Register Register

Author Topic: Battletech novel Odyssey irregular posting of chapters.  (Read 1932 times)

Captain Jonah

  • Private
  • *
  • Posts: 34
Battletech novel Odyssey irregular posting of chapters.
« on: 20 December 2020, 11:43:06 »
Battletech



ODYSSEY

In the Beginning







By Jim “Captain Jonah” King




Disclaimer: This is a work of fanfiction, not to be sold or otherwise circulated for profit. The Battletech and Mechwarrior franchise is owned by Topps Toys and their respective licensees.


Chapter 1

“There is no substitute for firepower, and enough armour to keep it firing, and enough speed to get you into range.”

***

Javier Hernandez stomped his feet for the tenth time, or maybe the twentieth, he’s lost count. His worn and dirt-stained boots were soundless as they hit the ground, throwing up a cloud of fine dust that spread and slowly began to fall again under the pull of the light gravity. He stamped his feet again, trying to get some feeling into his toes, but it wasn’t working, it never worked, no matter how many times he did it when he was stuck out on the lunar surface on guard.

The vacc suit was old, worn out, some cheap ships work suit not designed for use in space, thin insulation left him freezing in the shade or boiling in the sunlight, the air tank display said 12 hours, but he was always close to empty at the end of an eight-hour watch.

“Watch, for what?” He spoke aloud inside his helmet, then looked around, craggy rocks, moon dust and the beaten and battered concrete bunker behind him, for an airless moon with no weather the bunker looked more worn out than his vacc suit, though it was a lot older.

“Why the ****** did I sign up for this shit?”

The same question he asked himself many times each day, whenever he was given some shit duty or another while the actual pirates sat on their fat arses and did nothing, which was about all they could do these days. Back in the old days, last month, before their leader got into an argument with his boss and they were kicked out of the big pirate group things had been sweet here, he knew, he’d arrived here two weeks before the main pirates pulled out after a shouting match that could be heard across half the base.

The main gang had taken both of the good jumpships, and the good dropships, and the good stores, they stripped the place of anything worthwhile, the local pirates had stood around and looked sullen but shot nothing more than harsh looks at the much larger group of pirates that swore allegiance to Blackheart Mard, who was the man who had just declared he didn’t want a scar faced freeloader taking his hard-earned loot anymore.

The scar faced man being the captain of the pirate band Javier had just signed up to.

Sighed up willingly at the time, a time that had been all of ten hours. He’s been working tables in a spacer bar, food and a cot came with the job, and money if he got any tips, sharing a room in the store with the other two waiters. The men and women who had walked in were well dressed, a bizarre mix of clothes but all good quality, jewellery everywhere on both men and women, plenty of good coin, none of the local stuff that was mostly fake but everyone accepted anyway, then spent somewhere else because they had no choice.

No, the freebooters as they called themselves had good coin, house currency, even some Cbills, they bought drinks, even a few for the locals, made merry with the prettier girls and boys and drank enough for three times their number. Then one of them stood and called for quiet, said they were hiring, spacers or people with good skills, the money was fair, a share of the takings and all they could eat, proper berths as well.

Javier had lied, mostly lied, he’d spent several weeks using a vacc suit a few years before while cleaning up a chemical spill at the spaceport when he worked there, and he could shoot a shotgun, he’d worked on a ship as well, in as much as he’d walked on and off several dropships with deliveries and small items of cargo.

Then the following morning he and the others had met the pirates and walked with them to the downport, where they’d seen the pirate ship, Javier wasn’t the only one to look behind him thinking to slip away. The pirates behind the group with pistols in hands put paid to that idea and they had all walked up to the battered, rust streaked ship, the armour a patchwork of old repairs and battle damage fixed by people with minimal skill and equipment.

Then they were aboard, and it was too late.

Which is how he ended up on a no name moon, on the frontier, with the pirate group that owned the piece of shit dropship, they had money from a raid with Blackheart Mard and his lot, but once that was gone and when Mard pulled out, they had one mostly working merchant jumpship and four dropships, a leopard and a union that didn’t work, the leopard that did work, and the round hull of a small freighter which enough weapons to threaten a light fighter.

So suddenly they couldn’t do any piracy in space, and with only the leopard they could drop exactly four barely functional mechs onto a world to do raids. The one and only raid they tried on their own had been just after the main pirate group had left, a raid that had been beaten off by militia and a small merc unit that had wrecked the only four mechs the pirates had that weren’t lights.

So, they were ******, sitting on their fat arses endlessly talking about what to do now, while the new people did the shit jobs, or stood on the surface freezing from the feet up, on watch for nothing and nobody on a nameless moon in an empty system that only had a number, twenty lights from the closest inhabited world.

“Keep watch for what?”

He looked around again, then glanced upward, no matter how shit things were, the sight of the gas giant and its rings filling a quarter of the sky was impressive, the pirate base was on the largest of many moons on the edge of the gas giant’s radiation zone and it gave a fantastic view of the giant, glowing in reflected light from the distant sun in this system.

In vacuum there is no sound, so he heard nothing, just felt a slight tug from behind as someone snapped the radio antenna off his suit, and then the sudden shock of cold as an axe split his suit beyond any chance of resealing, and half severed his right arm.

He was in the dust, gasping for air that wasn’t there, and bleeding out from the savage wound, before he even realised that what he’d been keeping watch for, had arrived.

***

“Six this is three, sentry taken out, no external sensors, we’re clear to the main door.”

“Roger that, two’s cleared the secondary door and one and five are at the dropships, waiting for the mechs to move into position.
Figures moved, black painted heavy vacc suits, fitted with rigid armour panels over ballistic weave surcoats and leggings, a few with lasers, the rest with Marek built bullpup assault rifles.

“Squad, stack up, Hess deal with the door controls, mechs should be here in a minute.” The squad moved like the veteran marines they were, two lines, one either side of the wide main doors, weapons aimed down but ready.

“Doors unlocked, no security, open on your order.”

“Good, be ready for…”

“ATTACKING!”

The laser’s made no sound, but the explosions they made on the pirate base sent shockwaves through the ground to the boots of the marines, then autocannon rounds, and missiles arrived, smashing the turrets and wrecking the domes that sat above the underground base.
“DOORS NOW!”

Hess was hitting controls before the squad leader finished speaking and the two lines of men went in as soon as the doors were wide enough for passage, down the ramp to the airlock and through in fours to find panicking pirates running here and there, as alarms blared, and they suddenly found a full company of battlemechs overrunning their base.

Very few of the pirates even saw the black armoured figures who killed them in the depths of the base, in fact the only pirates who got a good look at their killers were the ones in the main part of the base, around the cargo hold they used as a mech bay, several dozen of them saw the mercenary mechs that tore the door open and stepped in as the air howled out, and a few pirate MechWarrior’s who had made it into their mechs and died fighting rather than gasping for air that was no longer there.

***

“Mission complete signal from the ground captain. The mercs report they’ve cleared the base, no surviving pirates, less pirates than they were expecting, and the only dropships here are shit, but they grabbed the jumpship, it’s a merchant class but they’ve got marines on it and a prize crew on the way. They report eleven light mechs and under a hundred pirates.”

“Great, so the rest are off on a raid maybe, could come back at any time?”

“Hey, you signed up for this job.”

“We need the money, in case you hadn’t noticed.”

“Yea, but pirate hunting on the frontier, in a jumper that’s more like prey that hunter.”

“That’s what the mercs are for, and they’ve got combat capable dropships.”

“Which will be jumping out once they’ve cleared the base and confirmed mission complete.”

“So, we better get looting quickly then, is the tug ready.”

Across the bridge a woman spoke up, “been ready since before we jumped in here. I’m seeing four dropships on the ground, and something in orbit but it’s close to the horizon so I’m only getting glimpses of it, it’s big though, maybe some old station to go with the mining facility the pirates were using.”

“200 year old space station?”

“Loot is loot.”

“Mercs confirm base is clear, no hostiles, they’re downloading the computers and going through the place for anything valuable, they say twenty hours before they leave the moon, eighty hours till they jump out.” The old man at comms spoke up.

“Flight time on the tug is 7 hours standard?”

“Yea, the moon’s close enough to the pirate jump point for a fast run in.”

“Good, you have the bridge, or the comm, or whatever it is they say. I’ll be on the tug, tell them to be ready for a fast run in as soon as I’m there.”

“You want fast, they can do fast captain.”

“Good, I don’t want to hang around too long. Check with the mercs, find out what they get off the computers, see if you can get an idea of where the rest of the pirates went and how long till they’re expected back.”

“On it.”

***

The captain wasn’t exactly a veteran spacer, or a trained Jumpship captain, he was a merchant and engineer by trade, he’s flown aboard a few ships including his own cargo haulers, and fixed them back home, but even with his more recent career running military cargos back and forth hadn’t made him what anyone would call an experienced spacer.

So, the entire flight made at three Gravities thrust wasn’t fun for him.

***

“What a mess!” Two figures, both in heavy duty vacc suits, one a standard lunar suit, the other an engineering damage control suit festooned with tools and pouches.

“Yep.”

“Anything left in the base?”

“Nope, the mercs said they swept it carefully, wasn’t anything left, apparently the other pirates took it all with them. The only stuff left is what they couldn’t move.” The woman turned and pointed at the grounded dropships. She used her left hand to point, her right hand hadn’t left the pistol grip of her Marik built bullpup rifle since she’d walked down the ramp of the passenger shuttle, and she wasn’t the only one. There were signs of recent combat everywhere, the mercs had left the bodies where they fell, and then there was the fact that they were walking through a base that had been abandoned several hundred years before.

There were a lot of ghosts in the shadows.

“The captain did a quick check before he left to look at the station, he said the closer Leopards good to fly, the other leopard can just about make it into orbit, but it’s got so much drive damage half a gee is it. The Unions crippled, but we can take that back with the tug, which leaves the cargo hauler, which is flight worthy, just.”

“So, is this lot enough to fix up the Rose?”

“Doubtful, we’re talking insane money for that, what this lot is, is a nice decent retirement. We’ve got a couple of hundred lights left before the K-F drive safeties shut it down forever, and no way am I making jumps on a ship with a core that’s deteriorated past the red line.”

“Yea, I’m with you there, jump ghosts, or mummies floating across the void, not interested in either of those. Not sure about retiring yet, for you old folks maybe, but I’m young and…”

“Watch it youngster, before I whip your ass.”

“Promises promises, old woman.” The young man laughed, the old woman joined in and all you could hear on the short-range radio was laughter for several seconds.

 “So, where is the boss, the mercs said the rest of the pirates were gone for good, but this isn’t exactly safe space out here.”

“He’s taking a look at the station, or whatever it is we detected. OK, so, you want to try piloting the crap Leopard, or the freighter.”

“What about the working leopard?”

“Calling rank on that one.”

“Rank, at your age, you really are looking to get spanked.”

The youngster laughed again, but he was a full pilot, and she was assistant pilot for the off watch when she wasn’t cargo officer, so he had rank.

“Maybe the captain will find something decent?”

***

“You still suffering boss? Looking a bit green around the gills.”

Stone grunted, thought about it then answered with a single curt word. “Fine!”

The pilot who had asked chuckled and started to reply before he was interrupted by the woman on sensors.

“Visual now, orbital station, 80,000 tons maybe, long term habitation arrangement, seeing a big spin habitat, really big for the size, seeing it end on so don’t have a full image yet.”

Stone reached across the cramped bridge, gripped the back of the sensor operators chair and pulled himself across the bridge so he could see her displays. “Let me… Yea, two pods, given the angles there must be a third behind the hull, extended like that, what sort of gravity do you think?”

“Rough calculation, according to the radar surface mapping, those pods extended like that, the lowest decks would be a hundred meters from the spine, three RPM, passengers might take a few hours to get used to it, the crew would be fine.

Easily one gee for the bottom four decks, dropping about point two gee for every four decks toward the core. That’s a tower block, five meters per deck that’s 20 decks or so. A few hundred people given those spin pods are 50 or so meters across.”

“No way an orbital platform that size needs so many people, far too easy to fly people up and down from the surface given it’s a moon with one eighth standard gravity. And that’s a big cargo hold closest to us, 50, 60 thousand tons, maybe for ore holding, but why waste money when you can shuttle the stuff up from the surface and load directly into a dropship?”

“Coming up on it now, three minutes.” The tug, a specialised dropship that was a set of huge fusion drives with a small bridge and crew area and rows of docking clamps and arms on the front and sides juddered slightly as the pilot used the drives to make a small course correction. Stone was the only one not strapped in, and he gripped the back of the sensor station chairs headrest more tightly as he floated beside it.

“Getting an angle on the stern now, some sort of engineering section, looks like it counter rotates to compensate for the spin habs.”

“Given the size they’d need something heavy to spin the other way, but unless it’s more cargo the engineering section can’t be that heavy, not on an orbital station…” Stones words faltered and stopped as the aft of the station came into sight, the massive shield section between the ship and the plasma drives, a thick block of radiators around the fusion plants, and the thrusters, Fusion drives, each one of which was larger than the tug.

“What the ****** is that thing???”


« Last Edit: 22 December 2020, 15:28:32 by Captain Jonah »

Captain Jonah

  • Private
  • *
  • Posts: 34
Re: Battletech novel Odyssey irregular posting of chapters.
« Reply #1 on: 20 December 2020, 11:47:52 »
Chapter 2

“The only thing more accurate than enemy incoming, is friendly incoming.”

***

The Lyran assault mech stood on the crest of the ridge, missiles exploding against its armour as it returned fire with its autocannon and long-range missiles, then it was joined by a second even larger Battlemech, both focusing on something beyond the village that was below them. Firing at the Davion regulars who were advancing into the teeth of the enemy fire.

In the village the fight was smaller, mercenaries locked in battle with the remnants of Steiner loyalists while the Federated Suns regular forces engaged the main Lyran force. But being a flank didn’t make it any less deadly.

“Topkicks down, HE’S DOWN! NO EJECTION!”

“Pull back, join us at the crossroads, focus down that ****** heavy. NOW!” Leftenant Belsing, callsign Arclight, was looking around, trying to keep track of what was left of the company, while fighting her own mech, and not passing out from the heat as the three remaining mechs of her lance got close to the enemy mech, an older Archer armed with a pair of twenty tube missile racks, they were too close for it to hit them with its long-range missiles and were burning it down with their lasers and short range missiles.

“Turn the Lyran flank, we’ve got infantry in the village so it’s safe, take position there and engage the enemy main body.” Simple instructions from the Baron who had hired them to give him a third lance and a full company.

Simple instructions. Except the friendly infantry were militia who had dug in at the friendly edge of the village and not bothered to scout the rest of the houses, so the company had walked in, seen the militia waving, and then come under heavy fire while standing in the open.

The Lyran heavy buckled as its legs gave way, laser fire and short-range missiles fired from point blank range ripping away what was left of the armour and structure in both legs, the pilot ejecting in a burst of flame and a pillar of smoke going skywards.

“Damage report, all units.” The crossroads quietened down, just the roar of flames from the burning buildings and the pinging of superheated metal cooling in the hot air.

“Bobcat here, 70% armour loss, out of ammo, left arm’s gone, two medium lasers working.”

“Topgun. 50% armour loss but only minor internal damage, got enough LRMs for one salvo then I’m down to small lasers and my fists.”

“Arclight, three salvo’s of SRMs for the one six pack I have left, and one medium laser, speed reduced.” Speed reduced, she snorted as she glanced at her mechs damage display, the flashing red that marked internal damage, the pinpricks of green that showed what little armour she had left, mostly on her completely undamaged right arm and head.

“Topkicks down, anyone see Samson, he’s not responding to the radio?”

“Dead, PPC to the head, the cockpit burned.”

“******, that’s three of us left from our lance, and all of the Barons lance dead. Anyone got eyes on third lance, they aren’t answering comms?” As she spoke, she turned her mech, looking toward the edge of the village where the lighter mechs of third lance had been deployed to protect the infantry. As she looked a line of explosions rolled along a rooftop, shattering the tiles and throwing dust and red shards into the air.

“WITH ME, MOVE IT!” She didn’t check they were following; she knew they were.

***

One last Lyran mech, one last mercenary, and a street filed with ruined or burning buildings and the scattered remains of the two lances that had run into each other at point blank range as one tried to guard the infantry, who were mostly dead now, and the other tried to kill the infantry and flank the mercenaries.

A mercenary Panther, built in the Draconis combine and piloted by a hot-headed Davion pilot, and a Centurion, built on New Avalon and piloted by a fanatical Lyran pilot.

The Panther dodged around the remains of a building, once someone’s home and now rubble and one standing wall, just as it was torn apart by pellets from the Centurions LB-X Heavy autocannon, in return the Panther stepped out, fired it’s Extended Range PPC down the street, missing everything including the buildings, then stumbled as Short Range Missiles from the Urban combat configured Lyran mech smashed through the last armour over the right arm and torso, tearing into the structure below and exploding a bulky new tech heatsink in a flash of fire and a blue cloud of vapourised coolant.

Bobcat arrived first, his mech was normally the same speed as Arclight’s, but she was hobbling so badly now he was much faster, stepping into the street he saw the Panther take the hits, and without doing more than line up his shots by eye he fired both medium lasers into the Centurions back. One burned away armour on the mechs rear centre torso, the other on its left leg up by the hip, neither hit penetrated and the Centurion began to turn in response to the new threat, turning leftward so he could face both mercenary mechs.

Topgun arrived next, her Apollo Battlemech mounted twin racks of accurate long range missile launchers but she stepped out beside Bobcat and found herself fifty meters from the Lyran, inside the minimum range of her missiles and without a solid target lock she didn’t want to waste her last few missiles, instead she aimed and fired her small lasers, multiple hits from the beam and pulse lasers, burning away the left rear torso armour and hitting the bulky extra-large engine in that area and causing a spike in the normally cool running Centurions heat levels.

Then Arclight arrived, as the Centurion fired two medium lasers and it’s SRM racks into Bobcats mech, an Urban combat variant, close combat specialist, it had a six pack and a four pack, replacing the normal ten tube LRM launcher. Ten SRMs, eight hit Bobcats mech, which took the hits and collapsed backwards, one leg all but torn away and his gyro destroyed by shrapnel that sprayed into the mechs centre torso as the last layers of armour there shattered.

The Panther surged forward.

“FALL BACK KID! FALL BACK!” The panther ignored the order, firing it’s SRMS into the Centurions right arm and torso, smashing the last few layers of armour on both and chipping away at the structure underneath.

“MY KILL! HE’S MY KILL!”

“FALL BACK, ****** IT YOU ****** NOOB! FALL BACK!”

Arclight fired, Topgun fired, lasers burning away armour, melting layer after layer, short range missiles blasting away the half-melted layers, the Panther lunged forwards, angling behind the Centurion.

“NO! FALL BACK YOU IDIOT!” Arclight could see how damaged the Panther was, she could see the internal systems where the armour and much of the structure had been destroyed, but the pilot wasn’t listening.

“MY KILL!” the scream was matched by the movement, the Panther wasn’t fast, but the Centurion couldn’t turn, not with the rest of the mercenaries on its other side. It couldn’t turn, but it could move its right arm, swinging its autocannon around faster than the Panther could run.

Topgun fired, Arclight fired, more armour, smoke and flames, the Centurions left arm collapsed and its missile racks exploded into wreckage, the panther fired, and the autocannon fired. Missiles and pellets from the canister round passing each other in flight, SRMs smashing into the right arm and torso, the Centurions autocannon ammo exploding in a blast that tore apart the torso, the engine and the pilots hope of winning the battle, the flare of the pilot ejecting was lost in the ball of fire that was the rest of the mech dying.

But the Autocannon pellets also hit, tearing the right arm apart, shattering the advanced tech Particle Cannon beyond any hope of repair, ripping through the torso, smashing into the fusion plant and gyro, one bursting apart and the other tearing itself into very small pieces.

“MY KILL! MY KI…” Then the Panther was falling, shot through, dead, and the pilot was screaming in fear, still a teenager but suddenly not so cocksure.

And the battle was done.

A company of mercenaries, a company of Lyran loyalists, three platoons of militia.

Just two mechs still standing and a dozen survivors down in the rubble.

***

The warehouse was old, hadn’t been repaired since the star league by the look of it, and for a tin shack half filled with wreckage and salvage, costly to rent.

Bobcat limped his way over to stand beside Arclight, she turned as his boots rang on the oil and dirt-stained concrete floor.

“Moving at last?” She gestured at his leg, the knee braced in a polymer frame, and his right arm in a sling.

He grunted. “Can’t fight like this, doc says a couple of weeks, something about a greenstick fracture on the arm and cartilage in the knee.

“No risk of that. We’ve got exactly no combat ready mechs, the Apollo’s mostly intact and we can hand load the missiles, but her armours shot away, my Kintaro is a mess, yours”, Arclight gestured to one of the larger piles of salvage, a mech arm stood out, reaching upward with the hand halfway to the roof.

“Why’s everything here, shouldn’t it be on the Dropship?”

“It’s gone, the Dropships gone.” It had been a long day, and it hadn’t gotten any better once the battle was over, Arclight’s words sounded as tired as she felt.

“What! When, how?”

“Soon as we got back with word of the battle and the Barons death, they launched an hour later. I was trying to sort everything out, you were in hospital and Topgun was supervising salvage recovery at the village.

According to downport control the dropship crew said they were going independent now the person they owed allegiance to was dead. Last report was they had already booked a jump out system and were burning for the jump point. They didn’t stop to pick up anything from here, but they did take all the spares, the ammo and everything that was in cargo or the mech bays.

This.” She waved her hand to indicate the piles of metal wreckage. “This, is everything we have.”

“******!” Bobcat’s comment was heartfelt, and loud.

“Yea, still, there is some of that sunny upside stuff. As senior surviving officer in the company...”

“Only surviving officer.”

“Yea, that too, but as senior officer, and with the Baron dead, no next of kin, the remains of the companies mechs and our salvage came to me. Which would be great if we had, oh I don’t know, maybe a Union class Dropship with a dozen mech bays and a bunch of techs.”

“What about local facilities?”

“Three month waiting list. The Davion’s used some legal technicality and booked every private mech bay on world for their own repairs, which are heavy, those Lyran fanatics fought to the last and did a lot of damage.”

“I was there, remember.”

Arclight chuckled and pointed at the sling. Bobcat laughed then suddenly stopped and gasped.

“Broken ribs?”

“Just the two, when my arm was smashed into my side.”

“Try not to laugh them.” Arclight chuckled as her lance mate laughed then gasped again.

“HEY ARCLIGHT!”

The veteran MechWarrior snarled and turned on a heel, the voice had been young, cocksure again and instantly recognizable. The tall, fair haired young MechWarrior was grinning as he walked toward them.

“It’s official, last battle of the civil war and I’m a veteran, a Centurion kill to my name, do I get a pay… Offf.” He staggered back a step and stared at Arclight who had just straight arm barged him.

“YOU! You! I ordered you to back off, I gave you an order and you ignored it. Your kill cost you your mech, cost this company your mech. We don’t have a fusion plant to replace the one you wrecked, but that’s not the worst thing your stupidity did. Not by a long shot. Your Panther was a Kuritan new build, that PPC, new built recovered technology extended range Particle Projection Cannon, destroyed.

You know how hard they are to find, how expensive. A little mercenary unit like ours almost never sees them and then they cost as much as a light mech chassis. The Combine can’t build them fast enough for their own house forces and favoured friends, everyone else has to get them from salvage or on the black market.

And you, stupid arrogant cocksure noob who didn’t obey orders, you got the only one this company had, DESTROYED!”

“What, but I got the kill, anyway the Baron… Where is the Baron?”

“Dead, just like the rest of the company, it’s just the three of us now.”

Hotdog, Josh Templeton to his family, looked around. “You, me and Bobcat?”

“No, Bobcat, Topgun and I. You. Are. Gone! This time you got your mech destroyed, next time you may get someone killed. We’re mercenaries, we’ve got no room for glory hunting hot heads looking to die for the cause. You’ve got a kill and some experience, go join the Armed Forces of the Federated Suns, plenty of them on world to ask.”

“You can’t fire me, you can’t, you’re not…”

“The Barons dead, so is Topkick, and Windfall. Which makes me the only officer left so yes, I can, you’re fired. Oh, and your personal belongings left with the dropship, so you’ve got what you’re wearing. Now get the ****** out of my sight you ****** noob!”

Arclight’s voice got quieter and colder toward the end, Hotshot had her by thirty kilos and a third of a meter, but he took a step backwards, then turned and fled, mumbling something as his boot steps became quieter and then fell silent as he walked outside.

“What?” Arclight looked hard into Bobcats eyes, he lifted both hands to ward her away, winced, then lowered his right hand.

“Your command, he ****** up, he’s a rookie and a kid and they always ****** up but…”

“We can’t afford ****** ups like that.” Arclight turned to look at the wreckage, “Not that it matters, we can’t take contracts, can’t afford to repair anything.”

“So what do we do now?”

“I’m thinking we go through this lot, sort out what’s good, sell off a few items for cash and ship ourselves and everything back home. We can get repairs done back there.”

“The duke would take us on in a heartbeat, fix up the mechs as well.”

“That he would, be good to see home again, some regular duties would be nice, killing Capellans, this mercenary life is great when it’s good, but the downside is shit.”

“Sounds like a plan. So, where do we start?”




















« Last Edit: 22 December 2020, 15:28:49 by Captain Jonah »

Captain Jonah

  • Private
  • *
  • Posts: 34
Re: Battletech novel Odyssey irregular posting of chapters.
« Reply #2 on: 20 December 2020, 11:53:19 »
Chapter 3

“If the battle you’re fighting is fair, your tactics suck.”

***

Forty or fifty years ago, when Ishmael Stone was a child, Jumpships were things both rare and precious. Centuries of war had seen to that.
From the high point of the Star league, when vast shipyards had rolled them out endlessly and few were the worlds that didn’t see regular visits from all sizes of Jumpships or even the rare Warships had come the Aramis civil war that tore the star League apart and destroyed half of those great ship yards, Aramis was, depending on who you ask, a murderous traitor who bought down the greatest achievement of humanity and ended the golden age, or the hero who stood up to the tyrannical giant that was crushing all of human space beneath its battlemechs sized boot.

But that was long before anyone today had been born, history, nothing to worry about now. Instead, it had been the Succession Wars that had followed, where the five great powers had fought each other for dominance over what was left of the Star League, those had devastated all humanity, smashing most worlds back to a level of technology barely into Fusion power.

The remaining shipyards had been prime targets, fought over, smashed, repaired and fought over again. The Warships destroyed or lost, Jumpships now uncommon as few were being built and only pirates or the worst scum amongst the houses would destroy one.
Steal them, yes, but not destroy them.

Still, along came Helm, the Grey Death Legion and the memory core. An intact Star League database that had bootstrapped technological increases across all of human space, rebuilding and expanding factories and shipyards.

And then the clans with their technology, driving the inner sphere to new levels of science and engineering, either captured or new ideas tried in desperation to slow the oncoming clan invasion.

More Jumpships, even new Warships. Production lines rolling out armies of mechs to replace the carefully maintained hand me downs that had reinforced the limited annual production of the early part of the century. More of everything, which bought more trade, carried by those new Jumpships and new Dropships.

From a child on New Syrtis, to a teenager watching Dropships land and take off at the ground port, to a man looking at 60 from the bridge of an ancient family Jumpship, old, worn out, maintained lovingly by generation after generation over the years, but still a ship that had seen hundreds of jumps and was now in desperate need of repairs.

Desperate enough that the ships new captain and owner took a risky contract, a rush job to transport an entire company of mercenary marines along with their assault shuttles on a long jump to the edge of civilisation and beyond, to meet up with a mercenary Mech company and destroy a pirate threat.

The money was good, they were in a hurry and had no other choice, but it had been the mission description that had caught Stones money grabbing eye, the bit about the recon of the target site, a Star League era mining facility on an old moon. And the Dropships parked there that the pirates had taken and not been able to sell or salvage.

Dropships, even damaged, a lot of money right there, and the Mercs wouldn’t have the ability to take them, given the mission involved the Mech company and the marines all jumping out on their Jumpship and him jumping out empty. Dropships, even damaged, would bring in good money and he knew where to get hold of an old, worn out, but still working tug.

A work horse designed to push other Dropships around or to help the biggest ones dock. Or, to grab some salvage from a pirate moon that had just been cleared out by mercenaries.

Which is what had bought him to a gas giants moon, in a no name system in the frontier, looking at something that wasn’t an orbital station, not given the size of drives. It was a ship, stupidly big, and it looked badly designed, unless you were hauling entire frontier worlds worth of cargo and passengers, and here it was floating powerless and half wrecked in the void.

***

“Well, what do you think it is?” Stone was drifting in the middle of the tiny bridge, one foot hooked through a strap on the floor and one hand holding the back of the closest chair, looking at the forward viewscreen.

“A ship?” The pilot was grinning as he spoke.

“Yea, I get that bit, but what for, the drives on this thing look big enough to pull two gee, maybe more, I’ve seen smaller thrusters on a warship. As for the rest, huge cargo capacity, a few hundred people, did you see the weapons?”

“I saw them, they look like they’ve taken a beating, same as the hull, a lot of orbital debris impacts, a lot of weapon hits too.”

“Weapon hits?” Stone had been in a few ship combats’ before, but never looked at the hull this closely afterwards.

“Yep, hang on, we’re coming round again, over the hull, see the long black rents in the hull, beam laser hits, ships in space move a lot so a beam laser plays across the hull, long often curved lines burned into the hull and armour.”

“Shit, ten, fifteen of them then.”

“More aft, missile hits, the ragged holes, debris hits are rough edged and dented inwards, the explosions are ragged, and half bent outwards.”

“This thing can’t be a combat Dropship, can it?”

