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Author Topic: Hold The Line!  (Read 1737 times)

Alan Grant

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Hold The Line!
« on: 23 April 2011, 00:25:08 »
This is a scene I wrote as part of a Battletech Collaborative Fiction group called the Black Stars. This scene was a lot of fun to write and so I felt like posting it here. The entire story transcript the group wrote could fill an book, so I'm just posting this for now. Please excuse any formatting errors, this was a copy/paste. Also bear in mind this is an AU. Enjoy.

5 Kilometers from Clan Jade Falcon Construction Site
Saratoga Moon
Melissia System
Dropship Event Horizon
21 June 3083
1400 Hours Local Time


The towering TDR-9NAIS Thunderbolt stepped forward until it was in line between two other Battlemechs. Beyond those machines were more Battlemechs, vehicles of every type imaginable, and a few squads and platoons of battle armored troops.

The layered line spread across the rocky cold surface of Saratoga like an old 18th century line of battle. Muskets had been replaced by Battlemechs, cannon by LRMs, cavalry by VTOLs and hovercraft. However the general concept remained the same and could be summed up in three words.

Hold the Line

In this case, the Black Stars were engaging in an interesting mixture of tactics. By leaving their dropship landing zone and pressing closer to the Clan Jade Falcon construction site and landing zone, they made it appear like they were pressing the attack.

However, now that they were in position, they waited for the real attackers to come to them. They were counting on the aggressive nature of the average Clan warrior to want to engage, especially when presented with such an opportunity.

The whole thing was risky. They were counting on the Falcons underestimating them. Partially because they were mercenaries, but also because they didn’t know the Black Stars true strength. Particularly many of the battle armored squads that remained hidden behind their line.

They had chosen this position for that reason. They occupied a slight rise in the terrain. Less than 500 meters behind them, the terrain began to slope downward, obscuring line of sight. It was below that slope that many of the battle armored troopers were now hunkered down, waiting out of sight. Units equipped with Electronic Countermeasures were deployed to further hide those units.

By comparison, the Black Stars were making no effort at all to hide the strength of their force holding the line. They stood out in the open, unobscured and visible to all. That was part of the plan too. It was well known that Clanners tailored their military force according to what they were facing. They rarely hit with everything they had.

The mercenaries were counting on it. If the Falcons charged with every unit they had, the Black Stars would cease to exist. However their intelligence had offered good, solid logic that it would not happen that way. The Falcons would send out enough of a force to win. But if their force estimates didn’t include the hidden units the Stars had, then it wouldn’t be enough.

That was the idea and the core of their plan. It was risky; it was bound to carry a high price in lives and equipment even if it succeeded. There were no sure things in battle and certainly not when fighting the Clans.

With all of that in mind, Thomas Luvon had still volunteered his mech lance to be part of the center line. The place where, if all went according to plan, the Clanners would strike the hardest.

Thomas hadn’t made the decision lightly and he had consulted his mechwarriors beforehand. Surprisingly, they were all onboard. Not just out of their loyalty to him, but because the skirmishes they had fought to date on Saratoga had wetted their taste for Clanner blood. Now they wanted to break the Falcons.

That was Thomas’s view, and after talking to his mechwarriors, he had found them solidly in agreement. That part was important to him, because he would not have volunteered them if there was disagreement.

Alfred Watkins saw himself as an old military veteran who never truly earned his stripes. He had retired as a Colonel in the LAAF, spending most of his 20 years in uniform behind a desk.

Elizabeth Karlsen had been raised in the Dominion, and hated Clan Ghost Bear with a passion. She had spent much of her fortune to buy the Griffin she drove, to train to become a mechwarrior, just so she would have a chance like this one.

Dani Legger was a former Rasalhague citizen as well, one who was always spoiling for trouble and had found little until today.

They were all there for different reasons, but they had ended up in the same place, at the same time.

They knew what was at stake and were determined to get the job done.

Thomas Luvon reached down to his console and pressed a couple keys. His sensors scanned the open terrain ahead of them and the carnage that already lie there.

Blood had already been drawn, in the form of a massacre.

The Falcons had sent almost a dozen vehicles and over 100 infantrymen charging at the Black Stars line. The assault was pure suicide. The mechs and vehicles had waited patiently, holding fire for as long as they could, and then reluctantly opened up with energy weapons only to preserve ammunition.

