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Author Topic: Higher Purpose (Short story, complete)  (Read 1531 times)

Middcore

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Higher Purpose (Short story, complete)
« on: 05 August 2021, 11:34:45 »
A few notes before we get started...

  • I want to make sure I thank Daryk for "beta reading" for me! He's a gent.  8)
  • I had this written 2-3 months ago but didn't post it, my focus has been on other things and other hobbies than BT and I haven't even been on the forum much, and when I did think about BT I felt guilty for not getting any writing done. Decided it's best to just push this out and see what people think and maybe it will give me some motivation again.
  • To be clear, this is not a novella-length work like Fortunes of War, just a short story, probably going to be posted in three parts.
  • I've been an aviation enthusiast even longer than I've been a BT fan, but I've never tried "writing Aerotech" before and there are relatively few depictions of ASF combat in the canon fiction to reference to see if I have the feel right. I've tried to incorporate some real-world radio brevity code and such to give it a more authentic feel, but I'm not shooting for 100% accuracy because I don't even think it's possible to achieve that translated into the BT setting. If you see any terms you don't know, you should be able to find an explanation here.
  • One comms thing I do want to take time to explain explicitly: Daryk and I had a whole discussion about how to reconcile the measurement of distances and altitudes in the BT universe and I was still never able to come to a conclusion that I feel satisfied with, but given the general predominance of metric units in the canon sources, "angels" here means one thousand meters, not one thousand feet as it does in present-day brevity code. Just assume we're still using almost the exact same terminology in a thousand years except we changed that one thing, totally believable right?


Alright, enough pretentious windup. Oh, one more thing... just for fun, I'm picking a "soundtrack" to go with this story. Here's your track for part one: https://youtu.be/a6zdtApYc-E

« Last Edit: 18 October 2021, 16:22:30 by Middcore »
Find a 'Mech. Find a contract. Keep fighting.

FanFic for your feedback:
Fortunes of War
Higher Purpose
Contining Education

marauder648

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Re: Higher Purpose
« Reply #1 on: 05 August 2021, 11:39:55 »
can't wait to see where this goes :)
Ghost Bears: Cute and cuddly. Until you remember its a BLOODY BEAR!

Middcore

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Re: Higher Purpose
« Reply #2 on: 05 August 2021, 11:40:39 »
“I know that I shall meet my fate, somewhere in the clouds above
Those that I fight, I do not hate; those that I guard, I do not love…”


Spica
The Federated Suns
March 20, 3020


The four Riever Aerospace fighters rose to meet the rising dawn over Valencia. Five kilometers up and climbing, Lieutenant Shay “Padre” Gregory of the Fly-By-Knights mercenary aero wing admired the rays glinting off of the city’s buildings and the twisting web of highways leading into and out of the planetary capital. Shay had stopped counting the number of worlds he had taken in from this vantage point. Lush worlds like Spica, barren desert worlds on the edges of the Periphery, and all types in between, he never tired of the experience.

In addition to being Spica’s capital city, Valencia was the world’s largest population center, ordinarily home to some eleven million people. Some portion of those, Shay knew, had evacuated when the Liao troops had first landed a month and a half before. How many remained in the city now, he couldn’t guess. For some, he mused, evacuating to somewhere on the interior of the continent was the farthest they would ever travel from “home” in their lives. Many - hundreds of thousands, millions, even - would spend their entire lives on Spica without ever seeing a sunrise over another world. It was a way of life that seemed as strange to Shay as the life of a mercenary fighter pilot would probably seem to them. This, Shay found, and not differences of nationality, ethnicity, or creed, was the thing that separated people like himself and the people in all the places he had visited, and the thing that made all of them across the Inner Sphere the same. There were those who had looked down on dozens of worlds, and those who would spend their lives looking up at the same sky.

Shay pulled his eyes away from the half-lit cityscape. Much as he might enjoy the view, spending too much time looking down was usually an error, sometimes a fatal one. He craned his neck to search the sky above the four-ship flight of Rievers and began his ritual.

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through a belief in the Threeness,
Through confession of the Oneness
Of the Creator of creation.


“Windchime, Jouster Two-One. You have Jouster flight coming on station, angels eight, ten klicks due west of Valencia.” Shay’s mental recitation of the ancient prayer was interrupted by the voice of his squadron leader, Captain Reif “Rusty” Dallenbach, as the Captain checked in with the controller at the Davion long range sensor station monitoring the battlespace over the capital from one hundred kilometers away on the coast. As usual, Dallenbach sounded calm, almost bored. Shay wondered if he also had a private, personal ritual he observed each sortie.

“Jouster, Windchime.” The controller’s voice was female, crisp, rapid. “Eyes on Liao evac zone report ground-pounders lifting off now. Fly course oh-five-four, climb angels twelve, and you are cleared to engage at your discretion.”