“****** no. No way, combat Dropships, assault ships, they run small, tough and well-armed. This thing isn’t tough enough, not well armed enough and way too big. No combat design mounts that much cargo. Doesn’t make sense, unless…”

“What?”

“Two small craft bays, one with three doors, that one looks like a fast launch fighter bay, the weapons, the cargo, maybe this thing was some sort of specialist transport ship for some very valuable and bulky cargo.”

“I’ve been buying and selling stuff almost as long as I’ve been repairing it, I’ve never come across anything that bulky that was also that valuable. No, it must be something else. Still, she’s damaged, but it looks to be external mostly, a couple of the spin pods are shot to shit, but the drives, the engineering section, the hull itself, they look mostly intact…”

“What’s that look on your face? It’s starting to make me look nervous.”

“Just a minute, I’m thinking. The mercs jump out is what, fifty hours.”

“Yea, give or take, why?”

Stone didn’t answer, his fingers were waving in the air in front of him and he was muttering numbers for a good thirty seconds.

“Right, I’ve got a plan. Find a spot to clamp to that thing, carefully, then I want you to get it moving out toward the Rose.”

“What! You see the size of that thing, I’d be lucky to get a quarter of a Gee of thrust pushing that thing, take a hundred hours to get it out to the drop ship.”

“More, because you’re going to boost it for twenty hours, then head back to the moon, grab the Union, haul that into orbit then fly it out to the Rose, then fly back, pick the monster up again and run it to the Jumpship. The crew on the surface should be able to fly up the two leopards after they pack them with every scrap of salvage down there, the mercs took the only decent mechs, but they left the shot up remains of the others, if you’re good enough you can always find something to fix up, and I am.

We’re taking everything on the moon, and this thing.”

“That’s, ******, that’s crazy, I boost that thing, get it moving then leave it to drift, go pick up another Dropship without drives, fast run that out, then come back and dock to a now moving whatever it is?”

“That’s it.”

“There a pay rise in my near future?”

“Maybe, or a piloting job that doesn’t involve you getting sacked in about two months because the Rose is no longer capable of making jumps.”
“Shit! There better be a pay rise as well.”

Stone chuckled, the tug pilot didn’t look happy, but he nudged his controls, putting the craft onto a new vector and started looking for somewhere solid to clamp onto.

***

“Yo Arclight, got a reply from back home. Came in last night, just collected it from the Hyper Pulse Generator.”

Arclight looked up from the long-range missile rack she was inspecting, then she glanced back at the twisted wreckage that was all that remained of half the launcher tubes.

With a sigh she stood up. “What did it say?”

“No transport available for six to eight weeks minimum, unless we can find anything for ourselves, which we can’t, I checked with Comstar at the HPG facility. They’ve got shipping information for the whole region, nothing available, the military grabbed everything not vital to the survival of a world, civil war and all that.”

“Shit. Still, that’s plenty of time to go through this lot, there’s some good stuff here, it’s just hard to find. So, they say if they’re sending something or do we have to make our own way back?”

“Wait for orders.” Topgun looked around quickly, nervous glances both sides and then toward the door. “That is, our old friends say they’ll get back to us if they can help, but it’s going to be a couple of months. Sorry, tired, won’t happen again.”

“We’re all tired, just don’t say anything like that where someone can hear.”

“Yes ma’am!” Topgun snapped to attention and threw a salute the old Davion way, fingers flat to the forehead.

“You get anything else while you were there?”

“Yea, it’s official. That was the last battle of the war, at least the last official battle. Confirmation from New Avalon, the Ice Queens in a prison cell and her reign is finally and formally over. We got word a month ago they had retaken the capitals but it’s official now, proper authorities back in charge, chain of command re-established.”

“Good, this stupidity cost far too many good people their lives, as ****** up as the verse is, Clans, Kuritans, the bent sword bastards, we’ve got dozens of regiments torn apart and useless that we should be using against enemies, not against each other.”

“Well, the Lyrans were the enemies.”

“Yea, but a few years ago they were friends, and far too many sons and daughters of the Suns sided with Katherine and her murdering scum. No one needs a civil war.”

“It’s good for business if you’re a merc.”

“Yea, but there’s good for business and then there’s crazy bastards using nukes on each other and burning entire cities because they refused to pledge loyalty fast enough.”

“Well, it’s ended now, word is we’ve got Peter Steiner-Davion in charge on Tharkad with a rock-solid force to maintain control, Kell Hounds, the Wolves in Exile, some other damned good regiments. Victor’s on New Avalon with half the veteran and elite regiments of the Federated Suns. The bitch surrendered on 20th April, which was, a month and a few days ago, it’s May 25th today right? So, it’s official, apart from hold out fanatics, wars over.”

“Wars over. Such an easy way of saying it, years to rebuild, make up for losses, replace the experienced troops, recover from the economic disruption.”

“Careful boss, you’re starting to sound like a concerned loyalist instead of a money grabbing mercenary.”

“Yea. Your reprimand is noted, junior leftenant.” Topgun chuckled then swung her head around slowly, “So, you’ve got one half wrecked Kintaro, my Apollo is a bit dented, there anything else here we can use?”

“Right now, no. With a team of good techs, some mech bays, a lot of time and money, maybe. But right now, no. Still, since you’re here now, that pile over there, start checking it for anything worth taking with us.”

Topgun’s sigh was comical, and loud, and very heartfelt. Arclight ignored it.

***

 Tales of legendary piloting could have been told about the next hundred and fifteen hours, tales of Dropships being pushed and pulled, left drifting and collected again, of a tug pushing something fifty times its size, then turning around and slowing it down to stop perfectly next to the Rose.
But even drunk people don’t care about tales of legendary piloting that don’t involve weapons and dog fights and heroics. So, if the tug pilot every did tell the tales of those days, no one would listen.

Still, 73 hours after the mercenaries had jumped out, 73 lonely hours all alone, all but unarmed, and in a system that was used as a pirate base, they were finally done. The Union was locked to one docking clamp, the pair of Leopards to another two, the tug to a fourth clamp, and the monster, that took up two docking clamps. It was that big.

And it also had a name.

It had been hard to see, under centuries of space dust on the forward hull, but once the hull was checked up close the name was there, in letters five meters tall.

She was called Odyssey.

***

Jumpships are big, long thin spines with a half sphere at the front and a structure of wide arms to hold the jump sail at the back, Starlord class Jumpships are big even for Jumpships, with six docking clamps, three on the dorsal and three on the ventral.

But even so, the Rose looked cluttered, the Leopards and the tug sat against the spine, small, nothing to see. The Union was a big ball of a ship, sitting off the spine like some mutant blister. But the Odyssey, she was connected to a pair of clamps, Dorsal one and two, and she sat there, thicker around than the spine, two thirds the length of the spine between the forward and aft sections.

The Rose look unbalanced, ungainly, a long, graceful needle of a ship distorted by this great lump of a cylinder locked to her.

“Jesus captain, KF field is borderline, really borderline.” Anne-Marie sounded as unhappy as she looked.

“Recalculate then, or adjust the K-F arms, I don’t want anything sticking outside of the filed, that’s a sure way to miss jump.”

“I did, three times, she’s too big, distorting the mass calculations and I’ve had to reshape the drive field off centred to fit her in. Calculations are good, but the Rose is old, her drive field isn’t what it used to be, and that monster of a Dropship’s about the biggest Rose can manage.”

“Are we good to jump?” Stone was sitting in the captain’s chair on the bridge of his ship, sitting comfortably under half a gravity generated by the hamster wheel inside the wide forward section. The spin ring rotated around the spine and had rooms for the crew and any passengers that wanted some gravity since the carried Dropships couldn’t generate internal Gee by thrust and Dropships normally didn’t have spin habs.

Odyssey’s spin pods were folded flat against her hull, they couldn’t rotate while she was clamped to the Jumpship anyway, so the Rose had the only gravity around, fake or otherwise.

“Yea, inside the green, close to the line, but under it.”

“Good, K-F drive?”

“Fully charged, all checks complete, good for jump.”

“Clamps?”

“All attached Dropships double-checked, all clamps double checked good lock and seal.”

“All other departments.”

“Everyone flagged green, good to go.”

“Right, nav, give us a ten count and jump.” Stone held his hand by his side so no one could see his fingers twitch, a silly childhood habit that often came back at times like this, his parents’ fault, new Catholics, until they died, after that he didn’t much care for any religion.

“Ten, nine, eight.”

“God be with us.”

“Six, five.”

Someone at the back of the bridge was muttering something that sounded like prayers.”

“Three, two.”

“KISS YOUR ASS GOODB…”

The Rose jumped, for an instant nowhere at all, not where she had been, not anywhere in the universe, and then she was back, 30 light years away across the void, sitting at the jump point of another system, and as safe as she could be in this pirate infested frontier.

“Nav checks, good jump.”

Several people let out their breaths.

“Sensors?”

“All clear, nothing and no one.”

“Good, check the sails then roll them out, maintain full bridge and engineering watches, we jump 30 seconds after we hit full charge so have the new plot ready.”

“On it already captain.”

“Good, everyone apart from duty watch, stand down, and someone pour me a coffee, I’ll be round in a minute.”

***











« Last Edit: 22 December 2020, 15:29:08 by Captain Jonah »

idea weenie

  • Captain
  • *
  • Posts: 2515
Re: Battletech novel Odyssey irregular posting of chapters.
« Reply #3 on: 20 December 2020, 14:29:49 »
Looks like an interesting start, maybe they can sell the Odyssey for scrap, maybe they will have lots of 'interested buyers', all sorts of fun ideas

Captain Jonah

  • Private
  • *
  • Posts: 34
Re: Battletech novel Odyssey irregular posting of chapters.
« Reply #4 on: 23 December 2020, 15:00:03 »
Chapter 4

“If you want honour, glory and a heroic death join a house army. We’re here for the money.”

***

Five weeks later and the Rose floated at her final jump point, the New Syrtis L-4 LaGrange point. A handful of other Jumpships visible in the far distance around her or as sensor points on the screens. The light that was the New Syrtis systems sun was a dot in the darkness, not as bright as the flares of fusion thrusters from the Aerospace fighters that swept the area.

The pirate jump point they had used was close to the vast spread of the shipyards, largest and best of the Federated Suns shipyards, at least it was now, anything larger or better hadn’t survived the succession wars, so there was a solid military garrison.

Pairs of Aerospace fighters circled the Rose, at least two full combat Dropships were active with drives hot and weapons locked on them from closer to the yards themselves, and the Rose was being target locked by exactly 23 different radar and lidar systems. The sensor tech looked nervous when she reported that bit of news.

“Relax, they get nervous out here, people don’t normally jump in here uninvited, don’t want anyone breaking their nice shiny shipyard.”

“Or the Warships.”

“Warships?”

“Yea, hang on, magnification, on the far yards.” The main screen jumped closer and closer, drawing in on a pair of floating yards, cylinders, open frames of girders dotted with structures, power plants, crew areas, storerooms and the like. Nestled within each cylinder sat a Warship, each as long as the Rose, but rather than a long thin needle of a ship these were thick cylinders, heavy armour wrapped around a hull that the Rose could sit inside.

As they watched a cloud of worker bees moved together, slowly pushing and pulling a weapon the size of a leopard Dropship into place where cranes mag clamped to the hull were waiting to pull the massive Naval Particle Cannon into place in the open and waiting turret mount.

“Big bastard. Wouldn’t want that shooting at me.”

“If it hit, you wouldn’t know it, we’d be dead so fast we wouldn’t know anything.”

“Have traffic control called us?”

“Yea, on your comm.”

“Good, and someone go down to the airlock, and be polite, we’ll be having marines boarding us in a few minutes."

Stone opened the channel that was flashing as a call waiting and went through the process of explaining that the ship was legitimate, he and the crew were legitimate, no pirates or Capellans onboard, oh and he was here on business.

***

“You feel like explaining why you just jumped in without authorisation, and parked a fleet of antiques and wrecks off my shipyard?” The voice was brusk, no nonsense, the sort of voice accustomed to people jumping when it barked.

“Looking to do some business as it happens.” Stone turned away from the wide panoramic view port he had been staring out of, bored after waiting 20 minutes past the meeting time.

“We don’t deal in scrap. And why is she here?” Wearing modern business suits on a deep space station wasn’t normal, in fact it was downright strange, but the Federated Boeing manager pulled it off, he pointed at the third person present, an older woman in worn spacer garb, but the way she stood, the look in her eyes, military and hard core with it.

“I invited her, she’s part of the longer-term deal.”

“I’m a busy person, lots of things needing my attention, the only reason I agreed to speak with you was because you turned up with Odyssey.”

“You know about her, the Dropship I mean?”

The Federated Boeing manager nodded, then settled himself in a chair at the conference table, waving to the others to sit themselves on the far side.

“She’s Comstar built, but based on our design. A little over a century old, but a modification of the Star League era design.” He paused to take a sip of coffee, the was a small coffee percolator on the table.

“We built them as exploration ships, Argo and Myrmidon, back in 2763, core vessels to support a small fleet of dropships and shuttles for up to six months. A jump ship or two drop them all off in a new system, they spread out to do a proper survey while the Argo class acted as command ships and supply vessels.”

He looked directly at Stone. “You noticed all of the onboard luxuries?”

Stone nodded, “all wrecked now, but parts look like a luxury yacht.”

“Core ship of the exploration fleet, when the smaller ships came back for resupply the crews could take shore leave on her. The design was complex, a ship that size always is, and specialised, so we had the Star League involved, consulting with the design team and engineers. Which is how they had the designs, and how Comstar got them.

A hundred years back, 2961 Comstar approached the company asking for a license to build a modified version of the ship, for the newly formed Explorer Corp. Head office sorted out some sort of agreement, the whole thing was classified but I know they were given license to build a number of them, but for Comstar use only, not for commercial sale.

They built at least three, maybe a lot more, we only know of three that were built in a shipyard where we could see them, but they built drives for at least six. Odyssey there, Iliad and Theogony being the three we know about. We know they beefed up the design, 25% increase in structural strength, much heavier armour and weapon loadouts, more small craft and so on.

The Comstar ships were a lot more combat capable than the Star League design, but things were different back then, at least for the Star League, the idea of huge all but unarmed exploration ships suited their golden age.

Anyway, Argo was lost in the periphery, then turned up again in the hands of Mercenaries fighting for the Arano Restoration years back, Myrmidon was sabotaged at the start of the Aramis Civil War then stripped for parts to build smaller combat capable Dropships.

Here you are with Odyssey, the others if they still fly are deep secrets Comstar keeps under their robes.” The manager took another sip of his coffee, peering at Stone over the edge of the decorated cup.

“Why don’t I know about them then, at least five of them, people would talk about them for size if nothing else?”.

“If Comstar still flies them it’s not in the Inner Sphere and the last time they did fly where people could see them was what, four or five long generations ago. Your great great grandparents may have known of them, but the Argo’s were lost so long ago, people forgot.”

Stone grunted. “Makes sense.”

“Alright, you’ve got three minutes, you have a business proposition, a big one, or that’s what you told my receptionist, so, what exactly are you proposing?”

“The Rose, that’s my jump ship, she needs a replacement K-F generator core, which I can’t afford…”

“How bad?”

“Diagnostic says 60 light years before she degrades past the red line and locks herself down forever.”

“Sixty! You jumped here with sixty left on the core, that’s insane, you know the error margin on the core degradation counter?”

“Yea, I’m a bloody good engineer as it happens and I ran the checks myself, four times. But I’m not jumping out again, not that close.”

“Not completely suicidal then, we can provide a replacement core, there’s a refurbished one that’s the right size if that’s…”

“Can’t afford it, not even selling off the dropships, given they’re more rust and holes than hull right now.”

“So why jump here, you want us to push your fleet into the sun as hazards to navigation?” The sarcasm wasn’t hidden, not in the slightest.

“No, I want you to buy the jumpship.”

They weren’t drinking their coffees at that moment, which meant the Fed Boeing manager coughed but didn’t embarrass himself. “Buy, why by the old gods would I buy a worn-out wreck of a jumpship, even if it is a Star Lord?”

“Hear me out here, because I’ve done this myself, so I have a good idea what I’m talking about. You can replace the K-F core a lot cheaper in house than you charge a customer, repairing a jumpship that the company owns would be about half what you charge me, and you then have a working large jumpship with another 300 jumps on the drive. She’s well maintained other than the drive core so with a replaced core she’s worth far more than the cost to you of that replacement.”

“Ah, I see where you’re going here, but that’s called tax evasion here in Davion Space, buying a jumpship from you, then writing off the work we ourselves do as internal auditing. Head office frowns on us getting caught doing that sort of thing.”

“Except you don’t buy it from us. No money changes hands, you obtain the Jumpship, replace the core, and at the same time you overhaul, repair and upgrade some dropships, as a charity case, no money changes hands there either. Internally you audit the work on the jumpship ‘and’ the work on the dropships against the full value of the fully functional jumpship once you’ve replaced the core. You audit for external purposes at full cost and for your head office at the internal cost.

The Fed Suns tax people are happy because you did a lot of work but made no profit on the books to explain why you paid no tax on the transaction, your head office is happy because you get a large refurbished jumpship that’s worth twice the total internal cost of repairing it and repairing the dropships.”

“Interesting, you’ve worked corporate accounts before then?”

“Yea, not with this much money, but yea. I can’t afford to fix the jumpship, I inherited her from my uncle. Apparently, I’m the last living member of my family, but I’m not a jumpship captain. What I can do though is run a dropship, even a big ass one with the capacity of the Odyssey for example.”

“So, we repair her as a cargo hauler, not much business for a pure cargo hauler that big on the periphery and she’s vulnerable to raiders anywhere near the borders.”

“No, not as a pure cargo hauler, back to her spec when she was being run by Comstar, mech bays, fighter bays, the small craft hanger, full weapons and armour repair or replacement. I’ve been running the numbers, doing a great deal of thinking about this. My thinking is she’s the core of a merc squadron, fully repaired and with the two leopards she can carry two full companies and ten fighters, plus the stores needed for a medium sized campaign.

That’s the sort of ship that draws top money working for the major houses both bringing in mechs and supplying other mech units for extended deployments away from secure logistics.”

The woman spoke for the first time, sitting up and leaning closer. “You’re talking about raids, multi lance or company raids made up of smaller merc units, is that why I’m here?”

“Partly, and partly. While I’m about as mercenary as they come, I’m still a Fed Suns boy, and I’m also not a MechWarrior, don’t know many either. I was thinking that while I talk to you about business you could suggest a few people I could hire on, trustworthy people who won’t be thinking about stealing my ship, people who know the mercenary life but who have a few loyalties to back home if you get me.”

“That accent of yours, faint, but I recognize it, New Syrtis?”

“Born and raised, not been back here for years but I’m a loyal servant of House Hasek such as it is, I’m thinking maybe the Duke would find it useful having a few people he trusted on the crew, maybe sending him back a few bits and pieces of information we pick up as we go, keeping him informed, and in return I get people I can rely on.”

“I like this idea, entirely unofficially of course. I’ll check with the Dukes chief of staff, but I reckon I could suggest a few people you could rely on.”

“Good, can you call my people, arrange a meeting as soon as you have some names, this is very much early-stage planning and it may not work out, but I think as crazy an idea as it is, it’s worth a go.”

“You said you’re not a MechWarrior, or a Jumpship captain, running a mercenary company, what exactly do you bring, I don’t know anyone that’s any good who would sign on with a newbie.”

“I’m a manager, organiser, merchant, engineer, run my own businesses, what I’m thinking about is running Odyssey as the business, a mercenary ship, but with Mechs commanded by an experienced officer, so we bring both ground forces and orbital supply and support in a single deal. I know my limits, I can command a Dropship, run a complex business, and I’m damned good at working through the Inner sphere bureaucracy and legal system.”

“That’s not as crazy as it sounds, a lot of merc units fail because they know how to fight, but not how to survive as a business. Look, I can’t give you any names now, but I’ve got your comm code, I’ll be in touch.” She stood, nodded to both men then turned and quickly left, her boots silent on the thick luxury carpet in the room.

The door hissed shut.

“So, you have some detailed plans, let’s see what we’re looking at here.”

***

Stone leaned back in his chair then groaned as pain shot up his back and neck. Wincing as he turned his head, he reached for his coffee mug, which was empty, then glanced at the coffee machine, which was also empty. “Shit. Out of coffee.”

“What, oh right, I’ll get someone to… It’s three in the morning…”

Stone glanced at his timepiece, “So it is. But I think we’re finished.”

“I think we’ve covered everything, let me.” He tapped a few keys and peered at the screen, “you drive a hard bargain, but we’re covered to the last six pounds. Which is exactly half the value of the repaired jumpship, including both the repairs on the jumpship and the work on your dropships.

Meaning the books will look good, head office will green light me a very nice bonus this year and you get a lot of work done on some of your ships.”
Stone rubbed his eyes, “OK, I’ll go over everything with fresh eyes tomorrow but to recap. Odyssey gets her structure repaired and overhauled to the standard she was when built, drives and power systems also overhauled and to a working condition. One gee with boosting to one point five, but I’ll work on them steadily to get them back to full effectiveness later.

Armour stripped and replaced with a full set of new Ferro Aluminium…”

“You could save a huge amount of money just using standard, maybe upgrade something else.”

“No, we’re going into harm’s way and she’s a big ship, even with 180 tons of armour it stretches thin over her hull, so I want the best available. I can upgrade dormant systems later if I’ve still got a ship and honestly, 180 tons of the stuff, as expensive as it is, is a fairly minor cost overall.”

“Up to you. So, armour, weapons repaired or replaced, hull heat sinks and radiators we’ll mostly replace with new standard systems, they aren’t expensive overall and it’s not worth the time trying to link hundred-year-old relics into the modern systems unless we have to.
You sure about the weapons, that’s a very defensive mix, multiple point defence, medium lasers, the LRM racks give you some good long range but you’ve got no real punch.”

“The budgets tight for one, and I’m not trying to build a warship, Odysseys no assault ship, too big, too slow and too fragile, defensive is fine, she’s a support ship not a front-line fighter, if I’m under attack it’s run-away time because somethings gone seriously wrong."

“Up to you, we’ll overhaul the existing, replace the destroyed ones, and upgrade the ammo storage as you specified, ten tons for every weapon, you’ll have plenty of rounds for a long defensive fight.

“Good, the spin ring and structure on all three pods fully repaired and overhauled.”

“Yes, Alpha pod will be fully repaired, hull and life support, crew quarters, mess hall, med bay and crew lounge along with the auxiliary bridge, all refurbished to as built standards. The other two pods will be structurally sound but not airtight, internal decks will be stripped of everything lose or dangerous, that will leave Beta pod a bunch of empty decks open to space, Gamma pod will have half a dozen decks and a lot of empty space, the damage there is too much to leave so we’ll cut out the ruined decks.”

“That’s fine, I’ve got some good engineers, we’ll steadily repair as we get the money.”

“The leopards, are you really calling them Kitten One and Kitten Two?”

Stone nodded, the Fed Boeing manager snorted, it wasn’t good customer service, but it was three in the morning. “Suit yourself. ‘One’ will be fully overhauled to launched status, apart from the dents and rust it’s in fairly good condition, but we’ll get it to yard launched status.

 ‘Two’ will have a solid hull and life support but that’s it, main power will be online but not secondary power, we’ll repair the internal power grid but not any other the other systems and her drives are shot. You can haul her around on the docking clamp but that’s it.”

“Not a problem, something else we’ll repair as and when, but she gives us four more mech bays once I fix them, two more fighter bays and I’ll hire a crew for her as I repair her, so it’s additional mech capacity for the Odyssey till we have the money to do her up properly.”

“The Union, we can strip off weapons and the like, or, given the cost of salvaging the systems intact, refurbishing them and then installing them we won’t save much compared to fitting new, I was thinking we’ll use new weapons where needed and repair what we can.

That leaves you with a Union that you could use, if, you want a separate dropship and yet more crew. Or you could sell it locally. As it happens, I know someone looking for just such a dropship.”

“Convenient, you get a cut of course.”

“You’ll get a fair price, given its condition, anything beyond that is between me and the buyer.”

“Not a problem, a lump sum of funds to keep me going for a while will be useful, I don’t begrudge a man a bit of profit, as long as he’s not cheating me to get it, which you aren’t...”

“Which I’m not. This is a good deal for both of us.”

“That it is. It’s late, or early, we could both do with some sleep. And I need to go through the fine print, and get a lawyer, which will take a few days.”

“No rush, my people will take a few days confirming the initial evaluations. In fact, take the rest of the week, meet up again Monday?”

“Works for me, say 11:00 standard, you can buy lunch and not just the six pounds you owe me.”

Both men chuckled, it was a poor joke, but it was also three in the morning and Stone didn’t care, his idea had worked, surprisingly easily. The future was looking, wealthy.

***




Captain Jonah

  • Private
  • *
  • Posts: 34
Re: Battletech novel Odyssey irregular posting of chapters.
« Reply #5 on: 23 December 2020, 15:10:10 »
Chapter 5

“Showing mercy to your enemies is a virtue, but only if there is something valuable in it for you.”

***

Stone hunched his shoulders again, trying for the tenth time to close the gap between his fur hat and the fur collar of his heavy jacket, the heated lining kept his body warm and spread to his upper arms, fast walking helped with his legs, but there was a band of ice and pain around his nose, cheeks and the bottom of his skull, he’d long since lost feeling in his ear lobes.

“Shit, I grew up on this ice ball, too many years of living in a nice warm ship made me soft!”

“Captain Stone.” The voice disturbed his muttering to himself.

“Major, not undercover this time.” Stone gestured at the grey-haired woman’s immaculate Capellan March Militia uniform with knee length overcoat. She didn’t look cold.

“On duty, that little meeting was what we call never happened around here. Anyway, speaking of things that never happened, your fleet of dropships out by the shipyards, you got anything that works?”

“Kitten one’s in reasonable condition, she looks like shit, but her systems are sound if a bit old and worn out. She’s not scheduled for work till later on. Why?”

“Kitten one?”

“Leopard, I’ve got two leopards out there, Kitten One and Kitten Two, One works mostly, Two is a wreck. Why?”

“Got some names for you, but they’re stuck without transport and we’ve got nothing we can spare to transport them. We need a Dropship, you need a few people to start with. So, can you bring them home, two mechs and a lot of wreckage, all that’s left of a company.”

“Two mechs, out of a company, that must have been nasty.”

“The Ice bitch surrendered to save her own hide on New Avalon, but she left a lot of fanatical loyalists out there who weren’t listening to any cease fire order, they’re fighting to the bitter end. No one’s trying to take them prisoner, not after what they’ve done in the name of their ‘Katherine’, but they’re going down hard, nothing to lose.

So yea, two mechs, what’s left of the others, some salvage, three people. Good people, local folks if you get my meaning.”

Stone nodded.

“We’ve got passage booked on a couple of Jumpships that have space, a bit of a long-winded run, four weeks out, three back but we’ve got no Dropship we can spare, between the damage from the fighting, a lot of our ships so far off supporting the army and fleet, and the Capellans scouting us, too many jobs for what we’ve got. I’ll send you the data.”

“Do I get paid for this mission of mercy? Charity and mercenaries and all that.”

“Not by us, but they’ve got the salvage from a whole company of mechs, you’re supposed to be some hot shot engineer, find something worth your trip and charge them goods in kind.”

“How shot up are they then?”

“Ha, talk to them yourself, here.” The woman tapped the comm unit on her belt and sent a comm code and world Hyper Pulse address to Stone.

“Right, so, unofficially, they any good, and can I trust them?”

“They’re good, Arclight’s a good mech leader, Topgun’s a long-range missile genius, the thirds called Bobcat, less experienced and a generalist so he’s good in most any mech or weapon loadout, though he’s currently infantry. As to trusting them, that’s down to you and them, as I said, they’re good local lasses and look kindly on the Hasek family and it’s aims, more than that…”

“Yea, I get it, unofficial. Fine, I’ll send them a message, arrange something, if nothing else I’ll grab some salvage, even if I have to repair it myself, I’ve got some mech bays now.”

“Good, I’ll leave it up to you then, keep an eye open out there Stone, a Leopards not the toughest dropship around and these are dangerous times.”

“I know, after the Clans were defeated, I thought all I had to worry about was pirates, then the Lyran shit kicked off, it’ll be nice to just have to worry about your average pirates again.

By the way, how did you find me, it’s a big city so I doubt this was a random meeting.”

“You’re what we call a person of interest, you haven’t worked for the Duke or his people, you’ve been off world, and outside of the Suns for several years now, and you turn up with a small fleet of armed dropships. You’ve been watched since you got here.”

Major Marga Torgine, call sign Hardass but not to her face, threw a causal salute and walked away, vanishing in the crowd of locals and visitors who were walking either way along the main pedestrian street that ran through the heart of the tourist district of the capital city.

***

“Fen, I want you piloting, Anne-Marie, navigation. Shoone second shift pilot and cargo, Yan Lee engineering so pick a team. Carter gunnery and deck crew. I’m taking Kitten One to pick up some mech warriors who I might be recruiting, they haven’t received my message yet so I’m not expecting a reply for a day or two, I want crew selected and ready for lift off in three days.

We’re booked for the jumps and it’s a tight schedule so anyone who’s late is left behind.”

“Captain, can I say something.” Carter was looking everywhere but at the Captain.

“Go ahead,” Stone had a feeling he knew what this was about, he wasn’t wrong.

“People have been talking, it’s only been a few days since we got here and you announced you plans, selling the Rose and turning into a Mercenary Dropship captain.”

“I know, but I couldn’t afford to repair the Rose, it was scrap her or sell her, and Odyssey presented a new business opportunity.”

“That’s just it captain, sir, there’s more than a few in the crew not happy about things, about going from merchants on a Jumpship to mercs on a Dropship, even a monster like that one. Jumpship crews not exactly safe, but we never used to go looking for trouble, mercs do that deliberately.”
“I take it you’re one of the not happy people Carter?”

