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Author Topic: HBK: Prologue  (Read 1741 times)


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HBK: Prologue
« on: 10 June 2013, 21:18:58 »
     The story of the HBK continues, but, unfortunately, I am not a very linear person.  That is to say, I've already sorted out the ending, and a lot of the bits in the middle, but I'm still undecided on how to sort out some of the tangles at the beginning.  You can expect to see a much more rapid expansion of HBK: Beginning as well as a couple more Sidestories in the coming weeks, but in the mean time, here's a short prologue I pounded out the other day.


   The eerie darkness of an alien, moonless night was broken by a soft, omnipresent green glow that served to highlight the shadows in a way that made things seem even darker, despite the added light.  The glow was barely sufficient enough to make the small bubbles rising to the surface of the algae coated lake visible.  Slowly the bubbles grew in both size and frequency, quickly followed by a few gentle ripples that spread silently across the algae as whatever made them progressed towards the shore.

   Then, with a deliberate slowness, it seemed as if the algae itself, perhaps irritated by the disturbance to it's habitat, rose up in a great dome, wider than a mans outstretched arms.  As more of the algae rose, it became apparent that it was only clinging, stubbornly, to something that was rising beneath it.  The object continued to rise, gaining speed as it got closer and closer to the shore, revealing itself as it's stubborn coating finally fell off in great green clumps.

   The shape revealed was none other than the unmistakable deaths-head visage of the 100 ton  Atlas battlemech painted in royal Lyran blue, with a grim white face in a classic (one could even say stereotypical) pattern designed to emphasize the 'mechs head's resemblance to a human skull.

   More and more of the Atlas rose from the grimy deeps as it waded towards shore, it's now exposed body telling a silent tale of brutal carnage as it went.  First it's shoulders, impressively wide in a manner only the largest of mechs seem to posses, the blue and white paint scheme of the Lyran Guards barely visible on the rounded armor plates pot marked by ballistic impacts and scorched by lasers.  Then it's upper chest and arm, the chest with a gaping hole where the TharHes Maxi SRM launcher should have been and the arm made prominent by it's singularity, from the shoulder where the other should have hung dripped only thick drops of algae in an unintentional impersonation of blood.  Still, despite it's obvious condition, the Atlas strode on, telling more of it's grisly tale.  On it's right side, partially concealed behind the one remaining arm, the barrel of the fearsome Defiance Autocannon sat bent in almost a complete U where some terrific force must have crashed into the metallic giants side, bending armor, frame and armaments like they were no more than damp clay.  The left side mounted nearly nothing, only tattered scraps of myomer hung down into a gaping wound fringed by the kinds of high energy burns indicative of repeated PPC strikes.  As the hips rose from the water, the cause of the slightly sideways advance of the Atlas visible.  Rather than a tactical decision to shield the one working arm, the Atlas was leading with it's left side due to horrific damage to the lower torso, waist, legs that made rotating it's chest impossible.   Now the legs.  If you wished to hear a tale of a valiant last stand, those legs could tell one each.  Both legs were so battered, scorched and punctured that their continued function defied the rational mind.  Indeed, as it's left leg cleared the water, and the slimy algae filled muck poured out a hole straight through was only momentarily plugged by a catfish that weighed thirty pounds if it was an ounce.  With it dislodged from it's temporary resting place, the green glow of the forest shined straight through.

   As it strode on, it's targets remained still.  The Grand Dragon stood smoking as the cool night air was warped by the heat emanating from it.  It's black and red paint job was nearly as marred as that of the Atlas, but the rising dragon emblem of the Draconis Elite Strike Teams was still boldly visible on it's shoulder plate.  The Panther had fared worse.  It lay face first on the ground, it's right arm trapped beneath it, while it's left leaned against a large oak tree a couple dozen meters distant.  Both of it's legs were sheared off in a ragged manner common to large bore autocannon impacts just below the knees, an obvious cause for it's current position.

   The Atlas closed the short distance from the waters edge just as the Grand Dragon's pilot opened the cockpit of his overheated mech, looking down with obvious concern for the Panther pilots fate.  The right arm of the Atlas came up.  With it's weapons nonfunctional, it would attempt to finish the fight the old fashioned way, smashing the DEST trooper with it's mighty war fist.  Just as the arm started to come down, the DEST trooper noticed the impossibly quiet Atlas and began to move while the Panther began to turn over, revealing it's still functional Lord's Light PPC.

   Then the screen froze.  The datatab began to chime softly, indicating the conference call that had promted the automatic pausing of the Combine's newly released film "DEST Revenge II:  Served HOT!" as the man watching it reached for the screen to acknowledge the call with a gentle sigh.

   "I am here.  Is everyone ready to begin?"

   "So eager to get straight to work my friend?  No politeness or pleasentries?"

   The screen remained as it was, frozen a split second before the films climax.  This call would be voice only, and even those voices were masked.  Even the masking, however, couldn't disguise the acidic tone of the reply.  Those who might eavesdrop might not be able to identify the speakers, but they all knew who they were.

   "There is no time.  This call will be long enough already, and this conversation becomes less and less secure the longer it goes on.  I agree, lets begin."  The third voice was calm, one that spoke of years of experience being listened too and obeyed.  The other four remained silent.

   "I bring back to review the case of subject Bravo Four Two."  The film viewer replied in what he hoped was a confident matter.  One could never be certain with voice masks.

   "Him again?  I thought this was settled.  I vetoed him.  Case closed."  Irritation managed to squeeze itself into the voice of the second man, sharing space with the acid that remained.

   "Indeed you did.  This final veto, however, will bring us below the minimal number mandated for the project to continue.  Since we have agreed that the project should continue, and nobody wishes to have it's mandate reviewed, I thought it prudent to discuss readmitting one of the candidates.  Since he was in the top twenty percent of the program when you chose to veto him, and he is the most recent veto, with you giving no discernable reason for the veto, I chose him as my initial proposal."
   "I don't trust him.  I question his loyalty.  Do I need more than that?  Do you not think loyalty is paramount to this operation?"

   "That is obvious to us all.  What is not obvious to us is precisely why you question this subjects loyalty.  I submit to the others that you only object to this candidate as a way to object to the entire program, a program you spoke very strongly against.  I propose that you are attempting to sabotage the program by reducing it's numbers below that needed to succeed with unfounded claims of disloyalty and indiscriminate use of your veto authority."

   "OUTRAGEOUS!  I have never felt so insulted in my life, that you would claim..."

   "Enough.  I do not know if these claims have merit or not, but I agree with the readmitting of subject Bravo Four Two in order to avoid cancellation of the project or a review of it's mandate.  Those in favor say 'aye'."




   "Um, oh bother.  Aye."

   "The motion carries.  If anyone else has any business to discuss, say so now, otherwise this link will autoterminate in ten seconds."
   The film viewer sat back in his chair with a satisfied smile growing across his face.  He was back in the program.  The voice mask had worked.  The ultra paranoid security precautions had been beaten, and he had impersonated one of the members of the mysterious board.

   With a happy tune whistling past his lips, the film watcher got up and stowed his datatab.  The movie could wait.  Everything could wait.  He had celebrating to do.  Not too much celebrating though.  There was to be an examination tomorrow, and he had to be on top form if he was going to sandbag it properly.  Not for the first time he wished he could just vent, and tell somebody how much more difficult it was to score a specific score on a practical examination, rather that just doing your best and hoping it was enough.  To get a score that was high enough to always remain just above the cutoff, but not high enough to draw attention and make a target of yourself was one of the most challenging parts of the program.

   It never occurred to him once to wonder why somebody may have questioned his loyalty.