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Author Topic: Grand Theft Agro  (Read 4956 times)


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Grand Theft Agro
« on: 28 January 2011, 02:25:11 »
Trunner, Opilacca
Imbros III, Prefecture I
Republic of the Sphere
3 March 3133

Juanita Kwan’s day got off to a terrible start when she woke up. After that, she knew it could only get worse. No day that started with waking up could end well.

Muttering to herself, she killed the alarm and got out of bed. Glancing in the mirror, she could see that she was, indeed, as she’d last seen, albeit bleary-eyed and drowsy looking. Fit and athletic, her face betrayed a suggestion of Capellan origins with blue, almond-shaped eyes on otherwise more traditionally European features. Her long black hair, dyed bright green at the ends, was a scruffy mess.

“Wonderful start to the morning.” She muttered to herself.

A quick shower (with lukewarm water, which was beginning to become a luxury in and of itself) and she was dressed and out the door of her horrible, two-room hole in the wall apartment. The hallway was just as shabby and run down as her room was, and, for that matter, the rest of the building. Cracked floor tiles, peeling plaster, flickering or missing lights; the whole deal. The building’s owners were either too poor to look after it, or didn’t care. Either was possible.

On the upside, it made rent cheap. Something Juanita was glad for.

“Time for the festival of loathing and hatred that is my job” she commented as she took  the stairs down (lift out of order again), before stepping out onto the streets. Almost immediately, she noticed the group, barely adults, lounging on a car parked by the kerb. There were none of the expected wolf-whistles or taunts, one benefit of her otherwise unfashionable hair colour. The green streaks were currently popular amongst the Capellan street gangs as a way of openly showing one’s loyalties.

And, since the Republic was clearly going to pot after only a few months without HPGs, loyalty was becoming a real issue. It was good to have allies, even if only in the vaguest sense. Especially in a place like this.

When one spoke of the successes of Devlin Stone’s republic, they rarely mentioned Imbros III. They certainly wouldn’t mention Trunner, the planet’s capitol. Never wealthy, the world had been in a permanent economic depression since the end of the Jihad. Between mass immigration courtesy of Stone’s resettlement programs and substantial redevelopment, it had only just begun to turn the corner in the last few years – and then the HPG blackout had occurred, sending the planet’s spluttering economy into a tailspin.

The combination of the economic meltdown and sudden resurgence of nationalism amongst the populace had not ended well. There had been riots across the planet’s major cities; the worst in Trunner itself. There had been widespread damage and looting, and it was only now, months after the fact, that rebuilding had begun in earnest.

In spite of all this, Juanita had a paying job. True, it was a loathsome and hateful dead-end role that would never amount to anything, and that she would never receive any sort of recognition for her efforts. Being a dishwasher was not glamorous work; rather, it was the antithesis of such. However, it gave her an income, which was something that many others here lacked. In these circumstances, she considered herself lucky to have that much.

Besides, some days she received free bacon in addition to salary. Bacon made everything better. It was a perk of working at Tharonja’s at least.

As she walked down the street towards the bus stop, Juanita couldn’t help but glance around again at the damage wrought. Jordan had always been a low-class district at the best of times, but even at its worst pre-crash it was better then this. A seemingly endless field of bland, grey, nigh-identical high-rise apartment complexes dominated the streets

Of course, when one looked closer, they could see the more obvious signs of neglect. Cracked pavement, potholed roads, planters that were either empty or sported wilted, withered trees, strewn garbage and graffiti on any flat surface that came to hand. The odd burned-out car, remnants of the riots that had been simply left to rust only added to the feeling of desolation that permeated the area.

The Trunner city council had suggested that a major clean up would be in the offering. However, given how much other reconstruction work needed to be done, Juanita figured that the district here was way down the list. And she had no intention of waiting around for that to happen.

I wish they’d just make their move and get on with it, she thought to herself as she switched on her personal music player. The sooner I can quit waiting and get out of this dump, the better. Saying that Juanita hated it would be like saying that the sun was hot; no matter the words, it was an understatement.

Instead, she waited at the bus stop for the ride that would take her to her loathsome (but bacon-compensated) job, listening to a collection of century-old songs to take her mind off matters. Glancing around, she looked for any signs that today was going to be any different from the innumerable others that she had drudged through.

And then, several blocks down, she spotted it. A pair of IndustrialMechs, trudging along their allocated lanes, the bight yellow paint on their bodies standing out in amongst the grey urban squalor. Glancing at them, she tried to make out the designs. “Harvester AgroMech...” Juanita muttered as she looked at the first one. “And a Crosscut ForestryMech. Well that ain’t right.”

Most people when they saw an IndustrialMech assumed that it was simply another piece of machinery and left it at that. Few could tell one type of Industrial from another; while many were obvious from the equipment they carried, the fact that they were so commonplace meant that many would not even notice that much. Instead, the assumption was that one Industrial was pretty much the same as another.

Juanita wasn’t one of those types.

The bus forgotten, she instead rummaged in her pack, pulling out a pair of electrobinoculars. Zooming in on the Harvester, she could immediately tell that nobody was paying attention to the equipment that the particular mech was carrying. While its left arm sported the typical harvester that was normal for its type, the right arm loading claw seemed to be absent; in its place was what looked suspiciously like a weapon nozzle.

Glancing over at the Crosscut, her suspicions were confirmed. Again the typical chainsaw was in place as expected, but the right arm lifter was absent. What was there were several panels that were doing a passable job of concealing a short-barred Autocannon. If they didn’t know what to look for, a casual observer wouldn’t notice the difference; however, Juanita knew the exact signs.

“Definitely not right.” She continued as she began to walk down the street, doing her best to watch the two mechs. Since the collapse of the HPG network, arming industrials and pressing them into action had been one of the tactics of the nationalist militia groups that had sprung up. While their military value was often dubious, they had a number of advantages. Camouflage was one of them – it was often hard to tell what was an armed militiaman and what was an innocent bystander until they started shooting.

She pulled out her PersCom and punched in a number. “Mister Yummy’s Hot Dog Cart.” The cheerful man on the other end began. “We’ll give you the best wiener you’ve ever had.”

“Very funny Antonin” Juanita replied without a hint of humour. “It’s me.”

“What’s up?” He continued, his tone friendly and conversational still.

“I think they’re making a move.” She stated, speeding up her step. “I have a pair of Industrials, a Crosscut and a Harvester, heading north on Alvaka. Both are armed.”

“I see.” His tone dropped. “Think it’s the capitol?”

“Pretty sure.” She concluded. “I’ll see what I can do here, but you may want to try something at your end as well.”

“Understood.” He finished. “Call me when you have an update.”

She ended the call without replying, stowing her com in her pocket. The Industrials were several streets back, and definitely moving faster then she could run. Time to examine her options.

Reaching the next crossroad, she calmly waited for the lights to change, one eye still on the retreating Industrials. As soon as they changed, she calmly stepped out onto the road, then grabbed a pistol from inside her jacket. A quick dash bought her over to the car door, which she yanked open while levelling the gun at the driver.

“Out” It was a simple demand. The driver, a man probably no more than twenty-five and looking well out of his depth nodded frantically, all but stumbling out of the car as he did. Wasting no time, she clambered in, putting her food down as soon as the door was closed. The electric engine whined as it was pushed to speed, the car taking off against the lights.

Juanita swerved the car around a sharp turn, heading after the two Industrials. It slid, scrabbling on the asphalt for purchase for a moment before following through. Inwardly, Juanita grunted, unhappy with her choice of car, knowing full well that she could have gotten better had she not been in a hurry. The Zizzin Tanto was best described as a “plastic crap-box on wheels” and had few positive attributes beyond being cheap. But it would work for what she needed it for.