The crew chief looked at the others present, then down at the carpet before replying.

 “It’s like this captain. Stone. I’ve been a spacer since I was a lad, thirty years now, boring, steady, routine. Not getting shot at. I’ve been looking, a few others have too, berths available, always a need for trained jumpship crew, you can find Dropship pukes everywhere but good Jumpship crew are a rare breed.

I understand you couldn’t save the Rose, I get that, but this new venture, it’s, it’s not for me. Some of the others think the same. I’ll not leave you in the lurch, you haven’t been captain long, shit, you’re not a real captain anyway, not of a Jumpship, but I’ll not leave the old crew in the lurch.
I know a few people looking for work, good people, happy for Dropship jobs, merc work, my second will make a damned good deck chief, he’s as good as I am, just younger, and more stupid.” A snort came from the back of the room though no one looked that way.

Stone paused for a second, this had been coming for a while, so he wasn’t surprised.

“I hear you, and I know it’s a big change, everyone will have their pensions paid to the end of the year and three months wages for those who want to leave, to give you time to find a new berth, I’ve not served with any of you very long but I’m not going to just dump you on world and leave you.”

“That’s… Thanks captain, that’s generous of you.”

“You’re not leaving me yet though. Your deputy can come with me to pick up the MechWarrior’s, give me a chance to see him in action. But while we’re gone, the Odyssey’s a big ship, and with two Leopards we’ll need more crew than we’ve got, different skills as well. While I’m away I want you to do first interviews, any crew you’re completely happy with, hire, anyone else save their details and we’ll check them when we get back.

Sort me a solid crew and then you can leave with three months’ pay and my good word to any future captain.”

“Thanks, that’s, yea, I’ll hire on good people, I’ll get the other senior staff who want to leave to do the same. We’ll make sure you’ve got a solid crew when you get back captain.”

The man had a tear in his eye and Stone almost felt sorry, almost, but manipulating people was what he did, and he hadn’t mentioned the pensions were already paid, pensions had been budgeted on Jan 1st.

Just like the crew contracts guaranteed them the three months severance pay.

But no need to mention that.

***

“Arclight, message, some Comstar kid just delivered it. We’ve got transport on the way, a Leopard called, erm, Kitten One, 29 days.”

“Kitten One, that doesn’t sound like the name the Militia would give a ship?”

“Hired for the job. Message is from the captain; says he’s been told to charge us for the trip in salvage and his maximum is four mechs and 600 tons, so we need to let him know what we’re hauling.”

“Hired, merchant or mercenary, in a Leopard not likely a merchant, but these days, you never know.”

“There’s a flight path at the bottom, so we can send a reply to the systems he’ll be stopping over in.”

“Right, I’ll sort out a reply, and send a message home, double check this is Kosher.”

“You think someone would send a Dropship all the way from New Syrtis just to trick us?”

“How do we know he’s come from there, Dropship arrives here when they said they would, no way we know where they’ve come from. I don’t know anyone that angry with us, and we’re small fry as far as trying to mess with the Duke. But still.”

“If you’re not paranoid, you’re not paying attention.” Both women laughed just as Bobcat walked in.

“What’s so funny?” They burst into more laughter as he stood there looking puzzled.

***

“Precentor?”

The man who looked up was the absolute stereotype of a cheerful grandfather, white hair and a beard, a round smiling face and eyes and a forehead lined with laughter lines.

Everyone’s perfect ideal of a jolly grandfather, he also did Santa Claus for one day each year delivering presents to the children of Comstar families at the housing complex.

Everyone’s idea of a laughing grandfather.

Everyone was wrong.

“Yes acolyte, you have a good reason to disturb my meditations?”

 The youngster gulped, not long stationed here, but she’d been very carefully briefed about the duties, and authority, of everyone’s favourite cheerful grandfather.

“A report precentor, from one of our people at the shipyard, an old jumpship called the Rose arrived a few days ago, with several old Dropships.”

“And.” The voice didn’t match the face, Santa shouldn’t have a voice like impending slow and painful death.

“One of the Dropships, it’s flagged for attention, Odyssey sir, the Explorer ship.”

“I see, you can go, send me the report, then delete it.”

“Delete it, but precentor, the rules clearly forbid deletion of any transmission we…” Young, but not stupid, she saw the look on his face, nodded, and hurried to leave the room before the precentor decided something very unpleasant, or dangerous, needed cleaning.

Upsetting the senior ROM agent in one of the most important systems in the Federated Suns wasn’t a good idea.

“Odyssey; come back into the light. Now, do I have to hide you again, or have you lost your long-ago secrets.” The old man used the computer on his desk, opening a very secure comm. “Sanders, report to my office, immediately.”

“Yes Precentor.”

The old man leaned back in his chair, considering how to deal with an old and long hidden problem.

***

“Come in.” Sanders froze as the door hissed open, his finger not yet touching the attention button. He stepped into the room and the door hissed shut behind him, the same movement and hiss as every other door in the Comstar complex, but most of the other doors didn’t give the muted clang of nearly a quarter ton of armour plate as they shut.

“I have a task for you. The Shipyards, assemble a team, get in and check a dropship there, it’s under repair but I want it thoroughly searched.”

“Looking for what Precentor?”

“Sit.” The Precentor pointed to the visitor chair. “Information, format unknown, could be anything from a data chip to a demountable hard drive or ships data core.”

“Sir, without knowing what we’re looking for, how do we know if we find it, or miss it, you want us to steal every byte of data on the ship?”

“Don’t take that tone with me, I have been ignoring your activities for years now, you don’t want me to ‘officially’ take notice now, do you?”

Sanders thought very carefully about replying, half of those ‘questionable’ activities had been done at this man’s order, not that such a minor detail would keep a bullet or two out of the back of his head. His faith in Comstar had faded long ago, as he became spy and hired killer rather than Acolyte, now he was loyal through fear not faith, and the Precentor knew it well.

But at least they didn’t know about his family.

“No, it’s a navigation file, that’s all I know, a detailed navigation file, jump data, beyond that I don’t know. Anything that could be navigational data, take it and delete it from the Dropship, but to answer your question, if needed, copy and purge every byte of data on the ship.”

“Very good sir, is there any other data I need?” Sanders wasn’t trying to cause trouble, but he needed more than just what he had been told, a few details may be enough for some adventurers or amateurs to rush off with, but he planned on getting the job done and getting out afterwards, not some Comstar suicide mission.

“The Dropship is Odyssey, old Comstar Explorer ship, yard 7, corporate repair teams are mapping the damage now and she’s scheduled for a lot of work, several teams so she’ll be busy.”

“Odyssey, that name is familiar, wait, the cursed ships?”

The Precentor grunted, “Cursed ships, that’s what they call them. Comstar was somewhat more religious a hundred years ago, more superstitious. So yes, cursed, but so much time and effort, resources and money, to build an entire class of ships that were lost under mysterious circumstances within five years of leaving the yards.

Every single ship, all eight of them, lost in the first five years. Theogony was lost to hostile action of some sort, she reported being under attack, several of the dropships and shuttles in system had her in extreme radar range, they reported she began to move at full thrust, launching fighters and missiles, then gone. Destroyed with no survivors, the largest piece they found was three meters long, and not a single trace of who or what attacked her.

Daedalus misjumped, a heavily corrupted message was received 70 years later, reporting the Jumpship destroyed, most of the crew dead. But the transmission was so damaged it was impossible to pinpoint its origin, after so long they were dead anyway and the resources to search for them weren’t available.

Perseus may be active in Marik space, a few reports she was found five years ago but our reach there is limited now. But she was lost, fate unknown a century ago and whoever has her now is being hidden by the Word of Blake.

Iliad, Meleager, Aeneid, Hermes, all lost without trace within 5 years of leaving the shipyards, not a survivor from any of them, and Odyssey. So yes, cursed is a good name for the design. A colossal waste of resources given the lack of results.”

“Anything I need to know about Odyssey sir, you mentioned ships lost without trace, then mentioned her separately?”

“Paying attention, I see. The other ships were explorers, mostly looking for hidden and lost Star League treasures, but exploring at the same time. Odyssey was on a separate mission before she joined the rest of the fleet. A very specific task to find something so important the Council at the time classified the entire mission, other than the current heads of the Comstar Branches no one else knows what she was looking for. All that is available is she sent a message, ‘mission complete, we have the location and route, returning now.’

That was the last anyone heard from her till she was found ten years later, wrecked, heavy combat damage, the bodies of the crew floating in the hull and no indication of what happened. She was searched, every trace of her mission was cleaned up, the bodies given a proper disposal, then she was left there.

Given the resources required to recover the last of what were by then known as the cursed ships, no one wanted her back. So, she was left adrift.”

“Till some mercenaries found her.”

“Yes, she was searched, very carefully, but I want her searched again, if you find something, anything, return it to me and only me, and ensure no one talks, understand me, no one talks, no evidence this was Comstar, no evidence of the data, do you understand. No witnesses, no evidence.”
Ander’s nodded, already working out which of his trusted people to bring in, and how to keep their involvement secret from ROM, while also using some people who were capable enough to do the job, and easy to kill afterwards so he had some bodies to show. Adventurers maybe, there were always some fools around.

“What data I want you to see is in your secure folder, leave me.”

Sanders nodded and left. He hated his job, hated his life, but he also didn’t want to die, and he really didn’t want what was worse than that. So, he did what he was told, until he didn’t need to anymore. On that day, a few people would get what they deserved.

***

“George, looking fit and healthy, life is good?” The seated man was nicely dressed, nothing to stand out, a junior executive for some corporation perhaps, with good taste in clothing.

“Indeed it is, may I?” The just arrived man was dressed casually, nothing flashy, just comfortable, another middle management type out for a drink. His employees at the shipyard would never have recognized him.

“I’ve ordered, given you only ever eat the same thing here.” Junior executive laughed as the other man sat.

“Only thing here worth ordering, but it’s very good, the teriyaki beef is five star, surprising given this place is otherwise a one star diner.”
“Suit yourself, me, I like the ambiance.”

Both men laughed loudly enough to draw glanced from nearby tables, but no one paid any real attention, just a couple of middle-aged men meeting up for a drink at the end of the week.

“So, what have you got, you mentioned a new project?”

“That I have, something you and the others should be very interested in. You remember the Comstar clones of Argo, they called them the Iliad class.”

“Vaguely. Why?”

“I’ve got one in the yard, just agreed a deal to repair it. Get it into working condition.”

“Did you. Those are some useful ships, a merc unit have it?”

“No. that’s the thing, some sort of merchant who wants to play mercenary, seems very enthusiastic about the whole thing, didn’t even ask why I agreed to his stupid plan to finance the repairs by buying an old dropship.

Speaking of which, seven months and I’ll have a refurbished Starlord, and a Union. Completely clean, no links to anyone, I’m sure you can use both.”

“That we can.”

“Good, I trust the usual generous payments will be forthcoming, we can talk details of the purchase in a couple of months, front companies as usual?”

“I’m hardly going to buy them myself, that would point back at my employers like a neon arrow and IE don’t appreciate that sort of attention when it doesn’t benefit them in some way.”

“I thought you’d like it.”

“So, tell me more about this wanabee mercenary with a lost Comstar ship.”

Both men set to talking quietly, stopping only when the waiter arrived with food and drinks.



Captain Jonah

  • Private
  • *
  • Posts: 34
Re: Battletech novel Odyssey irregular posting of chapters.
« Reply #6 on: 27 December 2020, 12:32:12 »
Chapter 6


“The people who hire you consider you expendable, remember that when they give the mission briefing. “

***

Jumpship travel in the 31st century hasn’t changed much since Raymond Bache made the first ever jump at the beginning of the 22nd century. Ships jump, recharge their drives and jump again. Dropships either wait with them or with luck or considerable skill at navigating the complex network of jump routes, they find a series of jumps where they can arrive to find a ship getting ready to jump out.
The Great houses had the resources to create jump routes so Dropships could be carried across the Inner sphere in days, mere mortals had to wait weeks or months unless they had wealth, skill, or contacts.

Kitten One was booked on a total of six jumps, heading closer to New Avalon, then back toward the frontier and the Chaos Marches she was heading for, but her route, though much longer, involved being booked on three Jumpships that were departing within a day or two of her arrival, skipping most of the usual weeklong recharge cycle.

So, four weeks, six jumps and an out of the way route, but still much faster than she would have managed going direct, what with the number of Jumpships out of position or detached to military duties due to the recent and mostly ended little thing called the Fed-Com civil war.

Then she was detaching for the last time and burning toward the distant sun, and a tiny green and brown spec that was a world where three mixed regiments had fought to the death, because of the ambitions and madness of the now deposed Ice Queen.

“Flight times on the clocks, traffic control has acknowledged our arrival and confirmed a groundside bay.”

“Good, alert the mercenaries we’re here as well, it would be nice if they were packed and ready to go, our windows fairly tight.”

“Will do captain.”

Kitten One flew on, a rusty and dented bird with a tail of fusion fire, on her first visit to a world in three decades that didn’t involve dropping a lance of pirates.

***

“Nice collection of, erm, stuff.”

Arclight looked around. “Yea, we’ve sorted anything worthwhile over by our two mechs. You OK to carry that lot?”
Stone walked over to the piles of tangled alloys and components, stepped over the shattered barrel of a heavy autocannon then bent down and tugged at the tangled remains of an SRM loading system, the six belts torn apart and twisted around the launcher, it looked like a useless mess.

“You leaving this behind?”

“Yea, it came in salvage from the Lyran company that wrecked us, we got our own dead mechs and a load of this rubbish.”
Stone grunted as he pulled the remains of the loading system away and dumped it to one side revealing the six-pack launcher underneath, one of the tubes was crushed flat and another was buckled.

“Did you see this?”

“Yea, wrecked.” Arclight paused then spoke again, her tone suspicious, “why?”

“The loader is standard, Inner Sphere, same as you find anywhere, but this launcher, light alloys, foamed aluminium structure, and the targeting system, a hard lock launch restrictor. This is clan tech, a six-pack streak launcher, the tubes are fixable, the rest is intact, just buried under the loading system.”

He looked up, across the room toward the heavily damaged Kintaro. “You want this installed in that, a six-pack clan streak would up the firepower nicely?”

Arclight stepped closer then peered at the label on the side of the sensor and fire control unit, saw the clan markings and swore.

“******, I completely missed that, is there, you think there’s any more under all of this?”

“You know what systems your mechs had, but you’ve got the remains of half a dozen Lyran mechs under here, there was a lot of clan tech salvage floating around Lyran space after the fighting stopped, still is given the clans are still attacking worlds above the truce line.”

He looked around again, “I’ll get a few of my people over here, go through this lot, we’ve got two days on the ground to load before we need to burn for the jump point, that will be enough to double check everything.”

“This is ours.”

“I thought this was what you were leaving behind.” Stone saw the flash of anger in Arclight’s face, “relax, I’m not here to cheat you, but I’m getting paid in salvage to ship you home, so we’ll need to talk about which bits you plan on paying me with, meaning the more items like the streak I find, the more you’ve got to choose from.”

Arclight’s shoulders relaced a little, “Yea, look, I don’t know you, some, friends back on New Syrtis may have hired you, but as far as I know you’re just another greedy merchant looking to cheat us.”

Stone laughed, “Oh I’m a greedy merchant all right, but I don’t like to cheat anyone that could become a repeat customer.”

“Meaning the Duke?”

“Him, and you.”

“What, why would I be a repeat customer, I just want a trip home.” Arclight’s voice had more than a touch of curiosity, and suspicion.
“We’ll talk properly later, for now, I didn’t just randomly get hired to collect you, Major Torgine asked me to do this run, suggested you were the sort of people I was looking for. Need to get you repaired first of course.”

“You know the major, does that mean you’re… Never mind, she didn’t say anything in her messages. But you looking to hire us, as, mercenaries.”

“Simple version, yes, I’m looking to hire, but experienced people who, how do I put this, people I can trust not to have political views that would get in the way.”

Arclight’s face flashed through several emotions before she got it under control. “You serve the Duke?”

“Serve, no, I don’t work for him or get paid by him, but he’s my Duke none the less, born and grew up on New Syrtis, which included ten years in one of the Dukes orphanages, they treated me well, you could say I’ve got a soft spot for the old bugger.”

“The Dukes… The ones he runs for children of veterans whose parents died in service, those are the only ones he directly funds.”

“That would be the one.”

“Oh, sorry, your parents?”

“Long time ago, been a lot of vacuum past the hull since then. Anyway, enough talking. I’ll call my people, you double check everything over there is locked down for transport. Two days will go fast once we get busy.”

“Yea.” Arclight turned and waved toward Topgun, gesturing toward the two mechs. Behind them Stone pulled the comm off his belt and started talking to Kitten One.

***

“One minute warning to zero gee, prepare to orient aft. All hands fifty seconds to zero gee, make sure everything is locked down.”

Arclight reached out and tapped her insulated polymer coffee mug, checking the lid was tight and the magnet in the base was solid to the metal galley table, the others did the same though Bobcat took one last drink of his, the top cap on the insulated mug looked like those things you give to toddlers to drink with, a curved lid with a raised spout. Liquid tight unless you sucked on it.

“Thirty seconds to zero gee, lock it down people.”

“They running with a green crew or just a lot of newbies?”

“They seem to run a tight ship, the crew act like they’ve been doing this for years.”

“They have, those messages are for us.”

“Us, what the ******, we’ve been…”

“They don’t know us, and no one wants to lose an eye because some noob forgot to lock down the cutlery.”

“ZERO GEE!”

Everyone’s stomachs lurched, but it was a familiar feeling the veterans were well used to.

“Re-orient to tail thrust, re-orient to A, five minutes to sustained thrust, swing everything around to the A position.”

Bobcat stood and then swung his legs over the bench, one at a time so he always had on boot fixed to the metal deck under the tough carpet. There was a big A on the wall beside him, what had been the back wall of the room while they were sitting on the ground or in the atmosphere with the belly being down, it had the same carpet on it. There was a big B in the carpet pattern halfway along the galley where the tables were currently sat.

“Shift you two, we can move the tables at least.” The other two stood and did the same movements, keeping one boot on the ground.

Then once they were out of the way Bobcat reached down and undid the locks holding the single piece table and benches to the deck, it was on a pair of bars that hinged under the table’s middle legs and at the other end, the join between the two carpeted walls. The table swung on those bars, rotated 90 degrees in the air as Bobcat pushed it into position with the six legs on the A wall carpet. A quick movement to lock it down and it was ready.

Like all Aerodyne ships that landed on a planet, the Leopard landed belly down, which meant on the ground it was oriented to the worlds gravity, but in space, the drives were aft so gravity and ‘down’ would also be aft, so every room was designed to be as wide as possible side to side, but as narrow as possible front to back, and everything then hinged between the B wall which was ‘down’ on a world, and the A wall, which was ‘down’ while under thrust in space.

Arclight stood on her toes, took a firm grip on the table which was now at 90 degrees to her and kicked off from the deck, twisted and landed again on the A wall then walked along the galley to the hatch into the kitchen, “You need any help in there?”

The ships cook looked up, he was still on the B wall and so was at an angle to the MechWarrior, “thanks, but I’m good, just take a few minutes, there’s a lot of stuff in here to move.” The young man grinned, “not my first time.”

Arclight grinned back, he was a bit young for her, but cute, “I leave you to it, we’re doing the tables for you, so we’ll be good.”

“Great. You need fresh coffees, I be ready in two”, he glanced at the sealed coffee machine that was still on the wrong wall. “Maybe three”.

Arclight chuckled, the sound made the young man twitch, “that’s fine, don’t worry till we’re under thrust.”

The man nodded and went back to moving the kitchen units from one wall to the other so everything would be ‘down’ when they went under thrust.
By the time Arclight walked back into the galley the other two had moved the remaining three tables and now sat down on the A wall sipping coffees.

***

On the bridge the crew stations were fixed to the left and right bulkheads in side by side pairs, the big view screens were attached to the same frame as the workstations,  and the whole lot rotated smoothly to the A deck is down position, behind the pilot and navigator the other workstations rotated and the bridge became a two storey tall room with the crew on two floors rather than the single flat room it was when B was down.

“Three minutes to burn, engineering reports ready.”

“They would, all they do is swing the screens and keyboards around and stand on the walls.”

“Alert the mech bay, rotate the mech booths as well, we’ve got a lot of work to do and it’s easier with the mechs the right way up.”

“Will do captain.” There were five people on the bridge, the pilot and navigator who were now on the upper floor, and the ships sensor/comms tech and the gunner who helped with ships systems when not shooting stuff. It was him who responded from below.

Stone glanced down at the metal mesh he was standing on, the top of the man’s head was visible as he talked on the comm.

“Two minutes to burn, all departments report readiness!”

“Mech bay confirms, rotating the booths now.”

“Just waiting on the galley, wait, green light, that’s all departments reporting swung to A and ready for burn.”

“Lets hope the passengers didn’t pack anything breakable in their lockers. Burn in 30 seconds.

Everyone counted down in their minds, or watched the various time displays then braced in the last few seconds before the fusion drives stuttered then roared to life and suddenly everyone was the right weight again, as the drives pushed the Dropship forward at one gee, out from the world and toward the point in space where gravitational eddies were as close to non-existent as possible, making for the safest jumps.

***

“ALL HANDS, WE ARE NOW IN SUSTAINED FLIGHT, TIME TO JUMP POINT IS ON THE CLOCK, STAND DOWN FULL ALERT, RESUME WATCHES!”

Every room on the Dropship had a display somewhere prominent, part of that display now flickered and became a countdown, days, hours and minutes till they reached the Jump point, a secondary countdown was marked turnover point and that was also counting down.

Stone checked the screens one last time, “I’ve got work to do before I talk to our passengers, if anyone needs me use the intercom.” Then he turned, took a few steps and slid down the ladder that had been on the ceiling a few minutes ago, down to what was now, a floor mounted hatch to the rest of the ship.

“He gone?”

“Yea.

“So, looks like his plans actually coming together. Dropships, now MechWarrior’s and mechs.”

“Did you see those mechs, you could see daylight through one of them.”

“Repairs, the captains not much as a captain, but he can turn scrap into fully functional tech, we’ve all seen him do it.”

“Yea, guess so.”

“So, you decided yet?” Fen was looking at the woman seated beside him.

“Me, what about?”

“Staying?”

“Why ask me, what about you?”

“Me, I’m staying, I’m Jumpship and Dropship pilot trained, which means on the Rose I sit around trying not to get bored. The captain hired me back when he got his first Dropship, salvaging all over the place, then shipping weapons and mechs for the Davion forces in the war, sure as ****** wasn’t boring. The bonuses were nice as well. Yea, I’m staying. What about you?”

“Don’t know, maybe not, you don’t need me, not for pure dropship ops, you can find that sort of navigator anywhere. Still making my mind up but I reckon I’ll be leaving with the others, get a job with a corporate jumper easily with my experience.”

“Shit, who’s getting the coffee if you’re gone?” Fen laughed, then laughed again as Anne-Marie gave him a finger in response. “Seriously though, you’ll be missed.”

“I hope so, but running with a crew of mercs, nothing more complex than a Dropship going from A to B, getting shot at...”

“We’ve been shot at before.” Fen helpfully interrupted the monologue before it ran on for too long.

“By pirates who were hunting us, we weren’t carrying mercs to raid someone else’s world, deliberately looking for trouble.”

“It wouldn’t be boring.”

“Maybe, but boring is good, you can retire on boring.”

“Think it over, do you really want to spend the rest of your life jumping from place to place?”

“Maybe.” Anne-Marie didn’t sound certain either way, Fen decided to remain quiet, for now, but this was an argument he hadn’t given up on, she was a damned good navigator, and she was always happy to get the coffees when the pair were on watch, that alone was worth changing her mind.

***

“So, what do we do now?” The three mercenary MechWarrior’s were still sitting in the galley.

“Have a look around, see what the recreation facilities are, apart from the clothes we bought back on the planet everything else was stolen by those coolant suckers on the Union who flew off with our personal stuff.”

“Yea, my games tablet.”

“My novels.”

“Might be something in the MechWarrior’s quarters. At least we should have some room, three of us and six berths given this ship has fighter bays.”
“Even three is crowded, this is an old style Leopard, elbow room in shifts.”

“We won’t know till we check.”

“True, lead on oh leader.” Topgun giggled as Arclight gave her a level two look, but the three had been together for years and anything less than a full level one glare didn’t work anymore. Arclight nodded and took the lead, heading for what was now a floor hatch and the ladder down.

***




Captain Jonah

  • Private
  • *
  • Posts: 34
Re: Battletech novel Odyssey irregular posting of chapters.
« Reply #7 on: 27 December 2020, 12:38:38 »

Chapter 7

“Ground vehicles are useful as support, and expendable if need be, don’t tell the vehicle crew that though, they like to think they’re more important than infantry.”

***

“Come in, pull up the chair, sorry, we’ve only got two chairs in here.” Stone waved his hand, indicating the tiny office area.

“Not a problem, I call rank, the youngsters can stand.” Arclight shot the other two a grin then over acted sitting in the empty chair. “So, you called.”

“Yes, sorry it’s taken a while, but you handed me a pretty big mess to sort through. Still, there’s actually some good stuff here, options, which you need to decide on.”

“Go ahead.”

“Right, option one, I can fix up the Apollo, replace the armour, fix the small amount of structural damage and give it a maintenance, repair the Kintaro, repair the extensive structure and internal damage, replace the smashed leg and torso systems, fit a standard SRM six pack and the clan six pack to replace the destroyed launchers, add streak ammo and a loader, which means leaving some spare tonnage.

Depending on what you want with that there’s enough salvage to convert you to new tech heat sinks which will deal with the heat load leaving you with three 6 packs and a pair of medium lasers you can fire near enough constantly.

Just that, plus hauling you home will leave you with close to two million in salvage value if you have an OK broker.

Option two, between the salvage from your company and the Lyran stuff there are several mech rebuilds. Frankenstein mechs made of parts, but they’ll work. One's an Archer but there aren’t any large LRM racks for it. The other is an Enforcer, which I can repair to combat ready, with a heavy LB-X autocannon in the right arm, mixed cluster and slug ammo and an Extended Range large laser in the left arm, it’s a seriously advanced tech build, taking equipment from the two wrecks in your company and the half of one from the Lyran salvage, ferro armour, advanced heat sinks, an extra light fusion plant.

However, that much work, that many parts, doing that and the repairs to the other two plus paying me to get you home would cost more than what’s left of the salvage afterwards. I’m not charging you beyond the salvage, but option two means you get three fully functional mechs, and you get home, but with nothing else.”

“Nothing? We loaded several hundred tons of salvage. You’re trying to cheat us!”

“No I’m not, you have any idea how expensive it is to repair a destroyed Battlemech young man? Or just to fix the damage on a half wrecked one like the Kintaro? No, I can run you through the calculations if you like, it’s only three pages long.”

“Enough Bobcat. Alright captain, let’s be clear, you fully, and I mean fully repair the Apollo, and my Kintaro, upgrade my mech with a clan 6 pack streak and streak ammo, ‘and’ double heat sinks, and then build Bobcat here an Enforcer running with an XL engine, ferro armour, and a heavy LB-X cannon with plenty of ammo, and an extended range large laser, the one from the Barons mech I assume.”

“Yes, and double heat sinks on the Enforcer. It’s functionally a 5D model.”

“The Enforcer is ours?”

“Yes, I can draw up legal documents though I imagine you’ll want someone independent to do that, but your two plus the Enforcer, your mechs, legally owned.

However, as I said, that’s a lot of expensive work and uses most of the best of the salvage, the extra light engine, the only working ER large laser, and the only LB-X autocannon, everything that’s left including the Archer chassis comes to a bit less than the total cost, but given I hope to be earning trust and good will out of this I’m happy to take a small loss.

This time!”

“We’ll want proper documents, and we’ll have a lawyer check everything, and the mechs leave when we do, no come and collected it next week and then you vanish.”

“You wound me madam, you haven’t known me long enough.”

“I’ve known many like you, that winning smile, the easy confidence of a con man.”

“Ah, well, I can’t help being charming, but I’m not tricking you, I’m giving you a good deal since as I mentioned, I take a loss here, much as it kills me to do something so terrible. Lose money on a deal.” Topgun and Bobcat both chuckled or grinned at the overacting and look on the merchant’s face.

“All right, do it, we can certainly use a 5D and we need the other two repaired, but we’ll bring in Lawyers when we arrive on New Syrtis. Speaking of, how long on the repairs?”

“We should be done or within a few days of done when we arrive.”

“I meant what I said, we leave when the mechs do, we’re not leaving anything behind.”

“Of course, you will be my guests.” Stone grinned again and noticed the smallest of twitches as Arclight forced herself not to smile, or maybe it was a snarl, hard to tell.

“Done then, repair both mechs and build the third. We’ll be keeping an eye on the work though.”

“You can have someone you trust inspect it before you leave, despite anything you may have heard, I don’t cheat people.”

“What do you mean anything we may have heard?”

Stone smiled, “just a figure of speech.” Arclight glared at him, the other two grinned where she couldn’t see them, “So, you’re happy for option two?”

Arclight nodded, an almost angry movement, then she quickly stood. “Do what you’ve promised, but if you’ve cheated us.”

Stone took on a serious face, the look of an honest merchant and engineer. He nodded, words weren’t needed. The MechWarrior’s left, the junior pair falling in behind Arclight.

“That went well” Stone laughed at his own joke and turned to the screen on his desk, he had a lot of work ahead of him.

***

For Stone, the return trip went quickly, between the few times he was needed as captain, and endless hours repairing the mechs they were hours from New Syrtis in no time.

For the three MechWarrior’s the trip was an endless grind of boredom and more boredom. Their personal possessions had left when the Union did, and they hadn’t been able to find much locally. The six-person cabin had a small entertainment system, with a lot of corrupted files and some pirate’s idea of music that had been crap twenty years ago, and hadn’t improved with age.

