Posted 24 August 2012 - 08:20 AM
(here's the original 1st chapter of the story; I was going to post it sooner, but honestly forgot to do so. sorry.)
pt. 1 - Phantom Mech Skill.
(note: happens before the chapter in the OP)
I scanned the area as I hit my jump jets. Seems the Jaguars are getting tired of us retaking their planets, which is why the commander on this particular rock decided he was just going to go throw at us whatever he had. In that vein, the star of Daishi ? each one carrying a point of Elementals ? was a good choice to send against us, as mechs that heavy, while slow, had more than enough firepower to destroy some of our dropships, let alone the forces guarding them.
My orders had been simple: take a mixed company of light mechs out and deal with this sector. Our primary mission was to run interference so that the main assault force could worry about hitting the hard targets. As a secondary, we had free reign to hit whatever targets of opportunity we came across. Thing is, even with me arranging things so that my Shadow Hawk had full jump, I was still slower than Sergeant Hall's Valk or the mix of Stingers, Wasps, and Jenners (yes, I had a lance of Kuritan soldiers put under me; at this point, anyone who was an officer was given a command, period). They left me some time back to hammer on whatever they could come across, and from the radio reports they were doing a bang-up job of nuking the ground vehicles, VTOLs, and Elementals that were racing towards the landing site. There were only supposed to be second-line forces in this area, and so it made sense that they'd encounter such targets.
One of the few perks of having been raised in a family-owned Solaris stable was that I got to muster in with my mech ? a 5-series Shadow Hawk that I'd already customized. Although that Ultra 5 made sense in the arenas, where speed was of the essence and ammo was a concern, the Shad was always meant to be a commando. By swapping the 5 for a PPC, I was able to add a second medium laser, bring the machine to full jump, and still cram another heat sink in there. Good thing, too; my jumping ability was probably going to be the only thing keeping me alive.
I set down on a small rise and sighted the lead mech in the star. Although it was more of a wild shot than anything else, I let loose with my LRM 5. I anticipated that the missiles would, at best, knock the Elementals loose; as slow as the Daishi were, Elementals on foot were even slower. Instead, I noted all five missiles plowing into the cockpit area and blowing it out. The pilot obviously dead, the mech pitched forward and hit the ground. One of the Elementals riding on the torso didn't react in enough time and so wound up getting crushed beneath the machine as it came down. Don't know about anyone else, but a two-for-one deal works for me.
Of course, that made the other guys mad. I felt a handful of LRMs pocking the armor on my mech as I hit the jets again, meaning that either the pilots are bad shots or my reaction speed is slightly faster than theirs is. Although a little higher up on the rise, I was now in a clump of trees. I bracketed the next guy in the line-up and let loose with my 5 again. This time, however, the missiles did a "follow-the-leader" number on one of the Elementals, knocking it off. The pilot was most likely alive and the suit probably still operational, but it was a safe bet that someone was now having a particularly bad day.
The trees took most of the missiles this time, but a few still popped my armor. I hit the jets again in the hopes of finding another spot to hide. Instead, I spotted a mixed star of fast-movers led by a Puma attempting to dart by, most likely hoping to get past me while the bigger machines served as a distraction. That wasn't going to happen. I lit up the nearest member of the star, a Koshi, and popped off my 5 yet again. This technically meant that I was firing on a second target while still officially engaged with a first one, but given that the other four Daishi had already been trying to bring me down I figured that the Clanners had already decided to forego their usual rules of battle. The missiles popped the mech in the side of the torso, obviously startling the pilot due to the way the mech stumbled. They now knew that if I had a say in things I wasn't going to let them get by in one piece.
The entire star, which I noted also had Elementals, apparently figured that out and so changed course to come after me as well. The Koshi pilot, apparently seeking revenge, rushed forward? right into PPC range. The azure blast left a smoking hole where the head should have been, while my LRMs flew right past the machine and into the Puma's arm.
