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Author Topic: Re: The Adventures of Rabbit (Part III)  (Read 3585 times)

Chace of Spades

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Re: The Adventures of Rabbit (Part III)
« on: 17 January 2021, 03:52:12 »
       An update on The Descendant: My second complete book is currently with my editor and I am awaiting feedback, the third book is with my beta readers and I finished writing the fourth book on Christmas eve. I’m contracted to print a book every eight months, but I am far enough ahead I felt it safe to sharpen my skills by changing the pace for the time being. I wanted to revisit some other projects. So I have for you, new adventures for Rabbit. I’m looking forward to hearing any feedback. See if anyone can notice a difference in the quality of the writing since what I posted before was old material I had simply touched up to make presentable. There have been a few years and a few hundred thousand words of writing practice between when I wrote that, and when I am writing this. So… If the misfortunes of the PBI catch your interest, Enjoy.    

Also of note: the forces in this story were generated at random with a few rolls and an 80’s edition of Mechwarrior. So I don’t have any lore related reasons as to why the opposing force may or may not have the types of mechs they do have or any related implications to their origins.

                                                                                            Too much, or too little?

       Rabbit was tired. Tired of everything, tired of life. He had been through too many wars, seen too many dead in the futile pursuit of fame, fortune, peace, or some combination thereof. The mercenary command he was contracted with had picked up a six-month garrison contract. That had ended five weeks ago. Their relief had never arrived. They had been told there was some mix up with the transportation. He wasn’t sure if it was something wrong with the dropship, or a missed jump or financial troubles, or what the cause was. All Rabbit knew was that their relief was almost six weeks late, and they were liable to take another six weeks more before arriving. As such Rabbit and the rest of the mercs were stuck.

       Rabbit had learned to keep his head down. He had been in the business of subterfuge for too long and escaped by the skin of his teeth too many times to feel comfortable being stationary for so long. He was sure someone, somewhere attached to one government or another would love to get their hands on him, and liberally punish him for his supposed war crimes. He had just done what he needed to do at the time. They had been here too long and he desperately wanted to move on. He sunk lower in his chair the booted foot on one leg resting on the knee of the other as his shift on night watch was nearing a close. He yawned so wide and hard that his right ear popped and started ringing terribly.  Rabbit had been trapped at this guard post long enough some of the locals were starting to recognize him when he went about the chores that life necessitated while off shift.

       Speaking of shift, this whole six-month stint, command had kept him on the night shift. Waking just in time to see sunset getting off shift with just enough time to watch the sunrise and get his personals in order before sleeping the day away to do it again the next night. He sat in his chair, his eyes open but unseeing as he starred at the wall of small monitors displaying various camera feeds. Was the money worth it?

       His thoughts grew deeper as he struggled to keep his eyes open. Was the money ever worth it? Had it ever even been about money? He had spent the last few years, wandering. Running from something, and beyond the threat of possible retribution for his actions during the Fed Com civil war, he wasn’t sure what he was running from. The only soul in the Inner sphere he dared still call friend had found himself a wife, and the last Rabbit had heard was expecting a second child. Spaceman had actually managed to slip under the radar and find the quiet life and be happy to do it. Rabbit had thought about it, even had the opportunity once or twice. But he knew he wouldn’t be happy. He could never settle down to such a quiet uneventful life, he would forever be looking over his shoulder. But at the moment he hated his life of action. Because for the past six months his ‘action’ meant cold windy nights with a handful of unrefined people he didn’t know well and trusted even less.

       His tired mind continued to wander through his years of service, both with the military and the various mercenaries he had thrown in with since then. To all, he had destroyed, to all he had killed. Everything he could remember was either running from or attempting to commit some form of destruction. It was all he had known, all he had ever heard reports of. For a moment he wondered how there was still an inner-sphere left to be tearing itself apart. How was everything not already destroyed? Who was making new things? Who had built the cities he had seen bombed, the tanks and mechs and planes and VTOL’s he had seen shot. Who made the music? The art? What was that like? What was it like to build things, to grow and cultivate rather than hunt and obliterate?

       Rabbit yawned again and switched which foot he had resting on which knee. Shaking his head to clear it, not wanting to chase what he had been thinking too far. After all, he was a doer of things, not a thinker. Rabbit checked the time just as the door to the cold gray concrete room squeaked open. He jerked his head in greeting to the oncoming shift. He stood and took up his rifle from where it leaned on the wall and made to leave. Neither of the two men sharing a word, as was usual. But the sharp exclamation of a four-letter explicative drew his attention back to the little room just as the door was swinging shut.
He caught the door with the heel of his boot, preventing it from closing completely. His voice thick with exhaustion. “What?”

       The man that was supposed to be his relief didn’t speak, and instead only pointed, his old gun hanging loosely from one hand as the other trembling hand extended a finger to point at the monitors on the left side of the wall of screens. Those particular screens had the perimeter camera feeds. The facility they were guarding was surrounded by kilometers of flat grassland and scrub brush in all directions. They had cameras with hardlines feeding straight back to this room hidden among the brush, some nearly a kilometer out.

       The camera’s picked up the unmistakable silhouettes of a half dozen battle mechs. Their broad shoulders peeking over the horizon, backdropped by the rising sun. Rabbit wasn’t tired anymore. Using a four-letter explicative of his own, he leapt back into the room full of monitors and lifted the plastic cover on a large red button in the panel above the rows of monitors before slamming the fist of his other hand down on the button, sounding the alarm. He didn’t know who’s mechs they were, but They didn’t belong to the unit he worked for, and the planetary government they were contracted with didn’t have any. Who’s ever they were, they didn’t belong there, and they were getting close fast.

       Rabbit leaned in towards the screens, his tired eyes trying to discern what the mechs were. One was a Cicada, he could tell that much, it was too tall to be a locust. There was something else? Dust plumes? Some sort of hover tanks, or transports. Transports he nodded to himself. They would need infantry. Grunts such as himself to secure the warehouses and load what was stored in them. Assuming that this force was coming to raid the isolated depot that he was guarding. For at least he could readily not think of another reason for a half dozen battle mechs to be charging straight towards them unannounced.
       Rabbit’s glare intensified as he tried to figure out what the other mechs were. Was that a spotlight? A Warhammer perhaps? The door burst open and he and the other guard both jumped reflexively. Rabbit began to bring his rifle up, but the light that came in through the open door let him identify the intruder as a man who went by the name of Scruffy. His rifle didn’t rise above the low ready, and instead both the men inside the room cursed Scruffy.

       He demanded of them. “What the hell is the alarm for?” It took Rabbit a moment to generate an answer as his mind chewed through the surprise at seeing the man. Scruffy typically worked the shift prior to Rabbit’s. He was not on the morning shift coming to relieve him, nor was he on the same shift. Why he was already dressed and so quick to respond to the alarm didn’t make sense.  But as his mind caught up to current events. Why Scruffy was there didn’t matter at the moment. They had real problems to deal with. Rabbit pointed to the screens. Fighting through another yawn, that twisted his voice. “Half a dozen mixed mechs. Some sort of hover vehicles. Probably transports coming to take whatever is in our warehouses.” He lost the battle with his yawn and his head rolled back and his eyes squinted shut as he strained against his gaping jaw and exhaustion.

       As he rolled his head back forward he found Scruffy leaning on the console, his submachine gun dangling on its sling around his neck as he peered at the screens his nose almost touching the screens. “That’s a screaming Warhammer out there!”    

       Rabbit nodded before Scruffy asked another question. “Who are these jugglers?”    

       Rabbit shrugged. “You know as much as I do.”

       Scruffy swore with another very choice four-letter word and stepped outside. His head swiveling, looking inward towards the center of the facility where the rest of the command was stirring in the weak light of the early morning. Rabbit stepped outside with him, the two men standing shoulder to shoulder, watching the pilots and ground crews scramble to get their lance of medium mechs online. Their command sported a mixed medium lance consisting of a forty-ton Strider, an old forty five-ton Blackjack a fifty ton Enfield that was their newest shiniest mech, and a thirty-five ton Panther, which was technically not even a medium mech but Rabbit thought of it as one, since it wasn’t fast, and it had a PPC that hit like a freight train. That was the command's oldest mech. Their lance was in good shape and their pilots weren’t a bunch of greenbacks but their cumulative weight was only one hundred sixty-five tons. The seismic sensors told them that the half dozen approaching mechs massed nearly twice that much at three hundred tons. Or so Rabbit and Scruffy heard as the other man was still inside the monitoring station, and by now was on the radio talking very quickly to whoever was on the other end.

       As the other mechs drew closer, the other grunt was able to ID them in the screens, and Rabbit and Scruffy looked to each other as he listed their names over the radio. Rifleman, Warhammer, Clint, Cicada, Brigand, Roughneck. A bunch of heavy mechs. The two lowly infantrymen hefted their slug throwers and with a nod to each other, sprinted away from the guard shack across the courtyard in front of the warehouses towards one of the weapon emplacements their command had procured to try and bolster their simple defenses.

       Rabbit’s tired mind went astray as they dashed across the two hundred meters of open concrete. He didn’t consider Scruffy a friend, not in the way he did with Spaceman, but they had signed on with the command at roughly the same time and despite being a physically smaller man, Scruffy being a solid ten centimeters shorter and twenty-five kilo’s lighter, he seemed to have boundless energy and enthusiasm. He carried his own weight if not more within their rifle platoon. He might not be a friend, but he was Rabbit’s co-worker and in this situation, no one he would rather have with him as they hopped onto a flat top trailer that had a manual operated A/C 5 mounted on it.

       Scruffy was spinning wheels by hand like a mad man to swing the muzzle of the weapon around in the right direction. Rabbit slapped the lever on the back of the autocannon with the palm of one hand, dropping the breach block, and stomped a pedal mounted on the trailer’s deck. The pedal activated a battery-powered servo which opened the small armored compartment at the front of the trailer, nestled just behind the hitch. Rabbit hooked his fingertips around the rim of a phat cartridge and pulled it free from the rack. Letting his foot off the pedal as he turned, the door over the magazine sealed with a loud clack as Rabbit rammed the massive cartridge home inside the chamber of the cannon, and slapped the lever again, closing the breach and locking it shut. He was still short on breath from their sprint to the weapon and instead of verbally affirming the weapon being ready he punched Scruffy’s shoulder as he agonizingly slowly spun the adjustment wheels training the cannon on one of the distant looming silhouettes.

       Rabbit tightened the sling on his rifle so it didn’t hang so loosely around his shoulders and sucked air hard trying to catch his breath. He realised he didn’t have his helmet, it must still be back in the guard shack. He screwed the tips of his fingers down deep inside his ear canals in preparation for the cannon’s discharge. Listening to the rasp of his own breath inside his lungs while they waited for someone to give orders. They were under contract, they still had rules of engagement to follow.

       They waited, tense and terrified. Scruffy keeping his sights trained on the rhythmically bouncing shoulders of the Riflemen in the distance as it closed to within firing range. No word came over the radio, no orders were given. Then tension was palpable.

       The opposing force of mechs came to a halt, a mere hundred meters beyond the chain-link perimeter fence that couldn’t even keep the indigenous critters out. Rabbit watched as the lance of mechs from his command formed a line abreast inside the compound, and the ten mechs stood looking at each other. As motionless, expressionless, and terrifying as only giant machines can be.

       They stayed that way, for minutes. Rabbit grew antsy and shuffled his feet on the deck of the trailer. He had to know what was going on. He flinched as if he had been physically struck when he remembered the radio on his belt. He pulled it free sharply, the belt clip snapping with a sharp metallic ping. He thumbed through the channels frantically listening for whatever channel it was that the mech jocks were talking on.

       “…an’t do that. We have to wait on word from…” That was a voice he recognized one of the pilots from his command.  He could never remember their names. It was the pilot of the Strider, he remembered that much.

       Whatever the Strider pilot was saying got cut off by a sharp female voice. “No matter, we won’t leave any witnesses.”
       With that, the Riflemen fired both of its autocannons. The report was thunderous as the massive shells slammed into the chest of the Enfield who stood opposite the Rifleman, across the fence.  Scruffy flinched in his seat at the gunner's station of the cannon. Rabbit jumped and nearly fell backwards off the trailer as he tried to cover his ears from the thunder of guns.  He recovered and shouted over the din of gunfire as all ten of the mechs erupted into motion, their massive stomping legs and the discharge of several lasers, autocannons, and SRM launcher racks. Scruffy spun the wheels madly adjusting the cannon, trying to keep a target in his sights. Rabbit shifted his weight to the other foot, ready to stomp on the actuator pedal and open the magazine.

       Scruffy finally lined up on a target and mashed the trigger button. The trailer jerked as the autocannon erupted. Spewing fire and thunder. The lead projectile crossing the courtyard and slapping the Cicada in the upper thigh. The round denting armor, and creating a massive shower of sparks as the plate shrugged off the round, not penetrated by the shell.

       The breach of the cannon slammed backwards less than a meter from Rabbit’s hip as the weapon cycled. Ejecting the spent case from the round and returning to the ready position. Breach open, tendrils of smoke oozing their way out of the cannon’s dark, hungry maw. Rabbit’s torso was already rotating with a second round in hand. He dropped it on the loading tray, and with the closed fist of his right hand rammed the oversized cartridge home into the breach before slapping the lever with an open palm, resetting the breach block, readying the weapon again. He shouted over the din as a barrage or SRM’s overshot their target and exploded in the courtyard in front of the warehouses. The Warhammer wandered closer. Slipping through the wafting clouds of concrete dust from the explosions. The ground-shaking with the hundreds of tons of dancing death machines. Rabbit caught sight of the flash of colors across the Warhammer's left shoulder. He recognized that seal, but it didn’t register in his tired adrenalin panicked mind at the moment. He heard his own voice strain against the din as the mechs danced and their lasers cut the air. “HOT.”

       Scruffy heard the call and fired the cannon again. The trailer lurching with the jolt of recoil as the high-velocity round glanced off the Warhammer’s shin and buried itself in the dirt with an audible thump. It was then Rabbit was able to place where he knew that symbol was from. These mechs were the relief force. These half dozen traitors were the ones who were supposed to have been here weeks ago to take over the garrison. He rammed another giant cartridge into the breach of the gun. Scruffy spinning the wheels to swing the gun around tracking the Warhammer as it shuffled sideways. Dodging the raking fire from the Blackjacks four medium lasers. The Enfield behind them being swarmed under by the concentrated fire of an entire lance of mechs was reduced to nothing more than a towering skeleton. It’s armor burned and blasted away. Daylight visible through a gaping hole in the torso where an autocannon shell had detonated internally. The pilot punched out. The top of the cockpit popped open and the command couch rocketed up and away on a plume of flame. The frantic pilot in the Strider, with fresh glowing trenches cut in its plating crisscrossing its body from the slice of lasers, made a run for the open planes that surrounded the warehouse facility. The Panther was bore to the ground by a vicious kick to the shins from the Clint and grew still as the looming hulk of the old Riflemen stomped on it. The pilot leaning all of the machine's weight onto one leg as the foot crushed the smaller mech's chest.

       Scruffy fired the autocannon again. His round missing as the Blackjack and the Warhammer still dancing around each other. Lasers and SRM’s flying every which way. This battle was being decided quickly. Rabbit leaned on Scruffy's shoulder instead of loading another round into the gun. “We need to leave now, or we may not ever get to leave.”

       Scruffy was going to protest, but then the two hover APC’s pushed their way through the clouds of dust and settled onto the patchy concrete courtyard in front of the long low rows of warehouses. Massive ramps opened and out poured two platoons of grunts. Riflemen with old slug throwers and lightweight soft armor, much like Rabbit and Scruffy were equipped with. Rabbit hopped down from the trailer and made a run for it, slipping between the warehouses not wanting to become a target himself. Cursing with another four-letter word Scruffy left the gunners station of the autocannon turret and chased after his comrade. The thunder of machines and guns dwindled in the background as their command’s mechs were blasted into scrap. 

