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Author Topic: The Misadventures of Darius Davion #1 - Darius and the Hound  (Read 42854 times)

Tokage

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Re: The Misadventures of Darius Davion #1 - Darius and the Hound
« Reply #30 on: 06 February 2011, 12:08:17 »
27

     We stayed for another local day at that tumbled down villa. Even the ever dutiful Jennifer seemed content to leave the war to it's own devices for a while and enjoy the moment. I tried my trick with removing a component from the Cloudgazelle's engines, but due to never having actually bothered learning Tech stuff I must have pulled out the wrong blasted part as when we mounted up, after I agreed to let Jennifer be pilot, the damn hopper started without any problems at all.
     I was silently cursing for the next few hours as Jennifer flew us south. The land quickly became drier and broken, we passed over sandy gulches and arid canyons, then it began to grow ever more mountainous, especially to our left.
     These were the Salt Mountains of Joshua, sometimes called Colter's Peaks, great towering pinnacles of unnatural looking black, red and grey rock. Sharp as shark's teeth they looked, as we buzzed along over the western slopes and I could see no passes through them. The wind seemed to rush through the ragged gaps between the heights, making eerie screaming whistles and as we were buffeted time and again, I began to understand why Jennifer had not been keen to fly this way around to the Fourth's lines at Colterville, or the Drop Zones, where our DropShips were presumably still standing. If we were to go down on these bare, rocky, mountain sides we'd probably die of thirst, assuming we survived the crash.
     It was about midday when Jennifer swore and pointed to her left.
     "Jesus and Jerome! Look at that!" I span in my seat and my jaw dropped in horror, a great black thunderhead covered a long stretch of the sharp pointed peaks for what must have been miles. Lightning flashed ominously deep inside it like distant PPC strikes and as my skin went cold with terror at the sight of the nightmare cloud there was one hell of a loud clap of thunder than nearly made my heart stop and my bowels open.
     "A Peakbreaker Storm that big will swat us out the sky like a tennis ball, we've gotta head west, try to outrun it, storms like that can sweep down the slopes in minutes." With that she rotated the left turbofan and span the hopper away from the mountains and out over the arid and apparently uninhabited western foothills. I could already feel a dreadful shudder at the rear of our craft as with a great rushing movement the thunderhead caught in several of the fearfully powerful wind banks and rolled down off the peaks behind us. It almost seemed to me that this Peakbreaker as Jennifer called it, was sentient, malignant and after us!
     There was another clap of thunder and several rapid flashes of lightning, then the hopper began to violently be tossed from side to side, as the dark clouds surrounded us. I think I covered my eyes and put my head between my knees in terror, whimpering a prayer to God, Blake and Father Christmas to save me.
     "I'm going lower, try to get under it. We might have to dodge the lightning though." Her voice was taught with her own fear and my scream of terror about dodging lightning was swallowed by another ear splitting clap of thunder.
     My stomach flipped as she sped the hopper practically vertically downwards, I then screamed once again as we tore out through the blinding black clouds and the dry, broken ground became visible rushing up to meet us. Skillfully Jennifer levelled out at about five meters and we were much steadier as we experienced the most singular sensation of racing, practically at ground level, underneath a  massive, rushing bank of black storm cloud so large it went as far as we could see in either direction. There was a moment of peace and I breathed a sigh of relief, then suddenly there was a bright arc of lightning down out of the clouds straight ahead of us, Jennifer pulled the hopper right and we zipped past the point where the lightning had been barely a moment before.
     There then followed a simply terrifying game of dodge the lethal lightning bolts. I don't know how my heart stood the stress, as the bloody super storm seemed to be actually aiming at us. Jennifer's shoulders were hunched and she was silent as she concentrated on flying as she never had before. A bolt slashed down to our right, she would spin left, then moments later she'd have to cartwheel back away from another.
     We'd actually almost made it, the cloud was beginning to break up as quickly as it had formed when we were clipped by one of the last dying bolts. There was a loud 'bang-crack-hiss-bang-zzzt-bang-BANG' and the cockpit filled suddenly with electrical smelling smoke and sparks. Our hair literally stood on end and we both received pretty strong shocks.
     "We're going down. Dee, I'm sorry." She called back and my mouth dried in such terror I was unable to speak, scream, whimper or say goodbye.

* * *

     She actually put the hopper down pretty well, considering the circumstances. We slammed hard into a dried up river bed, gouging a great trough through the sand and dust and eventually coming to a nose-first halt. A fire burst out on the console my head had just smashed into and I threw myself back from it and scrabbled up at the canopy catch. The smoke was tearing up my eyes and it took me a good minute to get the blasted thing open, the fire was meanwhile spreading and I could hear Jennifer groaning in front of me.
     Gasping as the canopy opened and blessed fresh air came rushing in, I stood up, feeling the heat of the flames on my legs, then clambered around and checked Jennifer. She was only partially conscious, blood pulsing from a nasty looking wound on her forehead, her eyes lidded and barely open.
     "Jennifer, oh Lord, come along old stick, wake up." I babbled, terrified at the thought of being stranded out here alone. I slapped her hard to try to wake her and she actually passed out. Sobbing, I hit the release clip on her seat belt and pulled and dragged her out as my own seat was consumed in flames. Realising the fire would reach the fuel soon I dragged her to a stand of red rocks some good way from the hopper and collapsed myself, facing our downed craft.
     At that moment it exploded in a rolling blast that sent pieces of it's ageing bodywork spinning and careening outwards in a great circle, one shard of the cockpit canopy missed me by inches and shattered on the rock I was leaning against, sending stinging shards into my cheek. The heat of the flames was strong on my face, despite the distance I'd pulled Jennifer and I passed out.
     I can't have been out long, as the fire was still blazing amidst the wreckage and a great towering plume of black smoke coiled up above us into the now blue sky. I turned and found Jennifer was still out, her breathing seemed shallow and I began to panic again, I had no medical supplies, was stranded in the back of beyond and Jennifer looked like she was dying here and now.
     Of course your Goody-Two-Shoes heroes, like Allard for example, who actually listened during wilderness survival classes at the Sak, would doubtless have fixed Jennifer's wounds with shoelaces, chewing gum and bits of lint from their pockets, whilst knocking up a comm unit from the wreckage and after first triangulating their position by the stars, they would then send a message for help, whilst munching on the roast desert vole they'd just caught.
     I however, sat down behind that rock and wept, the tears rolled down my face and I raged against the cruel fate that had brought me to what looked likely to be a bad end, when I should have been boozed up and rogering back on Sakhara still at my age.
     I must have wallowed in self pity for an hour or two, when I stopped mid sob and turned my head. I was sure I'd heard something. There it was again on the wind ... distant music. I then felt a slight shudder in the ground and then another. 'Mech footsteps, or I was a Lyran!

http://Http://www.contemplator.com/ireland/minstrel.html

     That tune ... I recognised it, it was The Minstrel Boy, the ancient anthem of the Avalon Hussars. I sprang to my feet as the music, broadcast with cavalier abandon over a 'Mech's loudspeakers, grew ever louder and I danced out from behind the rock waving my hands and jumping up and down. The tears rolling down my cheeks now tears of joy and blessed relief, I jammed my red Fed Suns cap on my head and called till I was hoarse.
     "Oh, oh, the Seventeenth! Jennifer, it's the Seventeenth Hussars. We're rescued, we're safe, we're safe." I babbled, foolish with joy as four BattleMechs ran up the dried river bed towards us, puffs of ochre sand kicked up with each footfall; a recon lance; two Locusts and two Stingers. Their legs were painted in orange and red desert camo schemes, with reflective blue-sky paint on their upper sections, the white sword on a gold shield badge of the Avalon Hussars proud on their breasts, with the black '17' of the Seventeenth painted beneath.
     They slewed to a halt around me and the music cut out. There was a crackle and a plummy accented Avalonian voice drawled out of the loudspeaker of one of the Stingers;
     "I say, if it's not awfully rude of me to mention it, you look like you could do with some help old chap."
Now listen to me you benighted muckers. We're going to teach you soldiering. The world's noblest profession. When we're done with you, you'll be able to slaughter your enemies like civilized men. - HRH D. Dravot

Tokage

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Re: The Misadventures of Darius Davion #1 - Darius and the Hound
« Reply #31 on: 06 February 2011, 13:10:34 »
28