So this was it then. The Capellans were pulling out. Three years earlier they had invaded Spica and almost pulled off a stunning success when they had been able to briefly encircle the Fifth Davion Guards’ command elements within Valencia, but were forced to withdraw after the siege had been broken. Six local weeks ago the Capellans had come for a second try, but this time the Federated Suns forces were better prepared. The Capellans had managed to seize some ground on the planet’s smaller southern continent, including some airfields their Aerospace fighters used as bases to skirmish with the Knights and the Davion Guards’ attached wings, but their ground forces had never come within fifty klicks of the capital. Now they had seen the writing on the wall. The night before they had started trying to break contact with the Guards forces on the front lines, and today they were leaving Spica altogether.

“Copy, Windchime. Oh-five-four for angels twelve. Do we have top cover?”

“Jouster, Windchime. Your cover is Cutthroat flight, they are roughly forty klicks ahead of you and climbing.” Shay recognized Cutthroat as the call sign for one of the Davion Guards’ attached squadrons. He scanned the brightening sky ahead and picked out a set of distant contrails heading for the stratosphere he judged probably belonged to the Davion squadron, flying Corsairs. Smaller and more maneuverable than the Knights’ Rievers, the Corsairs were formidable dogfighters.

“Understood, Windchime. Jouster flight, proceeding as fragged. Out.” The four Rievers turned to the specified course and resumed their climb, dual-chambered fusion engines roaring as the heavy fighters hurtled upwards to be in position to intercept the fleeing Liao toops. “Okay, Knights,” Captain Dallenbach said. “I hope you all woke up hungry, because we’ve got ‘eggs’ on the menu, Capellan-style.”

“Taking their ball and going home,” sneered Flight Officer “Tiki” Drumm, the Captain’s wingman.

Shay keyed his mic. “Hey Tiki, didn’t copy that, did you say their ball or their balls?”

“What’s this I’m hearing about Tiki wanting the Capellans balls?” This from Flight Officer Gordie “Splat” Pratt, Padre’s wingman and the last aircraft in the formation. “Leading us astray again, Padre.”

“Cut the chatter,” admonished Dallenbach. “This is what we’re paid for.” The flight leveled out at twelve thousand meters as instructed, on course to swoop down on the evacuating Capellan DropShips, commonly called “eggs” in reference to their spheroid shape. For a few moments there was silence except for the muffled roar of the Riever’s engine.

I arise today
Through the strength of Christ's birth and His baptism,
Through the strength of His crucifixion and His burial,
Through the strength of His resurrection and His ascension…


A tone sounded in Shay’s ears. On the bowl-shaped heads-up display projected on the visor of his helmet, four glowing dots indicated new radar contacts, tagged Alpha through Delta by the Riever’s threat management computer.

“Radar contacts!” called Flight Officer Drumm as her scope picked up the same bogeys as Shay’s. “Four big ones. Three-four-eight for thirty-five. Not picking up any escorts.”

“We’re in business, Knights.” If Captain Dallenbach was any more excited by the events transpiring now that they were closing in on their target, his voice did not show it. “Fighters could be pulled in close to hide their radar return. Stay sharp.”

There was a brief burst of static, then the crisp, professional tones of the Davion ground controller. “Jouster flight, Windchime. Be advised, Cutthroat is engaged.”

Shay peered up through his cockpit canopy. In the stratosphere, there were more contrails now, twisting and swirling. Their top cover flight from the Davion Guards’ aero wing had met the enemy.

“Copy, Windchime. Jouster is going in hot, we’ll work fast.”

“Good hunting, Jouster.” There was another burst of static as the controller left the Knights’ tactical frequency. Shay left his study of the emerging battle above him and scanned the sunlit layer of clouds some three thousand meters below. The radar returns showed that any moment now, the Capellan DropShips should break through the layer and be close enough to spot visually.

There. “Tally-ho!” Shay’s heart thumped with the rush of adrenaline that always accompanied the first sight of the enemy. “Looks like three eggs, one aero.” The Capellan DropShip fleet included three spheroid types - an Intruder, a Union, and a massive Overlord - and one aerodyne, a Gazelle-class armored vehicle transport which, with its wedge shape and wings, more closely resembled a fighter scaled up to great size. And…

Shay squinted at the Liao troop carriers as they pierced the cloud layer on columns of superheated plasma. Even a thousand years after the invention of powered flight, and with all of the detection tools available to an Aerospace fighter pilot, the “Mark One, Model Zero” human eye remained an essential weapon in the arsenal. Among the other gifts the Almighty had given him, Shay was blessed with exceptional eyesight, and now he was the first to spot the pair of minute specks flitting around the ponderous DropShips. “You were right, Cap. They’ve got minders, at least two.” The pair of Liao fighters started to come into clearer focus as they broke away from their charges and climbed to meet the descending Knights.

“I see them, Padre,” said the Captain. “Target LRM’s on bandits designated Echo and Foxtrot, save heavy hits for the droppers. Blow through and stay on me.”

The two Capellan fighters rose to meet the mercenaries head-on, putting themselves at greater risk in hopes of disrupting the Knights’ first attack pass. A quadruple-swarm of long range warheads roared from the Rievers’ missile tubes. The Liao fighters side-slipped and barrel-rolled, evading most of the barrage, and Shay caught a glimpse of their distinctive disc-like wing planform. Frisbees. Their foes were Thrush light fighters, which made up for meager weapons and armor protection with excellent agility, although the circular wing shape that gave them their nickname made them notoriously challenging to fly in an atmosphere.

