The city of Gellen's Heights is immense, stretching for well over 30 square miles. The capital city of Sheratan, Gellen's Heights is the cultural and economic focal point of the planet. Theaters, libraries, museums, government offices and commercial structures dot the landscape, while hovercars whisk down tree-lined streets and spacecraft touch down at the Gellen's Heights spaceport. The atmosphere here is very modern, while at the same time incorporating elements of Victorian-era architecture from the early part of Terra's 20th century, and the effect creates a charming, yet sophisticated look.
Sidewalk cafes mingle with holoarcades, night clubs, car dealerships, military outfitters, and interactive movie theaters in the city's retail district, while in the more somber government sector, the sound of the wind blowing is only occasionally interrupted by the chirp of birdsong echoing from within the Romanesque approaches to the many government offices which dominate the landscape.
The city itself has been built with the intention of keeping the land's natural beauty preserved, and it is not at all uncommon to find waterfalls cascading down alongside busy roadways in the heart of downtown. There is no better place to be on Sheratan than in Gellen's Heights, and the volume of people present here at all hours seems to support this.
After walking from the Cantina past a few other bars, I approached a bleeding man on the ground. A raggedy little boy hopped over to me.
He tugged on my coat and dashed off into an alley past the man. I wanted to help him, but I hear a scream in the alley. My first impusle made me double-time it to help, but I would soon find my error...
I wandered about the past-rebuilt city in search of a bite in my shiny re-painted black Junglehammer hovercar. I was cruising past the parking spot to the diner, when a scream broke the serenity of the cool night's mist that preceeded rainfall. I parked illegally and hopped out, ignoring the scream. Before I opended the door of the simple bar, I heard an explosion. A tank was flanked by 4 Elementals. One of the Elementals keyed the megaphone attatched to it.
"All civilians, the situation is OK. Please return to your daily tasks. The problem is sovled. There is nothing to see here. Please back away from the tank."
I looked at the trunk of my cruiser, where I kept a blaster. You never knew when...
Ignoring the commotion, I decided to get Diner food.
I opened the door to the Diner, took a seat at the bar, and went through the usual ordering process with the hostess. I got my plate and tap beer, and headed for a booth. I was peering at the news on the TV. I took a fry, then dropped the plate.
"Tonight, on Gellen at 6:30. This is a public warning: 6 local mobsters have stolen a Flakmann tank and 4 millitary combat suits. If you are watching this report, stay in your home. Call all your relitives and friends, and tell them to return home. If you are near the intersection of Grand Falls and 4th, stay calm, and stay inside.
Falls and 4th...
I dropped my meal and beer, and dashed to my hover. My first impulse came quickly. I sped to intersection. People had flanked all sides of the tank, staring in awe. I was too late. The killing had begun.
The tank opened fire, as its AMAS Lighting shell sped towards the stairs of a bank plaza in which many onlookers bolted for saftey.
So many innocent bystanders... all the others could do was watch. Screams of pain and horror were accompanied by the now falling rubble of a gash the size of a boulder that had fallen out of the side of the bank.
It was horrible. I'm sure by now the locals had been informed of this incident. My first though was to haul back to base for my Thanatos, but I remembered the death penalty for 'mechs other than police in the city. I then felt like a hopeless civilian, as I tried my best to shove my way around the fleeing crowd. Crisp sounds of lasers filed the night air. Then, there was a small earthquake. And another.
boom... Boom... BOOM... BOOM!
A Cougar had just rounded the corner behind the "fight". Attatched to the light 'mech were 3 Elementals.
This was about to get good.
"Red-2, we have a problem. Remember those damn guys that said they were maintanence? Well, they stole a tank and 4 suits. They're shooting innocent targets around the city. I hear they haven't made it far, but that Flakmann's hella fast. We'd better deploy. Tell the other 2 to suit up. We've got some bastard-removal to do."
"Why do we always get idiot-patrol? I'll meet you at the dock in 2."
"ON THE DOUBLE, PRIVATE! There's some civilians throwing rocks at the bay doors. If we're not out there in 30 seconds or less..."
I slapped down my cards. "Come on, guys. Sarge sounds serious. Let's go."
They all grumbled in unison. This game of Solaris-ruled poker had gotten good...
"Privates, this is Red One. Report in."
"Red Two. Suited, and ready for action."
"Red Three ready. Red Four... I'm good. Let's go!"
We jumped onto the legs of the powering-up Cougar.
We passed about the city, and went through the usual cheer-boo-clap-soda pop toss-middle finger that you find when you appear in town. I felt safe behind half an inch of metal plating. Although Sargent James was traveling at a rather hard-to-grip-'mech-leg pace, our boss, Major Burnham didn't appreciate our lag.
"RED TEAM, WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING? I DON'T GET ENOUGH C-BILLS TO LET YOU DICK AROUND AND STARE AT MY CIVILIANS!"
"Apperently, Mr. 'ham owns the city, Mark." I snickered to Red-4.
The rather funny moment suddenly turned more serious than ever when we saw cluttered rubbel from buildings, and dead bodies and blood splattered around the intersection. I tank sat in the middle, with the 4 suits of elemental shooting random people or things around the intersection.
When the tank spotted us, it booked it on down the road, breaking at least 3 people's backs that were wincing in pain in the middle of the street.
"Armor-go! I'll swing around the other side of this tower here. We'll meet up there."
I then felt the will to fight. Me and my team dashed down the same path of the tank, and exchanged fire with our counterpart infantry planted on the tank.
"... and so it begins."
The Boring Pig Pub
Gellen's Heights, Sheratan
The crack of billiards breaking on a felt pool table, coupled with the clink of glassware and the invigorating, generally rowdy and energized atmosphere of the inner-city bar set an upbeat mood as I watched four wooden, solid-colored balls drop into their respective pockets and clatter down the return chutes.
"I'll be damned. On your opening break, no less. Must be that 'luck of the Irish' you were referring to, eh, Higgins?"
"'tis not luck...'tis skill, laddie! And judgin' from yer last two games, I'd say you could stand to learn a fing or two from me!" The Northwind Highlander's well-inebriated compatriots dissolved into drunken laughter as I smirked at the well-intentioned jab. Ambling over to the table, I applied a liberal amount of chalk to the end of my pool cue, before leaning over the faux-mahogany bumpers to line up my shot. With a swift jab, I sent the cue-ball spinning across the table, sinking two stripes and displacing a number of solids, one of which came to rest dangerously close to the outer edge of a corner pocket.
"Not bad for a beginner," Higgins quipped, taking a slam of his ale before returning to the game.
"I'm not exactly a 'beginner,' you know...in fact - "
"Ah, but ya play like one!" Higgins laughed, wiping his mouth with a grimy sleeve and lining up his next shot. "Now, let's show you how it's done!"
With that, Higgins pulled back on his pool cue, and gave it a mighty push, impacting the cue-ball with such force. At the same instant, a ground-shuddering pounding from outside the bar, accompanied by the a calamatous mixture of screams and commotion, drew closer and closer. I ran to the nearest window, and gazed out at the night street, in time to witness a Cougar BattleMech, laden with assorted battle armor, lumber past. It had no obvious insignia displayed on it, ruling out the possibility that it was one of the local boys - a fact which alarmed me greatly, as non-militia military units were not to be operating on public property without expicit authorization - not even the mighty Crayven Corporation could get away with it...legally. Something had to be going on.
"Gentlemen, I'm afraid I'll have to continue this fine battle of wits at a later date. Something's come up."
"I'd say about thirty-five tons of something!" Higgins bellowed, drunkenly. I would have acknowledged him, but I was already out the door.
Crayven Securities, Incorporated - 3.46 km from The Boring Pig
Gellen's Heights, Sheratan
I sat in the courtyard of Equinox's opulent commissary, watching impassively as Lisa Schultz devoured her meal selection like some manner of rabid animal. Had I not been aware of the conditions under which she had been living for the past several weeks, I would have considered her behavior uncouth. However, given the circumstances, I was willing to give the good doctor the benefit of the doubt.
My comm unit chirped subtley, drawing my attention away from the freak show that was the doctor's food intake. Stepping away from the table, I withdrew the unit from my breast pocket, and flipped it open, pressing it to my ear in one fluid motion.
"General," the frantic voice of Lieutenant Dante began, "I apologize for calling you directly - I know the protocol dictates - "
"Get on with it, Lieutenant. I haven't got all day."
"There's a...disturbance...underway less than five clicks out from the compound," Dante continued, his voice barely audible above a substantial amount of background noise. "It's got the potential to get pretty ugly - quite a lot of rioting going on, and I can confirm one BattleMech - scout class - a Cougar - supported by a handful of battle armor inbound on the mess - also have reports that there's a couple of tanks and some assorted support units engaged with civillians - not sure who the aggressors are at this time. Definitely no militia units involved."
I shook my head in frustration. This was likely a localized incident - unfortunate, but fairly common in the aftermath of the Blakist incursion on Sheratan.
"Lieutenant, unless it reaches our perimeter, or we're called to assist, we stay out of it. Now, I suggest you go back to your pool game and let the local boys clean it up. It's their problem. Not ours. In the mean time, I'll put Equinox security on alert to be on the lookout for anything unusual."
There was a brief pause.
