't have to attack right away, either.
Looking to her aide, a young MechWarrior of the Kotare Bloodhouse, Weaver snarled. "Bring up the bidded forces, we will attack tonight."
Minnesota, United States
North America, Earth
A Binary of ancient Star League tanks mixed with unpower-armored infantry was all the Falcons had in place to protect the supply depot, northwest of Northfield. Sixteen 'Mechs, it swiftly proved, were more than a match.
Becca had almost let loose with her missiles when Penton ordered ammo conservation. Instead it was her pulse lasers that stitched ruby and emerald light through the prefab structures and cargo movers that filled the impromptu base. Laser and PPC fire converged on the Falcon supplies, in turn setting off fuel, warheads, and other explosive materials that set off an inferno.
"Okay, target is down. And it looks like we came out of that pretty good," Alex noted over the radio. "We'll follow Highway 3 down to Dundas and Faribault, see if we can run into any supply convoys."
Becca looked out at the devastation and, more importantly, the fires. The explosions had set fire to every patch of green they'd touched, aided by how far they threw flaming debris. "Who's going to stop that fire?" she said aloud. "I mean, does Northfield have..."
"Unfortunately, Corporal, they didn't put fire extinguishers on our 'Mechs," Alex answered. "All we can do is hope Northfield's fire department is up to the task here."
Becca swallowed, seeing the fires raging over the fields, but didn't hesitate to fall in line with Alex and the rest of the platoon. She switched her radio to the private tight-beam channel she and Dani shared. "Dani, didn't..."
"My granddad used to teach at Saint Olaf's," Dani answered bitterly. "I knew every playground in this entire town."
"I'm sorry, Dani."
"I know my home's going to end up like Kansas City if we don't stop them," Dani continued. Becca could tell that she was already adding to that sentence, in her mind, with the thought of And we probably won't.
They'd barely passed Dundas when Alex saw targets up ahead. A convoy of cargo-haulers, accompanied by tanks and what looked to be a single old Star League Sentinel, meaning it was a Clan secondline pilot. "All units, remember, energy weapons only until I give the order."
He sent Charlie and Delta up against the tanks and gave Dane the go ahead to take down the Sentinel. A part of him disliked not throwing his own platoon into it, but they would be the rear guard just in case some line units investigating the hit on the supply base came their way.
Behind them smoke still rose to the sky. He thought again to the fires set by their destruction of the Falcon forward supply base and fervently hoping the local fire department could take care of things. That's about the only thing I can hope for, and given all the fighting I wouldn't be surprised if the local firefighters are caught up elsewhere.
The tanks were all old Star League models, piloted by young and inexperienced freeborn warriors pulled from the paramilitary ranks to fill up the Falcon ranks, and they showed that by a spirited but tactically-foolish charge straight at Charlie and Delta. Laser and PPC fire sliced into the vehicles, melting armor and blasting into crew compartments and turrets.
PPCs and laser fire also lashed out at the lone Sentinel, who wasn't quite charging either. The pilot was holding back, covering the haulers as they tried to turn on the road. Armor was melting off the machine in streams as lasers played over the Sentinel repeatedly. The autocannon on its left arm came to live. The shells it spat out ripped across the torso of Dane's Loki, shredding armor but not penetrating to any internal spaces.
The Clan pilot turned the Sentinel's torso slightly and fired off the laser built into the torso. The red beam sliced out at a different target this time, striking at Olafsson's Ostsol.
Which it speared directly through the cockpit.
The Clanner's lucky shot was his last. Even as the Ostsol fell lifeless to the ground, PPC blasts from Dane's Loki and Miller's Grand Dragon converged on the medium BattleMech and blasted into its belly and heart, slagging the engine within.
Dane fell upon the convoy vehicles with a vengeance, Tsukara and Samari bringing their 'Mechs up to help him. Alex looked to Olafsson's fallen Ostsol and forced himself to take a breath. Just like that, another of his comrades was gone. If I'd pulled back after our success at Northfield he'd still be alive. But Alex knew he couldn't let that thought haunt him. He had to keep a clear head and his mind on the mission.
After a series of explosions set more grass aflame and left smoldering hulks scattered around the road, Alex pointed his 'Mech to the southwest. "Let's keep going," he said. "I want to see what's around Faribault."
Jade Falcon Forward Post
Near Lakeville, Minnesota, United States
"What do you mean we've lost contact with the mobile supply unit?", Crichell asked pointedly when his aide Alec gave his report. "We swept the freebirth vermin away from that town with ease, and the ComGuards are still engaged with the Jaguars."
"At last report, Star Commander Phillip had spotted over a Binary of hostile 'Mechs," Alec answered. "We lost contact with him shortly afterward, and the supply base with him. I can dispatch a patrol..."
"I need all the troops ready to resume moving forward," Crichell growled. "That Solahma Trinary we're keeping in Owatonna, send them in. Make sure our main forward dump at Faribault remains secure." Crichell stood up from his desk. "And get Galaxy Commander Weaver on the holo. I want to know why the Jaguars have yet to resume their attacks."
Faribault, Smoke Jaguar Occupation Zone
Tsukara moved his platoon carefully into the populated areas in the northeast of Faribault, taking care not to disturb the cemetary in the process. The roads were mostly deserted and, Tsukara hoped, most of the population further north out of the war zone.
As he twisted his machine to look down a road, he was shocked to have a tomato splatter over his cockpit. The coated surface allowed the pulp to flow right off, but the thrown vegetable - or was it a fruit? Tsukara could never remember - was followed up by a slightly ripe egg.
He keyed his external speaker and receiver in time to catch the tail end of his "attacker"'s verbal fury, which was arguably more deadly than his physical attacks. "...out of our town, you damn aliens!", the pelter cried. "I don't care if you kill me, I won't let you make slaves out of my grandchildren!"
Seeing the heavyset, short-haired old man glaring up at his machine, Tsukara replied with a smile. "Sir, don't worry, I'm not a Clanner. Lieutenant Tsukara, US 1st 'Mech Battalion."
The old man didn't seem quite so trusting, pulling his arm back to let loose with what looked to be another egg, even more rotten. "Sir, really, I'm American," Tsukara continued. "And we're here looking to blow up enemy supplies."
"You claim you're American, eh? Fine. Who was the 16th President?"
"Ha! Buchanan was!", the old man crowed triumphantly, letting fly with his egg. This one missed the cockpit and splattered against the torso armor.
"Only if you count the President under the Articles of Confederation, sir," Tsukara said patiently. "Which most people don't. Abraham Lincoln was our 16th President."
"Yeah, well... you could've just stolen history books from our classrooms and read 'em!"
"Sir, I really don't have time for this. Please, just direct us toward..."
"I'm on to you! I know you came from the airport to pick on good American folk. Go back there and get on your God damned spaceships and get out of my damned home you..."
"Thank you for your cooperation, sir," Tsukara sighed, turning his Firestarter away. He keyed his radio for the company command frequency. "Captain, the Falcons seem to be at the airport."
"You have a visual confirmation?"
"No, sir, just a senile old coot who blurted it at me thinking I was a Clanner," Tsukara answered, smirking as he did so. "Tried to test the limits of my American history knowledge, then decided I was still a Clanner, just one who read stolen history textbooks."
"Ah." Tsukara could tell Penton wasn't quite sure how to respond to that. "Well.... try to get a visual, we'll meet you near there."
To the south, along the entrance to town, Star Captain Jonas was having a similar experience to Tsukara. Instead of a single senile old man, though, it was a crowd of people, most of them older. Eggs and tomatoes and soda cans pelted his Warhammer and the 'Mechs of his fellow solahma. Freebirth filth!, Jonas thought. He had heard that people in the Inner Sphere had occasionally behaved so foolishly toward warriors, but to have lower caste primitives defacing his 'Mech and those of his warriors..?!
"Again, I am Star Captain Jonas of the Jade Falcon 5th Solahma Regulars. I order you to disperse immediately or face the consequences."
Among a tumult of responses he heard was "Go to Hell, Clanner!" and "Get out of our country!"
"Star Captain." The voice was that of MechWarrior Donald, formerly a Star Commander but busted down in rank in order to be a solahma. "The defenses of our forward supply base have spotted enemy forces. We should go around."
"Neg, MechWarrior Donald. I will not be forced to go around rebellious little surats like these freebirth. We shall remind them of their place when faced by Clan warriors. All units, fire at will. On our way to the base, we will level this town to the ground." He focused his crosshairs onto the crowd and began to pull the triggers for his pulse lasers. As darts of ruby energy lashed out and began to kill and maim the freebirth vermin, the other 'Mechs in his unit began carrying out his order. Lasers and PPC blasts struck into homes, restaurants, businesses... any and every building around them. As the people began to scream and finally disperse, Jonas moved his 'Mech foward, crushing a wounded woman and her child with his first step. His pulse lasers found a parked car next, hitting the fuel tank and causing it to explode as a young man and girl tried to climb into it. Another blast stitched ruby energy into several human figures, killing all but one and leaving the other to scream and twist on the ground, his leg turned to a charred crisp.