The car sprinted down street, Juanita feeling every bump, crack and pothole in the road’s surface courtesy of the car’s crappy suspension. Gripping the wheel, she swerved in and out of the traffic, trying to get the best out of the performance available. Horns wailed in the background as other drivers expressed their displeasure at her cutting through them or across intersections.

She had no doubt that the driver had gotten a fair look at her, enough to put together a description for the police. She also figured that, after today, a carjacking conviction would be the least of her worries.

The tyres squealed in protest as she pulled a second sharp corner, cutting into the broad main drive through the district. The central two lanes of the road were widened and reinforced, designed specifically for use by IndustrialMechs. Ahead, the two machines she had spotted were trudging forward, moving in an almost casual way in an obvious effort to disguise their true intent.

However, she wasn’t bothering. Abandoning all pretence, she sprinted the Tanto as fast as it would go towards the two machines, closing on the Crosscut at the rear. She had two advantages over the pair of them; the first was that they didn’t know she was coming. The second was that they were still keeping cover, and, as such, had to obey the road rules – which still applied to them, IndustrialMechs or not.

Sure enough, a golden opportunity presented itself. The Harvester strode through an intersection, while the Crosscut behind it was stopped by a change of traffic light. Seeing her chance, she bought the Tanto to a skidding halt next to the machine. Forgetting the traffic, she instead reached into her satchel, grabbing a charcoal-grey cylinder and wrapping its strap around her arm while holstering her pistol.

The Schofield SKRW Maghook was a brilliant piece of hardware, one that had served Juanita well on numerous occasions. Opening the door of the Tanto, she stepped out, pointing it at the Crosscut’s shoulder. With a squeeze of the button on the base its magnetized head shot off, trailing the nanofiber cable behind it. After it latched onto the IndustrialMech’s shoulder with a satisfying clank, she pressed a second button.

Two things happened at once, one expected, the other not so much so. The cable began to retract into the Maghook, launching Juanita up the side of the mech. Unfortunately, it also began to move again at the same time, causing her to lose her footing. Her easy ascent suddenly turned into a frantic scrabble for purchase, running the risk of tumbling back to the ground. Gritting her teeth and grabbing as firm a hold of the hook as possible, she swung herself back, only barely managing to avoid slamming herself face-first into the machine.

What seemed like an eternity (but was probably well less then a minute) later, Juanita pulled herself up onto the shoulder of the Crosscut,  managing to get a firm hold of one of the mech’s built in handholds, purposed designed to allow the pilot to enter his machine in the field. Stowing the Maghook, she crawled across the shoulder to the cockpit. Inside, the operator was clearly focused on running his machine, and hadn’t noticed the woman crawling along its side. His fault.

She grabbed the access hatch, yanking it open. Many IndustrialMech operators left them unlocked at the best of times, simply to give them a way to get out of the machine if something went wrong. The pilot gave a grunt of surprise as she did, turning to come face to face with her pistol. One look at him told her that whoever he was, he certainly was no ordinary operator.

Scruffy, unkempt and unshaven, his face bore a broken nose and at least one scar. His bare arms displayed a number of prison tattoos, as well as one she couldn’t immediately place; a black handprint on a red field.

“Get out” She demanded, knowing full well that, in the cramped confines of the Forestrymech cockpit his options were very limited; he could either comply with her, or just keep driving and risk her blowing his brains out. Instead, he took a third option, and lunged at her, content to leave the machine to look after itself.

He was fast; she was faster. She ducked under his lunge, grabbing him as he went, then pushing forward herself. His back slammed into the canopy frame with a hard thud that seemed to knock the wind out of him – seemed, as a meaty fist slammed into her side. Still holding her grip, she slammed him into the side of the cockpit again, then followed it up with the best close-in move she knew – a knee to the groin.

That had the desired effect. He stumbled, then she shoved him aside. The combination of that and the mech’s momentum did the rest; he fell off the back of the machine.

Juanita didn’t stick around to watch; instead she clambered into the cockpit, closing and securing the access panel. Inside, she gave a quick once-over of the systems; the normal IndustrialMech controls were largely present, with several of the secondary ones replaced with a military-style Multi Function Display. Checking the system status, she could see that the mech had been refitted with a military-grade targeting system, which was being in turn used to control a Mydron Snakekiller Light Autocannon in the Forestrymech’s right arm.

This is a professional job, no doubt about it. She concluded as she looked over the controls. Whoever modded this one was no back-alley operator. No, this had to have been done professionally. She knew what she was looking at, and this was good work. So what are they up to?

She toggled the MFD through its display settings, switching to the Navigation. At present, the Forestrymech was headed to what was tagged as Nav Delta. A quick check placed said Nav-point just a block back from the Planetary capitol building. Well that’s no coincidence.

Pulling out her perscomm, she hit the last number. “Antonin, it’s me.” She began, not waiting for him to respond. “I... borrowed the Crosscut. It’s been modded with a LAC, and it’s definitely a professional job... and it’s headed for the planetary capitol.”

“Understood.” He stated. “For now, just keep to your current course. I’ll rendezvous and we can work something out from there.”

“Roger that.” She gave a wry smile. “I guess you can call this some ‘Grand Theft Agro’.”

There was a pause. “What?”

She blinked. “Like... Grand theft auto. Only with an Agromech.”

“You’re in a Forestrymech.” He flatly replied.

“Well it was a good joke!” She replied, rather defensively. “Anyway, that aside, looks like you’re finally getting your money’s worth out of me. Just don’t forget the rest.”
Author of BattleCorps stories Grand Theft Agro and Zero Signal

Whenever you use terms like 'fiat' or 'stupid pills', you render your argument invalid

How to Draw MegaMek Icons the Deadborder Way


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Re: Grand Theft Agro
« Reply #1 on: 28 January 2011, 02:26:25 »
New Madrid, Barcelona
Poznan, Prefecture V
Republic of the Sphere
26 June 3132

As far as Juanita knew, there was a Tharonja’s restaurant on just about every planet in the Republic. It was a chain of restaurants that offered entirely serviceable food; not brilliant but far from terrible at the same time. Certainly, nobody important or interesting ever went to a Tharonja’s, which made it a great place for a wanted criminal to meet someone and know that they weren’t likely to be seen by anyone who they didn’t want to be seen by.

That suited her perfectly.

She strolled in, looking confident and casual, acting like she owned the place. Plopping down at a booth, she made an act of studying the menu for whole seconds before the waitress turned up.

“I’ll have the Tharonja’s Deluxe Double Bacon Burger with a side of fries.” She all but demanded, not bothering to look at the waitress. “And a Novos-Soda.”

Ignoring the waitress’ reply, she instead scanned the room. Two days ago, someone had called her, which was a surprise in and of itself. Her number was something she rarely gave out, and she knew who had it. This voice on the other end had not been one of those, which both intrigued and concerned her. He’d arranged to meet her, and let her pick the time and place. She’d said here because of its relative anonymity. That and the burgers were good.

What concerned her more was that he’d stated that he had a proposition for her, a potential line of employment. Given what her current job was and what other people may hire her for, she found that most intriguing. Curiosity had overcome caution, and she’d decided to make the meet. Even then, she’d taken precautions.

The waitress arrived with her drink, Juanita all but looking past her to study the rest of the room. A figure caught her attention; a man who had just stepped in, conspicuous in his inconspicuous approach. Dressed in what could be described as ‘business casual’, he had a slender face and long black hair tied into a loose ponytail. To top it all off, he was wearing sunglasses indoors.

That’s got to be him. She tensed up, ready to take off if needed.

