Author Topic: Over the Event Horizon and Far Away  (Read 419 times)

Challenger

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Over the Event Horizon and Far Away
« on: 18 June 2017, 14:31:15 »
Over the Event Horizon and Far Away

Trooper David Wessex joined a mercenary outfit to make his fortune and see the universe. Hunting pirates on a backwater world on the border of the Periphery had not been part of the original plan, but then a mercenary cannot be too choosy about the work they do. However, all is not quite as it seems as it turns out that not all pirates are made equally and as it happens neither are mercenaries.

_______________________________________________________________________________________________
Prologue
11th February 3061

Officially speaking the room in which Lieutenant General Percival and nine of his peers sat did not exist, nor did the meeting officially take place and even if it did, the men and women in the room held only ceremonial titles. None the less, there was in fact a meeting going on in the room that didn’t exist, discussing events that could be neither confirmed nor denied.

Percival feigned disinterest in Mr Garland, Honorary Vice President of the Capellan March Board of Trade, as he outlined the Ministry of Information, Intelligence, and Operations’ current priorities and ongoing operations. Hidden behind his veil of disinterest, Percival watched each of the assembled group carefully. With the de facto breakup of the Federated Commonwealth well underway it was no longer clear who in the room was merely a rival and who was a potential traitor.

“Percival, this pirate threat to the worlds on the periphery. I’m reliably informed your people have something in hand?”

“Yes.” Percival replied smoothly. Officially he was a Honorary Colonel in the Syrtis Fusiliers, in reality, a member of the Department of Military Intelligence 7’s Capellan Branch.  “It is MI’s opinion that allowing these raids to continue unchecked exposes our forces weakness in the area and will encourage our enemies to make incursions. As such we have dispatched a mercenary company to the region with orders to resolve the situation post haste.”

“So I saw.” Mrs Welzak said. She was another member of MIIO who’s official title bore no resemblance to her actual role. “I also saw that the mercenaries will be reporting directly to Taygeta HQ rather than a local command.  That is a lot of independence to give a very green commander. I understand this is his first mission in command, are you sure he’s the right man for a potentially delicate operation?”

Percival didn’t show his annoyance at being questioned, nor did he react to the inadvertent admission that there was more going on than the actions of an over ambitious pirate. To Percival it set off alarm bell, it suggested that someone was involved in something they most definitely should not be.

“We have other irons in the fire if they are required,” he replied neutrally. “But, I don’t believe they will be required. Major Shadowsword is a veteran of the Clan Invasion, a few pirates shouldn’t be beyond his capabilities.” Percival turned to look at Mr Garland. “If MIIO can narrow down the list of likely next targets, that would expedite maters.”
 
“I will ensure all relevant intelligence is sent to your aide.” Mr Garland replied. “If there is nothing else I’d like to move onto…”

Percival settled back into his seat as Mr Garland continued to talk. Well horned instincts told him that something was afoot. It was too early to say if it was criminal activity or actually treason. But, someone was playing a game in his area that he was unaware of and that was unacceptable. He smiled internally, Nicholas Shadowsword was one of those annoyingly inquisitive officers, the ideal type to ‘accidentally’ uncover secrets he didn’t know he was looking for.

Challenger

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Re: Over the Event Horizon and Far Away
« Reply #1 on: 18 June 2017, 14:38:31 »
Chapter One

The sun shone down on Shadowsword’s Rangers’ campsite as the troopers, technicians and mechwarriors stretched their legs and enjoyed the crisp spring air of the planet Midale, a welcome relief after spending over a month travelling from the core of the Inner Sphere to the edge of the Periphery. Trooper David Wessex sat cross legged on his poncho as he assembled his newly issued webbing.

“Peter, how’s this look.”

Lance Corporal Peter Leeson looked up from the laser rifle he was clearing and chuckled.

“No, just no,” he said with an amused smile as he started to disassemble David’s webbing. “You don’t need half of this,” he continued in an instructional tone. He handed back the decimated webbing. “Try this, feel how much lighter it is.”

David frowned as he took his webbing back. “Light sure, but what about the rest of my kit?”

“We’re mechanised infantry, if you don’t need it in a firefight, it goes in the APC.” Peter instructed.

“But.” David started to protest.

“No. Repeat after me, it goes in the APC.” Peter interrupted.

David bristled for a moment before complying. “It goes in the APC.”

“And again, on your own.” Peter said straight-faced.

David laughed. “It does in the APC.”

“Damn right.” Peter said with a grin. “Hey, it’s the same as my rig. It got me through Operation Bulldog, it will get you through this pirate hunting we’re doing. Remember we hunt mechs, which means we have to move quick and you can’t move quick if your carrying too much weight.”

“Ok.” David conceded the argument. “Thank you.”

“No problem.” Peter said. “It is my job after all.”

The whistle of the camp kettle boiling interrupted them.

“Cassy, you getting that?” Peter asked.

Trooper Cassy Williams put down the sock he was darning. “What did you last servant die of lance?” he complained wearily.

“Not getting the lance corporal his tea quickly enough.” Trooper Jian Smith commented dryly as he adjusted the sights on the section machine gun.

“It just because you make the best tea in the platoon Cassy.” Peter added with a badly concealed smile.

“Yer, yer.” Cassy grumbled as he started pouring the boiling water into the waiting mugs. “What would you three do without me I don’t know.”

David thought about it for a moment. “We’d probably die of thirst.”

“Cheeky young pup!” Cassy chuckled as he handed David his mug, behind him Peter was laughing loudly while Jian had returned to his adjustments.

“Thanks.” David replied as he took the mug. He made to continue and then stopped. “Look sharp, boss is here.”

Major Nicholas ‘Nick’ Shadowsword was walking towards their tent. Short with closely cropped hair, he was wearing his dress uniform with ceremonial sword. Besides him walked his intelligence officer Captain Max Rivers, dressed noticeably less conspicuously. As they approached a flash of recognition passed over Nick’s face.

“Peter isn’t it?”

“Yes Sir.” Peter replied, surprised and pleased to be recognised.

“I thought I remembered you, you dropped with us at Port Arthur. That was bastard of a drop.” Nick said.

“Aye, but we won in the end.” Peter replied with pride.

“That we did.” Nick agreed with a smile. “And we will again if we need to.”