     "Don't worry old son, the sawbones will have her back on her feet again before you know it." Leftenant Travers Worrell slapped me on my shoulder, as I sat hunched on the foot of his Stinger sipping from the flask of scotch laced water he'd handed me. I gazed past him as the Hussar Med-Techs carried the still unconscious Jennifer on a stretcher towards the Karnov heavy lift VTOL that had been called in by Worrell's 'Mechs.
     "Pretty little thing." Worrell muttered half to himself and I nodded, feeling numb from the recent terror and stress. Worrell was a somewhat plump bellied fellow, who seemed a little old to still be a leftenant, his thick carrot red hair was liberally streaked with white at the temples and his florid face, with it's purplish nose, seemed to be showing the signs of many years of good living. He was sweating profusely in the heat and was constantly mopping at his brow with a silk handkerchief embroidered with the Avalon Hussar crest.
     "You rescued her you say?" He glanced back at me with his grey eyes.
     "No sir. She rescued me." I morosely answered. Now that I was safe, I'd become very struck by the thought Jennifer was going to die, she seemed very close to death's door certainly and believe it or not I was genuinely distraut. So much so in fact I hadn't had the inclination or will to lie to Worrell's brief questioning, while we'd awaited the med-evac VTOL to arrive. Realising Jennifer was about to be taken away from me however I stood and handed Worrell his flask back.
     "Sir, I must go with her. It's the least I can do and ..." Worrell cut me off with an apologetic motion gently waving his soft looking, pudgy white hands.
    "Sorry Darius, not possible I'm afraid. Orders. When I reported we'd come across you, the C.O. went potty for a moment, then specifically ordered we were to await transport for you and thereafter escort you back to camp. I think the old man wants to hear the full story for himself." He seemed noncommittal and evasive and I began to feel the sweat trickle down my spine. I realised the Marshal of the Seventeenth might believe, correctly as it happens, that I was a deserter. I mean I had to be the only member of the Fourth Guards west of the mountains.
     "Ah here come's your cab." Worrell shaded his eyes against the midday sun and said something else that was lost in the sudden whining roar as the Karnov's twin directional rotors began to blur and in a cloud of swirling red-orange sand and dust Jennifer was carried out of my life, as far as I knew for good.
     As the Karnov rotated it's props and began to climb away, I lowered my gaze to see a deal of movement coming towards us, as another lance of 'Mechs charged up, either side of a couple of Pegasus light hover tanks and two hover-APCs. I sighed, despite my best efforts, I was being drawn back into the army again and the war on this vile, stinking, dangerous death-world was still far from over.

* * *

     "It's a right 'onour, your lordship and no mistake! To 'ave a real live, as yer bloody please Dav-yon ride in my APC. Well, I'll be writing 'ome to mum about this first chance I get." The ghastly prole of a PBI sergeant, in command of the APC I'd been pretty much frog-marched into, grinned at me for the umpteenth time, his teeth stained yellow-brown from some kind of chewing tobacco, which he masticated constantly like a cow grinding cud. I smiled back at him queasily.
     "Thank you sergeant." It was all I could think to say, gazing about the cramped metal can we were humming along inside, which smelled like someone had been using it as a urinal, but that might just have been the grubby sergeant's breath. Three other sweaty, grinning grunts shared the APC with us, including the driver, and I was hard pressed to give my normal routine, beset as I was with thoughts about the possibility I was about to be brought up on charges of desertion, or possibly even summarily executed by 'Mech firing squad. Desperate to divert my thoughts from such horrors and the reeking stench that filled my nostrils, I decided to at least make a half hearted effort at seeming vaguely interested in these commoners.
     "So sergeant ..." I couldn't and still cannot remember his name despite the fact he told me several times during the journey. "... ah ... so you're with the Seventeenth then?" To which he puffed out his chest, straining ever more sweat stains onto his blue-gray shirt.
     "First Company, Fird Battal-on, Second Lek'sin'ton Reg'lars. H'at your service, m'lord." The gruesome creature barked absurdly proud, but he jogged a memory in my distracted mind.
     "Oh, General Felsner's old unit?" I recalled during one of the Lexington Lumberjack's card games at the Palace, that I'd crashed with Jacques Labroc what seemed a thousand years before, Ran Felsner had told me a little about how he'd enlisted at fifteen into the infantry and joined the Second Lexington Regulars upon graduation from some shit-hole boot camp the next year. He'd been with the Regulars when the Seventeenth Hussars RCT had invaded the Kuritan held world of Breed in '92 and won a battlefield commission to platoon commander during that, his first campaign, and had served on with the Regulars until '94, when he'd won a position at the Robinson Battle Academy and thereafter transferred to the Seventeenth's 'Mech Regiment. The sergeant positively preened at my mention of Felsner.
     "Ol'Never-Ran?!? You friends w'im sir? 'Ow's 'ee then? Jerome H Blake! Ballsiest private I ever served wiv, we came fru the Blackwarter tergever. I saw 'im puking his guts up first time he got drunk. Same squad we was, an' now 'ees a Gen'ral, who'd have credited it? Blimee though, 'eel recklect me, wont he just. Ask 'im, tell 'im ... sends 'is best." As I say I forgot this creature's name as soon as he told me, looking back it wouldn't have mattered anyway, by the time I was to see Felsner again that sergeant and his crew were almost certainly bleached bones in Mallory's World's desert like the rest of their regiment.
     It makes you think though, when you next see a holo of the Lexington Lumberjack all proud and playing the high and mighty noble, right down to that ridiculous affected monocle of his, think like I do about how he was once a grunt private serving alongside the likes of that forgotten sergeant.
     It took maybe three hours for us to reach our destination and I managed to catch maybe an hour's catnap time, before being nudged awake by the still beaming sergeant.
     "'Ere we go then m'lord. You 'member me to Never-Ran first chance you gets, yeah?" I nodded and hurried out the rear of the APC into the midst of a vast seeming military encampment. There were marching companies of infantry, lines of hover tanks parked in ranks, stamping 'Mechs, great 'dozers breaking ground for lines of tents, Techs fiddling with sentry guns, even a regimental band sitting on cans of fuel tuning their instruments and playing a broken rendition of The Minstrel Boy. I glanced about trying to locate Worrell's lance, but they were nowhere to be seen in the orderly confusion.
     "MechWarrior Davion?" A slim, yet hard looking, black skinned 'Mech Leftenant dressed in a short sleeved blue-grey shirt, tan fatigue trousers and black jackboots stamped up, a submachinegun swinging at his side. I snapped off a salute, which he returned smartly.
     "I'm Leftenant Burnside. Follow me please." He was the picture of unsmiling business and I became all the more worried as I followed him deeper into the camp which, it soon became obvious to me, held the entire body of the Seventeenth's RCT. We cut through the lines of the Ninety-ninth Avalon Armour, their hover tanks guns forming an arch on either side of us. As we walked tankers spotted Burnside's 'Mech regiment patch and began shouting out in good humoured banter;
     "Hey leftenant, when do you need the Ninety-ninth to pull your 'Mechs out the fire again?"
     "Wanta join a fighting unit sir? We need a gunner in ol'Gertie here! You'll need retraining first o'course."
     Burnside pointedly ignored them and we passed out the tank avenue and into a line of tents, beyond which the sound of sergeant majors bellowing drill drowned out the course laughter and jeering of the tankers behind us. We then passed the massed ranks of the Eighty-fourth Avalon Light Infantry, square bashing like they were back home in barracks on New Avalon. We returned so many salutes my arm ached and through it all Burnside ignored my attempts to draw him into conversation.
     The 'Mechs were at the centre of the great arc shaped camp and with the aero-jocks of the Forty-fifth Avalon Air Wing wheeling above us on overwatch, we entered the huge field command tent of an AFFS Marshal.