"Come, my warriors. We will teach these freebirth respect," Jonas proclaimed. "On to the supply post!"
As before, the supply base's garrison didn't prove to provide much resistance. If anything gave Alex and the others trouble, it was the Point of Aerospace Fighters that briefly appeared to strafe them, damaging Samari's Ryoken and Gill's Blackjack before one was brought down by Rachel and Dane getting a lucky hit and his partner sent off with severe engine damage from Alex getting a hit in with his PPC.
The municipal airport wasn't a big one. It had just one major runway to speak of, which Falcon technicians had been converting for use as a forward airfield for fighters, with nearby terrain having quick-forming ferrocrete pads placed on them to receive supply DropShips. None had arrived yet, thankfully, as Alex doubted his company could take on a proper DropShip.
With the Sullas dispatched and the mixed Star of Elementals and tanks down, Alex was about to order Dane to start blasting the storage containers when he saw smoke rising to the southeast against the orange-lit sky. Distant explosions further got his attention. "Hey, anyone have any idea what's happening in the direction of the town?"
"That doesn't look right at all," Samari said. "I thought the fighting missed Faribault?"
"Some skirmishing to the south I think, but for the most part no," Alex answered. "Samari, Tsukara, you're with me. Ed, I'm leaving you guys to finish this place off. This is what we came for."
Alex turned his 'Mech to the southeast to follow Highway 21. As they approached I-35 they had to go around, following the on and off ramps up on either side of the overpass. And as they gained that height and looked to the southeast, they finally saw the source of the smoke. "Oh my God," Alex said to himself, seeing the distant burning homes and buildings and the telltale flashes of laser and PPC fire. "They're destroying the town."
"********," he heard Dani mutter over the radio. "Those God damned..."
Our orders are to avoid direct battle unless it can't be avoided, Alex thought. But I can't... I can't stand by and watch the Clans annihilate an entire city off the map. "Everyone, form up, combat formation. We're going to find out who's doing this and put them down."
Posted 02 July 2012 - 11:18 PM
Faribault, Smoke Jaguar Occupation Zone
Star Captain Jonas wasn't sure how many of the vermin he'd killed, but his 'Mechs had crushed every building in their path and had left fire and ruin in their wake. The downtown of the city was burning with more fires being set thanks to Star Commander Gladys and the two warriors of her unit piloting Adder OmniMechs.
A voice suddenly barked over his radio. "Star Captain Jonas, you ancient surat, where in Kerensky's name are you?!"
"We are putting down a freebirth uprising in the town that attempted to bar our way," Jonas answered. Knowing only another warrior would address him that way, he added, "Please identify yourself."
"This is Star Captain Jason from the supply..." There was a burst of interference. "...attack by enemy units. Stop messing...."
The communication had been cut, but for a moment Jonas called out for a response anyway. "Blasted freebirth scum, holding us back so their units could hit our supplies. Very well, we will return to chastising these vermin after we've destroyed the enemy forces attacking our supply base. Let us see how bold these bandits are when fighting Clan warriors!"
Alex had waited until Ed brought his remaining three pilots up before he resumed moving southeast. The supply depot was mostly wrecked already, which would hopefully buy them time before the next major enemy push. Now they could deal with whatever force was burning its way across Faribault.
They were emerging into a park area, near the local aquatic center and some baseball fields, when the sensor contact became a visual one. Clan 'Mechs were coming up toward the river, fifteen in all, and some were still occasionally firing lasers at homes and structures around them. "Focus fire on the first targets you get a good bead on, and the largest after that. Don't hold anything back, these evil ******** certainly aren't."
Alex looked back at his holotank display and brought his crosshairs over one of the targets, a Phoenix Hawk. The Clan version of the humanoid 'Mech was twice the weight of the original Inner Sphere variant, weighing in at 80 tons, and had two ten-shot autocannons mounted on the torso with, he recalled, plenty of ammo. Before he could fire Becca's Vulture lit up from the missiles that began to erupt out of its torso. Her pulse lasers sent needles of ruby and emerald light across the flank of the Phoenix Hawk, melting away armor along its hip and side and a bit from the arm.
Before her missiles hit, Alex fired his left arm cannon and watched it score away massive chunks of armor. This proved to pave the way for Becca's missile barrage, which descended upon the Phoenix Hawk with a vengeance. One of the missiles blasted through the weakened body area that Alex's PPC had scourged and found the autocannon ammo bin for that side. An explosion engulfed the Phoenix Hawk and destroyed one of its autocannons.
Seeing fire converging on the machine that would doom it, Alex turned his attention to a Warhammer - and one bearing a Star Captain's insignia at that - just as its PPCs flared to life. The right arm's weapon blasted a large chunk of armor off his 'Mech's left hip and the left arm one flayed armor from his right shoulder. Alex countered with his Gauss Rifle, sending a supersonic penetrator toward the other 'Mech that smashed into its chest and took out a pulse laser. Its remaining lasers returned fire and melted armor away from his torso regions and left arm. Alex felt his gyro strain a bit as it sought to re-align his 'Mech's balance with the loss of armor mass.
Before he could return fire a pair of blue particle bolts converged on the Warhammer. One of them went into the right arm PPC of the 'Mech, wrecking the deadly weapon. The other blast hit straight home on the torso, blasting away what was left of the armor on one section and wrecking a lot of internal structure. Dani's Mad Cat moved up alongside him and fired its lasers next; four beams converged on the assault 'Mech and sliced away armor from the other section of the torso and the hip. "Die ****** ******!"
"Alpha 3, watch your comm chatter," Rachel demanded over the radio. Her Thor was busy exchanging PPC shots with a Thug.
Somehow I doubt Sergeant Verdes cares, Alex thought to himself. He focused his crosshairs over the battered Warhammer.
Star Captain Jonas, by all rights, should have been well prepared for his predicament. The odds were even, he was being attacked by other Clan 'Mechs with Clan weapons, and no 'Mech could long endure the kind of battering he was taking.
But the fact was he couldn't believe it. He couldn't believe that he, a trueborn Clan warrior, a veteran of many Jade Falcon battles to preserve Falcon territory in the Homeworlds during and after the Crusade, was being beaten by these freebirth scum. He was trying to center his crosshairs back on the Executioner when the Timber Wolf erupted in fury again, the PPCs mounted on its shoulders scouring armor from his chest and damaging both his engine and gyro. As heat built, released due to the damaged heat shielding and the loss of an internal heat sink, Jonas found his 'Mech's balance teetering.
A barrage of missiles slammed into Jonas' 'Mech. This alone was enough to topple him, but with two of the missiles getting through what was left of his chest armor and hitting his gyro, there was no way he could bring his 'Mech up again. All he could do was howl curses as his Warhammer toppled over, crippled.
Perez helped to take down a Marauder II and saw an autocannon-armed Black Hawk stalking Tsukara. He turned to engage as Tsukara did and their PPCs converged on the medium 'Mech, blasting away armor. Perez triggered the lasers on his other arm and watched ruby beams slice away more armor on the Clan Omni.
Before he could follow up a stream of emerald light got his attention. Armor melted off in streams as a large-caliber laser raked its vicious needles across his chest. Perez turned and saw a Peregrine challenging him. With his armor already compromised in part he opted to keep some distance and began to fall backward. Wu took his place in helping Tsukara with the Black Hawk, leaving him unworried in that quarter, but his worries were great enough as twin streams of ruby needles drilled into his left arm and left torso.
The lights for his energy weapons flashed green to tell him they were ready to fire once more, and he did so. The Clan pilot was good, though, and only his medium lasers hit home, slicing armor away from the right flank of the Clan 'Mech as it pirouetted away. Perez made his own 'Mech twist as the Peregrine's lasers fired once more. Thanks to the speed with which his 'Mech could move he managed to avoid the deadly large pulse laser mounted on the Clanner's torso and one of the arm-lasers, the other spitting ruby light all along his right hip and leg. Perez righted his 'Mech and pulled his targeting joystick, setting the reticle over the Clan 'Mech and squeezing his triggers all at once. He was rewarded with a direct hit by his PPC, blasting armor and endo-steel off the Peregrine's chest and nearly hitting the engine on the light 'Mech. His lasers flayed armor off the 'Mech's right arm.
The Falcon pilot was hurt, no doubt about it, but he was still a menace in his machine, and this was proven as his large laser flashed to life once more. The weapon drilled its emerald light straight into the Talon's central chest area, removing almost all of the armor he had left. Perez thought he had an opening, though; the Falcon pilot had slowed down his movements and was becoming a much easier target. Perez settled the crosshairs over the head of the Clanner and fired.
As he did so, the smaller pulse lasers on the Peregrine lashed out and did their worst. What was left of his chest armor was vaporized; the two streams of pulses drilled into the chest cavity of his Talon and found his gyro, inflicting severe damage on it and nearly crippling his ability to walk with it.