       They ran as fast as their panicked legs would let them. Slipping between the warehouses. They passed through the first row of buildings and were crossing the access road before the second row of buildings when Scruffy stopped. “Wait.”
-Chace A. Randolph

Chace of Spades

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Re: The Adventures of Rabbit (Part III)
« Reply #1 on: 17 January 2021, 04:07:41 »

       Rabbit skidded to a halt his heels sliding on the gravel between the patches of pavement. Speaking between gasps. “We. can’t. stop. Have. To. get out.”

       Scruffy shook his head. “Get out how? Go where? There’s nothing to use for cover for kilometers in any direction. They don’t know they’re still here. We should hide in the warehouses while we can. Because there won't be anywhere to hide out there.” He jerked his head to indicate the perimeter fence with his chin.

       He turned and made his way back across the road to the warehouse they had just run past. The building was twenty meters wide and one hundred meters long. With four meters of internal space from floor to ceiling. Despite having lived amongst them for the past six months, no one in the command knew what was inside them. Rabbit swore as still panting, he followed Scruffy to the small side door. Scruffy jiggled then handle. Locked. The ground seemed to bounce rhythmically as the mechs moved around in the lot on the other side of the building, a lot filled with nothing but dead mechs and the dark columns of smoke drifting into the sky, as the twisted bodies of the fallen mechs burned like funeral pyres. Rabbit shouldered Scruffy aside and drew his combat knife. He wedged the blade in hard between the knob and the frame and wiggled it around, pushing this way and that, making enough play in the mechanism that he was able to depress the deadbolt and open the door, without making it obvious at a glance the door had been tampered with. He held the door open as Scruffy entered, mockingly asking “First time?” Then shut the door behind himself as he sheathed his knife again. The latch still catching, holding the door shut just like Rabbit had never been there.

       It was dark inside. The weak early morning light barely pushing its way through the small greasy windows high up in the wall just below the roof. Inside were rows and rows of wooden crates. Some small enough to contain a spare car tire. Some large enough they could have held entire limbs for a battle mech. The two men had no idea what was stored in them.

       Scruffy hopped up on a waist-high crate and used that to get on top of another as a stepping stone to a third one that was much taller. Scruffy lay on his belly and barely managed to slither in between the roof and the top of the crate. Rabbit was already following his lead and ten meters down the row of crates had found a medium height crate with taller ones on three sides and so he slipped into the shadowy cubby sat down, sinking low into the corner.

   Rabbit stifled a yawn as the broad rolling doors that took up the entire front wall of the warehouse squealed and opened. Jerking him awake again. Light spilling in from the sun now just above the horizon. A dozen soldiers with armor and guns jogging down the rows of crates, checking their corners, their muzzles pivoting sharply as they moved down the rows of crates. Scruffy lay his head flat on top of his crate, breathing shallow. Rabbit scrunched lower into the corner behind the crates as the clomp of rubber boot soles approached and then receded. Judging by the crunch sound of splintering wood, someone had shouldered their way through the door that Rabbit had popped open with his knife.

       There was some indistinct shouting outside that continued to fade as the group of goons moved on to another building. Rabbit and Scruffy settled in, who knows how long they would have to wait to make sure their foe had departed. Ten minutes, fifteen minutes… Rabbit fell asleep. Scruffy quietly smashed spiders with a gloved hand on top of his crate, but not daring move to another hiding place for fear he would make noise, or the other foot soldiers would come back. After another forty-five minutes of motionless waiting one of the Hover APC’s slowly squeezed through the still open rolling doors at the far end of the long low building. The blast of dust and roar of turbines was overwhelming inside the confined space of the warehouse as the vehicle slowly back in. The rear part of the skirt started to deflate as the ramp fell and the vehicle settled. Its engines shut down and drifted down from a scream to a whine, to a whistle as the turbines spooled down. The foot soldiers that had jogged through the warehouse before returned. The back door now half smashed squeaked on its hinges as they re-entered the building. The dust was still settling after the hover APC made its entrance. The dozen men, now with weapons slung strode casually down the aisle between the stacks of crates until a tall thin man in a flack jacket stepped from the back of the APC, a massive laser pistol flopping loosely in a thigh holster on his right leg. He stopped at the end of the vehicle’s ramp to light a cigar, puffing hard to get it started. He stood there all his weight on one leg, hips cocked at an angle in his leather pants as a dozen troopers walked to him. They saluted and the tall man with the cigar haphazardly touched a hand to his brow in return.

       The soldiers said something indistinct, Scruffy couldn’t make out what they were saying because they were facing away from him. He heard the reply of the other man as grunted it around his cigar. “Yes I know, otherwise I wouldn’t be standing out here now would I? Now, hurry the hell up. we don’t have much time. Load the transport up. Leave the big crates. Stuff in as many of the little crates as you can and let’s get out of here. We’ll come back for more later if we get the chance.”

       The man with the cigar waved a hand to dismiss the soldiers who laid down their arms and started hurriedly carrying and stacking the smallest crates within reach into the hold of the transport. As they did the Man with the cigar slowly strolled down the row across the length of the warehouse.

       Scruffy could see Rabbit shifting uncomfortably in the shadows behind the large crates. But as he shuffled in the dark, his eyes grew huge and he froze. Scruffy tracked his gaze to see what had upset him. Holding his breath and he lifted his head, to look to his right instead of his left. Willing himself not to be seen. After he had moved and let his eyes focus again in the slowly growing light he too froze. His blood turning to ice water. The man with the cigar had an emblem with a bone white sword on a pale blue background down the back of his flack jacket. The Word of Blake. Scruffy let his head down onto the top of the crate shrinking as low as he could willing himself to become one with the shadows.
The Blakist’s voice barked loud and sharp. “Hey, you there!”

       Rabbit by now was sunk down in the fetal position in the pit between the crates but jerked back up at the barking voice, his rifle came up and the safety flipped off. His instincts told him Scruffy had been spotted. He leveled his rifle from the shadows and put the rifle’s sights between the man’s shoulder blades. Having a staring contest with the sword emblem on his back. But then the man continued. “Come down here and grab some of these crates too. We want to diversify our takings.”

       Scruffy hadn’t been spotted, he was just ordering around some of his goons. Rabbit slowly released the pressure from the trigger of his trusty old slug thrower and sunk back down onto his behind atop the crate. Carefully letting the breath he had been holding in his lungs out, letting his chest deflate in a controlled manner, marshaling his breathing as his panicked heart beat away madly, pushing Rabbit’s blood pressure up the red line.

       Rabbit and Scruffy remained where they were for some time as the soldiers grunted and dripped sweat on the concrete floor. Carrying various wooden crates selected seemingly at random out of the stacks back to their transport.

       Finally, the thirteen men and their thick boots clomped back up the ramp into the vehicle. The engines kicked on and roared back to life as the now partially empty warehouse was filled with thunder and dust. The Hover APC’s skirt reinflated and the vehicle gingerly pulled out of the building. The doors didn’t close, the sound just got further and further away as did the rhythmic footsteps of the half dozen accompanying battle mechs. Just like that, they were gone, and the world grew deathly still and quiet. Rabbit’s stomach rumbled as it was near time for lunch now. He should have been asleep for several hours already. They waited another fifteen minutes before the two men nodded to each other from across the aisle and climbed down from their perches among the storage crates.
Rabbit peered out the now smashed back door of the warehouse, looking both ways before emerging and detaching himself from the shadows, Scruffy only a step behind him.

       They stopped in the road between the rows of warehouses. Scruffy was calm, controlled but seemingly on the brink of rage. “What the hell was that? The word of damn Blake? Here? I thought they were busy near the core. Didn’t they just capture Terra through some backstabbing or something?”
       Rabbit shook his head. “That was a couple of years ago man. They’ve been hiring mercenaries and recruiting people left and right ever since.” Rabbit straightened and peered down the corridor between the warehouse towards the no longer smoldering wreckage of mechs that used to be the mercenary command he and Scruffy worked for. “That explains why our relief didn't arrive on time. They got bought out by the Word of damn Blake.” He started walking back towards the courtyard. “We really have to get the hell out of here now.”

       They rounded the corner of the warehouse and were faced with the husks of three dead battle mechs. The guard shack and the monitoring station smashed. The jeep that had been parked outside the barracks building blown up. Both the temporary buildings that had been serving as their barracks and the mess hall had been gutted by fire and lay smoldering with their roofs partially collapsed. “But how?” Scruffy queried.

       Rabbit started walking, then he kept walking. Scruffy caught up to him near the trampled chain link fence. “We can’t just walk out of here! The nearest settlement is more than ten klicks away!”

       Rabbit’s only reply was “Better hurry before the Blakists come back then” as he kept walking.
-Chace A. Randolph


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Re: The Adventures of Rabbit (Part III)
« Reply #2 on: 18 January 2021, 14:08:44 »
This a solid and well-written tale  :)  :thumbsup:

More, please ...


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Re: The Adventures of Rabbit (Part III)
« Reply #3 on: 19 January 2021, 22:58:55 »
Interesting and glad to see back

They are in for a long time, shocked they didn't raid the warehouse supplies for the walk
"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!"


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Re: The Adventures of Rabbit (Part III)
« Reply #4 on: 20 January 2021, 02:20:12 »
10 km is a 90 minute run for a average runner in running gear.

For openly walking on good roads with a day pack with a light day pack it is three hours.

Double that with heavy kit walking cross-country.

So one day for the last plus moving clandestinely.

Figuring in ammo, water/food, one change of clothes, several changes of socks, at least some bad-weather gear and a change of civ clothes plus at last some battle rattle/weapons: about 30 kg of kit I'd say.

So moving cross-country using concealing terrain features during day-light would take our heroes one day-march; or two nights when moving at night.

Edited: because I should not post from my mobile ...
« Last Edit: 25 January 2021, 07:13:06 by cklammer »


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Re: The Adventures of Rabbit (Part III)
« Reply #5 on: 24 January 2021, 19:55:57 »
I was refering to the fact WOB took out the base and hired the relief force.

Anything they could have raid the warehouse for could help them long term.
"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: The Adventures of Rabbit (Part III)
« Reply #6 on: 30 January 2021, 03:29:00 »
       Since this is newer stuff, and not something old that I am editing, and my idea for this is a little more involved. These next few parts will be related and consecutive, no more stand-alone mishaps until I finish chasing down my idea. So please enjoy, as we explore a little deeper into Rabbit’s motivations and inner workings. If it gets too boring, I'll gladly have him blow something up for you in the next one.

       Yee of little faith

       Rabbit and Scruffy had settled into a dry and dusty drainage ditch on the side of a dry and dusty dirt road. The long-dead scrub and brush in the ditch was brittle and crushed into powder under the weight of the two tired men, who were doing their best to be quiet as they slunk along the bottom of the channel that had been dug for seemingly no reason, because it was so dry in this hemisphere that it never rained enough to actually need such a drainage line. The Sun had set roughly twenty minutes before and darkness was near complete, as the last tendrils of light and heat were creeping over the mountains on the horizon were oozing out of the edges of the sky.

       Rabbit was exhausted and dragging behind, all of his senses dulled having been awake nearly thirty hours and hiked some twelve kilometers with all his kit. Shuffling in the bush and scrub alongside the road that stretched seemingly forever across the lake bed that had been dry for millennia and formed the basin, the warehouses at one end, the dusty little town at the other. Scruffy had been leading the way as the two men snuck in closer to the town. Rabbit’s exhaustion dulled senses and left him in no state to be the point man. The smaller man with his blond hair and gently tanned skin blended in with the dead plants better anyway. Rabbit was a larger and darker man. His hair so dark brown it was almost black, and despite being on night shift his skin tanned well under this planet's sun leaving him an almost mahogany color. His eyes, seemingly always far off in thought or memory were an odd color, somewhere between green and hazel. Scruffy wasn’t sure how to judge the only other surviving member of their mercenary command.

       He seemed a decent enough man, but there was something off, something hidden. Everyone could sense it, but no one had cared enough to bother pushing him for details. After all, they were mercs everyone had a checkered past and things they would rather not talk about. Still this seemed like something more significant. He certainly seemed more put together, his kit more organized, his reflexed more honed, cooler under pressure during the training simulations than many of the other people with similar credentials had been. What had he left off? What would a regular rifleman have, that he wouldn’t put on his resume when trying to get hired. There was a bunch of something that this exhausted man wasn’t telling to Scruffy, or anyone else.

       He shook his head to himself as he stepped over the outline of a large rock. It didn’t matter what he thought of Rabbit. Rabbit was all he had, and it would have to be enough. Instead, he needed to be thinking of what they were going to do next. What was their objective in coming to this city? Ultimately, they needed to contact and warm the planetary government he surmised. They needed to get in touch with someone and tell the story of what had happened to their unit. Tell the galaxy of the unprovoked attack, the unwelcome presence of The Word of Blake, and the traitorous mercenaries who had assumedly taken a larger payment to go against their originally contracted job. He continued to scuttle along the ditch. They wouldn’t be able to do that with the meager radios they carried in their kit. They were short-range and certainly didn’t have the right type of encryption to be able to get onto the right channels to talk to the right people with the local government. The two of them had switched their radios off. Fearing any transmissions would be triangulated and allow someone they didn’t want to zero in on them. This was a planetary sized game of cat and mouse, and currently, the two of them were the mice.

       He shrugged to himself. Exhaling hard through his nose in the now total darkness. For all, they knew there might not even be a planetary government anymore. The Blakeists could have landed with orbital assets and swept them all aside in one grand swoop. They needed more information, and preferably transport before it would be worth the risk of trying to reach out and contact someone else.

       Another road joined the road they had been following. Scruffy stopped at the T intersection, the new path carved into the desert sand stretching off in front of him, sprouting from the far side of the road whose ditch currently concealed them. He sunk down onto the balls of his feet, his eyes barely above ground level as he looked across the road to the brush on the other side.

       Rabbit slow and noisy saddled up next to him before sitting down in the bottom of the ditch. Leaning back against the opposite wall of the trench, not even bothering to take off his pack. Letting out a long deep sigh as he leaned his head back, using the top of his backpack as a pillow.

       Scruffy shivered as he refocused his gaze across the road. It was getting cold as quickly as it was getting dark. Rabbit mumbled something under his breath.

       “Whatchu say?”

       Rabbit repeated himself, a little louder, so he could be heard this time. his words slurred with exhaustion. “Fuggin’ word of Blake. Bunch of religious zealots.”

       Scruffy arched an eyebrow “oh?”

       “Yeah, they’re almost as bad as the damn clans. ‘cept they don’t have no crazy tech. Like double heatsinks what even is that shit? Wacko’s doing shit, killin’ people and stuff in the name of their faith.”

       He wasn’t insulted because he knew Rabbit, much like himself was angry at the Blakeists in general for slaughtering their unit. But, being a man of some faith himself, he decided to throw that out there for Rabbit to chew on and see how he felt. “I’m a man of faith.”

       Rabbit grunted his sides heaving, making the straps of his vest creak. “Really? Wouldn’t have guessed. You didn’t seem the type. I thought all  them types were on the down and out.”

       Scruffy shivered again as the night’s chill crept up on him. “People who believe in a higher power are no different than you, just because you don’t. We have wives and lives and kids just like everyone else.”

       Rabbit grunted again. “You have a wife and kids? In this line of work? Isn’t that a little, unfair?”

       Scruffy contorted his face to arch the other eyebrow this time, one of his small quirks that added to his comic persona. It was too dark for Rabbit to see his expression. “I have a daughter, she’s ‘bout four years old now. How is that unfair though?”

       “People, grunts like us always be dying. It’s not fair to let someone love us, because we could wake up dead any morning.”

       “Not everyone dies. C’mon how long you been at this? Yet here you are, tired and bitching in a ditch. How is that, unlike any other day?”

       Rabbit grunted a third time. “Been a man in uniform a long ass time. Too long. Before and through the duration of the fed-com civil war.”

       Scruffy didn’t say anything, not at first. He turned his eyes back to the road. There it was. That’s what Rabbit was hiding. He had been in the Fed-Com civil war. The whole war. It was a miracle he was still alive. Who knows what he had done, or had done to him. Who he had gained or lost.  The silence drug on. Scruffy had to say something so he didn’t appear so deep in thought as he mulled over the realisation. “You mean to tell me, a hardened badass gun-toting killer such as yourself never loved a woman?”

