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Author Topic: Rabbit's Anvil  (Read 2172 times)

Chace of Spades

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Rabbit's Anvil
« on: 15 November 2021, 12:55:55 »
                           Introduction:


       I’m sorry I have not made many additional posts to Rabbit’s adventures. Life has kept me busy, and I have been working on other writing projects. I have managed to play some more pen and paper BattleTech, I just haven’t sat down to write out what has befallen Rabbit. This last campaign was a doozy, and it got a little more involved, and the lasting after effects are just as important as the events of the story itself, So, I present to you “Rabbit’s Anvil.” A full-length novel conclusion to Rabbit’s adventures, and a significant stepping stone in the annals of Occam’s Anvil, the mercenary command I have been running on table top. (When I say table top, I just mean on my kitchen table with papers, dice and pens. We don’t actually have mini’s.) This will be a rather lengthy introduction, to summarize who and what Rabbit is, What Occam’s Anvil is, how they came to be, and how they came to be together as well as the events that have taken place during the campaigns between when I last wrote and now. I apologize for this kind of ‘info dump’ format. I have never done it this way before, but if I was to explain all the context and characters and personalities through the story itself, it wouldn’t all fit in one book. So, this one time, I have to break the rules and tell you rather then show you. The following is a list of mech warriors and battle mechs that make up Occam’s Anvil as of this writing. Yes, I took back stories from NPC’s of the turn-based strategy computer game “BattleTech” to use as “off the shelf” seat fillers for my non player characters. My GM and I are both short on free time these days. As it is, I have been wiring this on my phone during my lunch breaks at work. Hopefully I can get all the grammatical and typing mistakes edited out.

      The other big update I have is that my second Original sci-fi book, and the direct sequel to The Descendant will be put out before the end of the year. That’s big and exciting. The first book is still available on amazon for anyone interested, ISBN is 978-1735466019 (I’ll include that if you want to look it up, I don’t want to get in trouble for dropping links here.) More updates with that will surely follow. This book is broken into six acts and I will post them as I get them edited. So, without further ado, here’s the Info dump, for Occam’s Anvil.

       Occam's Anvil is a mercenary command That started working in the Inner sphere in the late 3060's after the fed-com civil war during the opening acts of the Word of Blake's jihad. The events of Rabbit’s Anvil take place after the Jihad in the 3085 time frame.

       Back story for Occam's Anvil: A larger nondescript Mercenary command was shattered in some of the early battles of the Fed-Com civil war. What was left of the unit reformed, and picked up a couple of other disposed pilots along the way. They found a target of opportunity early on, and of their own volition captured a Davion Union class drop ship and made off with it. Before anyone knew who they were, before they had a listing with the Merc review board and so with a lance of mechs and a half dozen pilots they made for the border, selling supplies out of the hold of their stolen drop ship to finance their trip on the backs of jump ships out to the periphery. Away from the Fed-Com civil war that had already cost them so much. For the Duration of the Fed-com civil war, Occam's Anvil made a modest living hunting pirates, or garrisoning facilities along the Taurian border until the start of the Jihad.

       Occam's Anvil is a complicated name. Named in part after Occam’s Razor the saying "The simplest solution is usually the correct one", but also as a reference to the razor that killed the majority of the original commands personnel and destroyed their hardware. Only a single lance and a hand full of support staff surviving from what used to be a full battalion of battle mechs. The second half of the name, "Anvil" because that war that killed all their people wasn't as subtle as a razor, but was instead a hard painful thing, like an anvil, but that's also a double meaning, because they've got a lance of battle mechs, and a drop ship, big heavy metal things that fall from the sky and smash stuff like in the cartoons, like an Anvil.

   During the same time frame, starting with the Fed-Com civil war, and through the duration of the Jihad into the late 3080s Spaceman and Rabbit started as a couple of technicians working on aerospace fighters for the Federated Suns during the Fed-Com civil war, and after their base was over run and destroyed, they managed to escape on foot into the surrounding wilderness where they managed not only to survive, but acquire weapons and wage a two-man guerrilla war behind Lyran lines. They were very successful and without official training were promoted to special forces status and issued handlers and whatever equipment they requested. House Davion didn't ask questions as long as the two of them got results. And results they did achieve, performing all kinds of nefarious acts, blowing up bridges, mining roads, sniping mech pilots outside of the rides, stealing vehicles, sabotaging infrastructure and causing untold chaos and disruption behind enemy lines. Through luck, creativity and sheer force of will they learned the field craft they needed the hard way, and both of them, despite being injured multiple times and on multiple planets, managed to survive the Fed Com civil war.

       In fact, they were so successful that by the end of the war they had a substantial reputation and bounties associated with their names. As the war drew to a close, they were both in light of their exemplary services and having gone far above and beyond what was expected of two PBI (Poor Bastard Infantry) they were promoted, offered substantial retirement packages and permitted to leave the service, given cover stories and new identities so that they could make a clean break away from military service and live normal lives again. Spaceman, who had managed to keep in touch with the woman he loved despite the war and multiple deployments to multiple planets took the opportunity and returned to his home world to get married and lives a life as a civilian.

       Rabbit, due to the trauma of what he had survived and had been forced to do, couple with a bad break up with the love of his life a few months before the end of hostilities, couldn't imagine returning to a "normal life" and instead took his skills and reputation to the stars as a mercenary. During this time Rabbit continued to work for multiple different commands and took jobs farther and farther from the successor states, drawn to the periphery by his sense of justice he hopped across several different mercenary commands to get him closer to the pirates, the scum and the evil of humanity that made living as a decent person difficult. During this time, he honed his skills into a true deadly professional, a shock trooper, a one-man army that had any skill desirable in an infantryman, field craft, demolitions, anti mech, marksmanship you name it, he could do it. Years later, in the middle of the Blakeist jihad Rabbit was finally growing war weary and his command had taken up a boring garrison job at a warehouse on the edge of Taurian space.

       At this point the Jihad finally caught up with Rabbit even at the edge of civilized space, and some disreputable mercenaries under the employ of The Word of Blake ambushed and decimated his employer and made off with the content of the warehouses. Rabbit and another man named Scruffy were the only survivors. Scruffy had a wife a child to return to. Leaving Rabbit on his own, again. Making his way to the nearest major city on foot Rabbit Ran into troopers from the garrison platoon in the employ of Occam's Anvil, who were hunting the same mercenaries that had just orphaned Rabbit. In exchange for what he knew about these mercenaries Rabbit was offered employment with Occam's Anvil, and after proving he lived up to his reputation became an integral part of the infantry platoon the mercenary employed.

       At this point Occam's Anvil had gained themselves a couple more mechs, and now had as many mechs as they did pilots and was being employed by house Marik to hunt down several other merc bands who were known agents of the Word of Blake. Occam's Anvil survived the horrors of the Jihad along with Rabbit and by the end had a full mixed company of mostly medium and heavy mechs plus one Highlander assault mech. After the Jihad and the formation of the Republic of the Sphere, they were hauled from pirate and merc hunting in the periphery all the way back to League space, and stationed on the border between the Free world’s League and the Capellan Confederation. Where they were able to refit their war weary mechs, resupply their drop ship and do some boring garrison duty, until they were called upon by House Merik and SAFE to perform a plausible deniability raid against a research facility in Liao space, because they were within jump distance and not doing anything terribly urgent.

         This is where the books Rabbit's Anvil begins.

        The following is a summary of the Ten mech warriors and twelve battle mechs along with other important personnel for the context of the story:
“Lightning” McAbee: The chief mechanic/ mech tech in charge or repairs and maintenance for The Anvil’s company of mechs and is in charge of the fifteen other techs under their employ. This is the only Tech survived from the original mercenary command of which Occam’s Anvil was built out of the ashes of. Lightning is a longtime friend of Spade the unit commander. They knew each other before either of them became mercenaries. Lightning is a hold over nickname from his days as a race car driver. He has a mind for numbers and can recall from memory the specifications and associated part numbers for almost any piece of machinery he has worked on. Like some savant human encyclopedia.

       Monty: The drop ship pilot, who narrowly survived the crash of the Original ‘Razor’ drop ship, a leopard class, that was gunned down by aerospace fighters during a false flag operation, and was instrumental in the theft of the Union dropship that has gotten The Anvil where it is.

       Javis: The Anvil’s Executive officer, who is more like a glorified secretary. He has little actual authority and mostly serves as a radio operator and go between for the mech warriors and their employers. He is quite the eccentric fellow in his own way, and most would lose patience with him and his oddities, but after having survived so much, the original, core members of Occam’s Anvil have a bond, a brother hood, where his strangeness, is not an operational hinderance. In a word he’s the “cheerleader”.

       The Events of the Book occur on the planet "Sax" described as "An ancient water world dotted with thousands of island chains. Sax is the home of a Liao training facility as well as several specialized research campuses that rely on the planet’s tectonic stability. They are called to Sax in part because they were garrisoned on the world of Calseraigne which happens to be just on the other side of border from Sax in FWL space, a single jump away.

        Occam's Anvil Employ's Ten pilots for their twelve battle mechs. The roster, back story and mechs they pilot is as follows:

       Sigma Lance: This is the command lance of Occam’s Anvil that contains the best mechs and the best pilots, that do the heavy lifting when the going gets tough.
Pilot Call-sign: Spade Is the company commander/owner. He claims ancestral ownership to a BJ-1 Black jack, which as the company has grown has become the unit's hangar queen now being the lightest and least deployed mech in their arsenal and Spade instead typically pilots an ARC-2R Archer, he is well known for long range indirect fire with the dual LRM 20's, but due to heat management if the mech is engaged at shorter range he prefers to fight with the mech's fists rather than the four medium lasers.
Pilot Background: Decades ago, Spade’s parents were minor nobles in the Free world’s league, and as the eldest son of a minor noble Spade was left wanting for nothing, and was trained at the best academies as any mech warrior of pedigree would be. Spade hated it, and as he came of age, he made off with the families ancestral Black Jack, got aboard a drop ship and was off the planet before anyone could stop him. Life and adventure awaited him, as a trained mech warrior he needed to do something, but as a kept man, as a minor noble the stifling politics prevented him from doing anything, rather than swim in molasses he hitched rides and took work where he could until he found himself in the Magistracy of Canopus where he was signed on with the larger mercenary command that would later be destroyed. Under his ‘noble leadership’ and organizational mind he by sometime no more than force of will and charisma forged Occam’s Anvil from the ashes of the previous unit Roth’s Rangers. The commander Rothamir Stein having died at the controls of his Autocannon toting Wolverine at the hands of some Davion forces during the Fed Com civil war. Roth’s Rangers had been made up of two Leopards and was fanatically loyal to the Lyran alliance. Comprised of mostly fast, maneuverable mechs for strikes, scouting and raiding services that the standard Lyran forces were often too heavy to do themselves. Roth’s Rangers died in a faithful engagement that cost them one of their two Leopard drop ships, all of the scout mechs and most of their medium mechs. Leaving only a lance of battered medium mechs to escape on the Razor, the surviving Leopard, which under the colors of Occam’s Anvil, would later also be shot down by Aerospace fighters.

       Pilot Call-Sign: Rolex is the second in command, and while not necessarily friends with Spade, he is a highly trusted associate, trusted so much so that he is the only other mech warrior besides the company commander to have piloted Spade’s BJ-1 Black Jack. Rolex Typically pilots the heaviest mech in the company an HGN-733P Highlander. Which was bought directly from armories of the Free World’s League with the companies hard earned profits. Before that Rolex claimed the seat of an Enforcer that he willingly sold in order to help finance the purchase of the Highlander.

       Pilot Background: As a commoner born in the periphery, Rolex grew up fast in the hard world at the edge of inhabited space. He initially enlisted as recruit in the infantry with the Taurian Concordat in hopes to defend his little home world, and that he did. But when pirates landed with some ragged old mechs, the local militia and related infantry were forced to surrender after a guerrilla campaign that lasted all of six hours. He was taken by force by the pirates along with a mix of other PBI, because the pirates needed unskilled labor. After nearly a year of even rougher living he made a friend, got an in and got some rudimentary on the job training as a mech pilot, and for some time he worked as pirate raiding, stealing and destroying just to get enough supplies to feed himself. After a couple of years, he got tired of the wrongness associated from using battle mechs to take from unarmed civilians, and in the confusion of a raid on a lightly defended world, he took his ragged Enforcer -4R mech and slipped into a river where he hid and the pirates figured him for dead and left. He started his life over, no longer willing to be the bad guy.

       Pilot Call-sign: Radio wave is an experienced and trusted mech warrior, a quiet and cool headed man who has an eye for details, he makes an excellent pilot for BL-6-KNT Black Knight where heat management is critical. Armed with a PPC, two large lasers, four medium lasers and  small laser, this mech was claimed from a pirate band who held this recovered star league mech as their prized possession, and with some repairs (using parts purchased from house Marik) serves these mercenaries well, as the all energy load out and the good heat conscious pilot don't require ammunition, making that much more room in Occam’s Anvil's boom or bust budget and lifestyle.

       Pilot Background: Radio Wave was, like Rolex a commoner born of the periphery, who took up smuggling to try and make a quick buck, and after years of careful record keeping and subterfuge Radio Wave decided he wanted to go legit and got a job as a deck hand on a transport ship where he learned to drive industrial mechs and a couple years after that, that they were caught in the crossfire of a pirate raid as local and pirate mechs fought it out. The two forces destroyed each other nearly to a man and a few limping survivors of each side made their respective getaways. Out of curiosity he wandered the battle field, hoping to pocket something valuable, where he found a badly damaged and abandoned but still functional battle mech, where he climbed in side and using his knowledge from operating industrial mechs was able to operate it well enough that he looked like he belonged and when government reinforcements showed up, no one seemed to question him, and he slipped through their logistical fingers as a brand new free-lance mech warrior, hitching a ride out on the next drop ship and joining up with the first band of mercs he found, he made it, because he faked it.

       Pilot Call-Sign: Bond, is an excellent pilot and a notable technician and is well tuned to his machine, he is the only pilot of the command lance that was not of the original members of the previous merc command that was present when Occam’s Anvil was formed. He typically pilots an old, tried and true ON1-K Orion. This ancient mech is older than most of the pilots in Occam’s Anvil combined, and only seems to run correctly for Bond, as a testament to his technical prowess, but he makes it operate as advertised and has proved an able fourth member of the command lance supporting the Highlander, Archer and Black Knight.

       Pilot Background: Bond originally heralded from a poor desperate family in the Free World’s League and to escape the desperate dirty life of poverty he became an acolyte with Com-Star, and got off world, and then trained as mech warrior to defend an HPG station. However, he left the service out of disgust during the Blakeist jihad and does his best to hide his past, instead letting both his skills in the pilot’s seat and his technical knowledge of machinery earn him the respect and paycheck he deserves. He was discharged from his previous employer when they learned of his background, and Spade found him dispossessed and unemployed at a local bar, where they spent the night having a heart to heart over a few (lots) of beers and Spade despite his past, and Bond's association with Com-Star and the Word became convinced of his sincerity, hired him and has made good use of his skills for the two years they’ve been together since then.

       Alpha Lance: is the second line made of solid mechs and dependable mech warriors. A lance of hard hitting medium mechs held in reserve to support the heavier sigma lance when more fire power is needed. It is also interesting in that the entire lance is made of hunchbacks, but all four mechs are different sub models of the same chassis.

       Pilot Call-Sign: Archangel, is the newest pilot to get put on Occam's roster and he pilots the first of the four-hunchback chassis that Occam's Anvil has claimed as battlefield salvage. Having the mech in their stable before the pilot was ever hired. This is HBK-4N variant with AC/5, 2X LRM 5s, 4x Med. Lasers and small laser. It is the most beloved of the four hunchbacks in their stable, and Archangel is the most beloved pilot. He is youngest mech warrior with one of the most tragic back stories. He is one of those radiant, always happy, never tired, always busy, always welcome, improves every event with his presence kind of personalities.

      Pilot Background: Archangel grew up on a tiny backwater colony in a place named Hahnsak, where a strange illness affected the pilots of a lance of battle mechs and left them bed ridden or dead. Small town superstition kept the mechs empty for years until young little Archangel had the gaul to climb in and take a look to see what all the fuss was about. Sometime later, pirates came, and Archangel managed to get one of the rusted old mechs powered up to stand in their way. He fought them single highhandedly, and managed to inflict some damage before his ancient mech malfunctioned and left him immobile. Impressed, rather than kill him the pirates took the aged mechs and left the boy alive. Undeterred he took up work as a teenager using an industrial loader mech, and outfitted it with some 'custom' modifications to make it more dangerous. A couple of years later when the same band of pirates returned again, he had another machine to fight them with, and while using an inferior mech, he managed to inflict just as much damage as before. Even more impressed the pirates took the teenager this time, and pressed him into their service as a novice, unwilling mech warrior where they put his stubborn recklessness to good use. Years later, as the aging pirate captain was about to retire, she kicked him out of the gang, telling him his soul was too good for this life. Disposed, unemployed and now in his mid-twenties he slummed it around for a couple of months before one of Occam's mech techs bumped shoulders with him in the space port.

       Pilot Call-sign: Dragon fire. Dragon fire is another hired on pilot, picked up by Occam's Anvil after their formation. He pilots an HBK-4H Swayback. The AC/20 having been removed and replaced with a longer ranged AC/10 and supplemented that with the addition of two more medium lasers. The Pilot is as dependable and versatile as the mech he controls.

       Pilot Background: Dragon Fire grew up a commoner in the periphery and once he was of age, he enlisted in the military to get out of the dead-end little town, and once his term of service was up, he realized he didn't have any other marketable skills, so he became a freelance mech pilot, without a mech. Where he was picked up by Occam's Anvil, because they had a mech without a pilot and he had a solid foundation of skills due to his military service with the Concordat.

       Pilot call-sign: Babe, is a short haired, short-tempered woman with a thick Russian accent, and is named Babe purely because of the irony, because she is anything but soft and cuddly, she is a hard, focused, all business kind of woman who depending on the mission grudgingly shares command of Alpha Lance with Archangel. She barely tolerates his young full of energy attitude and sometimes thinks of him as a usurper, because Babe is one of the founding members of Occam's Anvil and feels her seniority should carry more weight. But she is too focused a woman to let those emotions effect their professional relationship, and she understands Archangel has the skills to go with his standing. She pilots the HBK-4G Hunchback, which just as the classic hunchback configuration is just as brutal, uncompromising and blunt as the woman who pilots it.

       Pilot background: Babe grew up in a poor desperate family in the Free World’s League and enlisted in the military as soon as she was of age in order to get away from her dead-end town. Her, focus, determination and extreme discipline earned her recognition and she was entered into the mech pilot program, and after her term of service and knowing nothing better to do with her skills, continued living on as a freelance mech warrior. No one is sure how old she is, she could be thirty or sixty, No one is brave enough to ask.

       Pilot call-sign: Vortex is the fourth and final member of Alpha lance and much like her name suggests she pilots an HBK-4P which trades the Hunchbacks normal hard-hitting AC 20 for six medium lasers and a chest full of heat sinks. She is proud of the mech's 'Vortex' of scything laser beams and has, while working with the other hunchbacks on many occasions lunged in after the AC20 makes a hole in the targets armor to melt everything inside the armor shell with her mech's eight medium lasers.

       Pilot Background: Vortex is descendant of one of the six founding families of the Aurigan coalition, and fancies herself a minor noble. Because of this minor nobility she wants to an advanced officer training school, and as a LT commanded a platoon of infantry out in the periphery, and later advanced in rank to command a whole company. After her stint in the service ran up, she used her political pull to get herself mech warrior training, and afterwards set off to make a name for herself, to prove herself, to earn her tittle and not just be "so and so's daughter".

       Beta Lance: Is not a fully active lance, there are four mechs to flesh it out, Occam's Anvil has all twelve bays of their Union class drop ship full, letting them advertise as a full company, but they usually don't deploy more than a lance or two at a time. Beta lance only has two pilots they are often deployed interchangeably with mechs and pilots from Alpha lance as the needs of the mission dictate and the skills of the pilots dictate.

       Pilot call-sign: Noodle is the last of the original members of Occam's Anvil. He was a specialized scout mech pilot, and was very upset when his Jenner F was taking out of the rotation as The Anvil took on more and more difficult missions that required heavier drop tonnage, he is now unofficially assigned to a solid CN9-AL centurion and doesn't go into the field as often any more, because it's not a scout mech and he would rather go fast then have more metal around him for protection. He was promoted to leader of Beta lance, that only really exists on paper in an effort to assuage his malcontent over The Anvil no longer having any light mechs in their stable. Despite his self-professed love and specialization, he is firm and confident behind the controls of any mech he is assigned too, he's just going to complain about it because it's not a nice Jenner, Cicada, Wasp, Locust etc.

       Pilot Background: Noodle was a Canopian commoner and it is the unofficial consensus that the hard and fast paced life of the desperate average man out in the periphery he used to lead is what drove him to become so obsessed with fast mechs.

       Pilot call-sign: Sumo is the lowest man on The Anvil's totem pole, and that is entirely his own doing. His personality and his political background are too charged and too defining of who and what he is, and get in the way of his performance and relationships, none the less, he is a talented pilot, and when in the cockpit everyone is able to set their differences aside and get the job done. Even so this troublesome attitude is the reason he is one of only two members in the "beta" lance. And rumor is it's called beta lance, not bravo lance, as a dig at Sumo. He typically pilots a WVR-5M Wolverine but is competent with the controls of any machine should the mission dictate it.

       Pilot Background: Sumo is a minor noble, the second son of the second daughter of the nobles in Itrom. He was indulged in and with whatever he liked and grew up as an arrogant young noble from a peaceful world. Or as peaceful as the inner sphere can be. He was taught to pilot mechs from a young age by professionals with pedigree. Once he was of age, he joined the Itrom security forces as was traditional for nobles to do, out of respect and service or whatever blah blah.