"How did you know I was playing p...never mind. General, with all due respect, given the proximity to Equinox, perhaps our involvement - "
"You have your orders, Lieutenant. I expect you to carry them out. We'll notify the locals. That's all we can do at the moment. Now - stand down until further notice. Saxon out."
"Sir, do NOT cross this line. We have a criminal situation here."
The armored patrolmen that came with the Cougar were chasing thier other armored adversaries. I though of how easy this fight would be if I had my Guardian V with me. Unfortunatly, it was time for me to be another civilian.
The tank rounded the corner, and the arena had turned into a large square with a bank in the middle. The patrol force had set up barriers all around the 4 intersections. Of course, people pushed and shoved on all sides of the barriers.
A gridlock hell kept the fight alive. People threw bottles, C-Bills, plates, even food at the officers.
Then, the tank re-rounded the corner, and the Cougar not far behind. The crowed fell dead silent, then started to run backwards. Then the tank did something suicide. It threw into reverse, and sneaked under the 'mech's leg as it began to ascend. Once at the back of the 'mech, he launched a round at the back of the cockpit. The 'mech fell clean over, smashing the barrier on my side. Luckily, everybody had already moved back about 20 feet. The armor dashed for the cockpit to throw out the pilot and hi-jack it. The militia armor move in to stop it. Guns blazing, the armors clashed. Using debris from buildings that had been shot, the militia armor fought to destroy the more powerful hi-jacked armor. The tank crawled under the immoble Cougar fought to stand up. Something was wrong though. A 'mech should have stood up well by now. It had to be on the pilot's end.
I ran up close enough to see the pilot's face. Blood ran down his forehead and cheeks, and he did not move.
I knew what I had to do I ran past a building, and hopped the barrier.
Me and my squad had placed barriers donated by the unarmed police that had arrived. Dodging another array of junk and trash thrown by the onlookers, we shooed the crowd back while our Milita Cougar dealt with the tank. Although this wasn't a very big incident, it had the potential to get big. Very big.
The tank came around the corner of the bank, and Red-1 followed. It continued to approach our position, then suddenly stopped. Then, backing up towards the 'mech, he sped.
"Get 'em sarge!"
Instead, the tank passed under his foot.
"What the... WOAH!"
As if it were a simple joke, the tank shot the Red-1 down. The Cougar landed with a huge thud, and bricks and bits of metal were shaken from the surrounding buildings. The ground cracked, and I'm sure the quake could be felt for miles.
No response. Then, the "Tank and friends" gang ran for the cockpit to steal even more Militia property.
"Red team, let's show these bastards what happens when you steal from the GHM!
We began shooting at the enemy that had seized shelter from the fallen debris. As did we take advantage of the bits of rock, debris, and cars left idle in the road.
"Ugb... tank... look... tank... look..."
Whatever Sargent Marito had said, wouldn't have mattered. A heavy wind came upon us, and it seemed like we had been tossed up into the air. Like hell had entered the area. Everything went red, and I saw huge peices of rock, and explosions...
The outskirts of the industrial sector had decended into utter chaos. Explosions thundered through the air, spraying debris everywhere and causing fires to break out all around. Civillians ran screaming in all directions, while police attempted in vain to take control of the situation.
Ducking around falling debris, I pushed my way through the crowd, trying to make my way inward toward the heart of the chaos. As I rounded the street corner where the tank had made its first appearence, I was met with an unbelievable sight.
The Cougar was laying prone, its legs sprawled out behind it, and its torso pitched awkwardly to the left. A large crater was present on one of its legs, with the source, a Marksman tank, barrel still smoking, poised nearby in preparation to strike again. A melee appeared to be playing out nearby - I couldn't make a definite assessment of the forces involved, nor who was 'friendly' versus who was 'hostile.' The entire scene was surreal.
I quietly slipped my comm unit out, and depressed the button which would quickly connect me to Crayven dispatch. As the call went out, a tremendous explosion ripped through the narrow alley, knocking me face-first onto the pavement.
An explosion from a fuel cell truck that had been shot rippled the scene. I was buisy hacking into the holo-barrier, as the militia police forces tried to keep the crowd from rioting. In the middle of all of this, 2 sets of battle suits struggled to control the inactive Cougar, in which the pilot was obviously hurt. As I entered the last access codes, I felt a tug on my sleeve.
"Sir, I am William Dante of Crayven Securities. I noticed the Legionnaires insigna on the back of your shirt. As I recall, Crayven and the Legionnaires are close together. The Maxwell family, I beleive."
"Major Maxwell has a family?" I thought to myself.
"Errm... yes... Mr. Dante."
"Please, call me William. Can you describe the situation to me please? I was interupted from my game of pool by a large quake."
"Well, I was walking into a diner, when..."
As if in perfect timing, there was an explosion. I turned from his face to see an Uziel 'mech charge in past the scene. As soon as it arrived, it again charged past the bank shooting random targets. Then, the city-wide evacuation siren was raised. It was now illegal to be in the city. If you were caught working, or not evacuating, you were arrested. Only police and militia forces could be within the premises of the city. The last time they did this was...
The Blake Invasion.
After I gained conciousness enough to notice that a fuel truck had been ripped to shreads, I awakened my team as best I could. Red-3 didn't wake up, though.
"Red 4 and 5, you guys have to keep these bastards buisy while I call in for reinforcements.
The situation had worsened considerably. People had started throwing punches and shoving each other. The civilians started rioting on all sides. The sheer confusion and madness turned into a whole incident. There wasn't much more time before the enemy armor reached the 'mech. It was bad.
"Red 2 to Major Burnham. Repeat, Brandt to Burnham! Come in"
"I read you, private. What the hell is going on down there? I don't even see Red-1 on radar anymore! Give me a cit-rep, on the double!"
"The unknown forces have knocked Red-1's Cougar to the ground. It has been well over 5 minutes, and he still hasn't stood up. Also, there was an explosion, and Red-3 has not regained conciousness. The crowds are pushing against the barrier sides, and rioting."
There was a pause and static. "Goddammit, private. I don't know what to say or do. If I pull you and your men out, the guys might steal the Cougar. If I make you stay, you might die. I just don't know what to say or do... We can't send in another 'mech... that Cougar is the smallest we got. We can't even send in a meduim 'mech... the Building Commission would kill... WHO THE HELL ARE YOU...!"
There were a few bloodcurling screams at random, and quite a few explosions over the com. I heard thunder off in the distance. Unatrual. Then, the Sheratan Militia Commander, Master Admiral Nickolav Johnson came on the radio, stopping all other worldwide militia chatter.
"Sheratan Militia-Please be advised. The Sheratan Millitary Base One located in Gellen's Heights has just been attacked. We do not know any details at this time. We do not know the extense of damage. The city-wide evacuation alarm has been raised.
Be advised-several 'mechs have been stolen from the base. They are moving in on the city."
Just then, a loud blasting siren echoed all around, and around the corner appeared an Uziel, PPCs charged. Hell had just turned into the apocalypse for a Militia private in a 1/2" thick suit of metal armed with a small pulse laser.
This is a third-person conversation. It is at another unknown location, and Wedge is not involved.
"... and are you sure?"
"Yes. The operation is going smoothly. I beleive that the city has been evacuated. Team 2 has started their assault on the militia base."
"What is the next phaise?"
"We must not stray from our first task: to find the boy."
"... and of what importance has he?"
"We beleive he is the one who destroied our dropship at the Slocum recharge."
"You didn't awnser my question. Do you know his whereabouts?"
"We beleive he works in the local militia. When he attacked, he had a suit not unlike those of the militiamen."
"You are sure of this?"
"I still don't see reason to fund this operation. How are you sure that the operation will continue without a hitch?"
"The planet has just recovered from the Blakist invasion. I have planned the assault in the fashion of a Blakist occupation. Although the invasion was a failure..."
"So you model your tactics off of those of a Word of Blake scum even when you know you might fail? Why would you submit to WoB tactics? Are you suggesting your loyalty and respect of these tactics? It is a dishonor to use tactics not honored by House Liao. I would have to remove you from the house if you were to submit to such disgrace."
"Admiral, please. Of course not. I was only saying..."
"You haven't shown reason to occupy the city other than to capture the boy."
"We have other reasons."
"Sheraton is controled Davion. We may be able to throw the planet into havoc if we cause confusion and destruction within the planet. For great conquest."
"Everybody wants conquest. It is not Liao custom to kill two birds with one stone. I see no reason for occupation. I am pulling this fund."
"ADMIRAL ZIHENG! If it were not for the boy, we could have sent in the supplys to possibly stop the Word of Blake from destroying one of our planets! It is by bad fortune that we were interfered, and my home planet is nothing by wasteland!"
"Take this problem out on the Word of Blake. The last move the we need is to start a war with another house. We can barely balance the WoB on our sholders. I will hold the fund..."
"Thank you for your kindness. We may be able to complete the operation now. With out your grand kindness, this operation would fail."
"... with one exception. You make me commander of this "project". Also, if we are discovered...
By Liao custom, I am allowed to add the weight to your sholders if I choose. I can pull the fund, and make you pay for all that I have paid for. If we both die, the heave will be turned over to your family. The dividends will be split among those determined to be able to pay."
"I HAVE NO FAMILY! THEY WERE HOPELESSLY KILLED BY THE WORD!"
