« on: 05 March 2014, 21:06:25 »
There's a reference in here to one of my other fics, and no, it's not the obvious one
Jumpship Xim the Despot
Word of Blake Protectorate
1 November 3075
OPERATION RIGHT FIELD
It had been months since Sandra had attended one of these full operational briefings, and yet it still managed to feel like even more to her. Everything had changed since their last operation, the proceedings here reflected that. For starters, Sandra now stood at the head of the room, speaking to those who were now under her command.
Situation normal, all tooled up.
She wasn’t alone, at least. Elezha and Reg were with her, the pair of them having somehow gone from being her private gophers to vital aides for her command. Of course, in a way, that only made things even stranger. When they’d met, Elezha had normally been quiet and anti-social, rarely speaking to anyone outside of her squad while openly creeping people out with her odd behaviour and tendency to let her mechanical parts hang out. And Reg was, well, Reg.
And yet, the pair of them had somehow managed to channel their eccentricities and turn into a pair of fantastic analysts and detectives, ones that had proven invaluable to her and the unit as a whole. We wouldn’t be here now if not four you two, she’d considered as she took her place.
“I’m not a big speaker, so I’ll make this quick.” Sandra began. “Our friend Devlin Stone-“ there was a round of mutters and coughs across the room, including Reg having one of his ‘I was about to say something dumb but I thought better of it’ looks resulted. “-is targeting Galatea for liberation. There’s plenty of good reasons too, but we’re along for this ride for something completely different.”
The main display came on, bringing up maps of Galatea city, focusing on a derelict industrial zone in its outskirts. “Many of you will know this place; many more will not. For those who don’t, this was our base of operations for the last two fifty-odd years, and remained such until the Word took the planet. During their invasion, they deliberately targeted our facilities, capturing them intact and plumbing them for all their secrets. And we want them back.”
There were more then a few cheers from the audience, chiefly the surviving older members of the unit. “But this isn’t just about revenge or sticking it to those tools for the sake of it-“
“-as fun as it is!” Somebody called out, which bought on more cheers.
“Yeah, true, I’ll give you that.” Sandra admitted. “But we have an objective here as well.” She nodded to Elezha, who stepped forward, bringing up more information on the big screen. The maps were replaced with more detailed tactical displays, as well as troop strengths and unit breakdowns.
“Current intel puts two of the so-called Hound units on-site.” She explained. “In the aftermath of DEEP BLACK, the Honds were re-distributed across the protectorate for reasons we can only guess at. However, both of these units were sent to Galatea, and to this facility in specific. We know that the Word repurposed our headquarters for their use, and the presence of these two units suggests that whatever function it fulfils is current and ongoing.”
“And whatever that is, we want to stop it.” She added. “The Word escaped us on Lone Star, leaving the trail to go cold. Galatea is our next best lead. If we can secure the site, then we can use the information there against them in the same way they used it against us.”
Reg joined her, speaking up as he did. “The two Hound units are a mixed bag. One of them is the Defiants, who we kind of used and abused on Lone Star. They’re a rough company of ‘Mechs with infantry support. Most of that is older tech, but they’ve gotten a few gifts from the Word in terms of salvage and the like.”
“We don’t know how damaged the Defiants were after we escaped Lone Star.” Sandra commented. “Though I can imagine, they were pretty pissy at the Robes for what they did to them. Odds are that they’re stationed there under duress, and may have simply been the first unit the Word could get. They’ve been stuck hard up the date by their employers, and might just roll over and die if we try to tool them up any more.”
“The second unit is a bit of an enigma.” Reg continued. “On-the-ground intel matches the colours and insignias and a few of the ‘Mechs to Larry’s Hammers, a unit that was MIA during the original Galatean invasion. There was a sighting of the Hammers back on Timkovichi, but that turned out to be the Word using their identity. Personally, I suspect-“
“Now whether these are the actual Hammers or not,” Sandra cut him off, “they’re also on the Word’s payroll. So that’s a reason why we should get down there and tool them.” She glanced back at Elezha, who ran through tactical maps on the main display. “We’re working alongside a pair of ‘loaner’ units from StarCorps, the Red Star Guard and the Storm Riders, both of which have run cover for us in past.”
“The plan is simple, and will of course depend on what actually happens when we get there and the poop hits the fan.” Sandra continued. “The basics call for the Guards and the Riders to hit the two Merc groups and keep them busy for us. We’ll go for the throat and take back our stuff. Specifically, we’ll try to get as many of our people inside it as possible to try and clean the place out before the Word can torch whatever they left behind.”
“We still don’t know how they took it from us.” Sandra admitted. “Likely, whatever trick they used isn’t going to work this time around, but at the very least, we know the place. Reg has thrown together intel packs for those on the ground which should give you a good idea of the layout and entrances. Assuming, that is, that the Word haven’t spent the last three years redecorating.”