       Unfortunately for him, his unit was ambushed in his first year of service and he was badly wounded. his term of service was ended immediately and despite being tended by the best medical facilities and staff on the planet it took him more than a year to make a complete recovery. While hospitalized he was regularly visited by a bookish cousin, and he picked up a love for literature from his cousin. So strongly that the classics he had studiously ignored as a pampered child were now more important to him then the family battle mech. His scholastic obsession led him to consume all the literature he could find, he became a reader of fiction novels in the trashiest way. He joined book clubs and joined that part of society he had previously scorned like any noble scion.

      However, after House Espinoza's coup in the Aurigan Reach left his family on the wrong side of the minor civil war, and his family was forced to flee, now he applies the marketable skills from his more rambunctious youth, to make ends meet as a noble without a kingdom to belong to.

Other Units of Beta Lance:
      As noted above, there are four mechs in beta lance, even if there are only two pilots. One of these two is Spade's ancestral BJ-1 Blackjack, the other is a ON1-VA Orion. while a dependable heavy mech this variant feels like a downgrade and is only rolled out as re placement if one of the other heavy mechs is too damage to stand on the line and they need the hole plugged before repairs can be made. If you have a Warhammer for sale, Occam's Anvil would like to offer this Orion as trade, they have cash to lubricate the trade if necessary. These three lances fill all twelve bays aboard the Union giving them company strength firepower, even if they don’t have a company worth of pilots.

       Usually, Sigma and Alpha lances deploy and whoever is left behind uses the left behind mech’s to guard the drop ship along with the platoon strength infantry force of hardened shock troopers under The Anvil’s employment. Among these shock troopers, is Rabbit.   

      Now that the who, how, why and when has been explained, let me tell you the what. The Next post will be act one of Six of Rabbit's Anvil. It is all written already, I just have to find time to edit it, around my other worldly obligations. Thanks for the patience friends.
-Chace A. Randolph

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Re: Rabbit's Anvil
« Reply #1 on: 17 November 2021, 23:01:08 »
Glad to see more about Rabbit
"For the Angel of Death spread his wings on the blast, And breathed in the face of the foe as he passed:And the eyes of the sleepers waxed deadly and chill, And their hearts but once heaved, and for ever grew still!"

Chace of Spades

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Re: Rabbit's Anvil
« Reply #2 on: 28 November 2021, 12:34:19 »
               Act one

       Spade was dead tired, he hadn't even made it out of his cooling vest before he flopped down in a chair and fell asleep, he still had his boots on even. What made his slumber even more remarkable was that the chair he was passed out in, was in the service bay of Occam's Anvil's Union class drop ship named Razor II. The chair belonged to the senior mech tech, who with fifteen others working under him served as the maintenance crew. A crew that was busy working. Their welders, wrenches and impact drivers all rattling away in the semi coordinated symphony of man and machine, pulling armor plates off of the battle mechs, checking wires, unloading racks of LRM missiles and scurrying about their work as a lance of mechs had just returned from a long patrol.

       It was amid this din of tools, and foul-mouthed mechanics, that Spade slept, boots on the work bench, chair tilted back as far as it would go, coolant vest still clinging to his shoulders, his entire body reeking of sweat in the heavy permanent way a gym locker room does.  The senior tech 'Lightning' McAbee, still saddled with the nick name left over from his days of dirt track racing, wasn’t brave enough to bother the unit commander. His lance had left nearly eighteen hours ago, and that man had been riding atop a fusion reactor with nothing but warm water and crackers to sustain him. He had done his job, he had earned his sleep, now Lighting had to do his.

       The mixed lance of heavy mechs, an Archer, an Orion and a Black Knight, with an even heavier Highlander to provide fire support hadn't been in a fight, Occam's Anvil was on garrison duty, and had been for nearly a year, they had just spent a long day wandering around the country side. Patrolling, making a show of force to keep the local dissidents in line.

       They had two more mechs, faster medium mechs a Centurion and a Wolverine with their pilots on standby in case they ran into anything, but they never had. The crew of the Razor was in one of two camps, some of mech warriors like Sumo and Babe were content to run patrols and collect a paycheck.

       Others like Archangel and Bond were bored out of their minds and wanted to see action. To hunt pirates, to risk their lives for a good cause with a sufficiently large sized paycheck attached. But they were getting stir crazy and getting jumpy having all these mechs to play with and so many months of not doing anything more than stomp about the country side.

       Spade was of the latter inclination, though he kept his thoughts under control and his bias hidden. No one except his longtime friend Lightning would have been able to guess his opinion. He approached every routine patrol with the same detailed and quiet enthusiasm as if he were dropping from orbit with Kerensky himself to save Terra.
It was the single platoon of PBI, or ‘poor bastard infantry’ as they were commonly referred to among the members of Occam’s Anvil, that had been getting the regular action. For the past six months they had been playing as "Red force" with the local Free Worlds League law enforcement, and had made good friends over there. So good in fact three of the men left The Anvil's service to join the police department. The twenty-five remaining members of the infantry platoon were doing a wonderful job teaching the local police everything from basic shooting skills, to hostage rescue and counter terrorism. One among their number a tall quiet man who went by the call sign ‘Rabbit’ was particularly good at cooking up scenarios, or playing the bad guy and could shoot pistols and extreme ranges with rifles that left many who didn’t know him with mouths agape.

       He had been some sort of special forces commando for the Federated Suns during the Fed-Com civil war back before the Jihad. That un assuming man had been places and done things that scared Spade just to think about. Rabbit had skills and competence unlike anyone Spade had ever met, especially for a mere infantryman. Even wrapped up inside seventy tons of metal and myomere Spade didn’t feel safe from Rabbit, he was crafty and devious in an unparalleled and destructive way.

       On paper, Rabbit had the most valuable skill set of everyone in the platoon, and Spade would have liked to make him the platoon leader, or at least a squad leader, But Rabbit didn't want that. He had turned down promotions and the associated pay raise on more the one occasion. Spade wasn’t sure why either. At the time, Rabbit had said something cryptic like "There is no rank in the afterlife." or something to that effect. It had felt deep and meaningful when coupled with the man's all-knowing thousand-meter stare, that had helped the phrase make even more sense.

       The platoon had been keeping busy and was getting paid well, so all were happy there. It was this ethereal trooper Rabbit who seemed to know how to materialize where needed rather than having to travel there like a normal human that woke Spade twenty-five minutes into his ten-hour nap. Rabbit was not subtle or tolerant in the instances where he was forced to be social, and this was no exception, he awoke his commander, by shoving his crossed ankles off the work bench, waking Spade with a start.

       No sooner had the mech warrior's boots clunked to the grated floor of the mech bay did he sit bolt upright, gasping. Rabbit was non plussed and showed no reaction and only waited for the mech warrior to blink hard so his eyes would focus enough for them to make eye contact.

       "You're wanted on the bridge, message for you from FWL rep."

       Spade grumbled and started to squirm back down into the comfy depths of his plastic chair. "Someone else can deal with it, they know we're keeping up with garrison duties here."

       Rabbit didn’t move, and now Spade snapped at him, "C'mon man, I'm sleeping here."

       "Message is for you specifically."

       "What does he want now?"

       "She."

       "She?"

       "This is a different FWL rep, on the planet Sax."

       The half sleeping man still with his arms crossed and slumped in his chair perked up. "Sax... but that is in Capellan space."

       Rabbit nodded, running low on patience. "Indeed. There is a message for you..." he said jabbing a finger painfully into Spades chest between the ribs of his cooling vest. "... from a female FWL rep on Sax. Asking specifically for you, in person. On the HPG tube, right now."

       Now Spade leapt out of the chair, "They're on an open HPG channel right now?” Thinking to himself “What could be urgent enough they’re spending that kind of money to call me?”

       Rabbit answered with "Time is money." Spade was running down the length of the bay before Rabbit had finished speaking.
-Chace A. Randolph

Chace of Spades

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Re: Rabbit's Anvil
« Reply #3 on: 28 November 2021, 12:38:56 »
       The mercenaries face appeared on the screen that was no larger than her hand, and she regarded this reputable pilot for a heartbeat, he looked much as she expected a mercenary mech warrior to look. Unshaven, tanned, lean, bare chested beneath a worn cooling vest. The man's lips moved, and for a second, she continued to look at him, impressed that a person could look so tired and so excited at the same time.

       Then delayed by light years and slightly fuzzed with static, the man's voice came through the little speakers next to the screen. "Good day, what can I, and Occam's Anvil do for you?"

       She shushed him gently. "Careful commander, or whatever rank you've bestowed yourself, this is a delicate matter, no names, no dates, or locations. Who knows, who is listening to us.”

       She waited a second for a reply, and when she saw the man’s little head in the display nod sharply in understanding she continued. "I need some mechs, and some good pilots. Specifically, ones that don't wear house colors. I don't want to tell you more over open channels like this. Instead, we’ll finance your travel to me, and we'll tell you and your people what's needed, in person."

       "What about..." The merc started but she headed him off. "I know you're already engaged, and I've talked to your employer already, they're lining up someone to replace  you, and you’ll get paid for the portion of the job you've already done. But time is short, and we need you here as soon as possible. There aren't any other mercenaries that are close enough for our time line, that also have sufficient fire power and loyalty to the League."

       The man's face turned shrewd, "How many bills? It seems awfully rash to charge off into space for jobs unknow."

       "Captain" she sighed, "There will be enough money for you to not work the rest of the year and still get fat. This is a delicate and time sensitive matter."

       They started at each other through the little screens for a long silence. She to fight back the urge to fidget, and instead prompted the man. "Well?"

       I can be off the ground in an hour, and it'll take about three days to reach our jump point, and then another four-ish days on the other side to reach you. fortunately, we're only one jump apart so there shouldn't be any recharge time, I can get boots on the ground for you in eight days."

       "Make it seven." was all she said, and then closed the connection.
   
       Spade stood there looking at the black screen after the call ended, hands on either side of the console. A single drop of sweat fell from the tip of his nose onto the screen. He wasn’t tired anymore, even if he had just been asleep. He grunted a single short word with an ambiguous meaning that felt appropriate for the situation.
He straightened and moved to the console on his left, the ship wide comm system. His voice came through loud and metallic, ringing sharply in everyone's ears across the Razor.

       "Flight crew to the bridge, Repeat, flight crew to the bridge, make ready for departure. We are gear up in fifty-five minutes. Secure any and all gear, equipment, possessions, contraband and pornography to make ready for space flight, we've got to be at our jump point in seventy hours. Let’s move like our lives depend on it. Because our wallet does, and our lives depend on that. LET’S MOVE PEOPLE, TIME TO DROP THE ANVIL."

       Spade made for the hatch to exit the bridge and froze, hand still on the lever. Was all of his stuff in his quarters squared away and locked down? He was going through his mental check list of all his stuff when the handle of the hatch was yanked from his hand and the door swung out into the passage beyond, he found himself standing face to face with Monty the head of the Razor's bridge crew.

       "Prep for flight? Spade what the actual…"

       The commander interrupted him, "Yep, we got a job, no time to explain just set a course for Sax and get us there yesterday."

       "Sax, isn't that in Capellan space?"

       "Yep"

       "So, we workin' for the Confederation now or?"

       "Hell no, I got us a job, on Sax, and the League is footing the bill to get us there ASAP, so burn all the fuel you have to, but let’s do it quick." This time Spade left before the drop ship's pilot could ask any more questions.

       He didn't get far, the hall way outside the bridge was full of most of the rest of the mech jockeys. Rolex, with hands on his hips, stood in the hallway, with the other mech warriors standing behind him. His voice almost made the walls vibrate with its baritone waves "What you playing at boss?"

       From farther in the back, the small, blond scrappy little man with the scar on his face jumped so he could see over the half dozen people between him and Spade, his sharp little voice cutting the air like a small bouncing dog. "Yeah! What the heck man?"

       Spade sighed. "We literally don't have time for this, I got a job for us, a good paying job that isn't boring garrison duty, and travel expenses are included, which is even better, and they want us there, post haste. So, get your gear, and get set for launch."

       Rolex continued, “Yeah man, but Sax, that's in Capellan space, don’t tell me were working for communists now."

       Spade shouted to be heard over the growing murmur from the pilots in the middle ground. "The Free world's League is paying us lots of money, to move fast and hard into Capellan space. I can't give you details yet, but it's something sensitive enough that they need tough mercs like us to do it, and not their own military, because they don't want to start another war if they don't have to. That's why I cannot over emphasize enough, speed is of the essence right now."

       The hall was filled with stunned silence, and eventually, Babe at the back of the group turned and went off to who knows where, Spade took that as his que and squeezed past Rolex who still hadn’t moved, but no one stopped him, no one spoke and he slipped past the eight other pilots back down to the service bay.

       Along the way he crossed paths with a hurried Sargent Jamsheed. Spade caught his arm. "Are all the boots accounted for?" The grunt nodded, his eyes flicking down the hall. "And they don’t have anyone extra onboard?" Spade pressed. Jamsheed's eyes flicked down the hall again.  Spade looked at his watch. "We're leaving in forty-eight minutes, if they're not onboard, they’re staying here, if they are onboard, they're going with us. Clear?"

       Jamsheed nodded and Spade let go of his arm, he didn't run, but the sergeant walked down the hall to the barracks very quickly. Spade finally got down to the mech bay and found Lightning McAbee shoving tools into drawers with disorganized abandon. Lightning spotted Spade over his armful of tools as he walked between the Blackjack’s legs. and shouted non coherent obscenities involving Spade’s father and adult diapers and a foot fetish.

       Spade replied when he was done, raising his voice over the din of hastily packing mechanics, "Love you too buddy. Can I help put anything away?"

       Lightning McAbee unceremoniously dropped his armload if tools in the bottom drawer of an open tool box, slammed the door shut and then locked the box. "No, I think we've got the bulk of it."

       Spade glanced about the bays, scanning from the ankle height of the mechs. Not seeing anything blatant he shrugged and brought up the subject he had come back down here to talk about. "This job is going to be a big one.  I want everything on every ride fixed. no leaving the little stuff for later, no neglecting the Hangar queen. This is going to pay well, and for better or worse It's probably going to be pretty high profile too.  So, I want everything as good as you can make it before we get there, I’ll send the pilots down to clean out the cockpits once we're under way. Get someone to touch up the paint too, eh? We’ll treat this like a parade inspection."

       Lightning looked back at the Blackjack, "Even the Hangar queen?"

       "Yep, I don’t care the cost, I’ll pay the overtime, just get everything fixed. Between you and me, I’m not one hundred percent sure what I’m getting us into, I just know its big, and comes with a big cash prize. Everything has got to work, could be the difference between a job done, or a contract lost, life or death."

       Lightning McAbee shooed the last of the other techs out of the bay and killed the lights as he and Spade followed them out.  "Yeah, yeah, I know you’re going into combat,  we've been doing this for years buddy, you don't need to give me the 'my life is on the line' speech again."

       They worked their way deeper into the guts of the drop ship, Spade slipped off to his modest captain's quarters saying as they parted ways "I know you don’t give a darn about my life, but think of The Anvil's reputation."

       Lightning was going to remark about how Spade was the one making life difficult by trying to install auto cannons from a different manufacturer because of a statistical accuracy advantage and then the hangar queen wouldn’t have a problem with its ammunition feed system, but the door was already closed and the breath was wasted.
Spade kept himself, and everyone else busy once they were space born.  The pilots hated it, but they cleaned the smelly cockpits of their mechs, the techs touched up the paint and ironed out the kinks in the hardware, the infantry cleaned their weapons and combat gear. Spade even sat down there with them rubbing elbows with the PBI cleaning his matched pair of old slug throwing pistols.

       After repeated questions from the troops, Spade had to explain the story behind those pistols. He had lost the pistol he had been issued in an ejection, and afterwards went to a shop to purchase another one. Where on a whim picked up a black slug thrower that fit his hand nicely. When he attempted to purchase it, the staff harassed him for not getting a more reliable weapon like a nice laser pistol.  Spade pointed out that the slug thrower held more rounds than you get charges out of laser pistol’s battery pack. To which the clerk again pointed out the numerous potential mechanical malfunctions the pistol might have. To which after a moment of contemplation Spade told the clerk, "Fine I'll take two, doesn't hurt to have a spare."  Ever since, like any a typical mercenary in the holo vids Spade had worn them both, a big, black, shiny, loud, slug thrower on each hip. But that was a long time ago, before Occam's Anvil had been formed, now instead of a cliche, it was just normal for him.

       Then their 'combined arms' union dropship, the Razor II hooked up with the jump ship, and they hopped across the galaxy and popped back up amongst a different field of stars. The Razor II detached from the jump ship and made way under maximum thrust for the water world of Sax.

       Spade issuing a Standing order after they were clear of the jump ship and underway again. "No wireless communications. We'll continue to run navigation and identification systems, we don’t want to raise suspicion, but I want no wireless communications between any one for any reason. We don't want to attract undue attention either.”

       On the second day after the jump, everyone was running out of things to do, the techs had fixed everything anyone could think of on the entire company's worth of mechs. Spade couldn't remember a time there wasn’t something wrong somewhere with some mech, not since before The Anvil had been formed.  Though he could recall a couple of times before that, under the previous commander that they had managed to be in peak shape, partially through his ruthless enforcement of brutal simplicity in all aspects of life. But that man was dead, they no longer lived out of a Leopard class dropship, they were no longer employed by the Lyran commonwealth and the no longer called themselves "Roth’s Rangers". A different era indeed.

       By the morning of the fourth day, hours shy of a week since the HPG call The Razor II performed a deceleration burn, and quietly, casually fell into orbit over Sax, almost like they belonged there.
-Chace A. Randolph

Chace of Spades

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Re: Rabbit's Anvil
« Reply #4 on: 28 November 2021, 13:25:42 »
       The Razor II had hardly been in orbit an hour when a strange reading flashed on the displays in the cockpit. They were being hailed by a direct line of sight laser transmission. Spade, who had been anxiously waiting on the bridge now tentatively answered, the channel being open but silent despite the deliberate effort needed to put into establishing the connection. "Hello?"

       No answer. Monty, the Razor's pilot slapped Spade’s shoulder. "We don't know who or what that is, our ship's computer can’t recognize that thing, we don’t know if its friendly or here to kill us for trespassing."

       Spade looked at the other display, sure enough the computer had no idea what the craft was. It was listed with an estimated weight of 2,500 tons, much smaller than their Union, even with the refit to carry infantry replacing the aerospace fighter bays. But it was much too big to be an aerospace fighter.

       Spade turned to his crew, "How did something that weighs twenty-five hundred tons get so close to us undetected?"

       Finally, a voice came through the radio, sharp and surprising enough that Spade who still manned the console flinched. "Anvil this is FWL rep Shannon, we need you to rotate thirty degrees clockwise for docking."

      Monty looked panicked, "Docking, what the hell, commander who is that?"

       Spade recognized the woman’s voice from a week earlier and was put to ease, now assuming the ship was who they were supposed to meet. "They're the ones with the money." He said to Monty "Now be nice and do as they say so they can dock and pay us."

       The expression on Monty’s face spoke of murder, but he gestured to someone else on the bridge and the ship rotated gently. Twenty minutes later the other ship had latched onto their docking ring, and they were ready to equalize air pressure.

       Monty had gotten a good look at the other space ship, and he still had no idea what it was. He watched it as they maneuvered to dock. It was a broad low aerodyne warship of some flavor. With stubby wings that drooped down at the tips and bristling with turrets and weapons. A half dozen LRM 20s, a dozen medium lasers, a half dozen large lasers, four PPCs, four gauss rifles and a dozen anti-missile systems and who knows how many heat sinks and ammo magazines to feed the thing. It was a couple autocannons short of a warship and it scared the hell out of Monty.

       Spade with Rabbit and Sargent Jamsheed at his side went to the hatch to receive the personnel from the other ship. The rest of The Anvil’s platoon of shock troopers was fully kitted up and loaded for war in a room just down the hall. The bridge crew’s uneasiness was wearing off on Spade. Monty was right, no one had much of an idea what they were walking into at this point.

       When the hatch swung open Spade and the two grunts were greeted by two more grunts dressed in black laser reflective pressure suits with stubby looking laser rifles tucked into their arm pits. Barrels leveled at the three mercenaries.

        The three mercenaries, stared the men down, they were used to tense situations, and had, had guns shoved in their faces before, In Rabbit's case, more so the Spade would ever understand. The three of them held their ground, their expressions fierce, and defiant, almost challenging. If they wanted to play that game, they better have a whole lot of back up in their strange ship or else the troopers up the hall would storm it, make it theirs and let any crew onboard suck vacuum. Spade thought grimly, and Rolex would make a decent replacement if Spade died in the opening salvo, with whatever fancy stealth ship that was, it might even be worth it. Spade considered it for a moment. Could the three of them, kill the other two guys? best not, no use drawing on someone who already had their gun in hand. The starring contest continued as Spade's mind worked the problem.

       Before any of the five men did anything dumb, A woman in a deep emerald green business suit passed between them and extended a hand to Spade, her shoulder length black hair drifted uncontrollably in the low gravity environment. Spade recognized her from the HPG call, and his tension eased, as did the other four men, but none lowered their guard completely.

       She motioned for him to lead after the handshake, and slowly, he turned, and glanced back to the two black clad men, he didn't want to turn his back on their laser rifles.

        Representative Shannon caught his glance and waved a hand dismissively, "Formalities commander, had to be sure it was really you and not a different ship that had adopted your paint scheme and transponder codes." Spade frowned but said nothing as he led her down to the situation room, the four heavily armed men followed behind, the air almost electric from the barley-controlled warriors who had gone from a twitch away from killing each other to rubbing elbows at the shake of a hand.