"One more outbreak, Kashira, and I will kill you, pull the fund, and make any reference to you pay for the damage done so far. I will say no more. If I see no progress in the next day, I will pull the fund."
"My mistake, Admiral."
"Besides the boy, what is the next phaise? What if global chaos can not be established. What if the operation is cut off, and the stolen 'mechs destroied? There is the militia, and 2 other corperations. One called "Crayven Securities", and the other a Mercenary group entitled "The Legionnaires", commisioned by the MRBC. Both are equipped with lances of meduim-assault 'mechs that could esily put down the plan."
"I assure you these groups will not have enough time to put us down. Do not forget that we have JumpShips full of DropShips and 'mechs."
"You are not entitled to use these resources. As the new Operation commander, I do not give you permission to use millitary property in a mission not commisioned by the Millitary itself. We were neither called for duty, or assigned by the House govornment officials to this Operation. As I can tell, you have no Plan B, and can only rely on hope and fate. If you fail, you and your references will have quite a hefty fine to pay."
"I will not fail."
"We will see about this. I will say no more."
The man in the black left the dark room, leaving the man in the white alone all by himself.
With a thunderous roar, the DropShip Half Moon rose into the sky on a pillar of flame, tracing a contrail through the morning haze as it arced into the cosmos.
I pushed the throttle of the RVN-CS-A3 Raven prototype to full, and sent it trotting across the burnt-umber dirt of the Gellen's Heights Proving Grounds. The earthen surface soon transitioned into ferrocrete as the thirty-five-ton scout made its way into the Crayven Corporation's sprawling industrial complex, dubbed 'The Forge' by its laborers. Here was where the intricately-laid plans of BattleMech designers sprung from the drafting boards, summmoned into existence by the hands of master technicians sequestered in a vast production facility hidden beneath the surface, their ministrations shielded from prying eyes by over three meters of ferrocrete. The buildings visible at ground level represented merely a fraction of the true goings-on present, and consisted mainly of support structures. Even the entrance to the labrynth was not obvious to the naked eye: inset into the floor of a massive, empty BattleMech hangar locted at the north end of the Works, the wide approach ramp was only visible to persons actually on the compound's premises - and even at that, if those individuals did not know where to look, they would miss it.
As I steered the Raven toward the hangar, a loud chirp from my targeting computer caused me to jerk the BattleMech to a halt. Glancing at the radar screen, a small, red dot flickered to life on the easternmost edge of its grid, nearly outside the detection range of even the Raven's bleeding-edge technology. The targeting computer furiously churned through the huge volumes of data being fed to it by its integrated Bloodhound Probe as I slowly changed course, moving toward the Commerce Boulevard end of the Equinox Compound, attempting to close enough distance between the target and myself to obtain an identification.
As the Raven stomped along the access road leading toward the Dreams of Avarice's
docking gantry and the compound's south gate, several more blips appeared on the radar, in the same vicinity as the first.
"Control - this is Falcon. Do we have any reports of hostile activity in the West End?"
I brought the Raven to a stop at the easternmost end of the compound, just past the DropShip gantry, a swarm of hostile contacts flickering in and out of existance on my screen.
"Affirmative, Falcon," the crisp British voice of MechCommander Jones replied. "We're aware of it. General Saxon reported a small riot underway in the Gallows - intersection of Fleet and Niagara - approximately ten minutes ago. He's advising our presence is not requested."
I glanced down at my sensors. The targeting computer had identified the nearest contact as a Bulldog medium tank, but was still acquiring identification for the remaining bogies.
"Control - I don't remember the last time rioters gave off IFF signals - or used tanks to get their point across. Can you confirm intel?"
"Affirmative, Falcon. Intel is confirmed per General Saxon. Your orders are not to interfere."
I switched the Raven's secondary communications interface to 'scan' and scrolled through the local militia's frequencies. The sounds of explosions, harried orders, and blood-curdling screams cut across the channel.
"Control, are you monitoring the militia's traffic? That doesn't sound like a 'small riot' to me."
"You have your orders, Falcon," Jones replied, exaspiration creeping into his voice. "General Saxon has advised non-interference."
I pushed the Raven's throttle to full, executing a sharp, 180-degree turn and charging west down the access road at a blistering ninety-six kilometers per hour. Turning north, I rocketed through The Forge, approaching the Fleet Street exit at breakneck speed.
"Falcon - you are to return to the Forge immediately! Do not - repeat - do not take the A3 off the grounds!"
"It'll be our little secret, Control."
With that, I toggled the Raven's Null Signature equipment. Several moments later, a thirty-five-ton shadow figure was witnessed stomping eastbound on Fleet Street, heading into the fray.
The Crayven pilot and I ducked down into the alleyway of 2 corporate megagiant buildings.
"This situation can hold no more waiting. Contact your squad and request a fire team. Even if it means life or death."
"...and what gives you the idea that you can order a Lieutenant around? It isn't as easy as "Calling in the fire squad. We have to wait untill the locals call us. When we are authorized to use any force neccecary, that means that we can use any tactic, and any war machine. So far..."
"Then we have to run like hell!"
"Maybe not so. Those militiamen don't seem to be doing so well. I'm going to let you return to your hacking. Here's what I want you to do. I want you to slip by the barrier, and see if you can sneak into the cockpit."
"ARE YOU CRAZY!?!?!?!?!"
"Distract the Uziel for as long as you can. See if you can use the radio to request support from Crayven Corperation. When you're done... I don't know. Just survive in the Cougar whatever you do, do NOT destroy his 'mech. If he manages to eject, destroy the pod. We can salvage the 'mech."
"If I die..."
"Don't say that, corporal! Just go! The more time you waste, the less time we have to sucsessfuly save the city"
Pinning in the last numbers as his voice trailed off, I ran through the hole in the 10 feet barrier. Taking shelter every 2 or so debris spots, I advanced up to the 'mech. I watched Lieutenant Dante seal the hole by taking the hack off of the spot. Trying not to get seen by the suits on my side, I approached the cockpit, when several laser blasts passed my head. Following the short bursts where 2 huge lances of supercharged plasma bolts that hit the ground like lighting strikes.ERPPC.Great.
The ERPPC was an advanced version of the PPC that some lances, clans, and housemen used, others did not. Despite incredible range and damage, the Extended Range Partice Projection Cannon created enough heat to heat a home for weeks. Not really
The EMP charges from the blast fried the low-security electronics of the Elemental battle suits that were used by both sides. Radios, Gyroscopes, even some HUDs might be damaged. The magnetic emissions from the charge powered down the barriers, causing total chaos. People charged for the police, and still, each other. I was almost thankful for this destraction, as it was more than enough to keep the Elementals on my side occupied.
I climbed into the 'mech, and closed the hatch. Puting the bloody pilot aside, I initiated a quick startup. The 'mech responded instantly, and the legs pulled the 'mech upright. I felt as though I had control. As people rioted all around, I lifted a leg as a sign of warning. Anybody stupid enough to stand in the way of protagonist lethal force deserved to die. People even tried to climb the legs. I couldn't do anything about it. I teased the throttle, and began my trot the the stolen Uziel. Just then, a Raven 'mech entered the area. I decided not to take any chances, and just focus on the Uziel. I activated the MRM's that were attatched to the beast, and rounded the corner, facing the back of the 50 ton 'mech with a perfect shot.
"Let's see how theives fight!"
The intersection of Fleet Street and Niagara Boulevard was a scene of utter pandemonium. As my modified Raven tore through the increasingly-deep urban jungle, a rioting mass of humanity came into view, overflowing across police barricades as opposing squads of battle armor exchanged withering fire with one another. A marauding Uziel stomped through the chaos, crushing vehicles and pedestrians beneath its massive, three-toed feet as it strode purposefully toward a battle-damaged Cougar, while several Joust and Bulldog tanks opened fire on entrenched militia forces, pinning them beneath high-calber bombardment. It was a scene I hadn't borne witness to in a long time.
Blake's blood! What the hell's going on here?
Before I had time to analyze the situation further, the Cougar - which bore an IFF tag identifying it as belonging to the local militia - opened fire on the Uziel with a flight of medium-range-missiles. The larger 'Mech easily swatted down the incoming flight of warheads with its Laser AMS system, and returned fire with two angry blasts of projected particle energy, sending the Cougar into a drunken stagger as the weapons' EMP effects rippled across its systems.
Suddenly, my comm unit crackled to life with the frenzied voice of the Cougar's pilot. "...-is is Corp-al -edge Lourde...the...-egionn-...-sting the planeta...ilitia...are under attack by...nown...stiles...and are requesting assistance from any friendly units. Repeating - this is Corporal Wedge Lourde of the Legionnaires. I am assisting the planetary militia who are under attack by unknown hostiles and are requesting assistance from any friendly units. Does anyone copy my transmission?"
I shoved my Raven's throttle to full, and ran several blocks south of the engagement, rounding a corner and emerging on Niagara Avenue directly behind the marauding Uziel.
"Corporal Lourde - this is Master Sergeant Kevin Cosgrove of the..." I began, catching myself before I spoke the name of the Crayven Corporation. I didn't want to reveal too much until I had a better fix on what was going on. "...of a friendly organization. I'd ask you what was going on, but at the moment, we have more pressing issues to attend to. Let me see if I can get this Uzi off your back."