As their escorts cleared out of the firing line, the defensive weapons of the DropShips opened up, and in a moment Shay was flying through a brilliant web of laser beams and autocannon tracers. The DropShip gunners had waited too long; their escorts’ failed attempt to deter the heavier mercenary fighters had worked against them. The shape of the Gazelle almost filled Shay’s HUD before he pulled the trigger.

The heavy autocannon that gave the Riever its primary offensive punch spat a stream of depleted uranium slugs, ripping into the Gazelle from end to end. The hundred-ton fighter shook and the airspeed indicator on Shay’s HUD noticeably dropped from the recoil. A moment later a full salvo from Shay’s array of short-range missile launchers blossomed into a ripple of explosions over the DropShip’s tail and starboard wing.

Shay saw all this in a blur as he pushed the Riever’s nose down and passed underneath the enemy vehicle carrier. Following Dallenbach’s lead, the flight pulled up into a zoom climb to prepare for another attack run. More defensive fire swiped at them and Shay saw “Tiki” Drumm’s fighter take a glancing hit from a PPC. “Two-Two, you OK?” he asked.

“Worry about yourself, Padre. Frisbees closing on your six.”

Find a 'Mech. Find a contract. Keep fighting.

FanFic for your feedback:
Fortunes of War
Higher Purpose
Contining Education

Daryk

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Re: Higher Purpose
« Reply #3 on: 05 August 2021, 12:03:39 »
Glad to see you posting this!  It was my pleasure to beta read for you!  :thumbsup:

Great choice of soundtrack for the first part!  8)

Marauder, I assure you you won't be disappointed!   :)

EAGLE 7

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Re: Higher Purpose
« Reply #4 on: 05 August 2021, 12:28:04 »
 Looks good, awaiting more ASF action.
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ThePW

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Re: Higher Purpose
« Reply #5 on: 05 August 2021, 16:56:46 »
Moar please.  >:D

Dave Talley

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Re: Higher Purpose
« Reply #6 on: 06 August 2021, 10:07:18 »
always more
Resident Smartass since 1998
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JA Baker

snakespinner

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Re: Higher Purpose
« Reply #7 on: 06 August 2021, 17:49:45 »
More ASF is always better. :thumbsup:
I wish I could get a good grip on reality, then I would choke it.
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Growing up is optional.
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Middcore

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Re: Higher Purpose
« Reply #8 on: 12 August 2021, 13:09:46 »
Part two incoming. Here's your mood-setter: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xgcap-5IBsY
Find a 'Mech. Find a contract. Keep fighting.

FanFic for your feedback:
Fortunes of War
Higher Purpose
Contining Education

Middcore

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Re: Higher Purpose
« Reply #9 on: 12 August 2021, 13:16:57 »
Behind the Knights, the Gazelle looked pristine from its undamaged side, but a small rolling wobble betrayed that Shay and FO Pratt’s attack had damaged its control surfaces. One of the spheroids, an Intruder-class infantry carrier, was belching smoke from rents in its hull plating around the engines. And the pair of Liao Thrush light fighters were climbing after the mercenaries, bent on revenge and gaining quickly.

“Jouster Two-Three, break right and thatch,” ordered Dallenbach.

“Roger, Captain.” Shay cut back on the throttle, rolled to starboard and pulled back hard on the stick, breathing hard as G-forces pressed him down into his reclined seat. Pratt matched his maneuver while ahead the flight’s other element mirrored it to the left. The Thrushes closed in quickly now, firing their medium-caliber laser cannons as soon as they were in range. Emerald beams played over the wings of Shay and Pratt’s Rievers, armor instantly melting away and then dissipating in the thin air, but the heavy fighters’ thick plating held.

Shay counted to four, rolled 180 degrees, and reversed his turn. The two pairs of Knights fighters were now criss-crossing each other’s flight paths in a scissors, an ancient tactic for defending against pursuit by a more agile foe. One of the two Capellan pilots, at least, was familiar with the tactic; his Thrush pulled a split-S and disappeared somewhere below. The other Liao pilot was either less experienced or more determined. He doggedly hung on Pratt’s tail, blazing away with his lasers, until the inevitable moment when he passed through the gunsight of “Rusty” Dallenbach on the third leg of the weave and the Riever’s heavy arsenal simply took the Thrush apart in mid-air.

“Splat, how’s she flying?” Shay asked his wingman as the mercenaries regrouped into formation.

“Still in the fight,” Pratt responded. “Anyone have eyes on the other Thrush?”

“No joy.”

“Let him take his ball and go home,” Rusty said. “We’re back on our objective.” Engines thrusting at maximum power, the four Rievers hurtled upwards in an Immelman turn to pursue the still-fleeing DropShips. Judging from the tangled mass of contrails still filling the sky above them, the Knights task would only get more complex the higher they allowed their targets to climb.