       Once Representative Shannon, escorted by Spade and the other four, armed men had settled into the operations room where the other mech warriors were waiting for them, Shannon produced a memory stick from one of the pockets in her suit and inserted it into the table, which after a flicker, produced a three-dimensional holographic display across the table top showing one of the thousands of nameless island chains presumably on the surface of Sax down below.

   Representative Shannon let the crew have a look at the map for a good long minute, before she started speaking.  "Gentleman..." Then with a nod to Babe and Vortex "ladies, Mech warriors... this island is your target. It doesn't have a name, the base Liao has built here is too secret for that. They have a research facility there, and we have a SAFE agent that has spent the past three years infiltrating their staff and getting in good and deep with the projects they are working on down there."

       She paused and took a moment to make eye contact with each of the mech warriors in turn." The mission is thus, we need you to go down there and take the research data. I personally don't know specifically what it is, but our agent tells us it's big and has reached a critical point. Now is the time we must strike before whatever it is they have made or found spreads beyond this island and is beyond our power to stop."

       Again, she paused and looked to the collected pilots. "We ask you to do this, only in part because you are trusted mercenaries who happened to be close by, but also in part because you are not FWL military. We will be able to maintain deniability and will have taken no officially sanctioned action. Do you understand the meaning of this? If you pull this off, you’ll get paid handsomely, if something goes wrong and you run into trouble down there, you are on your own, we will deny having employed you, sent you and disavow any knowledge of your actions. For all the FWL knows your still on garrison duty back at Calseraigne. Is that understood?"

       The pilot's responded with various nods, grunts, mutters and even a whispered slur. Rep Shannon continued "Now that's the good news. The bad news is that this plan requires multiple attacks, and the success of each subsequent attack will depend on the speed and success of the previous in order to maintain operational security."

      She sighed, and seemed to collect herself. "This is the part where I tell you that this is your last chance to back out. If I tell you anymore, you will be obligated to follow through with the plan of attack. If you choose not to participate, now is your time to speak, you will be permitted to leave, with the stipulation that you will leave League space, and that Occam's Anvil will be blacklisted and never permitted to work for us again, you will be publicly discredited, so that anything you say publicly regarding information already shared between us will be viewed as false and baseless. Is that understood?"

       With raised eyebrows Spade looked around the semi dark room from one of his pilots to the next, getting a feel for the room before he answered. "Ma'am, some of us herald from the FWL. To some of us, it's the closest thing there is to 'home' for others, we see ourselves as an extension of the league's military, the vanguard ready to do the dirty jobs, just like this one. Personally, I find it borderline insulting that you insinuate we would abandon our employers in such a manner, and secondly, even if we were so inclined, such a black mark on our good name from someone so prestigious as the oldest of the five successor states would be very damming indeed and leaves very little room for choices, like it or not. We have been in your employ, unwaveringly and without error for years now, and I would hope that in the future there could be more... professional courtesy between us. I believe I speak for all of us when I say, We’re in."

       The representative's expression grew firm, and for a moment she looked ready to do something drastic, but the moment passed and the look faded, and instead she continued with a tense and firm "Fine." The sealed suits of the two men in black creaked and squeaked as the tension in the soldiers eased a little. "The biggest limitation is that the first attack must be done covertly, without the target knowing we are coming so that they may not raise the alarm to other forces either here on Sax or elsewhere, need I remind you we are now well into Capellan territory, far from any legal jurisdiction of our own, surrounded on all sides by..."

       This time Rolex interrupted her. "Ma'am, with all due respect, we know where we are. We are mercenaries, some of us have been since we were teenagers. Being behind enemy lines, places we shouldn’t be, following orders that were technically never given, is what we do. Yes, we regularly and loyally work with the FWL military, but we have been other places, done other jobs for planetary governments, periphery states, even worked at the behest of one gang of pirates to do some mean shit to another gang of pirates. Occam's Anvil is just the newest face for our band, we made it through the 4th succession war, the Fed-Com civil war, the Jihad. We know how smelly the sewer gets."

       Spade held up a hand to ease Rolex's tirade. Taken aback and tense looking again the representative picked up the pieces and started over again. "Well then, in order to arrive at the target location undetected, you'll have to have a lance ride in our ship. which is the first of a new generation of dropship called Seleucus, this one specifically modified for covert operations. You'll be weight limited to 200 cumulative tons and we will drop you off on the west end of the island where their ground to orbit communications facility is located. it will have static defenses and lance of main battle tanks defending it. Take the facility off line. Meanwhile we will rejoin you in orbit and take your second lance down to the surface, also weight limited by our stealth ship's lifting ability and this second lance can be dropped along with your infantry on the east end of the island, where they have a lance of mechs garrisoned to defend the research facility.  Take out their mechs secure the data, extract our agent then you'll have to trek to the top of the mountain to have enough space to land your union and pick up both your lances at once. Speed is of the essence. hence the back-to-back drops with our ship."

       "What do we know about these tanks?" Spade asked? "What exactly are the forces on the island?"

   "Our agent on the ground tells us there is a lance of heavy tracked tanks stationed at the communications facility, a lance of heavy mechs stationed to defend the research facility and a lance of medium wheeled tanks that patrols the one road over the mountain back and forth between the two locations. The key to the success of this, is speed and covert ness. If we attack while the patrolling tanks are at the research station, we can disable the communications array on the other side of the island, and without it, their short-range radios shouldn't be able to reach over the mountain in the center of the island. So, the wheeled tanks continue their patrol as usual and we drop the second phase of the assault on the research station after the tanks have gone over the mountain and you need not Engauge them at all.”

   Babe muttered "Not likely." and Dragon fire agreed, "I think we've all seen enough action and been on enough missions to know better than to hope for that much luck." There were nods and grunts of agreement around the darkened room as the pilots judged the situation.

       Spade waved to Sargent Jamsheed, calling him over, and whispered for him to go get the LT, who was the platoon leader and have him come in so they could finish the briefing.

       While they waited for their infantry commander to arrive, they went into more detail. Spade manipulating the map table to zoom in on the western coast of the island, where they could see the structures of the communications facility. "Here's what I am thinking. since there are both static gun emplacements and multiple heavy and main battle tanks, that we should drop in Alpha lance.

       You guys have drilled a lot together, and I know there were some misgivings about Archangel, the young blood becoming lance leader, but I think we've worked past that problem, and our four hunchbacks fit into their two-hundred-ton weight restriction just fine." The hunch backs carry good armor and better firepower for their size and should give you enough oomph to deal with a lance of heavy tanks, and gun emplacements and destroy the buildings. what does everyone else think?"

       Eventually Bond spoke up. "Perhaps send the Wolverine? I feel like something with jump jets might be helpful.  Hunchbacks aren't known for their speed after all."

       Rolex shook his head and Sumo elaborated, "The Wolverine is fifty-five tons."

       "She's too heavy brother." was Archangel's comment. Bond nodded, and tried to offer other ideas "The centurion or the Blackjack? Blackjack has jump jets too, right?"
Spade, hand buried in his beard said "I'm not sure if the Blackjack has enough plating for a slugfest like that, and even if she stayed at range to provide fire support, those AC2's can only do so much good." He looked at the holographic map of the terrain in thought before asking Archangel "You're leading Alpha lance, what do you think? Need the jump jets, you're looking at the same rocks and trees and mountain side that I am."

       The scrappy little dirty blond had a squeaky voice to match his weasel like stature, "This spot looks like a good landing site to drop us off." He rotated the map and pointed " If they're willing to drop us that close, we won’t have much ground to cover to get in range of the target. I’d rather have the armor and fire power of all the hunchbacks on the line. They are a little inflexible, but like you said, we’ve been drilling as a team, we have a plan for every contingency we can think of. Swapping a different mech into that plan will only be another variable we have to account for. Less is more in this case."

       "You sure? How do your lance mates feel about this?"

       They glanced to each other and exchanged shrugs. Archangel answered again "Jump jets are nice, but so is an AC/20"

       "It's settled then, now for the second drop on the research facility. We’ve got two hundred tons and some odd sized mechs to do it with, if they have heavy mechs down there we're going to be hard pressed to match them. With the Wolverine, the Black Jack and the Centurion, the forty-five, fifty-five of the Wolverine and the Blackjack even each other out, but we don’t have another medium to drop. What it we took the Blackjack off the roster and only sent three, dropping the Highlander in its place?  that might leave us outnumbered but it’s still two hundred tons..."

       The mech warriors exchanged glances again. Noodle commented, "Sure feels funky chief, but it doesn't leave any meat on the table, you’ve got my vote." Dragon fire, across the table added "And both the Wolverine and the Highlander have jump jets, might be able to do some funky maneuvers depending on what they are fielding" Spade jerked his head in agreement. "Sigma lance any complaints?" Silence. "Well then who is the odd one out?"

       Radio wave raised a hand. "If you're going down to a fancy research lab with who knows what technology and such, maybe you'd be better off with Bond down there than me."

       The others were generally non-committal. Spade pointed to Bond "Centurion." and then with the other hand to Rolex, "Highlander?"
They had reached an agreement when Sargent Jamsheed returned, without the lieutenant.

   The look on Jamsheed's face was enough to convince Spade not to ask, and instead he turned to Rabbit. "We'll you've been looking at the same map we have, and I know you’ve done some sketchy stuff in your time. What do you propose Corporal?"

       The tall quiet man oozed out of the gloomy corner where he was resting, and hunched over the map table in the partial gravity. He shifted the display to zoom in on the collection of low concrete storm proof buildings. Still silent, face unreadable.
       
       Rabbit grunted. "Hard to tell, normally would lurk in the area for a few days and figure out the floor plans. from here..." He gestured to the map "Hard to tell.  Beyond needing SMGs and lots of flashes to clear rooms I can’t plan that far ahead, we get there when we get there. Maybe "

       With a deep sigh Spade turned back to Representative Shannon, "We'll I think we know our roles, when do we drop?"

       She smiled slightly, “How quickly can you ready your mechs?"
-Chace A. Randolph

Chace of Spades

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Re: Rabbit's Anvil
« Reply #5 on: 05 December 2021, 12:26:10 »
               Act Two

       It was quite the awkward ordeal, transferring Alpha lance and their four Hunchbacks from the Razor to the strange prototype and covert Seleucus. The four squat broad shoulder mechs looked like ball players. The Anvil’s tech’s had hundreds of man hours put into each, cleaned, loaded, tuned, the paint detailed, they were spotless to Spade’s satisfaction. Between the four hunchbacks they had 4 small lasers, ten LRM tubes, an AC 5, an AC10, an AC 20 and no less then eighteen medium lasers. Their lower average speed and biased towards armor and short-range weaponry could be a hindrance in some pilot's eyes, but with an AC20 and a laser boat up front, an AC10 in the mid-range and the AC5 with LRMS on the HBK-4N at the back providing longer range fire Alpha lance had trained to make this weakness, their strength.

       The pilots of Occam's Anvil would have liked to had more time for training, for simulations, for mock battles, they would have liked better information, and more of it. They would have liked more warning, better sleep, bigger lunches. They would have liked lots of things, but there was no time for that now, no room to reminisce and think about coulda, woulda, shouldas, instead they were starting to sweat in their cockpits as they fell through the atmosphere of a hostile occupied planet deep in enemy territory riding atop fusion reactors inside an experimental drop ship clad in relatively new and untested stealth armor to fight a lance of tanks that probably out weighted them by a magnitude somewhere between one and a quarter and one and  half.

       That wasn't the part that worried them, after all, those were just tanks. They were a threat, but an out matched threat by the battle mechs that were coming for them.  Someone had made a comment before they departed, and now that the atmosphere was rattling them around all they could think about was that if their dropship went down, it would likely be over open ocean hundreds or thousands of kilometers away from solid land, and they would plunge uncontrollable to who knows what depth, a fifty-ton hunchback would sink mighty fast, especially when dropped from orbit. Even so, Babe, Archangel, Vortex, and Dragon Fire were ready to ruin someone else's day, in order to get paid.

       Their radios crackled as the gruff voice from someone on the covert FWL drop ship came into their cockpits. "Thirty seconds out, be ready to move as soon as the doors are open."

       Archangel remarked across the Lance's private channel with, “We’ve been garrisoned and paid, and now with curb side service, we might as well paint purple birds on our chests and make it official." Vortex responded with her trade mark "tee hee" giggle. Babe had the opposite reaction. "Shtow it, joke later, focus, time to work is now."

       None of them realized it at the time but Spade, and the other mech warriors who were preparing for the second wave of the attack along with Representative Shannon and The Anvil's executive officer Javis, were all listening in from onboard the Razor II still in orbit, doing its best to look like a dropship casually waiting for the proper jump ship to arrive. If the plan went off as they hoped, they would only be in orbit for a few hours, before they returned to Merik space with the research data, the agents and Representative Shannon onboard the Razor II.

       Spade glanced at the representative, after Archangel's comment, and when she made no reaction, he decided not to say anything himself over the breakdown in protocol. Thinking to himself "So much for looking like professionals".

       Javis on the other hand visibly cringed over the remark and as Babe's reply came up to them on the radio, he too debated about chastising the rambunctious young pilot, but decided against it as far below the drop ship landed, the doors went up and the mechs went out. Archangel's voice now sharp and commanding over the radio, despite the faint static was clear, "Go, go, go."

       The HBK-4P and HBK-4G shoulder to shoulder as they charged from the drop ship's bay out onto the island’s western beach. The HBK-4H and HBK-4N right behind them. They may have had almost an hour to look at a scale, three-dimensional map of the island, but this was the first any of the mech warriors had seen it with their own eyes.  They sky was moderately over cast, the ocean breeze brought a chill that felt appropriate for the gloom as the shadows of the intermittent cloud cover crawled over the single massive mountain in the distance making a reach into the heavens with its near symmetrical truncated cone.

       The beach wasn’t made of fine sand, but was instead of pebbles not quite the golden sand color one would expect on a beach, but instead a couple of shades closer to charcoal. Close to three hundred meters further inland the first of the trees rose up. Most of the island was covered in these scrubby trees with scabby bark. Hardly more than bushes, and none more than knee high to the medium weight mechs. Wordlessly the lance changed course and, hardly even breaking stride, they made for a gully that would lead them almost straight to the communications station.  Keeping them below ground level, out of the sentry's sight line. The gully was strewn with small rocks and boulders, rough terrain, but not so rough as to make it impassable, it was hardly a hindrance, though a rookie pilot would have harder time running at full speed in a top heavy mech like the Hunchback. Babe particularly seemed unphased by the terrain, even when the rocks were made more treacherous be the trickle of runoff water from the dormant volcano to the sea making the rocks slippery.

       The colossal distances between Sax's many islands and the advanced armor plating and electronic warfare equipment inboard their dropship made it probable the dropship had gotten in and out undetected by planetary defenses, but dropships were loud, anyone hanging out by the side door to smoke a cigarette would have heard the drop off.

       Alpha lance had to move fast and get in position before someone came to investigate. Despite the dachshund sized cobble stones in the bottom of the gully, their bipedal battle mechs made it the kilometer and a half inland to communications station quickly and emerged from the mouth of the gully four hundred fifty meters from the facility.
Archangel in the HBK-4N launched a salvo of LRMs, emptying all ten tubes. No warning, no pomp, just action. The salvo of missiles spread out as they arched high and impacted around the base of the tower. The thin metal girders that made up the tower were perforated wish shrapnel, bent with heat and rattled apart with the multiple concussions.

       A stillness fell over Alpha lance and seemingly the whole of the planet after that opening barrage. The metal groaned, and the tower leaned, hesitating as it strained against its tensioner cables before one by one, the cables snapped and the seventy-meter tower fell into the scrub brush. For a moment Archangel wondered if his heart had forgotten to beat.

        Dragon Fire's voice broke the solemnity of the moment, dragging everyone back down out of their thoughts to where they were, and what they were doing.
"I’ve got readings on three moving heat signatures, must be those tanks command mentioned. I bet they were already saddled up to come investigate the noise we made off landing."

       Archangel was on the radio calling back to the Razor. “Their high gain antenna is offline, they can’t contact anyone outside the island now. Moving on to the short-range antenna."

       Vortex reported "Visual confirmation on enemy tank. report Vedette medium tank between buildings at our two O'clock."

       "Roger that, Alpha three. People, let's teach them how to dance."

       No sooner had he said that, when Dragon Fire came back on the radio "Visual confirmation on the other two targets. Po main battle tanks, rolling out of the far end of the complex."

       There was a solid CLANG as the impact of a single heavy slug from the Vedette's AC 5 rang off the left shoulder of Babe's Swayback. The Lance of hunchbacks spread out Babe and Archangel moving straight ahead into the complex, to engage the medium tank while Dragon Fire and Vortex took their heavier firepower further to their right, to engage the Po MBT's.

       Not worried about collateral damage, Archangel set loose a second salvo of LRMs while on the move. Four of them splashing on the armor of the medium tank as it reversed hard, shuffling back in among the buildings. The other six fell short and dug craters just in front of the vehicle, showering it with shattered rock.

       Archangel and Babe slipped their broad shouldered mechs into the rows between the pre fab buildings making up the radio station complex, numbering roughly a dozen structures in total.

       They caught up with the Vedette at the crossroads marking the center of the complex. The tank had come to a stop and was in the process of rotating in place to face them. there were only two low buildings apart, roughly a hundred meters, Babe applied her AC10 and all four of her medium lasers to the medium tank's broad side.
Her AC10 rattled off a three-round burst of heavy rounds, staggered with APFDS, AP and HE type shells in an attempt to squeezed ever bit of potential damage out of the weapon.

        The rounds slammed into the side of the turret with a brilliant shower of sparks as the tanks armor shrugged off the kinetic projectiles. She gave it all four of her medium lasers too, burning the side plates of the tank into a glowing hot mess of slag and cutting the tank's right-side track.  The vehicle ground to a halt as the twisted and melted steel slipped of the end of the boogie wheels and flopped uselessly onto the hard packed dirt road between the buildings.

       Archangel, seeing the situation was under her control left Babe to finish off the stricken tank. "You finish that, I'm going to push to the other radio tower."
"Copy" was her typical curt reply. The Vedette's turret swung around as the Swayback's weapons cycled.

       The vehicle rocked as its autocannon fired again, glancing a slug off the Swaybacks’ right thigh. Babe was impressed by the valiant crew still try to defend their post to the end. The tank's machine gun rattled off rounds against her mech's shins.

       She stood there and took the peppering as her auto cannon readied another burst and her heat sinks struggled to dissipate the sudden load of firing all four lasers simultaneously.

       To save heat, she only used the autocannon, hitting the Vedette's broadside a second time. watching almost with pity as the vehicle, equal in weight was more than outclassed by her battle mech. The three heavy gauge rounds tore through the tanks heat weakened structure and gutted the old reliable internal combustion engine like a holiday turkey, setting the tank's fuel supply ablaze.  Multiple hatches flew open, flame and smoke pouring out, but only one man, the driver from the front of the vehicle managed to crawl out, his little soot-stained face looked up at her towering matching for a moment before scampering off into the buildings.

       Babe reported to the other members of her lance. "Tank down."

       "Copy that Alpha two, go help three and four with those MBT's, I'm almost in position to hit the other radio tower.”

       The hard and tight-lipped woman said nothing, as was normal for her and moved her mech through the buildings, headed south. She didn't run, but instead lumbered meticulously, almost gracefully, if a Hunchback could be accused of such a thing. She was weary of a trap hidden amongst the buildings. Remote charges, infantry with magnetic explosives who knew what awaited her in between these portable buildings.

       Her eyes burned as the brilliant blue streak of a large laser stabbed across the sky. None of their mechs carried such a weapon, and neither did the tanks as they all had internal combustion engines. Archangel's voice in her neural helmet answered her unasked question. "The Base defenses are coming online. Everyone, deal with the weapon emplacements when you get the chance."

       Babe figured her fire power might be of better use dealing with the static weapons rather than assisting the others deal with the MBTs. She never got the chance to turn and change targets her mech staggered forward under the onslaught of a massive explosion behind her. Indicators in her cockpit lit up red and black, the left arm and side torso of her mech already gone. She blinked as she steadied her footing. There was a vibration from a secondary explosion, and having spent so many hours in the seat of this cockpit she recalled the magazine for her AC 10 had been in the left side of her torso. She assumed it was an ammo cook off, and without waiting around to find out, ejected. Putting Alpha two out of the fight.

       Her fear had been correct. As she rocketed away above her mech, a chain reaction went off destroying the mech above the waist, sending the intact right arm cart wheeling through one of the buildings as the remaining ammunition for the auto cannon blew up in rapid succession.

       She hadn't radioed it, or had time report it, Archangel and Spade had no indication other than the lights on their comm sets going dark as Alpha two went off the air.
The rapid explosions knocked the shattered mech over, and past its scattered and smoldering wreckage rolled a squat, turret-less Predator tank destroyer. The crew smug after having hidden, engine powered off in the garage and managing to take out a battle mech with a single shot to the rear from their vehicle’s massive AC20.
-Chace A. Randolph

Chace of Spades

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Re: Rabbit's Anvil
« Reply #6 on: 05 December 2021, 12:30:30 »
       Archangel had managed to quickly pass through the complex, and no sooner had he broken free from the cluster of prefab buildings then did Babe report her vehicle kill and he ordered her to assist the others. After which he spotted a quartet of static gun emplacements.

       Three of them were along the eastern side of the complex, two of which were massive blocky looking LRM 20 racks, presumably to offer protection to the whole area on this side of the island, he couldn't let those get any salvos off, they could decimate him or his lance mates.

       The third turret was positioned right next to the road that ran into the complex and was roughly equidistant between the two LRM launchers, and sported two SRM6 racks, and had the mosquito like barrel of a machine gun protruding from between them. A shorter-range system presumably to protect the two LRM launchers. The fourth turret was further up hill near the base of the other radio tower and had a large concrete bunker next to it with thick power conduit cables running the fifty meters between them. Four staggered optical lenses told him it was armed with lasers of some kind.