Several apocalyptic explosions crackled across the comm before the Corporal replied.
"Much obliged, Sergeant. If I may ask - what're you packing? I'm not picking you up on radar or optics."
"That's because this toy ain't on the market yet, Corporal. But you'll read me in just a moment."
With that, I lined up my targeting reticule on the Uziel's rear center of mass, and opened fire with a blistering LRM barrage. Two of the missiles were deflected by the fifty-ton monster's countermeasures, but the other eight found their marks, tearing through the Uziel's rear armor with ease. Reacting to the unexpected attack with impressive agility, its pilot yanked the BattleMech hard to the east, reversing down Fleet Street in order to protect its now-smoldering rear arc.
"Looks like you pissed him off, Sergeant," Lourde's voice quipped, as his battle-scarred Cougar, now bereft of its right arm, stomped toward the intersection. "I don't know about you, but I think this is our chance to finish what he started."
"Roger that, Corporal. This might be easier than - oh shit."
"What? What is it?"
I double-checked my radar screen.
"I've got multiple hostiles on an inbound vector - it looks like they're coming from the spaceport - a Behemoth II tank, five or six points of armor, and a Sunder."
A brief silence hung between us as we took up firing positions on the entrenched Uziel.
"That could get nasty. You got any buddies in the area?"
"Negative - but if we can buy some time, I can call a few of my closest friends up!"
"How, sir, can you confidently say that Crayven Corporation will not interfere with any of our tactics?"
"With much confidence, I can. It will be to late to rescue the city by the time their 'mechs can arrive."
There was a slight pause, and the man in the suit got a puzzled look on his face.
"Then, explain to me, sir, how a 'mech has entered the area, not identifyable as a militia 'mech? An odd conincidence? No. As we speak, 2 'mechs are engaged with the single scout Uziel in the city. One of them appears to be the Cougar. The heavy 'mechs plundered from the militia base have 8 klicks yet to travel. I do not beleive that the situation is in firm control. You may have underestimated the exact remoteness of the Crayven utility department, identified as "Equinox" on the satelite image stolen from the militia defense department."
The man in the green military coat got a horified look on his face. He was just as puzzled as his provider.
"NO! Let me see the images. They may be a trick. They must be. Lead me to the tactical data room. I must see this with my own two eyes."
"Very well. Follow me. Do not fall behind."
The casually dressed officer lead the traditionally dressed one into a small room with many computers and holo database cores, and many electronics that you would find in a normal military control room. Men buzzed all around, tending to different tasks, oblivious to the two that strode to the Imagery computer terminal.
"These overhead images depict shadows about 80 feet tall. Arms and legs are visible. A 'mech? Yes sir, a 'mech."
A few daunting pictures made it all too evident that there was an opposition, slowly holding and regaining ground lost by the recent Armor Attack.
"Admiral Ziheng, sir, please patch me over to Commander Sujiwa"
"This is Commander Sujiwa. Please excuse our lag. We are now heading through an industrial section. We have about 7 and a half klicks untill we arrive at the hotspot."
"How many 'mechs did you manage to steal?"
"We only stole enough to arm our whole team. Every single one of us is equiped with a refit version of the Mad Cat 'mech. We beleive that it will be enough firepower to bring down the city. The initial raid has begun. Please tell us when to begin killing civilans or destroying buildings."
"YOU FOOLS! The mission was NEVER to kill civilians! It was never to destroy buildings! It was to capture and purge the boy, Wedge Lourde! Find him! Bring him to ME, alive. Vengance will be exacted back home. If you kill him or any other member of the Crayven Corporation, I will have your heads. Capture and bring me back any member of the Militia, Crayven Corporation, or the Legionnaires that you might find. Do not hesitate to use force. Kill as many that stand in your way. Do not stop untill the boy has been found. Acording to our sources, the boy Wedge works for the Militia. He may be one of the opposing Armormen at the hotspot. These are your orders. I will say none more."
"General, please follow me back to the conference room. I have a few more questions for you."
"All Militia and... other forces in the area. Be advised. Six stolen GH Local Refit Mad Cats have just entered the area, along with a few tanks, and even more stolen battle suits."
"Master Admiral Johnson-This is hell!"
"Who is this, over?"
"This is private Mick Brant of the Gellen's Height Local Militia. Who the hell are these guys? What the hell do they want?"
"Unknown at this time. I can give you a small situation report. Right now, you're in a gridlock hell. People are rioting all around you, your militia base has been attacked, and the stolen property from the armory of the base hase been stolen; is on the way to your exact location. The Cougar that you rode in on has been comandeered, and another unidentifyed Raven has teamed up with it to take down the Uziel that just shot lighting in your direction. We don't know who they are. I am sorry. The best thing you can do is just sit tight... and hold your own with your team. We have two DropShips full of 'mechs on the way... but it will be two hours before we even set foot on your continent... I am sorry private. Just... don't die on me. Right now, you're the highest ranked armed soldier within the city... you're my official contact. If anything big happens, report it to me immediatly."
"Red team, break off! Meet me behind that car over by the factory over there!"
We all went around the packed road that connected Niagra and 4th. Going through and alleyway that lead to Pitts Road, the legs of the Uziel flashed by. Still people were rioting all around-being smashed by the legs of the 'mechs. It was sad. Each time the 'mechs made a step, a small earthquake. Just then, our first pal, the Flakmann tank passed by, shooting at escaping cars and people, and buildings. Just for the hell of it. I couldn't stand the screams anymore.
"Red team, dash for the tank, now! We'll take it apart armor plate by armor plate if we have to."
Shouts of anger were proceeded by my team, as we dashed past people in order to catch up with the tank. We would kill it any way we had to.
Crayven Securities Compound 'Equinox'
City of Gellen's Heights - Western Sector - Sheratan
"What? Do we have satellite confirmation?"
"Yes, sir. Surveillence satellites confirm tangoes inbound on an attack vector. The local militia is requesting assistance."
"What's the sitrep at ground zero?"
"Bad, sir. MechWarriors Dante and Cosgrove are on scene and reporting that it's deteriorating rapidly. The local boys are overwhelmed. Cosgrove's currently engaged with an Uziel. We still don't have intel on who the hostiles are."
I began walking rapidly toward the bank of elevators that would take me to ground level.
"Cosgrove's engaged with an Uziel? On whose authority...never mind. What equipment is he fielding?"
A brief tapping of fingers on a keyboard filtered through my earpiece. With a cheery 'ding,' the center elevator's doors swished open, and I stepped aboard, swiping my security badge and selecting the sub-level of the compound's main war room.
"MechWarrior Cosgrove is operating the RVN-CS-A3 Raven, sir. We're getting most of our intel from its onboard sensors. It's equipped with - "
"I know what its loadout is, Daughton! I also know that if we're not being bluffed, that Raven is going to be an easy target! Now - here are your orders. I want two assault lances prepped and ready for deployment in fifteen minutes. I also want support lances made ready. I don't care how you do it - just do it. Pull prototypes out of testing if you have to; I realize that with three lances already off-world, we're stretched a bit thin. Anvil Lance will be commanded by General Maxwell - you are to send armed guards into his office and drag him to the Delta Zulu if needs be. I will take command of Hammer Lance.
"Your force composition will be as follows for Anvil Lance - General Maxwell's Daishi will be Anvil-1. Anvil-2 will pilot the http://www.solaris7.com/TRO/HTMLBattleMech/BattleMechInfo.asp?ID=6129. Anvil-3 will pilot a http://www.solaris7.com/TRO/HTMLBattleMech/BattleMechInfo.asp?ID=6033. Anvil-4 will pilot an http://www.solaris7.com/TRO/HTMLBattleMech/BattleMechInfo.asp?ID=6085.
"I will be Hammer-1. Please prep the http://www.solaris7.com/TRO/HTMLBattleMech/BattleMechInfo.asp?ID=6071 for immediate deployment. Hammers-2 through 4 will pilot http://www.solaris7.com/TRO/HTMLBattleMech/BattleMechInfo.asp?ID=6073 units.
"The support lances will consist of four squads of shock troops, along with a Behemoth-II, two Marksmen, a Condor, and the requisite support vehicles. Please ensure that the subject from Project Black Knight is deployed as well, along with his own force of Achileus Battle Armors.
"Anvil Lance will approach from Fleet Street, vectoring east toward Ground Zero. Hammer Lance will approach from Commerce Boulevard, and attempt to bombard the inbound Mad Cats from range with Arrow IV fire. The Mad Cats will be at a disadvantage, as the Longbows have the advantage of range. Once first blood is drawn, Anvil Lance will move toward the Mad Cats and finish them off. While this happens, Anvil-2 will break off and engage the Sunder and its support units - it will be extraordinarily outclassed by the King Crab and will fall easily.
"Meanwhile, the support lances are to move directly to Ground Zero along Fleet Street. They will engage and destroy all hostiles in that area, and attempt to link up with Lieutenant Dante and Sergeant Cosgrove. They will then hold position, and wait for the arrival of Anvil and Hammer Lances.
"As there is no time for a live briefing, please upload the electronic briefing to all elements participating in this operation and broadcast it on all combat channels. Do I make myself clear?"