       Rabbit made a quiet barking noise. Some mix of a scoff and a laugh. “I certainly loved a woman. But when the chance came, and I could have saved the damsel in distress. She didn’t believe me, didn’t trust me. Didn’t go with me. I’ve no idea where she is if she even survived the war.”
       “Real love?”

       Rabbit nodded but realised Scruffy couldn’t see him in the dark. So he answered aloud again. “yeah…”

       “You’re on the wrong damn planet then man.”

       Rabbit still shocked and confused asked. “How do you have a wife and daughter, when you’re out here, doing shit like this, with people like me?”

        “Easy, met a girl in the academy, got married ‘n’ stuff.”

       “Wouldn’t have figured you for the type.”

       “You must not figure much about types then.” Scruffy took a deep breath. “None of that matters right now. We need to get into the city unseen. Get our ears to the ground see what’s going on, maybe secure us some transport or better radios or something. We can’t sit out here looking in forever. If you don’t have a better idea, I say we take this rode into town.”

       He jerked his head to indicate the dirt road on the opposite side of the intersection. Rabbit didn’t answer.  Scruffy waited, gave him a minute to think, he was tired, after all, maybe he needed some more time to process it. Still no answer. Scruffy glanced back over his shoulder.

        Rabbit was asleep, slumped there in the dirt.

       Scruffy couldn’t blame him, poor Rabbit had been awake along time. They had been through quite the morning and made a long hike afterwards. He would let his only remaining ally rest. He glanced up and down the length of the trench, stood, stretching his knees and neck, peeking over the ravine, standing out like a prairie dog before settling back in. A significant portion of their kit had been destroyed when the barracks got burned. They didn’t have all their survival gear. The bottom of the barren lakebed gets awfully cold at night. He figured it best if he got some sleep too. Because soon they would wake, unable to sleep, stricken with the shivers, and be forced to keep moving. He settled down, deeper into the trench leaning against the opposite wall, so if something came along to wake them, Rabbit would be looking over one bank, and he the other. Trying to keep all their bases covered. He crossed his arms over his knees and rested his head atop them, slipping his skull below the cold air, stirred by the breeze above the confines of the ditch.

       Rabbit didn’t even realise he had fallen asleep. Suddenly it was extremely dark and the night sky was all he could see. These stars had become familiar to him during his six-month stint on night shift. Rabbit growled and swore as he stirred. His teeth chattering with the cold. His joints stiff and aching.
“It’s cold as fish dicks.”

   Rabbit looked about, the starlight too weak to let him make anything distinct out. He could only tell where the ground ended and the sky began because of the absence of stars. Somewhere not far to his left, Scruffy’s husky voice came. “’bout time you moved. Was starting to wonder if you had froze to death. We need to move.”

     “But to where?”

      Scruffy shrugged, the motion of his shoulders invisible in the dark. “For lack of anything better, we should get into town, see if we can get word on what’s going on. Maybe a better form of communication, or even transport.”

   Rabbit groaned. “You might have to drive then. I don’t know how to drive an automatic.”

   Scruffy took a second as he considered that. “What?”

   “I only drive stick. Automatic transmissions are gross.”

   The heel and palm of Scruffy’s left hand quickly made contact with his forehead, making an audible slap in the dark. He stood, and struggled over the side up onto the road. His joints also protested, stiff from the cold. Rabbit scrabbled to make it out of the ditch himself, and they took positions on opposite sides of the road.

With a grudging acceptance, Rabbit started walking again. “C’mon, no rest for the wicked.”

       Scruffy’s voice drifted from the other side of the road. “So I shouldn’t have let you sleep? I’ll wake you up next time.”

       Rabbit snorted through his nose. “Or you could give a pulse laser a lap dance.”

       Rabbit pulled up his collar and tightened the straps on his pack. Hunching his shoulders against the cold breeze. Cursing himself for not wearing longer socks as the cold air seeped in under the hem of his pants and over the top of his boots as each leg reached max extension during his stride.  It took them an hour of shuffling in the cold and the dark before they found pavement. The pavement lead them into town, but slowly. The buildings didn’t spring up all at once. First a gas station, an empty depot building. An abandoned and burned down house. They stopped in the scrub at the edge of a twenty-four-hour restaurant whose lights were on, two lonely vehicles parked at opposite ends of the partially lit parking lot.

       In the shadows of the parking lot lights, Rabbit shook his head to Scruffy, and made off around the back of the restaurant, giving the light a wide berth and slowly, gingerly working his way around the building in the dark, careful to avoid the miscellaneous detritus that had collected around the periphery of the building. Scruffy just as quietly followed.

       They spent twenty minutes just to circumvent the one building. Once on the other side, Rabbit drastically picked up the pace, almost jogging. Not only wanting to find information and transport, but to get away from the building. He could smell the food and he was so damn hungry. He wanted to put as much space between himself and the building as possible before his stomach made him do something stupid.

       The two men slipped deeper into the shadows, melding into the night, both of them completely silent beyond the crunch of the seasonally dead vegetation beneath their tired boots. They pushed deeper into the town, looking for something. They didn’t know what they were looking for. But it didn’t take them too much longer to find it either. Half an hour later, as they slunk down an alley between tired old buildings with peeling paint and sagging roofs they saw the looming shoulders of a powered down battle mech silhouetted against a floodlight in an abandoned lot on the far side of the street.

       “Getting warmer.” Scruffy mumbled under his breath rhetorically. 

       “I wish.” Rabbit answered anyway.

       They slunk across the parking lot on the far side of the buildings, across the street, and paused at the edge of light that pooled beneath the towering floodlights in the lot beyond. There they were, all six of the battle mechs, bearing the colors of the traitorous mercenaries who were so easily turned against the holders of their contract by someone else waving an assumedly larger, but yet indeterminate amount of money.

       They glanced at each other as they surveyed the mechs. Their armor dimpled with the impacts of autocannons, crisscrossed with the burn scars of lasers paint scorched away by the blast marks or SRM’s, but all the damage appeared cosmetic, or superficial.

       Still, they drifted closer, wandering between the puddles of light. Their advance was tenuous, cautious. Each step forward through the darkness was slow, and silent on the cracking old pavement, Like coyotes circling a newborn, both equally ready to pounce and do violence or scatter into the safety of the darkness at the first flicker of movement or whisper of noise.

        There was none, this late at night, the techs and pilots typically associated with the handful of mechs was nowhere to be seen, and the guards that should have been protecting these massive million-dollar machines were probably off catching a cat nap, or having themselves a smoke or locked in the bathroom accompanied by full-length centerfolds on glossy magazine pages.

       Rabbit felt like a cat, as he was slinking between the legs of the giant bipeds in the dark. Still, he didn’t find anything useful. He had made his way amongst all six of the massive mechs and was disappointed he knew nothing more now than he did before except where the machines had been stored.
 Rabbit and Scruffy found each other again on the far side of the lot, Rabbit greeted his comrade with a shrug. Scruffy had better luck. He explained that there were a couple long trailers parked on the far side of the lot. Filled not with just the tools and equipment but with the sleeping members of the unit.
Rabbit grew a curling smile of malicious intent. Scruffy nodded, “First we get what we came for, then we do what we need.”

        Rabbit nodded sharply and the two men separated again. Slipping between the lights around the periphery of the lot, scuttling like malicious vermin in the shadows of the cold silent machines of war.

        The two tired, hungry men, met yet again, in the dark and silent places between floodlights and gingerly, slowly shuffled through the first trailer full of tools and parts and computers and the various supplied uses in the technical servicing of battle mechs. From amongst these items, Rabbit took the liberty of lifting one of the small portable computers and its power supply and stuffing them into his pack. Whoever had used it last, had left it in sleep mode, without activating its password protection. Whatever it contained, Rabbit would had unfettered access to it.  He even found one of the toolboxes unlocked and rummaged through it. Rearranging some of the tools, pocketing a fist full of plastic ratcheting wire ties, he took a moment to pitch the screwdrivers out the trailer’s open door into the lot amongst the mech’s feet. Smiling as the small metal and plastic and rubber tools bounced and tinkled and rolled about across the pavement. A man’s toolbox was a sacred place, never to be touched, and this time he took pleasure in defiling it.  He returned from throwing the screwdrivers and slid open the bottom drawer which contained all sorts of expensive specialty tools and Rabbit grinned broadly, but Scruffy put a hand on his shoulder, jerking his head to the other trailer.
-Chace A. Randolph

Chace of Spades

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Re: The Adventures of Rabbit (Part III)
« Reply #7 on: 30 January 2021, 03:33:46 »
       Rabbit paused, his brow lowered, he slid the drawer shut, gently almost reverently as he followed the other man out of the trailer and they made their way to the second one. They took up positions, one on either side of the door. Scruffy made his intentions clear as he dropped the Magazine from his submachine gun and tapped it on his thigh to check that it was fully loaded before stuffing it back in his gun. Rabbit heard the safety selector on the gun click from off, past semi-auto all the way to the fully automatic fire mode. Rabbit swallowed hard and readied his rifle too. But then a sinister idea came to mind. He held a finger to his lips and, and pulled the plastic cable straps back out of his pocket. He took three and fed the tips of each into another, effectively making one long one.
       With cable ties in hand, he gently turned the knob on the door and swung the door open on its oiled hinges. He slipped inside at a crouch, Scruffy behind him, the muzzle of his submachine gun sweeping above Rabbit from left to right as the door went wide. Rabbit shuffled down the aisle between the bunks laden with sleeping men against the walls. He wandered all the way down to the far end of the trailer until he found, judging by their larger footlockers, and cooling vests hanging from their racks, the pilots of the mechs. He looked at the half dozen men. Grizzled as they were with mismatched hair cuts, one missing a front tooth as he drooled in his sleep, their tattoos, and their raggedy appearances. He wasn’t sure which was the leader, couldn’t tell who was in charge.  Instead, he picked the one that seemed to be in the deepest sleep and took the end of his ratcheting cable tie, bent the tip backwards so it was straighter, and then lubricated it with his saliva before gently sliding it beneath the nape of the man’s neck.

       He gently fed the plastic straps through, until the tip protruded out the other side, from beneath the man’s neck. He squirmed in his sleep. Rabbit slowly, quietly, afraid to breathe pulled the end around and slipped it inside the head at the other end of the plastic strap. With the first of the teeth engaged, he looked over his shoulder to Scruffy who nodded grimly. Rabbit looked back to his dirty work between his hands and shouted, loud and with force, his angry voice shattering the silence inside the den of their sleeping foes. “phuck ‘em up.”

       The man beneath Rabbit’s hands jerked awake at the shout. Just as Rabbit pulled the cable ties tight over his Adam's apple. The gasp he made when he jerked awake was the last breath he would ever take and he clawed at the burning constricting line in his throat while he watched, over the next dozen seconds the two strange men in his trailer fired their old slug thrower weapons into every bunk onboard. The small man near the front of the trailer fired short bursts, the low caliber high rate of fire weapon illuminating the inside of the trailer with its arm length plumes of muzzle flash.

       “Brrrt”. Scruffy swung his muzzle to the next bunk. “Brrt.”

       Rabbit pivoted on the balls of his feet swinging up the long barrel of his larger caliber battle rifle. He left his gun on the semi-auto setting. It was virtually uncontrollable when fired in full auto mode. He put two rounds into the chest of the person in the bunk across the aisle, who was still in the process of throwing off his blanket. “Blam, Blam.” Rabbit took a step closer to the door, shooting as he moved. “Blam, Blam.”

       The brilliant light of their muzzle flashes and the thunder of guns filled the interior of the trailer. “Brrt. Blam, Blam. Brrrt. Blam, Blam.” Many were shot in their beds, some managed to rise and die on their feet. One produced a nasty snub-nosed flechette pistol but was unable to use it as his fate was sealed with a five-round burst of 4.6mm caseless rounds from the SMG across his chest before he could raise his pistol and return fire. The two men who had intruded made their way back towards the door in the middle of the trailer's side, and they departed. The interior smelling of burnt powder and decorated with blood, meekly squirming bodies and twisting tendrils of gunsmoke.

       A long night of silence, punctuated by a few vicious seconds of violence, as had become normal in the Rabbit’s’ line of work. He and Scruffy agreed to meet back at the restaurant at the edge of town and split ways. Dumping empty magazines and racking in fresh ones as they slipped off into the darkness, the rubber soles of their boots clapping rhythmically across the splitting pavement and cracked sidewalks of the dusty little town as they ran.

       Rabbit was no longer tired, his mind raced along faster than his feet could carry him. As the events burned themselves into his memory. The absolute darkness that had filled his eyes after the massive muzzle flashes of his battle rifle burned away his night vision. His eyes smiled with hate, and his mouth twisted with rage as he pivoted to his next target and fired again. Two bright flashes lighting up his vision once more. Telling him he had made his mark before moving to another victim. Their blood was cheap and he spent it quickly. Most were blasted out of existence before they understood what was going on.
Rabbit and Scruffy had quickly left. Leaving one man, with a few seconds of now stale air still trapped in his lungs as the sole witness to the extermination trapped in the dark the sleeping quarters, unable to breathe, squirming on the floor in the pooling blood of his dead friends and the last thing he ever saw was the twisted, hateful, and beleaguered form of a man who he didn’t know he had wronged as he methodically slaughtered all his comrades in front of him.
Rabbit raced off through the night. Diving headlong into the near-total darkness, guided by nothing but the starlight and the occasional street light. Putting as much space between him and the messy scene he had just created. Who knows who would respond to all the noise he and Scruffy had just made. Or how far away those two platoons worth of troops were. Since the handful of people sleeping in that trailer had just been the mech’s pilots and the supporting technicians.

       He slunk down a back alley and jogged along, eventually losing a battle with a jaw-splitting yawn. It took nearly two hours for him to get back to the restaurant that smelled so good. He spent another forty minutes hunkered down, shivering against the cold night breeze, his adrenaline having long worn off before Scruffy arrived.

       At first, Rabbit was nervous when one of the shadows on the far side of the parking lot split and half oozed out into the empty space of the parking lot. Rabbit was half ready to make a dash across the empty lake bed, to disappear into the night. The only thing that calmed him was that whoever would be looking to avenge the murdered mech warriors would probably not be a single man skulking in the dark. Against every screaming fiber in his body, he waited, almost willing to pray that his still hunched form would go unnoticed in the gloom.

       His fears grew as the shadow slunk closer, undulating like the rolling shoulders of a prowling feline. But, it was just Scruffy. He slumped over and melded into the scrub and brush next to Rabbit. His voice gruff, and breathing ragged as he recovered from the exertion of his flight through the night.
They settled in, hunching their shoulders farther against the cold. Scruffy leaned over, “What kinda info you get out of that computer?” 
Rabbit slowly shook his head. “Hadn’t looked yet.”

       “Well, why the hell not?”

       “I didn’t think of it.”

       “You had all this time here by yourself, and you weren’t looking through that thing?”

       Rabbit drug the computer out of his pack opened it and woke it up. “I don’t know man. I was thinking other shtuff.” His words slurred with exhaustion.
   They winced and blinked hard as the screen lit up, washing them with its blue-white glow in the darkness. Rabbit groaned and gritted his teeth as he stared hard at the light and waited for his eyes to adjust. He moved the cursor around and opened the file system.

   It didn’t take them long to find the command’s records. Including all their financial transactions.

   Scruffy stabbed the grimy screen with a finger. “This is it. This is our proof that they broke their contract, took payment from the Word of Blake nut jobs, and everything. It’s all here. Those dumb bastards didn’t even try and hide it.”

   Rabbit nodded. “Yeah, but I feel like if two strange, dirty men with guns show up and drop this info pertaining to some people who were recently and brutally involuntarily deceased, that might raise some suspicions.”


   “Yeah.” Rabbit echoed.

     “So how do we get this to the right people who can do something about it?”

     “They don’t need the whole computer, knowing my luck it would just get discarded or overlooked anyway.” 