       Fortunately for Archangel he had not followed the main road and his Hunchback was instead standing north of it. Out of range of turret packed full of SRMs next to the road. The turret however was not out of his range. He rotated his mech on it’s right foot and sighted his weapons on two targets at once. He fired his two-arm mounted medium lasers at the LRM turret closest to him, and fired his LRM racks over top of it at the SRM turret in the middle.

       He landed direct hits on both, but the turrets sported enough armor plates to withstand the damage. He let his weapons cycle and repeated the attack. his arm mounted lasers melting through the metal sheath and detonating the LRM launchers ammo magazine in a massive concussive fireball. As the sea breeze carried off the smoke and dust he visually confirmed his LRM's had peppered and destroyed the SRM turret too. Pleased with his accuracy he closed in on the second and now isolated LRM launcher.

      As he drew closer the turret started to move.  Frightened, he sped up, pushing his mech as fast as it would go, getting inside the LRMs arming range and rendering the massive launch ineffective before the remote operators could finish turning it on him. Since the other LRM launcher had taken four hits from his medium lasers to be disabled he decided not to take any chances now that he knew the weapons were live, and hit the second LRM turret with all four of his medium lasers at the same time, and added in his small laser for good measure since he had rushed into close range anyway.

       This weapon system, packed full of LRM reloads for sustained cover fire exploded just as enthusiastically as the other two missile laden turrets had. Archangel turned away from the blast and continued inland as fast as his mech would move, toward the fourth turret and the second radio tower, unsure if there were other turrets elsewhere around the complex. As he drew nearer the fourth turret, the brilliant flash of a blue large laser startled him, missing high over his shoulders as he rushed his mech forward. This was when he radioed his command to the rest of Alpha Lance. "The Base defenses are coming on line, everyone, deal with the weapon emplacements when you get the chance."

       Hoping that leaving the statement open ended like that would keep the other pilots on alert in case there were other weapon systems around besides the ones he had already located. Not wanting to risk getting hit if the large laser recharged its capacitors and fired again, he pulled his mech to a stumbling stop and calmly aimed his weapons, firing his auto cannon and all his LRM tubes at the turret, scoring solid hits.

       He moved diagonally, drawing closer to the turret and stepping out of its line of fire, he wasn’t sure if it was destroyed and he kept his medium lasers trained on it just in case, but the turret didn't track him, didn't rotate and he assumed it was disabled. With an inward shrug, he shot it with his lasers anyway, just to make sure.
Reduced to little more than a glowing heap of metal oozing from the concrete pedestal it had been mounted on Archangel confidently moved past the fourth turret, finally reaching the base of the second Radio tower.

       He took a moment both to let the heat sinks finish dissipating the surplus heat from his weapons fire and to carefully aimed one arm mounted laser at each leg of the towers western side, and not wanting to over tax his heat sinks, fired just the two lasers, before quickly stepping to his right, crab walking onto the beaten dirt track, that passed as the road over the volcano between the two different compounds. Slowly with a groan that turned into a shriek the tower leaned and the collapsed downhill onto the pedestal and generator bunker from the laser turret. The many crisscrossing metal braces and beams collapsing under their own weight as bolts sheared and rivets popped.
Archangel keyed his radio and was about to relay the news about the completion of his primary objective when a sudden movement stopped him. he sat motionless and silent, his finger still holding down the transmit button as he silently watcher, the XO and representative Shannon listened to his heavy but steady breathing for five long seconds. Then he remembered he still had the radio keyed and spoke, but with a very different message.

       "I have visual confirmation on enemy battle mech on the field. Alpha lance be advised there is at least one mech in Capellan colors on the field." He glanced down at his sensor display, showing him the single running fusion reactor, a small one.

       A scout mech of some kind he surmised, and then slowly twisted his torso to watch as the small cockpit poking through the trees behind the rise of the nearby foot hill. But when he moved, it stopped. "Contact! he shouted. We have been spotted by active enemy battle mechs! I am engaging. "With that he let the line go dead and sent off another volley of LRMs in the direction of the little mech in the trees. The missiles hadn't even covered half the distance when the mech erupted out of the trees riding atop a brilliant column of blue flames from its jump jets. His hunchback got a partial lock before the mech, now much further uphill fell back down and disappeared amongst the trees.
He sat in his cockpit, silent and sweaty for multiple reasons for a long moment waiting for the little mech to reappear. After nearly two minutes it did. Breaking from the tree line two thirds of the way up the volcano's slope and rocketing up hill on its jump jets. standing silhouetted and defiant on the ridge before disappearing over the other side. He radioed in again. "Be advised, Alpha lance was spotted by an enemy scout, which has disengaged and crossed over the mountain to go raise the alarm. Sensors only got a partial lock, was a Wasp of some kind, I was unable to verify sub model."

       He paused, remembering to breath, and after a couple panting breaths activated transmitter again. "Primary objective complete, radio towers destroyed. Local weapons emplacements neutralized, still engaged with enemy armor. Be advised the enemy is going to know we're coming. We need to move up our time table."

       Javis, feeling the need to give some sort of feedback replied. "Copy that Alpha one, the drop ship is docking with us now. We will load it up and get Sigma lance down to you as fast as we can."

       "Copy that XO. Whatever you do, it won’t be fast enough, that Wasp probably already spread the word, every second we're alone down here is three seconds too long."
"Understood Alpha one, we'll do what we can."

       The line went dead and Archangel turned back to his problems at hand. No sooner had rotated his hunchback around towards the collection of pre fab buildings again were his ears assaulted by screaming.

       "aaaah! aaah! I can’t see, I'm blind, I'm ****** blind, this grub shot me. My eeeeyeeeesssss!"

       Archangel watched the ejection pod carry Dragon Fire up and away. Archangel glanced at his indicators and saw that Babe's swayback was off line too. When and how did that happen? How did his lance get knocked down to half strength? He called to Vortex, "Alpha three, I'm coming, hang in there."

       Her voice came back sweet sounding as ever. "Roger that Alpha one."

       Weary of ambushes and traps among the buildings he stayed in the open and pushes his mech to full speed. The tree like legs and rectangular feet pounding the pebbly sand as he made his way south.

       He came to the end of the complex and rounded the corner to be greeted by a messy scene. The tracks of tanks and footprints of battle mechs everywhere, pulverizing the brittle volcanic rock into black chalky dust. Dragon fire's HBK-4G lay on its right side, the head blown open from the ejection, several big dents in its armor from multiple auto cannon strikes.  A crushed Po MBT not far from the toppled mech. Archangel had to squint his eyes, as Vortex released all six of her torso mounted lasers broad side into the other still operational Po. Which in turn peppered her with its turret mounted machine gun, the auto cannon assumedly reloading. Her lasers made an awful mess of the armor plates, already striped with the deep cuts of multiple laser burns. This time the lasers cut deep enough to detonate the magazine, rupturing the tank like a massive pimple. The turret launched skyward atop a massive column of brilliant white flames as all the unspent propellant from the autocannon and machine gun rounds burned off. The skyward turret descended again, and landed upside down, blackened and charred, the barrel for its autocannon bent sickeningly.

       "What happened to Alpha four?" Archangel prompted.

       "He caught the other one and stomped it. But as he held still to kick it, this one..." she said wiggling an arm of her mech at the second tank. "...landed a direct hit on his cockpit. shattered the glass and everything, I have no idea how bad he's hurt."

       Vortex in the laser boat hunchback turned to face him, the torso of her own mech covered in several small impact craters from the MBT's auto cannons. He was about to tell her that Alpha 2 was down and he didn't know why, when Vortex's mech took an AC 20 to the knee. Hacking the limb clean off at the joint. The momentum from her mostly complete turn carried the mech sideways as it pivoted on its one remaining leg and it fell onto its left side, facing Archangel. "What?!" he shouted over the open radio channel.

       As if to answer his question a squat turret-less tracked vehicle with the massive barrel of an AC 20 rolled out from inside one of the partially crushed buildings and rotated its entire chassis to point the massive gun at the chest of Vortex's fallen hunchback from only twenty-five meters distance.

       "Oh like hell.." he shouted inside his neural helmet and mashed the button to unleash and alpha strike on the vehicle which now had it's back turned to him, apparently unaware he was there.

       His targeting system hadn't locked on properly and the LRM's went wild, flailing about in the air like a breaching school of panicked fish, but his small-bore auto cannon struck home. The thin armor was softened by three of his medium lasers and did nothing to stop the salvo of AC 5 slugs that slammed into the back of the turret-less tank hunter. The vehicle lurched to a stop, only three quarters done with its turn. There was stillness for a long moment. Archangel waited, expecting something, anything, but he was waiting for a thing that never happened. The vehicle didn't move, it didn't fire its massive AC20 again, the hatches didn’t open, no crew scurried out, all was still. He radioed Vortex, still locked inside her cockpit. "You okay in there?" No answer.

       Archangel swore to himself as he slowly rotated his mech in a complete circle, searching for something, anything. When he didn't find whatever it was, he radioed up to the Razor again. "Command this is Alpha one. all objectives completed, Radios disabled, turrets destroyed enemy tanks neutralized. But, we are down to one effective. I repeat Alphas two, three and four are disabled or missing. I am the only standing mech. Can assume enemy reinforcements are inbound to me. Please advise, over."
-Chace A. Randolph

Chace of Spades

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Re: Rabbit's Anvil
« Reply #7 on: 09 December 2021, 11:58:01 »
       Act Three

       "What!?" Spade banged both fists on the table as the news of Alpha lance’s fate came in. "How the... they were just.... damn it!"

       Javis started to speak, intending to word for word repeat his briefing from Archangel on the state of alpha lance. He didn’t, instead he was interrupted, Spade’s brain already thinking and solving.

       It had been ten minutes since Archangel had radioed about his lance's disposition. In that time, he had managed to find Babe, who was un-injured, but her mech was a write off after its magazine detonated. Now on foot, she had recovered Vortex who was unconscious with a concussion after her mech fell over, and She found Dragon Fire after he had ejected. The auto cannon shell had passed thru his cockpit just above his head, and his face and neck were peppered with shattered glass and shrapnel, his eyes were fine, he had been temporarily blinded by the heavy blood flow, and was now incoherent due to blood loss. Hardnosed Babe had them both stabilized and secured on the ground, but Archangel, now short a few LRMs was the only operational mech, guarding what was left of Alpha lance.

       Spade's head shot up from where it rested atop his crossed arms as all the bits of his plan snapped in place.

       "We've got two pilots with only one mech down there." He looked to Javis who only nodded. "We already have the Wolverine loaded into the FWL ship. If there was a Wasp down there, and it spread the word, reinforcements are certainly on the way to the radio station already. That means the game is up, no point in us being subtle about anything anymore."

       He whirled around and looked at the remaining mechs still locked into their bays. pointing to his Blackjack with one hand and the Centurion with the other. "We can load the Centurion and I’ll take the Blackjack and Sumo in the FWL ship planet side, and reinforce Archangel.  Then Babe can pilot the Centurion, and we'll have a full lance at the radio station again. Meanwhile Noodle can drop in the Archer with the rest of Sigma lance, and we’ll land the Razor right on top of their research station and march in every swinging dick we have at the same time."

       There were lots of both surprised and approving looks exchanged between the six mech warriors, most with raised eyebrows. Spade, breathless with excitement turned to Representative Shannon. "You're sure there's just the lance of mechs defending the research station?"

       She spread her hands apologetically, "According to our agent, that’s what's down there. That's all we know."

       Spade looked satisfied. "This gets our infantry on the ground faster too."

       The representative looked stressed. "I don't think that they’ll want to have an experimental drop ship on the ground long enough for your extra pilot on foot to board, fire up a mech and unload again."

       Spade smiled with an evil grin. "They've ever tested the weapons on that ship in a live fire exercise?"

       "No...?" came the hesitant answer

       The grin widened. “Then call this an exercise, they’ll love it."

       She looked grim but said nothing. Spade turned back to Sumo. "Get the Centurion into the drop ship, I’ll ride down with you in the Black jack and once down stairs we can pick up Babe and the three of us can make a full lance around Archangel for whatever reinforcements they send his way." Next he waved over Noodle who hadn't expected to drop on this mission. "I know you don’t like it, its twice the weight you want, but we need you to take my Archer and roll with Rolex and the others in Sigma lance." He then waved over Rolex, Bond and Radio Wave.

       "Gentlemen, you heard the plan, but I want to make sure you're all on the same page with me. The Razor is going to drop directly on the research facility and with Noodle in my place aboard the Archer, Sigma lance will have to duke it out with whatever their heavy lance is that's located there. Meanwhile our boys on the ground will clear the facility building by building to find the data and the agent the hard way. Then everyone and everything will load back up, and they'll hop the Razor over to the communications facility and we can pick up the pieces of Alpha lance before we head to the jump point and board a jump ship post haste, understood?"

   Rolex agreed heartily. "Didn't like none of this pussy footing around anyway boss. Now that they can’t squawk, I see no reason not to roll heavy and hit 'em hard."
Spade nodded curtly. "Okay, get the gear and mechs prepped I'll brief Monty and the troops."

       Spade set off at a dead run across the bay, lunging sideways so as to not slam into one of the mech techs, still busy with and carrying something bulky across the Razor’s mech bay.

       Breathlessly Spade burst onto the Razor's bridge. "Monty, change of plan!"

       The pilot swung his chair around to face the intruder, his dark eyes rolling. "Surprise, surprise.”

       "The cover is blown, Sumo and I are riding down on the FWL drop ship to reinforce Alpha lance, we’ve got wounded pilots and dead mechs down there that need reinforcements, their cover got blown by a Wasp no one knew was on the island."

       "Ouch, okay that sucks and I hope our pilots are okay, but what does that have to do with me?" Monty crossed his arms. Daring Spade to tell him something that he already knew was coming, and hated all the more for it.

       "Because that no longer means we have to be subtle. Sigma lance is already loading up. We need you to land the Razor right in their research base. were gunna do two drops at once. We might not have surprise anymore, but that doesn’t mean we have to give up the initiative, there's always speed and brutality to keep us ahead."
Monty rubbed his temples. "You want me to do what with the Razor? You do realize we only have the one drop ship, right? And it’s not like we can go buy another one. We do have some money, and maybe we could afford a shiny new mech, fresh from the factory with fancy new pulse lasers and double heat sinks. But we can’t go buy another drop ship. Those are exponentially different costs. Especially if we are all dead on this one…"

       Spade wasn’t angry, he didn’t raise his voice, or harden his tone, he calmly explained to his pilot. “We have two mech warriors down there, hurt who knows how badly, and three mechs out of action.  We might lose them if we don’t get down there and help them. We need to put more mechs on the ground. This is the bestest, fastest way to do that. The FWL ship is weight limited to 200 tons. They can’t haul enough firepower down there, we can’t be in two places at once with one drop ship. I see no other way."

       "I don't like it, yes it's terrible our people got hurt, but we don’t need to endanger everyone in the entire company to increase the likelihood that they can be saved..."
Now he was growing incredulous and Spade interrupted his pilot. "Increase the likely hood they can be saved?! These are lives man, our people, our employees. What is everyone else going to think, if we don't do everything, we can to get to them, to help them? without our employees there is no us. This is not up to debate.
I am ordering you. If you won’t, I will find someone who will. I bet the FWL can lend us a pilot off their ship. They’ll probably have multiple crack crews on board since its such a fancy secret experimental ship."

       The two stared hotly at each other for a time. Long enough that Spade started mentally counting down, before removing the pilot by force. But with a growl of disgust, Monty threw up his hands, turned and begam preparations for descent. Spade had other stuff to do, and despite knowing that this confrontation would come back again to be a problem later, he didn't care, it got the job done now. He went off hastily to speak to the infantry.

        Another two decks down the merc commander burst through the door into the PBI locker room. He quickly found Jamsheed, easily identified by his massive bushy unkempt beard. "Where is the LT?” he prompted. His voice ringing firmly from the  ship’s bulkheads, the room full of shock troopers having gone quiet as Spade entered.
Jamsheed looked over his shoulder to the back of the barracks at the head. His thick voice felt even more accented after being filtered through his mustache. "Probably taking a shit boss."

       Spade shook his head, for what felt like the millionth time this week. "Never around when I need him. remind me to hire decent people next time we land on a friendly world."

       Several of the other troopers made a ruckus at the dig on the platoon leader. With a collective "ooooooh shiiiit" going up. Someone threw a very worn looking boot that thumped solidly against the bathroom door, earning a muffled string of swear words in response. The company commander called up another of his men. "Wherever did Rabbit get to?"

       The tall solemn figure rose near the back of the room. "You remember that search and secure we talked about in the situation room?"

       A silent nod was the response. "Good, it’s that time then." Everyone else in the platoon looked to their gloomy silent oddball.

       Speaking louder to be heard by the half-assembled grunts. "Pooch has shat the bed and the mission has gone south. Alpha lance blew their cover and took serious damage.  Sumo and I are dropping with the extra mechs to reinforce Alpha lance in their A.O. so they don’t get over run. Meanwhile, Monty is going to land the Razor right in the middle of the research complex and Sigma lance is gunna roll hard and kick ass. You boys get to help. Finish getting booted and suited for a combat drop to commence as soon as the FWL dropship detaches with Sumo and I onboard."

       Spade had to stop speaking as a chorus of hollering, enthusiastic swearing and chest thumping filled the room.

       "Jamsheed, Rabbit, You two have seen the map. It’s a Search and secure operation for the research data and the FWL agent on the ground. Make sure you and your guys are loaded for building sweeping.

       Keep weapons tight, and collateral damage to a minimum. We’re professionals, and were here for the agent and the data, not to massacre noncombatants. Stray rounds will cost you your job and get you left on this island.  We have a reputation to uphold, The Anvil has spent years building that reputation, don’t let an itchy trigger finger ruin that rep in as many seconds.

       That being said, don’t be pussies, don’t take shit. People shoot at you, kill the hell out of them. Blow holes in walls to go around ambushes, whatever you have to do. I value your lives more than theirs. Copacetic?"

       This statement about discipline and reputation was normal and accepted by everyone in Occam's Anvil as standard. The platoon of men thundered in excitement over the announcement. They got to see real action instead of guard duty and playing at cops and robbers.

       The Lieutenant slid out of the bathroom still buttoning up his pants. "Whaat the hell is going on?" He drawled out the side of his mouth, which was how he always talked out of his crooked smile.

       Spade, looked between Jamsheed and Rabbit and back to the Lieutenant, then spoke to Jamsheed, "Marshall your troops, and prepare to drop." Rabbit nodded, Jamsheed saluted, Spade left and went back to the mech service bay.

   With the empty Centurion, Sumo in the battered old Wolverine and Spade in his personal Blackjack the FWL ship decoupled from the Razor and fell into Sax's atmosphere. It wasn’t until they had completed the descent and were on approach in the lower atmosphere that Spade realized Archangel wasn't privy to the plan.
He hurriedly radioed the plucky young pilot from the cockpit of his Blackjack. "Alpha one, come in."

       "I got my ears on, what's going on, been awfully quiet for a while."

        "We made a new plan. Sumo and I are landing at your DZ with an extra set of legs for Babe. We’re making a new Alpha lance and were going to fend off whatever their reinforcements happen to be that the Wasp called in."

       "Copy that. I was hoping someone was coming."

       "How are the other's doing?"

       "Same."

       "Okay, well put Babe in your rumble seat and drag her up here so she can walk this Centurion out of the drop ship. "

        "Will do"

       "Don’t make us wait."

       Sumo called in after the air went dead. "I know Archangel is a little guy and Babe isn’t a big woman, but he's been stewing in that cockpit for a couple hours now, hasn’t he? that's not a ride Babe's going to enjoy."

       "Does Babe enjoy anything?"

       "That is a fair question." Sumo answered with a deep chuckle from his belly.

       Fifteen minutes later the little dropship had set back down on the beach and Sumo and Spade had already walked their mechs out of the bay. The mercenary’s commander was about to key his microphone and radio Archangel when the Hunchback came out of the gully at a clumsy run, leaning forward to keep its balance as it smashed through trees and scrub like some giant metal crazed gorilla.

       Archangel slowed his machine and got it upright again. As Babe disembarked, she too was in a panicked hurry. Archangel radioed. "Tangos are here, down time is over."
Babe was sprinting like a madwoman across the beach. Spade Radioed to Archangle while she clambered into the Centurion. "What are we looking at Alpha one?"

       “That patrol of medium tanks came back. four Striker tanks, rolled down the road over the mountain. But they weren’t alone, that Wasp came back, and it brought a Warhammer with it."

       "Well shit, looks like we're outweighed here boss."

        Spade nodded inside his neural helmet, "Yeah, but there’s one of him and four of us. The hard part will be dealing with the mechs and the Strikers at the same time. How much time do we have?"

         As if on que ten LRM'S arced over the ridge and spread out over the beach one hitting the back of the Hunchback. Spade was shouting over the radio before the dust had settled, pushing his old Blackjack forward. "Alpha one, with me, let's go get the Warhammer. Sumo you got good jump jets on that Wolverine, use them and keep those strikers busy until Babe can help you. Don’t. get. shot."

       The mercenaries split, Sumo jumping his Wolverine, the plumes of the leg mounted jump jets shooting their blue exhaust from the mechs ankles, changing direction as Sumo deftly rotated his mech in midair, altering his trajectory like he was running with Hermes’s winged shoes. The brilliant blue light of his large laser made the air reek of ozone as it lanced out into the tree line in the general direction where the LRM's came from. The Hunchback and the Blackjack slouched off going the opposite way down the beach slipping into the tree line.

       Once back among the trees they slowed, picking their way carefully, still not having seen their enemy. Another salvo of LRM'S arced through the sky as Sumo popped up over the horizon ridding a column of fire again. The large laser stabbing out into the trees again.