He sat down, nodding to her. “Juanita Kwan, correct?”

“Yeah, and who wants to know?” She shot him a critical glance.

He took off his sunglasses, revealing narrow brown eyes. “My name is Antonin Rybak”. He began. “I’ve been following your work for some time.”

“Yeah, and how’d you get this number?” She stated. “It’s not something I casually throw about.”

“Money talks.” He offered. “I’m sure that in your line of work you’d know that already.”

“My line of work.” She snorted derisively. “What do you know about it?”

“Chicken BLT please.” He casually dropped at a passing waitress, before turning back to Juanita. “Quite a lot, actually. Like I said, I have been following your work for some time. That’s what bought you to my attention. You have skills that I would find useful.”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“Oh, I’m sure you do, Ms Kwan.” He countered. “You and I both know that your current line of work is far from legal and that it’s attracted a lot of attention that I’m sure you don’t really want.”

“Like what?”

“Like your little escapade the other day.” He explained. “The one that made front-page across the whole city. That sort of attention.”

She nodded slowly. “Well, since I have no idea what you’re talking about, you’ll have to enlighten me.” Fake innocence was obvious in her speech.

“I’m referring to your last joy-ride, Juanita”, he began.

“What joyride?”

“You stole a Carbine ConstructionMech-“

“Borrowed.” She countered. “I was going to bring it back.”

“And went on a joyride through the city, doing thousands of C-Bills damage.” He continued, not missing a beat.

“I was checking its gyro calibration. Good thing too, as it was way off.”

“Including stepping on the Mayor’s limo”

“That was an accident.”

“You could be heard laughing from the ground.”

“I heard something funny on the radio.” It was more of an admission of surrender then an attempt at defence in weight of the evidence.

“Let’s not mess around, ms ‘Zoom-Zoom’ Kwan.” His tone was factual, but not forceful, but the use of her nickname suggested that he knew more then he’d let on so far. “You already have a pre-existing juvenile criminal record. You also have numerous other minor and petty convictions, and we both know that the authorities are just looking for a way to make it all stick.”

She glanced away from him, the guilt obvious. Regardless, he continued. “You dropped out of high school and even then were a chronic underperformer. You have no formal training and no qualifications. Your career choices are largely limited to a life of future crime or a long stay in prison – and the two are far from mutually exclusive.”

Again she said nothing, letting the words sink in. “Despite this, Juanita Kwan, you are clearly skilled, resourceful and intelligent. While you have no formal accreditation, you are a skilled IndustrialMech operator, and you know enough to successfully break into one, over-ride its safety systems and then get it moving.”

“And if that was not enough, you have made a career out of it.” He stated. “You steal IndustrialMechs. Most of the time you seem to be in the pay of others; stealing Industrials and dropping them off for money. Other times, like the aforesaid moment, you seem to be a joy-rider; you steal an Industrial for the simple sake of it, do some damage and leave it abandoned.”

“You have kept ahead of the law, yes, but as I said, that cannot last forever. Nor have you left many options open for yourself. Have you, at any point, considered what you would do with your life otherwise?”

There was a long silence, punctuated only by a loud slurping from Juanita as she finished off the last of her soda. “Not... not really.” She admitted. Looking out the window, and avoiding his gaze, she stared at the traffic instead.

“Now given that, as said, you are a lot smarter then you act, I’m also sure that you are aware of this fact. You just simply chose to ignore it. In fact, some less generous individuals might suggest that you were trying to get yourself killed rather than face up to your lack of options.”

“Well...” She began, but again trailed off.

“Now I am sure you have some justifying argument.” He stated. “I’ll admit that I’ve looked into your background, but not too far. I am sure that you have some motivation – real or imagined – in there. However, I am not going to judge you on that. In fact, I really don’t care for your past.”

She turned to look at him, an angry glare in her eyes. “So what the hell do you want, ponytail?” Her voice was rising, her temper fraying. Weather it was at his frank assessment and how much the truth of it hurt, or if it was at his dismissal of her reasoning was up for debate. Either way, she didn’t like it.

“Simply put, I want you for your skills and knowledge. I want to employ you.”

She flopped back in her seat. “So hang on here.” Juanita started. “You first point out that what I’m doing is wrong and bad, and then state that I have no future in continuing to do it. Then you tell me you want me to do more of it.” She cocked her head. “You’re sending out mixed signals here, ponytail.”

“If I may explain more thoroughly?”

“Go for it.” She shot back. “This should be good.”

“You steal Industrials for a living. And yet, have you never once wondered who’s buying all of them or why?”

“Should I?” She shrugged. “They pay me. That’s all I care.”

“How’s about this.” He offered. “I can offer you a full-time job with a salary. In return for that, you will serve as an investigator of sorts, helping me trace back every last IndustrialMech you’ve stolen. From there, if that works out, I’ll keep you on for other such investigations and, where needed, to use your particular skills.”

“Sounds good, but I’m gonna need more.” She leaned in close, studying his face. “You’re asking me to squeal on people who have been good to me so far. And I’m not going to do that for nothing.”

“Entirely fair.” The man acknowledged. “So I have another incentive for you, Juanita Kwan. Work for me and I’ll make you more than just an IndustrialMech thief. I’ll make you a full MechWarrior – with all that it entails.”

She blinked at his reply, at a loss for words. Under Stone’s disarmament programs, Mech armies had been massively downsized, with many mechs simply scrapped. Real MechWarriors, ones who piloted real BattleMechs, were a rare and privileged elite. The prestige and power in their position alone was incentive enough to drive anyone to aspire to be amongst their ranks.

And his words suggested more. A real BattleMech; not just a modified industrial. To have such wealth, such power... it was something she had never dreamed of. And he was offering it to her.

“Tell me more.” She finally spoke up, a hungry, excited tone in her voice.
Author of BattleCorps stories Grand Theft Agro and Zero Signal

Whenever you use terms like 'fiat' or 'stupid pills', you render your argument invalid

How to Draw MegaMek Icons the Deadborder Way


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Re: Grand Theft Agro
« Reply #2 on: 28 January 2011, 02:30:13 »
Trunner, Opilacca
Imbros III, Prefecture I
Republic of the Sphere
3 March 3133

Modifying an IndustrialMech to be a combat platform had been an option for almost as long as there had been IndustrialMechs to modify. After all, the first true BattleMechs had been developed from Industrial technologies.

However, such modifications were far from easy. Anyone could chop off an industrial backhoe and slap an autocannon on in its place; however, the end result would be anything but effective. An IndustrialMech lacked the fire control systems that would make the weapon useful in combat, and a poorly mounted cannon would probably rip itself off when fired.

However, what Juanita saw in the cockpit of the Crosscut was a professional modification job. The first and most obvious change was the addition of a military-grade fire control system. It had been well integrated into its systems too; while its controls were intact, the ForestryMech’s original displays had been largely removed to make way for several modern multi-function displays. Quickly flipping through them told her that the mech was armed and equipped for battle.

And, while she couldn’t tell for sure from the cockpit, she was willing to bet that the armour had been reinforced or otherwise modified; certainly she expected that it wasn’t the usual commercial-grade plate covering the mech. Whoever had paid for this machine to be modified had wanted a top-notch job, and so far it seemed that they had gotten their money’s worth.

Which was also a bad thing. She figured that the Harvester ahead of her had also been modified to the same degree. Of course, this also meant that whoever had purchased the modifications- and possibly the machines themselves – had put a lot of money and effort into this little program. Which, combined with the obvious criminal who had been piloting the Crosscut before she stole it, did not bode well at all.