       Rabbit took off his pack and rummaged through it for a moment before he produced not one, but two small, universal memory storage devices. The cheap little computer only had one port. Forcing Rabbit to plug them in only one at a time. But with each drive, he copied the files over onto the external drive. He gave one to Scruffy and kept the other for himself.

   Scruffy raised an eyebrow and waited patiently for Rabbit to explain. He was slow on the uptake, but eventually, he caught the drift. “Look man, everyone else is gone. Those bastards killed all the mechs, burned the barracks with everyone in it. We are all that’s left. Two men isn’t a command. It can’t be just the two of us against the rest of the galaxy.”

   Scruffy nodded. “I’m tracking.”

   “You said you got a wife and kids… and now we both got copies of the data that proves these bastards' guilt. I think this is where we should part ways. We split up, and eventually, we’ll figure out where, or how, or who to give this data to and you can go back to your family.”

   Scruffy grunted. “And what about you? Where will you go? What will you do, one man against the whole galaxy by yourself?”

       Rabbit stood, his knees protesting against the cold after crouching for so long. He left the screen with the financial files open on the computer and set it on the back step of the restaurant. Scruffy pushed rabbit for answers again. “But what will you do?”

       “Me? I’ve got my own people to go back to. I’ll offload this data to someone useful as soon as I can, and then I’m getting on the first ship out system.”
   With that, Rabbit stretched picked a point on the horizon and started walking. Scruffy stood too, but he didn’t follow. He watched as Rabbit slouched off into the darkness. Off to do who knows what, and go who knows where.
-Chace A. Randolph


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Re: The Adventures of Rabbit (Part III)
« Reply #8 on: 02 February 2021, 17:57:34 »
Bad, Bad Mercs  :o, that why you bring an real inf platoon with you to provide base security, even if it only a temp R/R site, or at least have 1 mech active on sensor sweep.   

Back when we played regularly like the # of times until new players learn, that my Scout/Sniper units used to rise hell in enemy bases without proper security.  Mech Jockey didn't like being taken out by 7 man inf force. 

Thanks for the memories and story

"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: The Adventures of Rabbit (Part III)
« Reply #9 on: 31 March 2021, 12:44:31 »
                                                                                                                           Akam’s Anvil

       Disclaimer: Akam’s Anvil is a ‘real’ merc command, and Rabbit’s adventures with the unit will occur at irregular intervals in the future, as his story only advances with that of the whole command. When Akam’s Anvil gets a contract and deploys, so will Rabbit. His fate is now literally up to a roll of the dice. We’ll see how this goes. There will be an explanation and backstory for Akam’s Anvil throughout, and when needed. I don’t want to spend several thousand words explaining how the unit got formed, or how they ended up where they are to meet Rabbit, at least not all at once.

       In other news, my personal works on “The Descendant” are still advancing. As ever E-books and paperbacks are still available on amazon. I’m nearly done recording the audiobook. The cover art for the sequel, “The Fallen” Got finished yesterday (03-30-21) and the editor has just finished another project, so we may take up work on editing the completed sequel next week. The third and fourth books are also complete, various drafts are in the hands of my beta readers currently. The audiobook is part of the reason for my delay between the previous part and this one, but I am making progress on all fronts, anyway back to the main event...

   Three days. Rabbit had been on his own in this desert for three days. Living on the fringes of the dusty little town, sneaking in under the cover of darkness in search of easily stolen vehicles, with the intent to drive to the spaceport. Unfortunately for him, that was a full day’s drive away, across the flat hot open desert. He had watched what was left of the mercenary command slink out of the city at the heels of their Blakist employers, their massive battle mechs, now empty and useless were good for nothing more than very expensive decorations, no more threatening than any other looming gargoyles, as the command had effectively been lobotomized by two angry and motivated men who had slunk in under the cover of darkness and killed all the mech warriors in their sleep.

   Rabbit idly spun the data drive in the palm of his hand, as it contained all the information he needed to sentence what was left of that traitorous unit to eternal damnation. The thin high altitude clouds moved on and the little bit of shade he had, vanished. His brow sunk lower as the sunlight beat down on him, so bright it made his eyes ache.

   Rabbit had taken to hiding out in a ravine, and under the sun’s glare, he shrunk back into the crevice he had been sheltering in. It was just narrower than his shoulders and deep enough that it had shadows to hide him. He wriggled his way backwards, further into the crack, stirring the sand, dried so hard it was almost clay. His rifle was wrapped in a plastic bag he had found on one of his nightly forays into the town to keep the dust out of the action. Returning the data drive to his pocket he stepped over his pack, which was becoming lighter and lighter by the day, as he either used its contents or realized he didn’t need some items and ditched them. Slipping all the way back into the fissure to lean against the back wall. Letting the hard-packed dirt and gravel hold him up.

   In theory, the crevasse that was sheltering him may collapse at any time, and bury him alive and the evidence on the data drive with him. But, Rabbit had been in lots of hairy situations that were much more likely to have killed him, being buried alive as he eeked out a tired, sweaty, dehydrated existence in the barren sands was low on his list of worries.

   He felt terrible. He was so tired of the sand. His clothes, even his very skin was no longer the right color, for the seemingly permanent layer of supremely fine sand that coated all of his possession. It had now been four days since he had running water to bathe. Or was it five? Or Six? He had lost count. He leaned his head back, his matted hair almost as hard as the shell of his helmet as he rested it against the sand he was growing to loath more and more with every passing hour.

   The frustration and the hopelessness were only compounded by his perpetual thirst, hunger, and grime. He was beyond irritable and had to put mental effort into controlling his temper, as his hands shook with irritation-induced rage, and every fiber in his body demanded he move, he do something, he go somewhere else, and get out of this terrible, hot sandy place.

   But he resisted the urge, he needed to save his energy for the coming night’s attempt to make off with a vehicle, he closed his eyes and exhaled, the air so laden with the fine sand, and he perpetually so close to dehydration, that he winced as he inhaled. His throat felt like an ancient cracked pipe, dry from time immemorial. He huffed again and remembered to inhale through his nose, and added the air to his mental list of things he hated, not just the sand, the heat, the sun, and the insects. He waited, not really awake, not really asleep, just in power saving mode, hiding from the sun, trying to stay hydrated as best he could until he could make it back into the city that night and refill the hydration bladder in his pack, and hope to make it last another day if he couldn’t find a set of wheels.

   He wasn’t sure how long he had been resting his eyes. He never wore a wristwatch, a holdover habit from when he worked as a mechanic, since, on occasion, those skills had been called upon again by his employers and his personal datapad had long since run out of battery power. It may have been ten minutes or two hours, but he was stirred from his rest by voices. The unmistakable kind of whisper shouting that was intended to be as quiet as possible so others couldn’t hear, but needed to stretch over some distance so the intended recipient could.

   He couldn’t make out the words, but the sound of a human voice was unmistakable against the utter silence and stillness of the desert. His eyes shot open, wide, and unfocused, glaring out through the opening of his crevice, not looking or seeing anything specific, but hungrily waiting like a predatory spider for any sign of movement. His ears strained, and for a moment he cursed the beating of his own heart as the blood pounding inside his own head made it harder for him to hear.

   Seconds passed, and another voice answered, the words still unintelligible. Part of Rabbit wanted to lay back, and sink into his semi-sleeping rest state, wishing the intruders would go away so he could carry on about his business uninterrupted. The other part of him wanted to take up his pack, rip the plastic bag off his rifle and go meet the newcomers, and deal with the problem head-on. The dehydration-induced headache, and hunger-induced sluggishness stayed in his hand, and he decided on a wait-and-see course of action. Remaining in the shadows of his hidey-hole, completely still, scarcely daring to breathe, for fear his breath, so near to the walls of the ravine would stir up dust.

   The form of a man slunk past the opening. A man clad in dark camouflage, carrying a black rifle, wearing a backpack with several antennas sticking up out of it, and a helmet with some sort of night vision goggles flipped up, so they stuck out above the wearer’s forehead like the grotesque horn of a beetle. His shoulders were low, and his stride slow, his footsteps planted meticulously, like that of a stalking cat. He oozed past silently and after a moment, a second man slipped by, then a third and a fourth.

   Seven men, all clad in dark camouflage with rifles and face paint and large packs full of gear strode past Rabbit’s hiding place. They were all ‘switched on’ and ready to go as they slunk across the sandy bottom of the ravine, hidden from the eyes above, where at a casual glance anyone could see for miles in any direction. If someone was up to no good, a ravine like this, carved by the sporadic and violent rainstorms at random intervals across the desert were like highways for those wanting to stay hidden. But why were they in his ravine?

       Were these men looking for him? They shouldn’t have been from the unit of Blacklist-loving lackeys. He had watched them leave from beneath a small scrub bush. Who were these new players? Did he even need to bother finding out? Did he want to find out? Was it safe to find out?

       That urge to do something came back as did the various ideas writhing in his head. With a sudden jerk,  he took up his rifle but left it in its plastic bag, and with a small grunt made his way back out of the crevasse into the ravine. He detached himself from the shadows as the other men continued down the ravine, he considered following them or announcing himself or letting them march on buy. Who were they? What were they doing?

       Rabbit stood and watched as they shuffled through the sand. He let them get a few paces ahead, still unsure of what he was going to do. For lack of a better idea, he decided to follow them. He was familiar enough with this ravine having spent the last couple days living in it, that he knew there was another crevasse just ahead. Still unsure of how things were going to play out, he slipped back into his burrow, and pulled a spare magazine from his pack, and shoved it in the back pocket of his trousers and gingerly, being sure to keep quiet pulled the plastic shroud off of his rifle.

       Rabbit took another peek, seeing the troopers were still skulking down the ravine, he slipped out again and made a light-footed dash to the next fissure in the ravine’s wall. Drawing scant meters away from the last trooper in line. The patches on his uniform and pack the man wore were unfamiliar to Rabbit. The silhouette of a white fist slamming down on a black anvil over a medium gray background. Assumedly they were more mercenaries and not part of any official government. Meaning they could be working for anyone, and have any motivations.

       Rabbit decided it was best to keep a low profile and was about to slink back to his hideout and let these mercs go about their business when he overheard one of them, still whisper shouting, said something about looking for the Word of Blake. That was enough to make Rabbit freeze.

       These fools, whoever they were, were looking for the Word of Blake, but why? That’s when Rabbit’s luck ran out. The butt of his rifle brushed the wall of the ravine and knocked loose a clod of dirt the size of his head, it bounced off his shoulder, fell to the ground behind him, and shattered with a solid thump, he winced. The sound of the gently shuffling feet in the soft sand stopped. When he opened his eyes again there were three men, with laser pistols drawn cramming their way into the opening, the muzzles of their weapons only a meter from his face.

       Rabbit blinked hard several times and cleared his throat, to say something, what he wasn’t sure, and he never got a chance to decide, as an armored glove with carbon fiber knuckle plates over ballistic mesh slammed into his face, and suddenly he wasn’t skulking in the hot sand on a late afternoon anymore, he was unconscious. 
Rabbit didn’t know how long it had been, but it was still light when he woke. He found himself staring at the sky, he was unable to move, and as he strained his eyes in his sockets, too look to his right, looking down the length of one of the laser pistols pressed firmly against his temple.

   He tried to mutter a swear word, but after days of disuse and sandy dehydration, he only managed a faint croak. Which earned him a boot in the ribs. He curled into the fetal position, or at least an approximation of it, as his hands were bound behind his back, and his legs bound both at the ankles and the knees. Now on his left side, he looked up into the face of another of the troopers whose dusty gray uniform cast a long shadow over him as the evening light was beginning to fade. This man held Rabbit’s rifle, the muzzle nearly touching Rabbit’s chest.

       They stared hard at each other for a long moment, one hardened warrior to another, both of them knowing what was coming, neither of them shied from it.
The man sunk down, crouching on the balls of his feet, pressing the barrel of Rabbits own rifle into his sternum. He spoke slowly, forcefully. His voice was thick and heavily accented.

       “Who. The. ******. Are. You?”

       Rabbit groaned again. Knowing this was how torture started. Buying himself time as he gently wiggled his hands behind him, feeling the binding, which was good and tight, leaving him no slack to escape. These guys knew what they were doing. He slowly, deliberately rolled his head around, looking back over his shoulder to the other trooper with the laser pistol. Who had stood and moved off to the side, lowering his weapon, so the two men weren’t pointing guns at each other through Rabbit. He was able to glimpse the other troopers, who had found his crevasse in the ravine's wall and drug what was left of his dusty gear out of into the open and were sorting through his belongings. The soldier holding his rifle jabbed him with the pronged muzzle break. Hitting him hard enough to cause bruising. Rabbit coughed and spluttered, desperately wishing for some water. The jolt demanded all of his attention and his head snapped back around to the other soldier.

   “How did you find us?”

       Rabbit inhaled a painful raggedy breath ready to speak again when the voice of another man, bearing a similar accent spoke from behind him. “Uh.. chief, look at this…”
The man with his rifle waved to the other with the laser pistol stepped around him and leveled his gun at Rabbit as the other man slung Rabbit’s rifle and walked over to the others who were sifting through Rabbit’s gear.

       Still trying to wet his throat enough to speak, Rabbit swallowed hard again. Unafraid of the laser pistol shoved in his face. If these men truly cared who he was, they wouldn't kill him, because then he couldn’t tell them. If they were going to kill him, they would have done it already instead of wasting everyone’s time with talk.
The trooper with his rifle came back around in front of him, holding his other shirt. The one he had worn for the first couple days of this ordeal, it was even dirtier than the one he was currently wearing, but the significance of the shirt, in this case, was that it still bore his unit patches and rank designation on the shoulders. The trooper holding the shirt sank back down onto the balls of his feet, looking over Rabbit.

       “Where did you get this?” His voice was grave and heavy with barely contained rage, despite how calm and slab-like his face was.

       It hurt to speak, and his voice was barely functional, but Rabbit managed to wheeze out. “They’re standard issue, it’s mine.”

       The other man narrowed his eyes, and stepped away again, finger to his ear as he whispered into his radio, turning away so Rabbit couldn’t read his lips. There was a pause, then the man turned back. “We’ll see”.

       Not wanting to hurt his voice by speaking again he shrugged. And the others came about, but looking outwards, their eyes and weapons pointing up and down the Ravine, only the laser pistol stayed trained on Rabbit. They were still worried about someone or something else than they were about him.

       The silence drug on for several minutes. Rabbit managed to roll back onto his back. unable to bear the silence he grunted. “Pocket.”

       The man with the laser pistol jabbed the gun back into his temple and using some creative cursing in the way only veteran soldiers can ‘gently’ told Rabbit to stop speaking.

        The other man, Rabbit’s other shirt still clutched in his balled fist came back after cocking his head to listen to someone talk on the radio in his ear.

       “You mean to tell me you’re part of 5th Guardsmen?”

       Rabbit nodded, somewhat sheepish. The trooper continued. “Local authorities told us they were all wiped out. That some contract breaking ******, under Blakist direction walked in unprovoked, took the 5th off the map, and took whatever they wanted from the warehouses. And are liable to still be in the area.”

       Rabbit shook his head, meaning “No they’re not in the area” but realised the other troopers wouldn’t know what he meant, so then he nodded meaning “Yes I am a member of 5th Guardsmen” and then tried to answer the other statement by shaking his head yes again. He realised he was only making the situation worse by confusing the other men before anyone spoke, but the other man began speaking before Rabbit had the chance to clarify.

       “Don’t be playing games with me boy. I’ve got a job to do, and I’m in no mood to waste time with liars.”

       Rabbit tried to speak again, but his dry throat hurt too bad, and he stopped after a small gasp, deciding he didn't want to try and speak a whole sentence again, he reiterated his earlier statement. “Pocket” and shook his head, trying to indicate his front pocket with his chin, since his hands were bound and he couldn't pull out the finger-sized data drive on his own, to show them the proof of the other merc’s treachery. He gave up, sagging back into the sand, his ragged breath hurting his parched throat even more.