        "Wasp ten O'clock" Archangel called. Spade instinctively turned to face the indicated direction.  The gray and green paint scheme the Capellan scout was painted with made it hard to pick out between the gloomy sky and the mostly living trees, and his eyes had to work a couple of seconds to find it.

        Spade wondered if he could hit it from here. The twin AC2's on his BJ-1 didn't pack much wallop, but they had reach enough to surprise unwary pilots. He decided against trying, ammo cost money. Instead, he said “Ignore him if we can, he's only got one laser, he can't do anything now. It’s the Warhammer we have to look out for."
He let the targeting computer get a lock, a Wasp-3A. The expected medium laser was actually a more powerful but shorter ranged medium pulse laser, Spade was making a mental note to keep the Wasp at arm’s length if they did engage when Archangel shouted in the radio "About face." immediately followed by the b,b,boom of his AC5's three round burst.

       Spade turned as fast as the Blackjack could, quickly spotting the Warhammer in the middle distance the wide shoulders, protruding SRM6 and stylistic PPC laden forearms that were recognizable to anyone in the galaxy. A seventy-ton Warhammer.

        The computer told him it was a Warhammer-6R carrying weapons load out of, 2ppcs, 2 medium lasers, 2 small lasers, 2 machine guns and the trademark SRM6.  Spade set his sights on it and fired both of his autocannons.

         Archangel caught the first salvo as two PPC blasts slammed into his mech. The impact physically staggering the machine. Spade side stepped to his right, putting more space between him and his lance mate, getting out of the ambush, off the X as he thought of it. spreading the Warhammer’s targets farther apart.

        Babe's thick and sullen voice slid into his skull in between bursts of autocannon fire as the two medium mechs maneuvered on the heavy mech. "Ready"

       Spade was fighting the first signs of panic, on an impromptu deployment to save his people stuck between a bouncy light mech with a pulse laser and a Warhammer. He desperately wanted to tell her to come help, to chase off the Wasp and make his life that much easier, but he knew he shouldn't. His own ethos was, that no one should fight alone, and Sumo, with four strikers on his plate was probably even more desperate for help. He ordered her to his aid. "Alpha two, go reinforce Beta two. Don’t let those crawlers swarm him under."

       "Copy"

       More autocannon fire. This time Spade hit his own jump jets as the three mechs traded fire. Another Salvo of PPC's hitting the Hunchback.  He knew the Warhammer only had so many heat sinks and would get hot after sustained fire. He angled his jets to close the distance, His plan was to force the enemy to engage both at long and short ranges, and run too hot. He landed hard, coming off his jump jets and had to recover before firing another set of bursts from his AC2s. Some of Archangel's LRM’S rushed past him and peppered the Warhammer.

       He wanted to get closer and use his four trusty medium lasers too, he knew the AC2's were more an annoyance or distraction then a threat.

       As the smoke cleared around the Warhammer after the LRM hits, it started moving. Side stepping as Spade drew nearer. Soon they were one hundred meters apart, circling each other. Spade didn’t want to give him too much time to vent heat, and fired his four medium lasers, cutting hot little red lines of melted armor across the heavy mech's chest before triggering his jump jets again.

       He sailed upward, and the Warhammer, Spade assumed fearing a DFA attack back battled quickly. Returning fire with its two medium lasers, the SRM rack and for good measure the machine guns. Spade felt the impacts of the SRMs and the ping and rattle of the many small bullets against his Blackjack's legs while airborne.
He landed solidly at the Warhammer's ten o'clock, still one hundred meters apart, both mechs having moved. He fired his four lasers again. Groaning as his own temperature indicators jumped too high. In his hopes to make the Warhammer overheat, he was getting too hot himself. The heat in his cockpit rising sharply as the heatsinks struggled to dissipate the heat from all four of his lasers.

       The Warhammer shot back with all four of its lasers both small and medium, and the machine guns. Spade watched his indicators flash. He didn't have enough armor to keep up an exchange like this with a mech two thirds heavier than his. He back pedaled to put more space between himself and the heavy mech, hoping both to buy time for Archangel to hit the Warhammer, and get out of range of the heavier mechs secondary weapons. He fired just his arm mounted weapons, two lasers and the auto cannons as the space opened back up. In the slug fest, he had forgotten about the SRM launcher, and not only did the Warhammer return fire with its two medium lasers, but all six of its SRM missiles scored hits across his mechs chest, and shoulders. He swore again as his heat scale fell, but not as far as he wanted, still running hot he twisted at the hips, keeping his weapons pointed at the heavier mech as he walked clockwise around his enemy.

        They repeated the exchange, his arm mounted weapons seemingly in effective against the bigger mech. As he took hits himself lasers and SRMs melting and blasting away what was left of his protection. Where the hell was Archangel and why wasn't he shooting the heavier mech?

        The Warhammer stepped backwards, putting even more space between them.

         Enough space to render his, lasers useless. The small caliber high velocity slugs from his AC 2s dinged, made sparks and ricocheted off the seemingly invincible Warhammer.

       He took a PPC blast to the knee. The indicators went from red to black as his screens flicked and his radio buzzed with static from the discharge of the weapon. As the energy dissipated his mech started to lean to the left, his gyro fighting to keep him upright but failing. He tried to brace the machine to keep it upright, but left leg didn’t respond normally, and slowly he continued to lean. He was going to fall and he couldn't stop it.  Before he went all the way over another brace of SRMS detonated against the Blackjack. One of them splashing against the Blackjack's shoulder right next to the cockpit, shattering the glass. He swore as he felt the sting of shrapnel peppering his left arm and leg.  He swung the mechs right arm and fired the autocannon on that side one last time, though he had no idea if the shot made contact.

        The mech thumped down hard on its left side, slamming Spade against the restraints inside the cockpit. making his vision swim as his arm and leg flared with even more pain. He could feel the shards of glass beneath his skin cutting into his muscle.

       Spade sucked the hot air from inside his cockpit through his teeth as he mentally fought back the pain, and braced for the killing blow.

       It didn't come. He took another breath, a deeper one that only made him hurt more as he learned there was glass shards in his rib cage too. With a growl both of effort and pain he fought the controls and rolled the mech onto its side.  Sumo's voice came over the radio, seeming distant and aquatic. "Spade's down too, Babe, hit that hammer."

       The spider webbed glass of the Blackjack's cockpit lit up, glowing reflectively as all the shards still trapped in the frame bloomed a brilliant blue, almost white, as someone close by fired a large laser.

       Swinging the mechs stub arms, using the long thin autocannon barrels like crutches, he bent the mech at the waist and pushed the Blackjack into a sitting position. The change in angle nocking some of the glass loose, the shards fell away and the cold sea breeze blew in through the hole. Displacing some of the heated air inside the cockpit, causing Spade to shiver despite the pain. The canopy turned green as medium lasers criss-crossed in front of him. Through the hole in the glass Spade was assaulted by the unfiltered thunder as the Warhammer somewhere outside fired more SRMs.

       After a half dozen explosions Sumo's voice screamed incoherently over the radio again.  Babe called out to him.  "Get out of dere, ejeckt."

       Spade swore and spat blood, he had to get back into this fight, he still had ammo and lasers. He pulled the pistol from his right hip with his good arm and bashed at the rest of broken glass with the butt of the slug thrower, knocking it away so he could see.

       As the gravel and shrub strewn island came back into view, he holstered the pistol again and martialed himself. He could get this mech back on its feet, he might feel the pain, but the machine didn't and Babe was out there fighting the Warhammer alone it seemed.

       He could hear the thunder of the dueling metal titans outside as he fought to grip his controls with bloody hands. He bucked the mechs hips, kicked its feet and vented the jump jets at 20% power to get his own machine back on its feet, the jolt making him shout in pain as the shattered glass continued to grind at him.

       Spade looked at the battle field with a new respect as he no longer had the protective armor or the reinforced bullet proof glass to protect him like he should. Nothing but the cold sea air separated him from the terrors of mechanized combat. He was greeted by the smoking husk of the Wolverine, its chest blasted open from one-to-many missile strikes, having weathered the fire of four Strikers to be knocked out of action by this Warhammer. Its cockpit and asymmetric antennas missing from where Sumo had ejected from the old machine. It had been battered worse in combat before, they could rebuild it again.

       There was an awful grinding, squealing metal wrenching sound and clumsily Spade turned his hobbled mech to his right, to witness the Warhammer and Centurion locked in hand-to-hand combat.

       The Warhammer's left arm swung down, the long-reinforced barrel of its PPC slamming into the Centurion's arm with such force that it rent it off, tearing the elbow from its joint and dropping the Centurion's primary weapon, a sturdy large laser to the ground.

       But the clawed fist of the Centurion's left hand was already drawn back, and Babe leaned her machine forward into the blow. Driving the fist with a powerful crunch into the Warhammer's gut. For a second neither mech moved, and Spade wondered if they had gotten stuck together like the tangled antlers of fighting bucks, but suddenly there was an eruption of flame as the Capellan MechWarrior rocketed out the top of the Warhammer's head.

       Babe, using the stub of her right arm braced against the larger mech's chest and rent her left arm free as the seventy-ton mech stiffly toppled backwards. Leaving the one-armed Centurion standing over the body, the savage looking clawed fist of it's left arm still balled with malice. The massive Capellan machine toppling backwards and crunching the rocks beneath it’s back with one of the loudest noises Spade have ever heard.

       Spade struggled through the pain to keep his hobbled mech upright and rotate back go his left, looking past the Wolverine to where the Hunchback lay.  A black, slag rimmed hole melted into the torso where the cockpit should have been.

       A PPC hit to the head had killed Archangel before he had a chance to eject. No wonder the angsty man hadn't come to his aid. He was dead, and Spade realized he had been standing against the Warhammer alone until the others had come to his aid.

       At first, he was shocked he was alive at all, and then he was angry that Archangel wasn't. It had been nearly three years since the previous mercenaries had been disbanded due to attrition leading to the creation of Occam's Anvil. In that time, no mech warrior had died under Spade's command, and Archangel was one of the brightest and most promising people he had ever met, a bright light, a beacon of hope in the dark desperate times of reconstruction after the Blakeist Jihad.

       Babe's Centurion fired a salvo from it's ten tube LRM launcher and this quickly, worriedly, pulled the mercenary commander from his black thoughts, as neither of the still standing medium mechs were in the condition to get in another fight.

       Spade's teetering mech turned back to the right again as Babe fired a second salvo of LRM'S. Off in the distance the Silhouette of the Wasp bounded over a ridge atop the exhaust from its jump jets, bouncing out of range, the missiles falling short.

       Never before in his life had Spade loathed someone so entirely as he did the pilot of that Wasp in that clenched jaw, pain riddled moment. Speaking through gritted teeth, Spade asked the other still standing mech warrior. "Alpha two, are you hit?"

       "I'm Goodd." she replied coolly.

       "Well, I think I'm still bleeding, I've got to shut down and see if I can do something about that."

       "Copy."
-Chace A. Randolph

Chace of Spades

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Re: Rabbit's Anvil
« Reply #8 on: 15 December 2021, 14:40:01 »
                Act Four

       Rabbit checked his kit one last time, patting down his chest rig, with body armor, flash bang grenades and magazines for the sub-machine he had strapped down over top of that. After that he checked the pistol holstered on his hip, and the other pouches and pockets on his belt. He and the rest of the platoon were all kitted up and ready for action. Real action, not a hike in the woods looking for rebels, or pretending to be rebels like they had been doing for the past eight months on Calseraigne. This was the falling from space over a hostile planet behind enemy lines to kick in doors and make new widows kind of action that Rabbit had seen too many times before, and now realized, hadn't seen recently enough.

       The seat he was strapped into was vibrating violently as the Razor shook atop the column of exhaust that decelerated it as gravity struggled its hardest to pull the old union class ship down into Sax's endless oceans.

       Perhaps seat was too strong of a word for what he was sitting on. What he sat on was a "jump seat" which was little more than some coarse mesh netting stretched across a hoop of aluminum tube that was hinged to the wall of the drop ship, and then had harnesses for each ‘jump seats’ occupant to stay attached to that particular position along the wall.

       The plan was rough and informal, they had to move fast and hit hard, use speed and violence to carry the day, because Alpha lance blew their cover on an earlier drop, and then got themselves shot up so bad another lance had to drop just to rescue them. Rabbit shook his head at the thought, battles might be won by those mech jocks, the over blown diva's that expected twice the pay they deserved, but wars were won be the infantry, by men on the ground with boots and blood. Never send a machine to do a man's job, started as a disparaging remark against the mech warriors, their machines and their preferential treatment, but someone had heard Rabbit say it once, and it had since grown into something akin to the platoon's mantra.

       Now, their rough plan was to break into four-man fire teams and sweep and clear every room of every building until they were able to physically and forcibly secure the FWL agent that had provided the information to orchestrate this operation and whatever research or experiment data or technology that they were here to steal, they didn't know what it was, no one would tell them, but they were told they would know when the found it.

       After the Razor set down, they were supposed to wait eighty seconds before deploying, giving the mechs time to deploy and clear the area of big targets before the infantry put boots on the ground and potentially got underfoot of the mechs. Which Rabbit thought to himself, wouldn't be a problem if they didn’t send machines to do a man's job.     

       Rabbit already new that eighty seconds was going to feel like eighty years while the drop ship and battle mechs were under fire. Rabbit didn't like not knowing what he was getting into, he would have wanted to get the floor plans and internal layout of the buildings before sending men into them. Had he been in charge of the platoon, he would have refused the order as reckless and needlessly endangering the lives of his men, at which point he would have been relieved of command and found himself unemployed. That's part of why he had turned down pay raises and promotions when offered over the years. They wouldn't like the way he operates, and he didn't like his other employment prospects as a mercenary grunt. Here he at least got to use some of the skills he had learned during his harrowing time of service in the Fed-Com civil war, years prior. He glanced to some of the other members of the platoon. They were but teenagers playing soldier in Rabbit's opinion. He was a hardened professional, who through cunning and luck had survived years of hard combat on multiple worlds before some of these FNGs had held a gun. he wasn't old in the grand scheme of things, but he felt old, his soul was old. He'd seen too many people maimed and killed in the chaos of combat. He no longer believed in coincidence, or accident, or civilians in a combat zone. Those nice things had been beaten out of him over the years. Turning him into the quiet, reserved and all too easily underestimated veteran he was now.

        He had even excused himself from interviews for new platoon members. Too many of them were soft, sensitive boys who still believed in the rules of warfare and fighting fair. People get killed in gun fights. If you get in a gunfight, you've already lost. To win, to survive, you can't be a soldier, you must be a murderer. You must strike first, without warning, without hesitation or mercy. Climbing in through the window and cutting your enemies’ throats in their sleep. Thus, avoiding the gun fight all together and staying alive yourself. Rabbit wanted to recruit the real warriors, the hardened men from the desperate lives of piracy, and prison. Those who didn't have the top marks in their class, but instead came from the bottom of the stack, who struggled, suffered, lied, cheated and stole their way to where they were. Those people with the iron bellies and hardened resolve to succeed no matter what were the survivors, the real warriors.

       The violence and malevolence contained inside the one man was so great, that had the others been able to comprehend the full scope of it, he doubted that they would trust him by their sides. Didn’t matter to him, he didn't trust them, you had to have faith in someone in order for them to betray you.

       He still went by the name, Rabbit, and most people assumed that was because he was so quiet, and he was fine with that, in truth, he was a caged and slumbering hound who had been beaten and left to starve and now existed only so that the masters may open the cage and release the savage against their foes. Like orbital bombardment, it was one hundred percent accurate if you measured your target zone in continents, not buildings or people. Rabbit was content with that too.

       He hadn't spent much of his earnings. Sometime he figured he would retire a reasonably wealthy man. He just hadn't found the right time or place to do that. How do men like him retire anyway? What would he do with himself if not in the pursuit of taking from others? The Razor landed with a jolt that felt like it was trying to push Rabbit's spine out his sphincter.

       They were down, and now their eighty second pre-deployment count down began. Rabbit looked to the other men a second time. On paper, their qualifications showed them all to be hardened soldiers, serious shock troops. But looking at their faces, Rabbit didn’t see it, they were green and scared. Rabbit was disappointed, disgusted to be fighting side by side with these men. Only Jamsheed had earned his respect and they exchanged nods from across the ready room. Seventy-three seconds to go.
The external doors slammed open and the other mechs poured out. The Highlander, the Black Knight, the Orion, and the Archer. 69 seconds to go.  Muffled explosions and auto cannon fire outside ensued. 65 seconds. Rabbit suddenly didn't want to go out there. Not with these rookies he didn't trust them, when he called them PBI, it was a derogatory statement. Rabbit decided he'd had enough, and then and there told himself he was retiring as soon as they got back to FWL controlled territory. Shell shock, combat fatigue, PTSD, whatever word they used to identify combat induced mental trauma be damned, he'd rather go back to being an aerospace tech then riding with these green back yahoos into combat. Fifty-seven seconds.

       The lieutenant unbuckled from his seat and stood up, already giving orders to prep for unloading. Rabbit stayed seated, glancing at the over age, over weight man in disgust. How he had gotten his job, and why he still held it was beyond Rabbit's comprehension. He busied himself with checking his own gear, still tightly strapped into his jump seat.  He warped a hand around the pistol grip of his SMG, making sure the safety was on with his thumb as he did so. He used his other hand to give a final twist on the weapons suppressor to make sure it was still tight. He switched on his battery powered optic, he racked the bolt to chamber a round from the magazine. Forty-two seconds left and the Lieutenant was trying to give some sort of speech to rally the platoon. Something about getting paid to be better soldiers then the Capellans outside.

       Which made Rabbit think about something else he wanted more information about, the people they were about to be fighting. They were told there were armed security guards but not actual soldiers. He assumed they had pistols and light body armor to impress the office people enough that they didn't steal parts or information about whatever they were working on. But Rabbit also knew you never assumed anything about the enemy, twenty-five seconds to go.

       He thought about that again, they were on an island, it’s not like the onsite team could go anywhere, what was the point of having armed security forces on site at all? That thought put another idea in his head. They were on an island. If Rabbit had a submarine and a handful of good men, men like himself, and a week or two to watch the goings on of the island, he figured they could sneak ashore, steal the data, abduct the agent and slip back into the water without anyone knowing they were ever there. Instead, they had a dozen battle mechs, blown-up tanks and people getting hurt on both sides. Never send a machine to do a man's job.

       The door opened and in a great clatter of boots, gear and useless shouting the men made their exit. Rabbit clicked off the latch for his harness finally, slipped from his seat and still wasn't last out the door. "Amateurs" he muttered beneath the shouts, chest thumping and false bravado of the other men.

       The platoon exited the Razor, the men's legs carrying them as fast as they could over the open ground, scorched black from the union's exhaust. The six four-man fire teams breaking apart, headed for their respective target buildings.

       As they ran, gear clattering and bouncing with their strides, Rabbit got a glimpse of the battle between Sigma lance, and the lance of mechs defending the facility. Sigma lance held a slight weight advantage with an assault mech and three heavy mechs, but the Capellan lance had two assault mechs, a heavy and a medium. When fire power and maneuverability were considered, the tables were pretty even.

       A towering Stalker-3H assault mech with a Vindicator-3L supporting it had engaged Sigma lance at close range. The ground shaking with the many footsteps of the eight massive war machines. Sitting on the other side of the complex pumping LRM'S through the air from outside the boxing ring was the distinct hooded cockpit of a Cyclops-10Q and the rotary LRM launcher of a Thunderbolt-5D. Sigma lance was going to have their work cut out for them. Hopefully they kept the enemy mechs busy enough that they didn't notice the platoon of infantry running from building to building. And if not, hopefully the Capellan mechs weren't willing to fire on their own buildings because of whatever sensitive breakthrough had been achieved here. Even if those buildings were occupied by hostile mercenaries. Rabbit ran on under a sky darkened by the swirling exhaust of dozens or LRM'S.

       His heart was pounding and he was sweating freely in the humid sea air by the time he reached his target building, the rest of his fire team already there.
They looked at him, with various expressions of mild disappointment, disgust or amusement as he slammed his shoulder into the concrete wall at the back of the stack. Rabbit didn't care though, he didn't need to impress these guys, he didn't need their approval, so long as they all did their jobs.

       The first man in line produced a soda can sized flash bang grenade from one of the many pouches on his vest. The second man on line stepped out, and moved to stand in front of the door, with his back to it.

       The man with the grenade, let his SMG hang from its sling, and pulled the pin with his other hand, and nodded to the second man, still with his back to the door. He leaned forward and mule kicked the door. His boot hitting just next to the door's knob and breaking the mechanism. The kicker stepped aside, moving to the far side of the door as the first man in the stack pitched the grenade in around the door frame. He had just enough time to get his hands back on his sub machine gun and lock the stock into his shoulder before with a brilliant flash and an ear-splitting bang. The grenade went off, blowing papers and thin white smoke out the open doorway. The first man in line rushed in immediately afterwards, followed by the third man, and Rabbit. Leaving the second man, who had been the door kicker to enter the building last.

       The men rushing into the room were not blinded by the flash, or deafened by the bang, as their full head combat helmets polarized their visors and provided noise cancelling ear protection. The interior was dark, the lights closest to the door heaving been blown out by the shock wave from the grenade. A whisp of smoke curling up from the grenades husk, in the center of a small blackened circle on the floor.

       The room was twelve meters wide and five meters deep, the door placed at the center of the long wall. A large air compressor sat against the far wall with a metal folding table covered in small boxes and paperwork between the door and the air compressor. Slowly standing from an over turned chair was a thin man who appeared to be in his late fifties. He shakily got to his feet, and was dressed in khaki pants and a long white lab coat.