Furious typing filtered through the phone as the mission specialist on the other end transcribed my orders. With yet another sickeningly cheerful 'ding,' the elevator arrived at its destination.
"Yes, General. Perfectly clear."
"Excellent. I expect this operation to be underway in...thirteen minutes. Carry on."
I cut the comm channel off, and headed for the armory.
Seventeen minutes later...
City of Gellen's Heights - Western Sector - Sheratan
I took a long drag on my cigar - the first I'd had in almost two days, and exhaled slowly. Normally, I didn't smoke in the cockpit - but I needed to get my nerves under control - quickly. I hadn't anticpated I'd be telling Benjamin he was dying and defending Sheratan from yet another invasion in the same day. I was slightly stressed out.
As Anvil Lance lumbered toward the first of our hastily-constructed nav points, I toggled open a private channel to Anvil-2.
"You're sure you feel up to this, Benjamin? I want you to realize you're under no obligation to accompany us."
"Even when you're not trying to sound like a businessman, you still manage to, dad," Benjamin chuckled. "I'll be fine. I just hope this damn contraption you've stuck me in holds together."
"Just make sure you collect as much performance data as you can. We weren't expecting to field test it for another two months."
Another chuckle crackled across the comms.
"I'll try to keep that in mind while I'm being shot at."
I smiled wryly.
I glanced down at my DTT indicator. We were still two clicks out from the nav point - which meant that the Mad Cats we were flanking were at least four kilometers away from us. The thought offered small comfort, given that we were up against an unknown enemy, and even the smallest deviation on their behalf from what our intelligence analysts thought they might do meant that our plans could collapse at a moment's notice.
Who the hell fields a lance comprised totally of Mad Cats, anyway?
From the moment the intelligence reports and mission briefings splashed across my PDA's screen, I had struggled with that question. My first thought was that the Blakists had returned for a second run on the planet, but that didn't add up. Their tactics were too random - too disorganized. If Blakists had landed on the planet, we'd be fighting them back from the walls of Equinox by now - and that wasn't happening. The possibility that rouge Clanners might have landed on the planet also crossed my mind - it would explain the abundance of Clan technology - but Clanners usually operated in five-'Mech stars - not four-'Mech lances - so that didn't entirely add up either.
One thing remained clear - whoever they were, they were well-equipped, and they had caught us with our pants down. That meant that they were also well-informed - and a well-informed enemy had the potential to be just as dangerous as we were to them.
Before I had the chance to think things through any further, the silky, femenine voice of my autopilot's computer shattered my contemplative state.
"Nav point Alpha...reached. Nav point Beta selected."
I jammed my hand down on the 'all call' switch of my comm unit as the computer turned my Daishi toward Nav Beta.
"Anvil-1 reporting Anvil Lance at Nav Alpha - Anvil-2, break formation and head to Nav Epsilon! Anvil-3 and 4, assume wedge formation on me!"
A series of acknowledgements filtered across the channel as Benjamin's King Crab fell out of position and headed into the bowels of the city.
"Hammer-1 reporting hostiles engaged at Nav Beta. We have the high ground."
General Saxon's words, spoken in his trademark, eerily detached tone, meant that, for the moment, Hammer Lance had the Mad Cats out-ranged, exactly as planned, and was delivering punishing missile fire in an attempt to draw the OmniMechs toward them. The lance was living on borrowed time, however, as was only a matter of time before the Mad Cats closed the gap and started delivering some serious hurt to the Crayven fire support 'Mechs. That was where we came in.
"Let's step it up, people!"
I called my team to get together as we walked around downtown. It was not long before we had arrived at the base to steal the mechs that were in storage.
We were getting close to the place where a big fight was going on, when our general called us.
"Alright guys, you are close to the fight. You guys are looking for the guy name Wedge. He is somewhere in the area but watch out for other mechs. Use your missiles if you have to shoot a long way. Do not make any buildings blow up or you won't have much cover. Thats it."
"Ok, ok team. It is time to kill! Charge your PPC's and ready your missles." I said on the microphone. We were getting close.
Ok that was my first post. Tell me how you liked it. Editied by David
Not bad, Mike.
"Private Brandt, I have good and bad news. Those Mad Cats are razor-edge close to your position. The good news... a few Crayven 'mechs have just deployed, and are en route to intercept the 'mechs. As for the crowd... don't let them die..."
I could only half hear him, as my team and I were buisy shooting and beating on the side of the tank, which was now approaching a rioting crowd. We punched on the hatch and shot the crap out of the turret, which was trying its best to aim for the crowd with its Lighting cannon.
We punched a large enough hole into the side to be able to hear the operator inside. He was madly yelling and chanting in Japanese.
"Master Admiral! He's yelling in Japanese!"
"That could mean anything, Private! Kill him and recover the tank!"
I climbed in, landing a blow on his face in what little pilot space there was. I wanted to see his damn face.
The 3 of us pulled his body out of the tiny hole in the tank. We dragged him to the intersection, throwing him out to the people. In a sensational moment of teamwork, the rioting citizens punched him and spit on him. We felt no mercy as we watched him beaten to a bloody death. In his last stand, he stood up and made like hell towards us, but he was tackled and killed by the crowd. Their sense of teamwork stuck with them. They stopped rioting and cheered. A smile crept up on my face, but next I was pushed to the ground and again it went black.
I woke up to screaming and shattering and crumbling. I looked up in a sense of gathering my team, and was horrified by what I saw. The Uziel had begun a chain reaction in the suports of a building in the intersection we were in. Dust and rocks fell everywhere, as the foundations of the building crubmled to the intense burning of missiles loged in the supports. The building came crumbling down, as dust and steel fell all around. People were crushed, and people choked on dust.
Then, the 'mech that had leveled the building to buy some time was knocked to its ass. 2 'mechs side by side approached the floored Uziel, guns pointed down. The crowd was so close... if the Uziel exploded, nothing around the block would survive. I looked at the 2 standing tall, waving.
"Attention...attention...this is an active combat zone. Evacuate the area immediately. Repeating - this is an active combat zone. Evacuate the area immediately."
If the announcement which blared from my 'Mech's public address system didn't get the attention of the many men, women, and children who had flocked to Harborview Park for a weekend of recreation, the sight of my ninety-five ton Mad Cat Mk-II crashing through the treeline onto the park's rolling meadows most certainly did. Even from my elevated perch above the battlefield, screams and shouts of terror could clearly be heard as civillians scattered in all directions, frantically attempting to get out of the way of my OmniMech's massive ferrosteel feet as I pushed straight through, crushing picnic tables, knocking aside waste recepticles, and leaving huge, three-toed footprints in the finely-manicured grass. The three Longbows which comprised the rest of my lance followed in close formation, further compounding the destruction. But there were more pressing issues to attend to.
"Hammer-1 to Hammer Lance - I have visual contact with the targets. Sixteen hundred meters due East, moving Northwest toward the city. Assume attack formation, and acquire your assigned targets."
A series of acknowledgements crackled across the channel as I throttled down, holding my position as I armed the powerful Arrow IV missiles carried in my Mad Cat Mk-II's shoulder pods. Sending the OmniMech into a crouch, I toggled my zoom window, and trained my targeting reticule on the nearest of the approaching Mad Cats.
"Hammer-1, in position. Target acquired."
"Hammer-2, in position. Target acquired."
"Hammer-4, in position...target...acquired!"
I smiled grimly.
"Roger that. Fire at will."
Moments later, eight Arrow IV missiles arced across the park, their powerful single-burn engines glowing a dazzling gold. One by one, the warheads found their marks, pummelling the lance of Mad Cats with savage force, tearing limbs and chunks of armor from their targets. Several of the marauding OmniMechs were knocked from their feet by the impacts, and sent tumbling to the earth. Those that kept their footing immediately changed course, and began closing with our fire support lance. The engagement had begun.
"Repeat repeat guys we are under attack! Go shoot the mechs past those buildings!"
"Commander we were told to not get off our old mission."
"Ok I want 3 of you to keep shooting and the other 3 to go find the guy. Remember that there is a cougar and another mech shooting our uziel."
We walked into a part where people were running in all directions and there were a few mechs upahead. I told my team to fire their missiles at the targets. I then commanded the other 2 that were with me to turn on their target jammers so they could not hit us again with their bigger more powerful missles. Then I got a call from the team of stolen mechs that was heading for the first fight zone were the boy Wedge was.
"Boss, we are here but the uziel is down on the ground and being shot. I dont know if he will live. Do you want me to go for the people attacking him? I can also tell my tanks to shoot stuff."
"Yeah do that and dont kill the boy if you find him. Our leader says we need to bring him back."
"Who is that in the Cougar? This is Private Mick Brandt of the local militia. I'm really hoping that there's another man in there with you. Or... Sargent Maurito?"
"Mmm... not quite. I'm Wedge Lourde of one of the Local mercenary units... I'm with..." My unknown battlemate had presented his identity with many holes. I decided to take his approach."I'm in the neighborhood. Are you as confused as I am about this whole ordeal? Do you have some kind of leader?"
"Well, I can't establish contact with my regional boss over at the militia academy, but... I..."
"You what, private? I heard explosions off in the distance a while ago... is that where all the trouble is coming from?"