Still, the crew were decent types, and the Leopard crew room had some entertainment systems, which led to much amusement and the odd argument, nothing serious, but Bobcat refused to play any of the crew at the virtual fighter pilot games after the first time. Not after they told him they had downloaded it from their old ship and showed him the scores, and the thousand plus hours each of them had on the game.

But New Syrtis was hours away and it was time to get ready, the Leopard had turned two days ago and was now slowing down to a zero zero with the planets orbit where it would then drop into the atmosphere and land. They had packed, which hadn’t taken long, a few changes of clothes hurriedly bought before leaving, and a few nic naks in half empty kit bags.

“So, you given any more thought to the captains deal. Forming a mercenary force on this magic Dropship of his?”

I’ve given it a lot of thought, and I don’t like it, for many reasons. Firstly, he’s a civilian, corporate or no, he’s not military, not a MechWarrior. Secondly, he’s making a lot of promise with nothing to back them up, all we’ve seen so far is he has an old beat-up Leopard, and I’m not signing up for long term on this tub.

Thirdly, we still don’t know him, or what he’s after, not till I talk to the people at home, find out who he is. He’s too smooth, a con man, I don’t trust him.”

“He’s a damned good tech though, my Apollo hasn’t showed that good a self-diagnostic since I first got her.”

“Yea, the Enforcers looking sweet, way better than my last mech, I’ve been in there checking, his people are good, and they seem to be doing a top-notch job.”

“That’s as may be, we still don’t know who he is, or if his claims are true. I’ll decide once I’ve had a few days to talk to people, get a better idea who and what our Captain is. You two make up your own minds.”

“I’m going with what you decide, you’re my lance leader.”

“Yea, me too, it’s not safe out there alone.” Bobcat grinned but his comment had a cold and solid truth to it.

Then they were in orbit, in zero Gee and moving everything to the B deck ready for a surface landing and then seemingly minutes later they were down, snow gently falling across the runways and landing pads of the down port, and hissing on the red hot thrusters.

Arclight left as soon as the passenger ramp was down, but true to her word she left Topgun and Bobcat to keep an eye on the mechs, the Enforcer wasn’t finished till the following day.

At which point she came back, and they all left, walking out their mechs and not looking back.

***

“Say that again, but slowly.” Arclight’s voice had more than a little surprise, and anger.

Hardass, Major Torgine looked the MechWarrior in the eye and waited till she had calmed down.

“I said, overall, the Dukes people and my people are in agreement, and we think this can work.”

“But, we know nothing about him, he’s a civilian, a stranger, a…”

We’ve checked his background, his records, there are more than a few borderline incidents, minor smuggling, customers getting a less than entirely generous deal, but nothing to suggest he’s loyal to anyone else, and a lot of history to suggest he’s loyal to the Duke.”

“History, you people fake histories all the time.”

“That we do, or don’t, because that would be criminal. But there’s no indication anywhere of problems, fake IDs are usually done to make the person look like a good case for trusting, Stone is borderline there, but every analyst who’s looked says they have no feeling for trouble.”

“The famous gut instinct test.”

“It’s saved us more than once. But this isn’t going to be one of the Dukes Intelligence agency operations, or one of ours. No official involvement by any agents form any agency, no secret ops, no classified data, at least not till we’re good and sure the Captain can be trusted.

We’re going to run this exactly as he suggested. Well, a little bit more than he suggested, but overall, the Odyssey as a merc ship, squadron support and control, we’ve got a few jobs that would run very smoothly with that ship supporting them, a few jobs that suddenly become possible now as well. So, what we’re looking at is giving the go ahead, you three and someone else making his first lance.

We’re already pushing a few people forward as crew, you won’t know who they are unless necessary, and they won’t know you, but two separate teams of people we can trust, keeping an eye on things, reporting back.

With you he knows you’re reporting to us, the others will be more careful, but with encryption our messages should be safe.

Look at it this way, the Civil wars’ finally over, the Federated Suns are in a mess, weakened, our once friends the Commonwealth are now the Lyran Alliance and not friendly anymore. The bent swords got far too adventurous while we were distracted, we lost the entire St Ives area, the Chaos marches are turning to Blake at a rate, and our other neighbours are restive.

The Duke's already been ordered to transfer two entire regiments worth of mechs to the regular forces, he’s pulling out companies here and there and the militias taking a serious hit. That’s…”

“WHAT? How are we, that’s…”?

“Crazy, yes and no. The butchers bill for the so-called civil war isn’t even close to being counted, but it’s bad, mech losses are bad enough, some dark rumours are talking a thousand plus and…”

“******!” The word was drawn out.

“Yea, but that’s not the worst. Vehicle losses ten times that and more, aerospace, warships, infantry, the list goes on. We’ve had the better part of an entire generation of veteran warriors cut in half, between deaths and those who are retiring, not willing to continue after everything they stood for was thrown down like a dirty rag.

Retraining is going to take a few years, and with the damage to the factories, the Lyrans didn’t hold back when it came to weapons of mass destruction and destroying factories. Rebuilding will be slow for a few years as well.

So while the Capellan March missed a lot of it, the Suns as a whole is weaker, and we can’t sit back and ignore that. But the Dukes people are talking about keeping our neighbours off balance, showing them we’ve still got what it takes to crush them if they cause trouble.

And the Odyssey is going to be very useful for a few of those operations. No details, it’s still in the planning stage, but soon.”

“So, you want us to sign up, with this civilian?”

“Yes.”

“Shit.” A very heartfelt word. “Shit, this is corporate work.”

“Then do something about that, you’re here because he needs MechWarrior’s and leaders, he’s still building this, help him change things if you don’t like them. Having this work will be useful to all of us, and long term, he could be a very useful asset. But for now, work with him, get his plan up and running.

Or refuse, we have other work for you, we can suggest several others for this, Wiper for example.”

“Wiper, WIPER! My cockpit windows covered with mud anyone got a window wiper, that Wiper. Shit, I thought you wanted this to work.”

“He’s a capable lance leader.”

“Yea, but not for this, this is an independent command, special duties, Wipers a regular, I don’t think he’s ever worked detached, certainly not as one of the mercenary lances.”

“He’s available, if you aren’t”

“I can see what you’re doing major.”

“Is it working?”

There was a long pause.

“Shit, alright. But independent command, and if he fails to uphold his promises, we’re out. I’ll run as a mercenary company, not as corporate idiots looking to die for the company bottom line.”

“I wouldn’t expect anything else.” The major smiled. “So, it’s decided then. I’ll leave you to tell him.” She stood, stepped away from the table and lifted her greatcoat from the back of her chair. “Enjoy the meal.” Then she was gone.”

“Crazy times. Say, did she pay?”

***





Captain Jonah

  • Private
  • *
  • Posts: 34
Re: Battletech novel Odyssey irregular posting of chapters.
« Reply #8 on: 31 December 2020, 06:36:29 »
Chapter 8

“Withdraw your mechs when damaged and at risk of destruction, mechs are a MechWarrior’s life, without them we’re just infantry.”

***

“ME! I know ****** all about fighting in a mech!”

“You said you can pilot one, you’ve got a full mech pilots’ certification, which makes you better than half of the MechWarrior’s that are churned out of most of the modern military academies. The technical stuff you know better than we do, it’s a matter of teaching you to shoot. But this is important, it’s hard to explain.

Look, a mercenary unit, a merchant and captain of a dropship, even your monster, that’s one thing, as a mercenary dropship. Hauling mercs around, that’s what Dropships do, house or mercenary, all MechWarrior’s use them as transport. But to be commanding a military unit, a mech unit, as a civilian!

I get the whole it’s a business and you’ll be managing it because you’re good at that stuff, and I accept being the mech senior office, because I wouldn’t be here otherwise, but I’m not taking orders on the battlefield from a civilian.

MechWarrior’s, they’re, we’re, an odd lot. Taking orders from a general who’s maybe never been in a cockpit is one thing, all three of us have some sort of background with the house forces. But the direct chain of command, regiments with MechWarrior colonels, battalions with MechWarrior majors, we want a MechWarrior in charge, someone who’s one of us.”

“Not some peasant driving a tank or walking with the infantry!”

“No, yea, sort of. All three of us started with the regular forces, march militia, regular army, we worked with combat teams, combined arms, but infantry and armour officers don’t give orders to mechs, no matter what the actual rank involved, headquarters do, generals do, but they tell a mech officer who tells the MechWarrior’s what to do.”

“Not a dropship captain.”

“No, that’s even worse. Sorry. You aren’t even military, navy Dropships are a totally different part of the military, even the infantry won’t take orders from some vacc sucker.”

And I’m captain of a civilian dropship, so even worse than that.”

“Yea, sorry.” Arclight grinned to show she wasn’t actually insulting the man, not really insulting him, just explaining things, that was all.

“So you seriously want me to join the platoon, in a mech, where am I going to… Wait, you’re thinking about the…”

“Archer, yes.”

“I was planning on selling it.”

“Don’t get it wrecked then, but seriously, it’s well armoured, long range firepower so you can hold back and support us, even for a single mission.”

“Still not convinced.”

“You need to do this, if you want to have any authority over MechWarrior’s, being a business manager won’t cut it, you need to have been in the cockpit, felt the heat, fought a battle. There’s no other way here, you’ll get no respect and that means I get less respect, because I’m just a corporate lapdog working for some civilian who runs a business. There are plenty of MechWarrior’s happy to work like that, but if you want the good ones, they want to work for a fellow MechWarrior.”

“You know how crazy this sounds?”

“That’s not a no.”

Stone looked across the galley at the other two MechWarrior’s, “You two aren’t saying anything?”

“She’s right. She mostly is, but this, she’s right. It’s hard to explain, taking orders from someone that isn’t one of us.”

Bobcat spoke up. “Scared of getting killed captain, or of killing someone.” Topgun tried to shut him up, but wasn’t fast enough.

“I’ve killed people before, Dropships and merchants get attacked by pirates, we put them in a grave.”

“Grave, you put them in the grave. Shit, Gravestone! Say hello to Gravestone you two.” Arclight and Bobcat looked at each other, then at Topgun.

“Gravestone, I like it. Greetings Gravestone.” Arclight grinned.

Stone signed, then grinned. “****** it, wheels, tracks, battle armour, Dropships and a Jumpship, a Mechs just one more thing to command, right.”

The other three started laughing, Bobcat slapped him on the shoulder then leaned back when he caught the look on Stone’s face, no, not Stone, Gravestone.

“Wheels and tracks I get, ground vehicles, but where did you learn to pilot Battle Armour?”

“You really want to know?”

“Sure.”

“Fine, someone get fresh coffees all round and I’ll give you the long and boring story of my life.” Both women looked at Bobcat, who sighed and got up, gathered everyone’s personal mugs and walked across to the coffee percolator.

“Get you anything?” The Galley steward was by the serving counter and looking at the MechWarrior as he approached.

“Just need fresh coffee, thanks anyway.” The man nodded and went back to doing something or other.

A few minutes later and everyone was comfortably seated with a fresh hot coffee to hand.

“So, New Syrtis born and bred, military family, Dad was a MechWarrior, serving in the Syrtis Fusiliers, mum was a mech tech with the regular forces. I guess I got her love of fixing things rather than my dad’s piloting mechs.” Stone paused and took a sip, the coffee was still too hot to drink properly.

“Anyway, eight years old, living in the capital with dad, he was stationed with the garrison there, one evening he got a call, secret deployment somewhere or other, he grabbed his ready bag, said goodbye, called a neighbour to babysit and he was gone. It happened sometimes; his company was ready reserve, so they were sent out in a Union kept on five-minute launch status.

The neighbour came round for a while, it’s odd, I can’t remember her name, little old lady, I can see her face, but no idea what her name was. Went to bed expecting dad back in a few days. Life went on, school, the neighbour checking on me, with mum off world for months at a time I got used to looking out for myself for a few days, three days, four days.

Then the door chime rang, I thought it was dad, forgotten his key because he’d left in a hurry, ran to the door, opened it, and two strangers standing there, dress uniforms, caps under their arms. Sorry for your loss. I remember them saying that, they said a lot but that’s what I remember, sorry for your loss.

Anyway, the bureaucracy got moving, mum was given immediate compassionate leave, priority passage home and a permanent transfer to the garrison on world. They sent her home on a civilian transport, a liner.”

Topgun froze, then leaner forward, “Eight, you look late fifties, so fifty years ago, a civilian liner, NO, she was on the…” She cut off whatever she was about to say.

“Cassia’s gift, yea, they sent her home on Cassia’s gift.”

“I don’t get it, what’s that mean?” Bobcat looked from Topgun to Gravestone and back.

“Cassia’s gift, the liner, the Capellan raid on the transit point, that Cassia’s gift.”

Bobcat looked puzzled, “Never heard of it, hell, fifty years ago my parents were kids.”

Stone started talking again, the others fell silent. “A Capellan raid, they’d got intel a big supply convoy was going to be forming at the jump point, half a dozen Jumpships and a load of cargo Dropships packed full of supplies for military units along the borders. The Caps jumped it, combat dropships, a couple of carriers and a wing of fighters, they shot the ****** out of every dropship there.

Their intel was correct, just the day was wrong, the convoy had jumped out the day before, so what the Caps hit were a bunch of civilian ships, the defending forces killed a lot of the raiders but were wiped out, it was a big raid and there wasn’t anything at the jump point worth sending out extra defenders at that time, so it was the regular guard force, which the Caps knew about and came ready for.

A couple of cargo ships, the refuelling station, and four hundred men, women and children on a liner called Cassia’s gift.”

“******, sorry, I didn’t, sorry.”

“Long time ago. So, that was that, into an orphanage, shit hole, didn’t fit in, I didn’t like the couple running the place and they didn’t like me. So, off to another place, then a third one. At some point some data shuffler noticed I was the child of veterans who had died in service and put through the files to move me to one of the Dukes places. Didn’t like it there either but they took no shit, took a while but I came to like it, order, discipline, none of the bullshit of the other places.

Anyway, it was just across the river from the downport, so after classes when we had free time, I used to go over the heroes’ bridge and just sit in the park watching the Dropships land and take off. Wasn’t watching the people go past, just the Dropships.

So, one day someone says good afternoon, just like that, good afternoon young man. Didn’t know him, but he seemed familiar. The next day he said good afternoon again, thing is he walked past every day to work, I just wasn’t seeing him, or anyone else.

We got to exchanging words, the weather, might snow tonight, that sort of thing, till one day he said he couldn’t stop to chat, he had an urgent repair job, Dropship had come in hard and crushed a leg. Which got me excited, he worked in the downport.”

“You weren’t worried?”

“No, nice part of town, the park was well patrolled, and the Hasek centre for the orphans of veterans teaches hand to hand. Still, that went on for six months or so, a good afternoon and a few comments about what he was working on. Then he turned up on a special day, asked me how I was, I said unhappy, it was my birthday, and I was sitting in the park waiting for a dropship but there weren’t any.

He said that wasn’t right, made a call and the following day I got a mail with permission for a guest visit to the technical bay at the downport, had the time of my life, helped out with a couple of cargo haulers, even a fusion drive from a Leopard.

Next thing I knew I’d applied for an apprenticeship there, got accepted and was working weekends and some evenings, the more I learned the more I wanted to know, that went on for two years, then I was of age and had automatic enrolment in either the Warrior Hall or an off-world military academy, courtesy of the Dukes sponsorship program. He’s done a lot for me over the years, never met him, never seen him in the flesh, but I owe him a lot, you know how it is.”

The others nodded, they had stories, not like his, but still they had a history with bad times and dark times, mostly at the hands of the Bent Sword scum from across the border.

“Anyway, Warriors hall, got there, went through the initial testing and the like, they looked at my skills and history and offered me a place in tech training, spent most of my time across at the University of Syrtis, I was so far ahead of the rest of the class on vehicles and dropships I ended up helping teach those classes and they moved me over to Mechs and Aerospace, that’s where I got my Dropship and mech pilots’ certificates.

Came out of there with three degrees and honours, then spent four years with the Fusiliers at first, then spent another three years on New Avalon with the Brigade of Guards, I was sent to escort something I’d help found, and ended up staying there for three years. Can’t talk about it though.

Retired honourably, can’t talk about that either, went home, got a job with the militia, mechs, aerospace, helped out with dropships and the weird stuff, got to be anything came in they didn’t recognize it went to me, then it was my team, then my department. I was fixing the lot or taking it apart to find out how it worked, we got a lot of captured stuff in as well.

Anyway, I always test the stuff I fix, apart from aerospace fighters, I can fly a Dropship, but not a fighter, reflexes were never good enough. So, ten years of that and I went independent, took half my people, set up my own business, did very well, did work for the militia or the Dukes people at cost so they sent a lot of custom my way by way of thanks.

Then one day I had a crazy idea, there’d been a raid, pirates, a militia company had come back with a great pile of stuff they’d captured, wrecked mechs, stuff the pirates had found here and there, it went for auction as scrap. I bought it, took it back to the workshop and spent a month going through it, fixing stuff up, selling things that were repaired and good to go.

Ran out of that lot, bought more, that turned into buying salvage off world and shipping it back, which turned into me owning a small Dropship to go collect salvage from old battlefields. One of the things I found was an old Star League era cargo facility that had been destroyed by people fighting over it, got some good salvage, and a pair of exo skeleton cargo lifters.

Got one working using the parts from both, and of course I had to use it, to make sure it was working properly, it was also great fun to use. But once the clans happened and battle armour started turning up there weren’t that many people who knew much about exo skeletons, power armour or battle armour, not back in 50 when people were first getting their hands on Toad suits.

Out here I was one of a handful of techs who knew anything about the old systems, got pulled in as a consultant for a few months before it was all centralised on New Avalon. But for that time, I was taking toad suits apart, putting them back together and trying to use them, or strip out the exo frames and get them to work on a normal sized person.

About eight, nine years ago I was called in again, General Motors were rolling out their new battle armour, the Cavalier, and the Syrtis Fusiliers were getting a couple of battalions worth, they had plenty of people who knew the old Inner sphere standards, but not the new stuff and so many units were getting it new that there weren’t enough consultants to go around. So they pulled in a bunch of old timers to take them apart, put them back together and find out what wasn’t in the manual.

Which was where I got my formal battle armour pilots’ qualification, to go with my wheeled, tracked and hover driver’s licenses, and Dropship pilots license, and Mech pilot’s qualification. I can’t shoot anything, apart from rig test firing I’ve never fired a weapon myself, ordered them fired on a ship, but never fired an actual vehicle, mech or battle armour weapon.”

“Shit, I thought I’d had an adventurous life.” Topgun grinned.

“So, where were you during the war then, the recent one, against the Lyrans? If you don’t mind me asking?” Bobcat added the last after Arclight glared at him.

“Gun running.”

“Gun running, you have to explain that.” Topgun was leaning forward, eager to listen.

“Gun running, once things kicked off, when the Ice queen went psycho, after the rumours got out about her killing off her own family, when she took over everything, I was off around the frontier, salvaging stuff then repairing it on the way home. We got the news, the first six months, when the fighting started, we were hearing how bad it was getting.

A lot of troops fighting against the tyrant, but the Lyrans and those loyal to them controlled military depots, factories and the like. And there I was, close to Marik space, and all those arms dealers. So, I sold what I had repaired, bought everything I could, weapons, ammo, even some mechs, and shipped them round the frontier past the Capellans then back into the Fed Suns, found plenty of willing buyers but I made sure I was selling to loyalists, not some Lyran kissers.

Went back, bought more, came back with that, borrowed a second Dropship and did another run. I was doing that when I inherited the Rose so I was using her as well, filling her cargo holds and carrying Dropships, my own pair and carrying others who started doing the same runs.

Made a lot of runs, kept a few loyal regiments in action, so if you see any Marik built mechs, newish, in local regiments, that may have been me.” Stone grinned, then laughed as the others grinned with him.

“Shit, a toast to Gravestone” Bobcat lifted his coffee mug.

“You can’t toast with coffee.”

“Why not?”

“Because it’s, ****** it, a toast to our crazy captain and soon to be fellow MechWarrior, Gravestone.”

“Did I agree, I don’t remember saying yes.”

“Sure you did captain, we all remember you saying yes, don’t we.” Topgun spoke, the other two nodded enthusiastically.

“So, simulator training, lance combat, oh eight hundred, section eleven, I’ve got a room booked already, we can train against the wanabees.”

“Oh eight hundred, tomorrow! I’ve got Odyssey to repair.”

“Oh eight hundred, sharp.” Arclight glared, the sort of glare that made new recruits wet themselves. Everyone else nodded.

***



Captain Jonah

  • Private
  • *
  • Posts: 34
Re: Battletech novel Odyssey irregular posting of chapters.
« Reply #9 on: 31 December 2020, 06:47:46 »
Chapter 9


“Pistol and knife, learn to use them, keep them handy always. Fastest way to take out a mech is to kill the pilot in an alley.”


***


Topgun grabbed one of the fluffy white towels and threw it to Arclight then picked up another one to mop her face and neck. Arclight mopped her face and neck then slung the towel around her neck and walked over to the score board, the floor to ceiling display that was showing the results of the various battles, some of them were flashing very high scores.

Bobcat wandered up and checked for his name. “Not too shabby, 11 laser hits, 8 with the cannon. A respectable 19.”

Topgun gently pushed him out of the way, checked the list and pointed to Arclight’s score, 14 laser hits and 87 missile hits, then her own score, no lasers but over 200 missile hits.

“Showoffs, hey, Gravestone, where’s the, 41, not that bad for a rookie, wait, is that direct fire or total.”

Topgun checked the score, zero direct hits, 41 missile hits, out of 280 fired.”

“Shit. Just the targeting systems should be better than that.”

“He’s fighting the systems, with some practice, once he learns to work with the targeting, he’ll get a lot better, but for his first ever fight in a mech, he’s not a total disaster. Where is he by the way?”

Bobcat pointed toward the men’s changing rooms, “head under a cold shower, he was looking really unsteady, no heat tolerance.”

“That will improve as well, as a pilot his scores as good as any of ours, slightly better than mine and Bobcats. And the technical stuff, sensors, reading the systems, once he learns to work with the targeting and spends a lot more time in saunas, I think he’ll turn into an acceptable MechWarrior.”

“Acceptable?”

“Yea, I’m not expecting some living legend in the making, but as a MechWarrior, with the skill and experience not to embarrass himself, or to embarrass my leadership, yea, acceptable.”

“Let’s grab some drinks, we’ve got a lance of kids to beat up in twenty.”

The others grinned. Seal clubbing wasn’t exactly honourable, but it was fun.


***


Two hours in mech simulators, an entire floor of them, four to a room, a private company owned them, the public could rent them mornings and early afternoons, late afternoons and evenings they were block booked by the Militia and regular forces, they were the best available and rumours had it the Duke or someone in his family was a silent partner and investor.

But they were frighteningly realistic, enough so that for a rookie who had pushed himself to try and keep up with the veteran’s, heat stroke had been possible as the pods simulated the heat of constant missile fire in battle. Lots of water had helped, and so had hours of office time under air conditioning, working on issues raised by the ongoing work on Odyssey.

Which bought him to time for an evening meal, and something else. The Archer.

There had been enough parts in the salvage to completely rebuild one, none of the advanced systems of course, they had gone on the Mercenaries mechs or been sold, so what he had was something that would have been recognisable to people fighting the third or fourth succession wars. Apart from one little problem.

Well, two little problems. The Archer was a very old design, a dedicated fire support platform, a missile boat, in fact a lurm boat. Except that this one didn’t have any long-range missiles; the salvage had contained a single ten tube launcher and a fifteen tube one. The ten tube was a Telos model, a very useful design that was more accurate, but since it fired a tight cluster of LRMs it was more vulnerable to the ever more common anti-missile systems, making the missiles an easier target than the more spread-out fire of other designs.

Which left him with a problem, a 70ton missile boat firing a 25-missile salvo was hardly going to frighten anyone, the smaller Apollo fired a 30 missile salvo and it was a medium mech. There were some available to buy, but even with his contacts the price was a little eye watering, the 20 tube racks were big, uncommon and in demand.

So, buying a pair of them would cost as much as he had set aside for a month’s operational costs.

Or he could fit the smaller racks and go with the reduced firepower for a while. Not that he was planning on a career as a MechWarrior, he understood Arclight’s case, and was willing to go with it for a mission or two. But he was a manager, he ran businesses, running around shooting people was a job for soldiers.

Still, this wasn’t putting money in his account.

A pair of the big 20 racks, or the lesser fire power. And some income. Maybe a talk with a professional. Who happened to be on the other side of the continent, in what was the middle of the night.


***


Setting up an infiltration takes time, and careful planning from a skilled team. The higher the security, the longer the planning and the more skilled the team.

An old Dropship floating in space shouldn’t have been hard.

An old dropship inside a shipyard, part of the New Syrtis shipyards, inside layer after layer of security run by people who knew they had the very real threat of Capellan infiltrators or suicide attacks, that took a lot of planning.

And timing. Going in there straight away, a team of people in vacc suits wandering an empty ship where no one should have been, they would have stood out as much as trying to search the ship in the late stages of the repairs when the inside areas would be full of engineers.

So they had to wait over a month until the salvage crews had ripped away what was left of the hull and armour, removed the ruptured fuel tanks and cut away the sections too damaged to repair.

Once that was done small engineering teams would check the inner areas, so no one would notice just another team if they had the right ID.

Sanders had a damned good hacker on call, good enough to not only provide them with fake ID to get them onto the ship, and file that ID with the shipyard so anyone checking would find them legit, but to also schedule them on the day’s action list.

So, anyone checking that would find that as well.

After that it was head over in an orbital transport with the five ‘adventurers’ he’d carefully vetted for the job over the last few weeks.

“Five minutes to dock, where do you want us to start.” The pilot was one of the adventurers, none of them knew each other, having met that morning, but Sanders had described them to each other as professionals, and the pilot actually had the skill to go with the description.

“Hang on.” Sanders switched to what he hoped was a channel Comstar couldn’t listen to, for the sake of the person he was talking to. “You have any ideas?”

“Yes, I’ve been going over the plans, every detail we have, several weeks of careful work.”

“That’s why I pay you.”

“Yes, well, I have a suggestion. We’re looking for navigation data, a large and complex data file, not something you can risk on a data chip. It’s more likely to be on a data storage module or demountable hard drive. It would also need to have been hidden somewhere safe, not in or near the power plants, the drives, or anything else too hot or a powerful EM radiator, that rules out anywhere outside the hull.

It would also need to be somewhere that a person could get to, to put it there, and somewhere that others would know where to look.”

“Right, but that still leaves a huge volume of hull, main cargo, the spin pods, the spine, tens of thousands of cubic meters.”

“Yes, but it would have been hidden or destroyed in an emergency, not under normal operations. Navigation data would have been held on the navigation console, which was designed to hold exactly that data.”

“Both were checked.”

“Both, that’s what I saw as well. The ship has a main bridge, in the spine, which is under gravity while the ship is using the main drives, but otherwise in zero gee.”

“Yea, so, it’s the toughest most protected part of the ship, the engineering shield behind, cargo ahead and the pods on all sides.”

“Under normal times the crew would run watches from the auxiliary bridge under gravity, only using the main bridge or engineering under thrust, in emergencies, or combat.”

“Yea, I know.” Sanders bit down his anger, the man he was talking to was brilliant, in ways the agent couldn’t begin to understand, but his brain worked in its own way and you just had to go with that.

“Main bridge, Auxiliary bridge, Engineering, all three areas capable of commanding and flying the ship.”

“I understand that.”

So why do we have main navigation, and auxiliary navigation, but not engineering navigation, if they were flying the ship from engineering, they would need navigation, but there’s nothing on the plans.”

“Brilliant, brilliant! Well done.”

“Who are you talking to?”

One of the adventurers was looking closely at Sanders.

“The other team.”

“What other team, why don’t we know about any other team?” The man sounded suspicious, and his left hand slid across his lap toward the laser pistol mostly hidden in an engineering pouch on his vacc suit belt.

“The other team, you don’t know about them for the same reason they don’t know about you, so if any of them get caught and talk, they don’t know you. Operational security.”

One of the others nodded. A big man, with scarred knuckles that said he was no stranger to up close and violent action. “Damned right operational security. Professionals man.”

The suspicious one moved his hand away from the pistol, the frown vanished. “And if we get caught?”

“Then you don’t know who they are.”

“We know who you are.”

“So don’t get ****** caught.”

“The others in the cramped transport laughed at that and the suspicious one nodded and turned away, to stare at the vast bulk of Odyssey outside the window.

“Pilot, dock to Engineering, we need to look for a navigation console in engineering.”

“There isn’t one, not on the plans.”

“Yea, but they can fly the ship from engineering.”

“Which would require navigation. Good thinking.” The man who spoke this time was the computer engineer, he came very highly recommended.

“Docking in 30 seconds.”

“Seal up and check your mag clamps and grips.


***


Arclight wasn’t happy having her sleep interrupted, but once she heard what Gravestone wanted, she pulled on a robe, ignored the pouting male in her bed and went into the main room.

They talked for over an hour before Arclight turned to the screen in the room, logged on to Mercnet and started a search for a contract. Something small, it didn’t have to bring in a lot of money, break even and some salvage would do, something to offset the monthly costs and blood Gravestone in combat.

She didn’t notice her bed was empty and cool when she finished and returned to it, she didn’t even remember the male’s name.

***

“Found it, I found it.”

Sanders jerked and looked around, he had almost fallen asleep, mag boots on the deck, breathing the too warm air of the vacc suit, “show me.”
The computer engineer moved, he was head and shoulders deep in one of the engineering workstations, it had taken over an hour to open and inspect every workstation in the huge engineering area, but in a cluster of workstations set up like a bridge he had found one that had a much larger computer and data core behind it. Several hours of work in the inside the structure had left Sanders nodding off but now he did something and the screens over the workstation flickered into life.