       He was unarmed and still very confused and disoriented by the grenade. The second man in the stack from in front of Rabbit had the man pinned to the ground and a set of zipper cuffs around his wrists before he had recovered. Rabbit and the grenade throwing fire team leader had their weapons trained on the other door, the kicker still with eyes on the entrance.

       The other door swung open, and another man stepped into the room shouting something in a language Rabbit didn't recognize. This man was part of the security team, and was probably coming to investigate what the noise was. But Rabbit didn't give anyone time to sort any of that out. He saw the man had one hand on a pistol holstered on his hip and he fired. His weapon set to semi-automatic, he put two slow, heavy, fat, sub sonic rounds through the man’s sternum just above the collar of the guard's light armor vest. He crumpled backward. The sub sonic rounds and large suppressor were so effective the chikchack, chickchack of the gun operating was louder than the shots. Instantly, Rabbit was shouting to the rest of the fire team, "Go,Go,Go!" they had to advance and secure that room before anyone who might be on the other side of the second door, and who may or may not be armed had time to react.

       The fire team leader, led them in, the third man with the zipper cuffs followed him and Rabbit went after them. Firing a third round into the forehead of the still gurgling guard as he passed.

       There was a second guard in the room beyond, who had managed to stand up from the desk he was seated at and draw his pistol, but the fire team leader fired a burst on full auto hammering the guards body armor with five heavy hitting rounds before the sixth and seventh rounds found a way through the pulverized fabric into the tenderized flesh.

       They moved in deeper and took ownership of that room too, Rabbit spending his fourth bullet on the face of the second convulsing guard as the door kicker passed the screaming man in zipper cuffs on the floor and took up guard in the second doorway.

       The room beyond was stacked with various parts and machinery for the buildings climate control system, as well as a sump pump in case of flooding.
The next room beyond that was what they were looking for, they had hit the mother load. The room was stacked four meters from floor to ceiling, fifteen meters wide and twenty-five meters long with humming computers, and all the blinking little lights and massive air ducts to cool all the machinery.

      The fire team leader was excited. “This could be what we're looking for, I need to radio the lieutenant.” Rabbit stayed his hand as he reached for the handset clipped to his shoulder. "First we need to finish securing the building. "

       The fire team leader was silent and for a moment let a little bit of contempt slide onto his face, but Rabbit was indisputably right, and instead the FTL made a hand gesture to advance.

       With a renewed sense of purpose, the four black clad shock toppers set off across the server room, crouched low, weapons up, elbows tucked in tight as their soft sole boots padded across the bare concrete floor.

       There were two doors on the far end of the room. As the fire team leader glanced from one to the other debating on which to start with, Rabbit, seeing no reason for one to be selected over another, stacked up on the right-hand door and waited expectantly for the others to fall in behind him?

       The other three took too long, but they did join him. Leaving him as first man in the stack. He readied one of his flash bang grenades. As someone stepped out of line behind him to come kick the door, the second door, three meters further down the wall opened, and two more security guards came out, fast and hard.

       These guys were more prepared, which now nearly ten minutes later after Rabbit and the rest of the fire team entered through the back door, they had probably heard the flashbang and had armed themselves with extra gear. They wore flak jackets over their light weight fabric ballistic vests, double layering the protection on their chests and adding it to the arms. As well as being capped with simple, cheap combat helmets, but helmets none the less. Their pistols were still holstered on their hips, but now they came out with shotguns in hand.

       Rabbit's own hands were busy with the flashbang and he didn’t have his weapon ready. He threw the grenade. He hadn’t pulled the pin yet, so he wasn’t worried about intentionally blinding or deafen all six men in the room. But the two security guards trying to rise to the occasion didn't know that, and the first froze in abject terror seeing a hand grenade flying at his face in a surprise game of hot potato.  The second guard bumped into the first he had stopped so short and Rabbit's hands dropped down to his chest and took hold of his sub-machine gun again. By the time the still deactivated grenade struck the guard in the abdomen, Rabbit was already bringing his weapon back up.
The flashbang struck the guard who was frantically scrabbling trying to catch it as Rabbit got his gun level, having switched the fire selector already as he was raising the weapon, he didn’t even bother aiming at the range of three meters.

       He was an abhorrent detractor of the spray and pray method, he was not a man of faith, and had seen to many violent needless deaths to have any trust in whatever higher powers may or may not exist. But the proximity and urgency called for such sloppy methods, had he been given time he would been disappointed he had to resort to such methods in front of the other troopers. But he held the trigger down and fed the whole magazine to the security guards.

       After several rounds the first man started to buckle and, aiming by impacts, he adjusted his fire over the shoulder of the first man, and into the second. one round shattering the plastic stock of his combat shotgun.

       Rabbit's SMG went click as the magazine went dry and the bolt locked open. He spread his hands letting the weapon free fall on its sling, drawing the unsuppressed pistol from his holster. He had to resist the urge to side step with the motion as he did in dry fire and training, just in case one of the overeager greenbacks behind him decided to try and help, he didn’t want to inadvertently step into their line of fire.

       He rolled the pistol out in a two-handed grip as his fingers meshed and thumbs fell on top of each other along the side of the weapons frame. The rapid chatter of the full auto submachinegun bolt and tinkling ejected brass cases still echoed in the massive computer room as he leveled the pistol at the doorway, the two guards having already collapsed with multiple gunshot wounds to their necks and faces. The muzzle climb under the recoil of continues fire had made it easy for Rabbit to walk his rounds up their ballistic vests into the soft unarmored necks and bony skulls of the poor saps. Rabbit didn't bother with additional shots to the head as he led the fire team into the room over their bodies.

   Rabbit pushed in, pistol ready, years of experience pushed to the front taking control of his body, his mind didn’t have to think anymore as the muscle memory swept over him.  The room was full of lockers like you'd find at a gym. The upright rows of cold gray sheet metal. two lockers for each man, one to store all their personal stuff in, and the other for their combat rig.  Rabbit with the fire team still behind him, row by row swept the room. Moving quickly with stiff purpose, all his anger, disappointment and frustration pushed to the front, meshing with his skills honing them to a dangerous precision guided instrument of pure destruction, daring there to be someone else in the room, someone unlucky and unfortunate enough to find this man who had all but forgotten his home, his name, maybe even his humanity.

       But there wasn't, there were no further occupants in the room and he holstered his pistol, pulled the empty magazine from his sub-machine gun, stuffed it into his dump pouch and jammed a new magazine in, hitting the bolt release with a satisfying clack to make the weapon ready again.

       Rabbit was struck by an idea and counted the lockers. There were thirty-six of them. If they were all occupies, that meant it was safe to assume there were thirty-six guards. The platoon was out numbered. Rabbit's fire team had eliminated four already, who knew what the other fire teams were dealing with. They exited the locker room and stacked up on the other door again as Rabbit had originally chosen. He retrieved his previously thrown flashbang and readied it again.

       The other three men in the fire team had noticed Rabbit's counting, and understood the implications of the quantity of lockers, exchanging grim looks through their opaque faceplates.

       All four of them readied themselves as another round of nods were exchanged, another door was kicked and another flashbang was pitched. The shockwave rattled the wall against Rabbit’s shoulder as for a fraction of a second, the sun burned on the other side of it. The lens on his helmet polarized so he never saw it. As soon as the opacity returned, he was moving, gun at the low ready, rolling around the door frame into the room beyond.

       Inside were several long tables full of equipment and terminals. Rabbit and the other soldiers filed in quickly, fanning out through the room, checking each row of tables.
There were a dozen personnel, but none of them were part of the security team or were otherwise armed.  The four men of the fire team pooled their zipper cuffs and restrained all of them.

       The non-combat personnel were still shocked after the shooting and use of flashbang grenades, but Rabbit didn't care, he crossed the room, not making eye contact with any of them, and threw open the door on the other side of the room.

       They had now made it from one end of the building to the other, and Rabbit stood on a dusty wind-swept unpaved road. He didn’t see anyone or anything, but the rumble and stomp of brawling battle mechs in the distance was unmistakable.

       Still standing in the open doorway Rabbit used the clearer signal to radio the rest of the platoon.

        "This is Charlie two-two, I think we found what we were looking for, we're securing our position Once you find the package bring it to building three and we'll call it a day."
He waited for a reply, holding the door open against the wind with his shoulder, as he got both hands around his SMG and scanned up and down the road.

       After a hand full of seconds Sargent Jamsheed replied on the radio. "Copy that, we've found the package but stirred the Hornets’ nest. We need all units to fall back to building five, security forces have converged on us."

       Rabbit slunk back inside, keeping the door open with his foot, ensuring integrity of the radio signal, looking to his fire team leader as they all listened to the other team leaders acknowledge the command to converge on building five.

       The team leader shrugged. "Well, whatever is on those computers certainly isn't going to move anywhere." He kicked one of the hog-tied technicians on the floor absent mindedly. "I don’t think these guys will be able to wipe them either unless someone manages to get loose. I say we go to building five and help. If all the security has gone that way, we don't need to worry about them here either."

       Personally, Rabbit felt they should stay put and ensure the integrity of the computers, make sure someone didn’t come in behind them and wipe the memory drives, or use some sort of thermal grenade and turn all those processors into a puddle of ooze. But he wasn't the team leader, it wasn't his place to decide, and he was getting paid either way. He rotated back outside and radioed Jamsheed again. The last fire team to signal their confirmation, the others having called in over the air waves during the few seconds of deliberation.
-Chace A. Randolph

Chace of Spades

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Re: Rabbit's Anvil
« Reply #9 on: 15 December 2021, 14:40:34 »
       Rabbit and his fire team soon learned building five was both the mess hall and the general housing for the staff. It made sense that the agent they were looking for was in this building. unfortunately, so was everyone else.

What the Anvil's troopers had labeled as Building five, was actually labeled with a giant yellow G, painted on the otherwise gray concrete wall. It was a massive, long rectangular building. The front quarter of the building was a single massive open room that served as a dinning and common room for the base staff with tables and chairs everywhere, some tables for eating, others for table tennis, air hockey or pool.

       The variety of chairs in the room was just as varied and disorganized. Plastic lawn chairs folding metal chairs that pro wrestlers are fond of. Swiveling desk chairs, stools, massive leather chairs that bordered on becoming couches, recliners, even an old wooden rocking chair.

       The disorganized array of mismatched chairs and tables was even more chaotic now. Seemed every piece of furniture in the massive room was overturned, smashed, riddle with bullet holes, shoved out of place or had been used as makeshift operating tables as several were burdened with dead or dying men, thick, dark pools of blood, spent bandages and dirty medical tools.

       Two men in lab coats similar to the other staff members in building three, were working desperately to try and save one of the security guards who sounded like he had a sucking chest wound. his punctured vest and other gear discarded and scattered about the feet of the two standing men.

       They looked up only briefly and went back to work as Rabbit and his fire team half shuffled, half jogged across the common room. They made their way towards the rumble of gunfire deeper in the building passing the other signs of battle along the way. Shattering and scorched tile from a grenade explosion. Piles of spent shell casings, empty and discarded magazines, spent battery packs for beam weapons. A helmet someone had lost. Since they weren't armed, and were busy with the mortally wounded man, Rabbit and the others payed the two men in lab coats no mind. Beyond that was the kitchen and pantry that supplied this massive messy, mess hall. Beyond that, the whole back half of the building was a warren of suites and individual rooms for the base staff. It was here in this twisted maze of hallways and doors that the gun battle was taking place.

       A hand full of men from the Anvil were pinned in one hallway by several of the security team. But there were other troopers from the Anvil in different rooms and hallways engaged with other guards. It had devolved into several different smaller fights. Becoming room to room and door to door engagements in the cat and mouse arena of close quarters combat.

       Rabbit longed for a kilometer or two of flat open ground and a good rifle between him and his foe. But here, people were getting sprayed down with bullets at arm’s length ranges.

       It wasn't platoon versus platoon here, or even squad on squad. The tight spaces, many small rooms and plethora of corners and doorways made this an individual conflict, every man was left fighting his own private war, as his comrades were pinned in a different doorway. It might have been only a few meters across the room, but it might as well have a few jumps away for all the more anyone was able to do, to help his fellow teammates.

       The halls were clogged with the drifting tendrils of gun smoke. doors were smashed from their hinges. the walls bore bullet holes like spots on a cow. The dead lay in the halls and the doorways the puddles of blood running together on the floor of polished concrete, making some rooms slick and unpassable as the pools ran together. Those still living but too wounded to move under their own power lay where they had fallen, slumped on corners, sprawled behind couches that offered concealment but not cover, as they twitched, moaned and gurgled their own blood.

       This was the part Rabbit and his team were fashionably late to.  There was no front, there was no friendly line, or enemy line. The different teams arriving at different times from different directions had left everyone surrounded by everyone else.

       The gunfire was near constant. Even if it wasn't in the room, or across the hall from them, someone somewhere was shooting. short bursts of full auto, or the rapid pop, pop of semi auto pistols being fired in earnest. the deep report of a shotgun. the whizz of flachette guns, the hot ozone smell of laser weapons. When one salvo ended, the noise cancelling ear protection of their helmets was barely cycling off when someone else would shoot and the sound would be cut off again, letting them hear only the muffled noise from outside their helmets. The effect could be dizzying on the senses as the sound strobed in their ears and the belch of muzzle flash dazzled the eyes like some concert filled with just as many flashing lights, thundering noises, and gyrating bodies filled with scarred and twisted souls.

       Rabbit's predicament was much the same. He exhaled hard, puffing his cheeks out inside his helmet as he leaned on the door frame of a tiny two meter by three-meter bunk room. Having ducked into the room narrowly avoiding being turned into screaming hamburger by hundreds of tiny plastic flechettes from someone's machine pistol.
He had managed to gun down one of the guards as his fire team advanced down the hall. But his heavily suppressed sub machine gun had jammed, and while he was able to fix the issue by violently running the charging handle in and out of battery twice, it had cost him enough time he had to take cover instead of more proactively solving the problem.

       The problem being more than two meters tall, heavily muscled and sporting a large automatic flachette pistol in each hand. Fortunately, the other three men in the fire team had also managed to get out of the line of fire unharmed, that almost impressed him.

       Rabbit mentality attributed this seemingly good fortune to a phenomenon he had dubbed 'angry chimp syndrome'. When someone, in this case the two and a quarter meter tall security guard was presented with multiple easy targets, they are unable to decisively commit to one target and instead greedily try and hit all the targets but in their rushed frenzy, they miss and hit everything except the targets. Rabbit had fallen victim to this himself, as the hand numbing stress of combat and the greedy desire to hit multiple targets outstripped the shooters’ ability to use their equipment.

       Both the panicked flailing as they shot and the shouts of frustration upon seeing they missed so spectacularly lead to Rabbit’s association between overwhelmed soldiers and angry primates.

       Rabbit inhaled deeply, mentally readying himself to renter the chaos. He sank low, crouching on the balls of his feet and used his shoulder as a pivot point to rotate through the doorway back into the messy hallway.

       Rabbit's crouching had just the effect he wanted. The large man with the pistols had advanced down the hall and was just outside the door. But his guns were still raised at chest height, ready to shoot. The man's face rotated downwards in surprise and made eye contact with Rabbit through the faceplate of his helmet. He knew he had been had.

       Unflinching Rabbit held the trigger down. The buttstock of his compact sub machine gun rhythmically pounding against his thigh like a cheap electronic massager. The mechanism clattered as the last seven fat heavy sub sonic bullets spat from the business end of the suppressor from centimeters below the chin of Rabbit's helmet and planted themselves in the pelvic region of the tall man.

       Through a combination of shattered bones and severed nerves, the man fell like a puppet without a ventriloquist as his legs were taken from him. With his arms flapping, his weapons skittered away across the floor, his mouth working, but making no sound as his world got very small so fast it didn't have time to be painful.

       Rabbit dumped his empty magazine between the man’s useless feet and provided his gun a new full magazine before spending another round to settle the matter before the pain could catch up to the floored guard.

       All at once, the halls fell silent, and slowly the troopers from Occam’s Anvil slowly crept out from their havens. One man, who Rabbit recognized as one of the men from Jamsheed's squad thrust his head out into the hall from three doors down, looking first one way and then the other, where he saw Rabbit. They exchanged nods and the man disappeared again. If only briefly, he re-emerged and waved Rabbit over.

       Leaning on him was another of the Anvils troopers. His left pant leg missing. A torniquet high up on his thigh and a sloppy bandage wrapped around the leg just above the knee. It's white fabric soaked a dark red. The injured man learning heavily on the other, woozy and unsteady as if drunk because of the blood loss.

       Rabbit quickly slung his gun and slid in on the other side of the wounded trooper. "It's pretty bad, going to need surgery to fix. Lucky bastard narrowly avoided getting an artery cut. would have bled out for sure. With the other man, only semi-conscious slumped between them they half drug, half carried him out. Two of the others from Rabbit's fire team went with them, one ahead, one behind as they returned to mess hall in the front of the building.

       Over the next several minutes the rest of the platoon emerged. they weren't all moving under their own power, but they were all alive, much to Rabbit's surprise. Jamsheed brought with him the agent they were looking for, who agreed to go back to building three and extract the research data for them.

       Rabbit looked back as they loaded up the jeeps to take everyone over to building three. That long, low gray structure was neither building five, or building G. It was a slaughter house, with thirty ish dead and who knows how many wounded. There were too many liters of human blood on the floor, the walls, or the ceiling of that building.
The massive war machines of Sigma lance hadn't fared much better. exponentially increasing the cost of this operation. As he rode in the back of one of the jeeps to the other building, he had the same thoughts as before. "Never send a machine, to do a man's job."

       Three of the four mechs from Sigma lance were standing tall and battered around building three when the platoon returned. The hunched shoulders of Noodle in the Archer, Rolex and the towering Highlander, Radio Wave and the hot and heavy Black Knight. But the old reliable Orion wasn't present.

       Bond had been piloting that machine, it had caused quite the stir amongst the other pilots when Spade had put a new higher pilot into the company's command lance. But Rabbit figured mech warriors were all prima donnas on principle anyway.

       Twenty minutes later, Rabbit was growing restless over the amount of time the data upload was taking. The longer they were on this planet the more likely they were to run into trouble that they couldn't handle.

       He slid over to Jamsheed, hoping to get more information. "What's the story?"

       With deeply furrowed brows he replied "There is no story."

       Rabbit jutted his chin at the nearby door, indicating the three battle mechs beyond it. "What happened to them, where's the Orion?"

       "Probably where fell. Pilot no make it." He said shaking his head.

       "Bond is dead?"

      Jamsheed nodded gravely.

       "Dead how?"

       "Bigger mech. Cyclops I think they said."

       "What about the mech? they can't afford to just leave it where it lay."

       Jamsheed shrugged. "No choice. can't move that many tons of metal on short notice when it inert."

      "Wait, Cyclops? you were listening to the mechs radio channel again?"

       Jamsheed shrugged “Am Spade's favorite because I am the best, being best doesn't mean I listen to all his words about using appropriate radio. Besides, no matter how messy slaughter house was the situation would get worse fast if the mechs brought the buildings down on us."

       Rabbit grinned slyly and shared a small grim chuckle with the dark man before asking him "So what exactly happened?"

       "Enemy lance of heavy mechs. Hard fight. That Cyclops 10Q was last to fall. Stayed at long-range using LRM'S. Got some lucky hits on the Orion, because was already damaged from other fight. So, when they tried to close in and take out the Cyclops it got messy despite four to one. There was also a 5D thunderbolt had big cannon and LRM launcher but no lasers, they were able to tap dance around him until he ran out of ammo and then the beat him up. Made him eject. Biggest problem was Stalker 3h and Vindicator 3L. They delt with them first under hail of LRM from Thunderbolt and Cyclops. Stalker fought well, pilots had good heat management. Vindicator used jump jets lots was hard to hit."

       "Ouch, that's a lot of heavy hardware." Rabbit offered.

       "Yeah, but... it was almost like three different fights in a row. First it was the Stalker and Vindicator, while Thunderbolt and Cyclops shot LRM'S from afar. So they had enemy two to one. Afterwards, the Thunderbolt tried to hold them off, protect the Cyclops, but he ran out of ammo. And then it was just the Cyclops by itself, which was by then also out of LRMs."

       "Yeah, sounds right. Cyclops are usually seats reserved for commanders. They were fighting to the last to protect their commander." Rabbit nodded.
"Shame about Bond thought, that old Orion could only absorb so many hits." The two grizzled veterans nodded grimly to each other as the platoons Lieutenant waddled up, cigar barely hanging onto his thin lips.

       "The agent's got the data, let’s get the grunts back in the jeeps. We’re rolling with sigma lance back over the mountain to the Razor on the other side of the island."
He waddled away haphazardly, notifying the other platoon members.

       "Too busy scraping Alpha lance off the beach to come get us I guess." Jamsheed said as he departed the wall they were leaning on and returned to his squad.
Within minutes the men, wounded or not had patched all the bleeding holes they could and crammed into the rickety old jeeps Occam's Anvil kept for them. The quiet windswept island facility they had just spent the previous forty-five minutes running rampant through was even more silent now, in the aftermath of all the killing.
Except for a handful of casualties left from the security team only the civilian and scientific personnel on site were left, shell shocked as they were. Unsure what to do now, they were left to their own devices, milling about like bumbling kittens. Without any security or military forces left to marshal them, they did little more them stem the bleeding as the strange violent men who fell from the sky, wordlessly and violently disrupted their lives and took what they wanted by force made their exit up and over the ancient dormant volcano that had made the island.
-Chace A. Randolph

Chace of Spades

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Re: Rabbit's Anvil
« Reply #10 on: 31 December 2021, 03:46:17 »
               Act Five
       Without Spade accompanying them, Rolex was acting commander of Occam's Anvil. Babe, the only uninjured member of Alpha lance had saddled up in the Anvil's only undamaged mech, an Orion-VA which also probably saw the least action in the field. It's lack of long-range fire power didn’t sit well with any of the pilots. But that's what was left and she was coming to meet them. The Archer and Black Knight were at the head of their little convoy, the three rickety old jeeps loaded with troops were in the middle, and Rolex himself in his singed Highlander brought up the rear. He had escaped the battle relatively undamaged, but he had spent a lot of his ammo to get them through the engagement. He only had two salvos left for his LRM 20.