“Jouster flight, Windchime. Jouster flight, Windchime.” The Davion GCI controller sounded less businesslike than before. “Caution! You have bandits inbound, zero one five for twenty, angels twenty and descending, hot.”

They’re coming down right on top of us! Shay searched high and at one o’clock, trying to pick out glints of sunlight on the wings of diving Capellan fighters that had made it through the covering screen of the Davion Guards’ Cutthroat flight.

“Stay on target, Knights.” Captain Dallenbach was unflappable as ever. “Maximize our next pass. Padre, Splat, finish off the Gazelle. We’re going for the ‘Mech carriers.” The DropShips were back clearly in view now, the Union and Overlord in the lead with the damaged Gazelle and Intruder trailing slightly below. With accurate shooting, the Knights could down three of the four in their next pass and then be free to maneuver against the new threats. But…

Shay pulled the nose of the Riever up and his HUD instantly illuminated with icons for three new bogeys. Given a crystal-clear sensor picture against the backdrop of the stratosphere, his threat management system immediately identified the descending Capellan craft with the code TR-13. Transgressors. A staple of Capellan aerospace forces, the Transgressor was smaller than the Rievers and had enough thrust to outmaneuver the Knights’ craft in a vacuum, but in an atmosphere its stubby wings made it handle sluggishly. Still, it was a well-armed and well-armored type, not one you would ever want to hand an advantage to at the beginning of a fight.

“Cap, bandits coming down on us are Transgressors,” Shay radioed. “They’ll be on us as soon as we finish our run. You and Tiki stay on the droppers, Splat and I will cover.”

“Negative, Padre. Rejoin formation.”

“Too late, Cap.” Shay and Pratt were climbing almost vertically now to meet the swooping Liao fighters. Shay centered the icon for the lead craft in his HUD and the speck beneath rapidly resolved itself into what his trained eye recognized as the snub-nosed shape of a TR-13. A missile lock tone sounded in his ears and he let fly with a salvo of LRMs. A second later there was a blue flash from his foe’s nose and wings and for an eyeblink his cockpit went dark as the armored canopy glass polarized to protect his vision under a glancing hit from a heavy laser. When he could see again the enemy fighter was twisting away from his crosshairs and his snap-shot of autocannon shells and short-range missiles missed cleanly.

His rear threat alarm sounded and a green laser lance scored a hit on his starboard wingtip. The missing Liao Thrush had chosen an effective moment to return to the fight. “Jouster Two-Three, defensive,” he radioed to his flight. “The damn frisbee is back.”

Shay cut throttle, yanked the stick to the left, and kicked the rudder, throwing the Riever into a wingover. Shay had a brief glimpse of the Thrush rocketing by him, could make out the Capellan emblem on its left semi-circular wing, but had no chance to bring his weapons to bear.

Picking up speed again as he descended, Shay took in the battle unfolding below him. The three Transgressors had blown past Shay and Pratt after the head-on confrontation, targeting Dallenbach and Drumm in an effort to protect the DropShips. The squadron leader and his wingman were diving away after their attack pass, using the dead zone beneath the spheroid DropShips to protect themselves from most of the transports’ fire. The lead element must have switched their targets at the last second after Shay had disobeyed orders, he judged, because the Gazelle was falling out of the formation in a lazy spiral.

There was a celebratory shout over the radio as Pratt pumped autocannon fire into one of the Liao fighters, turning its predatory descent into an uncontrolled, burning, terminal one. Another member of the Capellan trio dropped into place behind Pratt’s Riever and caught it with the sapphire spears of its heavy lasers.

Pratt checked his dive and the Transgressor, descending almost vertically and unable to match the sharpness of the mercenary’s pull-up with its scant wing area, overshot. The Capellan pilot zoom-climbed to disengage and never saw Shay coming before the Riever’s autocannon and missile barrage eviscerated his machine.

The Capellan fighter began a sharply descending right turn, and for a moment Shay thought the Transgressor was somehow still under control. Then it rolled inverted and plunged directly into the nose of the ascending Intruder. Its command and control destroyed by the unguided seventy-five ton missile the Transgressor had become, the stabilization and maneuvering thrusters that kept the massive, un-aerodynamic craft steady in its ascent fired wildly, out of all coordination. Spewing flame and smoke from both ends, the Intruder began to fall out of the sky.

Jesus, Mary and Joseph! Although everyone on the Intruder’s bridge was almost assuredly already dead, there were still hundreds of crew and infantry on board. For them, it would be a long, terrifying ride down, assuming the ship didn’t start to break up before then.

Shay wrenched his attention away from the spectacle of the falling Intruder. The Liao DropShip was out of the fight. Who was still in it? “Jouster Two-Four, this is Two-Three. Splat, you still with me?”

“Just barely, Padre.” Shay quickly located Pratt’s Riever at his three o’clock and slightly low. Above him, the squadron’s other element were hounding the Capellan Union, but Shay’s priority for the moment was his wingman. He could see Pratt’s fighter was trailing smoke from its left wing, where he guessed that a laser shot from the Transgressor had detonated the propellant for several short range missiles. “Roll authority’s not what it should be,” Pratt said as Shay pulled up alongside the wounded Riever. “Think he took a piece out of the aileron linkage myomers.”