“What am I looking at?”

The data changed, then changed again, data addresses, and then some sort of three-dimensional map of the data storage. One area flashed red, then another and another, tucked away inside them was a small area, dark and blank.

“That, according to the solid-state memory block operating system, is a single navigation file, no name, no description, listed as something called Elbermarl, route, jump data, a destination. It’s been deleted, then the area was overwritten and reformatted so much it killed that part of the data storage.”

“No way to recover anything?”

“Nothing to recover, it was completely purged, the only reason I found it is because it’s too exact to be a physical flaw, and the solid-state block lists it as a navigation file under that name, but there’s no data, someone worked really hard to kill it.”

“Can you copy that, the data you just showed me, proof that it’s been destroyed.”

“Sure. Take a few minutes.” The computer tech still had his head and shoulders under the workstation.

“Why didn’t Comstar find this when they found the ship the last time?”

“What, Comstar, a hundred years ago, when they were praying before hitting the on button in case it wouldn’t work. I cut the hinges off several panels down here, no one’s been in here for a very long time, and it’s not on the plans. Doubtful a bunch of random Comstar types found it, unless they had some genuine experts and a genius to help them find a navigation console that wasn’t in the plans.”

“Makes sense, get all the data you can, I need to prove it’s been destroyed.”

“What the ****** are you lot doing.” The voice was a harsh bark on the general radio channel all of the engineers at the shipyards used.”

“Technical inspection, we’re scheduled.” Sanders turned and took a step forward, keeping one boot on the metal mesh deck at all times, using his legs to hide the computer tech.

I know that, I mean what the ****** are five of you doing, one guy working, you standing around like management, but these three are just hanging around doing ****** all, you don’t get paid to do ****** all. So, what do you think you’re doing?”

“Waiting for me to give them more instructions.” The computer tech stood up, turned slightly, and put a computer tablet onto a Velcro strip on the workstation, a thousand years of space flight and Velcro was still the best way to hold anything nonmetal.

“This one is a damage control engineer, he keeps me alive, these others are grade three techs, they do the lifting I tell them to, and I do the complex stuff. “

The new arrival grunted. “We’re closing this section, all personnel to leave, no emergency coverage off shift.”

“We’re done anyway, we’ve got a transport.”

“I know, I walked past it, you leaving that way?”

“Yes, why?”

“You fly back to the main facility, check in there.”

“We already checked in.”

“I know, now I want you to do it again.”

Sanders stepped in, picked up the tablet and tucked it safely in a pouch then moved forward so he was close to the potential trouble. “Of course, we can give you a lift back if you want.” He’d been looking at the shipyard man, Sangric his name badge said, supervisor of something or other. And about the same height and build as the computer tech, who had turned out to be extremely useful, too useful to kill simply to cover the op.

The supervisor nodded and Sanders waved him to the corridor then fell in beside him, the others exchanged looks then followed.

Back to the transport, a small pod just big enough for ten and a pilot, with a drive at the back. Sanders went through the hatch and turned to pick a seat, then spun quickly as Sangric entered, the vibro blade went into the man’s spine from the back, leaving the man dying but helpless.

The others hurried in, several looked shocked, several didn’t.

“Why, why do that?”

“He saw our faces.” Sanders ripped the ID badge from the dead mans vacc suit and tucked in into one of his belt pouches.

“But they know our faces, the ID badges have our faces on them.”

“The badges do, the records in the shipyard data base don’t, the IDs show as legit when they check their database, but they don’t have our faces on record, he saw us. Take the body back with you, leave it in the pod.”

“What, take it back, where are you going to be?”

“Covering the tech while he makes sure there’s no data on our presence, they miss him and check, I don’t want any trace of us, I’ll head back with the other team.”

“Right, and we trust you to turn up later and pay us.”

“There’s a duffel on the first seat, five small bags, one for each of you.”

The suspicious one looked, then pulled the zip and looked inside, lifted one of the bags and checked what was inside, then swore. A grin on his face. “This is twice what we were promised.”

“You all did a good job, so don’t ****** up now, take the transport back, dock it where we started, then vanish, do nothing to attract attention, this never happened, but if I call you again?” They all nodded, this had been an easy job, and they had just heard double money.

The suspicious man wasn’t suspicious anymore, he threw the other bags around and took another look inside his, running his fingers over the impossible to forge Davion money blocks, some very large denomination money blocks.

“Cash?”

“You want paying into an account, traceable?” The bruiser with the scarred knuckles spoke again, because he knew. Professional like, the others nodded.

“Get going, slow and steady, you with me.” The computer tech looked at Sanders, looked at the others, then back to Sanders, put the bag of money in a hard pouch and locked it. Then he stepped back onto the Dropship. Sanders followed and slammed the hatch shut then the second hatch barely in time as the transport undocked.

“There’s nothing to do here, no active systems to record us.”

“Yea.”

“So why?”

“I like your skills, I plan on using you again, but my employer doesn’t like witnesses other than me.”

“Shit, you’re going to kill them?”

“Not me. Send the alert to yard security and delete their security IDs.”

“Done.” The hacker had clearly been listening in.”

“But, you’re going to kill them, kill me.”

“Not you, people with skills like you are far too valuable.”

“So, you hired those idiots just to kill them afterwards.”

“Idiots?”

“It wasn’t hard to spot, I’m no spy or secret agent but I have skills, aside from the pilot they seemed like low IQ thugs.”

“They were.”

“But you aren’t going to kill me?”

“No.”

“Would you tell me if you were?

Sanders didn’t answer.


***




EAGLE 7

  • Master Sergeant
  • *
  • Posts: 203
Re: Battletech novel Odyssey irregular posting of chapters.
« Reply #10 on: 31 December 2020, 10:26:46 »
Ping--
“ My Clan honor is bigger than your Dragon honor, and comes in 18 clan flavors.”

Dave Talley

  • Major
  • *
  • Posts: 3223
Re: Battletech novel Odyssey irregular posting of chapters.
« Reply #11 on: 31 December 2020, 22:36:27 »
One pingy-dingy
Resident Smartass since 1998
“Toe jam in training”

Because while the other Great Houses of the Star League thought they were playing chess, House Cameron was playing Paradox-Billiards-Vostroyan-Roulette-Fourth Dimensional-Hypercube-Chess-Strip Poker the entire time.
JA Baker

Captain Jonah

  • Private
  • *
  • Posts: 34
Re: Battletech novel Odyssey irregular posting of chapters.
« Reply #12 on: 03 January 2021, 17:45:57 »
Chapter 10

“Your second worst enemy is the people firing at you, your worst enemy is the people who hired you.”

***

Outside the little transport was heading to the orbital platforms at one gee, the first indication the pilot had of trouble was the pair of Aerospace fighters sweeping up either side and ordering him to cut his drives.

Which he couldn’t, suddenly the controls did nothing, or rather, his controls did nothing, but the remote controls worked, and the pod accelerated to almost two gee, spinning and looking as if it were trying to flee.

“He’s rabbiting!”

“Capellan spies, TAKE EM OUT!”

The lead fighter fell back, lined up and opened fire, no warnings, just a series of laser shots into the side and rear of the lightly armoured pod, the hull was breached, the drives failed.

And something else.

A tiny charge blew open the fuel tank and vented hydrogen into the small cargo hold, and a second charge, the hottest burning incendiary Sanders could buy, turned the passenger area into an inferno, reducing the adventurers and the dead supervisor to ash and bone, and a few traces to identify some of them as Capellan. The heat melted the door seals between the main cabin and cargo, reached the cargo hold now filled with hydrogen, and that bomb blew the transport apart.

“GOT THEM, MY KILL!”

“It was a transport pod, you can’t claim that as a kill.”

“I killed it.”

“It was defenceless.” The argument would go on for some time, but all eyes and sensors were on space away from the Odyssey, no one was paying attention to a couple of authorised engineering staff as they left.

“Say, did you blow up the money, or, is this fake.”

“It’s a very good fake, hard to trace outside of a bank.”

“You paid me fake money.”

“You can still use it if you’re careful, but I’ll pay you in real money when we land, and I’ll introduce you to a few people who don’t exist, the jobs they do pay a lot better than this one.”

“So, real money later.”

Sanders laughed, a new member of his private team, a clean operation with no lose ends, and the data the Precentor wanted. A good day’s work, and he was still alive, so win win.

***

“LOOKING FOR STONE. YOU HIM?”

Stone looked across the concrete toward a heavy cargo hauler, six wheels under the cab and another six at the back end of the long flatbed trailer, there were several bulky items under canvas on the flatbed.

“Yes. YES!” A Dropship came roaring overhead as it headed for the long runways across the downport, some distance from the long-term standing area Kitten one was sitting at.

The woman walked closer then lifted a tablet, glanced at it then at the ship and Stones face. Then she stopped just outside of arm reach. Glanced at the tablet again and then at Stone.

“Need ID, thumbprint and an eye scan. Can’t be handing these to anyone ya know.”

Stone nodded, oddly he did know., he reached for the tablet as the woman presented it, pressed his thumb on the pad then looked forward as she lifted it so the camera could see his eye.

“Well, looks like you’re you. Where you want em?”

Stone looked around. "Can you off load them by bay one, the forward right side door on the Leopard?” He pointed to make it clear what he meant.

“Sure, the ramps down so I can put em inside if you want?”

“Can you, that would be helpful, give me a minute to move the mech out of the way so I can use the overhead crane and if you can put them at the top of the ramp.”

“Sure can, don’t mind a bit of extra work for a good customer. Even though we’re not paid to do more than just offload where we park.”

Stone grinned and slid one hand into his pocket, checking the coins there by shape and size. “Not a problem, someone who works as hard as you do deserves a few drinks at the end of the day, on me. It’s not against the rules is it?” He sounded so sincere, his voice and face, with that last question, as he slid a twenty-pound coin out of his pocket and rolled it across his fingers.

The driver looked down and grinned. “not if I do the drinking after work. First door, top of the ramp, be there in a couple of minutes.”

Stone grinned, years since he’d been back to his birth world, and everything still worked as it used to.

***

“Alright everyone, top up your drinks and find a seat, lets get this meeting going.”

“And short.” Arclight gave Bobcat a look and he quickly sat down.

“First. Introductions. These are our new people, both are conventional vehicle crew with a year plus of experience, and some combat.

Long term I plan on running both mechs and support units, for now just recon. I’ll hire on as we need and as Gravestone OKs it, a few extra MechWarrior’s and additional vehicle crew, the plan is to rest pilots after combats and have a pool of reserve pilots available as needed while the others rest, unless desperate we don’t run tired pilots, mistakes happen like that and mistakes with mechs kill people.”

She waved toward the first man, mid 20s, a shock of bright red hair over a round face and red beard. “Pathfinder, trained with the regulars, some combat experience then demobbed because his battalion ceased to exist in the recent fighting. He’s agreed to fly recon for us to start with, he’s a good copter pilot.

The man nodded, “Good ta meet ya all.” His accent was frontier, one of the many worlds on the far side of New Avalon, not a frontier hick or red neck, mostly not.

“This is the Duke.” She pointed to a shorter man, dark complexion, hair so black it was almost purple under the bright lights in the room. “He’s…”

“Il Duce, Il Duce does not answer to Duke, only to Il Duce.” The man’s accent was strong, Italian.

“Wait, are you talking about yourself third person.”

“He’s very good, if a bit eccentric, an outstanding hover pilot.”

“Il Duce is the best.”

The others were exchanging glances.

“Both will be drawing MechWarrior wages and will hold equal status, so no pulling rank because they’re not in mechs. Gravestone, you said you found what I was looking for?”

“Yea, just about. Both need a lot of work but given fully equipped fighter bays call it the day after tomorrow. The only scout copter we could afford is a light scout, but a fairly modern one, first generation beagle probe but it does the job. The Ground element is a hover, and a fast one, but the only small one I could find that was cheap enough to afford was a Harasser that needed a lot of repairs and was some weird variant with eight flamers and not a lot of fuel.”

“Il Duce is a master pilot with hover craft, he is so hot his enemies will burn from his presence.”

More looks exchanged.

“Pathfinder will be our recon pilot, avoiding combat and finding us targets. Both Pathfinder and Il Duce came through the Federated Suns scout training programs so both have good skills with sensors, Il Duce has the makings of a good gunner, Pathfinder is a very good conventional pilot but for both of them it’s the scout and recon skills that are important.

Now, I notice the Archers looking better, combat ready?”

“Live firing her tomorrow over at the test range, but once that clears, she’s ready for action. Not sure I am, but the Archer will be.”

“You’ll be fine, your skills have improved noticeably over the last week, gunner numbers are well up, not to the point where the rest of us need to worry, but good enough for what we need.

But I couldn’t help noticing, the Archer, that new paint job, is there some reason why your mech looks like old bones.”

“Company colours, to go with the name. I registered us last night.”

“Without asking me, or any of us, so what are we now, Dropship corporate security department 4 or something equally bad?”

“No, I was thinking last night, about my call sign, the unit, something that sounds good, I had an idea, there may have been a good whisky involved, but the colour, mottled pale yellow and white with a solid black central stripe on the body, as you say, like old bones, and the new name. The Pale Horsemen. The insignias on the chest against the black.”

Everyone turned to look, A solid black shield, inside the cartoon like image of a rider on a horse, both more bones and rags than anything else, and both in the mottled yellow and white of the mech.

“Not bad. Sounds impressive, sort of scary, but what’s it mean?” Bobcat spoke before anyone else could.

“I looked, and I saw a pale horse, and a rider, the name of the horseman was death, and hell followed behind him.” Gravestones voice was quiet, solemn, and the words added to the shiver of cold wind that touch a few necks. “My parents were New Catholic, book of revelations, end of the world.”

“Shit, I like it, Pale Horsemen, bringing death. YEA!” Bobcat shouted, the sound bouncing from the metal walls of the main bay of the Leopard where they sat.”

“Next time ask me, I understand I work for you and all, but that sort of decision should be passed by us first. That said”, Arclight broke into a grin, “I very much approve. How quickly can you get everyone else in the colours.”

“A few days, I’ve got the paint and sealant, it’s just a matter of spaying the mechs.”

“Good, get it done. Sir. Now, we have a contract, which is why I called this meeting, this is one job, but there may well be several others leading off from it. We’ll be operating on a Capellan world and keeping clear of the capital most of the time, the customers have some contacts in the local area, and a few friends I trust have given us the directions to a small base for us to use.”

“Friends, on a Capellan world.” Pathfinder spoke up, then carefully didn’t stare as Arclight and Topgun exchange looks.

“Tallin, it’s one of the old St Ives worlds, surrendered back to the Capellans in 63, about half the population is loyal Capellan citizens and proles, the other half are a lot less happy with the situation. The garrison has recently been reinforced under a new colonel, due to the actions of an anti Capellan resistance. Part of that reinforcement is the delivery of some new toys, which the resistance would like us to help them borrow.”

“Toys?”

“A pair of brand-new Demolishers, twin gauss cannon.”

“Scary, we sure we can grab them, because I don’t want them shooting at us.”

“The plan is the resistance take them; we escort them three kay to a part of the city where they can bring in a dropship. Tillarn was taken by the Caps a few years ago, they separated the loyal population and left them in the nice bits, moved the rest out of the way, which left them with a few problems that they’re slowly fixing by bringing in new colonists.

But for now, they’ve only got satellite coverage in a 30 kay radius around the capital and down port. Some aircraft, and two squadrons of Aerospace plus mechs and armour guarding the industrial areas and down port. This is a snatch and grab, in and out, no stand-up fights, we withdraw if we meet serious opposition.

After that we withdraw to the hidden base and look for other opportunities. Jump out is booked with smugglers who will pick us up 19 days after they deliver us, so we’ve got time for a few operations if they look good. Then we bug out, 19 days and we’re gone, this is for the money, not anyone’s cause.”

Arclight looked at each person until they nodded.

“Right, briefing documents are on your tablets. Let’s start with the world data.”

***

The early hours of the morning. August 2nd 3067.

Tallin.

Capellan space

***

The warehouse was dark outside, the vast loading dock was all deep shadows and a glimmer on the concrete where the stars overhead reflected on the earlier rain. One of the deep shadows moved, a shape, arms and legs and a bulky body under a strangely flattened head.

Then the figure stepped out into the starlight and became a woman, a bulky radio pack on her back and a broad oriental style combat helmet covering her head and neck. Her breath steaming in the almost freezing night air.

Her words were in Cantonese, short and clipped, “Patrols gone, all clear.”

“Powering up now.”

Inside the warehouse looks were exchanged, time to commit. Fingers pushed started buttons and the mech’s fusion reactors whined as they drew power from the big, wheeled battery boxes they were connected to, firing the ignition lasers, powering up the magnetic containment fields and starting the cooling systems.

The warehouse filled with the sounds of the mech systems powering up and voices that had been whispering, but now were almost shouts.
“Ready the doors”, the shout was Cantonese, but the gesture and the way men and woman jumped to stand by the controls that would lift the loading bay doors made it clearly understood to the MechWarrior’s high above.

“Systems checks, call in by numbers.” Arclight’s voice clear on the radio.

“Gravestone, powered up, all weapons and systems green.”

“Arclight, powered up, all systems green.”

“Topgun, good to go.”

“Bobcat, all green.”

“Pathfinder, ready to fly.” The scout helicopter was already outside, its rotors spinning lazily where it had been hurriedly pulled out of the shipping container and readied for flight as soon as they had seen the Cap patrol vanish in the distance.

“Il Duce is ready.” The loud rumble of hover motors filled the background of the message.

“Scouts report.”

“The team at the target is in place, local guards bribed or killed, watchers report the patrol is on course and time and now heading downtown toward the industrial area, no other security.”

Good, Bobcat, with me, Topgun and Gravestone, on our six, Il Duce, run ahead, Pathfinder sweep our flanks.”

A chorus of replies and then the crashing steps of battlemechs on concrete broken by the howl of a hover tank at full power and the thunder of a twin rotor helo going overhead.

The mission was on.

***

“This is crazy!”

“What is?”

“This, we’re walking through a Confed city like it’s a walk in the park, just walking down the street like it doesn’t matter.”

“No one to see us, and anyone that hears us, it’s just another mech patrol walking through an empty city.”

“Yea, but this place is like a ghost town.” Bobcat moved his Enforcer to one side, stepping around what had once been someone’s ground vehicle, a big four door family car, now it looked like a mech had stepped on the bonnet. Just like most of the other vehicles on the sides of the streets, stepped on because someone wanted to smash them, they were hardly in the way and the street itself was clear.

“Didn’t you listen at the briefing. City was mostly evacuated, anyone lacking in loyalty to house Liao, like most of the people who had ever supported the old St Ives administration, they were given 24 hours to pack what they could carry and moved to a bunch of shitty towns out in the farming districts.

They maintain the city and are slowly filling it block by block with loyal citizens and their families, but this parts empty. Which is why we aren’t hiding, with power down there’s nothing but starlight so anyone who hears mechs and looks will see just another patrol.

If we try to sneak, which isn’t going to happen in mechs, we look suspicious. Like this, no one will care.”

“You said the city was empty?” Bobcat sounded suspicious.

“It is, this bit, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t anyone out there. So, we act like we belong. Anyway, the resistance have control of the garrison barracks and workshop, so they’ve got the ground armour, and the mech patrols heading away from us. Nothing out there but some random squad of bent sword infantry maybe.”

The mechs continued their walk through the deserted streets, ignoring the dark windows looking down on them from every side and the windblown pieces of plastic that fluttered in the starlight.

***




Captain Jonah

  • Private
  • *
  • Posts: 34
Re: Battletech novel Odyssey irregular posting of chapters.
« Reply #13 on: 03 January 2021, 17:58:45 »

Chapter 11

“Shooting an enemy in the back isn’t very honourable, but it is very effective.”

***

Shia Ben Bing Howell, recruit Howell, was bored. The honour of enlistment in the planetary militia had worn off some time ago, stationed here, on a world not long returned to the Chancellors embrace should have been a wonderful duty, a world, and its people, returned to the light. But the people were mostly sullen, not angry because that would have earned them a beating, but resentful and resigned none the less.

Not that the young recruit had met many of them, on patrols out to the farms to guard food convoys, the farmers and people in the towns didn’t act like good dutiful citizens, or even loyal sons and daughters of the combine. The looks they shot the militia, walking away from them, refusing to answer unless ordered to or threatened.

Howell could see why this world, like the others of the St Ives traitors, had lost their way and stopped believing in the Chancellor and the combine.

But this city was being rebuilt, down by the river it was bustling, bright and clean, filled with citizens.

Which didn’t make these empty parts any more welcoming, when the wind howled through the towers, on these dark nights, it was almost like… No, a silly superstition, grown men of 17 enlisted in the militia didn’t believe in ghosts.

Thunp thump thump thump. Faint but growing louder, coming closer. BATTLEMECHS!

“Chen, CHEN, mechs, there’s a patrol coming, wake up Chen, MECHS!”

The other militiaman, much older, and a lot more tired of the militia shit, Chen Lee, who held the rank of San Ben Bing, what the foreign dogs called a corporal, opened one eye and stared at the youngster. “So, mechs patrol here, every three hours they… What time is it, didn’t they go past us not half an hour ago?”

The older man opened both eyes and sat up, throwing off his overcoat and standing then taking several quick steps to the window. He was just in time to see the first mech walking into sight, the distinctive shape of an Enforcer, a well-known Davion mech, and not one the militia or planetary garrison had.

The second mech to walk into sight was a Kintaro, the militia had two of them, but neither was painted that yellow white colour, like old bleached bone. Then the archer came into sight, and beside in another, smaller mech the man didn’t know, but the massive missile launchers perched on the shoulders marked it as a fire support mech like the Archer, and there wasn’t a loyalist mech on world that carried that missile load.

“Radio, give me the radio boy, that’s not a patrol, invaders, Davion has unleashed his dogs to kill us all.”

“Davion, here, but, but.” The mechs were stomping past the ten-storey apartment building the two men were hiding in, a lookout set by their sadistic platoon leader, or so they had thought when he ordered them to walk a full block, break in and pick a corner apartment high up to keep watch for the night.

“Davion, curse you, DAVION, the Suns are here. No, heading right for you, Battlemechs, of course I know what a Battlemech is you fool. NO, not our patrol. DAVION!” The corporal threw down the radio handset in disgust. “Fools, they didn’t believe me.”

The youngster was watching the mechs as they continued to walk, his check pressed against the glass so he could see them. “They’re almost to the company, another minute, they must hear them by now. What do we do?”

The old man picked up his overcoat, rolled it and tucked it through the straps on top of his pack before tightening those straps, then he picked up his pack, slung it over his shoulder and picked up his assault rifle, checking the magazine was solid and chambering a round.

“We do our duty, we rejoin our platoon and…” He was interrupted.

***

“What is it?”

“Corporal Chen Lee, he has the watch on the corner of Maple and 19th, he was shouting about Battlemechs.”

Faintly in the distance, thump thump.

“Are you sure that’s what he said?  Slightly louder, thump thump thump.

“Yes sir, he was shouting about Davion invaders.”

Whatever he was about to say died unspoken as the platoon’s leader and most senior officer of this three-platoon training mission froze.

Thump thump thump.

“MECHS!”

“Our patrol come back?”

“No fool, wrong direction and the patrol would have radioed a change of orders. Ready the platoons, NOW. Deploy at the windows but stay low, prepare to fire. MOVE.” He kicked the closest men who were beginning to stir from their deep sleep, the day long fast marches had left them all exhausted, but fear and adrenaline chased away the exhaustion and they were throwing off their blankets and grabbing for weapons before the Lieutenant shouted at them a third time.

***

“Some sort of thermal on the left, nothing clear, just a warmth behind the windows on the sixth floor, now it’s on the floor above as well?”

“Squishies?” Arclight was covering the right side of the street.

“Can’t see, it’s just a glow on thermals, coming from below the window ledge… JESUS CHRIST!”

The windows shattered first, shards and pieces of glass dancing as they caught the starlight, then flashing red from muzzle flashes. Then the bright red flare of missiles, filling the sixth and seventh floors of the building with smoke and heat like some Dante’s inferno, then the light machine guns opened up, lines of tracer bright in the night-time darkness.

“AMBUSH, LEFT!” Bobcat was firing as he shouted, infantry anti-armour missiles reaching for him, exploding against his mechs thick armour before he could lift the mechs right arm and bring it to bear, without thinking he hit the ammo select and fired, the heavy LB-X spat out a cluster round, bursting into pellets as it left the muzzle because of the short range, the heavy pellets designed to smash mech armour tore apart the building walls and destroyed an entire floor.

The third floor!

Arclight was turning and lifting both arms as she heard the shout, half expecting trouble since Bobcat had told her about the thermals, now she held her fire for a second, picking the right floor and firing, lasers tracking right to left, exploding men and walls before the SRMs turned the entire floor into a burning hell where nothing could live.

Then still under fire from rifles and LMGs both mechs fired again, ripping apart the building before it suddenly collapsed, by the time the fire support pair arrived the building was burning rubble.

“******! Surprise just left the building.” Topgun’s colourful turn of phrase.

“Match my speed, alert the rebels, go active on everything, this raid just went hot.”

***

“Sir!”

“Yes?”

“Fragments of radio messages, a unit reporting it’s under attack in the empty city. One of the units our new colonel ordered out for a weekend of training.”

“Those rebels again, we should have been allowed to…”

“No sir, they said mechs.”

“Mechs, the rebels don’t have… SOUND THE ALERT!”

***

“Three minutes to the garrison.”

“Alert the RESISTANCE there, start their engines, I want them ready to roll when we arrive, anything not moving gets left behind.”

“On it.”

***

The resistance at the garrison were alert, they had sneaked in close to midnight, killed the unbribed guards and handful of mechanics then sat waiting, in the local militia garage, next to the newly arrived militia vehicles, in an enemy city, hoping some Davion money soldiers would turn up and not run like the Davion cowards who had abandoned these worlds a few years before.

They heard the combat, missiles, autocannon, the faint rumble of massed rifles and machine guns, they were already starting the vehicle engines before the message arrived.

***

Half wrecked cars bounced as the Battlemechs ran past them, a few windows on the ground floors didn’t survive as the mechs ran past, none of them were fast, not by Battlemech standards, but running at more than sixty kay an hour several hundred tons of mechs makes the ground shake.

“Radio message, from the resistance liaison, she says they’ve got both Demolishers running, three of the APCs, and an old Po, they can’t start the other two so they’re leaving them.”

“Good. Duke, where are you?”

“Il Duce is going past the garrison now, heading for the extraction point, all clear so far.” The howl of hover engines at full speed forced the man to shout, but in something as small and lightly armoured as a Harasser, speed is life.

 “Pathfinder?”

“Sweeping toward the river, no sign of the patrol yet but I’m hearing a lot of radio chatter from over that way.”

“Keep an eye open, they know we’re here now.”

“On it.”

Then Arclight was in sight of the garrison building, a mass of reinforced walls and a solid central building that squatted in the landscape, brutal and ugly, and a very tough target to attack, unless the guards were already dead and resistance controlled tanks were rolling out of the gates.

A woman in the turret of the lead Demolisher waved, Arclight flashed her mechs external lights then ran past. “Bobcat stay with me, vehicles in the middle, Long range cover our backs, stay tight and let’s get this…”

“CONTACT!”

***

Il Duce, Duke to the others but always Il Duce to himself, leaned sideways as the hover tank took the corner at a hundred and thirty kay, sliding sideways for half the turn despite the thrusters pointing off to the side for control.

A low, curved hull, and with the company paint job providing a good camouflage against the light grey concrete road the vehicle was almost past the powering up mech before it noticed him, by the time the Light mech turned the Harasser was gone, but the Capellan shouted a warning to the rest of his lance and as Il Duce spun around the next corner missiles raced overhead or blew divots out of the road.

Then he was sliding again, thrusters howling as he spun the vehicle on the spot, turned around and was going the other way at close to full speed before the other two Capellan mechs could fire.

“CONTACT! My location, light lance, between us and the pickup point!”

***

“Vehicles slow to forty and continue to advance, mechs form on me, we’ll break through, clear the way.” Arclight was answered by the other three and all four mechs accelerated, crushing the street surface underfoot and tearing out an entire tree as Topgun pushed through the central reservation as she went.

Behind them the rebels had a quick conversation, more shouted argument than debate, but one of the demolishers fell back a little and the three APCs moved to the middle beside the Po heavy tank, which despite its name was an old model designed for export and there was nothing ‘heavy’ about its weapons.

The Capellans were trainees, militia, part of the new units assigned to the world for training and to protect the slowly expanding industry, and to control the ever-restive natives who despite several years of political indoctrination into the benefits of being members of the Capellan Confederation, still resented being conquered, again, by house Liao.

Trainees, but the officer was a veteran, and he was piloting an older model Raven electronic warfare mech, not so much firepower but it had a good fit of sensors and ECM, so the flashing red of hostile IFFs and enemy radar closing on his position wasn’t a surprise.

What he didn’t know was that Il Duce was one of the recon specialists for the mercenaries and he had not just reported the location of the Capellan mechs, but he’d painted the location of one. The thunderstorm of LRMs falling from the sky was a surprise, even for the veteran, for the poor bastard in the brand-new Cossack it was terrifying, fired indirect and even with a target lock the hit probability was low, twenty percent or so, but the Pale Horsemen fired seventy missiles and the Cossack was rocking like a boat in a storm as its armour was torn apart explosion by explosion.

The crash of the mech falling as the pilot failed to maintain balance was loud, so loud that the other three didn’t notice the boom of an autocannon till the slug smashed into the Flea, a tiny supper fast mech with armour like paper, and when laser fire and a few SRMs arrived what was left of the little mechs armour across the torso would just about keep out the weather, but it’s left arm was spinning away trailing fire and smoke.