* * *     

     The Seventeenth Avalon Hussars were, theoretically at least, a fairly prestigious unit in those days. Their battle honours ran back into pre First Succession War times, they had a truly famous reputation for bravery, were said to be expert in the ability to attack and deploy under fire and along with the other Avalon Hussar RCTs they tended to include some of the best MechWarrior cadets from the various Fed Suns academies in their ranks. However, since the mysterious disappearance of two of their Overlord DropShips, containing almost all of the RCT's regimental commanders, twelve years earlier while en route to a combat mission against the Kuritan world of New Mendham, people had been talking about the RCT being jinxed and some wags had even taken to calling them the 'Snake-bit Seventeenth'.
     Sergeant Foul-breath's old bootcamp buddy Felsner had won the Medal Excalibur for assuming command of the RCT in the field at New Mendham and of having saved them from further disaster at that time. But since then, although the 'Mech regiment had carried out a couple of successful raids over the past year or two, the Seventeenth had not been able to shake off the rumours of bad-luck and the gossip was that they were itching to prove themselves in a major action.
     I'd not at that time actually met the Marshal of the Seventeenth and all I knew about him as I entered his command tent was his name; Charles Burke-Jankowski. Though the AFFS is broadly speaking one of the more efficient militaries of known space, I've had the misfortune to be under the orders of some prize blockheads during my life; for example there was that bungling young fool Arlin Stuart on New Ivaarsen in '21, Baden-Powell on Galtor in '25 and my dear old Uncle, Tom Davion, on Sadalbari during the '39 and I was to learn the hard way Burke-Jankowski was up there with the worst of 'em.
     As we walked through into the outer section of the Marshal's tent past a couple of well turned out infantry sentries in full battle dress, with sawn-off auto-shotguns held across their armoured chests, I was amazed to hear what sounded like numerous voices raised in loud prayer up ahead. Burnside marched me into a large command centre, lined at each side with several banks of Techs at portable sensor arrays, computers, holovid players and comm units. At the centre of the area, in front of a great stand holding the RCT's draped regimental banners, was a holomap table around which about twenty Hussar officers knelt, each on one knee, their heads bowed as one of them led the prayer loudly, in a reedy voice and the others murmured the words after him. Throughout the whole thing I cringed in embarrassment at the singular scene.
     "... of the Seventeenth Avalon Hussars, to find in our service in the RCT a sure way of serving Thee: help us to dedicate our lives that we may live for others rather than for ourselves; and grant that through the power of the Holy Spirit we may be steadfast in duty, patient in hardship, and bold at all times to declare the truth in the name of Him who loves us and died for us, Jesus Christ our Lord, and protect our beloved Federated Suns. Amen." To which the others said amen fairly briskly and stood up to return their attention to the map table. This wasn't normal for the AFFS, most of the chaps I served with wanted to keep religion out of the army and saw such matters as either completely unnecessary, or a private business for each person's own conscience. I'd certainly never seen a Marshal leading his staff in prayer before.
     "Darius?" One of the more junior officers, in fact I realised the most junior, came around the side of the table a look of surprise on his face. He was wearing standard Avalon Hussars field dress, green trousers, a blue grey shirt, a light tan jerkin and polished black jackboots, his jerkin was fitted with a gold leftenant's epaulette. My heart sank as I recognised his preppy handsome features, that damnable square jaw and those bright innocent seeming eyes, I'd forgotten he was with the Seventeenth, still I was in need of a friend here so I smiled at him warmly and rushed forward to pump his hand like a long lost brother.
     "Dan? Dan Sortek! Oh it's wonderful to see you old chap. You wouldn't believe the scrapes I've been through over the last few days." I gushed and the trusting ninny was grinning and I believe he even hugged me in welcome, before turning abruptly to the assembled commanders of the Seventeenth, who were gazing at us pretty perplexed.
     "Sir, you wont believe this, but this is the Princes's cousin, Darius Davion of the Fourth Guards." Marshal Burke-Jankowski stepped forward, he was a mid sized fellow, with a full head of cropped slate grey hair, his tanned features and trim figure spoke of frugal living, cold showers and plenty of exercise. He had cold blue eyes and a mouth that he continually pursed like he was sucking a lemon, I quickly noted he was rarely still, either hopping from foot to foot when in one spot, or pacing about like a caged animal at other times. He shot a sternish glance at Sortek and then fixed me with his gimlet gaze.
     "Now then sir ... I think you'd better explain how you have come to be found in the desert, accompanied by a ... civilian female ... a thousand miles away from the rest of your unit?" I couldn't read his expression and I straightened up, painfully aware of being dressed in the ragged remains of my civilian disguise. He had to have contacted the First Prince surely, so he must have known I'd been taken at Colterville and besides when telling a lie it's best to stay as close to the truth as possible, especially in this case what with the possibility of Jennifer coming too and telling the tale, so I began to tell my story with that in mind.
     I started with a graphic description of the Battle of the Maglev Gate, lingering on my taking out the backstab bunker. Which drew rueful whistles from some of the attentive officers. Then proceeded to describe the Kuritan sortie and the appearance of the dreaded Yorinaga in his Warhammer and his slaying of poor old Labroc, being sure to have a catch in my voice and the very slightest tear in my eye. Sortek put his hand on my shoulder in commiseration at this point and a few of the others offered condolences, muttering 'bad luck', 'well he went like a man' and the like.
     I then matter of fact threw my ace down.
     "So we received the recall order and I know now I was wrong to do so, but I disobeyed that order." And turning to Burke-Jankowski; "I will accept your recommendation for court martial should you desire sir. It was a direct order and I disobeyed it." Sortek and some of the others, clearly firmly on my side already scoffed and asked how I 'felt' I'd disobeyed orders.
     "Well, I was stupid and deserved to die, rushing about firing my weapons around the town like some bloody Periphery barbarian. Any damage I did was not worth the loss of my 'Mech." There were gasps and Sortek stuttered.
     "Ab .. about the town. You disobeyed orders by breaking through into the city, while the rest of your unit retreated?" His voice was heavy with amazement, but he was looking at me with that strange mixture of awe and confusion I've grown more used to down the years as my legend has continued to inflate.
     "Well, I wouldn't say I broke through, the gate was open after all and I only had to walk over a couple of downed Snake 'Mechs. As I say I aint proud of my actions. Bloody rage and the lust for revenge are nothing to brag about." I could tell this bunch were lapping up this kind of stuff and it struck me this story would go round the entire army in a flash. For the first time since I'd begun speaking Burke-Jankowski spoke up, sounding for all the world like a country vicar.
     "Indeed not young man and it isn't fitting or proper for a member of your family, of all people, to be ruled by his emotions. No matter how justified the grief that spurred your actions might have been. However, I have to admit, there's certainly none can say you don't have the heart and spine of a true Davion." His officers actually cheered at that and I've since seen it quoted in print about me from time to time in later years.
     "So how on Earth did you avoid being taken by the Sworders?" Sortek asked. I looked grim.
     "I didn't." My crowd gasped, one fellow's mouth dropped and his pipe fell with a clatter onto the holomap table.
     I proceeded to give them a fairly accurate recounting of my captivity, making sure to change several important details; in this new edited version of events, my 'Mech was downed in that central square and I punched out, I left in the bit about Tetsuhara saving me from Zakahashi, but claimed that during my torture in the basement I'd rather have died than give Zakahashi any information. You wouldn't believe how involved, astounded and sympathetic my audience became and d'you know I'm sure at some points Sortek was positively jealous I'd got to survive such a close shave with the enemy commanders.
     I made my later days of captivity sound like hell, describing a bare cell, manacles, watery gruel and dirty water swimming with bugs. It's a fact that when he heard my story some days later First Prince Ian absolutely issued a formal condemnation to the DCMS high command on the planet, complaining in the strongest terms about the 'cruel and inhuman' way I'd been treated by Yorinaga.
     And so I came to my rescue by the MVF. I told this fairly straight, perhaps I threw in a bit more daring-doo by myself, a few more dead troopers here, a sword fight with a Snake officer there. I certainly made a point to praise Jennifer's abilities and I actually came over emotional when it struck me again she might be dead. Sortek smiled sadly at me, as did some of the others who glanced knowingly at one and other, doubtless guessing I'd fallen for an unattainable married beauty and imagining romantic nonsense about the class divide and the like.
     "I'm sure she'll be okay Darius." Sortek said softly and I smiled thanks at him. Well, I hurried on to our brush with the Kuritan platoon in the street and some of the fellows actually looked askance at me perhaps believing I was making the whole thing up. To which I can't blame them, though would point out, as is often the way it's ironic that it's the truth that's seems so unlikely that people wont believe it and not the lies. I made a point of playing up my time at the church and made some vague references to praying for deliverance and the like, correctly guessing Burke-Jankowski would love that.
     Now came the tricky bit, how did I explain how I get out of Colterville, yet had ended up here, way across the Salt Mountains? I reasoned that I could afford to be more liberal with the truth from this point on, as if Jennifer did survive she would be most unlikely to wish it to be known that we'd holed up in a love nest for a day or more. Thus I span an elaborate story about being chased north of Colterville by a Kuritan aerospace fighter, a red painted Shilone with seven skulls under it's cockpit. It always helps to pay attention to details when going for the lie, if you want your teacher to believe your dog ate your homework make sure to tell him what breed of dog it was, what his name was, how he smelt from the muddy water outside and the sound the regurgitated the homework made when he spat it out onto your bed. Eventually the weight of information overwhelms the truth.
       I wont go into the whole invented tale here, if you want to read it I refer you to the first volume of my official memoirs. It's all in there, the daring chases through the clouds, the brush with bandits in the ruins where we made our camp and a more truthful, but still very much extended struggle against storms all the way down the mountains. Suffice to say no one in that room believed me a deserter by the time I concluded with a sob;
     "Then we went down, I'll never ... -choke- ... forgive myself for allowing Jen ... ahh ... Mrs Devlin to take the controls. It's my fault she's ... she's ... -sob-" Well as I say it worked a treat, suddenly I was surrounded by misty eyed Hussar officers all wanting to slap my shoulder and pump my hand in congratulations.
     "Good show! Damn fine!"
     "Brave fellow!"
     "There, there, old chap, she'll pull through. Don't worry we'll kill some Snakes for her soon enough." Etc etc. Then Burke-Jankowski pushed through and he pulled himself up and saluted me, his jaw trembling, then as I returned his salute, he offered me his hand and warmly shook mine.
      "I'll have someone find you a uniform young Davion. If you're amenable I think it best you serve with us for as long as it takes to link up with the 'Bane." I nodded, thinking that with the Second Sword far off across the desert that might well be quite some time indeed and feeling very pleased with myself.
Now listen to me you benighted muckers. We're going to teach you soldiering. The world's noblest profession. When we're done with you, you'll be able to slaughter your enemies like civilized men. - HRH D. Dravot