       They sat in silence, looking at each other for a long moment. Rabbit conceded he would have to use more words to explain this to them. But his voice hurt something awful, so this time he asked a question, his parched voice croaking out. “water.” The troopers looked back and forth between each other, and Rabbit tried to clear his throat, which instead felt like he was gargling sand and he winced. Grunting out in his hoarse voice, “need water”.

       The man with his rifle again glanced to the others, but this time he nodded. Someone grabbed him by the collar and pulled him up roughly into the sitting position. A hand appeared from behind him and held out a canteen, which they let him take a couple little sips from. It wasn’t much, but it was better than nothing, right? His throat was so parched it hurt to drink the water, and he winced as he swallowed each painful gulp. He panted and looked up to them, four men now standing in a semi-circle looked down at him.
       He coughed as he tried to speak again but managed to choke the words out anyway. “ I was there. They came in with Mechs, and a hover APC full of shock troopers. Burned down everything before our pilots had time to get in their mounts. Another grunt and I, as far as I know, were the only survivors. We hid amongst the crates in the warehouse as they had a platoon worth of troops load up whatever it was they were after into their APC and left. We walked out here, and the other guy with me said something about his wife and kid and we split.”

       The man, with his rifle, who Rabbit assumed was the leader since none of their uniforms bore any markings leaned in closer. “What did they take?” 
Rabbit shrugged. “Don’t know, we didn’t have permission to open any of the crates ourselves, we had no idea what we were guarding. I hope It was worth enough for someone to kill a few dozen men during shift change and not even give them a chance to defend themselves. Cold-blooded bastards.”
The leader nodded to someone behind Rabbit, and a pair of hands roughly lifted him to his feet by his armpits. They questioned him more. “What happened to those bastards after they wiped your unit?”

       Rabbit grunted again as he worked to keep his balance with his feet and hands bound. “They happened to be staying in the same town we managed to walk to, and the other guy with me… The two of us managed to sneak into their circle of wagons and blapped their MechWarriors in their sleep.” He nodded to his rifle, still held by the other man.

       No one said anything, so with his voice still hurting, he grudgingly continued. “ we found a laptop and made off with it, slipping into the night. The rest of the unit slipped out of town early in the morning, tails between their legs. That was a few days ago. Three, four, five days. I’m not sure, I lost count. It’s too damn hot out here. The other guy with me, we copied the data off the laptop onto external data drives and that’s when we split ways. I’ve got one in my pocket right now.

       “Is that so?” There was another nod and a hand from behind him forced its way into the front pocket of his pants and fished out the data drive before tossing it over Rabbit’s shoulder to the leader, who caught it, and pulled a small touch screen datapad in a ruggedized case from his thigh pocket and plugged the data drive into it. For five minutes the man paced back and forth across the bottom of the ravine, as he flipped through the various files on the drive. Without warning he yanked the data drive from his datapad and turned back to Rabbit, pointing to one of the other men behind him.
       He heard the click of a folding knife as it snapped into place. He half expected it to plunge in between his ribs, but instead, they cut him loose. Rabbit rubbed his wrists and the rapidly swelling black eye he was growing. The other men stepped from behind him and started to line back up, making as if to leave.
“The data seems legit enough, if what you say is true, and you offed all their pilots in the night after surviving the attack.” He paused and nodded before he continued.

       “That’s a hellof a thing son. What’s your name?”

       His voice still hurt terribly and now his face did too. It hadn’t hurt until after he touched it. He didn’t want to talk anymore. But resigning his fate to being abandoned in the desert he sighed. “ Call sign Rabbit.” Already reassuring himself that these guys would use the data drive to destroy those traitors.
The leader had moved a half dozen paces further down the ravine and leaned his rifle against the wall of the ravine when he stood up straight in shock. “Rabbit?”

       He nodded.

       “Like fed-com civil war from a few years ago Rabbit? Bump in the night Rabbit?”

       Unsure now, he nodded again, wary of what the other man was thinking.
The trooper picked the rifle back up and walked back to him quickly. Not with malice, but with a different kind of excitement. He held out the rifle and put it back in Rabbit’s hands. 

       “What the hell are you doing way out here in the periphery? Slinking through the dust in this trench? You’re a damn legend. A war hero. What happened to Spaceman?”
Protecting his friend's privacy, he didn’t so much as acknowledge the last question. “I wouldn’t call myself a hero, was just a man doing a job that I was kinda good and very lucky at doing. I’m out here, cause I have been looking for work and chasing paychecks ever since the war ended.”

       Rabbit pressure checked his rifle to make sure it was still loaded as the other man looked at the sand between his feet. After a moment he asked. “Since the 5th is gone… You want a job?”

       The two men stood there staring blankly at each other for a moment.

       “We’re from a unit called ‘Akam’s Anvil’ and these bastards are just the latest in a growing list of mercs who have broken contracts and done bad shit because the word of blake has paid them lotsa money. The merc review board has us contracted to hunt these SOB’s down. I fear this is only the begging of something long, and nasty. All kinds of rumors and shit happening that can’t be directly blamed on the word of Blake, but they're caught in the shadows too often to not be involved.”

       “Come’s with a ticket off this hot rock?”


       “Let me get my pack…”

       Six hours later Rabbit found himself shuffling up the ramp of a Leopard class dropship. He had learned much in that time. Akam’s Anvil were bounty hunters, with a mixed lance of mechs, a mixed lance of tanks, and a single platoon of shock troopers. They called themselves ‘Rangers’. In Rabbit’s mind, Rangers were synonymous with Air cavalry, and Akam’s Anvil didn’t even have VTOLs much less fast movers. But they were all well trained, and very well equipped and did all kinds of recon, sabotage, espionage bump in the night type stuff like Rabbit had done during the bloodletting known as the Fed Com civil war.

       In this case, the platoon had been deployed by squads, spread out across the desert looking for the very same unit that had wiped out Rabbit’s previous employers. But with the death of their Mechwarriors and the damming proof against them that Rabbit had generously provided, the Mercenary review board not only had the info they needed to confirm their suspicions and condemn the unit, but they had already been punished and forced off-world. Rabbit was greeted with congratulations and slaps on the back by everyone he met as he was lead through the bowels of the Leopard class dropship named ‘Razor’.

       He was shown to a locker and told to familiarize himself with its contents while they waited for the rest of the unit to return so they could dust off. He opened the locker and was treated to a glimpse of two of everything an infantryman could ask for. From full-body suits of hard plate ballistic armor, that was the next best thing to power armor without wearing a reactor or a power cell. Rifles, shotguns, machine guns, pistols, suppressors, goggles, every bit of kit he could readily think of for any mission he could quickly dream up. But before he got to inspect any of the gear a dozen people squeezed into the locker room with him.

       “You’re Rabbit? Thee Rabbit?” Soon he was swarmed by people who had heard tell of his exploits, most of the stories were completely made up. He had no idea he had become so popular among the fireside stories of the inner sphere's infantrymen. He was overwhelmed with questions about his actions during the war, and if they were true.  He tried to answer as many as his parched throat would let him. Really he just wanted a drink of water.

       He was much loved, and it seemed he had found a new home. The biggest takeaway he had from the friendly interrogation, was that he and Spaceman hadn’t been as low-key or stealthy as he wanted to be back in the day. It seemed nearly everything they had done was known by the universe at large. Rabbit was bewildered and confused by his borderline celebrity status amongst his fellow ground pounders. Finally permitted a moment of peace and privacy he sunk down on one of the benches in the locker room, elbows on his knees, head in his hands. He muttered to himself. “I’m too old for this.”

-Chace A. Randolph

Chace of Spades

  • Corporal
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    • Link to my published sci fi book
Re: The Adventures of Rabbit (Part III)
« Reply #10 on: 23 April 2021, 20:26:01 »
       Updates for The Descendant: Work continues on my series of original science-fiction books titled The Descendant (The first book is currently available on Amazon) it’s advancing only so, so. Last weekend I picked up another watercolor painting done by my very talented grandfather, got it scanned and it’s now framed in my hallway. Sent the scan off to the publisher where it will get used as the cover of the second book whose manuscript is currently sitting on my editor’s desk. I finished recording the entire audio version of the first book myself and that is just waiting for approval by the publisher, as well as the still existing possibility of a Delux hardback second edition of The Descendant with four extra chapters that were originally cut from the paperback. So I’m making progress on all fronts there. Just waiting for the green light from the keyholders, in the meantime, Rabbit gets more action…

       Also, I’m pretty sure I mentioned this before, but these new scenarios are based on actual tabletop gameplay, which relies heavily on random generator tables and die rolls.  So my GM and I usually ignore any implied connections or lore-related reasons to certain makes and manufacturers of mechs and why or how they ended up in the hands of the pilots or on the planets that they are on. We’re just here to blow stuff up and fight the Jihad. With that in mind, please enjoy.

                                                                                                                      “Thorn in the side”

       Rabbit didn’t get much downtime before he was off to do work with the new unit. Since they were already planet side on a job for the merc review board, Akam’s Anvil covertly contacted the local government and asked if they had any work they wanted taken care of by a freelance team of mechs. Without Rabbit’s old unit garrisoned at the storage facility, and the other mercs slinking off at the heels of the Word of Blake, some other ragtag mechs had emerged with foul intentions. With an odd assortment of beat-up old transport vehicles, both of civilian and military origin already being tracked to a dry canyon network deep out into the desert and being linked to a spree of petty crime and theft. Without some upstanding mechs and mercenaries in the area, this new power was already rising to fill the vacuum, seemingly with the intent to launch a new smuggling operation. Smuggling wasn’t quite the right word for it, as they weren’t even trying to be covert about things, they were just stealing stuff and hauling it off to their hideout in the canyon network and redistributing it elsewhere.

        Unfortunately and unbeknownst to the would-be thieves and smugglers, Akam’s Anvil had arrived without much fanfare and was willing to be the new upstanding force of battle mechs to uphold law and order on the continent.

       So now, only twenty hours after climbing aboard the ‘Razor’ Rabbit was getting booted and suited with the rest of the grunts. Intent on going back out in the the awful heat to do more violence against their fellow man for money.

       The plan was simple, with information handed to them from the local government, A tracker had been placed amongst some of the freshly thefted goods, and they now knew precisely where everything was being stashed within the network of dry canyons. The troops, Rabbit included were already in route to be delivered by a rented VTOL, coming in fast and low from one direction while the lance of mechs belonging to Akam’s Anvil were making their dash across the open desert to the canyon network. The Precise forces at the disposal of these thieves were unknown, it was known they had more than a lance of mechs that could be turned on and move under their own power, but that those machines were all in some saddened state of disrepair and almost certainly none were up to their full operational capabilities.

       Rabbit and the other infantry had been told to arm themselves with smaller, lighter weapons to make as much use of the VTOL’s lifting ability. Rabbit had chosen a medium-sized submachine gun. It wasn’t as large as full-sized receiver but it was of a model he was familiar with and felt relatively confident carrying, this model had a folding stock that locked firmly both open, and shut, and he liked that for the convenience of the helicopter ride. Some of the other men were armed with similar weapons, but most carried smaller models, some so tiny they could almost be passed off a machine pistols rather than actual submachine guns. But they carried these light weapons, to make room on board the VTOL for shoulder-mounted rocket launchers and as many reloads as possible. Of the twenty-four sweaty men, whose bulky frames loomed inside the shadowy interior of the helicopter six were armed with shoulder-mounted launchers, and those who weren’t, Rabbit included were instead carrying hard shell plastic cases filled with more rockets. The infantry were planned to land at ground level and march overland to the lip of the canyon, where they would be in radio contact with the Akam’s mechs and be able to provide fire support with their launchers.
The timing was important so that the troops on foot didn’t arrive too early and not have the mechs to protect them, or too late and be unable to act as spotters for the mechs. They were outnumbered and possibly outgunned, and one was not expected to survive without the other.

       The pulsing rhythmic thunder of the VTOL’s rotors slowed and Rabbit could feel in his gut that they were descending. A sensation he was very familiar with. The doors split open, letting in the blast of light, made even more blinding by the sheets of fine sand driven by the rotor’s wash.

       He pulled the collar of his shirt up from under his vest and stretched it over his face to breathe through, to try and filter out the sand as they poured out of the VTOL onto the hot flat plains of the desert. A small dune rose ahead of them, shielding them from any eyes that may be peaking out of the canyon still nearly two kilometers away.

       The men scattered and the chopper rose back up, this time holding only about ten meters above the ground as it rotated on its axis before heading off, back in the direction they had come from, quickly picking up speed, if only slowly increasing in altitude. By the time the dust settled, Rabbit could no longer see the helicopter, even if he could still discern the distant rumble of its rotors.

       A few hand signs were exchanged and the mean split into teams centered around the rocket launchers, and each team made its own way across the barren desert planes to the canyon, a dark twisting scar in the distance, that seemed to writhe in the heatwave like a prowling snake.

       By the time they reached the lip of the canyon and could peer down into its shadowy depths, Rabbit had worked up a good sweat, that mixed with the sand and created an abrasive sludge that gathered and chaffed in all the uncomfortable nooks and crannies that the human body had. Rabbit and the three other men he was with were on the Southernmost end of the line, the other teams and their rocket launchers spread along the canyon’s edge northward along the west side of the network. He couldn't see anything himself. Looking down into the canyon was mainly the job of the man toting the launcher and he was little more than a truck to carry more rockets into the field. He happily shrugged off the straps of the plastic case carrying three more rockets and used it down into the sand before taking up a sentry position twenty meters away laying on his belly, looking back out into the empty desert they had just marched across, keeping eyes out for anything unfriendly. Glad to be relieved of his load and off his feet again he wiggled and settled in, shuffling a few pebbles out of the way, making himself more comfortable, as he was still tired and sore from having lived a few days on his own in this desert, though he had been given enough food and water to feed and hydrate two men to try and get him back into fighting shape.

       As he settled in, the radio chatter started. “Actual, this is sandworm come in, over.”

       “We’re here Sandworm, go for actual.”

       “We’re in position, got eyes on six medium-sized hot ones.”

       “Actual copies, we’re about five minutes out, hold tight.”

       “Copy that, we’ll keep the tubes cool until you kick the hornet’s nest.”

       “Much obliged Sandworm, what else can you see? Anything we can’t chew?”

       There was a long pause during which Rabbit stifled a yawn and kept his head on a swivel, making sure to scan his 180 degrees of the horizon, part of which he shared with another grunt who also lay on his belly in the sand five meters to Rabbit’s right.

       “Got to hand it to you actual, it’s a lot of meat to chew. But maybe if you use the left side, keep it in your molars we can grind through it, pretty soft looking.”

       “Copy that Sandworm will do.”

       The radio in his ear grew silent again, nothing moved, not even the air seemed to stir, the silence was near complete except for the constant buzz of some native beetle that droned on endlessly like the hum of a large electrical transformer somewhere in the middle distance.

       “Come in Sandworm this is actual, we’re about ready to sit down for dinner, what’s on the menu tonight boys?”

       “Sandworm here, the main course looks like an Enforcer, got some fresh-looking paint and metal on her, I’d call it ninety percent. A pair of cicadas and a quickdraw make good side dishes, but they’re really lean looking, call them forty percent each.”

       “And for dessert?”

       “What looks like it used to be an Orion, but judging by the missing arm and plating, I doubt it would be able to power up, I’ll call it a non-contender so let’s say dessert is an old Pegasus scout tank.”

       “Copy that Sandworm. We’ll stir the pot, and let you know when you should take a sip.”

       There was silence on the radio for several minutes, and Rabbit, despite the sweat, the heat, the poking gravel, and the crawling insects' Rabbit was getting comfortable, and doing his very best to stay alert and keep a lookout for anything that may be a threat to him and his new comrades. He flinched when a hand fell on his shoulder unexpectedly. His head snapping around to see one of the Akam’s men crouching next to him. He pointed to the canyon’s edge and waved him towards it. Then lay down next to Rabbit taking his spot as a lookout. Rabbit nodded, worked his way up to his knees, and then crouch walked back to the edge next to where one of the other lookouts lay, binoculars in hand watching over the raggedy mechs powered down in the canyon and the temporary structures erected around their feet. He counted no less than nine transport and cargo vehicles of various makes, models, and paint schemes haphazardly parked around the boulders strewn about the canyon’s bottom. Rabbit started counting the small figures of people as they muddled about amongst the rocks when a flurry of motion made it impossible to keep track of which had already been counted. They started running about and making ready. They knew the game was up, and the voices started on the radio in his ear again.