“Is there something we can help you with sir?” Peter asked, unsure of why the unit CO seemed to want to indulge in old war stories.

“Yes, there is.” Nick replied. “I’m going to meet with the Planetary Governor and apparently,” he glanced over at Max, who kept a tight poker face, “I need an honour guard. Captain Zhao volunteered your fireteam. Get your stuff together, I don’t want to be late.”

“Roger sir.” Peter said as he climbed to his feet and slung his rifle. “David, go tell Anne to bring the APC round.”

“On it.” David replied as he took off towards the vehicle park.

Do you want us in our best uniforms?” Peter asked. “Or will this do?”

Nick thought for a moment and then swapped an amused grin with Max.

“No, I think this works.” Nick replied. “I think the look we want is dangerous mercenaries.”

Peter grinned. “I think we can do that sir.”

Challenger

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Re: Over the Event Horizon and Far Away
« Reply #2 on: 18 June 2017, 15:00:14 »
Chapter 2

“This is boring.” David complained as he shuffled his feet to keep the circulation flowing. For the last two hours they had been stood outside the grand wooden mansion that the Planetary Governor called home.
   
“What were you expecting when you quit the Talcott Militia and joined a mercenary outfit, endless battles and excitement?” Peter asked. He and David were stood guarding the mansion’s front door while Cassy and Jian patrolled the grounds. They had been expecting to hand over to the Governor’s guards, except he didn’t appear to have any.

“Yes, kind of.” David replied forlornly. “Definitely didn’t want to stand guard on buildings anymore.”

Peter shook his head softy. “Doesn’t matter what outfit you’re in, this is what you will spend most of your time doing. Just be glad the sun is out and we’re not in some half flooded slit trench somewhere,” he replied sagely.

“So, count my blessing it could be worse?” David asked.

“That’s the spirit!” Peter exclaimed with a laugh. “Don’t worry, you’ll see action, this isn’t a quiet unit.”

“Is that why you joined?” David asked.

“In a way, yes.” Peter replied. “When I was a much younger man I’d got myself into some serious debit. Joining a mercenary company offered a better chance to campaign off world and make some proper money doing so. Worked to, cleared my debits with some to spare by the time the Commandos disbanded after Operation Bulldog.”

“So, why did you come back?” David asked. “If you had already made the money you needed?”

Peter laughed loudly. “Because I’d spent it all! Had barely a penny to my name or any assets worth mentioning beyond my rifle and helmet. Which reminds me. Captain Rivers runs a saving scheme, he’s an honest man, you should join it.”

“Why do I want to do that?” David replied.

“Don’t argue, just do. You might as well learn from my mistakes.” Peter said, before frowning and gazing out into the distance for a bit. “There was another reason I came back,” he continued softly. “I missed it. Missed the comradery, the challenge, the thrill. So, when I heard Major Shadowsword was reforming the unit under a new name, well it seemed like a good idea at the time.”

“Fair enough.” David nodded. “Still, don’t you think this place is a bit weird?” he asked, changing the subject.

“What do you mean?” Peter asked.

“Well, look at this place, this is the capital, but the roads are a mixture of cobbles and gravel, most of the buildings are wood and I’ve hardly seen a motor vehicle since we got here.” David said. “This place looks like something out of a historical holovid rather than a real place.”

“Good observations.” Max stepped out from the entrance and lit a cigarette. “Sorry, either of you smoke?” Both Peter and David shook their heads. “No? Well I’ll admit I never used to. Anyway, your quite right something is off, several things actually.”

He took a long drag before continuing.

“This world was terraformed from a lifeless rock back in the golden years of the Star League. It allowed easy extraction of the precious metals found here, but that also means there’s no coal or oil reserves to be found. All fuel had to be imported and when the Succession Wars killed off all the trade routes out here the planet’s economy tanked. Fast forward 200 years and all you’ve got left is a fundamentally agricultural society guarded by a handful of rusting battlemechs that mostly predate the Reunification War. Which begs the question of why we are here.”

“Sir?” Peter asked uncomfortably.

Max stopped and looked around, suddenly realising he had said more than he intended in front of the troops. “Why are we here?” he asked.

“Hunting pirate sir.” Peter replied straightforwardly.

“Aye, pirates who attack worlds with nothing of value, who exclusively target militia units and never leave witnesses behind.” Max added, figuring that he might as well start a factual rumour rather than let his indiscretion spawn false ones. “That strikes me as unusual, doesn’t it you lance corporal?”

“Wouldn’t rightly know sir.” Peter replied neutrally.

“Don’t play dumb lance.” Max replied annoyed. “This world is adamant they are going to be attacked next, but they can’t explain why they think that. I would say that is suspicious.”

“I would say that is suspicious.” Peter agreed.

“Have the locals been raiding across the border, you know winding up their neighbours?” David asked.

“Same question I asked.” Max replied. “They say not. I’m not sure I believe them. Keep your eyes peeled both of you and tell the rest to do likewise. I don’t like it and I’m rarely wrong when I don’t like it.”

“We’ll keep an eye out.” Peter said. “You can count on us.”

“Didn’t doubt.” Max replied as he stubbed out his cigarette.

“Ah so this is where you snuck off to.” Nick said as he slipped through the mansion’s doorway.

“You finally got fed up of our hosts as well?” Max asked.

“Not at all.” Nick replied. “I have stepped out momentarily to check on my honour guard. Now in about 30 seconds you are going to inform me of some urgent business back at camp that requires my immediate attention.” He gave Max a meaningful look.

Max smiled. “Comms message from Captain Howard sir, your needed back at camp urgently,” he said with a completely straight face.

“Thank you, Captain, if you would make the apologies for me we must be off.” Nick replied. “Peter get your troops in we’re leaving.”

“Roger sir.” Peter replied as he activated his headset comm, recalling Cassy and Jian and called for Anne to bring the APC round to the front.

10 minutes later they had cleared the town and were driving through the open countryside towards the camp. The sunken lane was barely wide enough for the APC and Anne was having to keep the speed down to avoid damaging the road surface any more than was necessary. Suddenly the APC slammed to a halt, throwing the occupants around in their restraints.

“Driver, what is going on?” Max demanded.

“There’s someone in the middle of the road sir.” Anne replied. “I think he’s trying to wave us down.”

“Let me see.” Nick said as he activated the mechanism that lowered the rear ramp.