mikecj

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Re: The Misadventures of Darius Davion #1 - Darius and the Hound
« Reply #32 on: 06 February 2011, 14:50:52 »
I forgot about the good ship Michael Muttley  ;)
There are no fish in my pond.
"First, one brief announcement. I just want to mention, for those who have asked, that absolutely nothing what so ever happened today in sector 83x9x12. I repeat, nothing happened. Please remain calm." Susan Ivanova
"Solve a man's problems with violence, help him for a day. Teach a man to solve his problems with violence, help him for a lifetime." - Belkar Bitterleaf
Romo Lampkin could have gotten Stefan Amaris off with a warning.

Tokage

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Re: The Misadventures of Darius Davion #1 - Darius and the Hound
« Reply #33 on: 06 February 2011, 15:49:15 »
29

     A few hours later, after I'd slept and dined, I stood in a chamber in Ardan Sortek's large tent and looked myself over in a mirror. My handsome features were still marred by now fading yellow-purple bruises, a broken nose and the more recent cuts I received in the hopper crash. My black hair was growing out of the academy buzz cut somewhat and was now becoming more like the rakish style I would normally prefer. All things considered I still looked pretty fine, I decided, in the Avalon Hussars officer's field uniform I'd been provided; tight blue-grey trousers and shirt, polished black hussar jackboots and a light tan jerkin upon which some resourceful soul had found a Fourth Guards patch to sew upon the right breast pocket, alongside the Seventeenth's crest on the left. I cinched a black leather belt about my trim waist and secured my Sternsacht Compact automatic in a button down holster.
     I could hear talking in the next room of the expansive tent and walked through to find Sortek seated chatting at a table with a chap in a hover-chair. Sortek's companion was a handsome young man in his mid twenties, with light brown hair, clear blue eyes, an easy grin, and a somewhat thin moustache, who was dressed in plain olive fatigue trousers and shirt, with an ID card tagged to his breast pocket. I noted a tattoo on the back of his right hand, with which he was directing the movements of his chair, depicting the Heavy Guards grinning fox head badge. His left hand held an E-pad and his legs were positioned in a crooked and unnatural manner which clearly indicated he could not walk upon them.
     Sortek sprang up and handed me a steaming tin mug of pleasantly aromatic tea.
     "Hullo old man. Here, allow me to introduce our embedded journalist; the correspondent for the New Avalon Herald, Brandon Corey." I nodded hello cautiously. Corey, as you will almost certainly be aware, is a big name in Fed Suns military journalism these days, but it's a fact that being the man who'd got to break first the story of my early exploits and then that of Prince Ian's fate later in the campaign, was what really got his career rolling. I certainly don't begrudge him that as, from that first meeting in the Seventeenth's camp on Mallory's World, I've always got on well with him and as I was to cross his path during many a campaign in later years, he's done me no end of good by publishing many of my 'heroic' deeds and embellishing them with a gusto. Seeing my initial hesitation however Sortek smiled;
     "Oh don't fret Dee, Brand's a very decent and honest sort, well he would be, he served under Hanse as a MechWarrior in the Grinners after all. Hanse actually introduced Brand here to me when Brand was on New Avalon recovering from his wounds." Sortek blushed a little at that realising he might have touched on a tender subject and my eyes were drawn embarrassingly to Corey's crippled legs. Corey waved our awkwardness aside easily however. 
     "No worries, I caught a packet on Elidere, my wounds involved pretty severe spinal damage that's prevented the grafting of prosthetic legs and I've been confined to a hover or wheel chair ever since. Still it's given me a chance to follow the flag in another way." He gestured at a little holocam mounted on one arm of his chair and an E-pad and stylus that rested on the table before him.
     "Anyway, I've been itching to talk to you since having three different colonels laud your recent exploits to me in as many hours. They're already comparing you favourably to Alexander Davion." He grinned, half joking and I warmed to him. He was toadying for a story of course, but he had a trustworthiness about him that you don't normally find in members of the press, so sipping the actually rather good Earl Grey Sortek had furnished me with, I sat down at that little camp table and talked Corey through the story I'd given earlier, being careful to stick to the same details I had previously. Sortek thrilled once again to my largely invented and grossly distorted tale and Corey whistled a few times, recording on his E-pad as we went along. Eventually, as I finished, Corey sat back, looked at me inscrutably for a long moment and then blew out a long breath and smiled.
     "Good lord Darius, that's the damnedest story I've struck on yet! Well, I can't wait to write this up and get it in a c-mail back to the Herald. I think it's safe to say you'll be quite the celebrity when we all get home to NA." I smiled happily, though I wasn't totally sure he'd entirely bought my story and I'm still not to this day, he's a shrewd bird Brand, however he was as good as his word and the Herald's sales went through the roof when they ran Corey's account of 'Darius Davion on Mallory's World'.
     Sitting there, I became all the more eager to get off this hell-planet and back home to the deuced attractive prospect of public fame and adoration.
     "So Dan, Brand, what's the state of play? I mean, I'm aware we've won Colterville and Yorinaga got most of the Second Sword and it's attendant units out, but where's the First Prince and the 'Bane? Also where are the Twenty-fourth Dieron?" Brand hit a few buttons on his E-pad and passed it to me, with the map of northern Joshua lit up, then talked me through the progress of the damnable campaign as things stood on that day, the fifteenth October, 3013.
     "Well, we've received broken comms stating that the Hound has moved into the Bone Desert south-east of Colterville, chasing the Sword's battle group. We heard the 'Bane took quite heavy casualties at Colterville, as you will be better aware than us, so they are reliant on us keeping between them and the Twenty-fourth, who are somewhere south-west of this position and doubtless would like nothing better than to fall on the 'Bane's rear.
     Reverand Charlie has received orders from the First Prince to avoid direct confrontation with the heavy 'Mechs of the Twenty-fourth, but to keep them away from the 'Bane's flank." As Brand took a breath, Sortek leaned in animatedly and interrupted.
     "The Marshal knows his trade Brand and like myself, he believes we can take those bastards in the Twenty-fourth. What, you don't believe the Seventeenth Avalon can break a pack of murderers and miscreants like them? Why even their 'honour title' speaks of their vile barbarity; 'the Takers of Heads'!" Sortek spat the last words, his eyes blazed with excitement and I was struck by his past talk about his guilt over those he'd killed and would kill in the future. The blasted hypocrite was spoiling for blood and battle.
     "Look, no offense Dan," Brand replied, frowning too. "The Seventeenth are a tough RCT there's no doubt of that. I'm just saying that this tradition you chaps have of rushing into close quarter combat and grabbing the belt buckle of the foe as Reverend Charlie puts it, would most likely be a disaster here. Look now, your 'Mechs are mostly lights and mediums, you're typical hussars in the old sense; light, fast moving cavalry. But if you get in close to Snake heavies you wont stand a chance, I don't care how skilled a MechWarrior you might be. Believe me, I saw enough DCMS lights taken to pieces by our heavies during my time with the Grinners." Sortek didn't dismiss Corey out of hand, but I could tell he was bristling.
     "But Brand, you're thinking like a 'heavy', which is only natural considering your history, you're just not seeing the potential of manoeuvre and speed. We've been trained to run rings around the foe at close quarters. I've seen the Seventeenth's tactics work during two successful raids into the Combine over the last year. Oh and by the way, while he might be a little eccentric, the Marshal is a fine commander, he's built this RCT up from it's already solid quality into one of the best in the AFFS since he took over from Ran." Brand looked sceptical but, seeing he'd raised Sortek's hackles, he waved in a placatory manner.
     "I'm just saying I hope Rev ... the Marshal, sticks to his orders. All we need to do is keep the Twenty-fourth west of us and give the Prince the time he needs to run Yorinaga to ground." Glancing at me, then back to Sortek he changed the subject.
     "Well then Dan, what d'you make of these rumours that the Warlord of Dieron is actually with the Twenty-fourth?"
     "I see no reason to disbelieve our intel, Brand." Sortek eagerly replied, ignoring my attempt to question what this was all about, I'd not heard the Snakes had a Warlord on this rock. Sortek continued.
     "We know Takashi ordered the Dieron Warlord to take Mallory's World, why wouldn't he be here?" Brand mulled this over thoughtfully before answering.
     "Well we only picked up on this rumour through some comm intercepts over the last couple of days, prior to that our best information suggested the commanders of the four battalions of the Second Sword were jointly in charge on the ground here, probably deferring to Yorinaga as their senior and social superior.
     Now suddenly, exactly when we're closing in on the Twenty-fourth, the Snakes let slip the Warlord is leading them. I just find that suspicious." As did I, as I sat listening, Brand then voiced my own thoughts.
     "Then if you factor in the generally well know eagerness of you boys for a major battle and your RCT's traditional tactics, I think dangling the possibility of a Warlord being in their midst might be ... well the piece of cheese in the mousetrap so to speak." Sortek snorted at this and seemed about to argue on, then clearly relaxed and smiled.
     "Perhaps you're right Brand. Give us some credit though, I'll remind you of your doubts when we're piling the Twenty-fouth's standards onto the Palace steps back home."
     I've recounted this conversation for you here to give some idea of the politics and emotions that were rife throughout the Seventeenth on that morning, Sortek was in fairness no worse and considerably better than many of his brother officers in the RCT at that time, in his eagerness to rush into battle against the Twenty-fourth. I was worried, but sat as I was in the centre of a full strength AFFS RCT, surrounded by regiments of tanks, infantry and of course a 'Mech regiment, I felt quite safe. At that time I simply wouldn't have been able to conceive it possible that within a day or so that RCT might be half wiped out, completely broken and shattered into retreating pockets. Ever since I've known no military force is too strong, too numerous, or so well trained that it cannot be misled into disaster.