       Not for the first time, he thanked whatever gods might be hiding in the cosmos that this was a Highlander 733 with a PPC and not an autocannon. He was sure he would have run the autocannon out of ammo. He still had two thirds of the ammo for his SRM launcher and a pair of medium lasers to back that up. He felt pretty good about it, the Black Knight was a laser boat and didn’t have any ammo concerns either. The Archer on the other hand, had two hungry LRM 20s, and he knew Noodle was running low too. without those LRM launchers, that Archer was just a bigger, slower Jenner.

       They had just summited the mountain and were feeling tentatively optimistic about things, as they were half way back to their drop ship with the data and the agent in hand, a job well done, despite their losses. Maybe just a job adequately done, but a job done none the less. Rolex's mood changed quickly when a quartet of massive glowing hot drop pods, still shedding their ablative heat shielding fell from the sky, and slammed into the rocky mountain side a half kilometer distant, off to his 2 O'clock.
The heat shields blew off, after the landing revealing a fresh new lance of heavy mechs in Capellan colors, however they bore different unit markings. Rolex was quick to hit his radio transmitter. "Nut up, and shut them up. They got more mechs for us to break."

       He changed channels to call down to the infantry in the little wheeled vehicles. " We got more hot ones Lieutenant. Get your boys back to the Razor and let us handle this."

       Rolex didn't wait for a response, he changed channels again, while simultaneously pushing his assault mech to it's maximum speed. "Javis, we've got another lance of heavyweights that just hot dropped on us. Some sort of QRF. Who knows what else they got up their sleeves, if a drop ship is coming down, or aerospace fighters or what, but it’s about to get real hairy." Javis replied, his voice as analytical as ever, but Rolex didn't hear it.

       A Grasshopper 5H was rushing towards him at full speed. A hand full of LRM'S ruptured across the broad chest of his mech, and a large laser cut into the shin of one leg. He shouted back, not over the radio, just into his neural helmet. "I can do that too, except mine's bigger." He fired both his PPC and LRM 20 at the closing mech. Momentarily, it disappeared inside the cloud of smoke, fire, dust and shrapnel as the missiles rained across the smaller mech.

       His sensors registered the three other mechs in the new lance. Beyond the Grasshopper 5H was a Quickdraw-5k, a Catapult-K2 and a Stalker-3F. The 3F had fewer LRM'S and more lasers then the 3H they had dealt with only an hour before, but with low ammo and already singed armor, Rolex didn’t want to deal with it at all.

      That Stalker was going to be the biggest problem, and needed to be dealt with. Rolex knew they were outnumbered, out weighted and very out gunned which was compounded by their low ammo, and he didn't know how they would win, or survive, but he never doubted it. There was no question in his mind. They would win, they always won. He hadn’t died yet, so he must be invincible.

      The Catapult had engaged the Black Knight, and they were circling each other trading PPC salvos like boxers throwing jabs in the ring. The Quickdraw was closing the distance towards noodle in the Archer fast, but it had to wade through the last of his LRM missiles to do it. Worried the Stalker might engage in one of those fights Rolex engaged it proactively, in an attempt to draw the pilot’s attention away from his lance mates.  As the Grasshopper drew close, Rolex lit it up with his lasers and SRMs while extending his mechs arm and firing his PPC over the Grasshoppers head, landing the shot solidly against the Stalkers torso. Saving his last reload for his LRM 20 for the right moment. It didn't work. The Stalker ignored Rolex and lumbered towards Noodle and the Black Knight. Leaving he and the Grasshopper to face off alone. He was glad at least that the jeeps had accelerated away and these mechs were tied up here, allowing the PBI to make a clean getaway.

       The Grasshopper's pilot had no fear of the bigger mech and drew in close, cutting into Rolex's already battered armor with its battery of lasers. Rolex could see over the smaller mech, watching as Noodle managed to land solid hits with his LRM'S despite the short range. The cloud of smoke and dust lit up a brilliant green as the Quickdraw fired off a half dozen medium lasers blindly, still pushing the initiative despite having weathered eighty LRM missiles. Rolex didn't let his eyes linger there, and kept his focus on the Grasshopper hitting it again and again with his lasers and SRMs.

       At this short range, and with his already weakened armor, that Grasshopper was doing some serious damage. Alarms went off as one of the medium lasers melted through the last of his armor and burning out a heat sink from his right torso.

       The Grasshopper had made one mistake though. The pilot had under estimated the reach of the larger mechs arms.

       Sure, he was far enough away that he couldn't reach, but he wasn't far enough away to keep Rolex from reaching. He threw the Highlander's big left fist and its thick knuckles bounced off the smaller mech's shoulder and smashed into the side of its head, destroying the trademark LRM 5 launcher mounted there. The mech warrior piloting it seemed unphased as its arms came up, brushing aside the Highlander’s outstretched arm and warding off further attacks. Rolex emptied the charged capacitors for his two-torso mounted medium lasers, burning away at his smaller, fresher opponent.

       This wasn't an engagement he could sustain. To create some separation, he hit the jump jets. Lifting up and away, drifting sideways before landing heavily again, the Highlander’s massive square feet crushing two patches of volcanic rock, into gravel.

       As he landed, he shoved his left hand out to maintain balance, preventing him from using his SRM launcher. Instead, he checked his heat scale, and then fired all three of his energy weapons. Melting away all the armor plating from his opponents left arm. laying the skeleton and taught but singed myomere bare.

       Beyond him, separated by a scant hundred meters of volcanic rock on the downward slope of the volcanoes face, Noodle in the Archer and the Quickdraw exchange another salvo of lasers, between the two mechs, ten sharp green beams scythed through the cold gray, ocean air. Noodle scored a hit on the Quickdraw's gyro, because the squat mech toppled backwards violently and lay unmoving. One enemy down.  The Grasshopper turned on its heels and cut across Rolex's Highlander with its own brace of medium lasers.

        A bright red blip flashed across then the display before turning black. The weight of the big Highlander 733P shifted, and Rolex almost staggard as he compensated for the shift in his center of mass. He had just lost his right arm. His PPC was gone.
Rolex lost his indomitable expectation of victory. His invincibility, his immortality fell away just as fast as the Highlander’s right arm did, the mech's thick metal bone cut through just above the elbow.

       That feeling was terrifying and that fear made him angry, made him panic like a cornered animal. He fired back with his SRM launcher and his own lasers as the mechs ample heat sinks worked to dissipate the load. Rolex lurched the assault mech forward, enraged like a wounded animal, intending to physically render the Grasshopper limb from limb.

       At this point, Babe, piloting the backup Orion finally arrived. Sending a heavy AC 10 from far down the slope up into the engagement. Slamming solidly into the Stalker's broad side as the bigger mech still lumbered downhill to where the Archer and Black Knight were. Leaving Rolex and the Capellan Grasshopper separated from the rest of the lance, and higher up on the slope.

       The Catapult was still circling with the Black Knight. Both mechs with smoking holes in their armor. At the short range the Black Knight held far more firepower than the Catapult, but was running hot and couldn't bring all of it to bear. The Catapult fired away with its machineguns continuously, spraying bullets all over the mountain side. Desperate to cause damage, of any kind, anywhere.

       Radio Wave, raked the Black Knight's four medium lasers across the Catapult again and again. The catapult was also running hot and couldn't regularly fire its powerful twin PPCs. Despite the pre-existing damage Radio Wave had suffered, the Catapult couldn't finish off the Black Knight despite its preexisting burn scars and blast marks.
After several bouts, exchanging laser fire, and both mechs having suffered blow through damage to the structure. The Black Knight's heat sinks finally caught with the load, and Radio Wave fired another salvo, this time he included both large lasers to his salvo of medium lasers.

       The larger lasers cut through what was left of the Catapult’s armor and into the bone and myomere. The weakened leg collapsed under the weight of the mech as it finished its stride. The mech warrior in the Catapult must of had his hand on the lever, because his ejection seat rocketed out before the mech had finished falling. Sending him arcing out into empty space off the side of the mountain. The tide was turning in Sigma lance's favor quickly.

       Noodle side stepped his Archer around the fallen Quickdraw and turned to face the Stalker that was bearing down on him. But the Stalker was ready, and fed both LRM10 racks and both of its large lasers into the Archer’s chest.

       There was half a heart beat the world seemed to grow still, and then the cockpit of the Archer rocketed away as Noodle ejected. But the thrusters didn’t fire right, and rather than being carried up and away he was propelled horizontally out over the barren, rocky, volcanic mountain side before the seat struck the ground and tumbled madly out of control through the blackened stones. Not a ride anyone would walk away from.

       The odds were getting too close to even again. Rolex still incoherent with battle frenzy fired the last of his LRM'S over the considerable gap between he and the Stalker. Showering the mech with the last of his LRM'S. The ammo counter went from red to black as it bottomed out at zero.

       A lance of green light stabbed out from behind a boulder and stabbed Babe's Orion in the back. She swore, or at least Rolex assumed it was a swear word, a single, two syllable word from a language he didn't speak came from her cockpit as she turned her heavy mech to bear weapons on a Wasp scout mech, that had chosen this moment to inconvenience the Anvil's remaining mechs even more. The scout mech bounced away, riding atop massive columns of flame from its jump jets, chased by SRMS.  Dragging away the attention of the one fresh mech on the mountain side.  leaving the two haggard and damaged mechs, now seriously out gunned to fend for themselves against the Stalker and the Grasshopper.

       Rolex, out of LRMs, and down a PPC had two medium lasers and an SRM6 with a dozen reloads left in his arsenal. The one good thing about this was now, his overworked heat sinks didn't even such a demand on them. He was able to fire his weapons nonstop against the Grasshopper.
The Grasshopper took damage fast, but the pilot did not sit idly by, and regularly fed its lasers to Rolex.

       The Grasshopper's pilot was working hard and doing a good job of taking away Rolex's weapons. Its large laser laid the armor of the left arm bare and cut the ammo feed to the SRM launcher. There were nine more reloads in his magazine and the weapon was targeting properly but Rolex couldn't fire it, there was no way to get the missiles from the magazine in the chest to the weapon on the arm. His ninety-five-ton assault mech was down to two medium lasers. There were scout mechs a quarter his weight with more firepower.

       To make it worse, he had none of their maneuverability. Fortunately for him, Babe and her Orion returned, coming out of a gully, stumbling through the boulders to his right. She landed a solid alpha strike from her fresh mech. The Grasshopper having been through the withering exchanges with the Highlander already seemed to disintegrate as the AC 10, medium lasers and SRMs blasted it apart.

       As the mech toppled and the pulverized rock fell from the sky Babe said shortly, the shrug in her voice almost tangible. "Wasp no like autocannon."
Radio wave had been left alone With the Stalker and as Rolex was squinting through the settling dust outside his cockpit, he saw one of the blips on his sensor display wink out, as a fusion reactor shut down.

       He pushed his battered mech forward again, getting a clear view as the Stalker turned to face them up hill, trudging past the smoking husk of the laser skewered Black knight.

       Babe fired her AC10, making another solid strike against the Stalker. The other assault mech fired its LRM'S and Large lasers in return. Rolex took stock as his crippled mech was overlooked by the enemy.  He had no armor, two medium lasers and one arm. Or at least almost no armor. His torso might have been stripped of all its protection, but his legs, those still had some armor. As another salvo was exchanged between the Stalker and the Orion, Rolex had a hateful idea, he might have been disregarded by the Stalked as a useless cripple, but he wasn't out of the fight yet. He pushed his Highlander up to the maximum speed its crippled frame would go, skirting to his left as the other two still standing mechs exchanged lasers and missiles.

       He slipped closer as casually as one could while piloting such a massive and battle-scarred machine, until he was standing off The Stalkers right side. When the assault mech staggered under another solid autocannon impact, Rolex seized the opportunity he was looking for, and lit all three of his massive jump jets. Carrying his mech as high and as far as he could. "Suck rocks." he said across the open channel as his mech rose. Then the jets auto shut off and what was left of the Highlander fell from the sky upon the Stalker.

       No emotions registered on Babe's face as she watched the two assault mechs smash into each other and collapse, falling down the slope in a twisted pile of melted and rent metal.

       The volcanic slope, that had been so recently the site of so much destruction fell silent, the stillness would have been unnerving to anyone who hadn't spent as much time in a sweaty cockpit as she had.

       She was about to head off, back the Razor when Rolex's Highlander stirred. Separating itself from the half-crushed Stalker, the disfigured assault mech hobbled away, with one knee no longer bending. Babe fell in alongside, matching the slow stride of the other mech as they lumbered back up hill to where the archer and Black Knight lay.
Radio Wave had emerged from his cockpit and stood on a boulder near his fallen machine. Even from way up inside her cockpit Babe could see how beaten and haggard he was.

      Rolex finally spoke over the radio, calling to Javis back aboard the drop ship. "The situation has been handled, another enemy lance down, but it's an awful mess, over here. We're going to need the salvage crew to come to us."

       Javis's voice was sad inside their neural helmets. "This has gotten to be such a mess. We'll get there as soon as we can. We're mostly done picking up the pieces of Alpha lance. You should send the troops on down the mountain, we could use the extra hands down here."

       Rolex was confused for a moment. He checked the clock display on his instrument panel, and thought for a moment about the jeeps speed, and how long it should have taken them to drive down there. They should have been there already, or at least been in sight. He radioed the lieutenant. No answer.

       "Javis you sure they aint standin' outside your door or something? because they aren't answering the radio."

       "I know they're not answering the radio, I tried calling them already, I thought they were up there with you still."

       "Javis There’s no one up here beside Babe and I. I mean Radio Wave is down there, but he doesn't have a radio..."

       "I find dem" Babe cut in, and her Orion tromped off down the hill.

       "Here that Javis? Babe's on the radio now. I'm going to power down, and see if Radio Wave and I can find Noodle."

       It took fifteen minutes of delicate hiking as the two shirtless men wandered over the slope looking for Noodle. It was Rolex's nose that eventually found him. He followed the sweet scent of cooked meat across the sharp, broken volcanic terrain until they both stopped short. He was still strapped into the ejection seat. Or what was left of him. His left side looked like popped sausage. the skin burnt smooth and split open from the swelling and heat of the laser blast that cut into his cockpit. The rest didn't look much better, having been cut, scrapped and broken after tumbling over the rocks. His meat was hardly recognizable as human. Both of the other mech warriors turned away. Rolex to hide his tears. He had known the man over a decade. Had fought alongside and been through so much with him, even before the restructuring into Occam's Anvil.
Radio turned away to pump his stomach bile onto the rocks.

       Two thirds of the way down the side of the volcano Babe found the Jeeps, and the troops. The first of the foot hills rose up and blocked the Razor's line of sight with the three vehicles.

      But the men weren't in the jeeps. The jeeps had been blasted with lasers, and the men lay scattered about, trampled when they had abandoned the damaged vehicles.
The Wasp had started the fright here, before finding Babe and her Orion while heading uphill to join the QRF.

       Babe went cold with rage, as the beads of sweat burned like ice as they slid down her body. All those, men, and that Wasp, that damn scout mech. She hadn't even managed to destroy it. She sent it packing with one less arm, but that was far less than the pilot deserved. Trampling infantry, Occam's Anvil's infantry. She took a minute to collect herself, putting her composure back together, slipping it back together past the seething rage. "Found the boots. They won't be coming home."

       She lingered for a moment longer, considering whether or not to go back to Rolex and Radio Wave, or just pressing the rest of the way down the slope to the Razor. As she debated, a handful of bruised, battered and bleeding men, some half carrying each other, emerged from their hiding places between the rocks and drifted in the general direction of her Orion. They looked like some sort of living dead, emergent from the rocks and untold horrors. Even if they looked like the dead, they were still among the living, if just barely.

       She powered down her mech, and scrambled out to talk to the men face to face. Managing to Monkey down the ladder with such speed and nimbleness despite the hours of sweaty, hot rigorous mech piloting that surprised even herself.

       Her boots, coolant vest, and clingy little shorts were all she had to protect her from the sharp rocks, necessitating she play a slow careful game of hopscotch between the stones to reach the surviving troops. The cold sea breeze was shocking and set her shivering quickly, though the hardened woman seemed not to notice.

       Sargent Jamsheed lumbered out to her, four other men straggling behind him, all cut and bruised and broken. They told her, what she had already summarized from the scene. They weren’t sure if the Wasp had been observing the Razor, or laying in ambush for them or something else, but the three jeeps full of men had run into the scout mech as they fled the battle with the Capellan QRF up the slope and the Wasp had lasered the jeeps and trampled the men. The Free Worlds League SAFE agent and the trooper carrying the data drive with whatever information they had pulled off the servers were among the dead, and the data drive destroyed along with their lives.

       With their mission objectives lost, and eternally beyond their reach now. Babe was disgusted and angry beyond words. She returned to the cockpit of the Orion and after a moment to settle her nerves, powered back up and called Javis to deliver the news. The Anvil's salvage team and mech techs worked hard and fast to pick up their pieces before more Capellan forces showed up. Seven hours later, the Razor was back in orbit, preparing to dock with the strange little drop ship one more time, for debriefing.
-Chace A. Randolph

DOC_Agren

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Re: Rabbit's Anvil
« Reply #11 on: 01 January 2022, 12:09:19 »
Wait is Rabbit KIA??? :o
"For the Angel of Death spread his wings on the blast, And breathed in the face of the foe as he passed:And the eyes of the sleepers waxed deadly and chill, And their hearts but once heaved, and for ever grew still!"

Chace of Spades

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Re: Rabbit's Anvil
« Reply #12 on: 03 January 2022, 20:10:36 »
               Act Six

       Spade blinked once, twice, a third time. Then he erupted all at once, leaping up from his wheel chair, swearing as he accidentally put weight on his bad leg, and hobbling on his good right leg, braced himself against the table. The bandages on his hands almost glowing white from the lights focused on the situation table in the otherwise unlit room. He leaned there for a couple sweaty ragged breaths the pain only making his anger worse. When his chin lifted, his matted beard swaying and he locked eyes on the representative, he willed the hatred into his gaze, he prayed to gods he didn’t know he believed in, that looks really could kill. The only reason he hadn’t gone all the way across the table to beat the teeth out Rep Shannon’s face, was because of his injuries.  Spade breathed deeply, and closed his eyes.  He straightened and stood balanced on his uninjured leg and slowly exhaled his held breath, before speaking as calmly as he could through teeth gritted with pain. "You mean to tell me the Free World’s League knew that QRF was here? You knew and neglected to tell us? You knew and sent us against them anyway, without warning us, knowing it was an ambush?" His voice rising in volume and fury as he continued to speak, quickly losing the calm he had briefly summoned.

       Seemingly unmoved the government rep crossed her arms and answered calmly, "We had reason to believe that they were, but we weren't sure."

       Spade took another deep breath and gingerly lowered himself back into his wheelchair, and cleared his throat. His voice was normal when he spoke, conversational in tone, but his words were not as benign. " If I come across a polished granite stone with someone's name and two consecutive dates carved into it, I have reason to believe that the person associated with the name is dead. You know who else is dead? Three of my mech warriors, and more than three quarters of our infantry platoon. Twenty-four men and women of Occam’s Anvil are dead, and they might not be if you had shared your suspicions, your information with us."

       With a small frown and lesser shrug, the woman across the table folded her arms and leaned back in her chair, slipping into the shadows beyond. "We didn't want to overplay our hand."

       "Over play your hand? So, instead you gambled with someone else's life."

       "Commander you and your unit came here of your own volition and knew the risks going into this operation."

       "We would have known the risks, if you had told us what was lurking in the shallows. We came here, and made our decision on good faith that the League was being upfront with us and everything was kosher, we have been loyal to your government for years, some of those among the dead would have gone so far as to call the League home, having been citizens of and hailing from her planets."

       "Well as loyal mercenaries with years of experience, you should know that these kinds of jobs get people killed, and it seems the Reaper finally caught up with you."

       Unsure how long he could control his normally barely lukewarm temper, Spade decided to move on to another topic and just get this meeting debrief over with before anyone said anything to upset someone else.

       "Fine. Mercenaries also get paid, when do we get our credits?"

       The woman in the shadows across the table laughed. A single sharp loud laugh more akin to a bark, "Ha, paid! Mercenaries get paid for getting jobs done. You didn't get this job done."

       "But we..."

       Now the rep cut Spade off, "But you didn't deliver the data, you lost it along with your men and our agent. Flushing years of subterfuge, work, and contact building down the pipes."

       "Well, if you..."

       He was interrupted again, "What's more, you kept forty percent of the battlefield salvage for yourself. A detail that was not spelled out in the contract."

         “The salvage..." he stumbled over his words for a moment, his anger trying to push too many words through his lips at the same time. "Every single one of our mechs
is broken, all shot up, just for you, we need as much of that salvage as possible to fix as much as possible, you don’t even have any equipment on that planet to get it yourself, if we hadn’t taken what we could, when we could it would all, already be back in Capellan hands."

       "That, Mr. Spade, is not my problem."

       Goosebumps flowed from under his neck and washed down his body as Spade had all he could take. For a long moment he sat silent and motionless, staring unseeing into the middle distance. The list of names of the dead started playing in his head like a scrolling line of credits at the end of a film. The fallen deserve better than this.

       That thought was enough to set him back in motion. A plan already forming in his mind. "Well then, no money means no job, I take it we're done here, and I can leave?"
The voice at the other end of the table, a little thicker now came from the shadows "I guess you could."