But his shot did more. The bolt of lightning from his right arm went straight into the head of the light 'Mech and went right though the cockpit, destroying the pilot inside and sending the Peregrine down for the count. Seeing the enemy light 'Mech crumble before him, Perez felt a tingle in his head as the damaged gyro worked harder to use his brain and sense of balance to keep his battered 'Mech standing. That was a lot closer than I like he thought to himself as he turned his attention back to the battle.
Rachel knew she gave up ten tons to the Thug and tried to make up for that by keeping her Thor moving. Thankfully it was an old Thug, a Star League model not upgraded with Clan weapons since it was a solahma's machine, because she already found herself outgunned thanks to its twin six-salvo SRM launchers. Keep distance, that's the important thing she reminded herself as she strafed sideways, avoiding a particle beam as she did. Her own PPC retaliated and scoured armor from the Thug's right side.
Despite her effort to keep distance the Thug pilot fired off a missile salvo. Twelve powerful SRMs raced across the dusk sky toward Rachel. But her maneuvering was too quick and the missiles' maneuverability too limited; all but two missed her, with one exploding on her Thor's hip and the other detonating on the autocannon arm.
Rachel barely felt the impacts, but she did feel the other PPC's attack as it smashed into the Thor's chest, the particle blast vaporizing armor and blasting away melting chunks of it. The impact knocked her around in the cockpit and caused her to accidentally slip her crosshairs off the Thug, causing her Streak launcher to fail a lock-on and not fire. She righted the crosshairs and pulled the trigger for her autocannon. Cluster rounds erupted from the ten-shot weapon, spraying the Thug with armor-stripping sub-munitions.
Their PPCs flared to life simultaneously. Armor disappeared under azure fury on the Thug's chest. A similar, if weaker, bolt blasted away entire chunks of armor from her 'Mech's left arm and left its autocannon partly exposed. With the Thug's heat signature glowing brighter on her monitors, Rachel knew she had a few moments before the pilot would be likely to fire his other PPC. She hit her jump jets and directed them to push her forward, struggling to keep her crosshairs on the Thug while she did so. As soon as she got the gold tone of a lock-on she pulled the trigger. Six missiles erupted from the launcher beside her cockpit and homed in on the Thug. They impacted all over its torso, blasting away armor. One missile detonated on the Thug's left SRM launcher, wrecking the tubes and ensuring the launcher was out of commission.
Rachel began to back away again with her remaining jet thrust, but the Clanner was faster at recovery than she'd hoped. Six SRMs lashed out at her and blew more armor off her legs and torso. Off-balance from her jump backward, Rachel tried to keep her 'Mech straight to land. But she was unprepared for both of the Thug's PPCs to lash out. One blast went through weakened armor in her right leg and took out a jump jet while the other scoured the armor protecting her torso compartment, very narrowly missing the magazine for her SRMs.
Losing one jump jet and so much armor was too much for Rachel. She strained to keep the 'Mech upright but failed; when it hit the ground it did so on its back heels and she toppled over onto her back.
Being rocked around in her cockpit was a bruising experience, to say the least. It took a moment for Rachel to collect her thoughts and begin to sit her Thor up. She leaned it slightly so she could use her right arm to lever herself to a standing position. As she did so, the Thug pointed one of its arms toward her cockpit.
Desperate, Rachel brought her left arm up and pulled the trigger for her autocannon. Cluster rounds ripped out through a plume of gold fire and peppered the Thug with submunitions. Twin explosions erupted from the Thug's torso from her shots setting off the fuel and warheads of over a hundred SRMs within. The left arm of the Thug, once about to vaporize her in her cockpit, suddenly jerked as its connection to the rest of the 'Mech was severed. When the PPC actually fired it missed wide, blasting into the brilliant green grass of the golf course and digging a flaming trench as it did so.
The one weapon the Thug had left was its right arm PPC, which shined blue as it spat lightning into Rachel's autocannon. Her ammunition detonated and blasted the arm off, unbalancing her and keeping Rachel from getting up for another crucial second.
From behind her, a lightning bolt struck out. A Clan-made PPC pierced what was left of the armor on the Thug's chest and speared its engine. The Clan pilot reeled backward from the sudden attack and fell back a bit. As he tried to recover and bring his right arm back up, another PPC bolt lashed out. This one found his engine again, this time taking out enough of it that the fusion plant shut down. The Thug collapsed lifelessly to the ground.
Rachel looked over to see Dani's Mad Cat, still fairly intact, and Alex's Gladiator walking toward her. "Thanks for the help," she said. "He about had me."
"Don't mention it, Alpha 2," Alex replied.
The sun was well and truly down when the last Clan 'Mech went down. Alex looked around and, surprisingly, found that Specialist Rastler was the only one of his pilots to actually go down. But everyone had been hit hard, with missing limbs and in a couple of cases torsos completely blasted out by sheer damage or ammo explosions. Their mission was over; they had to get back to base now.
"Okay, we're going to mix things up," he said over the radio. "Those of us with the worst damage will stay in the center of our formation, everyone else covers them as we move. We'll head south of Nortfield this time and cross back over the Cannon just before we get to Lake Byllesby."
"And hope we don't run into any roving patrols of Falcons," Dane pointed out. "Because in our condition I doubt we could stand up to a Recon Star without losing people."
"Yeah, I agree. Wu, we'll be counting on you to keep an eye out for anything. You and I are taking point. Verdes, Shameel, you're with us."
Alex looked over at Rachel's battered Thor. Her autocannon arm was missing, blown off by the Thug, and her SRM launcher had taken a laser hit that knocked it out of commission. Nevertheless he could already hear her on the radio protesting. "Sir, if you're using your command platoon..."
"Your 'Mech resembles modern art, Lieutenant. Go ahead and snipe with your PPC, but you're not going to be in the front ranks. If it makes you feel better, I need you and Miller to keep Perez's Talon intact. Our First Sergeant's 'Mech looks like a stiff breeze can take out its gyro."
"Roger that, sir."
"Okay everyone, job's over, we're heading out." He began to set his Gladiator in motion, Becca and Dani behind him and Wu in the middle.
The fight was over when Star Captain Jonas extricated himself from his fallen Warhammer. Scowling, he looked out over the battlefield and was appalled to see that only one freebirth 'Mech had gone down. "Incompetents! They gave me the worst ***** surats in the entire Clan to...."
Before he could finish, Jonas' knee exploded. He screamed as he fell over, looking down at where a large caliber round had just struck him. Before he could reach for his own sidearm, a pair of powerful arms grabbed him and hauled him up. The fires of the battle were enough to illuminate his attackers, all locals. Grim, angry faces were lining up to stare at him with an intensity in their eyes that would have set him ablaze if possible. Beyond them, he could hear the pained cries of other warriors from his Trinary who had survived as they were being beaten by the gathering crowd. One older man, with graying hair, stood before him, thumping a police truncheon in his hand. "Well well well, high and mighty Clanner survived. Not so touch when your robot's all messed up, are you?"
"Release me, freebirth, or you and your people will be severely punished by the Clan," Jonas growled.
"You've killed hundreds of people in this nice town, leveled our college, destroyed our businesses." The man thumped the truncheon more loudly. "You used your damn robot to stomp on my little girl and my grandbaby like they were roaches. And I'm guessing that's just how you really feel about us, isn't it?" The man's expression had no smile. No mirth. Nothing but cold anger and grief showed in those features, a grief utterly alien to a Clansman like Jonas. "Well, Mister HIgh and Mighty Clanner, time for the roaches to strike back."
That was when the truncheon slammed into Jonas' belly. And then it came down on his shoulders as he doubled over, and then his back... and that was when the closed fists joined in, and as Jonas hit the ground he felt booted feet join in.
It took quite a while for Jonas and those of his MechWarriors who survived the battle to die that night. But not a single one would survive the violent justice of the people of Faribault.
Jade Falcon Forward Post
Near Lakeville, Minnesota, United States
It didn't take long for Crichell to learn what had befallen his supply base. From his command post the columns of smoke were clear on the southern horizon as night fell, and aerospace fighters had confirmed enemy 'Mechs in the vicinity. He'd initially ordered the offenders annihilated by fighter strike, but the Inner Sphere's aerospace fighters had wrested control of the skies over most of the region during the course of the day and Star Colonel Harald von Jankmon had prevailed on him to keep his fighter strength in protecting the forward troops from air attack as much as possible.
This, of course, meant he had no means of striking back at the insolent bandits that had ripped up his supply lines. Worse was that even considering the lean toward energy weapons he had mandated in his forces, they would lack the parts and ammunition necessary to maintain their offensive. His attack, all of his careful planning, was a failure.
No, I will not allow those freebirth vermin to get away so cleanly after making fools of my warriors he decided angrily. He slammed a hand on the holotank with enough force to get his aides' attention. "Ready my bodyguard Trinary!", he bellowed.
The aides looked at each other and then got to work. All save, Alec, who approached him carefully. "Galaxy Commander, just what do you intend to do?"