Now listen to me you benighted muckers. We're going to teach you soldiering. The world's noblest profession. When we're done with you, you'll be able to slaughter your enemies like civilized men. - HRH D. Dravot

Tokage

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Re: The Misadventures of Darius Davion #1 - Darius and the Hound
« Reply #34 on: 06 February 2011, 16:07:19 »
30

     Our conversation was rudely interrupted by a sudden commotion outside, shouting and the roaring ignition of dozens of tank engines. Somewhere I could hear a synthesised recording of a trumpeter sounding the charge as a call to alert, followed by loudspeakers around the camp blaring out Marshal Burke-Jankowski's shrill voice.
     "This is a general alert, all senior officers report to the Command Tent immediately, all men and junior officers muster for action. This is it boys, we've got lucky." I glanced at Sortek who was already up on his feet and running for his cooling suit and neurohelmet, then back to Corey, who was swinging his chair around towards the exit to the tent, catching my eye he nodded to me.
     "Come 'long Dee, seeing as we've no units to report to we may as well sneak a peek into the Reverend's briefing session." I decided I would do well to find out what that religious loon Burke-Jankowski considered getting lucky and hurried after Corey.
     Corey's hover chair could make a fair lick and I had to run hard to keep up with him, but I caught glimpses of the Seventeenth preparing for battle as I pelted along, while all the time that damn trumpet sounded; three MechWarriors, dressed in their bulky cooling vests, with massive neurohelmets under their arms, ran across my path laughing to each other and bantering about which one of them would 'bag the Warlord' ... a Tech arguing heatedly with a crew of tankers about the amount of ammo they were piling into their Vedette ... a file of at least a hundred infantrymen peeling off by squads into waiting APCs ... two 'Mech leftenants toasting each other with raised glasses of champagne while standing by the feet of a Griffin, then dashing their glasses against the 'Mech in a tinkle of shards ... an infantry orderly holding a barking basset hound while it's master clambered up a ladder into his 'Mech's cockpit.
     Corey and I were halted at the command tent's entrance by a gaggle of surly infantrymen from the 243rd, Corey flashed his press badge and when they consented to let him in, he barked that I was Prince Ian's favourite cousin, on attachment to the Seventeenth, at which point they visibly paled, backed down quickly and let us both through. We entered to find what looked to be most of the command staff assembled once more around the holomap table and the Marshal pointed with a light wand as he talked.
     "... over Beetle Butte here and the town of Sandsedge here. During it's first fly by the drone was shot at from positions dug in around the town, upon it's second pass north it confirmed the data gathered during it's first pass ... here half way down this slope ... ahh ... Ash Ridge, there is a broken down convoy consisting of two J-27 Ordnance Transporters and ... a Daimyo Class Mobile Headquarters vehicle." The Marshal looked up as he spoke these words and hit a button on his light wand that summoned a blown up three dimensional holo representation of the massive MHQ vehicle, which rotated at the centre of the table for all to see and consider.
     "Gentlemen, I'm sure I don't need to tell you what this means. No mere commander of a regular 'Mech regiment would be given one of these rare beauties by the Coordinator. This has to be proof that the Warlord of Dieron himself is indeed here and within our reach, as our intel has been suggesting." Burke-Jankowski swept his gaze across his officers, a bright light in his blue eyes.
     "Sandsedge is a two hour march away. We are going to get that MHQ ... whether it  holds the Warlord or not." One of the 'Mech regiment majors spoke up as the Marshal finished.
     "How many troops are in the town itself?"
     "Our drone's report suggests one to two tank regiments are dug in around and inside the town, at least a battalion of 'Mechs is thought to be positioned in the broken land north of Beetle Butte. All in all, best guess is we'll be up against a third to half the Twenty-fourth Dieron's battlegroup. The rest are a good way west of Sandsedge according to intel." The officers grinned at each other and I heard a few whisper excitedly about having finally got the Twenty-fourth where they wanted them. Burke-Jankowski cleared his throat in order to get their attention again.
     "Gentlemen, I want this to go smoothly and quickly. No messy duelling when we meet any Snake 'Mechs that might be in the attack zone. We will divide the RCT into three flying columns; I will lead the first; a fast attack force consisting of the First 'Mech Battalion, supported by the hovertanks of the Ninety-seventh Avalon Armour and the hover APCs of the Second Lexington. We will sweep along the top of Ash Ridge in an arc west, then come down the ridge onto the MHQ convoy from the slopes of Beetle Butte.
     The Second Column; consisting of the Second 'Mech Battalion, the tanks of the Hundred and Twenty-third Avalon Recon and the troopers of the One Thirty-fifth Jump Infantry, will head straight for the town itself.
     The First Company of the Third 'Mech Battalion will hold this bluff here near the start of Ash Ridge as a fortified regroup point in the unlikely event we need it.
     Meanwhile the third column, being made up of the other two companies of the Third Battalion and the other tank and infantry regiments will sweep wide to the east and move to completely encircle the town and prevent any Kuritans there escaping.
     Naturally our good friends, those Knights of the Void, from the 45th Avalon Fighter Wing will be providing air cover throughout this operation.
     Questions?" The brisk way he said it made it clear he didn't expect any, his officers seemed to be happy with his plan and if I'm honest I have to admit I didn't think it a bad plan of attack, given the information he was acting upon. I jumped a little when Corey beside me glided his chair forward however and loudly spoke up.
     "Marshal, I have some questions." Burke-Jankowski turned and looked down at Corey angrily.
     "Mr Corey, much as I respect the freedom of the press and your own publication, now is probably not the best time for me to be carrying out interviews. Perhaps after this action I can find you the time to sit down and chat ... but right now I have a Kuritan Warlord to catch and a Snake 'Mech regiment to defeat." His officers chuckled at this, but Corey was not to be put off.
     "Just two questions sir. You mention intel reports show the bulk of the Twenty-fourth Dieron being well to the west, what is this intel and how reliable is it?" Burke-Jankowski went red, but biting his tongue snapped out an answer.
     "Spotter Drones picked up the movements of two battalions of 'Mechs three days ago, a hundred and fifty klicks west of Sandsedge and we captured three DCMS scouts last night, during a skirmish at the edge of the camp, they have confirmed these two Dieron Battalions are now about two hundred klicks to the south-west of Sandsedge. Satisfied Mr Corey?" Corey paused as if considering then answered in a quiet voice.