“But yeah.” She finished, looking out over the assembled crowd. “We take back what is ours. There’s few things that feels better. Any questions before we go?”
“I have one.” Wrylok rumbled. “Why is she here?” He was indicating to Levisha who was seated in the front row, under Jake’s watch. A few angry voices joined in the demands.
“Entirely fair question.” Sandra admitted. “She is here because we need her. She knows our enemy better then anyone else, and what she has could be vital. Besides, our enemy is likely expecting us to have ‘retired’ her, one way or another. By having her here, we throw them off. And finally, we do have contingencies in place, and she knows what happens if she steps out of line.” Sandra gave her former commander a quick, angry glare, one that made it clear exactly what she thought of them.
“Fine then.” Wrylok grumbled. “If she betrays us, it is on your head.”
“I’ll take it under advice.” Sandra simply shot back. “But for now, we have a job to do here. They took our stuff. Let’s get it back”
Word of Blake Protectorate
3 November 3075
In the distance, the battle was impossible to miss. The roar of explosions, the roar of cannon fire, the sky lighting up with the discharge of energy weapons all painted a portrait of the unfolding violence, one that spoke of the forces engaged. Everyone knew what was happening; coalition forces had landed at the spaceport, and had been met by the combined might of the Word and their own allied mercenaries. Even in the outer suburbs of the city, the intensity and ferocity of the fight was obvious.
Major Tirion was glad that he was not there. After the debacle on... well, whatever world it was that the Word had been operating from, the Defaints had been reassigned here to Galatea of rest and refit. They’d rebuilt with generous dosages of salvage and drawn strength from the Mercenary Star’s ample supply of unemployed, but mostly he was relieved to be away from Ogel and his freaks.
Watching them kill Caspar just to make a point had shaken him, to say the least. Not only in the sheer brutality of it, but in the way it had made it clear just how deep he and his men were in. They couldn't leave now; the Word had made that much obvious. All that was left was to numbly follow orders and hope to be alive at the end of it all.
(He didn't even want to think about that moment. It was the sounds that haunted him the most, both the sickening cracks and then the cheerful, almost pleasant dismissal by the Robe that had killed him afterwards)
So instead they waited, ordered to guard a stretch of industrial wasteland for reasons that he wasn't going to question. A second unit were also with them, doing the same thing for the same inexplicable reasons. He had no idea if they knew more then he did, but he was not about to ask either. Instead, he sat at the ready in his BattleMech, prepared for a battle that might never happen. The Defiance had been a gift from the Word, a replacement for the Warhammer he'd lost back there.
About the only thing he liked in this situation was that the Defiants were away from the actual fighting. Maybe they won't even make it this far, he considered. Maybe we-
"Incoming fighters!" Captain Marasi called out. Within moments, his scope was alive with signals, craft diving down towards their assembled force. Lasers and PPCs lashed out, flaying armour from the Defiants in a savage pass, the fighters quickly breaking away as return fire leaped airborne after them.
"Where's our air support?" Tirion called out. "Don't we have anything-" a PPC bolt slammed into his Defiance, followed by a pair of lasers that devoured the armour on his flank. Spinning around, he opened fire on the offending Stingray as it climbed and jinked, his shots almost laughably ineffectual in bringing down the fighter.
"The Word's air cover is tied up at the spaceport" Marasi replied, the thud of his autocannons loud in the background. "I don't know if they can-" An Eagle dived down, spearing his Rifleman with a savage fusillade. His 'Mech slammed into the ground hard, massive rents torn in its chest. "I'm okay, barely" he managed as the fallen machine stirred. "Been better."
"Try to raise someone in charge", he called back as the Stingray made another pass, its PPC scoring armour from the Defiance's side. "We're dying out here!" It may have been an exaggeration, but after what had happened in that hellhole, Tirion was keeping a close eye on his men. He'd lost good people to that place, and wasn't about to let any others die on him.
About the only upside he could see was that the attackers were targeting both his people and the other Mercenaries equally, showing no favour in their attacks.
The Shadow Hawk next to him erupted in a thunderous fireball, consumed from within as ammunition detonated under enemy fire. Swearing, Tirion bought his weapons to bear on the one responsible, a Lightning that was climbing away from the assault. Hammering his triggers, he sent brilliant PPC beams and clouds of autocannon fire after the offending fighter.
Rounds tore into its wings and tail, the Lighting wobbling as it climbed away before suddenly rolling, its ascent swiftly turning into a dive. Black smoke billowed from its wounds for an instant as the craft plummeted towards the ground, wounded and unable to escape its fate. Instead, it plummeted into a warehouse, both fighter and building consumed in a fireball.