"I intend to pull our troops back to Owatonna, to shoot the stravag idiots who failed to defend our conquests properly and cost me those precious supplies, and to put down the vermin who've caused all of my plans to be for naught!", Crichell thundered. Alec grimaced; to hear Galaxy Commander Crichell use such vulgar language indicated just how angry he was. "Whomever commanded this attack knew to slip between my area of advance and Weaver's. He will likely believe he can leave the same way." Crichell smiled, but the smile had mischief nor mirth, but the cold kind that spoke to the anger that raged within and thoughts of venting that rage on a deserving target. "And I will be there waiting for him!"
Posted 04 July 2012 - 08:45 AM
3rd Army Headquarters
St. Paul, Minnesota, United States
North America, Earth
Sinclair was just one of the many people with stern looks as the plasma screen displayed the latest overflight data from Faribault. A wide gash had been cut into the town, burning buildings and homes in its wake, stopping near the banks of the Cannon River where the remains of over a dozen 'Mechs could be seen smoldering. "SIGINT has been picking up the local radio broadcasts for hours," an Army intel Lieutenant informed them from her seat. "Emergency services in Faribault are completely swamped, they even lost a couple of ambulances to the Clan 'Mechs. The county's unwilling to send them help, they don't want to run into Clan forces..."
"Nothing we can do about that," Tanner said from where she was standing. "But given those shots it looks like Penton followed through pretty well. Do we have any eyes on his unit?"
"They're trying, General, but given all the satellites that've been lost and the battle for air superiority... we're not sure." Lieutenant Baker, according to her ID, shook her head. "We're relying heavily on what shots we can get from DropShips coming and going."
Which, of course, meant that they couldn't always get the visuals they wanted. It was vexing for both Sinclair and Tanner, who'd joined an Army that always seemed to have a viable eye in the sky. Now they were back to needing forward observers and aerial recon like it was the World Wars.
"Tell me, Colonel..." Tanner looked over to Sinclair. "Given the success your man has had today... do you think it's a worthwhile trade if we end up losing his whole unit in the process?"
"You mean trading sixteen 'Mechs with pilots for taking a baseball bat to the enemy's logistics network, making their entire advance meaningless from their losses?" Sinclair smiled grimly. "Honestly, General, that one might go to the judges."
"Agreed, Colonel, agreed." Tanner took in a breath. "If he makes it back, I think we'll give him a battalion. As soon as one's available, of course..."
There was some commotion from another of the stations. "Sir, we've gotten confirmation from ComStar," a staff NCO called out. "The Jaguars are hitting Cannon Falls again!"
"Damn," Tanner grumbled. "Okay, let's make sure the Ceegees can hold the line, I want artillery ready to support them if it looks like the Jags are going to break through. Scrape together whatever battalions you can to shore up our position at Hastings!"
Sinclair drew in a sharp breath as he watched Tanner start barking orders. The rest of his unit was tied down, either undergoing needed repairs or skirmishing with the Falcon advance forces pushing into Lakeville. There was, for the moment, nothing he could reasonably do.
Central Colorado, Near Fort Carson
Colorado, United States
Earth, North America
With their 'Mechs limping back toward base and resembling modern art, Roland found himself stunned they'd survived. They'd walked right into a strategic ambush, endured a pounding that left nearly three quarters of their battalion out of action, and his only loss to speak of was the kid MacGruder. It's a surprise guys like me survive given how quickly we get killed when we're kids, he thought.
Despite their speed in retreat the Horses had kept the pressure up. Whenever it seemed that the battered 'Mech platoon and its attached assets got clear, another Star of vehicles and infantry and even a couple 'Mechs would show up and make life hell.
"We've got more Horses approaching from the southeast," he heard the rearguard Bradley-driver report. "Looks to be another of their Stars in tanks and 'Mechs."
"They just don't know when to damn quit." Roland looked over his status. Almost no armor on any part of his body. His Big damn magnet cannon was out of ammo, and even if it weren't his left arm was out of commission with two actuator hits. One of his medium lasers had been taken out and the damage to his engine's heat shielding was working the heat sinks extra, making using what he had left a matter of timing. And given battle damage and ammunition depletion, the only weapons Barker and Schulter had between them were two lasers. "Well, kids, it's been fun. Let's give them something to shoot at and let our friends in the tanks and infantry live to fight another day." He turned his battered Thor and brought the damaged right arm up. The loss of the elbow actuator meant it wouldn't work very well with aiming, but with enemy lights all he needed was a lucky shot...
Barker and Schulter turned to follow. Roland appreciated it. He would have told them to run too, but he knew he needed a couple more targets to keep the Horses' attention. It was a pity, though; they were good kids. Well, upper twenty-somethings, but to a guy Roland's age you were a kid until at least 30. Shame he was going to likely get them killed right along with him.
Still, no better way for an old gunny like me to go out. Saving a bunch of fellow soldiers... even if they're Army.
Several flashes of emerald light and azure thunder broke Roland out of his fatalistic thoughts. The sky filled with the contrails of 31st Century missiles, all bearing down on the approaching Horse forces. Their scanners showed a host of blue contacts - with attendant friendly IFF codes - coming in from the northwest. Roland turned and saw the Inner Sphere 'Mechs racing across the flat plains. The majority of them were light tonnage with a few mediums, but their pilots were obviously fairly skilled, which made sense given the fox tail insignia he saw on them that marked them as being in the Davion Light Guards. "Looks like the blue bloods have come to help us poor Earth folk out," Roland said into his radio. He felt a slight irritation at their being rescued by the damned aristocrats, but he valued the lives of his people far too greatly to allow such ingratitude to last more than a moment. He keyed the radio. "Thanks for the assistance."
A moment later he got a response in what sounded like a faint English accent. "You're welcome, Lieutenant. Go ahead and get your people to safety. The Light Guards have a score to settle with these Clanners."
Nothing like breaking comm protocols to say smartass things. Still, it's ballsy. "Be my guest, Light Guards. Ooohrah."
Fort Carson, Colorado, United States
Throughout his career, Palmer had never seen the inside of the brig, so it was a new experienced to be seated on the wooden bench beside a dour-faced private, still wearing his BDUs complete with general stars. Dinner had been served, the kind of army slop that reminded him of being a young lieutenant serving in a field base in Afghanistan.
"Didn't know they put generals in here," the private grumbled, finally speaking up. "Thought you bigwigs were too good for this."
Palmer smirked. Typically they didn't put generals in the common brig... but Tolen wasn't a typical Army general. "Depends on who you are and who you've crossed, Private. So, what is your crime? Try to smoke something illegal? Maybe sell it?"
"Disrespecting an officer," the private answered. "And undermining morale. They said I was making defeatist statements."
"Oh? Spreading defeatism, are you?"
That brought a snarl to the man's face. "Just tellin' it like I see it. We're done. Either the Clans conquer us or our allies do. Might as well kiss our freedoms goodbye. What little we have left, anyway, the damned ******** in the government have been chipping away at them for decades now. Now they're looking to get us regular people killed. And don't deny it, even in here we get told things. How many normal joes like me are dead now because you brilliant damned generals just had to attack something?"
"Oh, thousands," Palmer answered. "Would be more, but then I wouldn't be down here if there were."
There was a quizzical look on the private's face, but before more could be said MPs showed up at the cell door and began opening it. One saluted to Palmer. "Sir, we're under orders to take you to General Tolen."
"Ah, well, lead the way then Corporal..."
Tolen was showing a dangerous mood when Palmer walked into his office and saluted. Tolen, with decades of practice at it, pretended to be unaware of Palmer's presence and salute for several seconds, forcing him to hold the salute and wait for it to be returned. Finally the general gave a very quick one, but did not offer to permit Tolen to sit. "Well, General, it turns out you're very good at breaking orders, since you also contravened my directive to not directly ask for Inner Sphere aid," he stated. "You'll be happy to know, of course, that the Davion Light Guards and the ComGuard 86th Division answered your call for aid, intervening in IX Corps' offensive and breaking the Horse attack."
"As long as it saves our soldiers' lives, sir, I'll take any help," Palmer answered succinctly.
"And therein lies the problem." Tolen finally looked up at him, anger smoldering in his brown eyes. "The United States Army has been made out to be fools thanks to you. Helpless little fools who need our monarchial, authoritarian allies to ride in with their heroic knights and save us! This only makes it easier for them to undermine our nation and its institutions! Soon enough we'll be hearing how we need to subordinate our forces to their command. And then it'll be letting them take over our economic authorities. And then, next thing you know, some grandiose Spheroid princeling will be sent along and we'll be asked to accept his governance. For our own good, of course! Because obviously we can't do any fighting by ourselves, not without looking pathetically weak!"
"General, if I may, the issue of maintaining our independence from the Inner Sphere is one to tackle after we've saved our country," Palmer retorted. "And letting VIII Corps get ripped apart because you're not willing..."