“Form a perimeter now.” Peter gave the order with urgency as he realised his commanding officer wasn’t going to wait for them to secure the ground first. Rapidly they disembarked and formed a loose perimeter around the APC. 300m ahead of them a lone male figure dressed only in rags had stopped waving his arms when the APC stopped and had started to run towards them. He didn’t make it, about 200m from the APC a figure on a horse rode down the steep embankment and knocked him down. Swiftly another eight men crested the top of the bank and descended on the prone man, laying into him with sticks and shotgun butts.

Nick stood gobsmacked for a moment before turning to Max. “I am not having that,” he declared. “Follow me.”

Without further hesitation, he took off towards the mob, Max close behind.

Caught flat footed Peter blinked before turning and sprinting after the officers.

“Come on then, after them," he shouted to his fire team.

They caught up with Nick and Max just before they reached the mob. Unsure of what to do without orders, they formed a line behind their officers and waited silently.

“I demand to know who this man is and by what right you treat him as such.” Anger was clear in Nick’s voice as he confronted the ring leader mounted on the horse.

The man hesitated as he tried to work out who the stranger was. “He is a fugitive and my responsibility,” he replied with distain. “This is no concern of yours off-worlder.”

“I make it my business.” Nick replied. “If you are a duly appointed agent of the law you will have ID, show it to me.”

Peter watched with growing concern as the exchange became increasingly hostile. Nick was trying to do this by the book, to use reason and logic. But, the men opposite him were having none of it. Having recovered from the shock of the off-worlders' arrival they were blatantly preparing for a fight. All of them were armed with either shotguns or pistols and they now loomed behind their leader, just waiting for the signal or excuse. Yet, Nick seemed oblivious to this, not even having his hand near his pistol. Max was aware, he had stealthily drawn his pistol and was now hiding it behind his back, but that wouldn’t be enough if it came to a fight. Peter decided to act.

“Section!” He barked. “Fix bayonets!”

Smoothly Peter, David and Cassy drew their sword bayonets and fixed them to their laser rifles. Alongside them Jian loudly racked his machine gun and brought it up into firing position.

“Section! Charge bayonets!” Peter could see the astonishment on the mob’s faces as the fire team brought their rifles down horizontally, the wickedly sharp points now facing directly towards the mob. He could see them begin to hesitate.

“Advance!” Peter ordered, putting on his best war face as he steadily walked towards the mob, David, Cassy and Jian did likewise. They walked slowly, daring the mob to stand against them. At length the mob choose not to, even the man on the horse backed away, leaving the beaten man where he was. The fire team marched past the man before Peter called a halt, forming a wall of cold steel between him and the mob.

Careful not to let his rifle waver, Peter took his left hand off his rifle and activated his comms. “Anne, bring up the APC.” Gripping the rifle once more he kept his eyes fixed on the man on the horse. “David once the APC gets here, get our friend on board. The rest of us will cover.”

“Roger.” David and Cassy replied, Jian just nodded.

“I assume that’s ok sir.” Peter added.

“Doing fine lance, carry on.” Nick replied, he hadn’t moved and still stood bolt upright, staring the mob down. Beside him Max was trying to assess the prone man’s wounds as the man gripped Max’s shirt collar in relief and babbled away at him in a foreign language.

“Nothing broken, we can move him,” Max reported with an edge of anger. “I think he’s speaking Russian but I don’t know enough to know what he’s trying to say.”

The roar of a diesel engine announced Anne’s arrival. David helped Max carry the unconscious man aboard while the others covered them. The rest then filed aboard, Jian bringing up the rear as he menaced the mob with his machine gun. Anne didn’t wait on ceremony. The moment the hatch was closed she gunned the engine, forcing the mob to throw themselves out of the way as the APC lurched forwards and sped off back to the camp. Inside Max lent over to Peter.

“Good work lance,” he said quietly.

“Told you could count on us sir.” Peter replied.

“Aye, keep it up.” Max said as he lent back into his seat.

snakespinner

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Re: Over the Event Horizon and Far Away
« Reply #3 on: 19 June 2017, 07:13:06 »
Interesting start.
Always good to see new merc units. O0
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Growing up is optional.

Easy

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Re: Over the Event Horizon and Far Away
« Reply #4 on: 19 June 2017, 10:19:43 »
Moar.

kalthud

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Re: Over the Event Horizon and Far Away
« Reply #5 on: 19 June 2017, 12:01:35 »
TAGGED!
"Why does it feel like everyone is shooting at me when all of us go unto the field of battle?"
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Dave Talley

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Re: Over the Event Horizon and Far Away
« Reply #6 on: 19 June 2017, 23:54:49 »
Sounds like a fun RPG, in the boonies, can't trust the employer or anyone else to tell the truth
Resident Smartass since 1998
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I agree. Conditionally. I have no qualms kicking the favorite faction in the crotch--repeatedly. But the fact of the matter is, I prefer to kick EVERYBODY in the crotch as often as possible, like a game of whack a mole, only here's it's whack a crotch. Because we're playing in a wargame universe, and if you're NOT getting kicked in the crotch (repeatedly), then you're not in the ****** game.
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Sharpnel

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Re: Over the Event Horizon and Far Away
« Reply #7 on: 20 June 2017, 03:49:21 »
*ping*
Commander Louis Seifer, SWD-2r Swordsman, Extreme Measures, Inc.
Chu-i Shizuko Lofgren, Assault Infantry Platoon, Oniwaka
Takahiro Nakajima, ASN-21CO Assasin, Crimson Oasis Trading Company
Commander Jessica Dunleavy, VTR-9BP Victor, Dunleavy's Pistoleros
Commodore Stendal Bergstrom, IMV Devil's Luck (Dictator-class DropShip [MOD])

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David CGB

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Re: Over the Event Horizon and Far Away
« Reply #8 on: 20 June 2017, 04:58:44 »
Interesting start.
Always good to see new merc units. O0
Yes it is
Federated Suns fan forever, Ghost Bear Fan since 1992, and as a Ghost Bear David Bekker star captain (in an Alt TL Loremaster)

Challenger

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Re: Over the Event Horizon and Far Away
« Reply #9 on: 23 June 2017, 16:00:45 »
Chapter 3

12 hours later and David was enjoying the warmth of his sleeping bag when the warning alarm went off. Rubbing sleep from his eyes as he sat up, it took him a moment to remember where he was and then he was in motion, throwing on his combats as he snatched up his webbing and strapped on his helmet.