“RTB, Splat,” Shay said, searching the skies around his damaged squadronmate. “There’s still one Transgressor out here somewhere, and maybe the-...”

A trident of laser beams raked over his fighter. The Thrush was at his seven o’clock, high. Bloody nuisance! “Splat, dive for the heck. Bug out.” Shay started a left-hand chandelle, trying to draw the enemy away from Pratt’s damaged fighter.

“Padre, I-...”

“It’s an order, Splat.”

Shay thought he might have heard a muttered obscenity over the radio as his wingman’s Riever done away in the opposite direction of Shay’s turn, but it was drowned out by an alarm in Shay’s cockpit as the Thrush scored another glancing hit. A warning light indicated possible damage to the ammunition feed system for the Riever’s missile launchers. Shay’s remaining warheads were now nothing but potentially explosive dead weight, and he was reminded that his occupation meant spending large amounts of time strapped to what was essentially a very large bomb. It was a thought Aerospace fighter pilots usually preferred to avoid, as if the dead-hand plunge of the Transgressor into the DropShip hadn’t been enough reminder.

God's eye to look before me,
God's ear to hear me,
God's word to speak for me,
God's hand to guard me,
God's way to lie before me...


The Liao pilot in the Thrush was no amateur. He had foreseen the trap that the Knights had used to kill his squadron mate, and had used the superior agility of his tiny craft to disappear and then re-engage at will. Shay would not be able to simply outmaneuver his foe. So what were his comparative advantages? Aside from firepower - useless with the Thrush glued to his six, even if his missile launchers were functioning - and its steadily decreasing armor protection, the Riever was an easier and more forgiving craft to fly than the infamously tricky “frisbee.”

Let’s see how good you really are, you bastard. Shay tightened his turn and converted it into a steeply ascending spiral. The Thrush flitted after him. Shay’s left hand made fine adjustments to the throttle moment to moment as he watched his airspeed drop. The two fighters were twisting around each other now as they rose vertically towards the stratosphere, like the strands of a double helix with life and death balanced between.

With Shay holding the thrust of its mammoth fusion powerplant on a tight leash, the heavy Riever was shedding speed rapidly now as it spiraled upwards. Any moment now Shay knew he would feel the tell-tale buffeting that warned him he was on the verge of an aerodynamic stall, as the flow of air over the Riever’s wings stopped generating enough lift to keep the ponderous craft airborne. His bet was that he could use the Riever’s much greater wing area to hang on longer at the ragged edge of control than the Liao pilot could in his twitchy, round-winged Thrush.

And it was working. One rotation at a time, the Capellan fighter jock was losing his advantage as he was forced to add thrust to keep his craft flying. He was abeam Shay now, in a couple more twists of the spiral he would be inexorably pushed out ahead. Shay could feel the beginning of the buffeting in his stick, but the Thrush was almost in his sights. The whole Riever was shaking now. He was seconds from a stall. Now or never.

Shay squeezed the trigger and the autocannon belched fire and depleted uranium. It was too soon, too much lead. The shot missed, and the recoil of the massive weapon had robbed him of the last few knots of crucial airspeed. But as he kicked the rudder and rolled the Riever over to recover from the stall, he saw the Thrush snap into a violent horizontal rotation worthy of its nickname.

Now I’ve got you. Shay finished his recovery and leveled out expecting to see the Thrush falling into his HUD targeting reticle in an uncontrollable flat spin.

Instead what he saw was nothing but empty sky. What he heard was a warning tone from his fighter’s tail warning radar, and the shuddering of the Riever’s frame as he barely snap-rolled out of the path of another salvo of laser fire. How in the hell…? Recovering the Thrush from the dreaded flat spin was one thing, but for the Liao pilot to be able to do it so fast, and to actually use it to change direction and end up back on Shay’s tail…

Shay did not remember the last time during a mission when the thought had occurred to him that this might be the day he died. In his mind the words that had long become mere ritual started to sound like more of a sincere prayer.

God's shield to protect me
God's hosts to save me…


He was diving now, trading altitude for speed and, hopefully, time to come up with another idea. The Riever’s sheer weight allowed it to accelerate away from his opponent in a dive at first, but the Thrush would catch up soon enough. Already the Capellan pilot was clawing at him from the extreme range of the Thrush’s lasers.

Shay’s eye was drawn to a wispy trail of black smoke, weaving across the layer of cloud that was rushing up beneath him like a child’s random mark on an immaculate untouched canvas. The Riever’s sensors tagged the origin of the smoke as a Gazelle-class DropShip. Shay was shocked to see that the tank carrier had somehow recovered from what had looked like a sure death spiral and was now descending more or less steady and level in the direction of Valencia.

And in the Capellan DropShip’s unlikely survival, Shay began to see the shape of his own salvation.
Find a 'Mech. Find a contract. Keep fighting.