The Capellans returned fire at once, missiles passing each other in flight along with beam lasers that shone in bright lines through the rapidly growing cloud of missile smoke, and one heavy LB-X spitting slugs as fast as it could fire.

The veteran Capellan fired at the closest mech, the Davion Enforcer, but did little more than burn black lines across its armour, then he concentrated on ECM, jamming the enemy sensors, a valiant effort but in under a minute the Pale Horsemen were so close that the ECM was having little effect.

The Cossack fired at the Enforcer, then at the Kintaro as that mech put a dozen SRMs into what was left of the armour and the mech cockpit was filled with heat, and alarms of armour breached, and systems destroyed.

Then a demolisher rolled around the far end of the street, took one look and fired. Both gauss rounds missed but the whoosh crack of the massive rounds passing the fight and smashing apart a building behind the Capellans took away any desire they had left for the fight.

Shouts had them moving, then the Cossack collapsed, torn apart by another big salvo of long-range missiles, his own return fire burning and blasting away armour but nothing more. The Flea turned to run, firing its lasers as it did so, the pilot dripping with sweat in the cockpit, firing his own flamer and every laser at the Enforcer, heat rising rapidly as he ran, noticing too late that a bone-coloured hover tank was behind him, keeping up, aiming at him, firing, and the flamers cooked the flea, burning through its rear armour and sending it crashing to the ground as it overheated.

The pilot screamed as flames licked around the cockpit, and he ejected.

This left the Raven, and the last Capellan mech, both fast and light, both dodging as they fired at the two nearby Davion mechs, both trying to escape the larger and much slower enemies. The archer and the Apollo stopped, picked their target and fired, the mechs standing side by side at the start of a thick beam of smoke, reaching for the enemies with points of fire at the front.

The light mechs may have been fast, but not fast enough to outrun 70 missiles, the Raven went before it had gone three steps, the Anubis got another 360 meters and was almost out of sight and safe, when missiles fell like rain yet again.

“Damage report, anyone breached?”

A chorus of negatives.

“Il Duce, get to the pickup, check it’s clear, Bobcat with me, vehicles behind us, lurm boats at the back.”

The resistance weren’t trained soldiers, but they had seen their fair share of action, and didn’t want to hang around with unknown enemy mechs in what was supposed to have been a deserted city. The tracked vehicles ripped up long sections of road as they accelerated, the wheeled vehicles just left burnt rubber behind.

***

“Pick up point ahead. Clear.”

“Movement by the river, multiple vehicles running hot, radar on, seeing at least six and a mech of some sort, make that two mechs, just got flashed by a ground to air radar.”

“Scout and report, don’t fight.”

“Yes mum.” Pathfinder tried to sound like he was joking, he almost pulled it off, regular army trained, but the only one cross trained as a helicopter pilot and so sitting in a lightly protected flying death-trap. None of the others mentioned that they heard the tremble in his voice, none of them would have taken any sort of money to be in a VTOL during a mech battle.

***

“DROP SHIP ON FINAL APPROACH, 30 SECONDS.”

The dropship, a spheroid cargo model, old and worn out, rust streaked and dotted with faded paint from a long-ago corporate line, announced its arrival by flaring it’s drives, roaring and lighting up the sky as if slowed to land at a speed that wouldn’t smash it’s legs.

“Vehicles to the waypoint, everyone else, circle and face out, Il Duce give us a fast sweep at 500 meters, Pathfinder, report on the incoming?”

“On it.”

“Will do.”

“Sweeping now.”

“Six vehicles, mediums and heavies, two mechs, both mediums, ten minutes out and, wait.. Slowing, they stopped, I think they just saw the dropship light up the sky, stopped, now moving again, wait, falling back, toward the river again.”

“If they think we just got reinforced they’ll be falling back to defend the factories and port.”

“Resistance lead to Pale Horsemen, loading now, excellent job, you fight with courage and skill.”

“Thanks, how long till you can take off.”

“Quickly, the APCs are loading now but carefully, they are packed with ammunition, my people are running aboard. One minute.”

“Good, Arclight to Fen, as soon as the cargo ship is away get in here for pickup.”

“Pathfinder, have the locals fallen back completely?” Gravestone spoke up.

“Yea, almost back to the river, seeing movement on rooftops, hard to use binocs while flying this thing but it looks like infantry on the roofs of several buildings.”

“Good. Arclight, we should have some time then.”

“You thinking of some fast looting?”

“That I am.”

“Supervise, the rest of you push out 200 meters and maintain watch, if Pathfinder reports they start moving our way we bug out, understood.”

“Agreed.” Gravestone cut the radio and switched over to a command channel he had to the Dropship and started giving orders for the handful of techs onboard to get ready for some fast salvage.

Another day, another few C-Bills looted from the cold dead hands of someone or other.

***



Captain Jonah

  • Private
  • *
  • Posts: 34
Re: Battletech novel Odyssey irregular posting of chapters.
« Reply #14 on: 07 January 2021, 09:51:17 »
Chapter 12

“If you can see the enemy, they can see you right back. Line of sight works both ways.”

***

Gravestone lifted his left hand, still wearing the light gloves he used for a better grip in the cockpit, the slight trembling in the fingertips was almost gone, nothing like the way his whole body had been shaking when he climbed down out of the cockpit.

He’s been worried, terrified, when that first shout had come, fighting pirates from the bridge of a Dropship was one thing, but even a well armoured mech like an Archer seemed so vulnerable when the Capellans had opened fire. And afterwards, he’d been fine, in control, thinking, looking at possible salvage, a hardened veteran.

Till his boots hit the floor, odd how it had been that movement, jumping down from the lowest run of the access ladder to his mech cockpit, that had set off the shakes, left him hanging on to the rungs till he could stand without falling.

But he had work to do, and no time.

“Drag the whole thing, the legs are gone, and the left sides smashed but it’s otherwise intact, we can look at the rest when we have time.” He turned and shouted at the two techs beside the small flatbed they used for cargo runs at the downport. “Strap the arm down, that lasers in good condition. As soon as that’s done, that one, see if you can break off the arm, another good laser there, bend it up under the armpit. Straight up, the bolts will sheer once you get it above 120 degrees.”

“The last tech, lumbering around in the exo-skeleton cargo lifter nodded from inside the crash frame and jogged to the downed mech Gravestone had been pointing at.

Jogging being the top speed the bulky, but very strong man-sized forklift could manage.

“Getting nervous here Gravestone, how much longer?”

“Two minutes, there’s nothing else we can grab quickly.”

“Two minutes, Duke, fall back to us, Pathfinder get back here, everyone else I want you at the Leopard 150 seconds from now.”

Everyone moved, or counted, and three minutes later Kitten One was lumbering into the sky on pillars of fusion fire, being tracked by sensors and watched by nervous Capellan eyes trying to work out how many they were and where the attack was coming from.

Outside of range of detection they turned to a new course, flying low and indirect, to the place a few ‘friends’ had suggested would make a good base.

***

“So, you know about many of these ‘little’ camping sites.” Gravestone was looking around, the stacked stores along the walls, and the roof of the concrete cave high overhead.

They couldn’t fit the dropship inside, not quite, but you could park a mech company inside easily, so the stolen vehicles looked lonely in the vast area. The resistance were walking around, talking, pointing at a few of the piles of stores and exploring the area.

“I notice this place is new to the locals.” Pathfinder walked up beside Arclight and Gravestone.”

“So?”

“Just curious, scout recon and all, this place looks a lot like a holdout or a base for raiders, not that I know anything about this sort of thing. Just wondering how you knew about it given the locals clearly didn’t.”

“Friends in low places.” Arclight’s tone of voice ended the conversation and Pathfinder decided to go explore the place before she gave him one of those looks.

“So, who did build this place?”

“We did, or the St Ives military did, but they told the Dukes people about them, the Fusiliers use them from time to time for raids, and some worlds have long term observation teams based out of them. There are a few on this world, though I’m told it would be appreciated if we didn’t give away this location.”

“Any problems with us using the stores?”

“Only in emergencies, it’s hard to restock them without being seen.”

“OK, I’ll manage, armour repairs on our mechs will be done the day after tomorrow, fairly light damage overall. Ammo reloads will be four hours after that. Salvage was fairly random, but I’ll put it into storage till we get home, a usable small fusion plant, heat sinks, the EW suite from the Raven was intact, and what should be a pair of medium pulse lasers.”

“Good, that all?”

“Little stuff, useful but not important, I’ll strip everything out and refurbish it back home.”

“Priority is getting us ready for combat, the resistance have been mentioning how nice it would be if a few patrols or outlying bases were to be taken out.”

“They paying?”

“Them, doubtful, but they have funds available to hire mercs so someone’s paying to cause trouble here.”

“Well, as long as we’re getting paid.” Gravestone laughed at his own joke; Arclight didn’t laugh.

“You handled your first battle well; I notice by the end you were trusting the targeting systems more.”

“Yea, it’s odd, I know exactly how they work, exactly, every detail, and I know how reliable they are, but I see the target, and the targeting looks off, because it’s factoring so many things I can’t see. Given enough practice I may be able to actually hit small buildings.”

“Practice, or combat.”

“Hey, I’m just here to protect your authority, so people don’t call you a corporate drone. Not planning to make this a career.” Arclight didn’t reply, but Gravestone didn’t like the way she was looking at him, so he muttered something and walked away, missing the slight smile that crossed the lance leaders’ lips.

***

“Is it safe, having a fire like this?” Topgun was sitting on what looked like a hand made kitchen chair, leaning back, boots off and socked feet wiggling close to the log fire everyone was sitting around.

Pathfinder pointed up, “Thermal camo, and down in this valley, to get line of sight you’d have to be in the valley.”

Someone shouted and every head turned, one of the local men was standing next to an old-fashioned oil drum barbeque and the smell of cooked meat had been growing stronger for some time, what looked like a handmade kitchen table next to him held plates and piles of fresh rolls and salad, coleslaw and condiments.

There was a rush of movement, but Il Duce beat all of them by several steps.

Several minutes of eating and contented murmurs followed before the resistance leader, the woman who had been in the lead demolisher walked over to the fire, her people had a second fire the other side of the cook.

“We did well today, your mechs are very impressive, the speed you took down the Capellan dogs, most impressive.”

“Thank you, I notice the demolishers aren’t here anymore, none of the vehicles are, you have them well hidden?”

“Indeed, we do, somewhere secret.”

Arclight held up her hands, then noticed she was still holding a plate, “Relax, we don’t want to know where, as long as they’re safe.”

“They are.” The woman gestured to a section of log that was empty, “May I join you?”

“Of course.”

Thank you, my name is Sara we didn’t have time for introductions earlier”, a few people chuckled. “You fight very well, your skill and firepower is formidable, certainly strong enough to crush the patrols and small guard units the Capellans use to protect the roads to the farms. With those patrols gone it would be months before they could send in new troops, and we will make sure they eat no food grown here for that time.”

Some of the mercenaries exchanged glances, some nodded, the hatred in Sara’s voice was very obvious, but not uncommon.

“We need a few days to repair, and I want to recon any mission, no jumping up and running off to pick a fight. We fight smart, withdraw if the fight turns into an even battle, we win or we retreat.”

“Like us, guerrillas, I did not expect that, the MechWarrior’s I knew fought till they could no longer fight, defeat the enemy or die trying.”

“And they’re all dead now, and of no use to you.” Arclight’s tone of voice was gentle, she caught a flash of expression, “Sorry, I meant no offence, you lost someone?”

Sara nodded, but said no more for several seconds.

“I would need to see these patrols, the routes they take, get a good idea of the strategic and tactical situation.”

“Of course, there are many farmers on the roads, and many in the fields, with the right clothing and your dark short hair you would fit in, some of the others, tall and blonde or red haired, they would stand out too much.”

“That’s not a problem, I’ll bring Il Duce with me”, she glanced at the man, who nodded.

“I will arrange things tomorrow, we don’t move around after dark, the Capellan dogs sometimes send out aircraft, they attack any vehicles on the road after dark. There is no warning, just death.”

“The day after tomorrow will be fine, two or three days for a proper recon, we could hit several patrols, but I want to watch what they do in response after each attack.”

“Of course, you are a professional, it will be as you say. Now, I have intruded enough, please, enjoy your food, I think there will be more soon, our cook has finished feeding my people and there still burgers and sausages.”

A few people mentioned they could manage another something as the woman stood, she nodded to them and returned to her own people.

“So, more work.”

“Yea, but carefully done, the Capellans are spread out, and very nervous about over stretching.”

“How do you know?” Gravestone was curious.

“Risk averse, limited forces covering a large area and some high priority targets they must defend.”

“When they fell back to the river?”

“Exactly, factories, warehouses, the down port and landing field, they were coming out to face the four of us, then fell back as soon as it looked like we had reinforcements, and they all ran to defend buildings along the river. So, we may be able to operate freely for a while, until they notice it’s just us.

At that point, they’ll think they can crush us, they came out before, so they most likely will again, once they’re happy it’s just the four of us and we make a big enough nuisance of ourselves.”

“Sounds good, if by making a nuisance you mean killing bent swords.” Bobcat arrived back, a freshly cooked burger and heap of salad and slaw on his plate.

“Well, there will be some killing involved, unless they surrendered when we ask them nicely.” The laughter was loud enough that the locals at the other fire stopped talking and turned to see what was happening.

***

The vehicle was a battered old off-road pickup, dented, rusting and just like every other vehicle on the roads, not that there were very many, the driver had mentioned that was because the patrol came down this road twice a day and sometimes ‘accidentally’ shot at the farmers, so for an hour either side of the patrol time traffic got very light, and most pulled well off the road till the patrol had gone.

The pickup was siting well back, hidden by a line of trees and bushes that divided the big fields, Arclight and Il Duce, both wearing the thin woollen shirts and capes the farmers favoured, were sitting in the hedge line, passive binocs carefully wrapped in cloth and well away from any stray light that would cause a reflection.

“Another Raven, markings are different, this ones’ third company, command lance. But given I’m seeing two other mechs with the same lance markings, their command lance barely makes a hundred tons if the missing ones the same size. The other two are a Cossack and a Javelin, make a note about third company, the other patrol was first company, but we’ve seen exactly seven mechs in this battalion so far.

 Lead tank is a Hetzer, LRM variant, two galleons covering the flanks, a hover APC, it used to be a Maxim but it’s hard to tell, lots of extra aerials and armour plates.”

“Il Duce agrees.”

“Why do you do that, talk about yourself third person?”

“Il Duce does not understand.”

“Why do you… Shit, last mech, rear guard, new problem, really big problem.”

“PUMA!”

“Yea, a clan mech, an actual clan mech. What the ****** is that doing here?”

“Il Duce sees rank insignia, a Colonel, beside the cockpit.”

“A colonel, shit, wait, the briefing, a colonel, sent as the new garrison commander, looks like they sent wonder boy out here with a shiny new toy.”
“Il Duce does not want to face that if it is armed with clan weapons and has a skilled pilot.”

“Yea, me too, the colonel could have got the rank through political connections, and maybe a very rich family, but he’s walking like a dancer, put him down as very dangerous. If we hit a patrol he’s with, he gets taken down first.”

“Il Duce thinks he will be difficult to ambush, we have nothing that can hide from clan sensors.”

“Tech, no, but we have sneaking, local support, and some Fed Suns Scout recon specialists.” Il Duce smiled at Arclight’s words, then got serious again and made a few more notes on the tablet sitting on the ground beside him.

“We wait an hour, then take us back to the base, the long way round.”

The driver nodded, an elderly local farmer, dirt and sweat stained clothing, worn boots and a straw hat, and a veteran of the resistance with five kills, two with knives. He looked harmless; several people had died thinking that.

***

Arclight ran her finger across the map as she spoke.

Three patrols, two with mechs on the main road and this one which is all hovers that covers some of the back roads. Three helos, all light scouts or strikers, they do overhead cover for the food convoys but otherwise sit in the hanger up here. This used to be an airfield next to a small town, the towns empty but it had several warehouses and the airfield, so now it's base for two full companies of infantry, about 20 vehicles and we’ve seen 7 mechs.

They may be some sort of half ass militia combined arms battalion, unit markings on the mechs are two separate companies, the vehicles are two other companies, and the helos belong to an entirely different unit.”

“No sign of anything else?”

“No, not that’s active, no way to get more mechs out here without the locals noticing, vehicles maybe, but if they have anything else they’re keeping it hidden. This is the entire active force. But they can get Aerospace up here in fifteen, which I don’t like.”

“Perhaps we can help with that, we have people at the landing field.

“Good, now we can hit the hovers, though they’ll run for it and no way we can catch them, the first patrol is dead meat, but this one, a clan Puma. That one we should avoid.”

“It’s a light mech isn’t it?”

“You know how good clan weapons and tech are, right, being the expert engineer and tech.” Bobcat may have sounded slightly sarcastic.

“I know the technology and the weapons, what I mean is, it can’t have the armour to stand up to our firepower, not all four of us.”

“It’s fast, if the pilots any good it will be a very tough target, and he walks like a dancer, so he’s good. That Puma will close the distance fast, which means you two will need to be far apart otherwise he’ll get too close for the LRMs, firepower wise he can shred one of us as we kill him, maybe two of us.

The clans kicked the shit out of veteran and elite regiments for a long time till Comstar stopped them, even now the house units go for two against one if tonnage is about even. Plus, clan sensors, hiding from them is out so we…”

“Maybe not. It would take time, and some planning, I saw one of the farmers spraying something on the fields, he was towing a huge tank of some sort, the smell was very strong.” Gravestone looked at Sara as he spoke.

“Fertilizer for the crops, a very old-fashioned type. We have several such vehicles, why?”

“Can you move a couple of them, somewhere along here, this point where the road goes up then falls away, some sort of sheds here that you can’t see till you come over the rise.”

“Why?”

“Because those tanks are rolled steel, a solid frame, spray pumps and the like. Even an advanced sensor system is going to struggle to tell the difference between a shutdown and cool mech, and a big steel thank the same size.”

“Take us time to power up, and there’s no cover there, once they see us, we’d be drawing a lot of fire.”

Arclight was staring at the map, frowning. “Put the shit sprayers here as soon as you can, leave them there, we can use this as an ambush. Or not, but I agree, anyone here is out in the open, we can start the fight with LRMs from the trees here, long range but no cover for the enemy, and good line of sight, but even if Bobcat and I are here, we’ll get overrun quickly.”

She looked at the map in thought. “What do we have in stores, SRMs?”

“One salvaged six pack and a two pack, why?”

“How difficult is it to launch SRMS?”

“Launch them, not that hard, the tubes are, well, tubes, all you need is the system to fire them, it’s the fire control that’s complex, and the reloading system, why?”

“I’m having an idea.” Arclight turned to look at the resistance leader, “you don’t have any mines, do you?”

“We have some old artillery shells we used to mine the roads from time to time.”

“They would do, Gravestone can do something with them I suspect”, he nodded.

“How many do you have?”

“Six…”

“SIX?”

“Sixteen hundred.”

“Oh yea.” Bobcat laughed, Gravestone smiled, Arclight had a look in her eyes that made Sara look away.

***






Captain Jonah

  • Private
  • *
  • Posts: 34
Re: Battletech novel Odyssey irregular posting of chapters.
« Reply #15 on: 07 January 2021, 10:10:56 »
Chapter 13

“Loot THEN burn, there’s no money in ashes.“

***

“Message from the farmers watching the Capellan garrison, that clan mech just flew out on a transport.”

Arclight smiled.

***

Two patrols a day, two days, four times the Capellans had gone down that length of road between the fields. The first patrol had stopped at the crest of the low hill, the raven perched there like some mutated wingless metal bird, peering down while armoured vehicles covered an infantry squad who checked the area, and waded through the ankle-deep runny shit that covered the area around the two fertilizer sprayers.

The first patrol and each patrol since had put a few rounds into the rusty metal tanks, just to be sure no one was hiding there.

On the third day, the morning patrol was ready to do the same, coming over the hill, the big metal tanks sitting there ahead of them, half hidden by the ramshackle huts some farmer had built as sheds long ago.

The lead vehicle was a wheeled scout car, an old design, no modern tech, but expendable cover for the raven that strode along behind it. Another wheeled vehicle, this one a boxy APC and then three light mechs, another of the plentiful Cossacks the Capellans had gained in numbers after the surrender of the St Ives Compact, and a pair of ancient looking Hermes mechs, both rebuilds with five tube LRM racks, a  modified hover APC and a Striker bought up the rear.

The scout car went past the sheds, the turret rotating to keep the MGs pointed at the half-fallen structure. Then the raven walked past, barely turning its head to look. The Cossack was next, and it lifted its arms for the by now tradition few shots when flame erupted from the area of the tanks, bright points of light trailing lines of smoke, 18 SRMs raced out, away from the Cossack, most of them slamming into the back armour of the unsuspecting Raven.

Explosions engulfed the light mech, balls of fire ripping away at its light armour, and throwing shrapnel and flame into the structure. The mech staggered, tried to turn, one leg unresponsive, smoke pouring out from the breaches in its armour across it’s back, it’s left leg and right weapon pod.

The Cossack opened fire, it’s six pack a puny response to the torrent of fire that had just struck the Raven, three lasers clear in the smoke as they punched holes in the closest metal tank, then that mech was staggering sideways. Stationary on the road it was an easy target and had little warning as Topgun and Gravestone landed two thirds of their missile salvo on it.

The rest of the lance threw off their shock, listened to the shouted orders and moved themselves, deploying to face the attack to the right, vehicles swinging wide to support the mechs who searched the distant tree line or the closer buildings for targets.

The Raven staggered then controlled itself, the MechWarrior fighting his controls and shaking his head to try and clear the ringing in his ears, turning hard, firing as soon as he had a target, but no target lock, his Beagle probe couldn’t identify the enemy mech, just the big metal tanks.

Cursing the Davion invaders and their superior ECM the young MechWarrior tore apart the closest cylinder as fire from the other mechs smashed the other one and flattened the buildings.

Then a second salvo of LRMs hit the Cossack, who had been standing still, the mech went down hard then struggled to get back up with both arms and it’s left torso wrecked, but the lines of smoke across the fields pointed like an arrow to the locations of the attackers and both Hermes fired their long-range missiles, joined by the armoured car at the back with its 10 tube launcher.

20 LRMs fired at the ambushers, who fired 70 in return, destroying the hover APC that had nosed around and was trying to use its ECM to shield the entire unit.

The officer in the raven, another veteran posted to run the highly technical Raven and shepherd the militia, looked at the battle and shouted an order, close the range, full speed attack, the patrol would quickly lose an LRM engagement. They obeyed.

Then a line of explosions erupted beneath the wheels of the scout car as it raced onto the field, followed on the other side of the mechs by the Striker armoured car, blast after blast till a wheel collapsed, dropping the speeding hull to the dirt where it set off several more mines before it stopped moving and started burning.

The Scout car was flipped over and one of the Hermes stopped dead, one metal foot off the road and in the field. It steeped back, made clumsy by haste and a half-trained pilot.

More LRMs fell, hitting the Cossack again, falling backwards off the road, and onto the field on the other side.

But nothing happened, no explosions.

“Fall back, there are no mines behind us, fall back! Ambush, heavy mechs, many LRMS and a very strong SRM mech we cannot target, SEND HELP!” The veteran MechWarrior was shouting over the radio, both to his lance and to the senior officer back at the base. Then he was moving, the birdlike gait of his mech exaggerated by its staggering with one leg dragging, running toward the hope of cover or just getting far enough away to escape the endless salvos of long range missiles.

The Two Hermes mechs ran as well, both ignoring the fallen Cossack, the light mechs captured from the St Ives forces had a bad reputation among the Capellans, bad luck to be assigned one, bad luck to stop and help this one.

The ran on, the surviving vehicles racing alongside them, wheels and tracks tearing lines across the field, the vehicles at least being ignored by the attackers who launched another salvo that half wrecked one of the fleeing Hermes.

***

Men and women were running, the harsh screech of the alert siren set everyone’s teeth on edge, so they breathed signs of relief as they closed the cockpits of their mechs or the hatches on their vehicles and cut out the noise.

“Report!” An order, not a question, Captain Al Yen barked at the technicians as he ran into the old office he had taken over when given this ‘headquarters’.

“Patrol three under attack, it’s the Davion raiders, they report a heavy SRM assault which must be the Kintaro, but they say they can’t target it, very strong ECM, and long-range fire, 70 or 80 LRMs, the Archer and Apollo.”

“It must be. Send the second patrol out as soon as they’re ready, have the air patrol cover them and spot. Alert the city, they can’t help but I want a squadron of Aerospace over us as fast as they can launch them. They can’t outrun our helicopters and the fighters will kill them without mercy like the dogs that they are.”

“We don’t have enough mechs to beat them, nor vehicles.”

“No, but all we need to do is keep them engaged, we are much faster, order the patrol to find and engage the enemy but keep the distance open and radio their location on the battalion frequency. The fighters will finish them off.”

The technical nodded and spoke rapidly, turning the captains demand for air support into a more diplomatic urgent request for air support against the Davion raiders while the captain himself walked out, working hard to maintain the dignity of his rank as he headed toward his heavily modified command hover.

Everyone was too busy running around to even notice.

***

“Helicopters just headed south west at full speed, picking up a lot of radio chatter and they’re buzzing like a kicked over ant’s nest.”

“Stay hidden, if they spot you our plan goes to shit.”

“Il Duce is hidden.” Il Duce was, under a pile of cut branches and a woodland camo stealth cloak he was 200 hundred meters from his vehicle, deep in the shade of the old trees across the fields from what had once been a small farming town, before the Capellans kicked everyone out and turned it into their garrison and patrol base.

“Movement, the other patrol’s coming out, two extra wheeled APCs with them.”

“Pathfinder, report.”

“All quiet down here, out of sight and listening, wait, encrypted radio traffic suddenly jumped, give me a second to use the sights, keeping low so they can’t see me behind the forest but, yea, lots of people running around the parked Aerospace on the landing field, shit, they’ve bringing up a fuel tanker I think, they don’t have a ready alert.”

“Don’t get overconfident.”

“I know, overconfidence and mechs.”

“Any changes or as soon as they start taking off let us know.”

“Yes sir.”

Not as nervous as a week ago, not quite.

***

The fleeing survivors of the Capellan patrol made it to the far side of the fields, no mines on their side, and the missiles stopped abruptly as they ran out of range, none of them noticed that the missiles had been plunging downward, making an indirect attack with the last salvo.

***

“20 minutes to the contact point, helicopters will be there in four.”

“Good, establish contact and maintain it, ETA on the fighters?”

“They say half an hour.”

“Half an… Ridiculous, demand a faster response, I could drive down to the city faster than that, where is the ready response flight?”

“Not available, they say they’re prepping a squadron for launch, nothing else.”

The captain didn’t swear, not out loud, not in front of the crew of his command vehicle, one of them might report such disloyalty.

***

“The ambushed patrol reports they have broken contact, helicopters are approaching the area of the attack, the other patrols are converging. The technicians report they have flushed the fuel tanks of first squadron, they are refuelling now, they say some sort of plant-based sugar was added to the fuel, the two craft from second squadron that started their engines for testing at dawn will need complete overhauls.”

Good job the colonel ordered those readiness tests, or our entire fighter cover would have been sabotaged. Are all the defence forces on full alert?”
“Yes sir, all commands report deployed and ready, but we have no indication of more than this single lance.”

“Which is why I am in command and you are a junior technician, the patrol reported some sort of stealth technology, they were unable to target the Kintaro, a lance of such mechs could be aiming their weapons at our factories and stores right now.”

“Yes sir.”

“I take it the colonel has been informed?”

“Yes sir, he was inspecting the defences at the southern garrison, he will be back here as soon as the transport can collect him.”

“Let’s not have anything for him to criticise when he gets here, chase the landing field, I want those fighters airborne.”

The lowly tech careful didn’t say what he was thinking, because telling a decorated major of infantry that shouting at techs doesn’t make them work faster would not end well for the lowly tech.

***

“THERE! Dust trail, something big, running, two and three, follow me, FOR THE CONFEDERATION!”

The lead helicopter banked hard, the others falling into line behind it, the rooster tail of dust from one or more mechs moving at speed clear in the distance.

***

“Capellans are seven kay south of the town, moving at 60 kay an hour.”

Just a local farmer, driving a tractor. Turning over the heavy soil in one of the fields, his wide straw hat hiding his face, and the radio headset.”

***

“They’ve taken the bait, heading your way fast.”

“Almost there, almost there.”

The pickup skidded as the driver hit the brakes, sliding sideways on the dry ground, they’d picked this area because it was higher up, away from easy water, dusty ground rather than the better soil of the fields.

A woman stepped out, ran across to the pickup, a machete in her hand, not pausing she bought it up and down, cutting the thick rope than hung over the back of the flat bed and leaving a deep grove in the metal, then she scrambled into the back and banged on the cab with the wooden handle.

The diver accelerated again, into the trees, weaving between the trunks and heading down into the valley that made up farming region 19, the thick carpet of rotted leaves leaving the tires skidding, but doing nothing to give away their position as the three helicopters swept over the dirt track, seeing no sign of the mechs, and ignoring the pile of bushes tied together by ropes that the pickup had been dragging.

***

“Helicopters distracted. The mercenaries are away, our people are guiding them along the cleared route.”

“Good, let us hope they remain slow and quiet, those old trails are good for smuggling by vehicle, but not for Battlemechs.”

“The mercenaries leader reports they are in position. Revenge one and two are both in position.”

“Confirm they are to withdraw after providing fire support, they are far too valuable to us to risk losing them.”

“And the mercenaries?”

“There are always more mercenaries out there,”

“Yes sir.”

***

“Scouts report the chess board is set, every piece is in position.”

“Who came up with that chess idea?”

“Wasn’t me, I don’t play chess.”

“I would never have guessed that Bobcat, alright, the demolishers report ready, go in five, four, three, two.”