The section corporal, Stuart Minors was already at the tent flap, bellowing for his section to hurry up and get moving. The rest of the tent was a blur of activity as 6 other troopers tried to gather up their kit and get out of the same entrance. Grabbing his rifle, David pushed his way through the press and ran towards the platoon’s stand to position. Reaching his assigned foxhole, he dove in feet first and switched his rifle sight to night mode. It was only then that it occurred to him that there was no sounds of weapons fire or any other signs of their being under attack.

A strange hush settled over the camp as the last of the troopers took up their positions and waited. David looked over to Peter.

“What’s going on?”

Peter just put a finger to his lips and went back to scanning the horizon. Reluctantly, David copied him. A short time later his ear piece comms cracked to life and the platoon sergeant’s voice came through clearly.

“All points. Enemy forces have landed 30km NNE on this location, they are heading away from us and towards the militia base. Captain is being briefed currently. Be ready to move out in three minutes, assault order only.”

“Everyone check your kit.” Peter ordered. “David, where are your missile reloads?”

“Err.” David stammered as he reached round his back and realised there was nothing on it. “I forgot them.”

“I can see that. Go get them!” Peter barked angrily. He waited for David to be well out of sight before he rolled his eyes at the rest of the fire team. “Newbies,” he commented in exasperation.

David ran back to his tent and dove inside. He almost threw his cot bed aside in his haste as he snatched up his backpack carrying three short range missiles. Running back outside he stopped and stared up in amazement as he felt the very earth beneath his feet began to shake. The heavy mechs of Sword Lance were already on the move, the imposing 95ton Banshee of Captain Kyle Howard almost seemed to swagger as it led them down the dropship ramp and out of the camp. David was still staring up in awe at the five assault and heavy class mechs when his radio again crackled to life.

“David where are you!” Peter demanded.

“On my way back now.” David replied quickly, then sprinted for the company form up area. Captain William Zhao had already gathered the rest of the company around a quickly thrown together model of the area illuminated by chemical lights.

“Sorry,” David mouthed to Peter as he re-joined the fire team. Peter paid him no mind, already focused on the battle ahead.

“Listen in!” William shouted to quiet the whispers down and then started his brief. “A force of eight medium mechs have landed from 2 Leopard class dropships NNE of here and are currently heading east to attack the militia compound. The plan is straightforward enough, Shadow and Eagle Lances will intercept the enemy and force them back onto Sword Lance. Our part in that is preventing anything that gets passed Sword Lance from reaching their dropship. We will be taking up blocking positions on this high ground here,” he pointed to a raised area in the model. “while B Company takes the woods to the south. Fall back point is this depression to the north, that is where the APCs will wait. Any questions?” He waited for a moment, but there weren’t any. “Platoon Commanders I’ll brief details on the move. Now move out!”

Peter grabbed hold of David’s webbing and pushed him towards the waiting APCs.

“Hurry up and get on the APC before the Corporal realises you were last man in.”

“Roger.” David replied as he and the rest of the fire team ran for their APC and strapped themselves in. Anne gunned the engine impatiently as she waited for the rest of the eight man section to boarded and take their seats. The moment the ramp was up she was off, the APC lurching forwards as Anne drove it towards the assembly area.

“Oi, David. Why were you late for the briefing!” Corporal Minors shouted from the far end of the APC.

“I…” David started to reply nervously when Jian lent forward and interrupted him.

“He was fetching spare rounds for me. Figured we might need them.”

Minors snorted, but didn’t challenge the older soldier’s word. “Good thinking,” he said at length. “Everyone make sure your kit is ready, this is going to be a hot zone.”

David settled back into his seat with a sigh of relief. “Thank you,” he said as quietly as he could inside the noisy, claustrophobic infantry compartment. Jian smiled slightly and nodded in response before going back to oiling his machine gun’s mechanism.

Cassy lent forwards across the gap. “You owe him a beer.”

“All the beers.” Peter added. “And don’t do it again.”

“Got it.” David replied, admonish. Just then the APC accelerated away as the company left the road and started to cut cross country. The advanced suspension softened the bumps, but the occupants of the APC were still thrown around in their harnesses as Anne prioritised speed over ride quality. The noise rose to a level that precluded conversation, leaving David alone with his own thoughts as they neared the battle zone.

“Four minutes to objective.” Anne’s voice cracked across the vehicle intercom. David fiddled with the straps on his webbing while Cassy was mumbling prayers under his breath and Jian checked that his machine gun’s breach was clear for the twentieth time.

“Don’t worry.” Peter had to lean over to David and practically shout into his ear to make himself heard. “Stick close to me, don’t do anything stupid and you’ll be fine.”

David nodded nervously, not quite reassured.

“Two minutes.” Anne shouted.

“One minute.”

For David time seemed to stand still until suddenly the ramp was down and they were hustling forward to get off the APC as quickly as possible. Blundering out into the light he was awestruck by the sight of the nearly 100 strong company dismounting simultaneously, each individual seeming to know exactly where they were going as they ran into positions. It occurred to David that he didn’t know where he was supposed to be going, but as long as he stuck close to Peter it didn’t matter. Peter for his part only loosely understood where he was going, he was following the lead of his corporal, who was in turn following the orders of his lieutenant, who was guided into position by instructions from Captain Zhao.

Corporal Minors led the section into a forward position, Peter splitting his fire team off to the left and setting them up behind the crest of the hill. No enemy forces were visible yet, but the crack of distant PPC and autocannon fire along with the whine of missiles told him the enemy could not be far off. He shrugged off his backpack of spare missile rounds, dropping them next to him as he readied his Short Range Missile Launcher, flipping up the sights and arming the battery. David dropped down next to him, adding his spare missiles to the pile, rear slinging his rifle to free up both hands for reloading. A few meters to their right Jian set up his machine gun, with Cassy acting as loader. Then they waited as a hush spread over the field.

“Where are they?” David asked nervously.

“They are coming.” Peter replied. “Listen to the ground, you can feel them.”

Peter put his ear to the ground but all he could hear was the pounding of his own heart.

“Don’t worry.” Peter said reassuringly. “All you have to do is stick close to me and keep the reloads coming. You’ll do fine.”