One by one, the clan vehicles had been reduced to smoking wrecks. A half dozen at a time, the infantrymen had been mowed down. Thomas had fired his medium lasers at the infantry closest to him, fearful of a knee capping attack on his mech with the sachel charges those infantry probably carried.

There had been some return fire, particularly from the vehicles, but otherwise the attack had been crushed without any serious damage being suffered by the mercenaries.

The incident had sparked disbelief over the radio waves, as various unit commanders discussed what had just happen. The chatter was largely silenced by an explanation that it was a probe, designed to test the Black Stars to see if they had any traps planned. Fortunately the battle armored troopers had held their positions; no one had gotten overeager and exposed themselves.

The sight laid before them now was pitiful. Smoldering hulks of vehicles continued to burn and bodies were scattered everywhere. It was the worst part of war, and for now, they were all forced to stare at it, because beyond that ‘valley of death’ lie the enemy.

Thomas twisted his mech’s torso left and right as he scanned the area. To his right was Alfred Watkins in his Salamander. Next to Alfred was Elizabeth’s Griffin, and next to her stood Dani’s Centurion. On either side of the lance stood mechs and vehicles belonging to other units, the Legio, the Sharpshooters, Trouble Inc., the Jack-O-Lanterns, the Browncoats and the Headhunters. Thomas didn’t know most of them well at all, but they were here to fight side by side.

They had tasted blood already and now all of them were anxious.

Thomas knew that another unit was out there somewhere, a strike mission aimed at destroying the heart of the Falcons’ presence on Saratoga. It was a long-shot, high risk operation, but if it succeeded it could be the trump card that decided the outcome of the entire little war.

Just then, Thomas heard a voice in his neurohelmet. An advisory from command that an aero lance flying overhead had spotted movement entering the area headed right for the Black Stars.

“Looks like 20 OmniMechs,” The voice relaying the information reported calmly. “At least some heavy and assault machines among them.”

The Jade Falcons were coming.

Within minutes, they were popping up on long range sensors. Thomas kicked up the magnification of his rangefinder to maximum and the tiny dots on the horizon turned into the terrifying sight of Clan OmniMechs charging toward them. Thomas’s eyes swept over the design of a green Timber Wolf OmniMech. It truly looked like a bird-of-prey the way its back-canted legs moved.

The column of Clan Mechs soon began to fan out, making them look all the more impressive.

“I see elementals, riding at least some of the mechs,” Dani Legger reported from the cockpit of his Centurion as the mech brought the arm mounted LBX autocannon up and seemed to take aim in anticipation.

“Update from the fighters, we have 20 mechs moving on our line, 5 more have been sighted, but they appear to be holding back and have stopped moving.”

Thomas got on the radio and spoke to his own lance.

“Freeman lance, remember the plan,” He said trying to conceal his own anxiety from his voice. “Stay flexible, keep your cool, remember we have to attract the Falcons toward us, so pay attention to my orders and movements, follow my lead.”

As the lead Falcon mechs passed the 750 meter mark, a few sporadic shots of long range fire broke the calm of silence that hung over the area. As the Jade Falcons passed 600 meters…then 500…the firing increased as more weapons came into range.

Freeman Two was the first member of the lance to fire. The Salamander’s three LRM 15 launchers put up a full salvo of 45 long range missiles at the closest mech, a Stormcrow.

“Freeman Two, switch to rippling salvos,” Thomas cautioned his lancemate and friend. “This could last a while, save your ammunition.”

“Roger One.”

Elizabeth’s Griffin was busy. Her arm-mounted ER PPC was up and firing. Long Range Missiles from her mech and from Dani’s Centurion bracketed a Clan Ice Ferret and seemed to take some armor off.

The Clanners weren’t about to let themselves take fire unmolested and began to fire on the line. Zellbrigen had gone out the window in the first couple of salvos, so they concentrated their fire at times.

“They are probing the line,” Thomas said aloud into his neurohelmet radio. “They are looking for weaknesses.”

“Do we go now?” came a reply.

“Negative, too soon, switch fire to the targets to our left and right,” Thomas ordered.

“Boss, I’m staring at a Timber Wolf right in front of me,” Dani said in protest.