Yeah, this is a big operation all right. She pressed a few buttons on the MFD controls, cycling through displays. They’re moving armed Industrials on the capitol. Now if I figure this right... She pushed the throttle open, the Crosscut moving with the traffic. Most people won’t pay attention to IndustrialMechs. They won’t notice when there’s a dummy concealing a cannon or a missile launcher. And they won’t notice when the work crews are actually surrounding the capitol until they give the go signal and move in. That buys them time, and the element of surprise.

She figured that these Industrials wouldn’t be the entirety of the operation. These people – whoever they were – had probably smuggled in infantry as well. They could have disguised them as work crews, hidden them in amongst the civilians working on repairing the damage done by the riots. Their weapons could be disguised or stored in place of their equipment, and their vehicles could serve as a form of transport.

This wasn’t some crude attack or hastily thrown together force. No, this was a rather well-planned operation, with an obvious goal. Someone’s making a bid for Imbross. And this is a part of it. Which, she realised, meant that she had to stop it.

Right. What I do is follow the Harvester there. I keep my profile low until I figure out what’s going on. Then I can open up in their midst and throw off whatever it is they’re planning. They won’t be expecting one of their own to open up on them, and it will allow me to get a better look at what they’re planning. Simple.

The communicator in the mech’s cockpit beeped loudly, throwing her out of her train of thought. More worryingly, she realised that it would be one of the other members of the assault force, and that they’d be expecting a man to answer them. A big, burly man who had spent time in prison and had way too many tattoos. One whom she had no idea what he sounded like beyond a few grunts. On the other hand, not answering would only ask more questions.

She warily activated the communicator, figuring that she’d come up with a reply. “Savage Four, this is Savage Three. Get the lead out back there.”

Looking ahead, she could see the Harvester still advancing, not turning to look at her mech. She could also see that her own mech was falling behind; the fight with the pilot had held it up.

“Savage four, are you there? What’s going on?” The pilot’s tone was angry and demanding. Clearly they weren’t going to take complete silence for an answer. “Is there a problem with your mech?”

Despite their tone, they were maintaining the Harvester’s course and heading. Clearly they were intent on keeping their cover for as long as possible, regardless of what may or may not have happened to their compatriot. Doubtless a ‘no response’ would be taken as a sign of trouble.

So instead she lined up the Harvester’s rear in her sights. Flicking a switch on the fire control panel released the dummy housing around the Autocannon, leaving the barrel exposed and ready to fire, as well as incredibly visible. Then, as soon as the weapon showed as green on the status board, she opened fire.

The Crosscut rocked with the recoil of the weapon’s fire, while the roar of the Autocannon filled the cockpit. The stream of shells leaped from the barrel, tearing into the back of the Harvester and shredding the flimsy rear armour. The mech stumbled, then its legs locked up as its gyro was apparently destroyed by her attack. Momentum did the rest, with the converted AgroMech slamming face-first into the pavement.

However, that wasn’t enough for her. She pushed the throttle open, the Crosscut powering forward. The heavy pounding of the metal-shod feet on the pavement counted down the distance to the fallen Harvester as Juanita drove her IndustrialMech forward, its operator driven by an almost hungry desire. Twisting the controls, she swung its foot around in a broad kick that slammed into the Harvester’s right shoulder.

There was a satisfying crunch of metal as the shoulder shattered and collapsed, the arm twisting out of shape, metal bones snapping under the force of the blow. Convinced that the limb and its weapon were useless, she looked around to take in the situation.

Around the two IndustrialMechs, the streets were in chaos. Cars were swerving away off the main streets, their drivers panicking at the carnage that was unfolding. Several had already collided, forming knots and clumps in the traffic flow that would inevitably spiral outwards and multiply in their disruption. Others, pedestrians, were simply running, looking for any cover that they could find from the battle that had broken out on the streets.

By now, they would be reaching for their personal communicators, calling the police, the emergency services, city hall or their mothers. It was what happened when she boosted an IndustrialMech and took it for a joyride. It meant that there would be police on the streets looking for her and, when they found their target, pursuing it. It also meant that all of a sudden, the top secret operation that whoever this IndustrialMech had belonged to were planning was about to get a lot of attention.

Turning the Crosscut back towards the nave point, she again opened up the throttle. Road rules and speed limits no longer applied; she was staying in the IndustrialMech lane out of sheer convenience to avoid the traffic. Leaving the wrecked Harvester behind, she instead stormed towards the capitol as fast as the mech’s engine could go.

The comms system was flooded with chatter with orders being flung back and forth. She could hear someone shouting; focusing, she could tell that it was the Harvester pilot, shouting about what had happened. A shout for silence filled the channel, which managed to dispel the chatter for a moment.

“Savage Four, are you there?” A single voice cut through, its tone demanding. “Savage Four, what is your status?” Juanita chose not to reply; doing such would give her a few precious seconds of time before they figured out that she had hijacked the mech. Those seconds could make all the difference.

“Savage Four, respond now.” This was no longer a request, it was an order. She chose to ignore it, focusing instead on driving the ForestryMech forward, getting as much time as she could.

“Very well, Savage Four – or whoever you are. The Band of Five does not tolerate treachery.” The channel went ominously silent.

Juanita swallowed nervously, suddenly shaken. She’d stolen plenty of IndustrialMechs before and received plenty of warnings from the authorities to stand down. However, at the same time, she also knew that they would try any means possible to stop, contain or halt without resorting to lethal force. The Band of Five (whoever they were) clearly was going straight for the most immediate and definitive solution to the problem.

“Hey Ponytail” Juanita began as she activated her own communicator. “They’re onto us. I had to blow my cover, but this also means that there’s going to be a lot of noise about these guys across town in a minute.”

“Roger that.” Antonin shot back. “Any ID on these attackers?”

“They’re called the ‘Band of Five’. Sound familiar?”

There was a pause. “Vaguely. I’ll check back later. Out.”

Without the chatter from the Band of Five’s channels (she presumed that they had cut her off to stop her from throwing their plans further) or her own communicator, the only sound was the heavy footfalls of the running ForestryMech. Around her, the traffic continued to part and peel off, drivers desperate to get away from the obviously armed maniac who wanted to turn their city into a warzone. She hazarded that news would be spreading already and drivers would be directed away from Alvaka boulevard where she was advancing.

She still hadn’t figured out what she would do when she got to the capitol. She hoped that should she encounter more members of the Band of Five that she’d have a few moments of confusion on her side while the other guy tried to figure out who she was. From her point of view, it was safe to assume that any other armed Industrials she came across were hostile.

Searching around the cockpit, Juanita wished that whoever had chopped this Industrial had chosen to retain its civilian radio. While usually she liked music when she was driving, this time she wanted to channel-hop and see if she could get some idea as to what was going on and how the authorities were reacting.

Something else caught her eye; up ahead, a pair of trucks, ten-ton models from the look of them, had turned onto the road from an intersection, going against the flow of the traffic. Instead of fleeing, the pair of them were advancing towards her, moving at speed. “The hell?” She muttered as they barged past the smaller vehicles, their drivers clearly having no regard for other road users or traffic laws. As they advanced, the canvas tops over their cargo beds were released, abandoned by the drivers.

The pair of them stopped, one on each side of the street. As she advanced, a realisation came to Juanita, one that she had made and then dismissed days ago. I have seen a lot of ten-ton trucks around here of late.

A high-pitched siren blared from the Crosscut’s control systems, indicating a missile lock. Moments later, the backs of the two trucks erupted into smoke as their LRM launchers fired, sending a score of missiles at her mech. The Crosscut shook as several of them hit home, tearing into the machine’s weak armour. Warning lights flashed on, Juanita choosing to ignore them for the moment.