“Thanks.” David forced his reply to sound confident, though he was anything but.

Peter turned his sights back to the wood line ahead of him. He could feel the vibrations in the ground increasing and he knew from experience that the mechs had to be close. At length, the trees were parted by a long legged Locust. Painted pitch black, it broke free of the trees and made a run for the open ground, unaware of the infantry lying in wait.

“Steady, wait for it.” The Platoon Sergeant’s voice came across the personnel radios. “Let it pass.”

“Really?” David whispered to Peter in disbelief.

“Really.” Peter confirmed confidently.

The ground continued to shake as the Locust pounded up the hill towards the infantry. At the wood line more mechs were emerging, walking backwards as they fought a fighting retreat against the Ranger’s mechs. David could feel his heart in his mouth as the Locust ran straight towards him, he was sure it would step on him and crush him, but it didn’t, its long legs carrying it clean over him and past the rest of the platoon. Peter swung himself around to track the mech’s progress with his missile launcher, waiting patiently for the order. The mech continued its retreat, passed the reserve platoon before that order was given. Almost as one, eighteen missiles leapt into the air, chasing the swift light mech down. Fire blossomed across the rear of the Locust as the missiles breached its thin rear armour, causing catastrophic internal damage that sent it crashing to the ground.

“Switch fire, Blackjack 3oclock.” The sergeants voice came across the comms channel again.

Peter didn’t need telling twice, the moment the Locust had gone down he had already turned round ready to fire at the remaining mechs. Swiftly he sent another missile hurtling off towards the Blackjack, taking grim enjoyment from seeing it impact on the mech’s rear armour. Next to him Daivd pulled a reload out of its container, armed the warhead and loaded it into Peter’s launcher. His fears had evaporated at the first trigger pull, now David’s training kicked in as he almost mechanically reloaded the launcher after each missile fired.

The Blackjack turned and brought its arm mounted large lasers to bear, each blast cutting deep trenches into the ground around the infantry. The other pirate mechs continued to back up, a pair of Shadowhawks, a Whitworth and Rifleman, they fell back by bounds as they fired into the woods at the unseen mechs pursuing them. The Blackjack though gave the infantry its undivided attention, David could feel the heat of the laser as a ruby line of tight passed over his head. He heard a cry of pain as the beam clipped a trooper from the reserve section.

“I’m out!” he shouted as he slotted his last missile reload into Peter’s launcher.

“Take these!” Cassy shouted as he threw a satchel over to him. David snatched it up and pulled out a missile even as Peter was sending the previous one hurtling towards the Blackjack. The enemy mech was barely 50m away now, a furious god of war looming over the tiny beings who dared challenge it.

There was a supersonic crack and then a blinding explosion as the Blackjack’s ammo touched off. Now the Ranger’s own mechs were advancing from the wood line, Kyle’s Banshee and Max’s Awesome leading Sword Lance straight for the pirates while Nick took 4 swift medium weight Chieftains round their right flank.

“Get some!” David whooped in delight as the wreckage of the Blackjack crashed to the floor, too excited to worry about being so close to such a violent explosion.

“Reload!” Peter barked as he sent another missile hurtling off towards the remaining pirate mechs. He knew it wasn’t time to celebrate just yet.

The battle was quickly turning into a rout. Caught between the blocking infantry and the pursuing battlemechs, the black liveried pirates’ formation soon dissolved into disorder as each mechwarrior tried to fight their way clear individually. None made it. The Rifleman got closest, collapsing mere meters from the forward infantry platoon’s positions as the pilot ejected.

“Secure that pilot.” Corporal Minor’s shouted across to Peter.

“Cassy, David, go get um.” Peter ordered as he watched the pilot’s chute drifted towards their position. “Be careful,” he added as an after though.

Cautiously Cassy and David got up and started to follow the descending chute, their laser rifles held ready. The moment the ejector seat touched the ground they were already upon the pilot.

“Hand’s up.” Cassy shouted, gesturing aggressively with his rifle as the pilot reached for a pistol holster. “David, get that gun.”

Rear slinging his rifle, David darted forwards and ripped the pistol from its holster and threw it to one side.

“Cassy, this pilot’s a girl,” he said in surprise.

“Yes, many pilots are.” Cassy replied in annoyance. “Now,” he addressed the pilot. “get yourself out of that chair and lie down on the ground with your hands behind your head.

Challenger

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Re: Over the Event Horizon and Far Away
« Reply #10 on: 23 June 2017, 16:12:35 »
Chapter 4

In fact, most of the pilots were female, only one of those captured was male. Currently David and Peter were standing guard over the Rifleman’s mechwarrior as she sat in the dropship Formidable’s interrogation room, or more accurately the store room that had rapidly been repurposed for that use. The Planetary Governor had requested that the prisoners be transferred to his control, but Nick had refused. The Governor had also requested that the man they had rescued the previous day be transferred, that request had also been refused.

David kept his gaze fix on a point on the far wall and did his best to ignore the prisoner. He wasn’t willing to go as far as to say that she intimidated him, but the way she glared at him made him very glad that she was handcuffed to the table. If Peter had the same concerns he didn’t show it, he stood comfortably at ease, not quite leaning on the bulkhead as he did so.

The prisoner continued to glare at the two men guarding her. Her coolant vest and neural helmet had been confiscated, leaving her in just a tank top and combat trousers. Her clothing gave away nothing about which unit she came from and she had said nothing since being taken prisoner.

David and Peter came to attention as they heard the door unlock. Nick and Max entered, neither looked happy. Nick was holding the prisoner’s holstered pistol in his hand and seemed to be mulling over his words. Max meanwhile walked straight over to the David and Peter.

“If she tries anything, kill her,” he whispered quietly, but forcefully.

David’s eye’s opened wide in surprise and he half opened his mouth to reply, but Peter beat him to it.

“Roger sir,” he replied as he smoothly went back to standing at ease, quietly unbuckling the flap on his pistol holster as he did so.

David hurriedly copied Peter and tried to look relaxed.

“Captain Rebecca Volkov of the Canopian Fusiliers,” Nick addressed the prisoner as he placed her pistol on the table in front of her. “I am now going to remove your hand cuffs, do you know why?”