“Leave him four,” Thomas replied.

The idea was simple; the center line had to appear weak. They needed to prevent a flanking move and corral the Falcons into wanting to attack the center. If they didn’t, the plan could fail.

The Timber Wolf in question turned its attention to Thomas’s mech. There was a double-flash as it launched a salvo of short range missiles that exploded all around Thomas’s Thunderbolt and blasted armor off the mech’s chest and right leg.

The Thunderbolt shook violently and Thomas was gritting his teeth as he was jostled around the cockpit.

Once he had regained control, he didn’t fire at the attacker. Instead he used the joystick on the right side of his command chair to bring the Thunderbolt’s right arm up and aim it at a Stormcrow moving off to his left.

Thomas set the selector switch, and set the weapon to fire four shots in one salvo. As Thomas pressed the trigger he felt the barrels of the rotary autocannon begin to spin before a stream of shells were launched out at the Stormcrow.

Some of the rounds struck, damaging the mech’s left arm and shaking the Clan machine.

Thomas followed up the strike with the rest of his weapons. The medium lasers sliced at the Stormcrow’s armor, melting a significant portion from that mech’s left arm. The SRM launcher fired a salvo of short range missiles, most of which missed the mark and exploded past the Stormcrow.

Pulse lasers were suddenly savaging the Thunderbolt. The Timber Wolf seemed to have selected him as a target. Armor was streaming down the mech in places.

“Jesus Christ Lead, let us return fire, I’m getting chewed up here,” Dani said, the young man practically screaming into his neurohelmet.

The Centurion was taking the brunt of it. A Black Lanner and a Hellbringer were firing on the Centurion and closing the distance. The Centurion in turn was ignoring those mechs and firing on a farther threat, a Summoner that was some distance away. Most of the LBX autocannon shots were missing their mark due to the sheer distance.

Elizabeth was doing something similar. Although she was staring down a closing Viper, she focused her firing on a distant Mad Dog.

Machines were starting to fall now and people were starting to die. Mechwarriors ejected from stricken machines, and crews of wrecked vehicles were fleeing out of turrets and hatches.

A little relief came from the VTOLs and aerospace fighters, which strafed and bombed the area ahead of the Black Stars line. Thomas watched a Clan Summoner shake and fall to the ground as a bomb exploded near it and took off the mech’s left arm. But the Clan mechwarrior was already working to regain his footing.

A few Clan mechs were down, but those closest to the Black Stars centerline were moving in close, largely unmolested.

Any trained commander, Inner Sphere or Clan, would see this as an opportunity. To the Clanners, it must seem like their centerline was having the most success at getting into close range and breaking the line.

As expected, the number of Clan mechs attacking the center line steadily began to grow.

The plan seemed to be working, but Thomas felt little happiness about that fact.

His Thunderbolt was being doused with enemy fire. Autocannon shells pinged against his mech’s armor. Laser had taken their toll on his left leg, nearly stripping it to the metal bones that held the mech together.

The internal structures on the Thunderbolt’s torso was naked in places, and the SRM launcher took a direct hit. Thomas spotted a red lot on the launcher, indicating it was nonfunctional. Thomas immediately ejected it’s ammo to avoid an explosion. The missiles poured out of the mech’s side and dropped harmlessly to the frozen ground.

Thomas swung the barrel of the rotary autocannon in line with another target and fired. This time a distant Turkina took the brunt, and the assault mech lost armor on its right arm.

“One, I’ve lost ar…”

Dani Legger’s voice was cut off as an explosion tore through the Centurion. It was hard to tell if it was the autocannon or LRMs, but at least some of the Battlemech’s ammo went up in an explosion that shook the mech and knocked it down.

“Four is down, I repeat, four is down!” Elizabeth declared with a lot of distress in her voice.

Elizabeth’s patience shattered then and she turned her attention to one of the offending mechs. The Hellbringer in her sights lost a significant portion of its armor as she hit it with an Alpha Strike. The mech shook and fell onto its side.

The sudden ammo explosion and even the falling Hellbringer only seemed to bring the Clanners in closer, like sharks smelling blood they throttled up and moved against the center of the line.

Thomas felt rising anxiety, over the loss of a lancemate and the sudden influx of firepower coming at him.