Instead, she re-activated the communicator as she pressed the mech forward. “Hey Ponytail, bad news!”

“, I’d say Pogata may be behind us” he replied, somewhat distracted sounding.

“Ponytail?” She asked as she opened fire with the Autocannon. Shells tore into one of the trucks, ripping the vehicle’s front end apart.

“Sorry about that, miles away.” He offered, unconvincingly. “What’s up?”

“Add armed trucks to their inventory” She called out, his comment out of her mind almost immeditely. “I’ve got a pair of ten-tonners here spewing out LRMs at me.” A roar of missiles underscored her point, a flight only narrowly missing her mech. Ahead, the truck began to back up, wary of the destruction of its comrade.

“Understood.” He finished. “I‘ll keep an eye open.”

“Yeah, sure. Just hurry up and get your arse in gear.” She snapped. “Otherwise your little protégée is gonna be a dead woman real quick.”
Author of BattleCorps stories Grand Theft Agro and Zero Signal

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Re: Grand Theft Agro
« Reply #3 on: 28 January 2011, 02:31:22 »
Trunner, Opilacca
Imbros III, Prefecture I
Republic of the Sphere
1 February 3133

“Well this place sucks” Juanita muttered to herself as she stomped up the stairs. In truth, she had been far from impressed with Trunner ever since she and Antonin had arrived on-planet. While New Madrid had not been one of the nicest cities in the Republic by any means, it was a paradise next to Trunner.

The whole city had a look of run-down neglect, as if nobody cared for it any more. There had clearly been large scale riots in the recent past; lots of burn-out cars, smashed storefronts, gutted buildings and the like. And while she’d seen signs of rebuilding – specifically lots of ConstructionMechs – it was clear that the amount of work so far was dwarfed by what was still to come.

“So why are we here, Ponytail?” She asked as she followed him up the stairs of the run-down apartment complex. After they’d arrived on-world, he’d driven her across town to what had to be the seediest, most run-down and decrepit apartment district she’d ever seen. And, from there, he’d taken her to what she presumed was the crappiest building in the district.

The plain, generic architecture wasn’t enough to make it bad, of course. Peeling paint on the walls, unidentifiable stains on the carpet, cracked tiles, missing lights... this place had it all. It was like a smorgasbord of everything wrong with housing projects, both in design and habitation. She figured they were taking the stairs simply because the lift was out of order, and probably had been for decades. Now all this place needs is an overhead rail going past it and it’ll have the lot.

“This is the place.” Antonin began as he stopped in front of one apartment. The door was no shabbier or neater than any other on a floor that was no better or worse than any other. Opening it, he stepped inside, allowing her into the apartment.

The nicest thing she could say about it was that it was furnished, albeit for rather generous values of ‘furnished’. Whomever had provided for it had apparently done so by buying from salvage and thrift stores; everything had a bettered and worn look, with several pieces looking like they had been repaired or patched with other parts. That the lights actually came on seemed a miracle, until she realised that it served to only highlight just how crappy and run-down the apartment was.

“So what do you think?” Antonin asked.

“I think the place stinks, Ponytail” She stated. “It’s a run-down cesspool in the middle of a run-down cesspool with no redeeming features whatsoever. It’s a horrible hole in the ground that nobody in their right mind would want to live in.”

He gave an amused grin, which took her back. “What?” She asked. “What’s so damn funny that we tramped halfway across the republic to look at a toilet like this?”

“The place is yours, Juanita” he replied, frankly. “The rent and utilities are all paid for, so you can use as much as the local supply will allow for. Food and such will be paid out of an account I’ve set up. I also have a job for you. It’s not much, but in the local economy, having a job is a luxury. You’re a dishwasher at a local Tharonjas; you start on Monday.”

She blinked at his statement. “You what?” She began. “You dragged me halfway across the Republic for a hole in the ground apartment and a crappy dead-end job?” The anger was obvious in her voice, her tone rising. “If this is meant to be some object lesson about my future if I stick to my life of crime, then you’re going to insane lengths for it, Ponytail.”

In response, he laughed, which only made her angrier still. “You’re close to the mark, ms Kwan.” He stated. “Yes, this is related to your life of crime. No, it’s not some form of bizarre punishment. Trust me, there is a point to it.”

He sat down at what could be charitably called the dinner table, offering her a seat. Dumping her pack – which contained most of her worldly goods, she sat down next to him. “So talk to me, Ponytail. What’s the big deal?”

“All things in good time.” He stated. “And yes, the training you went through was for a point. I want you to be able to handle a mech in battle and, if needs be, its weapons systems. But for now, your reason for being here is related to your old life”

She didn’t like the way he said ‘old life’, but let him continue. “A number of the IndustrailMechs you were paid to steal were purchased by a single buyer, albeit through third parties. I traced a number of them to this one world, but the trail went cold there.”

He looked her in the eye. “That’s where you come in. Someone has to have a good reason for shipping a number of black market Industrials to a single planet. I personally suspect that, along the way, they’ve put more then a few of them through combat modifications – arming them, equipping them with military-grade electronics and so on. And they probably have a very, very good reason for that.”

She nodded. “And you want me to find out why.”

“Exactly.” He finished. “While I know you are not local to Imbross, at the same time, you have a lot of experience in the field of IndustrialMech theft and the underground industry around it. Your task will be to infiltrate the local crime scene and to find out what’s going on.”

“And, if needs be, to steal the Industrials back?” She spoke up.

“Exactly.” He finished. “We have no idea what they’re doing. But I want every means to deal with it that’s available to me.”

“So we assume that someone’s building a private army.” She leaned forward, propping her chin on her hand. “You don’t think the Imbross militia is up to handling it?”

“Debatable” Antonin shook his head. “The militia has been chronically underfunded for years. Their equipment is run-down, their troop quality lacking and their response times are non-existent. Added to that, since the blackout they’ve been bleeding off troops to private recruiters. If someone were to launch a surprise attack on the city, then they would be hard pressed to mount an effective resistance.”

“So in other words, if the bad guys do something, I’d be the first line of defence.” She offered.

“If you can find them”

“Oh trust me, I will.” She shot back.

“Excellent work. I’ll be working here as well, so I’ll never be out of contact. I’ll give you a communicator with my number programmed in, and if you need anything else-“


“-Within reason-“

“Poop” She finished.

“-then let me know and I’ll do what I can. Your job is just a cover to help obscure the trail coming from it. But who knows, you may learn something there.”

“Yeah, that I hate washing dishes.” She smirked.

“So is there anything else you need?” He asked.

“One question. Why set me up in this hellhole? I’m sure you could do better.”

He laughed. “Because a girl in a nice house with a cushy job asking about stolen Industrials would look way, way to suspicious. But one who is barely scraping by with a dead-end job while living in a hellhole? You’re a natural.”

“Point.” She admitted. “I’ll give you that much. But this had better be worth it, Ponytail”

“I’m sure it will be.” He finished.
Author of BattleCorps stories Grand Theft Agro and Zero Signal

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Re: Grand Theft Agro
« Reply #4 on: 28 January 2011, 02:37:05 »
Trunner, Opilacca
Imbros III, Prefecture I
Republic of the Sphere
3 March 3133

“Yeah, I know, this is all my fault” Juanita muttered to herself as she drove the battered Crosscut forward. “Sholulda not fallen into a life of crime, shoulda not gone around stealing Industrials for money, shoulda not so on and so forth.” She snarled. “And yeah, Ponytail, it’s not like this is all my fault. If I hadn’t have stolen those Industrials then someone else woulda. True, they wouldn’t have done as good a job as me...”