Rebecca’s face didn’t betray any emotion as Nick unlocked her hand cuffs and then stepped back. David tensed and almost reached for his pistol as she removed the hand cuffs and rubbed her wrists. But, he glanced across at Peter who still seemed relaxed, so David forced himself to do likewise. Regardless, Rebecca made no move towards her holstered pistol, instead glancing warily at each of the men surrounding her, distrust evident in her expression.

“I don’t recognise that name,” she said at length.

“Don’t play games Captain.” Nick replied in annoyance. “I’m giving you back your pistol because I need you to trust me, because I believe there is more going on here than I am aware, but I need to hear it from you if I’m to act.”

Rebecca looked at the pistol but still made no move to pick it up. “Who are you?”

“I am Major Nicholas Shadowsword, commanding officer of the mercenary company Shadowsword’s Rangers. I am currently in the employment of the Federated Commonwealth, tasked with resolving the pirate threat to this region caused by your command.” Nick pulled out a chair for himself and sat down at the table. “It could be argued that I have just done that, but I suspect that next month a whole new demi company of black painted mechs will be passing over the border, am I right?”

Rebecca didn’t react so Nick continued. “That’s what I thought. There is something wrong about the situation I find myself in and I don’t believe it is yet, resolved. As it happens I have a character witness, David, open the door, he’s waiting.”

It took David a moment to realise he was being spoken to and a subtle kick to the shins from Peter to get him moving.

“Yes sir.” David said hurriedly as he opened the door and was surprised to see the man they had rescued the previous day on the other side.  His wounds had been bandaged and his clothes replaced with spare overalls. He was chatted away a young medic, who humoured him by smiling and nodding though she didn’t understand what he was saying. David ushered them inside.

Rebecca’s eyes opened wide as she heard the man talk and addressed him in the same language. The man stopped talking in shock and then ran towards her and threw his arms round her, crying in relief as he told her his story.

At length Rebecca disentangled herself and turned back to Nick, her expression softening somewhat. “He says, you rescued him,” she said.

“It’s not in me to stand by and watch a man be beaten.” Nick replied softly, behind him David nodded his agreement. “I think I know what’s going on, but I want to hear from you.”

Rebecca sighed. “I am from part of a detachment guarding the New Colony Region. Over the last year pirates have been raiding our worlds and taking whole settlements prisoner and taking them goodness knows where. They have always struck without warning and we didn’t know where they originated from. Until four months ago, when we captured one of the pirates alive. Under interrogation he revealed that he was a militia mechwarrior from Robsart and while he didn’t know where the pirates operate from he did give up the identities of some of them. Apparently, the core group operates from a base in an uninhabited system and hire down on their luck militiamen as muscle for their raids. We’re been tracking down and capturing individuals connected with those raids but haven’t captured anyone who can pin down their bases location.”

Nick nodded grimly. “Yes, that matches up with our conclusions.” He turned to Max and folded his arms, then grinned deviously. “Max, my orders say I am to resolve this situation by any means I deem necessary. Now if I was to find that the ‘situation’ was caused by the illegal actions of high ranking Federated Suns’ citizens and ‘deemed’ the first step to finding a resolution to the situation was to arrest the local governor, police force, militia and launch raids on every farm within 10km to determine which ones are using slave labour, would that be exceeding my authority?”

David looked at Nick incredulously, but Peter kept a straight face as Max laughed heartily. “Normally yes, yes you would be. But, I’ve know the man who wrote those orders for a long time. Let me write the report, I can make this fly.”

“Good, start drafting the orders,” Nick replied with a grin. “Captain Volkov, can I rely upon your assistance?”

Rebecca thought about it for a moment before replying. “Yes, yes you can.”

“Good.” Nick replied as Max left for the operations room. Nick then turned to Peter. “Lance, the captain is to be returned to her people. She is to be treated with the respect due to her rank and while I request that her people remain in their quarters for the immediate future you are to fulfil any requests they have as far as possible.”

“No problem sir, we’re on it.” Peter replied, if he was surprised by the turn of events he didn’t show it.

“Is that acceptable Captain?” Nick asked.

“Generous even.” Rebecca replied with a hint of suspicion.

“Good.” Nick replied. “Max will want to swap intel with you shortly.” He paused, the smile fading from his lips. “I’m sorry to say we killed two of your pilots, one mechwarrior, one aerospace.”

Rebecca kept her expression neutral. “Fortunes of war Major, are your’s ok?”

“Not all, as you say fortunes of war.” Nick replied. “Still, it is a shame. Sometimes on these operations it is hard to tell friend from foe until it is too late.”

“Yes.” Rebecca replied softly. “Yes, it often is.”

Nick nodded and then turned to Peter again. “Lance, carry on.”

“Sir.” Peter replied, coming to attention as Nick left through the open doorway.

David waited for Nick to be out of earshot. “Did we just declare war on a planet?”

“You get used to it.” Peter replied with a shrug. “Last boss did stuff like this to from time to time.”

“So, he’s being serious?” Rebecca asked, still somewhat suspicious.

“I wouldn’t claim to know the boss ma’am.” Peter said. “But, I have served with him for a long time and believe him to be a man of his word.”

Rebecca sat back into her chair and folded her arms across her chest. “I don’t believe it.”

Peter shrugged again. “I believe that’s the point ma’am. It’s so unbelievable, no-one will see it coming.” David paused and then grinned. “Besides once it’s done, it’s too late for anyone to do anything about it, unless they want to fight a full battalion of the best infantry in the Inner Sphere over it.”

David looked over at him and then laughed. “The mechwarriors might have something to say about it as well.”

“Aye, we might let them help too.” Peter replied flippantly.

Rebecca stared at them a for a moment before she suddenly burst out laughing. “I think I’d like to see my people now,” she said once she’d got her breath back.

“Right you are ma’am.” Peter replied, straight back to business. “If you would follow me please.”

Challenger

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Re: Over the Event Horizon and Far Away
« Reply #11 on: 25 June 2017, 16:22:14 »
Chapter 5

Launched at dusk, the raids and arrests had gone smoothly, capturing over a dozen conspirators and freeing over a hundred prisoners. Three of the four militia mechwarriors had caved under interrogation and admitted their role in the raids, but claimed to have no knowledge of where they originated, claiming they had been picked up on route. The breakthrough came from interrogating the chief of police. He didn’t know where the pirates came from either, but he did know the name of one of the dropships that carried supplies to and from their hidden base, a Mule class dropship called Maria Amelia. The Maria Amelia was already known to Magistracy of Canopus Intelligence as a suspect vessel and it hadn't taken long for Rebecca to request its last know location and heading, then arrange for two Leopard class dropships to intercept and capture it. Faced with the choice of cooperating or facing execution as a pirate, the dropship captain gave up the base’s location and enough details to make an assault viable.