FanFic for your feedback:
Fortunes of War
Higher Purpose
Contining Education

Daryk

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Re: Higher Purpose
« Reply #10 on: 12 August 2021, 13:37:54 »
Another excellent musical selection!  :thumbsup:

Middcore

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Re: Higher Purpose
« Reply #11 on: 22 August 2021, 10:03:16 »
Final part incoming at last. Soundtrack: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fAY4nUIIJp0

Find a 'Mech. Find a contract. Keep fighting.

FanFic for your feedback:
Fortunes of War
Higher Purpose
Contining Education

Middcore

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Re: Higher Purpose
« Reply #12 on: 22 August 2021, 10:10:33 »
No defensive fire lashed out at him from the Gazelle as he approached. One of the ship’s main drive engines appeared to have been disabled, and the others were working hard to keep the ship airborne. Either the DropShip’s weapons had all been knocked out, or the crew that had survived the savaging Shay and his squadron mates had given the ship were too occupied with tending to wounded comrades and their wounded vessel. In the back of his mind Shay wondered what those men and women might be thinking as they watched the Riever descending on them. Probably they would have to assume he was bent on finishing off their stricken ship, more consumed by bloodthirst than with self-preservation as the Thrush doggedly pursued him. Not yet, boys, not yet. Need you to stay alive at least a little longer. You still have a purpose to serve.

The Riever’s frame groaned as it shed another ton of armor, the Thrush’s lasers finding their mark once again. Shay knew the fighter’s robust protection had been worn down to almost nothing. He and the Capellan were approaching the DropShip’s right rear quarter. The Liao pilot was getting so close now Shay knew the massive Riever had to be almost filling his windscreen, probably holding back his coup de grace to ensure there was no possibility of a stray shot adding to the misery of his compatriots in the Gazelle.

The Gazelle passed below Shay’s crosshairs and off the right of his HUD. He threw the Riever into a high yo-yo. The Thrush matched his maneuver easily. Knowing the slightest miscalculation meant the meters-wide difference between salvation and suicide, Shay cut thrust to idle, deployed the Riever’s airbrakes, and dived down across the Gazelle’s stern.

The roar of the Gazelle’s engines was deafening. The jetwash of the DropShip’s straining thrusters hit like the hand of a giant trying to slap the Riever away as if it was a gnat. But the heavy fighter’s sturdy hull held.

The Thrush, at one quarter of the weight, was less well-equipped to ride out the storm.

The Capellan fighter twirled like a falling leaf. Shay knew he had seconds at most to take advantage before the Liao pilot regained control. Seconds were all he needed. The gyrating Thrush fell helplessly into Shay’s gunsight. The Riever’s autocannon thundered. Then what had been a deadly war machine guided by the hand of an elite warrior was nothing more than flaming scrap raining down on the shell-cratered fields of Spica below.

Shay felt no exultation, no pride in his victory. His adversary had flown and fought expertly and fearlessly. Too fearlessly, and it had cost him his life. Shay had forgotten the taste of fear until today, and though the immediate danger had passed, he felt strangely at odds with himself, as though he couldn’t be sure the man who felt fear was the same person as the one whose life he had grown accustomed to living.

But he would go on living. God loves me, though only He knows why. If there had been any doubts in his mind, they had been dispelled now. Shay took inventory of the damage to the Riever. It was in no shape for further combat, would be in no shape for another sortie without a good week of ministrations by the Knights’ tech team. But it would do the thing that its type was perhaps noted for above all else: it would bring him home.

Which way was home? Behind him was the sun, now high in the sky. Ahead of him was the city of Valencia… and also, he now noticed, the Capellan Gazelle. During the entire climax of his death-duel with the Thrush, the battered DropShip had not altered its speed, attitude, or course. It was still slowly descending, pointed directly at the heart of Spica’s capital.

Shay slowly closed up on the Gazelle once again. Now that he had the luxury of actually looking at it up close, he could see the damage to the DropShip was even worse than he had thought.  He examined the scorched hull plating, rent open in dozens of places, some of them almost large enough to drive a hovertank through. The point defense turrets and missile tubes were in shambles. The atmospheric control surfaces on the craft’s delta wings were shredded like they had been chewed by some beast, and a large chunk of the vertical tail fin was missing entirely. It was truly a miracle the DropShip was still flying. But flying to where? The ship needed to land somewhere before it simply fell out of the sky.

Shay came up alongside the Gazelle, matched its speed, and began transmitting in the clear instead of on any of the Davion tactical frequencies. “Capellan Gazelle DropShip north of Valencia, Capellan Gazelle north of Valencia, do you read?”

It took three more attempts before Shay received a response, but he was surprised to get a response at all. “I read you, Davion pilot,” said a static-muffled voice. “Have you called merely to gloat?”

Shay scoffed. “I’m a Davion pilot today because I’m paid to be. Are you planning on flying that heap much longer?”

The DropShip pilot’s voice was strained, but Shay could detect no trace of fear. It sounded more like fear had spent all its force and left behind only exhausted resignation. “It seems that’s up to you, mercenary.”