"Every single thing the enemy has fought with has been GHM equipment. The 6 Mad Cats are a part of a strike force of heavy and assault 'mechs designated for an exact situation like this. Not even my boss, Major Marcus Burnham could have suspected that WE would be attacked with them. I haven't heard a peep from the GHMilitary academy for about 20 minutes now. I have, though, received all my intel from the Master Admiral of the Sheratan militia. In other words, the highest ranked officer in the planetary military force has lead me through all of this. It's pretty big."
"I'm glad to hear that you're doing fine. Have you had any fatalities?"
"You tell me. Is there a dead guy in your cabin? When we first entered the situation we had a Cougar and 4 BattleSuits. When the situation spread to more than just a city block, there was an explosion, and we lost a battle suit. We have not heard from Red-3 since then."
"Well, on my end, he's out cold or dead. I can't tell. Can you patch me through to that Admiral of yours?"
"Erm... One second. Contact me in one minute's time, and I'll have him on a channel."
"Corporal Lourde, this is Sargent Cosgrove, your old pal from about 20 minutes ago. While you've been talking to the locals (I heard the whole thing through the com), I have been checking my probe for unfriendlies. I can give you a quick situation report, if we have enough time."
"I've got about a minute untill that militaman gets me my contact. Go ahead."
After the quick conversation with the man in the Cougar, I re-contacted Master Admiral Johnson.
"This is Brandt to Master Admiral. Do you read?"
"You're a bit fuzzy, but go ahead."
"Hold on, sir. I'M TAKING MY SHOT!" The 3 of us that were now practically brothers, dashing around city blocks in the region, hunting down local targets, and at least 20 battle suits that had been stolen. We had almost become pro.
"YOU GUYS FIGHT FOR ME! I'll BE A SEC!"
"Excuse me, Admiral. I am a bit buisy."
"We all have our duties. Go on."
"THE LEFT! Sir, the pilot of the multiply stolen Cougar is a confirmed ally... for now. His name is Wedge, and he would like to contact you. He says he's got a few sources that he can relay information to. He says that we might be able to tip the scales with a bit of information."
"Can you patch him through for me?"
"Yes sir. Let me contact... BEHIND THE BUILDING... 3... 2... 1... RUN! Just let me get him through for you..."
"He's all yours. Channel... YES! OVER THERE! Sorry, Channel 38. NOW! LOWER! He's on chanel 38, over and out."
Now that I had completed Lourde's request, I had to attend to my fight.
"I said the next street over! Come with me!" said Red-4.
Our next target was a Bulldog tank that was stolen (of course). It came with a few other tanks, and Major Burnham's personalized Sunder meduim 'mech. A few minutes and many dodged rounds and lasers, Master Admiral Johnson called me with a plan.
"Johnson to Brandt. Corporal Lourde and I have come up with a plan, and his buddy has agreed to help us.
Lourde and his assistant have agreed to rendovzous with you and your team to take out the small force of tanks and the Sunder 'mech. We figured it might be easier to let the 'mechs hand the counterpart, while you work on the armor and tanks. Once the 'mech is scratched, the duo will assist you. That will bring one force of the 2 within the city. Currently, Crayven Corporation is engaged with the Mad Cats in a park not far. If they succeed, all the major conflicts will be over... hopefully. Be advised that there are still a few armor counts and random tanks. I am now updating your teams HUDs, as well as Lourde's 'mech's display with Nav point Alpha, 2 blocks away from where the enemy force is gathered."
The built in voice prompted me that Nav Point Alpha was now available. Now that we actually had a sense of teamwork, the attack would be crushed easily. Hopefully.
It wasn't gonna happen like that.
"I've got about a minute untill that militaman gets me my contact. Go ahead."
I glanced at my IFF computer readout one last time to confirm that no updates had taken place.
"All right, Corporal, here's our situation. That Uziel is out of business - your militia buddies are seeing to that. The police are working to keep the locals in check over there - the rioting's getting pretty severe and it's only a matter of time before the crowds break the barriers. That's the good news.
"The bad news is, we've got multiple squads of Oni Battle Armor - I count at least fifteen, all told - scattered throughout the neighborhood in a one-kilometer radius. They've got moderate armor support, ranging from Zibler and Enyo strike tanks to Condors and at least one Glory. I'm showing two lances of friendly armor moving in - hopefully that will buy us some time.
"That's just the beginning. I've got sensor contact with the Sunder - it's still inbound on our location - I can confirm that it is, in fact, supported by a Behemoth II tank. The six points of armor are Fa Shih Battle Armors. They're riding on the Behemoth's running boards. I anticipate the whole battleforce is going to be within firing range in less than two minutes.
"Fortunately, it appears that we've got a friendly KGC-20-A King Crab moving from the West to intercept them - it's one of my boys. He's going to have his hands full - we're no match for the Sunder, but we can certainly give that tank and the Fa Shihs a run for their money - my suggestion is that we move to assist him.
"My minute's up, Corporal. What's the call?"
As the elements of Anvil Lance moved to support Hammer Lance, I steered my KGC-CS-A King Crab into the urban jungle that was the West End of Gellen's Heights. The reactions of passerby were typical of persons bearing witness to a 100-ton war machine striding down a city street - women screamed, men dove for cover, and motorists fled from their vehicles as my King Crab's colossal clawed feet pounded across the pavement with earth-shattering force. I could only apologize silently as I made my way with due haste toward Nav Gamma, and my rendezvous with an unknown enemy. Ordinarily, I'd be feeling a great deal of apprehension at engaging an entire mixed lance in a single BattleMech, but the intruiging indirect-fire missile system my prototype carried hinted at a very different sort of confrontation than most warriors were accustomed to.
"Target detected," my onboard computer announced, highlighting the Sunder Lance's Behemoth II tank on my radar. The hostile was just over a kilometer to my east, far outside of my Streak SRMs, but was closing quickly. Even as I watched, the tank fell within the range of my extended-range weaponry.
Now if I could just get a clear shot...
As was the case with many MechWarriors, I loathed urban combat. BattleMechs were simply not built to operate on pavement in tight quarters, and it was all I could do to keep from repeatedly scraping the fins of my massive King Crab on the outer walls of the towering skyscrapers flanking me on all sides.
Dropping my throttle to a crawling thirty kilometers per hour, I executed a right-hand turn, and pushed down 35th Street, drawing closer to the Behemoth tank, which had made a sharp course correction, and appeared to be attempting to close the distance between us. I had no doubt that I had been detected, and I fully intended to take advantage of the situation. Bringing the King Crab to a lumbering halt alongside a towering industrial warehouse, I primed my SRM launchers, and activated the IDF system. As the targeting & tracking system acquired its target, I watched as the DTT counter wound down.
And now...I wait.
"Sargent, I see an unknown 'mech moving in on the group. Is he one of yours? Everything on my radar is red, even you."
"Erm... yes. He's the King Crab friend. Just be careful."
"Enemy detected." Chirped the computer. The voice was not the ususal british intruiging accent woman's voice you usualy get out of a 'mech. It was more... soothing.
"Your call, corporal. You're more in touch with the local big boys than I am. We've less than two minutes."
"Private Brant-do you read?"
"I'm a bit buisy, but yes, I do."
"Sargent Cosgrove and Private Brandt. I think we should assist the King Crab. Brandt, tell your team to hitch a ride on my legs... if you're not afraid of Deja Vu."
The 5 of us stomped past damaged buildings, rioting people, and immoble cars that sat as soccerballs for traveling 'mechs. The civilian fighting had gotten to the point where people would bring out razorblades and guns. My cockpit was shot with low-grade ballistic gunfire quite a few times from the ground.
We entered the area, passing where our contact sat. Taking a glimpse of the King Crab I soon learned that the name explained itself. Ignoring the oddly shaped frame of the 'mech, I keyed the mic to try to establish some small talk while we began our 30 second transit to where the stolen Sunder and his buddies patroled the area, waiting for us.
"So... MechWarrior... how's that King Crab treatin' ya?"
"Don't even start with me... erm... Wedge? Is that you?"
It was then that I was hit with a dual-arangment of Guass rounds. Both smashed at my feet, knocking me to my feet. It certainly was Deja Vu, as the 3 armormen scrambled to run clear of my impact.
With an impact that resounded through the crowded city block like a small explosion, twin gauss rounds smashed into Corporal Lourde's Cougar, sending it tumbling to the ground as the 100-ton Behemoth-II assault tank opened fire.
"Wedge! Get up and get behind cover! That tank's coming straight for you!"
As the Corporal attempted to right his stricken BattleMech, I selected the HUD marker for the Behemoth. Although, from my point of view, I was looking at an empty intersection, the Indirect-Fire system didn't see things that way. As the targeting system signaled a lock, I pulled the trigger, and twenty-four Streak SRM-6 missiles tore from my King Crab's missile tubes, rocketing toward the desolate intersection before executing a near-ninety degree turn to the right. Moments later, multiple explosions thundred through the afternoon air, as my HUD updated the wireframe of the Behemoth with an incredible amount of damage.
Looks like there's still some fight left in him!
I quickly pushed the King Crab forward, and lumbered toward the insersection. As I rounded the corner to come face-to-face with the smoldering Behemoth, a swarm of short-range missiles belched forth from what was left of the tank, pounding my BattleMech's thick hide, but doing very little damage. I returned the favor with a brutal PPC blast, accompanied by several columns of coherent light, which obliterated the crippled remains of the tank.