It was built in the ruins of a research station, located on an airless world in a system abandoned since the fall of the Star League. The research station had been built within an enormous pressurised ferro-glass dome and there was only one airlock, a truly massive affair designed to allow vehicles up to the size of mechs to transit to and from the dropship landing zone which was located some way from the station.

A joint plan of action had been agreed upon. A company of Rangers infantry would secret themselves aboard the Maria Amelia and infiltrate the station, securing the airlock and atmospheric controls as they did so. Once they were in, Rebecca’s Leopard class dropships would drop Kyle’s Sword Lance directly outside the airlock, ready to reinforce the infantry, while her aerospace fighters controlled the air above. Finally, the Formidable would land with the rest of the Rangers’ forces, minus a small garrison left on Midale, ready to mop up any remaining resistance.

Captain Zhao’s A Company was chosen to lead the attack, which was how David, Paul, Cassy and Jian found themselves hidden under a tarpaulin inside a pressurised shipping container aboard the Maria Amelia.

“This seems weird.” David commented.

“What do you mean?” Peter asked.

“Well, a fortnight ago, we were enemies. Now the Canopians are our allies and we’re trusting them to get us onto the target.” Peter said.

“I know what you mean.” Cassy said. “Does seem somewhat iffy.”

“Way of the universe.” Peter replied sagely. “My grandfather spent most of his career fighting House Steiner. Then when my father joined up he was fighting the Kuritans on behalf of the Steiners. Then, when I joined up the Kuritans were our valued ally in the fight against Clan Smoke Jaguar.”

David shook his head. “Still seems strange to me.”

Peter chuckled. “Your still young kid, you’ll get used to it.”

“He’s not a kid.” Jian interrupted without looking up from his maintenance ritual. “Not anymore.”

David looked confused but Peter laughed. “Quite right he’s stood in the line now. Congratulations Peter, you’re no longer the kid, you’re officially a Logandaler and a Ranger now.”

“Thanks...I think.” David replied still somewhat confused.

The apparent gravity within the container increased as the dropship began preparation to land, the great engine’s roar was barely audible, noticeable mostly when it cut out as the dropship touched down. A muffled thump told the concealed infantry that the dropship’s ramp had been lowered and then the crawlers carrying the containers started their slow journey towards the habitat.

Peter brought his finger to his lips and took the safety off his rifle. The rest of the fire team did likewise as the crawler came to a halt within the airlock. Sirens announced the closing of the outer door as air started to slowly filter into the air lock. Time seemed to slow down as the troopers waited anxiously for the inner door to open.

“This could be a problem.” Peter whispered as he checked his watch.

“What do you mean?” David asked.

“It’s taken over 15 minutes to cycle the air lock. We’re going to have to hold for at least that long without mech support.” Peter replied.

“Oh.” David said.

“Yes, oh.” Peter said. “Everyone look sharp, won’t be long now.”

The sirens went off again as the air pressure normalised and the inner doors began to open. Shortly after the crawler lurched forward again, clearing the air lock and moving into the habitat proper. It didn’t move far before it stopped abruptly. The troopers inside grasped their weapons tighter as loud clunking sounds signalled that someone was opening the sealed door at the far end. Peter brought his rifle up to his shoulder and moved to cover the door, David moved alongside to cover him.

The door opened and natural light flooded into the container. A bored looking pirate with his rifle slung over his shoulder looked in, his eyes widening with shock as instead of the cratered food stuffs he came face to face with a fully armed platoon of infantry. Bravely he tried to turn and shout a warning, but Peter’s first shot took him in the chest, David’s hit him a fraction of a second later.

“Go, go, go!” David could hear the platoon sergeant shouting as he jumped out of the container, following Peter round to their right. Ahead of them a small group of pirates clustered around a concrete pillbox dove for cover as they belatedly realised they were under attack and started to fire at the dismounting infantry. Peter snapped off a shot at them and then dropped to the floor and started laying down covering fire. Beside him the rest of the fireteam was doing the same, he could hear the buzzsaw sound of Jian’s machinegun alongside the low pitched whine of Peter and Cassy’s laser rifles. David’s heart raced, adrenaline pumping, as he lay on the cold concrete road utterly exposed to return fire. One of the pirates had got their machine gun into action and was firing off snap bursts from the pillbox’s embrasure. A round pinged off the road inches from David’s body as another punched though his webbing. He wanted to run, but he knew if he did the machine gun would be free to wreak havoc on the troopers dismounting behind him, so he stayed put and kept firing at the embrasure. More troopers were joining the firing line now as another section worked their way round the flank. David slammed a fresh energy cell into his rifle as he saw a trooper crawl up to the pillbox and throw a grenade through the embrasure. The firing stopped as an explosion tore through the pillbox, killing the occupants.

“Cease fire!” Corporal Minor’s shouted. “Cease fire.” David looked around, surprised to see that the fire fight was already over and the air lock secured. A number of troopers were down in the space behind the crawlers, medics were dragging those that were still alive into cover so they could treat them.

“My section, move out.”

Peter jumped up to his feet along with the rest of the section and started to move off down the road. Their platoon had been given the responsibility of taking the atmospheric controls while the other two platoons secured the airlock in preparation for the mechwarriors’ arrival. David brought up the fireteam’s rear while Jian led the front with his machine gun. They had barely made it 300m down the rabbit warren of streets before they ran into opposition.

“Contact front!” Jian shouted as he fired a burst from the hip into a hab block at the end of the street. The rest of the section ducked into what little cover the street offered as bullets zipped down by them. David tried to find a target as Jian continued to laydown suppressive fire, but he couldn’t see what he was aiming at.

“Enemy infantry, first floor, 11oclock!” Peter shouted out as he opened fire. David still couldn’t see a target, but he added his fire anyway, hoping it would at least make them duck.

“Peter, I’m going right, cover...” Corporal Minors didn’t have a chance to finish the sentence as a stray bullet struck him in the head.