       “Actual, consider the Hornet’s nest kicked. They’re moving and their hardware is getting warm. Best to make your move quickly.”

       “Copy that Sandworm”

       Rabbit could see the lance of mechs with Akam’s Anvil emblem painted on their chests as they filtered through the columns of stone carved out of the land.

       “Actual, we’ve got visual on you.”

       “That’s nice, we can’t see you.”

       “If you could we wouldn’t be doing our jobs right.”

       The ragtag mechs below them came online, rising up from where they were kneeling and rushing up the canyon towards the Akam’s mechs.

       “Actual be advised, your food is coming to play with you. Two hot ones moving along the north rim, and two along the south rim. Desert hasn’t moved yet.”

       “Copy that, we’ll be ready.”

       Rabbit watched as the Lance of opposing mechs rushed beneath them through the twisting canyon and slipped around the bend. With no warning, there were rumbles and explosions in the distance. As SRM’s were traded, Lasers cut threw the sky, and the deep report of the Enforcer’s autocannon echoed off the stone walls.

       The platoon leader was up on his feet, waving his arm. “It’s time to move boys. We gotta huff it upstream so we can bring these launchers to bear.”
He took off jogging. Rabbit hefted the plastic case with extra rockets for the launchers back onto his shoulder and set off jogging as all the others rose to their feet and made off too.

       Most people would call you insane for running towards two lances of battle mechs locked in combat, but these two dozen men had done this kind of thing before, they were professionally insane.

       They covered two hundred meters along the canyon’s rim before they came to the bend the enemy mechs had rounded. While he had seen mechs in combat before, Rabbit had never seen an entire lance of mechs, pitted against another lance of mechs in a full our slugfest before, at least not in person. The confined spaces of the canyon turned it into a close-quarters knife fight between the massive machines.

       The Commando accompanied by the second Commando, modified and renamed to “Shrike” had closed to nearly point-blank range with the smuggler’s two Cicadas and had blasted them with so many SRMs that their old and corroded armor plating had already given way. This explained the hail of explosions Rabbit had heard earlier. One of the two mechs turned and fled into the depths of the canyon back toward the ragtag collection of transport trucks. The infantry arrived just in time to see the pilot eject from the other, the capsule containing the command couch rocketing upwards, away from the furball. The Panther was engaged with the Quickdraw and was woefully outmatched despite the larger mechs state of moderate disrepair, the Panther was having a hard time bringing its PPC to bear at such a short range, and was facing withering fire against the multiple lasers the Quickdraw was armed with. The Vindicator also seemed to have its hands full with the Enforcer, which was in the best shape of all the mechs the smugglers had managed to scrounge up. They all had mismatched paint and marking and came from who knows where.

   The Radio crackled in his ear again as Rabbit settled next to the rocket launcher-toting man he was assigned to and again shrugged the straps off for the plastic case carrying spare rockets.

   “Actual you seem to have gotten yourself in a bit of a scrap down there.”

   The voice of one of the MechWarrior came through, the tension through his gritted teeth obvious. “This is not the time for casual observations. Shoot this damned thing before it’s autocannon kills us all.”

   The platoon leader, from twenty meters further down the canyon's edge spoke up, shouting over the distant din. “Make weapons ready. All launchers concentrate your fire on the Enforcer.”

   As if to emphasize his point the thunderous report of the autocannon sounded, the echo from down below in the canyon was so powerful Rabbit could feel it through his boots.  The man he knelt next to stood up, hefting the tube of the launcher onto his shoulder before glancing behind him and shouting “Backblast clear!”

   Rabbit knew what was coming and quickly took several steps to the left as his fellow shock trooper cocked his head sideways to see through the optic mounted on the launcher. One of the other men with a launcher somewhere to Rabbit’s left fired. The sharp thump of the rocket motor fired, as it left the tube. Burning only for that short instant of time that the rocket was actually inside the launcher’s tube. The five-centimeter diameter rocket leapt away, almost immediately lost as Rabbit's eyes couldn't follow its nearly supersonic velocity without an exhaust plume.

   After a second of flight time, the rocket slammed into the backside of the Enforcer, then in rapid succession rockets launched by the other five men slammed into it too. The men with the launchers still resting on their shoulders consecutively shouting “Reload.”

   Rabbit Came back to the side of the nearest man and worked the latches on the plastic case he had been carrying. As he gingerly pulled the rocket free from its cradle he heard the unmistakable Boom, Clang of the Enforcer landing a hit with its autocannon. The painfully bright beam of lasers danced across the opposite wall of the canyon. The heat causing the rocks the lasers raked over to explode with loud popping sounds that showered the freshly hewn gravel down the canyons wall like mineral based popcorn.

   Having slipped the tip of the new rocket into the back of the launcher's tube Rabbit slid it home, and with the fins between his fingers twisted it sideways to engage it into the firing mechanism. He slapped the man’s shoulder with an open palm and dove to the side away from the back end of the launcher shouting “Clear!” over the din after he hit the ground.

   The other launchers were all reloaded around roughly the same time and all six fired their second salvo over the next few seconds, landing several more hits on the Enforcer's back and right shoulder as it and the Vindicator vied back and forth for dominance in the confines between the canyon’s narrow walls. Each dancing like boxers in a ring staying just out of reach of each others swinging arms and feigning blows while still firing their weapons as both pilots displayed impressive dexterity behind their control sticks. The infantry loaded their launchers again.

       Amongst the rocks on the other side of the canyon, the Commando and the Shrike had squeezed past the toppled wrecks of the shoddy Cicada, the other having slipped off to who knows where in the bowels of the canyon complex after getting pelted with a hail of SRMs. They come to the Panther's aid, hammering the larger Quickdraw with their collective twenty SRM tubes and lasers and machine gun. The pilot despite the much larger mech was overwhelmed by the three-on-one odds and lost his footing amongst the rocks and boulders in the canyon’s gut. The sixty-ton Quickdraw falling flat on its back.

   The Vindicator landed a hit with its PPC on the Enforcer as the troops launched their third salvo of rockets. The rockets slammed into the Enforcers back again. They had landed enough hits that one of the rockets penetrated the armor, and its warhead set off a chain reaction, detonating the Enforcer's autocannon magazine inside its chest. The rapid detonation of so many large-caliber rounds inside the mech's torso subjected the machine to rapid unschedualed disassembly. The Enforcer’s right arm was sent spiraling out sideways and what was left of the body slumped over to the left and collapsed on its side. The sound of the detonations occurring so quickly was like so many thunderclaps, struggling to crawl over each other into Rabbit’s ear canal, punctuated by the crash of the massive machine as it fell over. Landing so heavily that Rabbit could feel the impact through his boots.

   By now, the pilot of the grounded and battered Quickdraw had surrendered and climbed from his cockpit to stand on the scorched and dented chest of his mech, hands in the air, with the Commando, the Shrike, and the Panther all staring him down with their many SRM’s. The Vindicator stood, wounded with a massive hole blown through its right torso, just below the armpit, rendering the shoulder joint useless, but it managed to stand over the smoldering wreck of the Enforcer nonetheless. In the distance the pilot of the second Cicada drifted down on his parachute after ejecting and landed on the far side of the canyon, some four hundred meters distant from Rabbit and the other men.

   As the sound of the echoing explosions trailed off like an audible collide-a-scope the radio crackled again.

   “Sandworm, Actual appreciates the help. I had about had it there. Doubt I could have taken another hit like that.”

   “That’s what we’re here for, the thorn in the side of the lion.”

       Several of the men turned for high fives and fist bumps before the platoon leader from further down the line pointed at them and told them to “stow that horseplay until they were off duty”, but he used more colorful words. Because ‘they still had a job to do.’    

   With another shout from the platoon leader, the men were back on their feet and made a sprint back along the canyon’s edge to the position they had started from. Looking back down into it, the Pegasus hover tank had made a break for it and was leading the ragtag collection of cargo-laden transport vehicles away from the mechs, down the canyon, deeper into the desert.

   The platoon leader’s voice was rough after their sprint. “The transports are trying to squirt out the other side.”

   “Copy that Sandworm, we’ll get them. You do your thing at let these dogs hunt.”

       The Commando and the Shrike broke from the scorched area and wove through the boulders and pillars of rock down the length of the canyon after the fleeing vehicles. The Panther and the Vindicator both lit their Jump jets and sailed up out of the canyon on the far side. The Panther, upon landing, gave chase after the column of vehicles from ground level, and the crippled Vindicator turned to hold the ejected Cicada pilot captive, preventing him from slipping off into the desert on foot. Rabbit shrugged to himself, They must not have been worried about the Quickdraw pilot, he was after all trapped in the bottom of the canyon, the sheer rock walls, worn smooth by an ancient and long dry river were impossible for a man to climb out of. He wouldn’t be making an escape on foot either. There was a bend in the prehistoric river bed, and soon the vehicles disappeared from Rabbit’s sight, and not far behind the Commando and the Shirke went after them, their short legs and broad shoulders with rounded heads making them look like rushing football players chasing after the ball.

   It wasn’t long before the light mechs caught up with the fleeing vehicles, and they surrendered without a shot being fired. Rabbit nodded to himself as the news was passed over the radio. They were dumb thieves, but they weren’t stupid at least. 

       The Other Cicada was never seen or heard from again. Rabbit and the other troops never saw it, nor could the other mechs find it with their various sensors. It had thoroughly managed to give them the slip. None the less their contracted objectives had been completed. The stolen goodsand vehicles seized and the enemy combatants neutralized. The employer was satisfied.

       The rented VTOL came back to pick up the two dozen sweaty men, and they rode back to the Razor in tired but content silence. They had launched the killing blow on a Battlemech and earned their paychecks. Rabbit had passed his trial by fire and was now a card-carrying member of Akam’s Anvil.
-Chace A. Randolph


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Re: The Adventures of Rabbit (Part III)
« Reply #11 on: 24 April 2021, 00:17:02 »
Well I have had merc mission with odd mech so it not that far out of line

"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: The Adventures of Rabbit (Part III)
« Reply #12 on: 20 July 2021, 12:04:55 »
       Hey all, sorry for the delay, but it’s been a while since I could get the boys together for some games. Life has been busy. I’m still writing stuff for The Descendant. I completed a new draft for books three and four. As well as finished the plotting to start writing book five. Then I was struck by another idea set in the same universe, called “The Feasting”. So, I am working on that too. Been blogging. As gross as that sounds. I haven’t posted any of them yet, I’m waiting on the publisher to get all their ducks in a row to launch the second book in order to launch the blog and new marketing scheme to promote the release of the second book, in the meantime. Here’s another adventure with Rabbit, and Akam’s Anvil, in this case, it’s mostly just Akam’s anvil, but Rabbit was there too. The roll for the skill check to defuse the bomb in time was a real close one. Rabbit did pull that one off by the very skin of his teeth. You’ll see…

                                           Malicious Garbage

       Rabbit and the rest of the platoon were trapped into their seats of the rickety old hover APC. The metal skin was more patches than armor. It had at least three different color schemes across the length of its hull as the machine had been seriously patched up multiple times. The cumulative value of its repairs were substantially more than the cost of the vehicle, it had long passed its prime, but that they had kept it alive, that it was still running had become a point of pride for these mercenaries, Rabbit could smell the history as he rode in the loud stuffy interior. The darkened cabin filled with other sweaty armored men was deathly silent despite the thunder of engines and the roar of turbines. None of the men spoke, none of the men made eye contact. They had already been briefed on the contract and no one liked what they knew. They didn’t know very much, and no one was comfortable with that, but the men needed food and the mechs needed ammo, so the sketchy jobs were taken in order to keep the bills paid.

      A local ground to orbit transmissions station and radio relay node had gone dark. But before it did, it blasted out a malignant signal that infected a whole hemisphere's worth of satellites. The local authorities had to shut off the satellites to keep the signal and the code it carried from spreading and making the problem even worse. No one was sure how, had sent the signal, or why, or even when, For the code could have lingered for days before activating. The ground station had gone dark too. So they knew even less, who was there, what they wanted, how they had pulled it off, how many of them there were. They were all riding into the unknown.

       The Platoon of troops who worked for Akam’s Anvil, Rabbit included really did feel like PBI (poor bastard infantry) even though their battered old APC was in the back of the formation behind their lance of mechs.

       The mechs had made a reversed V The APC at the point, farthest from the front of the formation with the Vindicator and Panther were in the middle, the Commando, and the “Shrike” forming the forward two points at the mouth of V.

       The five vehicles were operating radio silent. The ground relay was still running, and any radio equipment that was capable of receiving on the right frequency band was getting blasted with the same malignant garbage radio signal that had forced the shut down of all the satellites.  The computers onboard the four mechs and the computer that controlled all the vectored thrust and inflated air skirts for the hover APC would all be susceptible, so until the troops got inside the facility and shut down whatever transmitter was pushing that signal out, every man was an island.

       The ride there was more than an hour-long, up the winding road to the top of a mountain where the facility had been built. The APC’s crew was having too much fun and made Rabbits stomach feel like it was bouncing off the inside of his stomach as they drifted the ten-ton machine around every hairpin switchback going up the mountain. Rabbit’s Squad leader was standing, left hand clutching a nylon strap dangling from the cabin’s roof, squinting out the narrow slit. The viewport and its twin on the other side of the cabin were the only sources of light, as the blinding summer sun beat down on them from the outside, and did its best to smash its way inside the vehicle. The Man had stood there, stoic and determined in the radio silence keeping his eyes out, for something, anything. No one knew what they were getting into, but it always turned out to be one of those things, that you would understand once you saw it.  After so long a ride watching the man, Rabbit flinched when the Squad leader let his rifle dangle from the single point sling he carried it on, and raised his other hand. Making the “get ready” hand gesture. Rabbit glanced to the man on his left, and the man on his right. With the safety still on he chambered his rifle, cinched the chin strap on his helmet, donned his gloves tightened the straps on his knee pads, and tightened up the cummerbund of his battle vest.

       The Squad leader held up three fingers, thirty seconds. Rabbit patted himself down, all the Velcro for his mag pouches was secure. Felt his sidearm in its holster, checked the zipper on the pouch for his medical kit, and the tear-away flap covering his turnout. He decided he was ready, and again glanced to the man on his left, and the man on his right. The squad leader lowered another finger, leaving only his middle finger protruding from his raised fist, ten seconds.

       Collectively the platoon was thrown against the straps of their harnesses as the hovercrafts air skirts deflated and the vehicle sunk into sunbaked sand, stopping the hard way. The Squad leader slammed his fist against the wall to drop the ramp as the men unbuckled themselves. Rabbit was fourth headed down the ramp, behind the squad leader and the platoons two radiomen. The ramp’s electric drive motors were still turning by the time Rabbits boots left the metal and sunk into the fine sand. After an hour-long ride in the darkened APC Rabbit’s eyes struggled with the blinding light and he gasped in the heat, his hair soaked with sweat beneath his helmet by the time he had made the hundred-yard sprint across the hundred-meter gap and slammed his shoulder against the building’s metal wall. The platoon stacked up, man on either side of the door. Rabbit could see the squad leader's hand gestures over the shoulder of the man in front of him. The hot wind blasted against them like standing in front of a colossal hairdryer.

       As Rabbit gasped for breath in the blinding heat someone kicked open the door and the men poured in. As they passed the threshold they were plunged into total darkness and strangled with an even worse heat the furnace outside. Inside the air was still, the building was nearly an oven.

       Someone in the back of the stack shut the door and the whole platoon was thrown into the hottest darkness Rabbit had ever been claustrophobic inside of. The flashlights came on, and the hall was lit up. They slunk down the hall, three men diving into each doorway. Everywhere was dark, the break room, the offices, the storage space. Only one room was lit, that was also the only room that had any cooling. That was the main radio room, with the computers, and the big radio transmitters. But the building was empty too. No people anywhere, they had left in a hurry too. Civilian clothes were still in the lockers, personal electronics on the desks, half drank cups of coffee in the break room. One piece of equipment on the workbench was half disassembled and the tolls were still strewn about.