Suddenly a new voice came on the radio; it was Colonel Zhao Zi Long, who was commanding as well as coordinating the battle.

“Freeman Lance, this is HQ, go Omega.”

Thomas heard the man’s order and replied instantly, “Roger.”

“Freeman Lance, it’s time to backpedal, speed 10 kph, start now.”

Thomas reached down and adjusted his throttle. The Battlemech began to step backwards. The other two mechs followed suit in a slowly retreating line. As they did so, Thomas worked to bring the attention onto him and give his lancemates a little reprieve. He fired his rotary autocannon at a closing Clan Linebacker and got a little satisfaction out of watching the mech stumble and fall at the Thunderbolt’s feet.

“Freeman Three,” Thomas said into his microphone. “Did Four eject?”

“Negative, four is down, no sign of ejection, I can’t see the cockpit, his reactor has shut down,” Elizabeth reported.

The lack of contact could mean a lot of things. Maybe Dani was knocked unconscious by the ammo explosion or the fall, maybe his mech’s communication gear was knocked out. Maybe the ejection circuits had failed. Either way, at that moment, Thomas felt like he was better where he was. If he had ejected, he would have landed right in the path of the Clan mechs and could easily be trampled. Inside the cockpit, he had a bunker of sorts.

That was assuming the young mechwarrior was even alive.

At that moment, Thomas didn’t have the luxury to dwell on it. Beside him he saw Freeman Two fire a salvo of LRMs that peppered the front of a Timber Wolf and blow off one of the missile pods resting on the mech’s shoulder. The mech shuddered and seemed to bow slightly, but the Clan mechwarrior recovered and responded by pouring laser fire into the Salamander’s torso.

Thomas gave the order, “Freeman Lance, increase your reverse throttle to 25 kph.”

The Black Stars line was really starting to buckle more. It wasn’t just the three Kavelrists who were backpedaling. Several mechs and vehicles belonging to other units had received the Colonel’s order and were pulling back. The center line was turning into a bulge, a bulge that looked ready to burst.

The Clanners clearly saw this. All their forces were altering course and charging the center.

As Thomas watched, a Clan Viper stepped into the growing breach and disgorged the point of Battle Armor it was carrying. Five Salamander Battle Armor jumped off the Clan Mech and pushed at the spheroids. As they approached, they seemed to single out Alfred’s Salamander.

The irony of that fact was completely lost on Thomas at that particular moment. He felt his heart jump into his throat as he watched the Clan warriors throw themselves at the Battlemech. At least two landed on the machine and began to fire their weapons at point blank range. The mech was soon an inferno and paint was burning off it like a dry coat of black frail dust.

Thomas wanted to tell Watkins to stop his mech, so Thomas could take a few shots with his lasers and try to pry the little devils off. But at that moment, that wasn’t part of the plan.

Despite the risk to his friend’s life, he continued to carry out his orders. Watkins, for his part, a loyal soldier, did the same. He tried to shake off the battle armored troopers, but kept up his LRM fire on the onrushing mechs.

Elizabeth Karlsen in her Griffin was a little more reckless. She had combat experience but lacked the military training of most mechwarriors. She had never attended an academy or even a basic training camp; she had learned ‘hands-on’ using purchased instructors and purchased simulator time.

Up to now, Elizabeth had kept a cool head, but she was suddenly flustered. It showed in how she occasionally stopped the backpedaling and pushed forward, and physically kicked her mech’s foot at a Clan Elemental that got too close. The kick missed and her Griffin stumbled a bit before she could recover. At any moment, it seemed her patience was going to shatter.

The three mechwarriors of Freeman lance, and those other mercenaries in the center continued to backpedal and retreat. It was by no means easy or without losses. A Battlemech to Thomas’s left dropped with a shattered leg that locked at the knee. A nearby tank exploded and was burning so badly that Thomas couldn’t even tell which of the sub-units it belonged to.

As the forces backpedaled, they left in their wake, smoke, flames, broken metal and bodies. Unfortunately, most of all of that belonged to the Black Stars. The radio was full of calls for help, declarations that a unit had been lost or crippled. Just listening to the radio was awful, like hearing a massacre in progress. Any uninformed observer would assume the Black Stars were losing this fight badly. It looked like their centerline was truly about to break entirely. If that happened, the line would be split, the Clanners would pour through into the rear area and wreck havoc on the two surviving halves of the Black Stars. The battle would be all but decided and on the verge on a true slaughter.