I hit the jets again, and was sent airborne in just enough time to avoid the worst of the retaliatory fire. But based on my display, I'd obviously been sandpapered. What's more, the surviving Elementals were now attempting to dismount, although their purpose in doing so was anyone's guess.
A normal man might be tempted to presume that the Elementals were going to cut and run, and so be distracted by the prospect of cutting them down. In doing so, the other mechs would have the ability to pummel them. Not me.
I saw my opportunity when a Dasher from the interceptor star foolishly engaged its MASC in an effort to flank me. I pivoted in the air and sighted my PPC against its rear armor, then watched as the weapon not only vaporized the machine's rear armor but also detonated its reactor; the mech and its Elementals went up in a mushroom cloud. I spun again and landed hard, letting loose my 5 against one of the Daishi to remind them that I wasn't ignoring them. It was almost pathetic the way the missiles exploded harmlessly against the beast's thick armor.
I got a series of radio reports in from Hall as the battle progressed. His team had backtracked the path the Clan forces had taken, and in doing so found a rather target-rich environment. They started by over-running a listening post, and then followed it up by over-running a firebase that the listening post was probably supporting. And why would there be a firebase in the region? It appeared to have been guarding the airbase where the VTOLs were launching from.
The way the Clan pilots reacted indicated that they'd just received similar news. Not only had I blocked them from hitting the dropships, I'd pulled them out of place so that they couldn?t prevent the destruction of their own facilities. It was now personal.
My heat sensors screamed at me as I hit the jets again and fired off all my weapons in order. Some of the Elementals were now closing on me, and so they were now just as much a threat as their bigger brothers. Two Elementals took a medium laser apiece, momentarily staggering the pilots. A third that was trying to go airborne caught a pair of SRMs square in the torso, throwing it back down against the ground. And to follow it up, I got the Puma with both my PPC *and* my 5; given all three hits, the machine's entire right side was now thin on armor.
Unfortunately, though, not only were the Elementals beginning to close, the mechs were slowly finding my range. Just as I was beginning to take chunks out of their armor, they were now taking chunks out of mine. If I was going to get out of here alive, I needed to step things up. I was half tempted to call Hall back when he called me: they'd found where a dropship we'd shot down during the initial landing had crashed, and they were now in the process of picking off the defenders, which included a star of second-line mechs. I was officially on my own now, as if Hall's team tried to pull back they'd just become targets for the mechs in question; I couldn't ask them to return until after the star was down.
I did an alpha strike on a Dragonfly that got too close to me. While its anti-missile system got my LRMs, everything else still got through. The mech's left arm exploded as my PPC / medium laser combination hit the SRM ammo in its arm, while my other medium laser and my SRMs all hit the left torso. The force of the explosion spun the mech around, sending it tumbling down the rise as the pilot failed to maintain his balance; it soon exploded in the same kind of fireball that devoured the Dasher. That just left the Puma and a Fenris.
I hit the jets to back off in an effort to get some distance and bleed some of the excess heat I'd built up. As I did so, a series of reports started coming in from different sources. The Clanners had opted to detonate the drive on the dropship rather than let Hall's team capture it; they were all out of the blast range, but everyone was shaken. The main assault force was rolling over its objectives with such ease that some of the commanders were now wondering where the rest of the Clan forces were (gee; I wonder where?). Then word came in that the company covering the sector to the north of me ? a sector whose defense was given to a certain military intelligence officer I happened to be engaged to - was under fire from a heavy assault trinary, one that was likewise supported by Elementals. Based on the markings, the trinary appeared to be one of the units that the main assault force had missed. I hastily barked an order for Hall to reinforce that sector, and that I'd do what I could to hold mine; I?d be over once I got things taken care of.
I killed the comm just as the Clanners found my range. It took my eyes a half second to adjust after the blast, but when they did I saw that there was effectively nothing left of my view screen or instruments. I recall having trouble seeing out of my left eye, but don't recall actually feeling any pain from it; I guess between the shock and the adrenaline I was pretty well numb. But I still had a mission to do.