       Rabbit and the rest of his squad gathered into the transmitter room to shut the system down while the rest of the platoon was sent back outside into the heat to verbally relay what they had found and help establish a perimeter around the building.

       That left Rabbit and the rest of his squad to deal with a different problem all their own. The transmitter was still blasting out the nasty signal, and they couldn’t turn them off. They were hard-wired into the building and the building was fed by a power station that was on the next mountain over and had power cable runs through a buried conduit over to them. The computers that controlled the transmitters were locked out too because they had been taken over by some sort of ransom wear. None of the people were savvy enough technicians to try and break back into the computers past the ransomware to turn the transmitters off, so the infantry decided on a more traditional solution. The delicate application of explosives. Rabbit and two other men laid charges, one for the computer, one for the transmitter, and one for the power cables. A half dozen bundle as thick as Rabbit’s wrist sticking up out a hole, neatly bored through the concrete floor down into the dirt and the rock. A hole that would go all the way back through the kilometers of conduit to the power station.

       The men exchanged nods, set the timers, nodded to each other again, and activated the timers. Rabbit and the others took off running, the other members of the platoon already outside. They dashed out of the room, diving into the dark hallway, their feet pounding the unfinished concrete floor, stirring the dust and spider webs as they charged through the hot, blisteringly still air until they reach the exit door and collectively smashed into it, the men tumbling out through the hole into a flailing pile of limbs on the doorstep. The ramp of the APC started to lower so the men could load up to leave. Just as Rabbit untangled himself from the other men and got one knee under himself the blinding green beams of two medium lasers cut through the air sweeping from right to left over their heads. The hot eat smelled of ozone as the atmosphere itself was superheated neatly to evaporating.

       Rabbit felt the Vindicator’s thumping stride through the sand with his knees as the shadow fell over him and it discharged its PPC. Back the direction the lasers had come from. In the distance, distorted by the heat shimmer rabbit could make out the shapes of approaching BattleMechs. He couldn't tell what they were, their churning legs, distance, and heat-induced distortion waves rising from the ground made it too difficult to identify them. The squad leader, with one foot on the APC’s ramp, waved a hand and shouted to be heard over the whining engines of the Hover APC. “Battlemechs. Take cover. Get back inside the building.”

       Rabbit’s mind had to catch up after the shock of heat and lasers. “BattleMechs, inside the building… The explosives!”

       Rabbit was back on his feet, shoving off from the shoulders of one of the men he had fallen with, the third two strides behind him as they raced back down the hallway towards the explosives and the timers ticking away. They had to deactivate the detonators and reset their timers. So that the platoon could take cover inside the dark sweltering building while the battlements outside fought their own war. They didn’t have the fired power on hand to help, no equipment to damage the enemy mechs, no point in any more lives than required being put at risk. The APC was already re-inflating its skirt and raising its ramp. It didn’t have any firepower either, just a machine gun. They would make a break for the open desert, be out of range of the mechs and come back to pick up the troops when it was over.

       Rabbit plunged back through the darkness again, the building shook as the Commando unleashed all its SRMs and the sound waves from their exhaust pounded against the thin metal walls. Rabbit and the other man dove into the room. Rabbit stretching out doing a baseball slide under the desk to where the power conduit came out of the floor, and flipped the switch on the side of the explosive charge, the digital indicator reading five seconds. He heard the click, as the trooper with him disarmed the charge on the computer terminal housed in the same desk he was now under. He rolled onto his back and looked across the room to the third and final explosive charge, mere meters away resting atop the radio transmitter console. He could see its little digital display as it went from four to three seconds.

       Rabbit rolled forward, doing a sit-up, adrenaline lifting his torso off the floor faster than ever before despite being weighted down with the armor and ammo. He continued rolling forward, getting his feet under him and lunging forward, the other soldier in his peripheral vision now, just turning around from disarming the second charge. Two strides brought Rabbit across the room and he was able to reach the charge and throw its switch as the counter went down from three to only two seconds. He and the other man, drenched in sweat, gasping for air like fish out of water stood, and looked from the timer to each other and back again. Rabbit nodded, and then reset the dial, cranking it all the way around to the maximum of fifty seconds. His comrade rotated the dials on the other two charges, also back to their maximum time delay, but this time they left all three charges disarmed and gingerly closed the plastic covers over their respective switches. By now the third man came into the room after them, glancing between the two breathless soldiers and the dormant explosives. Rabbit gave him a half-hearted thumbs up.

       Outside in the stunning heat and blinding light, the two lanes of BattleMechs squared off. Akam’s Anvil fielded a Vindicator, a Panther a Commando, and a second Commando modified with a salvaged arm, sporting a machine gun rather than SRM launchers and additional armor plating, known as the ‘Shrike’. This lance faced a lance of Mercenaries, in unknown colors with an unknown employer. Mercenaries who brought a Jenner, a 50 ton Enfield, making it the heaviest mech in the desert as well as an old locust that looked like it had seen better days and a nimble little Spider. Rabbit and the troops inside the building couldn’t see or know what was going on, and for the time being, hunkered down in the blistering heat inside the building hoping to pull through alive. The platoon was told later and shown camera footage taken from the Panther’s perspective.

       The camera was mounted on the Panther’s right arm, just below the elbow joint looking down the length of the arm, an arm that bore no hand and instead ended with the muzzle of its mighty PPC. The left edge of the display was bordered by the mech’s torso. In the middle ground left of center was the transmitter shack prickly with many antennas, looming beyond that was the Vindicator. Rabbits squad leader grunted as he leaned forward, touching the monitor to start the video.

       Almost immediately the Vindicator took a hit, and a brilliant shower of sparks exploded from high on its torso as the high explosive shell from the autocannon of the distant and still unseen Enfield. A small cloud of black smoke coughed and belched out of the back of the Vindicator as it wildly launched 5 LRM missiles in return from the launcher mounted in its chest. Then on the right edge of the screen, two small shapes formed on the horizon, as if sinking through the swirling distortion that rose from the heat waves above the ground. A Locust with a very rough paint job and scorch marks, as well as the bouncing leap, run run run, Leap of a dancing nimble little Spider.  The Panther’s pilot could be heard, but that was it, no other sound in the recording.

       “You good in there?” his voice labored and heavy as the pilot stewed in their own juices inside the mech's cockpit.

       There was a pause as the Vindicator’s pilot replied, but what was said was not heard on the video, just the panther’s pilot speaking again.

       “I’ve got more coming in from the right, can you see the bastard?”

        Another pause. The Commando and the Shrike both running full tilt appeared on the right side of the screen, moving into the distance trying to head off the Spider and the Locust, both of which easily changed directions and gave them wide births. The faster mechs staying well clear of the many SRM tubes the two 25 ton mechs carried. Both Making their way towards the Panther. Not far behind those two came a Jenner, all three making a straight line charge for the Panther. Off to the left edge of the display, the Vindicator got a sensor lock on the still distant Enfield and fired off its PPC. The brilliant light and streak of pure energy distorted the display, making the edges fuzzy and the colors washed out as the camera lost focus. The Panther pilot’s voice came again. Mostly angry but with tendrils of worry creeping in too. “All of them seem to really like me.” The Panther fired its PPC on the Jenner as it closed, the Locust and Spider now further to the right, slipping from the camera's field of view.

       The entire screen washed out with the white fuzz of static as the PPC discharged. The streak of blindingly hot energy rushing off into the desert, missing, flying high over the shoulders of the squat little Jenner as it continued to close.

       By the time the white fuzz faded away the video grew clear again, it was bobbing, bouncing roughly as the Panther made its own way, closing the gap even faster, its plodding strides digging into the soft sand, making the mech slow to accelerate. The distance closed and the Panther didn’t fire. The Jenner let loose with four medium lasers washing the chest and legs of the Panther with green light. The Panther’s SRM rack buried in its chest went off All four of the missiles slamming into the Jenner’s low wide shoulders. The arm with the PPC and the camera swinging farther to the right and fuzzing out again as the PPC went off a second time. As the display cleared again disappointing the static build-up after the PPC discharge they found the Panther backpedaling quickly, as the Jenner fired its brace of lasers this time only making contact with one, blasting the Panther’s left arm, cutting the fingers off the hand with its surgical beam, the other lasers passing harmlessly in front of the Panther. The center of the screen filled in the not-so-distant middle ground featured the battered old Locust, its Right foot having taken the hit from the PPC just seconds before was melted into an unrecognizable shape, like some terribly deformed clubbed foot. The skinny legs of the mech hobbled as it tried to keep its balance. Two more green beams came down from above, presumably from the air-born spider skewering the Panther through the gut. The Commando and the Shrike by now had turned around and caught back up to the group. The Locust now nearly immobilized with its lame foot was an easy target as they washed it off the desert floor with sixteen SRM missiles. Twelve of which hit, and all came from behind. The battered little old mech was literally falling apart as the exhaust smoke cleared, an arm missing, the armor panels of the torso blasted off from the inside from where the machine gun ammunition magazine had detonated. The cockpit canopy popped off, driven up and away by small explosive charges as the seat containing the sweaty and defeated pilot rocketed up and away from the shredded lump of metal that devoid of its pilot slowly leaned to its right singing onto the melted foot and collapsing into the sand stirring up one final cloud dust.

       The Panther Swung its torso to the left, the gutted locust leaving the camera's field of view just as the Jenner stepped in real close and hit the Panther with everything it had, lasers and SRM’s. The explosions, impacts, and changing center of gravity as tons of armor melted off and dripped into the sand as slag caused the Panther to shudder. But the pilot managed to keep his footing and take another step closer, firing his SRM’s point-blank into the Jenner’s face while the now fingerless left hand swung around like a club smashing the forearm down over the smaller chicken walkers shoulders. The force of the blow driving the slightly smaller mech down to its knees, The smoldering Panther, stood back, skinned bare of most of its armor plating. For a moment the two mechs stood there, looking at each other, a scant few meters separating them.  Off in the distance, the Spider rode the plume of its jump jets down and set its feet into the sand. The screen fuzzed out as the PPC went off again. The pilot’s voice came over the tiny tinny sound speakers while the screen was whited out.

       “Two down. You guys deal with the Spider, I’ll try and get an angle on the Enfield.”

       The distortion cleared from the screen again as the Panther stepped back a couple more strides, the Jenner now flopped on its back in the sand a massive charged hole burned through its modest armor, leaving a smoking crater in the roof of the mech, the windows of the cockpit shattered from the heat, the inside of the small cavity, charred, blackened, a small tendril of smoke twisting out of what used to be the mechs eyes and completely devoid of life.

       To his left, Rabbit’s squad leader amongst the crowd of grunts as the men gathered closer around the small screen muttered under this breath. ******’ A man…”

       The camera's point of view swung wildly as the mech turned sharply to the left and then fired its own jump jets. The vibration forcing the camera to lose focus and the resolution to drop down to only 420p as the machine lifted skyward, casting its shadow over the sands, doing its best to close the gap between itself and the Vindicator. Then the screen stopped shaking and for a sickening moment that struck Rabbit with terrible vertigo the massive 35 ton Panther, this violent machine of war free fell, plummeting back down through the sky it had just clawed its way up into. As the ground drew disturbingly near the jump jets flared back up, slowing the descent and shoving the mech forward, the legs already working as it sunk heavily into the sand. Almost falling to its knees with the impact of the landing, but stumbling forward, walking, and then running in order to save itself from falling. This odd stumbling run carried it in the proper direction at least toward the Vindicator and Enfield still locked in their own deadly combat. As the Panther straightened and completely regained its footing Another explosion and shower of sparks arced off the Vindicator as it absorbed another autocannon shell. But this round smashed the delicate elbow joint of the Vindicator's right arm, the limb, and the PPC housed in it now dangled uselessly at the side of the mech, barely attached with a few twisted wires and the last twisted tendrils of tattered steel and titanium.

       The  Squad leader repeated his early explication. ******’ A man…”

       The Pilot’s voice came back again, “Stay vertical, stay in there, I got you.”

       The Panther came to a stop and quickly aimed before the screen fuzzed out again as the PPC discharged again.

       While the static discharge and distortion soaked back out of the display the pilot's voice now more breathless than ever continued. “NO, keep after him. That Spider is fast enough he can disengage and reengage. If you’ve got him on the run, keep him on the run. We’ll handle the big guy, but his machine looked pretty clean, if he wants to reengage I don’t know if our seats will have enough meat left to fight him off too. You worry about the Spider, let us worry about the Enfield, we have him outnumbered now.”

       The display cleared showing the Panther side stepping to the right to try and get a clear shot as the Vindicator now stood with its left fist, its good arm now buried in the Enfield's gut. Locked together the two mechs changed lasers, and then the autocannon fired again, the single massive brass casing flung from the giant gun’s ejection port and flung off into the sand. The point-blank round shattering the Vindicator’s hip, causing the machine of nearly equal size to slump and fall sideways. The Enfield, scorched and with a hole in its stomach stood back giving the Panther the clear shot it was looking for and the screen fuzzed out again as the PPC discharged. The squad leader now shouting at the screen as if watching a sports game.

       “Git that fuker. You’re took cooked already you don’t have the armor to take a hit from that big cannon, you have to kill him dead and kill him now.”
The screen cleared, showing the Enfield with the big scorch mark on its broad meaty shoulder turning to face the Panther. They glared at each other, the PPC’s capacitors were still recharging the Panther wouldn’t be able to fire, and the Enfield knew it, he took his time aiming that big autocannon for the killing blow. Both staring each other down, both knowing the Panther had no armor and no escape left.

       But before the other mech could fire its giant gun. The Vindicator with its remaining good leg lashed out, kicking the back of the Enfield's knee, nocking its legs out from under it, it fell backward, thumping down hard into the sand next to the Vindicator, both of them now with a crippled leg. Then the screen jerked again, the Panther lifted up into the air, the massive plumes of flame vented from its jump jets stirring the sand and kicking up dust partially obscuring the screen until it lifted upwards out of the dust cloud.

       For a moment Rabbit wasn’t sure what was going on, until the pilot’s intentions clicked in his head and he exclaimed his disbelief under his break, “No…” someone else to his right muttered too. “Send it…” The green beam of a laser streaked up vertically through the camera’s vision from below as the grounded Enfield desperately tried to stop what was already in motion. But what goes up, must come down. The Panther fell, and this time, the pilot did not relight his jump jets, and instead landed with both feet squarely on the Enfield's chest.

       The crunch was so loud they could hear it through the pilots' helmet microphone and the two heavy metal feet crushed the other mech’s sternum, stove in its chest, and sunk all the way through into the sand beneath. Crushing the mech almost beyond recognition. The Panther's legs collapsed, the joints giving and the mech sunk to its knees crushing more of what was left of the Enfield. The video ended. Rabbit shook his head and stood, now that the gaps had been filled in about what had happened while they were huddled inside the hot sweaty building before loading back up in their airconditioned hover APC and riding back to their camp.

       With help from the local government, they investigated the wreckage after the skirmish and were able to pull data out of the Locusts computer system telling them these mercs had been employed by The Word of Blake, and that the communication system had been disrupted in order to prepare for the coming attack. The government paid for and supplied materials to repair the battered Vindicator and Panther on top of the agreed compensation for the Contract, on the terms that Akam’s Anvil would help them fight off the coming invasion force sent by The Word of Blake. They had their next contract lined up already and they hadn’t even patched up their machines from the previous one. The Word of Blake and their Vendetta against the bastards may yet prove to be lucrative.
-Chace A. Randolph

Chace of Spades

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Re: The Adventures of Rabbit (Part III)
« Reply #13 on: 05 September 2021, 07:52:28 »
                                                   Precious metal

       The engineer had spent the past six months buried in the mountains, working from this remote facility. She was of moderate repute because of the weaponry she had designed. Weapons that had been mounted on everything from brand new top of the line battle armor to centuries old ancestral battle mechs. Designs and reputation that had earned her the job of a life time, working for the Free World’s League, with virtually unlimited funds for her research projects, and all the equipment she could ask for. Her own facility buried deep in the mountains, with her and a few other techs and assistants, it was quiet, peaceful away from the hustle and noise of a city and most importantly secret.