The center line reached the downward slope and picked up speed as the mechs and vehicles began to travel slightly downhill with gravity’s aid.

It was then, that the trap was sprung.

The radio came alive and said, “All center units, stand fast, code Delta, I repeat Delta.”

After the Colonel gave another signal, the hidden units, most of them Battle Armor, popped up and jumped into the fray. Some charged on foot, others flew in on jump jets. Yet others stood their ground but aimed long range heavy weapons at the Clan mechs and elementals. A slew of fresh missiles, Gauss Rifles, machine guns and lasers were fired at the Jade Falcons.

In the first 20 seconds alone, most of the Salamander Battle Armor were down, their elemental warriors wounded or dead, and a Clan Grendel had come crashing down off to Thomas’s left as it lost a ton of armor off its right torso and right arm.

“Freeman lance, halt!” Thomas barked the order as he manipulated his own throttle.

The Thunderbolt stopped backpedaling and came to a stop.

“Pour it on!” He shouted.

The others didn’t need any further encouragement. Most of their Battlemechs were practically on the verge of falling over, but they found enough energy and courage left to pour alpha strikes into whatever was in front of them. A Black Lanner’s reactor blew up in a spectacular explosion, and a Timber Wolf rocked and fell over, its feet still moving as it tried to claw its way back onto its feet.

Thomas leveled his mech’s right arm at the Timber Wolf and fired. The rotary autocannon shells tore up the torso and tore the mech’s right arm into chunks. The Timber Wolf was suddenly on its feet again in a display of shocking piloting skills and let him have it with a PPC blast that took off the Thunderbolt’s right arm at the elbow. The precious rotary autocannon, the mech’s main weapon, fell the ground and rolled a few times. A stream of loose shells followed it.

Thomas was down to his 3 ER Medium Lasers mounted in the mech’s torso. He quickly worked to eject the now useless autocannon ammunition before it became a liability.

While he was doing that, he remembered the mech’s other hand. The Thunderbolt’s left arm was largely useless, it had no weapon at all, but it did have a hand actuators, fingers, and most importantly, a fist.

Charging forward, Thomas brought the Thunderbolt’s left arm up and punched the Timber Wolf in the torso. Both machines rocked but armor flew off in shards as the Timber Wolf shook under the blow.

Thomas manipulated his mech’s left hand, and the Thunderbolt’s fingers grabbed the Timber Wolf at some bent armor that was twisted out and away from the mech’s bullet-shaped torso like a jagged hunk of loose skin. With the Timber Wolf firmly in his grip for the moment, Thomas triggered his ER Medium Lasers and watched as the three beams burned holes into the mech’s torso.

In desperation the trapped Timber Wolf kicked the Thunderbolt, shattering what little remained of the armor above the mech’s left knee.

Thomas felt the Thunderbolt shake heavily, and then start to lose its balance. He concentrated on keeping the mech upright; controlling the foot pedals and the joysticks that controlled the arms in a fury of motion, but it wasn’t enough. The Thunderbolt came crashing onto its left side, knocking off what little armor remained on most of its torso and left arm and shattering the mech’s hand.

The fall felt like a mighty earthquake and jostled Thomas nearly free of the command chair. He was bounced around so badly that he felt a pain in his shoulder and back.

Then the cockpit went dark, half the lights and consoles went out. Most that were lit were displaying information in red, including an outline of his mech and a list of damaged components and systems.

Thomas felt dizzy and somehow cold. Considering how warm his cockpit was just seconds ago, he didn’t think that could be a good sign. But at that moment, he just didn’t care as the world swimmed by like a pool of water around him. So too did the sounds of the world. It all sounded like he was underwater.

Suddenly Thomas heard a distant explosion and then he realized he was hearing a voice in his head. The voice sounded tiny, like a mouse speaking to him. The words he spoke were all mixed up, Thomas couldn’t understand the gibberish.

Then his vision began to improve, and so did his hearing. The words formed into something he could comprehend.

“Ok? Repeat, Freeman One, what’s your status?”

Thomas recognized Elizabeth Karlsen’s voice.