The Fenrir pilot made the mistake of trying to charge me directly once I'd landed. I did an alpha on that one as well, coring out the center torso. Three mechs; three engines gone critical. I wasn't doing all that well in regards to actually acquiring any salvage, but a kill was a kill.
I kept moving, vaguely aware of a report from Hall indicating that they'd blundered into some more of the "missing" Clanners, who had apparently diverted in an effort to stop them from running riot through the sector; he would do his best to pin them in place so that they couldn't go after anyone else. I also vaguely recall General Sommersby giving the order for some of the main assault force to fall back and lend a hand since we were officially hitting their targets for them. Joy.
I recall being shot at repeatedly, but I don't recall anyone actually hitting me. Instead, I gave the Puma a face full of particles while using my medium lasers to sting two more Elementals; I would have laughed at seeing the Puma collapse on top of and crush a third Elemental, but at the moment nothing seemed particularly funny. After all, I still had four Daishi and an unknown number of Elementals to still deal with.
Whoever was now in charge of the Daishi apparently had a head on his shoulders, as the four mechs started providing cover fire while the Elementals all massed on me. Under normal circumstances it would be a smart move, but these weren't normal. Instead, I hit the jets right as their weapons would have connected; the Elementals who were moving into the space where I had just been took the hits instead. I added to their misery by firing off my PPC and LRM at them, vaporizing one Elemental and stunning a few others.
Slowly growing concerned about ammo consumption, I decided on a new course of action. Rather than move around, I effectively dropped right back down not far from where I had been, crushing several Elementals in the process. As I blindly fired my lasers off at the ground, I snapped off a quick shot with my PPC before jumping again; the second Daishi from the left stumbled and dropped, its cockpit also smoking.
I'm not quite sure how I did it, but I somehow succeeded in landing on top of the left-most Daishi in the ranks. I pivoted around and lobbed off a few shots with my PPC, bringing down several confused Elementals. One of the other Daishi decided to try and shoot me off, but once again I was entirely too quick with my jets; instead of hitting me, all the pilot did was slag his buddy. I thanked the pilot with a PPC to the cockpit before landing on another batch of Elementals, who had conveniently formed up to charge the rise in response to my actions. I fired my lasers yet again as I did so, then ducked down to avoid a volley from the last Daishi. I rose, then lunged at the machine.
The pilot obviously didn't expect me to try and close after spending so much time dodging, and so his aim was completely wide of me. I did an alpha strike into the machine, catching it square in the center torso. The pilot flinched as a ton and a half of armor was promptly removed from his mech, giving me precious time to close and fire off one final volley with my lasers, PPC, and SRM. Although well within the minimum range for my PPC, the weapon still somehow managed to work its way into the machine's core. I saw an all-too-familiar explosion telling me that I'd succeeded in taking out the gyro, very quickly followed up by the machine going down and sliding to the bottom of the rise.
As the mech went down, I scanned the sector. No one else was moving. The area was clear.
I was about to leave when the hatch on the last Daishi popped open. I saw the pilot climb out, stunned but obviously aware enough to recognize his defeat. I don't know why, but I felt compelled to pick him up and take a look at him. Once he was level with my cockpit, he nodded and climbed inside. I wouldn't realize it until much later, but after slapping some bandages on his own forehead he did his best to patch me up while we darted towards the northern unit.
At this point, my comms must have started to fail due to the damage, as all I was getting was a series of increasingly broken messages. Something from the northern sector indicating casualties. Something from Hall about recovering everyone and pulling back. Something from the relief unit about trying their hardest to arrive in time. Something about General Sommersby personally taking the field with the older-model Zeus he'd been loaned after his last mech got shot up. Sommersby might have been a good man, but he had an unfortunate tendency to get his mechs knee-capped or otherwise taken out from beneath him.
I made it towards the northern sector with all due speed, literally stepping on a team of Elementals that had apparently been left as a screen against reinforcements; either they didn't see me or they weren't the brightest batch the Clanners had. I don?t know how long I was running; the radio reports began to blur in together. Sommersby trading shots with some VTOLs that had gotten past the screen. Hall's team linking up with the relief element and finishing off the Clanners. The screen beginning to buckle.