Shay sighed in his cockpit and realized he felt almost as tired as the Capellan sounded. “I’ve done my day’s work. You need to set that wreck down. Fly one-seven-three, there’s a civilian airfield east of the city that might have a runway long enough for you. I’ll tell our ground control you want to surrender.”

“I’m afraid that won’t be possible.”

I don’t have the patience left for this, Shay thought. “Your fight’s done,” He said. “Fly one-seven-three and there’s no reason you have to die today.”

“As I said, mercenary, not possible,” the Capellan replied. “My controls are almost useless. I barely managed to recover after your last attack. I have my hands quite full now keeping the ship level... aside from the attention I can spare for this pleasant conversation with you.”

Cheeky, Shay thought to himself as he studied the Gazelle’s slow descent. “You’re on a path for the middle of Valencia.”

“I am aware.”

“So what exactly is your plan here, you stubborn ******?” Shay shouted. “Thousands will die if you prang that thing into the city.”

“People will die if I were to take my hands off these controls,” the Capellan pilot replied, almost placidly. “Brave men and women who trusted me to fly this ship and get them home.”

Shay tamped down his anger and took a deep breath. “If you can’t land the ship, they’re already dead. You must know this.”

“But they will be dead by your hand, mercenary. Not mine. Now do what you are paid to do.”

Shay cursed. Spiteful bastard. Then again, if it were me, would it be so easy to just let go of the sticks and ride her down?

“Have it your way.” He rolled up and over the crippled Gazelle and dropped in on its six o’clock. He lined the DropShip’s laboring engines up in his targeting reticle… and hesitated, although he could not have said why.

Not half an hour ago he had fired on the ship in the intent to send it plummeting to its destruction without giving it a second thought. The crew and passengers on board were, as he had told the ship’s captain, already doomed, one way or another. And besides, they knew what kind of fate might await them when they had signed up to do their citizen’s duty to the collective. The people in the city of Valencia had made no such bargain, and shooting the DropShip out of the sky at the cost of hundreds of Capellan troops would save thousands of them. It was more than a cold mathematical calculation, it was entirely just and reasonable. And yet…

Suppose I’ve never killed anybody I’ve spoken to before. Shay shook off the thought and squeezed the trigger. The Riever’s autocannon burped, fell silent. His HUD displayed an ammunition count of 000. The Gazelle absorbed his last few shells and continued its wobbling but inexorable descent aimed unerringly at the city.

Hell! Shay hurriedly switched his comm frequency to contact the Davion ground controller, something he realized he should have already done. “Windchime, Jouster Two-Three.”

“Go ahead, Jouster Two-Three.”

“Jouster Two-Three is Winchester, following a crippled Liao dropper north of Valencia.”

“We see it, Jouster. Butcher flight has already been re-tasked from CAS, their ETA is five minutes.”

Five minutes! The Gazelle would be skimming the tops of buildings on Valencia’s outskirts in three. “Negative, Windchime. The ship is not under control. Present course and rate of descent, there’ll be a bloody great crater in the middle of the city before Butcher gets here.”

“Butcher flight is closest and is proceeding at maximum speed,” came the controller’s detached, professional voice. “We’ve done all we can. You are clear to RTB, Jouster Two-Three.”

So that was it then. Unless he felt like having a front row seat to watch the abrupt, fiery redevelopment of Valencia’s commercial district, there was nothing for Shay to do except bank away from the doomed Gazelle and fly home. Fly away in the knowledge that thousands of people in Valencia, not much different from the people on all the other uncounted worlds he had flown and fought above without ever sparing a thought for, had seen their last sunrise.

We’ve done all we can, the controller had said.

But he hadn’t. There was one weapon left in Shay’s arsenal. A weapon with devastating power he had already seen demonstrated on this mission.

Shay pushed the stick forward and dropped out of the Gazelle’s wake, diving towards the green and gold tapestry of Spica once more. He was only a couple thousand meters up when he pulled out of the dive, low enough to see the layered scars of ‘mech footprints, tank tracks, and shell craters. Then he advanced the throttle to the limit and started to climb.

Even with the Gazelle’s predictable flight path, there was little room for error. It would be necessary to keep the target in sight as long as possible. Shay found it curious that unlike when he was fighting for his life against the Capellan Thrush, he felt no fear. There was no single overwhelming premonition of possible imminent death. Instead his thoughts were oddly scattered. He tried to return to his ritual and found he could not remember his place, the next words. He started over.

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity...


Put the reticle on the Gazelle’s wingroot. Pull a bit of lead, a bit more. Roll 90 degrees. Wait. Wait. Wait…

I arise today…
I arise today…


Shay grabbed the black and white striped handle between his knees with both hands and pulled. His senses were assaulted, rendering all thought impossible. There was an acrid tang of gunpowder from the explosive bolts that had blown off his fighter’s cockpit canopy. Then the noise of rushing air and engine exhaust deafened him. The wind felt like it would claw through his flight suit and tear him to pieces. His vision was a kaleidoscopic blur as the ejection seat rocketed from the vertically ascending Riever sideways and tumbled, then it snapped upright with whiplash-inducing force as the airfoil opened. Shay looked up.