“Three, I’m here,” Thomas replied.

Thomas looked around the cockpit. Thomas suddenly realized why he felt so cold. Something had broken loose and pierced his cooling vest. The liquid gel within had spilt everywhere and covered the whole front of his body with enough lingering coolant to make him feel chilled.

Thomas instantly hoped he had no open wounds, the coolant was known to be poisonous. At least none of it had gotten on his face, in his mouth or eyes.

Some of it was splashed on a console display in front of him. Thomas had to reach out with his gloved hand and slide the bluish clear gel off the panel so he could see the information. He somehow wasn’t surprised at what he saw.

“Three, my hip and left leg actuators are out, she’s down for the count,” Thomas said into his neurohelmet.

There was a lengthy pause. Thomas couldn’t see the battle well; his mech was laying on its side, tilted slightly downward so the cockpit was staring at the ground. But he could hear the distant thuds of mechs moving and weapons fire.

“Freeman Two,” Thomas said. “Take command.”

The reply he got back was not what he wanted to hear.

“Lead, Freeman Two is down as well.”
« Last Edit: 23 April 2011, 00:33:55 by Alan Grant »

Alan Grant

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Re: Hold The Line!
« Reply #1 on: 23 April 2011, 00:26:24 »

Elizabeth Karlsen felt her entire body shake as the salvo of missiles struck her Griffin and nearly knocked the badly battered mech flat.

The offender interrupting her conversation was the Timber Wolf that had taken down Freeman One. Although badly damaged, the mech was back up and firing what few weapons it had left.

All around Elizabeth, the tide had begun to turn. The fresh Battle Armor units surged forth, they swarmed and attacked the legs of the Clan mechs and killed the Clan elementals. Many Black Stars’ units were down, but the number of Clan machines lying destroyed on the ground was starting to increase.

The faltering line had stopped faltering and was holding its line. The Clan OmniMechs that had poured into the breach were now taking fire from all sides and falling as smoking heaps of machinery. The far left and right wings of the line, which couldn’t shoot without hitting friendlies, swung out from the line to block the Clanners escape and strike them from behind. Fast units like hovercraft were wheeling out of the line to attack the Clanners wherever they were.

The Clan warriors were stuck in a pocket of death.

Elizabeth was finally enjoying herself. Just moments ago she had nearly gone mad with horror and anger. Watching her comrades fall one by one had taken their toll and she was more than happy to start throwing punches until the Clanners killed her.

Then, just as she was sure she could take it no more, the hidden units sprung to the attack and the inertia of the battle turned in their favor. Elizabeth fired her ER PPC at targets of opportunity, watching the badly damaged Clan mechs fall from single hits they would have easily survived moments earlier.

Elizabeth had already run out of LRM ammo and one of her ER Medium Lasers was gone. The list of destroyed components included her mech’s left arm, which was hanging by myomer cords and two heat sinks. But she could still walk, and the ER PPC was still functional. She wanted her revenge, for Thomas Luvon, for Alfred Watkins, for Dani.

Thomas’s Thunderbolt was down on his side, but he was alive. Alfred Watkins’ Salamander had fallen flat on its back after Watkins had ejected from the stricken machine after a series of reactor hits caused the machine to overheat and shut down while the Clan Elementals were trying to breach the cockpit. Dani Legger’s Centurion was still down and there had been no contact with him.

Elizabeth’s GRS-6S Griffin took a step forward, and another, and another. A serious loss of armor and the arm had greatly affected the mech’s stability and it walked with a sort of limp.

She watched with great satisfaction as the Clanners tried to break out of the deadly trap they had themselves created. A few Clan Mechs turned and charged in a random direction, sometimes crashing into a Black Stars mech or vehicle in an attempt to escape. Those with jump jets used them to get out of the pocket, but immediately drew fire from other units.

Some of the Clanners stood and fought, others turned and appeared to be trying to make a run for it. Elizabeth began to think that the Clan commander had been killed or incapacitated.

It wasn’t over however.