One of the demolishers fired early, by a second, but no one really cared as the second one fired, and the Enforcer added its autocannon and large laser to the attack, Arclight pushed her mech to top speed, charging out of the camo net and toward the distant buildings, off to one side of the others so she didn’t block their line of fire.

Ahead of her the gauss rounds hit first, three missing, one collapsing a building, then the laser creating a line of fire that rapidly grew to engulf another building. The second salvo was much better, the resistance learning on the job as three of their shots hit.

Arclight kept running, leaning the mech forward to grab an extra kay or two an hour, her rangefinder counting down, fingers on the triggers.
Then she was in range and her missiles and lasers added to the demolisher fire and the running Enforcer who was a hundred meters behind her.

***

Currently Captain, but perhaps for not much longer, Al Yen stood on the armoured side skirt of his command hover and looked at the smoke and burning wood that was all that remained of his headquarters.

None of the buildings had been fortified, it was, or had been, a collection of wooden houses for the farmers and workers of the surrounding farms, some of the buildings around the edges still stood, a few others had walls or parts of roofs intact, but the main road and central square where his command had been, gone.

The workshop set up in the old barn, the storerooms, ammo and supplies, destroyed, bullets still cracked as the fires found a few rounds not yet gone off, at the bottom of the destruction.

The troops here had fled or died; most hadn’t been fast enough, but at least the Davion raiders hadn’t killed those running away. The platoon of rifle armed militia on the other hand, filled with ideals of serving House Liao, the handful of survivors walked through the wreckage, eyes blank, faces slack, as inexperienced infantry overrun by mechs often look.

In the distance his remaining forces were returning, he’d lost one mech, suffered two more heavily damaged, that he would now need to send to the city for repairs, his one and only mech gantry was ruined. The vehicles hardly mattered.

“Captain, the colonels transport is on final approach.”

Al Yen signed, tugged his dusty jacket straight, and hoped to meet tomorrow as a lieutenant.

***

“Damage is minor, some armour hits from the long-range fire before they ran for it. Repairs and reloading will be finished tomorrow.”

“Good, and well done everyone, that one was textbook.”

“Our thanks also, with the base and all of their supplies gone, even though the patrols remain, they will be forced to bring lorries with them, or return to the city. Either way they are disrupted. We have struck a heavy blow today, and not a single person was lost.”

“You know they’ll retaliate.”

“Yes, but that is nothing they have not done before, we have become very good at hiding shelters under our homes, and our children stand watch. There is a risk, but they seldom bomb us at night, we keep no lights outside for then to aim at.

We will live, and the invaders will spend their days waiting for your return.” Sara grinned, she and the rest of the resistance were very happy with the day’s events.

“What now?”

“We lay low, spend the next week watching what they do, see how they change the patrols. We’ve got time for another strike like that one before our ride home gets here, but we do nothing that isn’t properly scouted and planned. So, we’re stood down. I believe some of the locals had some sort of alcohol.”

Cheers all round at that and the Pale Horsemen and their new friends settled down for an evening of celebrating a great victory.

***



mikecj

  • Captain
  • *
  • Posts: 2097
  • Veteran of Galahad 3028
Re: Battletech novel Odyssey irregular posting of chapters.
« Reply #16 on: 09 January 2021, 14:56:22 »
TAG'd.  Nicely plotted so far.
There are no fish in my pond.
"First, one brief announcement. I just want to mention, for those who have asked, that absolutely nothing what so ever happened today in sector 83x9x12. I repeat, nothing happened. Please remain calm." Susan Ivanova
"Solve a man's problems with violence, help him for a day. Teach a man to solve his problems with violence, help him for a lifetime." - Belkar Bitterleaf
Romo Lampkin could have gotten Stefan Amaris off with a warning.

Captain Jonah

  • Private
  • *
  • Posts: 34
Re: Battletech novel Odyssey irregular posting of chapters.
« Reply #17 on: 10 January 2021, 10:07:37 »
Chapter 14

If the officers are in front of you, check your six for an ambush. If the officers are behind you, you’re walking into a mine field.

***

“30 seconds to drop, 30 SECONDS TO DROP!” Fen’s voice was deafening on the intrasystem comm and in the cockpits of the Mechs.

Gravestone swallowed, or tried to, his mouth was desert dry and he didn’t want to grab for one of the water bottles down beside his couch, not this close to.

THUMP!

The Leopards landing gear folded in on the suspension then bottomed out, the whole Dropship crashing to a halt throwing the crew and passengers into their seats painfully hard.

DOORS OPEN NOW!”

The outer bay doors slid upwards, then the airtight inner doors folded away, and the ramps extended, the veteran MechWarrior’s were already moving, walking out as the restraining clamps on the mech booths released. Gravestone was three steps behind them.

“Factory in sight, sensors going active, targeting spooling up.”

“20 seconds to combat ready.”

“Lurm boats hold here, Bobcat 200 meters north and cover the road, I’ll cover east to the ridge.” The veterans moved, the Apollo at a walk as Topgun found an open spot that wouldn’t block her missiles, and the other two pushing the mechs to lumbering runs toward positions where they could see the surrounding countryside.

The factory was built on a flat area of land, east and south was a ridge just tall enough to hide the buildings, north was the access road that curved down and into the forest, the last side was a low cliff to the river that ran alongside the road through the forest.

Apart from the factory that looked like some lowest bidder set from a cheap slasher flick, with crumbling concrete and rusted sheet metal rooftops, it was a nice spot.

Abandoned when the Capellans had taken over the world, restarted by people working for a Davion corporation, and then suddenly threatened with attack by pirates, or bandits, who knew, but they had made threats and when the corporation’s people had refused, they launched an attack.
From far enough away that the factory had plenty of time to see them coming. And to surrender.

Or on the other hand, plenty of time to call for help to friends in the resistance, who happened to have a dropship filled with mercenaries at hand.

“Alardtech base control to Pale Horsemen, very glad to see you. We’re scrambling to get some vehicles out, and we’ve got two turrets active but nothing long range, and no missiles or sensors.”

“Noted. ETA on long range sensors, we’re launching a couple of higheyes now, but we’ve got no recon.”

“Several minutes, this place was shut down, but quickly, lot of weather damage and systems left to die.”

“Horsemen, eyes open people, that pirate raid can’t be far off.”

“Higheyes are away.” As the Leopard lifted off it launched four drones, unarmed, long duration systems, nothing more than passive optical systems and drones to keep them high up and out of the way. Almost everyone used them to give commanders a gods eye view of the battlefield, but they only saw what was visible, and there was a lot of forest out there.

“Fen to Horsemen, there’s another Dropship, circling the factory, ten kay out and below the hills, moving south to west, now moving west.”

“Size?”

“Leo.” Anne-Maris spoke up, not having anything to navigate she was running the higheyes so the sensor/comms woman could focus on, well, the sensors and comms.

“Reinforcements?”

“Four mechs at most, Intel has them equipped with lights. Four more isn’t much.”

“It’s four more mechs. Stay frosty people, treat this like a hard fight against dangerous enemies, overconfidence is a fast way to die in a mech.”

“CONTACT! Three, make that five, moving toward you from the south east.”

“From the Dropship?”

“No, it didn’t land or drop, these are on the ground.”

“Pathfinder, fast sweep and stay at maximum range, Bobcat with me, hold below the top of the ridge, Il Duce cover the north, Lurms stand by for an indirect target lock.”

“Sweeping now, sensor contacts, getting a look.” Pathfinder was shouting, his recon bird was at maximum power, screaming through the air to avoid fire and get in, and out as quickly as possible. “Mechs, three, all lights, four vehicles, a pair of fast hovers, a heavy tank, LRM CARRIER!”

“Target lock that one, Topgun, Gravestone, kill that carrier, priority target.”

“On it.”

“Yes sir.” Arclight chuckled but stayed focused and ignored the nervous tremble in Gravestones voice, he was doing better than a lot of newbies she’d seen.

“TARGET LOCKED!”

“Hand over received, location locked, FIRE!” Topgun did the talking but as soon as her fire control flashed green, she hit the fire button. The targeting computer estimated 21%, which was good enough for a target they had to kill.

The Apollo used high angle launchers, launching almost straight up then curving over in flight when firing indirect. The Archer fired at a 45 degree angle, it’s missiles banking up over the raised ground of the ridge. The entire salvo arrived in a ten second window and the crew inside the carrier were screaming in fear as their vehicle was hit again and again, rocking madly as alarms sounded.

Then the thunder was gone, and they were intact, the missiles had spread hits across the front, both sides and the turret, there wasn’t much armour left, but the low accuracy had saved them. They had a rough idea where the missiles had come from, and launched back, three 20 tube racks belching missiles in a stream, sweeping over the top of the ridge and down to explode over a wide area.

Gravestone flinched as shrapnel and direct hits buffeted his mech, smoke and fire sealing him off from the world, then as suddenly as it had started, it was over. The breeze whipped away the smoke and he stared at his mechs display screens, he was barely scratched, the Archers heavy armour had survived with no more than scars.

“Same target, kill it.”

“Firing.” Topgun fired again, Gravestone took several seconds to sort himself out before firing, so 30 missiles fell around the LRM carrier first, the driver screamed as fire and smoke and daylight reached into the crew compartment, he yanked his controls over, turning hard, taking the turret off target as the gunner screamed at him to turn the other way.

Seconds later he turned again, back toward the mercenaries, just as another 40 LRMs raced in from low ahead, straight into the breached front armour. The turret launched skywards, the ball of flame engulfed the vehicle, the crew didn’t even have time to scream.

“Bobcat, up the ridge, fire as you bear, lurm boats stand by for target hand off, Pathfinder, swing wide, mark targets for the LRMs and make sure this is all of them.”

Arclight was giving orders in a stream as she walked her mech up the ridge, checking for targets as soon as she could see them, then picking the best one and firing as she was waist high above the packed clay. Bobcat was seconds behind her, saw her fire and picked the same target.

The pirate mechs had advanced then stopped when the LRM carrier disintegrated, the hover tanks had raced ahead then turned hard as they realised the bank was too steep for them. That left one obvious target, out in the open. A single elderly heavy tank.

It fired as soon as it saw the mechs, they fired seconds later, the pirate autocannon shot was surprisingly accurate, blasting a crater in the left torso of Arclight’s mech, then the return fire blasted and burned away half its forward and left armour and it slewed right as the gunner shouted at the driver, they fired again, missing this time, slamming the heavy autocannon round into the clay, SRMs and lasers burned the turret and right side armour, the Po began to back up, tracks throwing up twin sprays of mud and grass, trying to get back into cover.

Then 70 long range missiles arrived. Engulfing it in explosions, ripping open the turret, left and front armour and sending the left side tracks curling away from the road wheels. The breeze whipped away the smoke to reveal it was still intact, the turret slowly turning.
Bobcat put a large laser shot into one of the holes and blew it to scrap.

“CONTACT! NORTH! Dropship just dropped something, a mech, only one of it, whatever it was.”

“Keep watching that way, factory where are your…” She fell silent, moving her mech sideways as missiles fell around her and one hit on the shoulder uncomfortably close to the cockpit, at least one of the enemy had LRMs.

“Sensors active NOW. Full coverage and… ****** ME!” The factory cut short whatever they were about to say.

One of the pirate mechs stepped out and fired, lasers and short range missiles on low probability shots, but the mercenaries had to move, no one takes risks like that, they fired back but the fast mech vanished again.

“Say again factory?”

“Assault… ASSAULT MECH IN THE WOODS! ASSAULT MECH!”

“******, Il Duce, identify it, Topgun, Gravestone, move to the top of the road, stay in cover but prepare to engage.”

“An assault mech?”

“Prepare to engage, wait till we know what it is.”

Il Duce came on the comm, he was stuttering for several seconds, barely heard over the high-pitched whine of the hover turbines. “Atlas, it’s a ****** ATLAS!”

“Jesus Christ! We can’t…”

“Quiet! Pathfinder, Il Duce, stay wide, I want target locks on it as often as possible, Bobcat with me, stay below the ridge so the others can’t target us, Alardtech get those turrets working and cover the ridge, we’re going to be busy.”

“Horsemen, confirmed target is Atlas, higheyes have it now, it’s on the road, 20 rack, six pack, ultra-heavy autocannon, lot of rust, it’s an old model, can’t see any advanced systems.” The sensor/comms tech on the bridge of Kitten One sounded far too calm, like someone who wasn’t suddenly facing an assault mech.

“It’s an Atlas, being a museum piece still makes it a ****** ATLAS.”

“Stay frosty people, target lock NOW!”

“Il duce got in there, racing around the thick tree trunks, getting line of sight and locking his sensors on the Atlas, giving everyone else a better shot.”

“Lurm boats go to rapid fire, Bobcat, with me, close and flank, I’ll go right.” Arclight didn’t wait to see if anyone obeyed, she broke into a run, over the top of the plateau and down the slope, ignoring the road as she curved right.

The Atlas saw her coming, turned to fire, then flinched, he hadn’t seen the Archer and Apollo step out, so they had line of sight, 68% the targeting computers said, Topgun did better, Gravestone not as well, but between them they hit with 36 missiles and the Atlas was wobbling like a wooden toy on a string.

Bobcat ran out and fired, the Atlas turning toward him as the LB-X slug hit its right arm and barely damaged it. It fired, missiles tearing apart the road, the top of the slope, the grass, and blowing chunks out of the Enforcers armour as all four of the Horsemen fired everything they had into the monster.

It rocked, it wobbled, it fell over.”

“What the ******!”

“KILL IT! FAST.”

Four mechs firing against an easy target, and it was getting up, unsteady, like a punch-drunk boxer, they couldn’t see the pirate in the cockpit with blood pouring down his face, one eye glued shut from where he had slammed his head into the couch when he fell over.

The Atlas made it to its feet, the ultra-heavy autocannon boomed and suddenly it was the Apollo falling backwards, barely staying upright as the massive round smashed away most of the armour on the torso, LRMs fired in every direction, some hitting the Archer, most flying overhead, but a handful hit and the heat spiked in the Apollos cockpit as alarms screamed and red flashed where the armour had been breached and the engine had taken a hit.

The Atlas lasers missed everyone, and they poured fire back into it, the giant monster taking everything they could fire and then... Staggering sideways, firing into the woods as one single missile exploded against the skull face and the pilot was slammed forwards by the shock, dazed again.

Across the factory the turrets opened fire, the remaining pirates had gotten bolder, and hearing their boss scream at them to attack, were doing just that, three light mechs climbing the ridge while the hovers went round.

The Atlas fired again, everything at the Kintaro which was charging closer and trying to get behind it, Long range missiles failed to lock and flew in every direction but still got seven hits, short range missiles hitting alongside them, rocking the medium mech and blasting away far too much armour, laser fire burning and melting the armour and some of the structure on the right leg, slagging the knee joint.

And the ultra-heavy autocannon, JAMMED!

The horsemen were firing continuously, every weapon, ignoring heat alarms, Arclight fought her mech, sweat pouring down her face despite the new double heat sinks, the two missile boats were running hot enough to be steaming, but none of them held back, then one missile got through, a single blast into the left torso where the armour finally failed, shrapnel from shattered armour spraying into the structure, and just like that, the SRM was out of action.

The atlas pilot tried to walk backwards, suddenly no longer invulnerable, screaming as he cycled the massive autocannon, trying to clear it, not watching the uneven ground, as a single salvo of more than 50 LRMs slammed into him, and he was falling again, and screaming in fear and anger, the head of the mech exploding in flame and smoke as the pilot bailed out, just before the mech hit the ground and several tons of ammo went off in a fireball that tore every leaf off the trees for 30 meters in all directions.”

“****** A!”

“Cool off and back to the ridge, we’ve still got pirates to deal with.” The two hovers had bad timing, all four of the mercenaries slowly turned, allowing their mechs to cool as they began to walk back up the slope to the factory.

The two hover tanks came around the ridge and found themselves 120 meters from Bobcat, 150 meters from the Archer and less than 200 meters from the Apollo and Kintaro.

Speed is life in a hover tank, but they weren’t fast enough to survive that.

“KILL! WE GOT ONE!” One of the gunners in the factory, a heavy turret by the slope to cover the road, twin rapid firing heavy autocannon, he couldn’t see the forest so hadn’t been able to join the fight against the Atlas, and the ridge was above him, so he couldn’t fire that way either.

Then a pirate in a 20ton mech had climbed up and stopped on top of the ridge as he stared at the downed Atlas, and the pirates were down to two surviving mechs.

“Bobcat, with me, back to the ridge, Pathfinder, give the lurms a target.”

“On it.” The helo was sweeping round again, it’s weapons next to nothing in the fight, but Pathfinder had speed, and he had the skills needed to feed target locks to the mechs. Running fast, a hard target, 25 tons of mech, racing for safety behind a fold in the rough ground.

Low probability of a hit doesn’t mean much when you fire 70 missiles at a time, Arclight and Bobcat took pot shots at the 30tonner as it ran, the missile mechs fired a second salvo, then a third while the pirate was still in range. Most of the third salvo was wasted, the mech was gone, in pieces.

“Aim just ahead!”

“I AM, I am, just ahead.” The sharp crack of the Federated Suns built autocannon, a high-density slug designed to penetrate thick armour, and the last pirate mech was trying to run with one less leg than it used to have. Arclight moved along the ridge and put 18 SRMs into it and that was that.

***

“Topgun, report, you took some heavy hits?”

“Front armours breached, some internal damage, somethings wrong with the cooling, I’m close to red line just standing here, a lot of armour damage but otherwise good, ****** that was intense.”

“Bobcat?”

“Armour and some light structure damage only, all major systems working, running low on slugs but full on the cluster rounds. A couple of those mechs look like good salvage.”

“Gravestone, any damage. Gravestone?”

“Forget the lights, we’re taking this.”

“What?” Arclight turned her mech, the Archer was back down the slope where it had been after the Atlas fell, in fact it had moved a lot closer to the Atlas, it was standing next to the fallen assault mech.”

“Talk to me Gravestone?”

“It had case, the ammo blasts, it had case, the entire structures intact, forget the rest, we’re claiming this as salvage.”

“For real, A ****** ATLAS. HELL YEA!”

“We need to agree salvage with Alardtech.”

“No, we tell them we’re taking this, and we can argue over less of the rest. Priority salvage claim was in the contract, I’m calling this.”

“You argue it with their lawyers then.”

“Oh I will. After we take it.”

“An Atlas. ****** A!” Bobcat was shouting over the radio for thirty seconds before anyone could get him to shut up. The people at Alardtech were surprisingly happy to agree with the mercenaries. Nothing at all to do with the damage to their site from overshoots, the smoke rising from burning vehicles and mechs all around them, or the mercenaries in mechs the colour of mottled old bones that had just killed or defeated every pirate in sight.

Nope, just being polite.

***


« Last Edit: 10 January 2021, 10:29:14 by Captain Jonah »

Captain Jonah

  • Private
  • *
  • Posts: 34
Re: Battletech novel Odyssey irregular posting of chapters.
« Reply #18 on: 10 January 2021, 10:22:50 »
Chapter 15

“Focus on long range and short-range weapons, the middle ground is nothing but a killing field for people who can’t reach you at long range and aren’t fast enough to get up close.”

***

Fen bought the dropship down to pick them up, now the fighting was done he could easily set down on the flat ground behind the ridge. Getting the mechs on board was easy, sorting the salvage was much harder, even damaged as it was the Atlas took the recovery vehicle, and two of the mechs pulling on steel hawsers to drag it.

But they managed, leaving the rest to be picked up by the locals and argued over later. But they weren’t leaving this loot to be misplaced, oh no.

Take off was, interesting, the wrecked assault mech took up one entire mech bay, leaving them with four mechs and three bays plus a lot of emergency tie downs and a very gentle take off and flight.

***

 A very careful flight and landing later and they were standing in the narrow lane between the four mech booths in the main bay of the Leopard.

“That doesn’t look good.”

“It isn’t, but it’s repairable, containment was weakened, but not failed, so she’s running hot rather than exploding. I can fix it, but we’re limited with the resources on hand, with the other damage, we’re looking at fifteen days, but I’d allow eighteen, I haven’t been able to get inside till it cools down so there may be more damage I haven’t seen yet.”

“Which takes us out of action, not that I was planning on anything else, not with less than a week till the pickup. That call for help came out of the blue.” Arclight gestured to the other three mechs, “The rest?”

“Moderate armour damage, some spalling and light internal damage, five days for the lot. Even if I do them first, we’ll have three fully repaired mechs the day before the smugglers arrive.”

“I know, which is why we stay hidden. Start the repairs, do the quickest first so we have something ready for an emergency.” She paused, then looked mech bay 4, which was an ungainly pile of arms and legs. “What about that one?”

“A month, and more than we can afford, I’m not going to repair it here, can’t afford to anyway. It had case, but badly maintained, so it vented the blast outside, protected the structure, but there was spalling, old armour and structure, brittle, shrapnel into the rest of the torso and the arm and leg that side.

Bottom line, just with what I have here, not possible, back on New Syrtis, a month. And four million pounds in parts.”

“SHIT!”

“Four million!”

“We’re a way toward that, even with the easy jobs we just pulled, a few more jobs maybe.”

“No, two months operating costs as a reserve, I’m not going below that. So yes, we have almost two million available, and we cleared almost a million with our missions here. But we’re using stores and parts that will need to be replaced when we get back, we’ll clear maybe half a million for the month, added to the seven fifty that’s not being held back for overheads and two months costs.

We aren’t going to have a working Atlas for a while. But we will. With some luck, a few good contracts, early next year, probably.”

“Damn, would have been good to watch us march out with an Atlas.”

“We will, just not for a while, Gravestone runs the business, we do it his way, we don’t risk the company running out of money, rushing a mech we don’t have weapons for into action.

We don’t have weapons for it I presume?”

“Yes and no, the ultra-heavy autocannon survived, and we’ve got lasers, both the missiles mounts went with the ammo, we’ve got one spare two pack after we used the other one as a decoy, and a 10-tube launcher. But we could well have more options in six-month time.”

“I hope we will. Alright, I want one MechWarrior on standby at all time, I’ll post a rota, first mech repaired is the duty mech then expand as Gravestone repairs the others.

Maintain silent operations, no radiating, we act like a rock till it’s time to meet the smugglers.”

“And if they don’t come to pick us up?”

“I’ll send a very nasty message via the HPG.” Laughter, covering up a cold fear, but laughter none the less.

No jumpship meant stranded on an enemy world, trying to hide a dropship and mechs.

That never ended well.

***

The days fight had been intense, short, but intense, finding yourself facing an Atlas was always intense. But with the rest of the afternoon and evening everyone was relaxed, and the locals had some very good cooks.

“Arclight, something odd.”

“Define odd?”

“The Atlas, I’ve had a good look at it now, a few details that are odd. Thing is, you can tell a lot about a mech, or a Dropship, by having a good look in the corners, anything big enough to have areas that don’t get looked at often.

That Atlas has had an interesting life. The serial numbers, what there is of the repair and maintenance log. Hesperus built, third succession war. She was in some heavy combats, but far apart, a lot of routine maintenance, then the left arm and torso were rebuilt, the serial numbers on the parts are five years after she was built. Major repairs to the right leg three years later, and a lot of repairs all over six years after that.”

“From the log?”

“No, the major parts have date stamped serial numbers, so I can see when the replacement parts were made, they may have been done later than the part dates, but not earlier, the first two major repairs were all Hesperus built parts, the third time was half Hesperus and half other Lyran manufacturers.”

“Never thought about it, but I suppose so, what’s odd?”

“Well, after than she was repaired again, extensively, using Kuritan manufactured parts.”

“Captured probably.”

“Probably, but then we have the odd bit, she was in mud, or very damp soil, long term rust on some of the structure, and a fine dried silt in a few out of the way places, river silt probably, and built up in layers like she was flooded again and again with mud or muddy water.

Which brings us to recently, she was quickly repaired, a rush job given they left all the rust and dried mud in the chassis, whoever did the work had some skill, and the odd part, they used Comstar manufactured parts, for at least some of the work, about half of the repairs were generic parts, but there were a lot with made on Terra or property of Comstar in there.”

“Comstar, how would a Comstar Atlas end up in the hands of a bandit gang?”

“Stolen?” Arclight sounded like she didn’t believe her own suggestion.

“By the idiots who attacked that factory, I doubt Comstar are that easy to steal from, and an Atlas, you’d think they would have mechs well-guarded.” Topgun was in her favourite position, stretched out warming her feet by the fire.

“That I can’t tell you from looking at it, I’m a tech, not a fortune teller, but something else, we took the Atlas down far too easily, just looking at the thing as it came out of the woods, I was terrified, the reputation these skull faced monsters have.”

“Hey, we’re good.”

“No, he’s right, one of us piloting something like an Atlas, we would have taken out at least one attacker, probably two. The pilot was crap, which again raises the question, where did he get an Atlas, and a Constar Atlas at that?”

“He wasn’t very good, the cockpit left with him, but the rest of the systems were intact, so while I couldn’t see how he had the controls configured I could see the central processors, and he had most of the systems on automatic.”

“What, you stop doing that second week of training.”

Arclight pursed her lips. “Second or third week of training, for those who’ve been trained. None of those bandits acted like they’d had regular training, nor did the Atlas pilot, untrained bandits in light mechs is a normal thing, as they get more experience, and survive, they move up to mediums, heavies. Bandits in assault mechs, rare, untrained and inexperienced bandits in assault mechs, never heard of that before.”

“Maybe he was the bandit chief and claimed the big mech.”

“But where did he get the Atlas in the first place, it’s not like someone just gave him a 100tonner for his birthday.”

“Doesn’t matter does it, he’s dead maybe, ejected and his escape pod is far across the woods somewhere, and we’ve got the Atlas. So we win, he doesn’t matter.”

“Unless there is someone out there giving away Comstar repaired assault mechs to other bandits, that would make our lives a lot harder.”

“Nah, why would anyone do that.”

Bobcats comment ended the discussion for a while and the four sat around the fire, deep in their own thoughts.

***

“So, you going to give up this life of luxury for the boredom of a Jumpship?” Fen had drunk several beers and was waving an empty bottle around, Anne-Marie looked at the valley, the camo net overhead and the fire in front of them before putting down her grease stained but empty plate.

“Still trying to make my mind up, more risk, less actual navigation since flying a Dropship is simple compared to calculated jumps, and…”

“Hey, flying a dropship is a lot harder than a jumpship, about the only time we power up thrusters is for station keeping, this, this is far more difficult”

“For a stick jokey, of course, but for the fifth dimension maths, jump calculations and the like, everything that requires years of training and a brilliant mind, well, Dropship crew don’t need any of those.”

Fen’s face took on a puzzled look for a few seconds, “did you just, wait, are you calling me?"

Anne-Maria smiled and stood up, “I could do with another beer, want one?”

“Yea, hey, as you’re going that way anyway, see if there are any burgers left, plenty of slaw but hold the salad.” Fen grinned as the navigator sighed in exasperation, but she was grinning as she walked away. Five years she’d severed with Fen and Captain Stone and she was well used to the behaviour of them both.

***

“They’re late.”

“I know.”

“Twenty minutes.”

“I know.”

“What if they aren’t coming, they should have been…”

“I KNOW! Jumping is complex, a thousand tiny details that could make you a little late.”

“Want me to put us back on the ground captain, if they fly a patrol round from the far side they’ll easily spot us.”

“Might be an idea, wait for them on the ground, we can launch and be in orbit in five minutes at full power, and sitting here isn’t safe. Go ahead, take…”

“JUMP EMERGENCE! Tracking, ID confirmed, it’s the Bethany, hailing us, sending secure code now… Confirmed, it’s them.”

The Jumpship that had appeared in a flare of energy was small, only two docking points and while one of those was empty, the other held a small spheroid Dropship, an odd design no one recognized. As they watched it detached from the Jumpship, used it’s manoeuvre thrusters to move away then bought it’s fusion drives online and headed off into space.”

“That thing’s very hard to track, on passives it’s almost not there. Some sort of really good stealth.”

“Comm from Bethany, would we get our asses over and dock so they can leave.”

“Fen, move us over and dock, alert the crew we’ll be jumping quickly.”

“Yes sir.”

“Be good to get home, I’m sure it’s a nice world down there, but all that warm and green.”

“You live on a ship.”

“Yea, nice grey walls and a constant temperature, green is OK, but forests, hot enough to sweat, you can keep that.”

Gravestone laughed, half because of how funny it was, his senior pilot saying it, and because the pilot was right, hot and green, just like New Syrtis had been white and cold.

Then he snorted, too long living on a Jumpship, he’d gotten soft.

****

“I prefer the pirate points, more dangerous, but they save the long trip in from the normal jump points,”

“Small chance of death, or a few days doing it the safe way. I’ll take the safe way, no point tempting fate when we use up enough luck on the battlefield.”

“I’m with Arclight, pirate points are risky, use them often enough and that couple of percent gets you, smugglers charge a lot because they don’t have long careers.”

“Bethany’s an old ship, she’s still here.”

One of the crew looked up from his mug, “Don’t be jinxing anything kid, she didn’t get old doing this, she was old when the captain got her.”

“Oh. But it’s not that dangerous, right? You all do it.”

“Kid, you listen straight, ya keep opening your mouth and ya’ll be having an accident, ya jinx us and ya’ll be out the fookin airlock, and ya friends with ya if they object. Shut ya mouth.” The man touched a chain around his neck, a twisted piece of metal hung from it, smooth from years of being rubbed.

Bobcat shut up. The crew vastly outnumbered the mercenary’s and looked like he wouldn’t be the first ‘accident’ they’d ever helped happen.

***

“Home sweet home.” Arclight grinned and took a deep breath, then let it out as a cloud of mist. Gravestone shot her a look then huddled into his jacket and hurried toward the transport that was waiting for them, skidding a little on the ground as he reached the slush where Kitten One’s fusion thrusters hadn’t vapourised the snow, just melted it.