     "Not really, no sir. We're relying on three day old intel and the word of Snake prisoners who might well be ISF plants who deliberately got captured in order to feed us this, possibly false, data." Corey was making a lot of sense to me, but I could see many of the Seventeenth's officers weren't happy, they'd just been promised the golden chance for one big battle to cleanse their regimental record and they wanted to hold onto that hope. Seeing Burke-Jankowski wasn't going to give him any more, Corey asked his final question.
     "Have you cleared this plan of attack with the First Prince, Marshal?" The murmur of the gathered officers died off as Marshal Burke-Jankowski paused before answering.
     "I have tried to." He stated flatly. There were some voices raised at that in question from the Seventeenth's officers. The Marshal glared at Corey, then swung around to address his officers again.
     "The storms over the Salt Mountains are playing havoc with our comm signals, I've sent a fighter back to the Fourth's DZ with word of our plan, but we've yet to hear back from it. We will however have received word back from Prince Ian by the time we reach Sandsedge, if he decides we don't go ahead with the attack, though I doubt he will do so, then we can call it off at that time.
     Very well, good ... now that's out the way. Gentlemen a toast I think." At that white jacketed orderlies came in carrying silver trays full of flutes of Avalonian champagne, after we'd all taken one the Marshal turned slowly, his glass raised to us each in turn.
     "There is no other body of fighting men I'd rather be facing battle with today than you, my brothers in the Seventeenth Avalon Hussars. For twelve years we've been under a cloud through no fault of our own. Today we will clear that stain on our regimental record and win a great victory, for God and the Federated Suns.
     Gentlemen, please raise your glasses in our accepted manner; Where is Captain Conrad Warrent?" The officers all gulped back their drinks as the Marshal called out this strange question, so I did the same, wondering who this Warrent was. Then they all threw down their glasses and roared;
     "DEAD ON THE FIELD OF HONOUR." There was then three cheers and after that they all filed out past me, grinning like schoolboys on their first trip to a peepshow.
     I was later to learn that strange regimental toast hailed back to the First Succession War, when the Seventeenth had retreated off world, leaving some of their cut off MechWarriors behind, during the Kuritan invasion of New Rhodes. These handful of MechWarriors, led by Captain Conrad Warrent, waged a guerilla campaign and caused such trouble for the DCMS that, though eventually slaughtered, they allegedly delayed the planned invasion of New Avalon. At the time the Seventeenth vowed never to forget Warrent and his comrades and Warrent's name has been bellowed out at regimental bun-fights and the like ever since. 

* * *

     I was still holding my empty champagne glass when Burke-Jankowski spotted me standing behind Corey and waved me up to the holomap table, he gazed down at it alongside me, as Corey took the hint and hummed out after the departing officers, shaking his head in what I took to be disgust. Burke-Jankowski turned to look at me, the green and red light of the map table playing across his lean, tanned face.   
     "Well young Davion, what do you make of it?" He gestured at the table, seeming to imply the situation and the plan, perhaps he saw me as Ian's surrogate who was there to give him permission to go ahead, despite my very low military rank and extremely limited experience. Or perhaps he just needed to hear someone agree with him after Corey's perceptive and in my opinion damning questioning of the plan of attack.
     "Oh, erm, well it looks pretty thorough sir. Really top hole. Should be a famous victory. I just wish I was going along with you. It'll be gongs and garlands back at the Palace for you fellas I'm certain." I was babbling you see, I'd an inkling, call it a coward's intuition if you will, that this Sandsedge operation might not be as easy as Burke-Jankowski and the other officers of the Seventeenth were clearly expecting it to be and I was scared. Burke-Jankowski beamed at my words however and clapped my shoulder.
     "I thought you'd say that. Good fellow. Never fret, I had a hunch you'd want to come along and I've already arranged it." Well, fool that I was, I didn't listen above half to what he was saying and thought he was talking about his plan, so I gushed on about it some more.
     "Well it'll be a rare day, quite the triumph, tally ho and ... err ... come again?" I stopped in mid flow as what he'd said sunk in. His blue eyes seemed beady and dangerous in the reflected light from his table as he smiled again at me.
     "I said I've arranged for you to come in with us. Never fear brave fellow ... I wouldn't think to leave you out of this chance for glory, you're going to be at my shoulder, in one of our 'Mechs, when we net us that Warlord." I struggled to keep the smile on my face from changing into a rictus of sick terror, I knew I'd got only one chance to avoid having to climb back into a 'Mech and I did my best.
     "Oh now sir, that wont do. I wont have some other MechWarrior sit this one out while I pinch his 'Mech and medals." I looked stern, but nodding approvingly Burke-Jankowski patted my shoulder warmly.
     "And I wouldn't dream of expecting you to. One of our lads broke his leg in a fall from his cockpit a week ago, he can't pilot his machine and when I asked him on your behalf, he specifically asked me to assure you he wants you to take it into this action. He's from a well set family and will understand if any damage is done to his 'Mech, so don't feel you can't get properly stuck into the foe in it. I thought I'd attach you to young Sortek's lance, as you two are such firm friends." I gazed back down at the holomap and realised I had a choice to make one way or the other. I could refuse, sit it out in this camp and my recently acquired reputation would be dashed and gone, I'd be alive but more than likely my past reasons for being caught in civies far from my unit might then be looked at rather less sympathetically. Or I could agree and go in with the Seventeenth, as part of that fool Sortek's lance no less, when they attacked Sandsedge and this stalled convoy.
     Well, not wanting to lose my newfound repute and trying to tell myself that the Marshal's plan might work as well as he seemed to think it would, I made the wrong choice.
     "Well, when you put it like that sir, I have been itching to get some payback for Jennifer and Jacques. I'd be glad to join your little party."
Now listen to me you benighted muckers. We're going to teach you soldiering. The world's noblest profession. When we're done with you, you'll be able to slaughter your enemies like civilized men. - HRH D. Dravot

Tokage

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Re: The Misadventures of Darius Davion #1 - Darius and the Hound
« Reply #35 on: 06 February 2011, 16:29:19 »
31