"Nice shooting, Anvil-2," came an unfamiliar voice. The transmission originated from the Raven which had accompanied Corporal Lourde.
"Thanks, Raven. What's your callsign?"
"You can call me 'Falcon,' Major. Look sharp. You've got a Sunder inbound, a little over a kilometer out."
"Roger that, I'm aware. Care to stick around? I could use your help mopping up his buddies."
"Roger. Keep the big guy off of me, and you've got yourself a deal."
"General Tihen. This is your last chance to make progress. If I do not see progress, your pilots (if they make it back) will not be funded. I am sick of watching MY men die. It almost seemes as though you lied to me when you said that the Crayven Corporation would not intervene."
"If it were not for the Crayven, Wedge would already be in chains on his way for question."
"But he is not. I see no progress. Also, there has been almost no damage to any major govornment building. No parliment, courthouse, not even the Davionian House of Sheratan has been attacked. If it were not for that the House, the planet would receive no order or news from New Avalon. If we can completely cut the planet off from warning the House officials on Avalon... the planet is ours."
"There are many flaws in your plan, Major."
"You think you can do beter? You have only made flaws for the life of this operation... which is coming to a close."
"Not so fast. If you can spare the generosity to allow the attack force of 3 DropShips full of Scout to Assault 'mechs... then war may begin. This isn't only about Wedge anymore."
A dazzling aray of colored light flashed across the battlefield, as tracer rounds tore through the air and hundreds of missiles cut smokey trails through the afternoon sky. Explosions thundered with unrelenting, ear-shattering intensity, accentuated by the unmistakable crush of metal on metal, as three lances of leviathan machinery clashed for supremacy on a once-tranquil, two kilometer stretch of finely-manicured lawn. Our painstakingly-organized formations had dissolved into total chaos when the near-suicidal hostiles had rushed our lines, and the tone of the battle had changed from long-range, calculated sniping to in-your-face, one-on-one brutal combat. Although this type of fighting was far riskier than the duck-and-cover tactics of ranged combat, the oncoming Mad Cats were badly outnumbered, and horrendously outgunned - even their superior Clan technology couldn't protect them the sheer amount of firepower fielded by seven assault-class prototypes packed to the teeth with an overwhelming number of weapons designed specifically with situations such as this in mind.
And so they fell, one by one, until the last Mad Cat was nothing more than a smoldering crater in the soft soil of Sheratan. As Fury's gun ports cooled, I contemplated the waste - Clan tech was an extremely valuable commodity, and I hated to obliterate it.
"Anvil Lance - advise status."
"Anvil-3 here...I've got a hole or two in my armor, but I'll live."
"Anvil-4 here - I'm missing an arm, but that's nothing compared to what the other guy looks like."
"Roger that," I chuckled. "Hammer Lance - how're you holding up?"
"This is Hammer-1. We lost Hammer-4; Hammers-2 and 3 took moderate to severe damage. If you had gotten here sooner we wouldn't have had to deal with the Mad Cats alone!"
Saxon sounded furious. I decided to leave well enough alone.
"Very well. Hammer Lance, fall back to Equinox. Myself and Anvil Lance will proceed to Nav Gamma and ensure that Anvil-2 is still in one piece. Control - have salvage and recovery sweep this area for anything useful."
Multiple affirmations crackled in as I turned my Daishi toward Nav Gamma.
Once more into the breach!
Gellen’s Heights: it reeked of trouble. My observation of it’s pulsing night life had led me to the conclusion that the REAL crimes are committed in the middle of broad daylight. These sinners, who called themselves “warriors, were nothing more than murdering scum. It was time for the reaping of their very lives.
The battle armour I had chosen to strike had also spotted me. Though I could not see his eyes, I could feel them firing daggers into mine. Luckily for me, I had nerves of ferosteel. I locked icy daggers back at the battle armour, loosing all touch with the battle around us. For one, drawn out moment, we were in our own world, fighting our own battle.
He was the first to move. His suit lurched forward with a right fist drawn back. He charged, screaming his war cry. I remained still. The “warrior” continued to charge, his voice drenched with anger. Yet still, I remained still. His right, claw like fist drew further back, cocked into position and ready to be swung. And still, I remained still. The second he stepped into my radius, fist ready to fire, I acted. My body shifted, side stepping his attack in an instant. The moronic fool stumbled forward, flabbergasted by what had just happened. He swung his head around as he began to steady himself. I looked back at him and took a stance. It was a rarity to finally fight a battle armour in close combat, however I needed to keep him fighting this way. The less rounds fired, the less collateral damage.
“Was that the best you could do?” I asked, smirking to myself within the suit.
“I… was just warming up!” he roared, charging towards me like a stampeding rhino. This time I braced for impact. As soon as he came into my attack radius, for the second time, I raised my arms and locked horns with him. His open claws clammed around my closed fists. My fists had impacted his palms and were aiming down his arms, exactly as I had hoped for.
“Tell me, is the extent of your power?” I quipped, engaging his reaction as I held my own.
“S-Silence!” he strained, shaking as he engaged his full strength.
“Oh! It appears it is…” I wanted to enjoy this for a moment longer.
“I’ll grant you your wish if you will grant mine…”
“W-what are you babbling on about?!”
“We share the same wish. We want silence. I’m going to silence you!” I shouted, realising the clamping mechanisms on my two wrist mounted bayonets. The bayonets ploughed through the armour’s palms and into the fleshy limbs of the suit wearer. The enemy howled in pain and was instantly brought to his knees. I twisted the blades that were buried into his now useless arms.
“I wouldn’t worry too much. Where your going, you wont need arms!” I chuckled, retracting the blades from his arms. With a side step, a flick of the wrist and fatal accuracy, I instantly decapitated the battle armour. He was finally silenced…
A thunderous clap of autocannon fire tore through the urban sprawl, as twenty baseball-sized buckshot rounds slammed into my King Crab's prominent nose. My BattleMech bucked wildly under the impact, and I yanked hard on its control yoke to pull the torso level before another crippling blow could be delivered.
"Anvil-2 to Raven and Cougar - the Sunder's made me - looks like an SD1-O configuration. Watch yourselves."
With a jet-engine whine, my starboard ER PPC built a charge, releasing a supercharged bolt of electroplasmatic energy toward the Sunder. The ball of semi-coherent light and projected particles hurtled down the narrow street, sending tendrils of electricity arcing onto nearly every conductive surface it passed, causing several antiquated pole-mounted transformers to explode and setting off myriad car alarms. With a splash, the bolt smashed into the Sunder's torso, reducing the outermost layer of armor to a scorched mess of molten slag. The ninety-ton OmniMech parried left, raising its EMP-overloaded, twitching autocannon arm in an ungainly attempt to draw a bead on my BattleMech's center of mass. Instinctively, I alpha-struck at the limb, obliterating the sum total of all of the delicate actuators and weapons mounts below the elbow with a barrage of twenty-four Streak SRM-6 missiles and quadruple medium laser beams. As my heat indicators soared off the charts, filling the spacious cockpit with near-suffocating, superheated air, the Sunder's savaged autocannon fell to the ground, a plume of fire and smoke billowing from the twisted remains of the lower arm mount.
"Warning: Heat level critical. Shutdown sequence initiated," the King Crab's onboard computer complained, as lights across my control panel flickered off. Quickly, I overrode the automated sequence, and flushed a tremendous amount of coolant, hoping that the measure would be sufficient. Fortune favored me, as the heat levels began to reluctantly drop back into the green, and I pushed toward the now-retreating Sunder. The fleeing OmniMech blindly fired a series of SRM-4s, the majority of which corkscrewed into the urban sprawl surrounding us, touching off a number of small fires.
"Anvil-2 to Control - dispatch fire and rescue units to my location - we have a number of localized fires breaking out - with possible injuries."
"Copy that, Anvil-2...notifying local authorities."
As I concluded my radio transmission, the Sunder ducked behind a large cluster of industrial towers, disappearing from my field of view. I throttled forward, following the wounded 'Mech as quickly as my King Crab would carry me. Turning down a paralleling side street, I closed with the OmniMech, readying my SRM suite to deliver the finishing blow. Although the indirect-fire system had given an impressive show of its abilities against the Behemoth tank, I was wary of using it in such a confined urban environment where collateral damage was a possibility. As I drew close to the Sunder, I slowed my BattleMech to a near-crawl, and twisted its torso almost nintey degrees to starboard. The hostile Omni was crouched behind a large munitions plant to my right - and I wasn't about to allow it to get the jump on me before I had time to fire off a shot.
Unfortunately, getting the jump on me was exactly what the Sunder did. As the OmniMech came into view once more, it fired a barrage of short-range missiles into the heart of the massive facility, sending up an apocalyptic pillar of flame. Before I could even shove my King Crab into a hard reverse, the plant detonated, sending forth an explosion of such magnitude that my BattleMech was thrown skyward, tumbling head-over-heels as it was engulfed in flame...
A thunderous explosion roared through the streets of Gellen's Heights, followed seconds later by an earth-shattering shockwave, as a mushroom-shaped fireball of monsterous proportions rose above the city skyline, blotting out the sun as it reached toward the heavens. My OmniMech was battered by flying debris, and I fought to hold the controls steady as buildings were torn apart around me.