       Her reputation had earned her just as many enemies. Her designs, her weapon systems had led to the deaths of many men, to losses and victories to the changing tide of battle. Especially her work on networked arrays of machine guns. Many highly trained shock troopers attempting to place explosive charges on what they though had been unsuspecting Battle mech’s had lost their lives in a hail of bullets, and now, because she had taken up residence with the free world’s league everyone else was out to get her. If they couldn’t hire her services, if they couldn’t have her for themselves, then no one could have her at all. Or so the philosophy had been.
Eight months ago, for her own safety her and her staff had been moved to this facility, a half dozen prefab buildings out in the mountains with no roads, accessible only by VTOL. They moved in and had gotten to work on her next project, a shiny new RAC 10, which was going along nicely by the way, they had a working prototype that was nearly ready for live fire testing. Something about ballistic weapons despite their old-fashioned simplicity just made sense to her on a different plan, and they worked well in her mind, she could see them, dissemble them, reassemble them see what would make them work and why they didn’t, she grokked them. 
Barley two months had gone by and one of her staff had turned out to be a double agent and tried to murder her, which in retro spec should not have been a surprise after a string of odd events and accidents in the laboratory. Her and the other technicians had managed to subdue the would-be assassin, who was now buried deep in some dark damp government prison in the bowels of the planet.

      After that a platoon of soldiers had been stationed there to keep watch, they patrolled with their rifles, planted anti-personnel mines in the forested areas of the mountains around them to prevent other people from sneaking into the encampment and just generally did soldier things. But now it had gotten worse, it had gotten serious.
An hour ago, a message had been sent to their quiet little facility that the Capellen Confederation had a union class drop ship in orbit, and it had hot dropped from orbit a lance of battle mechs at the base of her mountain. They were presumably coming to either kill her or kidnap her and probably destroy years of hard work, research and trail testing in the process. They were good men, but the platoon of commandos stationed there with her could do little against a lance of house Liao’s hardened mech warriors and their steeds, their instruments of war.

       She stood at a window looking out over the valley, so much money, so many expensive machines coming to kill her. She was only 165 cm tall on a good day and only weight 50 kilos. In fact, she might even be down a kilo or tow, since having moved out here to the mountains and eating the rations these soldiers had brought with them for so long.  The message hadn’t told them what to do, hadn’t told them where to go, only bore bad news, not only were their hostile government troops on their soil coming to get them, but there wasn’t anyone to come help them. there were no roads. No tanks to could get to them, and the aerospace fighters they had on the planet had already been sent up to attack the drop ship. There weren’t any Free Worlds league mechs close enough to get there in time to help them. They were told the wolves were coming for them, and that they were being left for the wolves.

       To their credit the platoon of men stationed at her facility had not run off to hide in the woods, they stood their ground, they broke out a battered old SRM launcher and managed to scrounge up a gyro jet rifle, but they had no firepower that posed any threat to the battle mechs. Still the men were resolute and held their ground. The engineer looked out from the greasy window over the valley whose lower half was shrouded in mist as the heater gentle cycled on behind her.  She didn’t know what to do, no one did. They had no weapons to fight, and not vehicles to run. Their seclusion that for the past few months had been their shield, was now their doom.

       So deep in her philosophical revelry was she that when the mechs loomed up from the mists between the trees in the valley below she didn’t even flinch, she didn’t scurry and hide, she didn’t even back away from the window. She was only an observer to her fate now, she had already accepted the outcome, and the loss of her project.
She noted the models arrayed before them. A commando, a classic light mech, it wasn’t as fast as many other light mechs, but with ten SRM tubes, they couldn’t be ignored, they were almost like the sawed-off shotgun of the mech world. Behind that came another light mech, a sub model of a fire started. It’s trade mark flame throwers removed to mount a brace of small lasers instead, the standard machine guns and medium lasers retained, and then came the largest mech yet, the biggest battle mech she had ever personally seen with her own eyes. A shadow hawk, a jack of all trades medium mech that did a little of everything but wasn’t great at anything. The blast doors for small LRM and SRM launchers marked its chest like old acne and the long barrel of an AC five protruded from one shoulder like a grotesque deformity of its otherwise human looking bipedal frame.

       For a moment she wondered if the report had been wrong, as there were only three mechs, and a lance was made of four. But then from out of the mist below, came a light. A light that lifted up between the trees, pieced through the vail of water vapor, sailing high over the shoulders of the other mechs and landed several hundred meters in front of them farther uphill. A spider, one of the fastest most agile battle mechs ever to be manufactured. There would be no escaping these four machines. Millions of c-bills worth of machine and man, sent for her and her research, but mostly just her. She watched them, motionlessly unafraid, and aloof much like the cat on the arm of your sofa.
The Fire starter and the Commando moved together in tandem, sweeping the hillside scanning for something, anything everything assumedly. Then the shadow hawk followed them up, making a triangle of battle mechs and inverted wedge driving up towards their facility and the spider kept jumping and dashing all over the valley, free ranging around wildly and unpredictably.  Slowly they came all the way up the mountain, drawing nearer to her outpost.

       Suddenly, a Jenner appeared, the focusing lenses of the four medium lasers in its stub arms like some jewel encrusted epaulettes. It crested a ride to the engineer’s right approaching the four Capellen mechs on their left. The legs of the mech were painted a deep royal blue, and the upper half was white, with thin blue lines across it, almost like a slab of marble. It found a small rise in the saddle between the mountains on the left side of the narrow valley and hunkered down.

      The lance of Capellen mechs stopped and turned to face the Jenner, how the giant metal machines managed to appear so shocked and dismayed was striking enough that the engineer still alone at the window, snorted through her nose, the breeze disturbing the dust motes.

       These colossal machines, these towering behemoths seemed to carry as much personality as the MechWarrior’s piloting them. Then a second Jenner appeared, with the same white and blue pain job and laser encrusted extremities. But this second Jenner rushed past the first, and blasted its four lasers at the Fire starter. The two on the right arm struck solidly, melting hot red lines of slag across the Capellan’s chest. The other two in the left arm missed wide, and sent green beams stabbing across the sky, fading off through the mists and the mountains into infinity. The engineer blinked hard as the brilliant light, even from this distance made her eyes ache and feel dried out. She reached up and rolled a knuckle around in her eye socket to fix it. By the time the engineer had rubber her eyes to her content the Capellan commando had turned and released a full salvo of SRM missiles as it moved, arcing around the hill the two Jenner’s now used to break the line of sight with the lance of Capellan mechs.

       Who were these two, she didn’t recognize the color pattern or the emblem of a winged hammer on a shield painted on their shoulders? The Jenner’s seemed to hunch even lower, trying to use the terrain as a shield while the swarm of SRM’s washed over them. The smoke cleared and the distant thump, thump, thump of the explosions reached her ears. The first Jenner set loose its compliment of lasers cutting through the armor on the Commando’s legs. The squat little mech stumbled, but kept upright and kept moving.  The Fire Starter moved in for the kill, the mean looking biped bristling with lasers and machine guns made it over the hill and stood on the ridge line, looking down upon its victims.

       But it didn’t fire. The brilliant streak of light arced across the sky as some one let off a PPC. But none of these mechs had PPCs. The lance of Capellan’s turned further to their left, as the massive broad shoulders of a huge assault mech, a Highlander came over the top of another ridge a little further back up the valley. This Highlander bore the same paint job as the two Jenners, blue from the waist down and white on the torso. With the same emblem on its chest and shoulders. The mech loomed head and shoulders above even the Shadow hawk. The Commando and Spider were hardly waist high to the colossal machine. It’s right fore arm sported the colossal muzzle of a PPC where the wrist should have been. The left arm had a complete hand and sported a six tube SRM launcher on its wrist the ominous black holes and the back of the hand stained black with missile exhaust. The left half of the chest, as wide as commando was tall was flat and pockmarked with holes. But not holes from battle damage, but instead a massive twenty tube LRM launcher, the grid of missile tubes laid out carefully, the left pec and inside of the left arm also scorched black from the missile exhaust, not cleaned or painted, the right side of the torso carried the focusing lenses for two medium lasers.

       The entire congregation seemed to stop and stare as this behemoth changed the tide of the engagement. The PPC didn’t even hit anything, instead racing harmlessly over the head of the distant Spider and slamming into a car sized boulder on the slope of the mountain across the valley. The boulder exploded, the rock evaporating from the massive blast of heat, showering the mountain sized in a new layer of gravel. Leaving a hole in the stone big enough for a man to curl up in.

       With its appearance, the tide had turned. This mixed lance of light and medium mechs went from the baddest thing on the planet come to smash some buildings and kill a little woman, to fighting for their lives. The Spider, perhaps shocked back into motion by having such a powerful weapon pointed its way, was first to break from the shocked stillness and set the world back into motion.  The agile little machine lifted from the ground, ascending against gravity upon a brilliant plume of hot blue exhaust, a fire ball that hurt the eyes to look at and was as large as the mech was.

       The Spider arced across the valley towards the Highlander, putting itself with in range to fire its lasers at the assault mech nearly four times it’s weight. The Spider never landed, the tide turned again. Just as the little mech took off, and committed to the flight, a second broad set of shoulders came over the same ridge and stood next to the Highlander, a seventy-ton Archer, it’s broad shoulders like that of a football player. The shoulders opened, as two massive bent doors swung open on hinges, revealing two massive LRM 20 racks. The Spider still ascending was engulfed as the Archer emptied every tube across its wide shoulders. the Black cloud of missile exhaust obscured the mech and raced across the valley just above the milky mist, like an inky black eel slithering across the ocean floor. The Spider disappeared in a cloud of flashing light and missile exhaust. Nearly a dozen LRM missiles missed and carried on twisting their way across the valley, but the others didn’t miss. The Spider’s engines went out, the tail of blue flames vanished in a hail of explosions, the overlapping booms sounding like the galaxies largest string of fire crackers as they ripped across the valley.

       A slender little arm, the hand twisted and fingers mangled flew from the fireball tumbling madly thought the sky before thumping into the mountain’s soft loam far below. The cloud of explosions dissipated and the twisted blasted little mech its left arm and right leg both missing no longer in control of its descent fell to the mountain side. The forward momentum smearing the machine and its entrails across a hundred meters of mountain side, tumbling and sliding about, the right arm breaking off as the twenty something tons of machine crashed into the ground controlled only by gravity. Finally, it came to a rest amongst the ferns and shrubs. The tiny mech, twisted and unrecognizable, a small tendril of smoke drifted form a gaping hole in its side where its left arm should have been, the armor blown away and the internals blasted into a twisted unrecognizable mess.

       The other three Capellen mech’s now so out number and outmatched didn’t even have time to let the even sink in. The Shadow hawk opened fire, its AC 5 and LRM’s tickled the Highlanders right side, the Firestarter let loose on one of the Jenners that it still held the high ground over. The Commando continued its sprint through the brush passing the Highlander and closing in on the archer, presumably to get inside the LRM’s minimum range and use its SRM’s.  Both the Jenners turned and blasted the fire starter with all eight of their combined medium lasers. The front half of the little mech seemed to melt off as the beams of the ten medium lasers and four small lasers crisscrossed between the three mechs. The little fire starter stumbled back from the ride, crisscrossed with glowing cuts and rivulets of melted metal rolled down its chest and basketball sized lumps of molten metal and slag fell from the machine.

       The Highlander and its tree sized legs took several steps closer towards the Shadow hawk, shrugging off the diminutive fire power focused on it, firing everything it had in a single massive barrage, both medium lasers, all twenty LRM tubes, six SRM tubes and the Massive PPC slammed into the medium mech. Burning through the machines moderate armor, the Commando did indeed get inside the archers minimum range, but the Archer was not without other weapons, and the little mech was met with a quartet of medium lasers, cutting into the smaller mechs armor at the same time it fired off another brace of SRM missiles. The heavy mech was unphased and the gentle breeze rolling up the valley blew the smoke away from it broad scorched shoulders, leaving the massive white and blue machine looming over the crippled Commando. Its left leg severed below the knee, cut with surgical precision with lasers. The small mech struggling on its arms to get back to its feet. The Archer moved forward brushing aside the last tendrils of rocket smoke, and delivered a seventy-ton kick into the Commando’s chest. The force was so much so that the smaller mech was lifted holey of the ground and flipped over coming to a rest on its back, now silent and still, the chest of the little machine caved inwards, dented so deeply the little mech appeared to almost be doubled over in pain. Unable to lay flat on its back it instead listed to one side like an overturned turtle.

       Both the Jenners surged up over the hill and now they held the ridge looking down over the naked fire starter. Before any of the three mechs could exchange more laser fire the Firestarter’s pilot punched out. The top of the mechs little head popped off and the pilot strapped in his command couch rocketed up and away, arcing back over the valet before the parachute opened putting the man several kilometers down range.

       The Shadow hawk stood alone as the now dormant Firestarter slowly leaned back on its heels and fells rigidly on its back. The mech held a hand out palm open as it pleading with the highlander “Stop, don’t hurt me.”

       The Highlander didn’t move and instead a second volley of missiles from the Archers shoulders arced high up into the sky hundred of meters before turning sharply and descending upon the Shadow hawk, obscuring it in a glowing red cloud of explosions that lit up the entire valley.

       Just like that, it was over, in less then a minute the Capellan lance was no more. The breeze blew away the smoke and dust from the Shadow Hawk, revealing a shattered body in a blackened crater, unrecognizable as a mech. The engineer still stood at her window her eyes aching from the brilliant light of lasers and explosions, the sound waves and reverberations of the doom below her made the panes of the windows in her prefab building shake. The lance of blue and white mechs spread out across the valley and sunk further down the slope, dipping into the mist below disappearing into the distance going back the way the slain lance had come from.

       She was stunned, perhaps just as stunned as the pilots of the Capellan lance, if not more so, since she was still alive to continue feeling stunned. She continued to linger, as the threat to her life was gone, and she remained. Did she remain she though to herself? She had witnessed the deaths or men, the surprise, the brutality and the ruthlessness of Battle mech combat, she had been spared and would live to breath another day, because of four sweaty grim men who she would never meet, never see, never learn the names of, she was alive, but she had not survived, because her life was forever changed, she couldn’t go back to two minutes ago when she hadn’t seen men murder on her behalf. She wasn’t that person anymore.

       The window panes of her prefab building started to shake again. She realised it was the beat of rotors as a VTOL settled into the courtyard between the buildings, her mind was somewhere else, and even if her eyes had seen the helicopter, her mind had not. The doors opened on the blue and white aircraft and two dozen men with full face helmets, head to toe ceramic armor plating, sporting submachine guns, combat shot guns, light machine guns and covered in pouches bulging with magazines and grenades. The platoon of shock troopers broke into teams of four. One team for each building in the compound. The engineer still stood in her window, she didn’t want to move, it didn’t occur to her, her mind was still processing.

        Five minutes later two of the suited men entered the room behind her, and that was enough to finally rouse her from her stupor. She turned to face them. “Have you men come to kill me? Someone offered you a more money to abduct me maybe and those other goons just got in your way?”

        The two men glanced at each other, and then one turned sharply and dropped to a knee, leveling his submachine gun down the hallway out the doorway behind them. The other, held a compact but mean looking shotgun, but he gripped the weapon around the middle and held it down at his side. His other hand undid the latch on his helmet and with a ratcheting click, click, click he lifted the face plate. He had soulful deep green eyes and a short but thick and curly beard and well-tanned skin of someone who spent lots of time in the field.

       “No mam, my name is Rabbit we’re here to take you some place safer, if you’ll please come with me, we need to leave here…”

       He held out a hand, offering it to her in a gentle, almost dainty motion. Quite the feat for someone so heavily armed and armored. The engineer looked at it for a moment, and then took the offered hand…

-Chace A. Randolph