Fresh weapons fire filled the air as 5 fresh Clan mechs charged into the fold. They were a Turkina, Kingfisher, Gargoyle, Executioner and Hellbringer. All were deadly Clan machines, and unlike the units on both sides that had been fighting all this time, these units and their mechwarriors were fresh. Their paint and armor were unscathed, revealing big Clan Jade Falcon crests as they charged into the fray, firing every weapon they had at the closest Black Stars units. A vehicle exploded instantly and a mech was hit from behind, dropping onto its face as it lost an arm and tons of armor.

Elizabeth watched the fresh attack with a renewed sense of horror. The Black Stars were just about done. Most of their units still standing were damaged, many, including those near the center of the line, were practically falling apart and losing critical components with every hit.

The Clanners had launched a second attack, they were dead.

As soon as the thought crept into Elizabeth’s mind, it was replaced with anger.

She leveled her crosshairs on one of the mechs, a Kingfisher, and fired all her remaining weapons. The medium laser and extended range particle projectile cannon stripped paint and armor off the pristine mech’s torso.

Her mech’s automated voice was immediately warming of a reactor overheat. She didn’t need the warning, she could feel the hot air stuffing the cockpit.

She fired again, at the same mech, stripping more armor, this time off its arm. The temperature in the cockpit climbed and sucked the air out of the young woman’s lungs. She was gasping for breath, and at that moment, would have gladly opened the cockpit door and let the sub-zero temperature air outside into the mech’s cockpit, even if it risked killing her. She was drenched in sweat.

Elizabeth’s Griffin spoke to her again. This time the mech declared that the reactor was automatically shutting down. Elizabeth slapped her hand on the override and heard the computer calmly acknowledge that the override had been overridden.

She paused for a moment, watching the temperature gauge drop as the other Black Stars turned to face the new threats. VTOLs swarmed in overhead, including two familiar Pintos as they fired salvos of LRMs and laser bolts at the assault mechs. The unscathed units in the line broke ranks and moved up to take their turn. Black Stars Battle Armor units ran or used jump jets to fly toward the fresh Clan Assault Mechs and attack them.

A male voice cut in on the radio and declared, “All units be advised, this fresh lance may be their command unit, concentrate fire on the Turkina.”

No one needed to be told twice. The fresh Turkina received the full brunt of every weapon within range. Armor was taken away in whole tons and the Turkina briefly fell down. Even as it was down, it continued to absorb every missile, laser shot, autocannon and small arm within effective firing range.

As the Turkina struggled to its feet, it was hit even more and fell down once again, its right arm hanging by myomer threads and its leg nearly busted. Then suddenly, at once, a laser bolt, a salvo of missiles, and a burst of autocannon fire fired from at least three different units all seemed to find the OmniMech’s cockpit at the same time. In an instant, the cockpit was blown out and simply gone. There was no way the warrior inside could have survived.

The Clan Kingfisher fought on only a moment or two longer before it too fell with a damaged leg actuator. The rest of the Clan Star pulled back and began a fighting withdrawal.

The Black Stars at first seemed unwilling to let them go. Even as orders were passed to stand down, the fire on the Clan mechs kept up, stripping them of armor and even limbs as they made a hasty escape. Only when the last standing Clan OmniMech was 700 meters away, and hobbling toward home, did the Black Stars finally cease firing.


The cockpit hatch on the Thunderbolt’s head opened and a man climbed out. Wearing a thick parka over an environmental suit he had just donned, and a rebreather mask on his face, the man surveyed the horrific battlefield.

Destroyed units were discarded like toys that had been stomped on by a mighty foot. Hulking chunks of metal that had once been Battle Armor suits, vehicles, and mechs, burned profusely despite the low oxygen as they fed upon sources of fuel and ammo.

Thomas Luvon had seen battlefields before, even during the FedCom Civil War, which was particularly bloody. But this was just as bad as anything he had seen. He had heard over the radio as the Falcons were reported to be withdrawing back towards their dropships. Yet despite the declarations of victory, he didn’t feel very victorious at that moment.

Thomas stepped away from the Thunderbolt, ignoring his crippled machine for the moment and stepping toward a figure that was lying on the ground. There was a man there, wearing a neurohelmet, and a cooling vest and shorts and little else. In this blistering cold, Thomas expected to find him dead.

As he approached the prone form, still attached to a command chair and parachute that were draped across the ground, Thomas recognized the old man laying there.

Thomas leaped to Alfred Watkins side in an instant.