"Control! I screamed, my voice barely audible above the roar of the cataclysm, "What in the hell is going on?"
An extended pause preceeded the response of my controller.
"We're reviewing the BattleROMs now, Anvil-1. It looks like the Sunder that Anvil-2 was engaged with decided to end it all, and fired an SRM volley into the CoreTek munitions plant. I'm not sure what all they had stored there, but the plant went up extremely fast. We're getting reports indicating the entire block was wiped out."
My heart rate skyrocketed.
"What is Anvil-2's status?"
There came no reply.
"Damnit, Control - answer me! What is Anvil-2's status?"
"Anvil-1 - Anvil-2 didn't make it out. We're receiving no signals from his BattleMech, and his lifesigns are flat. SAR is en route - but you should know, there was no ejection."
"Give me a Nav point, Control! Now!"
Slowly and painfully, the world began to come into focus as consciousness returned to my battered body. I glanced around the shattered shell that was once the nerve center of my Raven, as I tried to resolve the fact that I was still, somehow, alive.
I was enshrouded in near-total darkness, save for several rays of golden, shimmering light which filtered hautingly through ruptures in the otherwise-polarized cockpit glass. For several moments, I lay, dazed, watching the lights dance and waver before reaching for my comm headset. Gingerly placing it atop my head, I keyed open the channel.
"Falcon to Control...respond, please"
A blast of static met my ears.
"Falcon to Control. Respond."
"...-con...is Contr...-oosting power to the trans...how do you copy?"
I quickly keyed my mic.
"Much better, Control. Status report."
"The munitions plant at Lexington and 54th detonated a few minutes ago courtesy of the Sunder that Alpha-2 was engaged with. The blast took out both 'Mechs, as well as about four city blocks. We've lost contact with Alpha-2 and are presuming K.I.A. at this time. We have search and rescue en route, but there wasn't much left standing after that explosion. The only reason you survived was because of the bunker your Raven was behind when the blast hit."
I nodded, though there was no one around to see it.
"What's my status?"
"You're in pretty bad shape, Major. Your Raven was hit by quite a bit of flying debris after the bunker gave way - both its legs were broken by a wayward - "
"Yes, I remember that."
"...what you likely don't remember, Falcon, is that your onboard computer shut the reactor down when the explosion's heat wave registered. That's the only reason you're here to have this conversation. And now, the bad news: Your 'Mech - or rather, what's left of it - is on fire. You need to get out quickly. I've programmed a Nav point into your eyepiece that will get you out of the hot zone. Once you've reached the Nav, a friendly convoy will pick you up. Pretty straightforward."
As simple as that...
I stood amongst the degrees of death that floated and passed before me, shaken and perplexed as to whether or not it was myself passing away before my very own eyes. Although realisation proved evidence enough that I was still alive, it was very shocking to my system. The recently killed enemy lay splayed in his suit of armour. Blood poured from it’s wounds and flooded the gutters of Gellen, signing a death contract with the devil. Its scarlet lettering was visible only to me as I gazed into its eternal spiral.
“What a specialty death is…” I murmured, stuck in this deeply hypnotic trance. Like lions lashing out onto a heard of pray, the blood trickled and attacked the flowing rain water that was still remaining from the storm. It pounced on it’s prayed and ravished it; polluting it’s existence. The blood’s transactions were hypnotic, even mesmerising to my glazed eyes.
War and battling forged around me as I stood silent, perplexed by the complexity of life and death…
(Sorry the post is short, I was up drinking and chatting with my parents… )
After watching the "squad" (if you will) of 'mechs move towards a group of hostiles, the 3 of us stared around blankly at the damaged buildings, cars stalled, and still quite a bit of rioting of in the next intersection. We decided it would be best to seek Red-3.
We arrived at his body, which was half-curbed.
"Red-3! Wake up! Red-3!"
"It's useless. His vitals are mashed potatoes now. The best you'll get from him is some salvage." said a man approaching us and the body.
"... and who the hell are you supposed to..."
There was huge rumble, and then what appeared to be an earthquake. Loose shit fell from buildings, and rioteers were crushed by huge peices of metal and glass. The 4 of us seeked shelter in the first place the incident started: the bank plaza.
"RED TWO! MOVE YOUR TEAM OUT MOVE OUT NOW! I'm setting up a nav point. Move NOW!"
"Red team, we have to move to nav point delta immediatly. ON THE DOUBLE, YOU BASTARDS!"
We all started dashing, and the mysterious man piped up.
"I'm coming with you. Where are we going?"
"Don't ask questions, dammit!"
"Come on, you bastards!"Hell enveloped all around me after I stood back up, taking shots at all the tanks around. I knew the [i]King Crab had its hands full, and I didn't want to piss it off. Just like in King Crab fishing back at home.
The Sunder seemed to have seeked shelter behind...
All hell broke loose. These was a massive explosion, and at least a cubic acre of smoke rose into the sky. Then, flames burst from all sides of the facility. Another explosion. This time, the burn flew out all sides of the facility. I had to run.
I decided to hold my ground, half a block away.Flames can't go more than 100 feet, right?
My 'mech was picked up and throw like a grain of sand in a small child's hand. The moving scorch threw my cockpi-first into a local skyscaper. I crashed through layers of cement and steel, and landed in what used to be a hotel lobby. All that remained now was a few dead visitors, broken chairs, pissed off behind-the-countermen, and screaming visitors. I hastily clicked open the cockpit. It was jammed. I gambled to use the eject seat. Jammed. I was now stuck in a lobby in which I had gashed my way through 4 inches of metal and concrete. Smoke entered my entry hole, and people who remained in the room began choking. I could not do anything now.
"I did initiate the attack on the capital. In about 20 minutes, not even Crayven Corporation will be able to stop us!"
"Very well. You may like this.
When that Sunder exploded the munitions plant, Wedge was around. He and his 'mech were pushed into a hotel, where he is immoble. This is our chance."
"The Sheratan Militia, the Crayven Corporation, the Legionnaires, and all of House Davion will see what happens when you cause war with House Liao!"
Military Depot 187
Outskirts of Gellen's Heights, Sheratan
May 24, 3029
"All right, cadre, come to order." The crisp voice of Major Walker of the Tikonov Republican Guards echoed across the briefing hall, reducing the lively chatter of the gathered recruits to soft murmurs, then whispers, and finally, silence.
"Over the last nine weeks, we've taught you the military pinciples of the Tikonov Free Republic. We've given you key doctrine training from the Sarna Martial Academy; we've shown you the strategies of the masters from the Capellan Confederation Armed Forces, and we've transformed you from a loosely-organized planetary militia into a cohesive fighting force. You've almost earned the right to call yourselves Sheratan Knights. Almost."
"You're probably wondering why, two days before graduation, you're sitting in this run-down, derelict depot. Well, before we can certify you, there's one last exercise that all cadets must complete. An absolute non-negotiable task that will convince us that you've got your head screwed on right and know how to apply everything we've taught you. It's a live-fire exercise called Operation Crucible. Somebody hit the lights, please."
The hall's overhead illumination dimmed. Simultaneously, an overhead projector chattered to life and projected a mission overview behind the hall's lectern, complete with a computer-generated rendering of the depot showing force compositions and positions.
"I know we've kept you all on a very short leash as we've been getting you acclimated to being a lean, mean, fighting force. Today, we're going to take the safeties off and let you do all the driving.
"This exercise will be about more than just vaporizing targets. You will be charged with two objectives - defense and annexation. We're going to split you into two lances - Anvil Lance and Hammer Lance - and we'll see how well you can coordinate between each other.
"Your primary objective will be to reach and defend Camp Athena, an outpost two kilometers due East of your deployment zone. There are four structures within the camp, and at least two of the four must survive. While we're being generous with that figure, I expect you to do better than a 50% attrition rate.
"Your secondary objective will be to push across the engagement theater and capture Camp Pallas, a base of equal size to Camp Athena, which will be held by the OpFor. To capture the base, you'll need to neutralize all of its defenders and keep one of your units within its perimeter for at least four consecutive rounds of combat."
"Anvil and Hammer lances will both be comprised of a mixture of heavy, medium, and light BattleMechs. We want to provide you with a variety of platforms while not going overboard on the firepower. Don't worry - I'm sure that each of you will get to do a turn in an assault 'Mech in the future.
"The OpFor will be two combined-arms lances of BattleMechs and conventional tanks. They have similar orders to yours - to hold their own outpost while attempting to destroy yours. To make things a little more interesting and unpredictable, we've decided to hire out the command of each defending lance to a separate mercenary company. Warrant Officer Alyssa Chase, from Charles Maxwell's Aegis Division will command the OpFor's Alpha Lance, while Bravo Lance will be managed by Lieutenant Edgar Galloway from Jack Whitley's Black Phalanx Company.
"Now, before you get worked up about blowing up actual people in a training exercise - don't worry. We've brought in some local electronics wizards to rig improvised remote control technology into the OpFor units. While they will most certainly pose a threat to you, you may feel free to dispatch them without worry."
"Victory will be determined when one side or the other loses their base - through destruction or capture - or when one side's fighting force is completely defeated. Any questions? No? Excellent. Time to earn your stripes. We'll see you on the range shortly."
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