She was talking to herself and was acutely aware of it. She didn’t know why; possibly it was some attempt at self-justification in the face of the damage being done that she was partially responsible for. While she was at fault for what had happened, she could not have ever known that this was the eventual aim of those that had employed her in past. For all she knew, they could have been stolen on the orders of an eccentric collector.  Or someone else.

Definitely not someone who would plan on building a small army to take control of a planetary capitol. And they would have been collecting them since before the collapse of the HPG network, which is something nobody could have planned on.

She shook her head. This was a pointless exercise. What she should focus on was not that, nor what she was going to tell Antonin afterwards. She had other, more pressing concerns right now.

The two missile trucks had managed to strip her Crosscut of a quarter of its already flimsy armour, which was not a good start. And she still was yet to catch up with the main body of the enemy force. “Screw it. I’ll deal with it when it happens.” Instead she focused on keeping the ForestryMech moving, pushing it ahead so she could deal with the rest of their force.

After all, this was a part of what she had been hired for.

Glancing between the navigational display and her surroundings told her that she was closing on the capitol district. The cluttered buildings were giving way to free-standing structures, the dense streets to broad parkways and avenues. Possibly more eye-catching were the pillars of smoke rising from around the capitol district; sure signs that the attackers had already put their plan into motion – or, at the very least, been forced to by her own actions.

The Crosscut continued to power forward; on her tactical display, Juanita could see numerous green dots indicating friendly forces moving toward the Capitol Building itself. Of course, those would have been friendlies at the time that the Crosscut had been prepped for the mission. Which meant that, right now, those green dots were hostile. And there were a lot of them.

To make matters worse, she could see that they were already engaged with the militia forces. And those forces would see her as being just as hostile as the ones they were already engaged with.

“Screw it. No better plan.” The Crosscut charged forward towards the battle, bearing down on a DemoltionMech that was making its way towards the outer walls. The mech looked to be unmodified, its operators probably having kept it in its original form specifically for this role. Running towards the mech, she opened fire with her Autocannon, the shells tearing into the mech’s side. The mech staggered, but managed to retain its footing for the moment.

Lacking any ranged weapons, the DemolitionMech’s pilot seemed to be at a loss for what to do. The machine backed up, away from the breach it had made in the wall, presumably looking for some cover from its compatriots. As it did, a Fox armoured car dated out from behind a damaged section of wall, its medium laser slashing at the DemoltionMech’s side. The IndustrialMech twisted around, trying to follow the small hovercraft.

Seconds later, a Shandra Scout Car followed it, followed by a Ranger infantry support vehicle. The Shandra exploited the opening made by Juanita and the Fox, SRMs peppering the DemoltionMech’s rear. I made an opening. Good start. Despite what had happened, she couldn’t help but smile to herself. Taking another shot at the damaged DemolitionMech, she was rewarded by the machine staggering backwards, black smoke belching out from the gaping wound in its side.

Figuring the wounded DemoltionMech to not be a threat for the moment, she took a chance to glance around and take in the situation. A jagged line of IndustrialMechs were surrounding the capitol building, but their formation was ragged and uneven; what had likely been a well-planned advance thrown into chaos with the need to act suddenly. Several trucks, similar to the ones she had seen on the road were amongst them, while men on foot cluttered around their legs. On paper, it had looked like a good plan. It just hadn’t factored in someone stealing one of their mechs and opening fire.

For their part, the Militia were spread out; light vehicles and infantry doing their best to get in amongst the attacker’s forces. That the enemy hadn’t counted on this happening was obvious; their forces were staggered and strung out, forced to deal with a prepared and alert enemy. What Juanita had to do was make it work.

She pushed forwards again, spotting a modified Powerman LoaderMech spewing missiles at the militia forces. Several of them struck the Shandra’s flank, tearing through its thin armour. One of the vehicles’ wheels tore free from its body, sending the crippled unit skidding across the courtyard in front of the capitol building.

Throwing the Crosscut into a run, she charged at the offending Industrial. The Autocannon barked again, rounds tearing into the Powerman’s side. Wounded, the damaged LoaderMech turned to face her, opening up with its twin SRM launchers on her mech. A half-dozen missiles hit home, rocking her machine and sending it staggering back. A high-pitched beep filled the cockpit, warning her that the armour had been breached.

“Not good” she muttered as she fought to keep the mech going in spite of the damage. Unlike a BattleMech, an IndustrialMech was not fitted with any sort of ejection system; the pilot had no way to leave the machine in a hurry. And a mech filled with volatile fuel and potentially explosive ammunition with rapidly thinning armour amounted to a considerable risk to her continued health.

Backing off to make the most of her range advantage, she opened fire again. The Light Autocannon’s rounds slammed into the Powerman’s chest, the impact enough to throw the pilot off his aim. While the mech remained standing, its SRMs went wide of her, instead slamming into the nearby parkland, sending clumps of dirt and grass flying.

And then, to her surprise, the Powerman’s right side exploded into a hail of torn metal and parts, sending its right arm spinning off and crashing to the ground. A moment later, a laser sliced into its right leg, causing the battered Industrialmech to stagger and crumple to one knee. Savaged, the machine was still barely in the fight. More concerning to Juanita was to wonder what had just happened to it.

Her answer appeared moments later as a massive Behemoth II MBT crawled out from amongst the rubble, its twin turret-mounted cannons tracking the wounded Powerman. Militia infantry rallied around it, soldiers opening fire on the wounded LoaderMech and others in the field, their confidence likely boosted by the presence of the massive tank. Juanita knew that the Behemoth, if left unchecked, could probably destroy a good amount of the attacking force on its own.

Peppered with fire from the infantrymen, the already crippled Powerman swayed and shuddered, the operator clearly fighting to keep the machine upright while trying to get away from the huge MBT. As the industrial staggered away, another machine, a Crosscut advanced towards the tank. Unlike her autocannon-armed refit, the tools on the ends of its arms replaced with a pair of boxy mounts.

As of to answer her unspoken query about the nature of its modifications, the modified ForestryMech’s arms blossomed into clouds of fire and smoke. Some four score rockets corkscrewed into the Behemoth, shredding its armour and flank. That tank shuddered as smoke began to leak from its ruined hull. Then, abruptly, it simply exploded, blossoming into a brilliant orange-red fireball, the infantry around the machine scurrying for cover.

The Crosscut seemed to swagger with triumph at the destruction of the massive tank. Around it, the raider infantry pushed forward, taking advantage of the chaos caused by the explosion, catching their militia counterparts off-guard. Glancing around, she could see that the other militia units were caught off-balance, thrown by the loss of what would have been their largest vehicle, one that was capable of turning the tide of the battle all on its own.

In order to carry so much firepower, the Crosscut would have probably been loaded entirely with one-shot rocket launchers. It had almost certainly expended its entire load to destroy the Behemoth, limiting it only to physical attacks. Juanita didn’t care. She was furious at the destruction of the tank, and the effect it was having on the rest of the militia forces, and she wanted to make them pay for what they had done.

“Damn you!” She shouted out as she opened fire on the Crosscut, the autocannon barking as its shells stitched a line across its chest. The enemy IndustrialMech staggered backwards as she charged forwards, bearing down on it. Ahead, the wounded Powerman lurched into her path, as if to block her from destroying the less damaged and this more valuable mech.

“Get out of my way!” She snapped, swinging the mech’s chainsaw arm at the damaged LoaderMech. The saw bit into its torso with a screech of metal that echoed through the cabin. Using her momentum, Juanita simply pushed forward, the chainsaw ripping free from the Powerman’s torso, leaving a trail of twisted metal and ruined components behind it, the mortally wounded LoaderMech collapsing in its wake.