"That's enough of that!", Tolen snapped, interrupting him. "Now, I've been on the phone with the Joint Chiefs. Unfortunately too many of Saunders' sappy liberals are left in the Pentagon for them to be as decisive with you as they should be. By all rights you should be court-martialed and sent to the prison here on base until Leavenworth is liberated. But the Pentagon feels to do such would undermine the willingness of the officer corps to adapt to battlefield conditions... which to me is a fancy way of saying that they want officers to stretch and even break orders on whatever whim they have. So I'm being instructed to send you along to be the new liaison with the SLDF commander here in the States, Marshal Riffenburg," Tolen answered testily. "Just remember who you are, General. And don't let them think we can be walked over."
"I understand, sir," Palmer answered. He wasn't surprised he'd been stripped of combat command, but it was interesting to see how the ball had landed in the political roulette on what to do with him. "Permission to be dismissed?"
"Permission granted." And given Tolen's tone of voice, it was clear he wanted Palmer out of his sight ASAP. Palmer happily did just that.
West of Lake Byllesby
Minnesota, United States
Alex Crichell felt at home again in the cockpit of his Turkina. His Command Trinary was composed of some of the most promising pilots in the Galaxy, all young warriors no more than 23 years of age and representing, well, not necessarily the best of the Clan - if they were they'd be in a frontline Galaxy - but certainly a middle tier of warriors who would, with some seasoning, fight well and maybe even get a shot at a low or mid-level Bloodname. All in all, they would make short work of the freebirth scum that had caused him so much aggravation.
They were within a mile of the lake when the medium Star Crichell had sent ahead to scout reported 'Mech contacts coming from the south. Ah, there you are, Crichell thought to himself. He allowed himself a wide grin. "Come, my warriors, let us put these filth in their place!"
The sight of Lake Byllesby brought Alex a sigh of relief he couldn't restrain. They were here, at friendly lines, and he'd gotten them back with just two 'Mechs down, one confirmed fatality, with another five or so Stars of enemy 'Mechs down and the Falcon logistics chain cut. He almost, almost, let himself become convinced it was over.
The red icons on his long range systems soon told him otherwise.
He wasn't the only one who saw them, either. "Uh, Alpha Leader, I'm picking up enemy contacts. A lot of them too," Wu said. "Another Trinary."
Oh no. Getting an intensely sick feeling in his gut, Alex stopped his 'Mech's movement and looked over at the map. The enemy was coming from the northwest, barring that direction from being safe. Going anywhere south would just head back into enemy-held territory, not an option for his battered unit. While repaired his 'Mechs could conceivably enter the lake and head underwater up to a point on the northern shore, their sorry state meant that a number would be crippled the moment they entered the water. And east would be to go into the teeth of the Jaguars' frontline...
His mind raced. There was no way, no way, his unit stood up to that much firepower. They'd get annihilated. He had to make a hole for them.
His thoughts went back to Outreach, and to all of the Dragoons' courses to them on Clan customs and traditions. The Clans loved one-on-one battles. A direct challenge was something they wouldn't turn down without good reason.
And as soon as he made that decision, Alex knew he was a dead man. Even if he overcame the enemy leader, another warrior would challenge him, and another, until his 'Mech was ruined. But at least the others would get away.
"Ed, you're in charge. Hold everyone back until I get their attention, then go behind them."
Concern crackled over the headphones. "Sir? What are you doing?"
"Getting you and the others back home in one piece." Alex set his Gladiator into a run toward the enemy contacts. "Don't follow me, just get everyone home. That's an order, Edwin."
"I mean it, Ed," Alex stressed. "Get everyone back safe."
Crichell was interested to see an Executioner emerge from the enemy formation and head straight toward his Trinary. The 'Mechs behind him did not join him but held back, even falling back a little. So what freeborn trickery is this? Is he going to try and negotiate surrender? Curious, Crichell sent the order to his warriors to hold fire unless the Executioner pilot fired first. He keyed his radio to a direct transmission and made his inquiry. "I am Galaxy Commander Alex Crichell of the Jade Falcon Omicron Galaxy. Identify yourself and state your purpose, MechWarrior."
"Captain Alex Penton, United States Army, 1st 'Mech Battalion. I know you're out here hunting down my unit, Crichell, so I'll make it simple for you. You want them? You come through me first. One on one if you're not afraid of a freeborn 'Mech pilot in a damaged machine."
Crichell's response was to laugh at the sheer audacity of Captain Penton. "And if I order my Trinary to swat you like the insect you are, freebirth?"
"Well, I'd guess that would prove how insecure you are as a warrior, for starters. Me? I figure I'm going to die anyway, so what does it matter?"
Crichell growled inwardly. As much as his instincts were telling him to just crush this fool, he knew his warriors would let those words hit home. And Star Colonel Jakob Hazen was an ambitious man with a fairly narrow view of how Clan warriors should behave. If Crichell gave in to his instincts Hazen would likely challenge him to a Circle of Equals, and even if Crichell did not fear Penton, he had good reason to think Hazen would beat him in a 'Mech duel or a fist fight. "You show great courage, warrior. Very well. Let this be our Circle of Equals."
I must finish this fool off quickly, lest the others escape. Crichell moved his Turkina toward Penton's 'Mech, noting with disdain the bland star it had been painted with. Did the Americans not have a totem animal? He'd seen their currency and insignia, he knew they venerated the eagle. He would have been heartened to see a talon or a wing to indicate this, but there was no sign at all of the American totem on the machine. It was... alien.
Crichell targeted the Gladiator and triggered everything he had.
Alex had barely anticipated the "Alpha Strike" thrown at him by the Clan 'Mech. Deadly light streaked at him, in both beam and dart form, and try as he might he couldn't avoid them all. Armor and structure were melted off on multiple points over his machine. Alex struggled to keep it standing and aimed his own weapons to retaliate. Blue energy and a supersonic projectile struck the Turkina, making the low-slung chicken-legged 'Mech wobble slightly.
Alex cursed the Clan leader's choice of loadout. He'd been hoping for an enemy with fewer, if more powerful, weapons, since it meant fewer hits on his damaged 'Mech. But Crichell seemed to have the devil's luck, given his loadout was perfectly made to nix Alex's strategy. His array of lasers, of both types and varying sizes, wouldn't provide severe damage if they managed a hit, but he had so many of them he couldn't help but get some hits, and Alex simply couldn't take many in his condition.
Okay, Alex, time for a change in strategy, and a little underhandedness. He keyed his radio to the Army's main frequency. "Alpha Actual to Rainman, requesting priority one T on T barrage at my coordinate. David, repeat, David. Lasing primary target." As he said so two streams of emerald light converged on his 'Mech's right arm. The armor he had left was quickly pierced and his Gauss Rifle took the hit. Had he not just fired it the weapon would have exploded, but either way it was useless to him now.
Of course, that didn't matter.
Alex twisted his 'Mech to avoid a laser shot and started tromping closer to the Turkina. He focused the crosshairs to get a lock and triggered the TAG laser that had been installed on his machine. As he'd hoped, his FSO replied promptly. "Rainman to Alpha Actual. Thunderstrike is inbound, ETA thirty seconds. God help you." His systems automatically showed a thiry second countdown on his holo-viewer.
The Falcon Turkina opened again. At the closer range, and with Alex needing to keep the TAG on target, he couldn't dodge this time. Deadly light cut into his machine's limbs and torso. Heat filled his 'Mech from engine hits and his PPC went offline from a direct hit. He was helpless.
"I am very disappointed in you, freebirth," he heard Galaxy Commander Crichell taunt over the radio. "You did not provide much of a fight, even for one as genetically inferior as you are."
"My apologies, Galaxy Commander," Alex answered sarcastically. "But I wasn't in this to fight." He looked to the time. Any moment now...
"Oh? Then why did you come challenge me?"
"Had to get close. For this." He saw the counter his computer had set up tick to five seconds. He quickly hit his ejection lever.
Galaxy Commander Crichell watched the canopy of the Gladiator explode. The familiar sight of a command couch's rockets igniting told him the freebirth had ejected. Immediately he knew it had been foul play, and screamed, "Dishonorable coward! I'll have you..."
He said nothing more after that.
The glare of Alex Penton's ejection rockets was still in Crichell's eyes when the heavy explosives began to go off. His 'Mech rocked underneath him as explosion after explosion battered its armor and its thin legs. Shockwaves began knocking over the other 'Mechs like bowling pins.
But that was just the initial strike. The US Army had, over the months, developed its own kind of anti-'Mech artillery barrage, rarely used because you rarely got enough 'Mechs together to justify the sheer quantity of munitions it involved, but Alex's code word had prompted it here. After explosions heavy on shockwaves to topple the fighting machines came the most powerful non-nuclear explosives in the US arsenal; fuel-air bombs. Fired from artillery guns and even B-1s on combat patrol in safe airspace, these munitions were so powerful even technology centuries ahead of them had to respect their potential for carnage. And the artillery simply blanketed Crichell and his command with them. And there was nothing Crichell could do as his 'Mech was blown apart by the sheer ferocity of the barrage.
The devastation was visible to Alex as his command chair drifted downward. The wind was drifting him toward Lake Byllesby, which was a good thing since if he'd landed back on the battlefield he would've undoubtedly fallen into the roaring flames left by the furious bombardment.