"Nobody murders my men!" He called out, as if that one fighter and its pilot was responsible for all that had happened so far. "Nobody!" In an instant, all his doubts and concerns were swept away, devoured by the pyre of the dead fighter. With renewed vigour, Tirion turned his attention skyward, eager to seek out the other predators that had dared assault his unit.
What he saw instead dashed that victory, elation dying in an instant as massive shadows passed across the sky above him. Far more massive then the fighters that had harried them, the Dropships disgorged their BattleMech cargoes right onto his forces.
"I've contacted the Word, but there's no reply as yet." Marasi managed. "What do we do?"
Tirion looked at the force advancing on him, and then thought again about that woman. Instead of seeing the enemy 'Mechs or assessing their force, all he could think of was her pleasant smile as she'd casually dropped Caspar's limp body. "We fight", he ordered. "It's all we can do"
Reven Dyron felt the jolt as her Black Knight landed, the huge machine jarring as its feet hit the cracked pavement. A moment later there was another small jolt as the disposable jump pack disengaged, leaving the 'Mech free to fight unimpeded. A quick check of the status boards told her that all systems were functioning normally, while reports came in from the rest of her unit.
Around her were both her own forces and the 'Mechs of the Red Star Guard, while diminutive Battle Armour infantry moved in among them. Ahead were their targets, a pair of Word mercenary units who had been singled out for destruction for some reason or another. And to think, I could have been you, she considered for a moment. Glad I'm not.
"Mark your targets, Storm Riders," she called out. "Put them down, hard and fast. We have air cover and we have support, so no need to hold back." Reven gave a small laugh. "And don’t let the Reds hog all the glory. Show them how good we are"
She could already see the effect their opening air attacks had on the enemy. There were gaps in their ranks, while many of those standing were battered from the airborne assault. Best sort of fight is one where someone does the work for you, she considered. But at the same time, never pass up a chance to make yourself look good.
The truth was, she had no idea why these two random, scrap-pile Mercenary commands out in the unfashionable outer suburbs of Galatea City were so important. What she did know is that the money she'd been offered was good, which had helped a lot. When a bit of work had traced their employer back not to Stone's Coalition as she'd suspected but rather StarCorps, then she'd been fascinated. Power play? Targeted hit? Or an attempt to curry favour with the man of the minute?
A mercenary Defiance was in the middle of her scope, the squat and blocky 'Mech almost offering itself up to her as a target. The Knight's targeting computer quickly plotted fire, lining the mercenary up in her targeting reticule. A flash of brilliant gold on the HUD confirmed lock, Reven squeezing the triggers to send fire lashing out at the enemy 'Mech.
The results were impressive, to say the least. While the PPC flayed its wounded side, one of the large lasers awed into the 'Mech's exposed arm, devouring the weapon built into it. And while the combination of weapons fire and the hot Galatean sun hit her with wave of heat, Reven couldn't help but smile at the results. "A fantastic start," she told herself as her Knight advanced on its wounded target.
The Defiance turned to face her, replying with its remaining PPC and autocannon. Shell fragments played across the Knight's torso, while the PPC gouged into the leg. Reven shook it off as a minor annoyance, almost dismissive of the destructive fire it had unleashed on her.
"You're not terribly smart, are you?" she asked herself as she opened fire again, a half-dozen lasers leaping out to lash the Defiance, slicing through its already depleted armour. "But then, you work for the Word. Oh, and you pilot a Defiance in a unit called the Defiants. That must have taken a lot of thought-"
A warning alarm cut off her spiel, moments before flights of missiles leaped out to batter her Black Knight. The huge BattleMech rocked under the impacts as shots peppered its torso, more annoying then dangerous. What was more of a concern was the source of the attack, a massive Stalker that was taking up position next to the wounded Defiance.
It was a concern that evaporated a moment later as a quartet of brilliant blue PPC beams lashed out, enveloping the Stalker in a brilliant corona of electrical fire. The weapons opened up massive rents in the huge war machine as crackling electricity played over its wounded form. "Almost as witty as piloting a Black Knight and calling it Knightmare, hmm?" Rick Zaurus, her second, cut into the channel, his Awesome following behind her 'Mech.
As the Stalker struggled to remain standing, it was peppered from behind by a hail of brilliant red darts. The lasers devoured armour like a stream of flesh-eating fish, leaving the assault ‘Mech reeling and barely upright. Erika’s Venom was visible behind it for a moment before jetting away to seek other targets.
“’Knightmare’ is subtle wordplay.” Reven replied, a hint of wounded pride in her voice. “That’s just lazy.” She stepped her ‘Mech forward, confident despite the rising heat in the cockpit. “Best to put him out of his misery right now.” More lasers leaped out, savaging the damaged Defiance as it began to pull back from her assault.
And, hopefully, we can find out what this is all about, Reven mentally added.