       Spade was silent a moment longer, controlling his disgust and anguish. Gingerly, he climbed back up from his wheelchair and stood on his good leg, nodded politely to the representative and turned on his good heel so his face was hidden, as it contorted with pain while he hobbled from the room, walking with his head up and his back straight. By the time the door shut behind him, Spade was sweating and growing pale as the pain mounted and the drugs failed to keep up.

       Sargent Jamsheed stood in the hall, just Where Spade had left him. Jamsheed was now the highest-ranking member of The Anvil’s infantry platoon, the only infantry man to escape the battle uninjured, and now the commanding officer of what was left of the platoon, which now hardly constituted a fire team, provided the other troopers healed from their injuries and were able to return to active duty.

       Jamsheed straightened, and quickly came over offering Spade a shoulder to lean on. "All good boss?"

       Spade only shook his head. With furrowed brows the Sargent asked "You get the money at least boss?"

       Spade shook his head again. "No money."

       "No money?"

       "No money. Let's get back to the Razor."

       With an arm around the shorter man’s shoulders, Spade hobbled down the hall, back to the hatch linking their dropship and out of the FWL experimental stealth ship. Neither man spoke until the made it back to the privacy of the Razor.

      As Jamsheed and Spade made their way back on board, Spade had to set his jaw and lean on the wall as he fought to think and function through the pain. His chief mech tech met him at the door.

      "Hey now that you're back, that Highlander is going to need..."

       Spade held up a hand to stop him, but before he could muster the strength to speak, the tech asked another question. "What happened to your wheelchair chief?"
Angry at the whole situation Spade’s voice came out louder than he intended, almost shouted at Lightning. "****** the wheelchair."

       There was silence and after a moment Jamsheed echoed him, "Yeah ****** the wheelchair."

       Despite the predicament Spade smiled, he almost chuckled, but his heavy seriousness quickly returned. Go get all your techs, go get all the staff that can leave their beds and bring them to the bridge, I'm calling an all-hands meeting."

       The tech blinked and nodded, turning to leave, but stopping before he left "how will you get to the bridge without the wheelchair?"

       Spade looked to Jamsheed, and after making eye contact, he threw an arm over the grunts shoulder and they said together "****** the wheelchair"

       Fifteen minutes later Spade was sucking air through his teeth as he settled into one of the seats on the bridge, which was quickly getting cramped as the mech techs, ship crew, Jamsheed, and a couple other wounded mech warriors crowded the space. The room was full of worried and expecting faces.

       "We got our asses kicked." Spade paused as the gathering murmured and nodded.

       "Our brothers and sisters have fallen in battle, their blood has been spilled." Again, he had to pause as the congregation made their own comments or whispered prayers to those they lost.

       He spoke louder, almost yelling to be heard over the crowd. "And as of now, we are no longer employed by the Free World League, our people are dead, our blood has been spilled, and they're not going to pay us."

        Now there was an uproar and Spade winced, not from pain, but from the noise. Everyone was yelling. It was a couple of minutes before the din died down enough, he could be heard again. "As soon as we can make ready, I want to be under way for the nearest jump point so we can leave League space. We are no longer employed by them, and as long as I am commanding officer of The Anvil, I hope we never are again. They knew that quick reaction force was around. The league Rep. knew, and didn't tell us, and sent us on our merry way anyway. As far as I am concerned, our shed blood is on their hands. Once there is enough armor back on the chassis to do so, I want the mechs repainted to Black above the waist and Red below it."

       There was silence across the bridge, until after Babe and Rolex, the only two other mech warriors on the bridge exchanging glances and then Rolex said loud enough for all to hear. "They knew?" Then the bridge exploded in an uproar of outrage all over again.

       Three days later, Spade was no longer in constant pain from his post surgery injures but he still wasn’t very mobile. He sat, stretched out, almost laying in a chair at the far end of the medical ward, all the other wounded mech warriors there with him, not one said a word, not one stirred as they all sat in a silent vigil for their fallen brethren. The room as silent as a tomb in memory for the three pilots that had died. The silence, the air of seemingly eternal stillness that oozed from the angry wounded warriors was broken as the door opened and Javis slipped in, disturbing the catatonic catacombs.

       He picked his way past the scowls, dirty looks and beds full of pained, frowning faces to reach Spade way in the back. He leaned over, whispering to The Anvil's commanding officer.

       "Cheif, we're less then twelve hours from docking with the jump ship, it would be helpful to know where we are going before, we try and book passage."
Spade opened his eyes and grunted gently. "Yeah, might help."

       "Well, where are we going?"

        Spade sat up and extended his un-bandaged hand. "Help me to the bridge and we'll look at the map to figure it out."

       The other man's eyes bulged as he clasped Spades hand and helped pull him up against the deceleration induced gravity.

       "You mean you don't know where we're going? you don’t have a destination for us? there isn't another job lined up?"

       Spade only shook his head to the negative effect as he balanced gingerly on his injured legs. In the three quarters gravity of deceleration as they approach the jump point, he could walk well enough now that the last of the shrapnel had been pulled from his calves.

       Slowly, gently the two made their way to the bridge, where Spade spent a long silent minute looking over the glowing star map display in the darkened room, only lit by the various consoles and instruments needed to fly and navigate the Razor.

       Eventually, with an extended finger, Spade indicated a moderately populated world of Early Dawn on the border between the Free World’s league and the Magistracy of Canopus that also wasn’t far from gray space, the frontier where no major government held any real power, the wild frontier where anything goes.
"The Magistracy? you sure?"

     Spade shrugged.

      "They might not even be willing to give us work after those raids, we stopped out in the deep water a couple years back."

         Spade shrugged again, and counted the number of jumps it would take to get there. "It will take us, what, a month to cover that much vacuum?"

       After a moment’s mental calculation the comms officer replied, "Yeah, probably about a month, three weeks at least."

       "Then that'll give us enough time to get some of the mechs fixed, and maybe our pilots too, we might only he half strength by then, but at least we'll be able to do some work. it's going to be a long, expensive stretch before we get any more money, and we've got lots of man and metal to mend."
With a nod the radioman said sagely "It’s going to get real expensive. I’m not sure if we can afford to go that long without work and still afford to pay everyone and keep their bellies full and get the Razor refueled and..."

       Spade sighed and that was enough to derail the other man’s line of questioning.

      "As much as it disgusts me to say it, because our staff is smaller now, we might just be able to do it since we no longer have to pay the dead."
Spade turned away, disgusted by the realization of so many deaths under his command all over again.

       He turned and started to leave, but before he left the bridge the voice carried over his shoulder, "You should go see your mech tech's too. They need you to make some executive decisions and triage what's left."

       Spade stopped in the hatch, lingering for a moment, but then didn’t say anything and slouched through the hatch into the half-lit hallway beyond. Sometime later Spade limped, more so now than he did when he left the bridge, too much walking was making his ankle hurt, but he did his best to keep a straight face as he made his was between the bays of blown-up battle mechs, too angry and ashamed to look straight at the once mighty machines. Finally, he found ‘Lightning’ McAbee, who was busy with a data pad full of number and didn't notice the hobbling man’s approach.

       Spade looked past the tech to the seventy-ton Archer locked into the bay beyond him, the left arm missing, light visible through the left torso where the feed mechanism for the LRM 20 used to be, the left leg all mangled below the knee and a hole blown through the chest from where the ejection seat had exited the cockpit after Noodle had taken a close-range salvo of lasers from a Stalker after the QRF had ambushed them. His eyes following the dark and sinister burn scar across the archer's chest, starting where the left should joint should have been, and cutting all the way down to where the cockpit should have been.

       Noodle had been burned badly by that laser, and while he managed to eject, he had flown off into and been smashed against the volcanic rocks of the island and died, still strapped in. His left arm and leg barely recognizable he was burned so badly.

       Spade blinked away the moisture from his eyes and kept staring up at the mech. He usually piloted, the Archer. the only reason Noodle had been in there and not him was because he had been too proud to let someone else pilot his family's old Blackjack into combat and he had been shot out of it earlier the very same day.
If he had let someone else pilot the Black Jack... then maybe he could have pulled them out of that ambush if he had been in the Archer like he normally was, or maybe he could have died and Noodle might still be alive, Noodle was an older man then him, he had more hours in the cockpit than Spade did. Noodle was a quiet man, and a lover of scout mechs, a rare and valuable breed of pilot who would have preferred a laser boat Jenner or a missile boat Commando over something so big and ponderous as an Archer. Noodle would be a valuable resource to any Lance. Noodle should have still been onboard the Razor, not burned to a crisp on a nameless hill top on a nameless island in the endless oceans of Sax.

       The tech turned around when he noticed the new shadow next to the work bench, "Aah, glad you're here boss, we need to talk."

       Spade lowered his gaze, meeting eyes with his lead mechanic, who seeing the look on the mech warriors face, had to look away. "Chief we’re not going to be able to get all this fixed anytime soon, there's so much that..."

       Spade held up a hand. "I know, I'm not expecting or asking for miracles. Our destination is a ways out, what can you get done in three weeks?"
"Three weeks hmm?" He stained his chin with a greasy finger as he considered that.

       Spade continued, "Focus on the Hunchbacks. They might not be fast, but a lance of Hunchbacks is enough to make anyone think twice. Focus on getting those walking again, and we'll worry about the others later."

       He looked over to the bay on his left where the Swayback was, or what was left of it. Pointing he added "Save that one for last, I know it was dependable but it’s banged up real bad, be unrecognizable if the legs weren't intact. We might just have to write it off even, at the very least, save your energy for stuff that's easier to fix. After the Hunchbacks we can worry about the Archer and the Orion's."

       "Yeah, speaking of heavy mechs, the Black Knight is AFU. There's something wrong with the gyro, we can’t get it to spool up to operating RPMs, and with that arm gone... we’re going to need another PPC. Oh, and the Highlander, both her legs are screwed up real bad, the heat sinks we have spare for and can replace, but there's nothing we can do about those jump jets, their goners."

       "I thought we had some spares?"

       "We have a set of spare jump jets, from that old Spider you knocked out of the sky with that LRM volley."

        "Oh, well those certainly aren't going to lift the Highlander"

       "No, they will not..."

       "That was a nice shot thought."

       "Yes sir it was, you're quite the artist with an LRM 20 chief."

       "We'll have to hold off on the Highlander until we can get enough cash to buy her new jets."

       Both men nodded, and Spade continued. "We bought her wholesale from the Merik arsenal, I'm so angry and fed up with them, I almost don't want it because of its association with them."

       "Well boss, if you're going to get rid of our only assault mech, I'd gladly take it off your hands."

       Spade almost chuckled, no I might be furious, but I'm not stupid, we can't throw away an assault mech" He turned to leave but the tech stopped him.

       "One last thing boss, we're running real low on AC10 ammo, we don’t even have enough to reload all the mechs that need it."

        Spade swore, "Load it into the 1K Orion, and move that higher on the repair list then the Swayback. Three hunchbacks and an Orion... I can work with that. There’s nothing left of the swayback anyway…"

       "Okay, you’re the boss."

       "We good for the AC20 and AC5 on the other hunchbacks? Got enough LRMS?"

         Yeah, there's enough AC20 to load the base model, but only just. We have enough AC5 for the other one, and even a little extra, LRM reloads are the one thing we are not short of. "

        "Good, make it so."

       "Okay, just to be sure, the 4G hunchback, the 4N and the 4P are the priorities"

       Spade grunted, "And then the 1K Orion and the Archer, think of you can get all that fixed up before we make port? We can worry about the Highlander, the Black knight, the Centurion later. Once we get to port, we can get some AC10 loads and then well worry about the rest."

       "The Wolverine and the Blackjack sir?"

       "Eh, we'll get to them when we get to them." With that he finished turning around and left.

       The chief mechanic had already called down his fifteen other techs to tell them the new plan. It was another twenty-four days of space travel as they bounced from jump point to jump point and then finally disembarked from the jump ship and fell into orbit around the planet Early Dawn.

       During that journey the mech techs more than earned their paychecks, having pieced back together three of the four Hunchbacks, the Archer, the Orion 1K and the Blackjack.

       Spade had recovered from his shrapnel extraction surgery, and Vortex, Babe, Sumo, Rolex and Radio Wave were healed up well enough they could sweat it out in a cockpit again. They had six mechs operational mechs and six pilots, only two thirds of what they used to be, this time last month.

       The injured troopers were doing well enough they were back on their feet too, and everyone was eager to get off the cramped ship and breath real air and eat real food again, after so many days in the black. The radio operator at the ground control station was obviously not happy when he figured out who he had requesting to land at his space port, but they were eventually granted permission to land, much to the relief of everyone aboard the Razor, that had mad for a very tense twelve orbits before they were permitted to descend.

       Once planet side, Spade and his chief tech headed off with a shopping list, Auto cannon ammo of all major calibers, jump jets for the Highlander, more armor plate, a new wire harness for the Black Knight, black and red paint and maybe even a couple more grunts to higher as infantrymen. They had five-gun slingers on board, and the Anvil collectively decided that they would be satisfied with a seven-man squad to pull security around the drop ship, and that they wouldn't bother garrisoning a full size platoon again. Too many friends to potentially get killed, and in the shorter term, perhaps too many salaries to pay and mouths to feed. The need for ammunition, parts, paint and payment of the pilots, medical staff and technicians over the past month had cost Occam's Anvil almost half of their funds, and Spade was looking to spend more.

       Meanwhile he sent Rolex and Javis out to scrounge up the kind of work that a half dozen mech warriors could turn a profit from. The sun was setting by the time Spade and his tech returned to the Razor. Their reputation really had preceded them into the Magistracy, most vendors didn’t want to sell the them at all, and those that did were only willing to do so at highly inflated prices. "Scalpers, the lot of them." was the senior technician’s complaint as the re-boarded their drop ship.
Spade waved a hand dismissively, "I'm not surprised, after all that we did, up and down their borders a couple of years back at the League's behest I'm glad they let us land, and that we're not blacklisted outright."

       Lightning McAbee just grunt as they waited for the airlock to cycle. Spade continued, "Besides, we got the paint and the ammo, now we can everything repainted and loaded up. After all this welding and wrench turning, I'm sure you're anxious to artistically Express yourself."
As the doors hissed open the mechanic threatened his employer, "How about I get a wrench, a big one, and use that to do some artistic expression in both your knee caps."
Both men laughed as they entered the Razor.

       It wasn't long before Rolex found him. "Hey boss, you get all the hardware we needed?"

       Spade shrugged, "I learned the difference between need and want."

       Rolex answered with a sidelong look intense enough that Spade elaborated. "We got The AC10 ammo and even some spare AC20, plus the paint, but for the prices they were asking we decided we didn’t really need more AC5 or AC2 loads."

       "What about the jump jets for the Highlander, and whatever fancy thing the Black Knight needed?

        "No one here's got 'em, or at least they say they don't, which this far from the successor states shouldn't surprise anyone. Even if they did have them, I don't think we could afford what they would ask for those jump jets. Please tell me you got an easy job, that pays really well and will restock the companies quickly dwindling bank account."
"Wellllll..." Rolex drug the word out, not giving a direct answer.

       "Well?"

        "There were plenty of jobs that needed doing, this part of the periphery, there's always someone looking to do violence on someone else."

       "I feel there's going to be a really big but at the end of this, and not the kind of big butt I like."

        "Really? I never took you for an ass man boss."

       "I don’t know if I would call myself an ass man, but I am certainly a man."

      "Fair point. Anyway, the long and short of it is, I could only find one job that anyone was willing to let us do, and it hardly pays at all."

      "But it pays?"

      Rolex nodded his dark head.

       "Anything is better than nothing."

       "Yeah, I figured you'd say that, so I signed us up for it."

       "Good, we'll show up eager to please with shiny new paint jobs and not complain about the high price of doing business or the low scrap jobs they're letting us pick at, make them think it’s a damn feast they're giving us."

       Rolex chuckled.

       "You laugh, but we were betrayed, and hung out to dry, this is a different, colder harder Anvil we're offering to let our employers bludgeon their foes with. It's going to take a while for them to see past the stigma of our reputation. But I don't want you or anyone else to think of that as our reputation anymore, that was the old Anvil, we are the new Anvil now."

       "Whatever you say, you're the boss, boss."

       "What's the job?"

       "Couple of days before we landed a lance of ragged old mechs that fancied themselves to be pirates of high esteem came out of the wood work. Local militia fired a couple of warnings shots and the bandits scattered to the wind. The local commander is rather lazy, and would rather pay us a paltry sum to find them, then get off his fat back side and chase the degenerates down himself."

        Spade considered this for a moment, "Is it that he is too lazy, or is he feigning lazy to cover up that they can’t?"

     "Nah, SHE, might not have any battle mechs, but they're loaded with a company of solid looking tanks with auto cannons and they've got a shiny new wing of VTOL gunships. I think she figured it’ll be cheaper for her to screw us over with a minimal payment rather than spend her own resources that are probably more needed elsewhere. either way, they have some rag tag mechs that can’t be left unanswered and are offering to pay us a few bills to deal with."

       "Deal with how?  Haul them in for trial and sentencing, chase them off planet, give them dirt naps?"

      Rolex shrugged.

      "Let me call Jamsheed."

       Over the next three days Jamsheed and two other troopers drove The Anvil's jeep through the country side slowly, carefully.  They were extremely aware of the fact that three men with slug throwing rifles were diving a little wheeled jeep down the gullies and then crawling onto the ridge lines to look about with their binoculars, hunting an unknown number of mechs, piloted by people with no known affiliation and unknown intentions when hardly a month before most of the people Jamsheed had considered friends had all been brutalized by one such battle mech. Eventually they were located by Jamsheed and his men.

       There were five men camped in a deep gully nearly fifty kilometers from town, and they had two barely working mechs and a third that they had been cannibalizing to keep the other two working. The five men surrendered when two Hunchbacks laden with lasers and autocannons came down their ravine in the first glimmer of the sun rise, they almost made a dash for their mechs, but noticed another Hunchbacks standing on the rim of the ravine above them, and instead fell to their knees in the soft sand. Jamsheed and his colleagues in the jeep hog tied the five outlaws, and unceremoniously stuffed them into the back of the jeep, the other two of the Anvil’s pilots not in the Hunchbacks managed to get the two battered old Commandos powered up, and together the jeep packed with eight men and the five mechs made their way back into town.
The commander of the local Canopus forces had just finished her breakfast when an aid called her speaking hurriedly.

        She went to the courtyard outside her barracks and motor pool and was shocked by the Three pristine looking Hunchbacks and an Orion with glossy crimson red pain on the legs contrasted by pitch black torsos and arms, with a long list of twenty-five names hand painted in fine white letters on the chest of each mech.  in front of this imposing lance were five men, hands cuffed behind them, on their knees, behind them, three infantry soldiers with gray/green camouflage armor held the five kneeling men at gun point. She was about to start asking questions when a Hunchback sporting no less than eight medium lasers dropped to a knee and its cockpit opened.

        A moderately tall, tanned and bearded man in cargo shorts and neural helmet climbed out with a shiny black slug throwing pistol on each of his hips with spare magazines tucked in behind his large belt buckle. He strode over to her with purpose as he pulled his neuro helmet off, and came to stand before her, bare chested under his cooling vest, his skin covered in tiny scars, like battle freckles.

        Not only did the mech warrior turn over custody of the five bandits to her, Occam's Anvil turned over custody of both the captured battle mechs too, as a gesture of good will.

       The commander was impressed by the gesture, even if she was now saddled with the responsibility of disciplining the five captured men. She made several notes and gave high praise to Occam's Anvil for their professionalism, results and having captured the fugitives without a shot being fired by anyone.

                -- epilogue--
       
       Over the next three months Occam's Anvil visited a half dozen worlds along the Magistracy border and completed many jobs without ever suffering serious casualties, the black mark on their reputation with the Magistracy was eventually blotted out by their reliability and new service record. Four months after that dark day on Sax, they had almost recovered financially, and that included the purchase and custom overhaul of a dilapidated BNC-3M Banshee assault mech, which was typically armed with two PPC’s two medium lasers and small laser, but Spade felt this was too light an armament for an assault mech, especially when it didn’t have enough heat sinks to fire the weapons continuously, and instead he decided to take advantage of its large articulated hands and use it as a close in brawler, having his techs only mount one PPC in the assault mechs chest, then increasing the number of medium lasers from two to four, and the single small laser became four small lasers, along with additional armor across the mechs back and additional heat sinks, so it could be used as a brawler. They even repaired a captured pirate Warhammer heavy mech. They sold the Refitted Centurion and Orion-VA to help finance the two new mechs. They became stalwart defenders of Canopus space, chasing off pirates, raiders and once free of charge enthusiastically repelled a probe by a force bearing the purple eagle of the Free World’s League.

       Later they even hired three new pilots who used the call signs Lobo, Switchback and, Proton. But never again did they field an infantry platoon and never again did they take a job where the employer came to them for help, rather than The Anvil asking what was needed of them. They weren't quite a garrison force, but they certainly became known to those of ill will who happened to be in the area. The only thing they hated more than the Free Worlds League was the Capellan confederation.
-Chace A. Randolph

DOC_Agren

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Re: Rabbit's Anvil
« Reply #13 on: 03 January 2022, 22:36:16 »
 :beer: :clap: :beer: :clap: :beer: :clap: :rockon: :rockon:
"For the Angel of Death spread his wings on the blast, And breathed in the face of the foe as he passed:And the eyes of the sleepers waxed deadly and chill, And their hearts but once heaved, and for ever grew still!"

snakespinner

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Re: Rabbit's Anvil
« Reply #14 on: 04 January 2022, 17:50:08 »
 :clap: :beer:
I wish I could get a good grip on reality, then I would choke it.
Growing old is inevitable,
Growing up is optional.
Watching TrueToaster create evil genius, priceless...everything else is just sub-par.