     I never did find out exactly whose 'Mech it was I rode into the Battle of Sandsedge. It was a DV-6M Dervish, a fairly common fifty five ton medium 'Mech, that packed a pair of Federated 10-Shot long range missile pods mounted in it's right and left torso, and a ChrisComp 39 medium laser, over a Federated 2-Shot short range missile launcher, in each arm pod. Luckily it's cockpit chassis, being manufactured by the same company as that of my Enforcer, made it easy for me to acclimatise myself to piloting it.  It could reach a maximum speed of about eighty five kph, but felt very slow and clunky compared to my old 'Mech and pounding along in the dusty wake of Sortek's Fire Lance I missed that lost machine.
    Sortek was sitting pretty just ahead of me in his pristine condition, VTR-9B Victor, a beast of an eighty ton Assault 'Mech which he piloted, I have to admit, skilfully enough to make it look like it was forty tons lighter than it was. His second, Sergeant Randall Hooper, was also piloting a Victor, while flanking on either side were MechWarriors Ivor Machinski, in a JM-6A Jagermech, and Orsen Navarre in his birdlike CPLT-C1 Catapult.
     We'd been running at full pelt for a good hour and a half at least and my body was aching and jangling with each jarring footfall by this time. I could see many other 'Mechs away ahead of us, to each side and when I craned my neck, to our rear. Occasionally Stukas and Corsairs would wheel overhead reassuringly.
     "How many would you say there were Hoops?" Sortek's annoyingly cheery voice crackled across the comm, as he chatted with his sergeant about some raid they and the other two lance members had fought through last year.
     "Five or six at least sir." The gruff sergeant grunted into his comm and as they continued to revel in their past glories, I silently cursed first them, then Marshal Burke-Jankowski, then the unbelievably twisted chain of events that had carried me from the lovely arms of Jennifer Devlin, to this potentially lethal situation.
     After leaving the Marshal's command centre, I'd numbly staggered straight into Sortek, who'd been summoned to collect me and while the blasted swine saw to the retuning of a neurohelmet for me and I struggled into Sortek's own spare cooling vest, Brandon Corey had sat in his chair watching the RCT's continued progress towards combat readiness.
     "Listen Dee, I know you're a fighting man and you want to be where the metal meets the metal." He'd begun slowly, proving right there he didn't know me at all. "But I've a bad feeling about this one ... a hunch I've not had since before the op' during which I bought my New Avalon ticket." He glanced at his ruined legs.
     "Look, just be careful old chap. Keep sharp and frosty out there, d'you hear me?" Oh that was just the kind of talk I needed to hear at that moment and I was practically soiling my boxer shorts as I secured the cooling vest and felt the pulse of cold fluid against my skin. I'd managed to raise a farewell bit of bravado for him and his readers however, well I was already committed to accompanying the Seventeenth and he was a journalist at the end of the day. Smiling, I'd handed him one of the cigars I'd been given by one of the officers at the command tent, after I'd finished my public rendition of 'the Adventures of Dashing Darius'.
     "Don't be a croaker Brand. Come on, confess, you're just sorry you're not going with us aren't you. Here light this up in two hours time, safe in the knowledge I'll be smoking Snakes by then." Bluff, warry old Darius eh? Of course he welled up the silly sod and sat there waving us all off, the lucky blighter probably then scooted around one of the mess tents for steak and chips, washed down with a pint of lager, while he bemoaned the cruel fate that kept him from the hell the rest of us were about to race headlong into.
     "Darius, you still with us?" Sortek's annoying voice intruded once more upon my windy brooding and I hit the comm.
     "Sure am Dan! What's up." I could hear the suppressed excitement in his voice as he replied.
     "We're approaching the start line. Just follow my lead out there. This is going to be amazing. Get ready lads ... this is the big one." Shaking with fear I could make out through the orange sand and dust up ahead Burke-Jankowski's massive CP 10-Z Cyclops command-'Mech, surrounded by a lance of three CRD-3R Crusaders. Along with Sortek's lance's Victors, these were the heaviest 'Mechs in sight, elsewhere most of those 'Mechs I could see were Phoenix Hawks, Blackjacks and lights such as Locusts and Wasps.
     Glancing right I could make out what seemed like a massive number of 'Mechs, tanks, APCs and other vehicles veering away from us, they threw up a great deal of dust and it occurred to me that the Snakes would be able to see us coming from many miles off.
     "There go the Third Column, boys." Sortek cried and it struck me we were getting damn close then to Sandsedge and this broken down MHQ convoy.
     "No outside loudhailers from this point till you hear my signal for attack." The Marshals broad-beamed comm piped into all our ears and the tension began to grow. As I ran I looked up and aside from the vapour trails left by our fighters, the sky was perfectly blue and cloudless. I spotted a little red dot flying over us from the direction we were headed and zooming in a gun-camera on it I found it to be a small red winged bird, like that Minobu had been watching during our last conversation of my captivity. I don't know why, but nervy as I already was by that point, I seized on this little insignificant thing as a very bad omen and became convinced we were rushing to our doom. Sadly, I wasn't wrong.

* * *

      Ash Ridge was a vaguely crescent shaped slope, rising some hundred meters from the desert floor up to a broken hilly area of gullies and defiles, above which rose Beetle Butte, a plateau like flat-topped hill that towered a further couple of hundred meters into the hot azure sky. As we sped along the edge of the Ridge about three 'Mechs abreast, in a great speeding column, we could look left down across the flat desert land below, where the town of Sandsedge sat on the bend of an apparently seasonal river, that was presently completely dried up. The town from this height was a reddish blur of shanty dwellings and desert hovels, there seemed to be the skeleton of an Oasis Tower at it's centre, but unlike that I'd seen at Cactus Flats this one was gutted and corroded. A smudge of smoke hung above the distant town, but I couldn't spot any enemy movement.
     "There go the Second Column!" Sortek spoke over the comm and I glanced further to my left to see the impressive sight of thirty six 'Mechs leading about a hundred and ten tanks out of column and into a fanned line for the charge on the town, whilst above them some six hundred jump infantrymen flew in a great cloud, looking for all the world like a swarm feverflies at this distance.
     "Wooo-hoooooo! Go get 'em lads!" Hooper cried and I squinted further out beyond the charging Second Column trying to spot any sign of the more distant Third Column, I could just make out very faint dust clouds, but they had to be some way off. Wrenching my attention forward I strained to see the stranded MHQ convoy we were headed for.
     "Put your foot down boys, this'll be like the Avalon City Derby back home." Sortek barked over the comm and with that the over eager madman ran faster and passed some of the 'Mechs in front of him to pull up alongside the Marshal near the head of our column, as the rest of the lance cheered and followed him, I cursed and did my best to keep up, hammering along the edge of a gravely precipice as I was.
      "There they are boys. DaviiiiONNNNN!" With a great shout Marshal Burke-Jankowski activated his 'Mechs loudspeakers, and then began playing The Minstrel Boy at top volume, his signal to attack. So it was he led the last charge of the First Battalion of the Seventeenth Avalon Hussars. I was there, about four 'Mechs right of him, just behind Sortek in his Victor. Well, there's been a lot written about this battle and you probably have heard some pretty tall tales, I'll try to describe all I saw as accurately as I can, then at the end will recount those parts of the battle I had no connection to and saw nothing of.