He unbuckled his harness from the couch not too soon, as it fell into the Lake along the northwestern shore. The couch sank like a rock upon impact. Alex let it go, kicking himself free and breaking the surface of the water. He turned toward the nearest shore and started swimming.
It was unexpected exercise, and after hours of being cramped in a 'Mech cockpit his muscles protested with sharp pain as they were worked heavily without any warming up. A cramp was developing in his right hip by the time Alex waded ashore and went down on a knee, growling at the agony shooting through the cramped muscle. *** **** this hurts. Dropping f-bombs in his head, Alex reached into his suit pocket and brought out his transponder.
He heard the chilling sound of 'Mech footfalls coming up behind him and turned. A Mad Cat loomed over him, and Alex nearly fell backward before noticing the reassuring remnants of a star on its blasted skin. "Enjoy your swim, sir?", Dani's voice boomed from the war machine.
"No," Alex grumbled. "And what are you doing here? I told..."
"Yeah, I know, but once we saw that David strike come down and picked up your ejection transponder I volunteered to come pick you up." There was a chuckle. "Though I didn't know you'd be soaking wet." The 'Mech knelt down a little and there was nothing for a moment. The hatch to the side suddenly flung open and he could make out Dani leaning out of it, the rope ladder in her hand. She gave him a barely-visible thumb's up and tossed the ladder down.
His right hip protesting the entire way, Alex limped over to it, intending to make the infirmary his first stop the moment they got back.
Posted 05 July 2012 - 08:04 AM
Hastings, Minnesota, United States
North America, Earth
11 July 2039 Local
11 August 3059 Inner Sphere
Alex awoke in the infirmary much to his regret, as his body was clearly not interested in more activity after the prior day's marathon of combat. His muscles ached whenever he shifted in the cot. The third damn time I've had to be here this month. This is getting tiring.
He let himself cheer up a bit when he looked up to see Rachel appproaching in MechWarrior duty uniform. She looked, if not rested, at least refreshed, her hair pulled back into a regulation bun. Under her arm was tucked a folder full of - yes, even here it would haunt him - paperwork. "Captain, it's good to see you're up. The Quartermaster is insistant you get these requisition forms signed."
"Do I want to know what's on them?", Alex sighed.
"Nothing much. Just the necessary materials to repair our busted 'Mechs," Rachel answered cheerfully. "Did I mention the mechanics are currently voting on the best way to get revenge on you for the workload?"
"You did now." Alex pulled the tray with the minor remnants of his breakfast over and laid the paperwork on it. He scribbled his signature on form after form without more than glancing at the contents. "Better angry mechanics than mourning families, though. Each of these forms is a pilot brought back alive."
The smile on Rachel's face went from amusement to genuine warmth. "Yes, sir."
"Still, we lost Olafsson and Rastler." Alex shook his head. "Two more pilots down. That's five in the space of a week."
"At least we did far more damage to the enemy," Rachel pointed out to him. "These are our first real victories in the entire war." Rachel took out her PDA and, after messing with the touchscreen a bit, showed it to him. It was a map of the local area and the front according to latest data.
Where once the threatening reds of the Clans had gotten into Apple Valley and were pressing against the Welch River, now their entire line had fallen back. The light blue of Inner Sphere forces had surged ahead and were clearly pressing them to the south, reclaiming the territory lost in the past few days. Satisfied with what he saw, Alex didn't let it give him false hopes. "It won't stay that way," he sighed. "The Clans will rally. And they'll hit us back."
"Probably. But, for now, we should let everyone enjoy the sensation of winning. We can always worry about the future tomorrow." Rachel drew up a seat. "And wait! Why did you sign that one?!"
"What?" Puzzled, he glanced at a form and saw that his signature was the only writing on it.
"You're supposed to at least glance at it, you know," Rachel giggled. "Guess I left a blank in the pile by mistake. Here, let me have those, we'll get this done properly..."
In the mess hall, Dani and Becca were back at their table. A few short days ago Hoffman and Micki were here with them, but now it was just the two of them. They were the only ones left. The drinks before them were sodas - no alcohol allowed - that neither had partaken of very much. They simply looked at the dark brown liquid and then back at each other, a single thought present for both: "We're the only ones left".
"I should tell a story about them, shouldn't I?", Becca said quietly.
"It's how we remember them, after all," she continued. "We always tell stories. Even if we've heard them a thousand times before..."
"Sorry, Becca, but I'm not in a mood for story-telling."
They remained quiet for several more moments. The silent wasn't broken by them but by a new arrival. Dane looked to them and asked, "Hey, these seats taken?"
"Not anymore," Becca mumbled.
"Just what do you want, hothead?", Dani grumbled. "Shouldn't you be in the officer's..."
"Not a dedicated one yet," Dane answered. He slid into one of the chairs. "Hey, I've heard good news about Micki. She was stabilized later yesterday. It'll take time for her to be in combat shape, but they say she'll be back."
"And we'll probably be dead by them," Dani mumbled. "Or in the hospital even worse off."
Dane shook his head. "Maybe, maybe not. You ladies have a good rep for finding ways to survive. And I know you and Micki will be back together before you know it, reminiscing about your buddies in the TB." He took a drink from his soda glass. He seemed to shift subjects slightly as he spoke on a new tack. "Man... I still remember this time Olafsson and I went on liberty back on Outreach. The Dragoons aren't so stuck up about booze, you know. They expect people to police themselves, not have it mandated. Anyway, we were checking out this bar..."
Dane continued to talk about the dead pilot. Dani and Becca weren't quite listening. But they found that they each had a particular gleam in their eyes. For all the hurt they felt, hearing the story about Olafsson - a man they'd never really met - seemed to make the world start working again.
Sinclair was in his office when Major Pierce showed up, still in combat uniform. He saluted and Sinclair immediately returned it. "The Falcons look to be falling back entirely to Owatonna. The Battalion did good." Sinclair stood up. "And Penton makes good on his promises."
"And got a second 'Mech blown out from under him," Pierce pointed out. "BattleMechs, especially Clan OmniMechs, don't grow on trees."
Sinclair chuckled at that one. "No, Major, they do not. It does seem the Captain is currently leading a charmed life. But his talent is showing through as well. I might have to give him a battalion. Not your's, of course."
Pierce didn't quite smile while Sinclair let himself have one. "I just hope it's not a rash of beginner's luck for him, sir. He's still not educated as a combat arms officer, and battle is more than just running around in 'Mechs and tricking the other side into artillery kill boxes."
"You don't like him very much, do you Pierce?", Sinclair asked pointedly.
"I don't mind him, Colonel," Pierce answered. "But we've got the press and the politicians ready to make him out to be Captain America, and I don't want to see that hero stuff get in the way of running my unit. Last thing I need is for Penton or someone who likes him running off to the press if they don't like my command decisions."
"I'll trust you to handle it, Major. Just don't let any prejudices about 'staff weenies' get in the way."
"Certainly not, sir..." Pierce leaned over the desk. "I must ask, though, about what kind of replacements I'm looking to get. I'm down many pilots..."
"It's being handled," Sinclair answered. "Due to the recent fiasco in Colorado, the 2nd Battalion is no longer a functional combat unit. General Tanner is already pulling strings to get the survivors reassigned to this front and to be merged into the 1st Battalion."
"Not going to be good for morale," Pierce warned.
"Make it work," Sinclair said. "We don't have a choice."
The other enlistees who shared a bunk area with Yumiko Sakata were asleep when she stirred. Her movements were eerily quiet as she slipped an item out of the pack under her bunk and sat upright - pleased they did not have double bunks here - with her legs crossed before her. Delicately balanced on her knees was a wakizashi blade, the pommel emblazoned with the dragon and archery bow insignia adopted long ago by her family. It sat in silent reminder of her family's shame, mocking her for the lack of the katana blade that it was supposed to be mated to.
Seeing it made tears begin to flow from her eyes, tears that would have stunned all of the Americans she had served with, who considered her a paragon of emotional restraint and control. She was careful not to sob outright, though a few sniffles came. Thoughts of her father and sister came unbidden, and with them the desire burning in her for bloody revenge.
Yumiko had found that she enjoyed 'Mech piloting. And killing the allies of her enemy had sated, very slightly, the need for revenge in her soul. But it would not be enough. No matter how many Clanners, or even Giuseppians, she killed as a MechWarrior, none would be enough to gain justice for her dead loved ones. None would.
Only him. Only the one who had wormed his way into her father's confidence and manipulated them for his own purpose. Who had betrayed her father and family, had butchered her sister, who had driven her father to suicide in shame...
For Yumiko Sakata, the war did not matter. Only he did. And only by the death of Reinhardt von Krager could Yumiko find any peace.
Rachel spent her final hour of the day with a new pair of letters to her grandparents. She hadn't yet gotten any replies, but she wouldn't be surprised if they hadn't gotten her letters yet either. With so much of the country's electronic communication infrastructure either down or completely suborned to military and government requirements, and with the military censors putting all mail through screening programs to detect security leaks, even electronic mail took time to be sent through, and "snail mail" could take weeks. As for video conferencing or phone calls, that had to be set up as well...