The Riever sliced through the Gazelle’s wing root like a blade, severed the wing cleanly, rose above the DropShip in one piece before disintegrating. A cloud of flame and scrap flew from the point of impact in one direction, the Gazelle flew away in the other, rolled over, plunged towards the ruined farm fields below.

The shockwave hit him like a blow. The ejection seat spun. Shay saw the sun, then its rays gilding the skyline of Valencia, then nothing more.

---

“...Nor law, nor duty made me fight
Nor public men, nor cheering crowds
A lonely impulse of delight
Drove to this impulse in the clouds.
I balanced all, brought all to mind,
The years to come seemed waste of breath,
A waste of breath the years behind
In balance with this life, this death.”

-W. B. Yeats



« Last Edit: 22 August 2021, 10:12:23 by Middcore »
Find a 'Mech. Find a contract. Keep fighting.

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Middcore

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Re: Higher Purpose
« Reply #13 on: 22 August 2021, 10:11:48 »
"End credits" music: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XTziaAf12wY

Thanks to all for reading.
Find a 'Mech. Find a contract. Keep fighting.

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Daryk

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Re: Higher Purpose
« Reply #14 on: 22 August 2021, 10:54:48 »
Excellent musical selections, both!  :thumbsup:

EAGLE 7

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Re: Higher Purpose
« Reply #15 on: 22 August 2021, 12:58:56 »
Bravo.
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Cannonshop

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Re: Higher Purpose
« Reply #16 on: 22 August 2021, 13:12:03 »
and that, folks, is the sort of situation that actually justifies ramming.
"If ye love wealth better than liberty,
the tranquility of servitude
better than the animating contest of freedom,
go home from us in peace.
We ask not your counsels or your arms.
Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you.
May your chains set lightly upon you,
and may posterity forget that you were our countrymen."-Samuel Adams

Daryk

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Re: Higher Purpose
« Reply #17 on: 22 August 2021, 13:18:52 »
I was hoping you (of all people) would say that...

Cannonshop

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Re: Higher Purpose
« Reply #18 on: 22 August 2021, 16:36:03 »
I was hoping you (of all people) would say that...

well, it's because it IS.  THIS is how you write a ramming scene, the stakes are suitable, there really isn't another option for a decent human being, the means to do it any other way are absent, and help is too far away to be of any help.  It contains the necessary drama, it happens only after there's enough development to care about the characters, it involves a hard choice with bad consequences, and it's an actual moral choice.

as opposed to an expedient done for cheap shock value.
"If ye love wealth better than liberty,
the tranquility of servitude
better than the animating contest of freedom,
go home from us in peace.
We ask not your counsels or your arms.
Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you.
May your chains set lightly upon you,
and may posterity forget that you were our countrymen."-Samuel Adams

Daryk

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Re: Higher Purpose
« Reply #19 on: 22 August 2021, 16:49:40 »
Exactly what I was thinking when I was editing!  :thumbsup:

ThePW

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Re: Higher Purpose
« Reply #20 on: 22 August 2021, 23:18:07 »

Elmoth

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Re: Higher Purpose
« Reply #21 on: 23 August 2021, 09:04:40 »
Really nice!!!

Middcore

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Re: Higher Purpose
« Reply #22 on: 23 August 2021, 14:07:22 »
well, it's because it IS.  THIS is how you write a ramming scene, the stakes are suitable, there really isn't another option for a decent human being, the means to do it any other way are absent, and help is too far away to be of any help.  It contains the necessary drama, it happens only after there's enough development to care about the characters, it involves a hard choice with bad consequences, and it's an actual moral choice.

as opposed to an expedient done for cheap shock value.

Thanks, this is really gratifying. To be honest, I had some fear the situation would end up seeming contrived. I had to hunt for a type of ASF for the protagonist to fly where I could some up with a somewhat plausible way of leaving him with nothing left to shoot at the crippled DropShip, and the Riever was the only one I could find without any energy weapons. ;D

The whole story was built on the inspiration of the Yeats poem and the "Breatplate of St. Patrick" prayer. The protagonist's surname is Gregory after Royal Flying Corps Maj. Robert Gregory, the Irish-born WW1 ace who Yeats wrote the poem in honor of. With Irish ancestors on my mom's side, I've always felt the Irish were badly underrepresented in BattleTech compared to the Scots (although Stackpole plays up the Irish-ness of the Kell brothers a little more in his Shrapnel stories), so this was my futile little way of trying to rectify the balance.  ;)

I can't say I have any plans to write more "AeroTech" fiction because I find the way the weapons work in an aero-space setting weird to write... always felt that the game and the setting suffered by giving air and space vehicles the exact same weapons as 'Mechs and tanks... but I digress. This one was a fun change though and I'm so glad people enjoyed it.
Find a 'Mech. Find a contract. Keep fighting.

FanFic for your feedback:
Fortunes of War
Higher Purpose
Contining Education

 

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