She bore down on the other Crosscut, firing again. Rounds tore into the ForestryMech’s chest, leaving it staggered, black smoke belching out from the wounds. Unrelenting, Juanita all but rammed her mech into it, swinging the chainsaw like a madwoman. A strike cleaved through the already depleted torso armour, shredding equipment and leaving a trail of twisted metal in its wake.

Another swing bought the chainsaw around again, the enemy Crosscut raising its empty weapon arms in an effort to defend itself; the blow ripped into its armour, crushing one of the empty launchers. Around the mech, the infantry that had been supporting it scurried away, wary of being crushed underfoot by the duelling mechs. Recovering, the Crosscut jabbed at Juanita’s mech, managing to land a blow with one of its boxy weapon arms.

She didn’t care. Instead, she raised the chainsaw arm as high as it would go, before bringing it down on the enemy mech. The clawed edge of the saw bit into the cockpit of the enemy Crosscut, crushing ferroglass and metal with a hideous yet satisfying screech. She pushed the controls forward, as if her own rage and anger would fuel the mech’s myomers, adding force to the blow. It seemed to work; the enemy machine’s armour yielded under her force and determination, the blade cutting through and crushing the other machine’s cockpit.

Juanita pulled the chainsaw free with a victorious grin, seeing the base of the weapon, coated with coolant, oil and... a distinct red smear. The blood of the Crosscut pilot that she had just killed. She blinked, staring at the chainsaw as the full implications of what she saw ran through her mind. I killed him. I killed a man. She shook her head, looking again at the blade. What... what have I done?

Juanita couldn’t comprehend it. She had never aimed to kill; she had never tried to deliberately take a life. Despite her criminal past, it had been primarily about two things; making money and having fun. Not supplying armies; not enabling military takeovers and certainly not killing people.

A hammer-blow struck her mech, shaking it and slamming her head forward, then back. Warning alarms went off in the cockpit as her status board lit up with red. Trying to catch herself, she looked around for the source of the attack. Another explosion threw her, but managed to at the same time highlight her attacker. A Buster HaulerMech stomped towards her, each of its arms equipped with a pair of missile launchers.

Trying her best not to panic, she looked around, trying to find a way out. The Buster was nearly twice as heavy as her Crosscut; this modified version also sported more weapons then her machine. Finally, it was near fresh, while her mech was anything but. Twisting the controls, she tried to drive the mech forward to escape her would-be attacker; instead, she found the machine sluggish and stumbling.

Glancing over at the status board, she could see warning lights on her leg actuators, making it clear that her mech was not going to easily escape. None the less, she had to try; she urged the machine on, making slow, stumbling steps across the parkway. As she tried to retreat, she spun the Autocannon, opening fire on the Buster in an effort to slow it down. Instead, the damage to the arm threw her aim off, the shells tearing into the ground.

The Buster opened fire again, more missiles tearing into the Crosscut’s body. A hit to the head slammed her back again, bouncing her off the side of the cockpit. The ForestryMech stumbled as Juanita fight to keep it upright, waging a war against the damage it had sustained. For a moment it seemed like she had won, only to have her brief victory interrupted by a shriek of twisting and then shattering metal. The mech collapsed to its knees, barely managing that much.

“You have cost me an awful lot” The Buster’s pilot snarled as his mech stalked over to hers. Its Industrial TSM gave the machine a jerky, uneven gait that seemed to make it only more menacing. “I had everything planned out, and you, whoever you are, had to go and mess everything up. I told you that the Band of Five doesn’t tolerate treachery; now you will learn what happens to those that cross us.” She recognised the voice; it was the same one she had heard over the communicator when she had stolen the Crosscut.

The Buster lashed out with one leg, the LoaderMechs’ enhanced myomers delivering a terrifyingly powerful blow that shattered her Crosscut’s damaged leg into a hail of debris. The ForestryMech collapsed to the ground, all but immobile before its opponent.

Juanita frantically looked around the shattered cockpit of the ruined mech, desperately searching for a way out or something – anything – she could use. At the same time, the Buster loomed huge before her, the intent of its pilot painfully clear.
Author of BattleCorps stories Grand Theft Agro and Zero Signal

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Re: Grand Theft Agro
« Reply #5 on: 28 January 2011, 02:40:35 »
For Niko Bulgarin, everything had gone wrong. Everything.

He had worked his plan out. The idea was simple; use modified IndustrialMechs supported by converted trucks and infantry disguised as workmen as a strike force. The unit would take advantage of the ‘camouflage’ afforded by their status as nominally civilian machines to close in on the capitol, and then seize it in a lighting strike. By the time the militia responded, the planetary government would be in their hands, and in a position to negotiate a surrender. Simple.

The idea had been passed up to the leadership of the Band of Five, who’d approved it. They’d allocated Niko a force that had they had been building since before the HPG blackout for such an operation, entrusting him to use that force appropriately. They’d laid low after arriving on-world, using the Band’s contacts to take up positions throughout Trunner that they could deploy from. He’d watched the Militia, noting their strengths and abilities and figuring the best time to strike.

And then it had all unravelled. Something had happened to one of their IndustrialMechs; the pilot had either turned on the Band, or been replaced with someone else. Whoever was in that ForestryMech had then attacked one of his fellows, taking their AgroMech out. But the loss had been far worse than just a single mech.

Tipped off by their actions, the Militia had been ready for his force. Instead of the quick strike he had planned on, they’d become bogged down, losing time, men and Mechs. And then, to make matters worse, the Crosscut who’s pilot had been responsible for all this had joined the fray, attacking is force from behind and further throwing them off.

However, they had also provided him with an opportunity. He could take them out here and now, and stop whatever was going on dead in its tracks.

Lining up the Crosscut in his sights, Niko thumbed the trigger for his modified Buster’s weapons. The quad SRM-4 launchers unleased a hailstorm of missiles on the distracted Crosscut, shredding armour and structure. The mech staggered under the force of the blow, one leg twisting out of shape as it struggled to get away.

Niko hadn’t gotten into the Band of Five by being kind, and he hadn’t risen to a command rank by playing nice. He had been cruel and merciless; he had killed to get into the band, and killed to get where he was. He was not going to let this transgression go unpunished.

As soon as his SRMs were ready, he fired again. Missiles slammed into the Crosscut’s head and torso, driving the mech to its knees. Deriving some degree of grim satisfaction from the damage he had wrought, Niko drove his Buster forwards, opening up his PA system as he did.

“You have cost me an awful lot” Niko snarled as his mech stalked over to its fallen foe. “I had everything planned out, and you, whoever you are, had to go and mess everything up. I told you that the Band of Five doesn’t tolerate treachery; now you will learn what happens to those that cross us.” A thrust of the controls sent one foot shooting out, shattering the Crosscut’s leg and driving it to the ground.

“Die” He began as he raised the foot, intending to simply stomp the mech’s cockpit, killing its pilot for what they had done. Instead, his mech rocked as a heavy blow struck it from behind. With a roar of anger, he turned around to see what had happened, who had attacked him.

He had expected a Militia tank or maybe an infantry crew. Instead he saw a Carbine ConstructionMech, completely unmodified from stock, still wearing a safety yellow livery.  “How many of you idiots are there?” He shouted as he lashed out with one fist, swinging at the enemy mech. The enemy pilot seemed prepared for him, stepping back past the blow. He lashed out again with the other arm, only to have them manage to weave past that.

Whoever was handling the Carbine was clearly a professional, he realised. They were a true MechWarrior, one who had been trained to fight in their machine rather than someone who had been trained as an IndustrialMech pilot and worked up from there. A sickening realisation dawned on him; this person was a part of who or whatever had sabotaged his attack.