“Alfred!” Thomas said tapping his friend on the shoulder.

Alfred was nearly blue and gasping, his eyes half rolled back into his head and his whole body shivering.

Thomas tore off his own parka and placed it over his friend’s chest. Thomas bent down and retrieved the survival kit from beneath Alfred’s command chair. In it, he found Alfred’s mask and placed it over his friend’s mouth and nose.

“Breath Alfred, come on man, breathe!” Thomas shouted. “You aren’t dying on me today.”

Slowly Alfred did begin to breathe. However he was still shivering. Thomas pulled him out of his command chair onto the ground, then worked to dress him in the environmental suit that was in Alfred’s survival pack. It took Thomas at least five minutes, but he got Alfred in the suit and fully zipped up. The climate controlled features of the suit were switched on and it began to warm Alfred’s body.

Thomas had no idea how badly Alfred was hurt. He hadn’t seen any noticeable blood, but he couldn’t discount broken bones or head trauma.

A Battlemech appeared, walking toward the pair, its damaged leg actuators badly grinding metal on metal. The badly torn up Griffin came to a stop a short distance from them.

Elizabeth’s voice came on a loudspeaker.

“Thomas, are you alright?”

Thomas looked up and tried to speak, but the mask muffled his voice. He pulled it off and yelled, “I’m fine, call a helicopter for Alfred, he is in bad shape!”

“Roger,” Elizabeth replied. “HQ was calling for you, I told them you were down. The Colonel just sent down orders to fall back to a defensive position in case the Falcons come again.”

Thomas shouted, “What about Dani!?!”

Elizabeth replied, “They found him unconscious in his mech, he’s alive, but he’s critical, some of the Rangers came down to help with the wounded and are carrying him to a MASH.”

“Alright!” Bill shouted up at the towering battlefield behemoth. “You link up with the Headhunters! I’ll stay with Alfred!”

“Roger,” Elizabeth replied, her voice sounding drained of life and emotion.

As the Griffin walked off, it’s grinding leg actuators squeaking loudly, Thomas returned his attention to keeping his wounded friend warm and alive.


The Pinto Attack Helicopter circled the battlefield before lowering its landing gear.

Jason Webber kept a firm grip on the collective, lowering it slowly but steadily. The helicopter lowered itself to the ground until it touched rocky dark soil.

Jason kept the engine powered up and the rotors turning. Nearby, a group of stretchers were being carried to the helicopter. The helicopter’s passenger compartment was opened and one by one, a series of stretchers were lifted into the helicopter. Among the wounded were Alfred Watkins and Dani Legger.

Thomas Luvon helped carry his two comrades to the relative safety of the Helicopter, then stepped over and gave the pilot a signal that they were ready to go.

Jason gave Thomas a salute, then lifted the collective, and the helicopter began to rise into the sky and banked toward the Black Stars dropships where the hospital wards on every ship were standing by and taking patients as soon as they could be lifted back.

Thomas turned and walked away from the temporary landing zone, toward a downed Clan Timber Wolf. The Clan OmniMech was all but shattered, missing a missile pod, an arm, and most of a leg. Armor was blackened by fire and myomer hung like loose threaded cabling from many places were panels and armor had split open and dropped the muscular myomer like so much innards out of the body of a large animal.

Thomas walked up to the burnt out machine, and despite the pain in his back and shoulder, climbed up the torso to the cockpit.

As he reached the cockpit, he could smell the body inside. The fire that had consumed the cockpit had killed the Clan mechwarrior and nearly split him in half. Thomas actually hoped that had happened before the fire had consumed what was left of the man, leaving a blackened and charred corpse.

Thomas stared at the body for a moment, wondering who he was. Then he looked down the man’s body and saw a patch on his shoulder. The semi-burnt Clan Jade Falcon patch was still visible on the short-sleeved shirt that the Clanner had worn under his cooling vest.

Thomas reached out, grabbed the patch and tore it free from the fabric. He studied the patch in his hand, the Jade Falcon was mostly visible, as was part of the Katana it carried.

Thomas shoved the patch into a breast pocket and then climbed down from the wrecked war machine. Then, he turned and walked away, headed for the area where the surviving Black Stars forces had gathered to await news as to whether the Jade Falcons were going to attack them and cause this horrific scene all over again.