When I arrived, I saw four battered mechs attempting to hold their ground, a certain Chameleon not being among them. Their opposition, against which they were quickly losing, was a star's worth of bruisers that were in decidedly better shape. I proceeded to make my presence known by pinging a Thor with my LRMs. From the way all nine mechs reacted and the absolute terror in the voices on the comm, it was as if none of them had picked me up on their sensors even though I should have been as clear as day. Not wanting to waste the opportunity, I hit my jets, landed on the shoulders of the Thor, fired my lasers off at the machine's head, and leapt off before the now-headless machine toppled over.
?bringing me face-to-face with a Mad Cat, whose massive cockpit was promptly obliterated by my PPC. As the machine went down, I saw a wrecked Chameleon on the ground; I would later learn that at some point it got tag-teamed just like I did. I apparently focused on the wrecked machine just long enough for the surviving Clan pilots to realize that it meant something to me, as when I pivoted around to fight they responded by doing perhaps the most unClanlike thing they could: surrendering.
I surveyed the surviving defenders, turning my head to do so. One of the four pilots freaked out upon seeing me, turned his mech around, and broke into a run, all the while screaming something about how I must be a ghost; reportedly, he saw daylight through my mech's head.
I walked towards the stable, Kanz tagging along behind me. I'd long since told him that he was free to do as he pleased, but apparently it pleased him to follow me around and see what I would do next. Fortunately, General Sommersby had decided to retire to Solaris, and so nobody thought twice about the three mechs we were hauling with us; the presumption was that Kanz and I were his honor guard, and so nobody questioned us.
Officially, I was a hero, having taken down four stars' worth of Clan machines by myself. And while a few of the social generals wanted to grouse about my having sent Hall off with the others, the truth of the matter was that not only did they intercept several waves of conventional Clan vehicles they also forced at least one element of Clan warriors to have to respond to them rather than attempt to flank the main assault group. I hear that Hall was given a commission and a company of his own now; supposedly, it was only logical since, between deaths, discharges, and retirements, the officer corps was a little thin.
But in all honesty, I didn't quite feel like one. From what I'd been told, in my absence my old man apparently stepped on the wrong toes. Influence and money counted entirely too much among the higher-ups in the Lyran Alliance than it should, and so my folks were given a "better opportunity" elsewhere in the form of my dad being made the official governor over a colony on one of the planet's moons. That left me in charge of the stable, a stable that had been shaken down and shattered in the interim in the hopes of depriving my dad and I of what we might still have left. But they didn't get everything. We still had the building, we still had the mountain it was built into, and there was still a small but loyal core of pilots who were with us all the way.
I watched as my Shadow Hawk, repaired at the government's expense, was unloaded off of its transport; I'd already made it a point to purge the system in case the techs had been ordered to put something in the software, and now that I was here I was going to have my own guys do the same. Next to it the other vehicles offloaded a Marauder IIC and a Locust IIC, mechs that I'd "procured" so that Kanz could have a ride; we each obtained one in the hopes of at least one of us getting away, but we both managed to pull it off.
Either way, though, all of us in the stable now had a bit of a fight on our hands. We needed to get our feet back under us and win some matches, while at the same time making sure that the folks who got to my dad didn't get to the rest of us. It was going to be a bit of a task to pull off, but it was something that we could definitely manage.
And they wondered why we eventually turned into the planet's chief Heimdall cell?
Lexicon: still up and running!
"At my last intern briefing, Craig was clearly tired. His message had changed to, "Stay out of trouble, period." It seemed that, as director of security, Livingstone was growing old fast. If he didn't watch out, he'd become one of us - a 'Mormon' or a 'straight,' which is what Clinton staffers called FBI agents, the Secret Service, and former Bush employees."
Aldrich, Gary. Unlimited Access
Washington D.C.: Regency, 1996. Pg 38
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