“Shit.” Peter exclaimed as the corporal dropped down dead. “Keep firing damn it,” he ordered as he rapidly made up a plan on a fly. “Jian keep firing. Cassy drop me some smoke.” He turned to the other fire team’s missile trooper. “Put a missile into the 3rd window, first floor.”

“On it,” the trooper replied as he swung his launcher off his back and flicked into dumb fire mode. The missile leapt out of the launcher and streaked through the thickening smoke to explode against the hab block wall.

“Follow me.” Peter shouted as he jumped up and charged through the smoke. Jian checked fire, but the pirates were still reeling from the explosion and the charging infantry somehow made it to the end of the street unharmed. Peter didn’t slow his run until he slammed into the hab block wall, David right beside him.

Peter quickly took in his surroundings and made his decision. “You two take the bottom floor,” he said to the troopers from the other fireteam. “David, we’ll take the top. Give them a grenade.”

David nodded as he took a frag grenade off his belt and threw it through the first story window. He made to go through the doorway immediate, only to be stopped by Peter’s outstretched arm.

“Wait!” Peter barked as he listened for the explosion. The moment he heard it he kicked the door open. “Go, go, go,” he shouted as the troopers moved passed him, cleared the lower floor as they went. “Clear,” they shouted back to him.

“Moving.” Peter replied as he darted through the doorway, David followed him closely. David could feel his nerves returning as they stalked towards the stairs, his heart beating so fast he felt for sure the others could hear it. He flushed with embarrassment and anger, and that last emotion carried him forwards. Reaching the bottom of the stairs the two troopers covered the landing with their rifles. Peter readied a grenade and lofted it into the rooms above. This time David waited for the bang before storming up the stairs. Peter went left at the top, David right. The first pirate he came across was still staggering from the concussion, David shot him and carried on, moving through the rooms shooting anyone who offered resistance. Eventually he ran out of rooms and enemies. “Right side clear,” he shouted, followed shortly by Peter saying the same about the left.

The section regrouped in the hab block under Peter’s command while 2nd section took over the advance. Soon they were moving again, in reserve this time. Ahead they could hear the other two sections engaging any pirates unfortunately enough to run into them. Jian was leading the way once more as the section cautiously advanced along a street between two disused hab blocks. Suddenly he raised his hand, signalling the section to halt and took a knee. The rest of the section copied him as Peter jogged forward to see why they had stopped.

“Listen, mech.” Jian said.

“One of ours?” David asked hopefully.

“Shush.” Peter replied. “It’s too soon.” The rest of the section remained silent as he listened intently, his expression growing more concerned by the moment as he tried to pick out the tell-tale thumps of mech footsteps from amongst the background noise of gunfire and explosions.

“To close,” he whispered. “Take cover, now!”

The section scattered into the disused hab blocks just in time as a Vindicator stalked into view at the next crossroads. There it paused for a moment as the 45ton mech’s sensors probing the street, searched for the intruding infantry. David crawled up beside Peter and readied a missile reload. 

“Are we engaging?”

Peter thought about it. He’d already called the sighting in and been ordered to stay out of sight. But, that mech was now at the rear of the rest of the platoon, if it stumbled upon them while they were in the middle of assaulting the atmospheric control plant it would be a massacre. He keyed the section comms.

“Listen in, we have the draw that big bastard away from the rest of the platoon. Shoot and scoot.” He unslung his missile launcher and flipped up the sights. “Firing.”

The missile’s soft launch motor kicked it out of the tube and out of the window before the main motor ignited. The heat seeker locked onto the mech and the missile curved round in a tight arc to strike it with a muffled explosion on the right shoulder.

“Reload.” Peter shouted, though he didn’t need to, David was already slotting the next missile into place as the mech turned. The rest of the section were firing now, a mixture of missiles, bullets and laser beams impacted the Vindicator, though to seeming little effect.

Peter’s second missile steaked out of its tube. “Displace,” he shouted as he saw the Vindicator bringing its weapons to bear. David grabbed the missile reloads and scrabbled back just in time as laser fire slashed through the space he had just been occupying. Together they dashed back through the block, taking up new positions in a long-abandoned bedroom. David reloaded, Peter fired and then they both ran as their fire inevitable attracted retaliation. They had lost track of Jian and Cassy in the confusion, though they could still hear Jian’s machine gun firing somewhere ahead of them. Across the other side of the road the other fireteam was still fighting, though cries of man down across the radio net meant at least one of them had been caught by return fire.

“Displace.” Peter shouted and again they ran from their position, their hair standing on end as man-made lighting from the Vindicator’s PPC shattered the room they had just been in.

“This is the last missile,” shouted David, half deafened by the constant explosions, it was all he could do to focus on the job at hand.

“Let’s make it count then.” Peter replied as he knelt by the side of an open doorframe and took careful aim.

The missile impacted the Vindicator’s chest with a small explosion. The mech turned to retaliate when suddenly a larger explosion tore into its right arm, tearing away the PPC barrel.

“What was that?” David exclaimed.

“Our mechs.” Peter replied with a savage smile as a hulking Banshee painted in the Ranger’s green and brown disruptive camo strode though the smoke, pounding the Vindicator with PPC fire and hyper sonic slugs from its Gauss Rifle. It was an uneven contest and the smaller mech was soon reduced into a twisted heap of scrap metal.

“Hey up the infantry, where do you need me?” Kyle’s voice echoed through the street as he used his mech’s loud hailers.

Peter flicked through the frequencies on his radio till he found the one he needed. “Hey up Sword Lance,” he returned the traditional Logandale greeting between units. “Lieutenant’s assaulting the atmospheric plant up ahead, he might need some fire support.”

“On it.” Kyle replied. “See you on the other side.”

Peter changed frequency back to his section. “What’s the condition of the casualty?”

“Stable, but we can’t move him,” a voice replied.

“Roger, go stationary here and wait for extraction.” Peter ordered. “My fire team. Follow that mech.”

From there, the assault rapidly turned into a mopping up operation. None of the remaining pirate mechs were a match for Kyle’s Banshee much less the other heavy mechs still making their way through the air lock and without mech support the pirate infantry had little hope of repelling assaults on their position. Within an hour all organised resistance had ceased and the sounds of conflict slowly died down as the last pockets of hold outs were supressed one by one. Within three hours the entire station was within Shadowsword’s Rangers’ control.

 

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