But she might do so, if only because Rachel sorely wanted her grandparents' thoughts on the tumult of thoughts in her head. A host of emotions threatened to swamp her. She was terrified of dying, upset by the devastation in Northfield and Faribault, exhausted from the intensity of the fighting she'd been through, and just utterly bewildered by the conflicting feelings she was having about Alex.
Oh, she could imagine Grandma Galvariz asking why she she was afraid of falling in love again, and Grandpa Vallejo would remind her that she had to listen to what her head told her, but simply hearing these things, and the insights they would give her, was something she hoped would stop the sensation she had of literally drowning in the passions swirling around her. She had never imagined war was like this. She had thought it a scientific thing, if a brutal one, with the application of technology and manpower and brute force by both sides. Utterly impersonal. Maybe she had been foolish to think so; war involved killing, and death - especially one's own death or those of a person's friends and colleagues - was an emotionally-charged thing indeed.
She kept going back to the fighting at Faribault. The enemy Thug had battered her and nearly killed her. If Alex hadn't been there...
And this is going to continue. I'm going to wonder every night why I'm still alive, and I'm going to be scared of what might happen to me the next day. Oh, I just want it over! I want to go home, go back to college, start learning Chinese...
Rachel slipped into the cot and pulled the covers over herself. She tried to force her mind to quiet itself and to get some much needed sleep, avoiding thoughts of what tomorrow might bring.
Earth Union Defense Force Headquarters
Geneva, Switzerland, Earth National Union
13 July 2039 Local
13 August 3059 Inner Sphere
Georg Berssach tried to restrain his contempt as he gave his briefing. "Even if they had not lost Galaxy Commander Crichell to an American artillery barrage, the Jade Falcons would not have been able to hold their threatening position. The British exile forces were closing in on their flank, and their units we have confirmed are in the possession of both Inner Sphere armored units and modified Earth ones. The Falcon advance was doomed the moment their logistics train was undermined." What he did not say was that he regarded this as proof that the Clans were nothing more than rank amateurs - if very advanced and skilled ones - in the science of warfare, and that their conquests in North America were too large for the forces they had available. That was an argument he'd already waged and been forced to quiet himself on.
Giuseppe took the news solemnly. "So the attack on Minneapolis is a failure? Is this going to be our Moscow or Stalingrad, then?"
Berssach raised an eyebrow at that. PIcking examples of overstretch from German military history might just be finding the most recent example... or it might be a calculated insult. "Not necessarily, sir. If the Clans withdraw back to the Missouri River, at the very least, we have more time to consolidate forces and bring in more troops."
Von Krager tapped the table impatiently. "Or you could simply assign our forces to aid the renewed Clan drive on Minneapolis. The Falcons have come out mostly intact, after all. The Horse victory over the Americans in Colorado ensures the strategic flank is secure. If Union troops join the Clans they will have the mass needed to thwart the American 3rd Army."
"Our troops are stretched across thousands of square kilometers, Director. It will take weeks to consolidate them, and that might see enemy partisans emboldened..."
"The American countryside is mostly worthless to us anyway," von Krager scoffed. "The VdO can use mobile detachments to put down any serious uprisings and to maintain security along supply routes. So long as we hold the front and prevent the Amis from collecting the output of their agriculture, there is nothing more worth doing."
"Do not take me for a fool, Director. Your VdO detachments' idea of maintaining security is to employ terror and intimidation on the civilian population, which only drives them further into partisan hands!", Berssach retorted.
"Nevertheless, Field Marshal, we must consider military objectives foremost," Giuseppe declared, intervening. "The fall of Minneapolis must be attained to bring the American nationalists to their knees and foster a peace movement. Offer the Clans our troops as support."
"You know how little they think of our forces," Berssach reminded him. "They will not use them wisely."
"They will still use them, and that is what is important," Giuseppe answered. "Director von Krager, if you would please go to Star Colonel Howell to explain our proposal of troop assignments? Time is of the essence, lest the war permit defeatists and nationalists even in the most loyal areas of our Union to spread their poisons to the population."
Berssach nodded slightly, drawing in a sigh of resignation. Von Krager stood and bowed, a hand resting on his ostentatious Japanese katana, before walking out to find the Smoke Jaguar liaison. And not for the first time did Berssach wonder if he was fighting for the right side.
Colorado. United States
North America, Earth
What was left of the 2nd 'Mech Battalion, once the wounded were in the hospitals and the dead and missing counted, was barely an overstrength company. Roland was nevertheless vaguely proud of the fact that he'd gotten his platoon out mostly intact, even if MacGruder's loss was a sad one.
They were sitting in the war room now. All fifteen of those pilots who were still combat capable. There was hope that a few more, like Captain Westen, might be found by SAR teams in the areas closest to the front, or might slip back through on their own, but given the confirmed casualties, they had no battalion anymore. Roland had the most intact platoon left.
Barsdale was still around, though. He'd lost two of his pilots in the fighting before getting clear, but he'd come out fairly well off, which was to say his 'Mech was still combat functional. But he looked worse for the wear. As much as Roland detested him for being a political appointee, he could see the losses had taken their toll on him. His first major action, just to see the higher ups - specifically General Tolen - disperse his unit to the point it was virtually useless and then throw it into the meat-grinder.
"I've just been informed by General Tolen that the 2nd Battalion has been deactivated," he informed them. "Because of our losses, we're being re-absorbed into the 1st to bring them back up to strength."
One of the survivors, Corporal Sheldon, stated the obvious. "So we're off to the Twin Cities?"
"Yes." Barsdale drew in a breath. "I'm going to try and make sure your platoons are kept intact. But I make no promises. You'll be plugged into units as you're needed."
There was muttering. Tearing the unit up like this was not going to go well, even if the military logic was sound. Roland almost pitied the ******** he was going to be assigned to and the shitstorm they were about to have. "So how long do we have?", Roland asked.
"The Davions are arranging to give us a quick flight on one of their DropShips, scheduled in two days," Barsdale answered. "Should give you enough time to pack up your personal effects or arrange their long-term storage. And it'll give the mechanics time to get some of our machines into enough working order to make the trip. Until then, consider yourselves stood down. You're all relieved."
Roland was going through MacGruder's personal effects when he noticed Barker up behind him. "Sorry, Sergeant," he sighed. "Stepping on your toes again."
"It's alright, sir. Not something I was wanting to do." Barker took a couple steps toward him and looked down at the box Roland was filling. "Sending a letter to his parents?"
"Parent, singular. And kid sister," Roland answered. "I'm sure that sweetheart he had has already found out, though."
"Schulter broke the news to her." Barker took a seat on the unoccupied bunk next to MacGruder's. "Could've been any of us, though. And you brought me and the farmboy back."
"Yeah." Roland drew in a breath. "That'd sound real good to his family, though. 'Hey, your brother and son got offed, but at least my other soldiers made it!'. Heh. Oh, I'll say the usual stuff about how good a kid he was and that his sacrifice won't be in vain, all that mushy stuff... and it won't be all lies. Kid might've been something."
"Yeah." Barker looked out the window, to where 'Mechs were already being given tests after leg repairs. "Think they'll split us up?"
"Heh, who knows what the **** Pierce will want to do," Roland grumbled. "Knowing my luck, he puts me in the same unit as that lawyer."
"The same lawyer they're saying wrecked the Falcons' supply bases and who nearly got killed calling down artillery on the Falcon command unit?", Barker asked pointedly.
At that, Roland broke out laughing. "Yeah. I'll believe the guy's a badass when I see it. Just hope they at least put us in the same company."
"Hell, I'd drink to that, if I had any booze."
At that, Roland eyed Barker. "Oh, come on Sarge, you're tellin' me you don't know the local booze connections? What kind of Sergeant are you, anyway?"
"The kind who's been put in the damned place of being your Sergeant, no matter how little I wanted it, sir," Barker retorted.
Hastings, Minnesota, United States
North America, Earth
Alex reported to SInclair's office right at 1800, as ordered, and found the Colonel sitting and reading reports. He stood at attention and saluted. "Captain Penton reporting as ordered, sir."
A quick salute was given to him in reply. "At least, Captain." Sinclair looked up at him. "I see you're cleaned up. I guess you can get that much grease off with effort."
At that Alex could only nod and sigh silently. The mechanics had gotten revenge this morning, and word of it was already spread well around Camp Jurgens. "Thank you, Colonel," was all he decided to say.
"You'll be happy to know that while that Executioner was a complete loss, your old Mad Cat is being fitted with a recovered Clan engine of the right specs for the design," Sinclair said. "You'll be back in your machine soon enough."
"Thank you, Sir."
"I've also been asked to recommend you for the Silver Star, which I've already signed off on." Sinclair smirked. "Heard some politico on Washington's already talking about beginning a Medal of Honor determination."
Alex tried not to blush, only shrugging. "Don't see the point in it, sir."