“A few days leave, then back to work.”

“For you maybe, I’ve got a lot of work to catch up on, running a business, fixing up a Dropship.” Arclight smiled at the tone in Gravestone’s voice.

“Where do I find you, call it three days leave then back to work.”

“5th district, 1971 Plaza street, I’ve got an office rented on the 14th floor.”

“See you there.”

Gravestone pulled open the wheeled transports door and climbed in, his nose already burning from the heat inside, the other three got in behind him and slammed the door, heaters whined and the temperature jumped ten degrees in second, Everyone ignored their bosses sigh, mostly everyone, Bobcat laughed, which earned him a look, which set Topgun laughing.

“I live on a ship, this cold is for the locals.”

“I thought you were born here?”

“Yea, so, doesn’t make me a frost cat.”

More laughter as the vehicle pulled away, spiked tyres easily handling the light snow.

Light for a local, for soft off worlders the ankle-deep snow was picturesque till you had to walk across it, and tomorrow would be fun, a strong frost overnight and it would be an ice rink.

***



Captain Jonah

  • Private
  • *
  • Posts: 34
Re: Battletech novel Odyssey irregular posting of chapters.
« Reply #19 on: 14 January 2021, 07:48:07 »
Chapter 16

“If you need to call friendly fire on your own position, you done ****** up somewhere.”


**

Three days later, a little after eleven hundred.

Arclight peered over the captain’s shoulder, looking at the vast array of names on the big wall mounted display.

“That’s a lot of names. That the crew?”

“Part of it, yes.”

“Part, shit, you got sixty or seventy names there. That’s part of it?”

“Yes, part of it. Senior crew, key roles, sorting the three departments now to get a solid core in each, they can then work up on Odyssey while the repair work is ongoing, even help in some cases. The rest will be bought in about a month before we launch. Gives the department and division heads time to work up their command teams and then full crew.”

“Four MechWarrior’s in a lance, twelve in a company, working for a regular unit or the March Militia we had half a dozen techs we knew, and a dozen officers or NCOs you went to for whatever you needed or the chain of command. There were more people, just uniforms walking around. This lot though, you need all of these people?”

“And more.” Gravestone smiled, just the touch of a smile, “Sit, you could do with broadening your experience. Arclight shot him a look but dragged over the only other chair in the office.

“Three departments, Flight, Engineering and Deck. Each one has subdivisions for more specialised jobs. So, Flight has the bridge crew, the flight crew, and the command staff, Engineering is all the engineers and techs, Deck is the Deck Crew, Gunnery, and Support.

We’ll have three Bridge watches, each with a pilot, a sensor/comms tech and a gunner, three engineering watches, that’s 12 people, one does watch on the bridge and the other three in engineering. 21 people just to maintain the full watch cycle. Flight itself will have five actual pilots, Fen as pilot Lieutenant, and four junior pilots, because of the watches and running a Leopard, that number will increase when we repair the second Leopard, and start running dedicated small craft and maybe use the Leopards for detached duty. Oh and the two navigators.

Same with Sensor/comms and engineering on the Leopards.

Command staff is me, you, Fen as senior flight…”

“Me?”

“Yes, you, senior officer, security and ground force.”

“Oh, yea, of course.” Gravestone gave the smallest of grins before continuing.

“Command staff, you, me, Fen, Deck chief, Chief engineer, Chief gunner, the Doctor, the chief navigator and whoever we have in the way of liaison or client representatives.

Deck is general staff, cargo, logistics, the cooks and stewards, admin and the rest which is a fair few given the size of the ship and its cargo capacity, you need a team of well-trained people to move 45,000 tons of cargo quickly and smoothly on and off the ship and to run a ship this size.
 Gunnery division is part of the Deck crew, 15 people in total. two in each battery, two gunnery officers and the chief gunner.

Engineering is the 12 watch crew, plus 16 regular crew.

103 people as we stand at launch.

That number will grow as I get the second Leopard running and bring the mech bays and repair booths online. And the fighter bays, and small craft bays, if we get to the point where we’re running all of them at full capacity that’s going to be another 12 assistant mech techs, one per bay, three repair teams each of a tech and six astechs who will be working the repair booths, 10 assistant techs in the fighter and small craft bays, three more fighter and small craft repair teams, officers for that lot. Another dozen crew on Pup Two.

And there will be more crew to look after the passengers once I get Beta pod running and the passenger decks ready for use, we can carry 80 plus passengers, and that will need at least another eight crew.

“Shit! I had enough running a mercenary unit with 20 people. You’re talking about 200.”

“Maybe, depends on how big we grow, or who we hire. A lot of jobs will involve transporting existent units that don’t have their own Dropships but do have their own tech and support staff. Hence the passengers.”

“It’s hard to imagine just how big your ship is, I mean, I’ve been on board Jumpships, but there it’s basically a massive Jump drive with a sail at the back and a pair of rotating domes at the front, your ship is huge inside compared to a civilian Jumpship.

Dare I ask how much it’s going to cost to run it?”

“Probably not, Wages and ships maintenance will run to about a million a month, more as I take on more crew and bring systems online, the crew wages alone are significant. Stores and consumables, fuel is a major cost, but with those my thinking is to have them provided by the client since we’ll be carrying them for other units.

That’s not including mechs, small craft or any other stuff like the Leopards.

I’d rather not pay the fuel if nothing else, stealing the stuff would be better than paying for it, not at 140,000 a day when at one gee burn.”

“A hundred and… That’s… A run out to a jump point or into a world, you’re talking three quarters of a million. IN FUEL!”

“As I said, much better to steal it or get it from the clients, taking contracts that provide Jump transport and basic reprovisioning, a lot of contracts will go for that and slightly reduce other benefits but for Odyssey getting a full load of fuel will literally be millions, and it’s not as if the houses don’t make the stuff on any world with water and fusion for peanuts.

The price they charge for liquid H for fuel is one of the biggest scams out there, and that’s saying something. Getting the first load is a priority, we can crack some ourselves but we’re using the water to balance the spin ring, you see the cylinders between the habitat pods, those are auxiliary fuel tanks, a thousand tons each, they can be filled or emptied to balance out weight differences between the pods, given we’ve got two stripped down pods Odyssey would develop a wobble with one heavy pod and two light ones, so we pump a thousand tons of liquid into the tank opposite Alpha, and it smooths the wobble nicely.

“Glad I’m just doing the easy stuff, fighting enemies on a planet. Speaking of which, new contracts.”

“I’ve done my token MechWarrior thing; aren’t you hiring some new ones for that?”

“No, you. A couple of rookie missions doesn’t make you a MechWarrior in anyone’s eyes.”

“Rookie missions, I’ve got an Atlas in a warehouse from that last mission, an Atlas! Rookie missions. Pah!”

“They were rookie missions, picked by me to ease you into the job, that Atlas was a surprise, bad intel, which happens. But I’m not letting you off that easily, you need a lot more simulator practice, and more combat, your gunnery is crap. Getting better, but still crap, you need to stop fighting the targeting systems, three missions and even with a lot of easy targets your missile hit numbers are low, too low.”

“So you want me back in combat, you do remember you work for me here, right?”

“Sure, and I won’t be working for you about ten seconds after this turns into a corporate gig with us MechWarrior’s fighting and getting killed for some suit sitting safely far away. Be at the simulator centre 19:40 sharp, and bring your warrior face, we’re up against regulars.”

***

“GET THEM OFF ME! GET THEM OFF ME!” Gravestone was shouting, almost screaming, the Fusilier light mechs were circle strafing him and his Archer couldn’t turn fast enough, they got behind him, kept running, pouring fire into his rear armour and he couldn’t do anything about.

“Turn the other way, BREAK THE CIRCLE!”

Gravestone knew this, hour after hour of practice, he knew this, but the cockpit was sweltering, he was dizzy, alarms were flashing as his armour was burned and blasted away, trying to concentrate on ten things, Topgun was under attack but she still managed to hit one of his pests with 18 missiles, forcing it to turn away.

But she was under attack as well, both of the lurm boats were being mobbed by light mechs while the rest of the fusilier company kept the mixed company of mercs and militia busy.

Target locked, a Spider light mech, lightly armed, but firing into the Apollos back that didn’t matter, something wrong again, blinking sweat from his eyes, targeting system was too far from the mech, not thinking, firing, 40 missiles whooshing off, leaving him blind for a few seconds till the smoke cleared, points of fire racing toward the target, falling behind it, nine hits, out of 40.

Then smoke was filling the cockpit, heat soared, and every light went out.

***

“You alright old man?”

Gravestone grunted something barely louder than the sound of the shower he had his head under, cooling water hitting his head and running down his neck and back where he was stripped to the waist, his head was pounding, he was dizzy and there was something wrong with the way everything sounded.

“You seen Gravestone, old bloke?” Bobcat peered around the door to the showers.

“Old bloke, white hair, heat shock, yea.” The militia MechWarrior hooked a thumb toward the line of shower booths.

***

“This is embarrassing.” Topgun was looking at the individual and lance scores.

“I know.” Arclight was very specifically not looking at the score board.

“He’s too old for this.”

“I know.”

“But…”

“But nothing, he wants to run a mercenary company, well, this is what it takes, he can’t hack it he should sell up and retire somewhere warm.”
Topgun didn’t argue, not when Arclight used that tone of voice.

“Arclight, your boss still alive? A few of my people had to lift him out of the simulator.”

“He’s alive.”

Quickshot, also known as Captain Hamish John Abdullah, grunted, “Long as he doesn’t die on the premises, the cops would shut everything down while they investigated and we’re too busy for that.”

“Things bad?”

Quickshot glanced around, there was no one else in the main area other than the three of them. “Yea, you heard about the mechs?”

“The ones being transferred to the line regiments, yea, we heard.”

“Did you hear we had to send pilots with them, properly trained ones, not reservists.”

“Shit, this gets worse and worse. How many?”

“Two regiments in total, across the regulars and March Militia, we’re losing two entire battalions across the whole March Militia, mechs and pilots, which leaves us bloody shorthanded, at the same time we’re seeing a significant increase in bandit and pirate activity, corporate raiding and all the rest.

Two companies of reserves to get ready to replace two battalions of good pilots, and then accelerating the training of the next class in training. When we get mechs for them.

Going to be messy around here for a while, lot of people stepped in to take advantage of the war and now the wars ended they’re looking at the chaos and getting bolder.

Speaking of; you available?”

“Maybe, what are we talking about?”

“Given the Bent Sword Bastards are probing all along the border we can’t spare units for more than key worlds, so we’re seeing problems local units can’t handle popping up all over. Got a few worlds out toward the frontier that could use some help.”

“Paying?”

“EMM, Excelsior Minerals and Mining, they’re set up on half a dozen worlds in a cluster thirty lights across. Word is they’re bleeding money and screaming for help. Which isn’t available, they’ve got some corporate forces dug in on the main processing facility, the rest is locals in whatever crap they’ve cobbled together.”

“Right, I’ll check Mercnet and the boards.”

“Good, that will take the pressure off a bit, I’ll see if I can’t get the quartermaster to misplace some stores your way, ammo and the like if you need them.”

“We’ll put it to good use.” Arclight grinned, Quickshot didn’t.

“You stay frosty out there, your boss in the Archer’s more a liability than an asset if the fighting gets fierce. Why on earth don’t you replace him with someone a lot younger, or is this something to do with that ruddy great dropship of his.”

“Yes.” Arclight’s answer was trying to compete in the New Syrtis terse championships and Quickshot didn’t bother asking another question, just nodded and turned away as Bobcat came out of the men’s shower room.

“He’s alive.”

“For now. He came apart, the Fusiliers got some fast mechs behind him and took him apart, that happens in a fight against bandits and he’s maybe dead, and some of the rest of us as well.”

“That won’t happen.”

“You sure about that, come on Ell Tee, he’s too old for this.”

“No, what he is, is too bloody smart.” Topgun sounded certain.

Arclight turned her head slowly, eyes like lasers bearing on the target she was about to kill. “Explain.”

“The scores aren’t everything, but they’re bad on their own, but watch him when he misses, he thinks he knows better than the targeting systems, he keeps firing ahead or behind, all the time. You’ve told him, I’ve told him, we’ve trained him, but he keeps doing it, maybe he’s too old a dog to learn a new trick. But he’s a lot better with direct fire weapons, anything where he doesn’t need to lead the shot much.”

“So you’re saying we need him in a different mech? We don’t have a different mech, I’m not giving him mine, yours is another missile boat, which leaves Bobcats and no offense Bobcat, but I don’t want you in a lurm boat either.”

Bobcat grunted.

“So, what do we do?”

“Change of tactics for now. Bobcat, go see if he’s ready for another fight, then you stick with him in the fight, cover him and provide supporting fire from a distance. Topgun maintain a minimum range distance from him so you can both support each other, Bobcat can move closer to you if he needs to, then back to covering Gravestone.”

“That leaves you along getting close to use your missiles, they call them short range for a reason.”

“With three of you providing fire support, I should be covered. We’ll try it if Gravestone’s conscious.”

“I’ll go check.” Bobcat walked back to the doorway and into the shower area.

“Why are you pushing this, we could swap him out for a good replacement, we both know people who are available?”

“No. He wants to play mercenary company leader, that’s what he’s going to do.”

“Even if it kills him?”

Arclight didn’t answer.

***

« Last Edit: 14 January 2021, 08:25:35 by Captain Jonah »

Captain Jonah

  • Private
  • *
  • Posts: 34
Re: Battletech novel Odyssey irregular posting of chapters.
« Reply #20 on: 14 January 2021, 08:24:05 »
Chapter 17

“Too much ammo will explode and kill you if you’re armour breached, too little ammo will kill you when you run out. Ammo is your third worst enemy on the battlefield.”

***

“Elbermarl, code name for deep space facility, logistics and resupply base on a deep range moon. Location unknown due to Star league secrecy, rumoured location of several heavily damaged ships abandoned during the fighting and left behind when Kerensky departed the Inner Sphere. Partial inventory attached”

The Precentor let out a breath, slightly unsteady at that, then sat back in his very comfortable chair, still looking at the heavily encrypted message that had just arrived for him.

“A very valuable prize, and the timing could not be more perfect. Gone, lost forever, or not. Blake willing, there is still something to find on the Odyssey, but how to search it again, techs and engineers everywhere as they worked on the interior, and crew as well.

Crew!”

He reached across his desk and touched an icon on one of the screens, “Sanders, my office, now!”

***

“Shaunavon. What sort of a name is that? It’s a rock.”

“A valuable rock, Mars type world, small with high levels of tectonic activity, volcanoes, slowly opening and closing chasms thousands of meters deep exposing layers of rare minerals and metals. And given how close it is to New Syrtis, they’ve got a ready market for everything they mine there.”

“Yea, and thin air that’s toxic as shit, half a Gee gravity and the bits of the world that aren’t sand and rock are lava. The locals all hide in bunkers and domes.”

“And dig out fortunes far easier than on most worlds.”

“Locations not good though, it’s in striking range of the Capellans, the Taurians and the Frontier. And it’s so close to us here, why aren’t the militia helping to defend it.”

“Given the focus on the Capellans, and the mess left from the war, they’ve got nothing to spare, which would be why they have networks of turrets and bunkers, and two companies of corporate and planetary security in light and medium mechs with lots of Autocannon. That’s not a world to be using lasers on, not without a lot of new tech heatsinks.”

Gravestone was running his finger across the screen, looking at nearby worlds and systems. “Flintoft, Robsart and Ridgebrook are all close, good spots to visit if we’re passing by.”

“Flintoft, I know that name from somewhere, never heard of Ridgebrook or Robsart.”

“Flintoft was the scene of one of the biggest naval battles of the Reunification war, the entire fourth world’s orbit is a graveyard of Warships and Dropships and even now there’s still good salvage there if you look carefully, Robsart was ‘The’ biggest naval battle of that war and is great for naval salvage. Ridgebrook was ground fighting, another world covered in salvage though you have to search it out, it’s buried mostly now.

Still, there’s enough to be found in all three systems to make them very lucrative salvage locations, dangerous to spend too much time there though, some of the salvage you find could be the last group of salvagers. All three systems are pirate magnets.”

 “I take it you’ve been there before then?”

“Yea, not salvaging, but buying from people who were finding things, I bought cheap because it wasn’t working, then repaired it on the way home. But finding the stuff ourselves would be better.”

“The contracts to protect EMM facilities, not loot old battlefields.”

“And people?”

“People? Well, if they’re in the facilities we will, but the contract states protect the facilities.”

“Nice people.”

“You ever met a mining company that didn’t treat everyone not a major shareholder or management like shit, they make profits by cutting safety, not paying fair wages and cheating their own workers and the locals. EMM’s no different.”

“But they are offering a lot of money.”

“Doesn’t mean we have to do their dirty work for them.”

“Arclight, tactics wise, are you happy with this contract?”

“Yea, expect their intel to be wrong somewhere, but we’ve got good data on the raiders and they come in small and fast, nothing above a lance with vehicle support.”

“Right then, the moneys good, they’re paying transport and a support and logistics package, which we’ll take in advance, not drip fed over the weeks, I’ve been looking at EMM, lots of court actions against them for bankrupting merc units then demanding the debt repayment or the unit becomes indentured.”

“****** that!”

“As I said, all stores and logistics in advance. I’ll make sure that’s covered, they’re also playing very tight with salvage, which we can’t get around as we’ll be fighting on their ground where they can see us. But the money is very good. And if we end up off their land so to speak, we can grab as much as we can in whatever time we have.”

“Agreed, but we’re not hanging around on a battlefield when the next bandit gang could be heading our way to take out a damaged merc unit and loot the battlefield.”

“I’ll see what I can arrange for that.”

“Good, so, any issues?”

Heads shaking all round.

“Good, Gravestone, go sort us a deal.”

***

Six hours to lift off and the MechWarrior’s climbed out of the rented minibus that had stopped at the edge of the landing pads, as close as ground vehicles were allowed on the road that ran between the landing area and the hangers.

Kitten one sat on its landing pad, three lorries were stood next to her, a group of men and women standing behind someone in this year’s corporate exec style of power suit, and Gravestone who was sitting on one of the landing feet, gloved hands crossed behind his head, and looking as if he was asleep. He was well wrapped up and had a roll neck jumper on under his greatcoat and a hat with earmuffs.

“That doesn’t look good?”

“Nope, come on people, ready for battle.”

The others called out their usual responses, but Bobcats Yee Haw yell turned heads by the lorries. The three walked across the hardstand, into the chilly shade under the wing and then out into the watery sunshine.

“Problems?”

“Contracts terminated, failure to comply.”

“Like ******, you bastards are taking the piss, you signed and now you’re refusing to honour the deal, we have you dead to rights, contract violation, you work for us or we take you to court.”

“Who’s he?” Arclight pointed at the flash suit with the ****** in it.

“EMM manager, would you believe they turned up to deliver the supplies and just happened to have a manager with them.”

“Shit, they ****** with us this soon?”

“Certainly are. This,” Gravestone sat up a little and waved at the three lorries, “this magnificent delivery represents less than a quarter of the agreed upon stores and mission consumables, and no fuel. They’ve promised the rest, and all the fuel will be available when we reach the world.”

“Yea, and when it isn’t, we have to buy from them in cash or accept a generously offered line of credit, heard of that one.”

“You signed a contract, we have you dead to rights, so,” the managers voice changed, all smooth, like a snake slithering on grass, “unless you load up and take off within the next few hours, I report you for contract violation.”

On the road a car door slammed.

“Actually, it’s the other way round, I’ve dealt with people like you my entire life, and while I’m not the best lawyer around, I know enough to hire some really good ones. You signed a contract, and it’s you that are violating it.”

Gravestone turned his head, looking at the figure walking under the Leopards wing, a short figure, covered from ankles to neck in a thick overcoat and with a wool hat pulled down tightly.

“You load up and take off, or we report you to the Mercenary Review Board, and take you to court. And that’s a promise, not a threat.”

“Speaking of the Mercenary Review Board. Mr Ashaki, how kind of you to join us.”

“Can we go inside; I hate this weather.”

“This, it’s not even winter.” Topgun chuckled from the mercenary group that was clustered behind their captain, having moved to match the drivers behind their boss.

“I hate this planet as well, can we?” The man gestured to the ramp leading to bay one and Gravestone stood and waved the man up the ramp.

***

“Better, much better.” The man took his hat off and opened his coat with a sigh of relief. Now, what’s the problem?”

“Who are you?” The manager sounded suspicious, mysterious people turning up at times like this were seldom good news for people in his line of work.

“Ashaki, Sam Ashaki, Mercenary Review Board representative from the New Syrtis office. Now, contract violation was what you said Mr, Gravestone?”

“You got some ID?”

“Of course.” The short man pulled a badge from his pocket, the card lit up with a hologram and all sorts, it was very impressive, and looked very real.

“So, Mr, Gravestone?”

“Gravestone is my callsign, Captain Stone is fine, and yes, contract violation, on the part of EMM or their on-world representatives.”

“WHAT! It’s these mercenaries that are violating their contract with us, refusing to take on stores and launch.”

“Not true, I’m waiting for the stores and mission consumables to arrive.”

“They’re sitting right there.” The manager waved in the general direction of the lorries, though since they were all in the CiC on the Leopard, looking down at the mech bay, his wave was somewhat off.

“No, they aren’t.”

“Gentlemen; let us try to resolve this peacefully. So, captain. Since you called me, what is your complaint against this gentleman?”

“Violation of section 16, paragraph four, lines 18 through 27, paragraph five in its entirety, paragraph seven and appendix 3, 4, 6 and 7. Specifically provision of all stores, supplies and mission consumables, as agreed by the client and contractor as being required for the mission duration and nature. Said supplies to be delivered ‘prior’ to the contractor departing New Syrtis.

Client agrees to provide all items in amounts specified in the appendix, prior to lift off. I thought it was rather clear myself.”

“I see, you have a copy of this contract?”

Gravestone gestured to one of the screens in the room then tapped a few keys and bought up the contract.

“It’s a standard MRB contract, type 4, let me have a look, compare to default contract and highlight changes, hummm. Fairly stingy with the salvage, ah, yes, provision of Jumpship transport to the world, provision of jumpship transport to any world within the contract parameters, list of systems, and supplies.

The client agrees to provide the following, prior to the contractor departing New Syrtis, quite a lot of stores here, for a lance that is, but as you say, agreed and signed by both parties. Seems straight forward to me, now sir, I didn’t catch your name?”

“Gibson, representing EMM and…”

“Handy you happened to be so close when this problem developed.”

The manager ignored the comment; and missed the touch of a smile on the MRB man’s face.

“There have been some problems getting the stores, we’ll deliver them when they reach Shaunavon. Logistics, nothing more, but the mercenaries are refusing to launch, which makes them in violation of the contract.”

“I see, violation of a contract is a serious matter, we at the MRB hold to the terms and conditions of contracts very tightly, it’s the only way to keep the chaos at bay. So, Mr, erm Gibbs was it?”

“Gibson!”

“Gibson, yes, would you be good enough to let me know which sections of the contract you feel are being violated here?”

“What, the whole thing. They’re violating the contract, refusing to take off, that’s…”

“Yes but which section, which part are they in violation of, this is a slightly modified standard contract, 700 pages, used by mercenaries thousands of times a year on every world and system anywhere that honours the authority of the MRB. What part exactly are they violating?”

The manager sighed, “Refusing to take off, refusing to undertake the mission they were hired for, that part.”

“Ah, I see. But they haven’t yet refused the mission, they haven’t yet been required to undertake the mission, given the contract includes very specific conditions that are required to be completed ‘before’ taking off, we haven’t yet got to the taking off part. So, they aren’t in violation of not taking off, yet.”

The manager suddenly noticed that Mr Ashaki’s voice had taken on the sort of sing song way people spoke slowly to small children and his face flushed.

“Refusing to take off is…”

“Conditions of the contract prior to take off, take precedent, you can’t accuse them of something that hasn’t happened yet, we would seem to be at the provision of supplies stage which happens before the whole taking off bit.”

“This is ridiculous, these money soldiers are being unreasonable, we’ll provide the supplies when they get on world. If they refuse to leave, we’ll take them to court, and you!”

“Please do, the situation seems very clear, and it wouldn’t be the first time I’ve been in court facing an EMM lawyer over some little problem caused by your company and then used to threaten a mercenary unit.”

“WHAT! How dare…”

Ashaki went from friendly to murderous hack you off at the knee’s short person in about half a second. “How dare you honourless dogs still be pulling this crap, after what you did to my niece? The only reason you haven’t been removed from the client list is you bribe too many politicians, so you want this fight, go ahead, because I’ve dealt with you before, I had a niece get caught in one of your little company store traps, and you’ve dragged me out of my nice warm office into this frozen hell hole.”

Then he was suddenly calm, professional and friendly. “Besides, if it’s a simple matter of logistics, I see no reason why you can’t resolve it quickly, this is New Syrtis’s largest downport, if your company doesn’t have the items available it shouldn’t take long for you to buy them here. There are warehouses all over the place, and munitions dealers are just a call away.

Assuming your companies credit rating is any good here, is it?”

“Of course it…” Gibson stared at the MRB rep, who smiled, glared at Gravestone, who looked at him much as he would something he’d just stepped in while wearing new shoes, then glanced around the room. Which was filled with mercenaries and Dropship crew.

“Fine, Fine! But I’ll remember this.”

“Please do, but given the current situation you would be well advised to maintain a good reputation here, you wouldn’t want to get a bad name and have reputable units refuse to sign with you. Now would you?”

“Is that a threat?”

“Of course not, just a statement of fact.”

“Fine, I’ll arrange for the rest to be delivered.” The manager tried to stomp his feet as he walked out, the room had a metal deck, but his stylish shoes didn’t make much of a sound, even when he stamped his feet.

“Shit, we haven’t even taken off yet. Thanks for that.” Arclight nodded to the MRB man.

“The invoice will be along shortly,” he chuckled, “You modified the contract?” The second was to Gravestone.

“Yea, as I said, not the first time I’ve dealt with companies like that, and I checked on EMM before we accepted the contract, so I know what they’ve done before. You said your niece?”

“Yes, foolish young girl, joined the army and then became a mercenary rather than following her family into the excitement of contract law and negotiations.” Several people chuckled, “her company found themselves at odds with EMM three years ago, nasty business, EMM had them massively in debt and was demanding a lance of their mechs as repayment along with what amounted to indentured servitude for the rest.

It shouldn’t happen, not on New Syrtis, but as I said, they have powerful political connections on New Avalon. So, this isn’t over, they’ll try something else. You don’t have your own Jumpship do you?”

“No, but I know a few people to call if we find ourselves, ‘accidentally’ stranded somewhere with EMM offering to pick us up for a large fee. We’ll keep our eyes open.”

“Do that, now, since I’m here, and it’s warm in here, why doesn’t someone bring me a nice mug of tea and I’ll double check the rest of the contract for you, given I’m charging for three hours minimum.” He laughed as Gravestone staggered backwards, one hand on his heart.

***

Arclight stood alongside Gravestone in the CiC looking down at the mech bay and open hatches where a pair of 20ton loader mechs and a small army of downport staff were moving an endless stream of pallets, containers and shipping pods from lorries onto the hardstand beside the dropship, and from there a much smaller number of them up the ramp and into the main bay where they were stacking them in every corner.

Ship’s crew then checked they were locked down properly and more were bought in and stacked up.

“They aren’t done with us; they lost this one, but they’ll try something else.”

“I have the feeling word will somehow get out that despite being a newly formed mercenary unit with only a single deployment to our name, we aren’t the rookie’s people might expect.”

“Maybe, corporate tends to mean stupid, vindictive, narrow minded greedy scum. But as long as we’re careful and they aren’t that stupid.” Arclight leaned on the rail, peering down through the armoured glass windows. “That’s a lot of stuff.”

“Short and long range missiles, slug and canister for the LBX, twenty full reloads for every mech.”

“WHAT! That’s, that’s insane, if we use even half of that lot something will have gone horribly wrong, that’s crazy. Can we even carry all of it?”

“Not even close, which is why it’s being stacked outside till the EMM drivers have gone, at which point two thirds of it will be moved to a warehouse I happen to rent which is conveniently close and well-guarded.

We aren’t going to use it all on this mission, nowhere near, but they were happy to agree to provide all of this ahead of time as part of the contract, though I suspect they may have agreed because they were planning on not delivering or something.

Anyway, fuel, stores, food and drink for fifty people for six months, armour sections to repair every mech completely, five times over, structure, repair and maintenance components to completely repair internal structures and major systems on every mech twice over. The monetary value of this lot is higher than the actual pay for the mission, so even if we break even, we’re well ahead and stocked for several contracts after this.

We can’t deal with anything major getting destroyed, but I can fix just about anything else.”

“This, what happens if we take a hit in here?”

“The explosion would be impressive. But as I said, they really forced down the salvage, offered more money and when I mentioned the stores and consumables, they were really happy to agree to all of this lot. The generosity may have been based on the fact that weren’t intending to provide it all. But here we are.”

“Yea, didn’t take them long to find it all did it?”

“Almost as if they had a warehouse filled with the stuff they forgot about.”

Both laughed as one of the cargo mechs walked in holding yet another 10ton container in its fork cargo arms.

***



idea weenie

  • Captain
  • *
  • Posts: 2515
Re: Battletech novel Odyssey irregular posting of chapters.
« Reply #21 on: 14 January 2021, 08:40:19 »
Actually, there can be reasons for charging so much for refueling the tanks.  The goal is to make sure invasive species don't get on or off the planet, to a location with few/no predators.  By charging so much the spaceport is able to send out inspectors to the water tanks, thoroughly clean/sterilize them, and make sure your ship doesn't have something in its water that could hurt/kill your crew or another planet.

For an idea of what I mean, check out Invasion by Rob Garitta

 

Register