Abandoning the downed Crosscut, he backpedalled to put some space between him and the Carbine. Its pilot may be a professional, but his mech still was only armed with a power shovel. He could keep his distance up and pummel it into scrap with his missiles. Simple. Another problem solved.

Instead he was greeted by a warning siren indicating a missile lock. “What is it now?” He yelled out, looking down at his LoaderMech’s targeting system. It indicated the source of the warning; a militia Warrior VTOL was swooping down towards him, its missile load pointed at him. Behind it were several other militia craft. Smoke trails blossomed from the Warrior’s front as a flight of long-range missiles streaked towards him, several impacting with his mech.

“Boss! There’s more of them!” A voice called over the command network. Glancing at his tactical display, Niko could see several red dots entering, his system tagging them with designations. They were militia reinforcements, Heavy tanks and VTOLs. It was a force that his own couldn’t stand against, one that, had the original plan gone off, they wouldn’t have had to fight at all.

There was no time to think or consider options. “All units!” He called over the command channel. “Fall back! I repeat, fall back!” There were protests over the channel, but he knew what he had to do. As he wheeled the Buster around, he chose to ignore them. He knew why those voices were dissenting; it was the same reason why he would have in their position.

The Band of Five did not reward failure. They were a ruthless, cut-throat group, where only the strongest, most ruthless and most successful survived. Those that didn’t succeed were quickly disposed of, and second chances were rarely given. He would have to answer for this, and he doubted that his superiors would be at all forgiving.

He glanced back at the two IndustrialMechs, the Carbine and the fallen Crosscut, as his mech retreated. Whoever you are, you’re responsible for this. And I intend to find out who you are, and what your stake in this is. And I will let the Band know, so they can bring you to task for this. They had been the cause of his downfall; however, they may yet be his salvation.


Several kicks to the ruined frame of the Crosscut’s hatch were enough to force it open, allowing Juanita to crawl out of the ruined IndustrialMech. It was a pain even to stand; her body was bruised and battered, and she could feel hot liquid running down her arm and her forehead. She had a pretty good idea what it was. Fragments of shattered glass decorated her clothes, making her reluctant to poke her wounds any more lest she aggravate them.

Instead she glanced back at the ruined ForestryMech. One of its legs had been shattered and the rest of it wasn’t too much better off. Huge, gaping holes had been torn in its torso, with shattered machinery visible inside its wounds. It was possible that the machine could be repaired, but it was at the stage where it was probably not worth it. She swallowed loudly as she assessed it, realising that for all the hurt she was feeling, she had gotten off pretty well.

Looking around only underscored that fact; other machines lay twisted and battered or in burning wrecks across the forecourt of the capitol building. The walls around the capitol lay in ruins, while a number of other buildings sported wounds from stray weapons fire. As she looked around she saw something else; the dead body of a fallen infantryman, partially visible behind the wreckage of one of the trucks.

Juanita looked away, trying not to think about it, instead finding something – anything – else to focus on. Something caught her eye, the modified Buster that she had been fighting. The LoaderMech was backing off from the capitol, clearly wounded by fire from the Militia forces. “Well, whoever you are.” She began. “I hope that I was able to bugger up whatever it was you wanted.” It wasn’t much, but it made her feel a little better, knowing that she had been the thorn in his side that had cost him so much.

An approaching IndustrialMech caught her attention, the hunchbacked Carbine clanking and wheezing as it stopped before her. A glance at it told her that it was the same one she had briefly seen as her mech fell, one that had stepped in to attack the Buster. “Your timing is impeccable, ponytail.”

The cockpit hatch opened, Antonin stepping out. He was still dressed in his hot dog cart uniform, albeit without his apron. The look, compared to his mech, was rather incongruous. Nodding to her, he clambered down the mech’s access ladder. “Sorry to keep you. Took me some time to find a ride.”

“I didn’t figure you for an Industrial booster like myself.” She commented. “Makes me feel kind iof redundant”

He shook his head. “This? I walked it off a construction site. No effort like what you do. Trust me, when it comes to stealing mechs, you have me beaten. If the operator hadn’t left it unlocked, I wouldn’t have gotten away with it.”

She glanced around at the destruction that had been unleashed, some of which she had a part in. “Yeah, well...” Juanita gave a brief shrug before looking at him again. “Hope you got your money’s worth out of me. I mean, if this was what you wanted and all.” There was a bitter edge to her voice, but it was tempered by a degree of simple exhaustion.

“You did well, Juanita.” He offered. “The militia were already prepared; I’d fed them your findings to suggest that there might be something wrong already. When you tipped them off that everything had gone down, albeit in a rather unusual way, that pretty much shattered the attacker’s plans right there and then.”

“People still died.”

He nodded. “I know. And that was unavoidable. Your work managed to minimise the militia’s causalities and contain the fighting. If not for you, things would have been much worse.”

“Yeah, I know.” She didn’t really feel like she’d accomplished anything, despite his platitudes. “So can I get out of this dump now?”

“Of course.” Antonin finished. “Come on, we’ll get you cleaned up and then pack up your stuff. Once things have died down, we’ll get you off-world.”

“Right.” Juanita shot him a wry smile. “So then, there’s something else you have to cover.”

“You will be paid, don’t worry about it.” He replied straight up.

“Not that.” She finished. “About that Battlemech...”
Author of BattleCorps stories Grand Theft Agro and Zero Signal

Whenever you use terms like 'fiat' or 'stupid pills', you render your argument invalid

How to Draw MegaMek Icons the Deadborder Way


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Re: Grand Theft Agro
« Reply #6 on: 28 January 2011, 09:34:44 »
Great to see you posting this again, Deadborder! I can't wait to read the rest of your stories.


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Re: Grand Theft Agro
« Reply #7 on: 29 January 2011, 19:25:01 »
Juanita to the rescue after a forum crash.
I wish I could get a good grip on reality, then I would choke it.
Growing old is inevitable,
Growing up is optional.
Watching TrueToaster create evil genius, priceless...everything else is just sub-par.


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Re: Grand Theft Agro
« Reply #8 on: 29 January 2011, 22:53:45 »
Juanita to the rescue after a forum crash.

To the rescue? She'd probably just steal the board, and laugh while doing it.
Author of BattleCorps stories Grand Theft Agro and Zero Signal

Whenever you use terms like 'fiat' or 'stupid pills', you render your argument invalid

How to Draw MegaMek Icons the Deadborder Way

Tiki Monkey

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Re: Grand Theft Agro
« Reply #9 on: 30 January 2011, 00:30:07 »
Enjoyed this very much thank you, and keep up the great work!
It doesn't take long for men to make a decision. It's making a decision look smart that takes the time.


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Re: Grand Theft Agro
« Reply #10 on: 02 February 2011, 04:18:00 »
To the rescue? She'd probably just steal the board, and laugh while doing it.
That's what makes Juanita so entertaining. ;)
I wish I could get a good grip on reality, then I would choke it.
Growing old is inevitable,
Growing up is optional.
Watching TrueToaster create evil genius, priceless...everything else is just sub-par.


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Re: Grand Theft Agro
« Reply #11 on: 02 February 2011, 08:43:53 »
Great work! Keep it coming!
BeemerCon Summarized. Knightmare, end of turn: "How come none of my weapons fired?"
Look, dude, when you are a real mechwarrior you don't need to get all dressed up in cooling suits and cool helmets to work on your mech. You just strip down to your 1980s panties and crop top vest and start wrenchin' it.
Yen Lo Wang = David Lo Pan

Dirk Bastion

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Re: Grand Theft Agro
« Reply #12 on: 02 February 2011, 09:25:34 »
Nice to see this again.