"Army's considering requests for you to be interviewed for cable news, too," Sinclair continued. "And using you for another war bonds campaign."
Before Alex could say anything he was interrupted by the raising of Sinclair's hand. "You're a national hero now, Captain. Can't do anything about that. Not at all. All I can do is make sure I keep you where I need you, in your company command, and not let any politician in or out of the Army get you transferred out to be used for media relations."
"I'll happily inform anyone angling to get me transferred that I want to stay with my unit," Alex replied.
"Good, Captain. Good. Because I've been giving some thought to how your operation went." Sinclair tossed him a folder. "Right now we don't have enough 'Mechs to do everything we could do with them. But I want you to read that. It's a little idea I've been bouncing around with General Tanner, and you might be the right man for the job."
Alex opened the folder and looked over the first couple of pages. "Armored Cavalry 'Mechs, sir?"
"More like 'Mechs in the Armored Cavalry. At least, once we have enough of them. Go on, look through it some more, tell me what you think. Creative man like you might do wonders with these ideas..."
Hall of Khans
Strana Mechty, Kerensky Cluster
18 August 3059 Inner Sphere
18 July 2039 Local
It was a general rule that when an ilKhan was elected, he or she was supposed to accept immediate replacement by their Clan and to serve the Clans as a whole. Sure, they retained rights as one of their Clan's Bloodnamed, and they joined their Clan's forces in combat against external enemies, but they were not supposed to oversee the day to day running of their Clans.
It was a rule that Lincoln Osis was breaking.
Marthe Pryde was not enamored of the ilKhan due to this shortcoming among many others. Her alliance of convenience with Vlad Ward and his Wolves had been useful in restraining Osis from abusing his position as ilKhan in some issues, though she and Vlad had disagreed on the New Earth campaign. He had disagreed with her on the usefulness of the invasion. Ward considered it a waste of resources, that whatever advantage gained from not attacking into the prepared defenses of the Inner Sphere would be lost from the reliance on a choke point. He had offered only a paltry two garrison Clusters to aid their new "allies" while Marthe, looking for ways to cheaply regain her Clan's stature after the ruin of the Refusal War, had seen the planet as a source of easy victories to blood more young troops and to win more resources. Her bidding had reflected her intentions, winning the third invasion corridor of North America.
Initially it had seemed they would make good on Marthe's idea. The Falcons had massacred the paltry resistance set against them initially, taking the cities of Albuquerque and Phoenix and threatening to advance up the Colorado and Rio Grande valleys, but the arrival of traitor-Wolf forces and the loss of troops to artillery barrages had forced them to pull back past the city of Phoenix. The involvement in the Minneapolis advance was meant to be done to strengthen Falcon hands on Earth and to be a strategic death blow to their backward enemies, reliant as they were on their roads.
Now she found herself wondering if Vlad had been right after all. She was down a Galaxy Commander - not a very bright one, and another scion of the minor Crichell Bloodhouse, but still a Galaxy Commander - and Omicron Galaxy was now short of supplies and on the defensive. So too were Osis' Jaguars, undoubtedly why he had asked to see her.
The Elemental was a massive man, who often boasted of having won his Bloodname by defeating a MechWarrior in augmented combat. Undoubtedly he thought it made him intimidating; it just made Marthe question the genetic value of Osis MechWarriors. She gave him the attention he was due as ilKhan and no more. She had little enough respect for Osis. "You asked to see me, ilKhan?"
"Yes," was the rumbled reply. Lincoln handed her a form. "I have been informed that Director von Krager has offered the support of Earth troops to a resumed march on the American city of Minneapolis."
Marthe grinned wickedly. "Well, I suppose we could always use troops to keep bandits at bay," was her response. "Though what the other Clans will say about our requesting help from our so-called allies is another matter."
"Let them talk," Osis rumbled. "Every Earther who dies at the hands of another Earther represents two fewer problems for us. Our allies are restless, Marthe, as are the Home Crusaders who yearn for more chances at battle. Our defeat at the gates of Minneapolis is making them call for even greater involvement. I have already considered permitting the Coyotes to join our next advance. I would prefer to have Earth secure by the time my forces return from the Inner Sphere."
You mean the forces you had retreat because the new 'Star League' was making a mockery of them, and of us as well? "Well, my ilKhan, if you want to let the Earthers die for our conquests, it is your invasion corridor and I will not object."
Osis frowned at her. Yes, Osis, I'm making this your decision, not mine. Do what you will, you will be harmed eiher way. Trying not to smile at that thought, Marthe put her hands together. "Though how will we count them in our bidding for the next attack?"
"It is my position that we have already bid sufficiently in lining out our attack sectors," Osis decreed. "I will no longer participate in bidding down troops for operations in North America."
And so you will ignore our customs because it suits you. I suppose Vlad would approve. Marthe allowed a scowl to form on her face. "Well, that is your choice as well, ilKhan. I will redeploy Omicron in the coming weeks, then, and move Theta Galaxy in."
"Fresh troops would be very useful, yes. But do not take too long. I would prefer to see our attack resume within three weeks."
"A very tight time-table, ilKhan. I'll see what I can do." Marthe stood. "By your leave?" When he nodded, she walked out of his office. In the corridors of the Hall of Khans, she continued on to her next destination and pondered the best way to turn the war toward the advantage of the Jade Falcon Clan.
Star League Defense Force Headquarters
Schuyler, Liberated Zone, Draconis Combine
The battle for Schuyler had been anti-climactic. The Jaguars, as it turned out, were pulling everything out save some sacrificial garrison troops. Across what was left of their OZ the Jaguars had left out without a word.
These thoughts were bouncing around in the heads of all present in Precentor-Martial Focht's impromptu War Council. Focht was busy looking over updates fresh off the HPGs, giving Jerry Cranston time to slip up behind Victor. "The doctors say Renny's going to make it."
Victor nodded. Renny Sanderlin was his old Nagelring roommate, and had gotten his 'Mech shot up in the fighting against the Jaguar vanguard. He'd feared for Renny's life at seeing him go down, knowing he had a family back home. But there are other families who have lost in this fighting...
Focht looked up. "We have ascertained that the Jaguars have effected a complete pullout of the Inner Sphere. It is, in retrospect, a logical choice for the Jaguars to make given their strategic situation."
"This will have an effect on our plans for Huntress." Victor stepped up to his place at the table. "We had hoped to send Serpent through against a weakly-defended world, but do we have time now before the Jaguar forces return to Clan space?"
"They won't stay on Huntress, though." Phelan crossed his arms. "That's not the Lincoln Osis I know. He'll put those troops to use on another front."
"Most likely," Focht answered. "It will make the fighting there even more desperate when that time comes. For now, however, it appears we finally have good news from there. Despite the Falcons being invited to participate, the Clan attack on Minneapolis faltered within a few days. My reports from Precentor Durbin even state that the newly-raised American 'Mech units played a pivotal role in the early repulse."
Moods around the table went up. "That's certainly good news," Kai agreed. "The sooner they can defend themselves the sooner we can focus on taking the fight to the Clans."
"Indeed. We now know that the training of Earther MechWarriors on Outreach can bear fruit. And in the coming months further graduations from there are expected."
"So they'll be needing more 'Mechs," Victor said. "It's going to be a wear on our transport capacity while we redeploy troops out of the Combine."
"But also an opportunity." Focht tapped the table thoughtfully. "When the Jaguars' frontline forces return, and if they are sent to Earth as Khan Phelan suggests, we will have troops ready to meet them. Their retreat from here will be, to put it simply, a moot point, and what Jaguar units we didn't destroy here will be destroyed on Earth."
"More than that." Victor looked up from where he'd been staring at the displays on tthe holotank. "Clans we've never even seen yet have been getting involved there. I think we'll find that our war with the Clans won't be decided here or on Huntress or even Strana Mechty. It'll be decided there, where all the Clans are gathering, and we can meet them head-on away from their homeworld defenses."
"Well put, Prince Victor, but I suspect the people of that unfortunate world will not be so grateful toward us if we turn their home into a charnel house for killing Clansmen," Focht pointed out. "As it would also claim many of them."
"I know, Precentor-Martial. And I feel bad for them. But as you once pointed out yourself, we're not here to save a planet of six billion people when there are trillions of people in the Inner Sphere living in terror of the Clans. God help us, they have to come first. If defeating the Clans for good requires us to turn Earth into a global battlefield, then that's what we're going to do."
Focht nodded stiffly. "God help us indeed, then."
That prompted a shake of the head from Khan Phelan. When he spoke, he did so in a subdued tone, not his usual manner. "A better sentiment, Precentor-Martial, might be to ask God to help them." He leaned over the table, splashing light over his gray Clan leather suit. "Because this war is only going to get nastier from here on out, and they'll probably need all the help they can get."
FINIS.... for now
Posted 14 July 2012 - 12:57 AM
The second story will be going up tomorrow. Unlike this one it's incomplete, only up to Chapter 7.
Posted 14 July 2012 - 01:37 AM
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