* * *

      In my memory the long sliding run down the very steep hundred meter slope of Ash Ridge seems to go on for hours, I recollect stepping my 'Mech off the precipice and into empty air, as if it happened in slow motion, then those awful first sliding, crunching, teetering, running steps down towards the still fairly distant seeming grey-green MHQ and the two Ordnance Transporters.
     "Jerrrrome!" I swore as I realised the gradient of the slope was considerably steeper than I'd anticipated and that it's grey surface was largely loose grit, gravel and shale. We were sliding and running and some of us began to skid and fall very quickly, I saw one Phoenix Hawk away to my right crash down in a cloud of grey dust, then get pummelled as a Clint smashed into and over it from behind. It took all my 'Mechsmanship to keep upright and moving forward, one couldn't stop or you'd be run over by the roughly two dozen careening 'Mechs coming down behind us. Way down the left flank the hovertanks and APCs of our attendant units had it much easier and were arching around to circle the convoy.
      To give them the credit they deserve, those Hussar boys were brave as Lucifer himself and they could pilot their 'Mechs as well as I any I ever saw, the charge down that slope should have been impossible, yet aside from that Pheonix Hawk and the Clint that hit him, I didn't see any more of us fall as we hurtled down the slope in a skittering, flying pack. I was vaguely aware of gunfire and explosions far off on the desert plain, which I correctly assumed was the Second Column engaging Twenty-fourth Dieron forces around the town at long range.
      As those of us near the front of this insane charge drew to within about thirty feet of the side on convoy vehicles we tried to slow and level our weapons. I couldn't make out any enemy in the area, the vehicles looked to be intact, but I could see no troops, 'Mechs or tanks around them at all. Which struck me, even in my state of raw terror, as mighty odd and suspicious, Brand's warning came back to me just as Sortek's voice bellowed over my comm, shouting to be heard above that blasted maudlin regimental anthem.
      "On boys on! We'll take their Warlord. ON FOR THE FIRST PRINCE! ON FOR DAVION" Then with that Sortek ran ahead of all of us, showing amazing skill by streaking out some five meters in front of the rest of the charge, his lancemates rushed to try to catch up and I was being pushed up alongside the Marshal's Cyclops at that dreadful moment when the entire side of the MHQ itself collapsed, to reveal the terrifying sight of what looked like the weapons rack of an SRM Carrier.
      "Oh, Jesus and Jerome .... Nooooo!" I screamed as I looked over the speeding heads of Sortek's lance's 'Mechs and directly into the maws of sixty NCK short range missile tubes. Time slowed, I tried to back up, my 'Mech's arms flailing into a 'Mech behind me with a clang, the Marshal half turned while running as if his 'Mech was shouting a warning to those behind him, Sortek's war cry became a distant roar in my ears, my heart beat in my chest and then the missiles erupted in a twisting, rippling cloud towards us.
      To this day I don't know how I didn't go down in that first barrage. Sortek and his boys were actually lucky enough to be under the line of the missiles elevation and ducked beneath the screaming, spinning, rain of death. The rest of us were not so lucky.
      Explosions went off everywhere, till my ears rang and my nose bled inside my neurohelment. Packed in like we were and at that range, they couldn't miss. At least four struck the Marshal's Cyclops to my side, showering my 'Mechs flank with shrapnel and molten ceramite armour, one missile cart-wheeled in to land at my 'Mech's feet, while another struck my left arm. Yet another screamed past my head and exploded into the torso of the 'Mech directly behind me, I was blown forwards and my 'Mech slid on it's back down the slope, the sky spinning, rocket trails hanging in the air above me.
      There was a brief moment of peace, as somewhere The Minstrel Boy died in a strained crackle, then came the sound of someone screaming incoherently over the comm, the pitter-scritch-patter of the disturbed gravel raining down upon my 'Mech and the screeching sliding of metal and 'Mechs intact and otherwise coming on down. Somewhere in my mind I heard the voice of old Bentine again, from back at the Sak;
      "Davion, damn you for a lazy Capellan! What is the rate of fire of a standard SRM Carrier. Come along boy! What, you think you'll have time to look it up when you're facing one?" D'you know, not for the first or last time, old Bentine the Bastard's lessons came back to me in the field and I found myself rasping aloud as if in class.
      "One carrier can launch sixty missiles every ten seconds and most carry enough ammunition to keep up that rate of fire for over a minute." Groaning I struggled to right myself as my 'Mech's arm was suddenly grasped by Sortek's Victor's great right hand and he pulled me upright, his voice also hoarse with shock over the comm.
     "Are you okay Darius?" I croaked a reply and spun to level my weapons on that beastly missile trap, then to myself muttered;
     "How long ...?" Without firing I threw my 'Mech forwards and smashed Sortek's down in the process, quite accidentally, screaming as I did so.
     "Get down, everyone get down." My comm was lost in the sudden banshee wail of the seemingly never ending whoosh-whoosh-whoosh of the missile launchers going off over us from mere meters away. The ground shook like an Earthquake and the enormous rolling explosions once more drowned out all other thought or sound.
     "Up. Get up and firing!" I screamed, I knew this was our only chance, we had ten seconds to blow these mother-malfers to mincemeat, or they'd destroy whatever remained of the First Battalion across that terrible slope. Sortek and his lancemates were up fast and we all triggered our weapons at point-blank range into the missile racks.
      There were several rumbling explosions deep inside the bogus MHQ and I shouted a wordless bellow of savage victory as I half turned to gaze back up the slope. My victory shout died on my lips, the slope looked like nothing so much as a great burning scrap heap, with here and there a smouldering, blackened 'Mech picking itself up out of the debris littered across it. Smoke plumes rose from burning 'Mechs in a great crescent in front of the missile-trap and I counted a mere thirteen 'Mechs including our own still moving. Half a battalion had been destroyed in twenty seconds. I was appalled. I think Sortek was sobbing as he gazed upon the ruin of his regiment's First Battalion. Then I saw something rise up beyond the decoy convoy vehicles, rise up out of the red sand, showers of it raining off it's sides.
      "Ohhh shiiiiiit!" I heard Hooper scream in terror, as I stared numbly at the red 'Mech's body, with it's white painted deaths-head shaped cockpit that kept on rising into the air. "An Atlas!"
     As three more Kuritan Assault 'Mechs rose from hidden bunkers under the sand behind the Atlas, the battle took a turn for the worse.
Now listen to me you benighted muckers. We're going to teach you soldiering. The world's noblest profession. When we're done with you, you'll be able to slaughter your enemies like civilized men. - HRH D. Dravot

Tokage

  • Master Sergeant
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  • Posts: 312
Re: The Misadventures of Darius Davion #1 - Darius and the Hound
« Reply #36 on: 07 February 2011, 16:09:03 »
32

     I was close enough to make out the circular, black on red, Dragon's head badge on the monster 'Mech's chest plates, above the gruesome crest of the Twenty-fourth Dieron Regulars; a hand holding a bloody severed head, in a strange moment of lucidity I recognised the long, droopy features depicted as those of Prince Ian and muttered to myself;
     "Oh, they've got his ears wrong." At that moment, the Atlas lurched forward, a heavy autocannon set into it's side firing a short, coughing, burst of depleted uranium tipped shells into Hooper's Victor. Then, firing as it advanced, it played iridescent beams of laser cannon fire over Hooper's flailing 'Mech, causing melting armour and a spray of myomer fluids to erupt from it's left torso.
     "Jumping Jerome! Get this thing off me!" Hooper gasped over the comm and the rest of Sortek's lance opened up, as did some of the survivors further up the slope. It was a ragged volley, hastily fired, however and the hundred ton Snake 'Mech's grinning  death's head seemed to be laughing at us as it suddenly sprang forward in a skilful move and smashed it's right fist, with all the sudden speed of a Skyesman prize fighter, straight into Hooper's cockpit.
     "Hoop!!!" Sortek's anguished cry sounded over the comm.
     I'd never seen anything like it, the Victor's head seemed to explode like a New Syrtis pinyata, pieces of it's armourglass canopy and cockpit flying out behind it. I couldn't see Hooper, but there was no way he could have survived that hit. The Atlas seemed to have caught it's fist actually in the twisted remains of the cockpit and made an almost comical tugging motion a couple of times, while taking a few hits across it's impervious seeming Durallex heavy armour, before it's arm came free and Hooper's Victor collapsed in a heap at the Snake 'Mech's massive feet.
     Some of our hovertanks came whining in from behind, others swept wide around the outer edge of the decoy convoy, all were firing and I briefly hoped we might be able to organise some kind of fighting retreat. However, as two Dieron AWS-8Q Awesomes and a BLR-1G Battlemaster approached behind the lightly damaged Atlas towards us, I heard the tanks behind the burning fake MHQ firing on yet more 'Mechs.
     I came to my senses and decided in a flash there was nothing for it but to run. Just as I was thanking God that I'd been given a 'Mech with jump jets and was hitting them, there came Burke-Jankowski's broken voice over the comm.
     "Retreat, pull back boys. Fall back on me." Well I was already in the air, jets pushing me up over the debris of fallen 'Mechs, so I certainly needed no further encouragement. One of the Awesomes fired it's PPCs at me as I went, one bolt cracked past the face plate of my Dervish, the other struck my left leg. I felt the manmade lightning sear away ceramite in a crackling, jarring explosion. My HUD flickered at the massive electrical charge that ripped through my 'Mech, but thankfully the shielding held and I was able to control my landing about a quarter of the way up the slope.
     I risked pausing to glance back and I was horrified to see an entire company of assault 'Mechs at the bottom of the slope, our tanks were being slaughtered, some of the Dieron 'Mechs were taking down two tanks each volley. Sortek was still at the base of the slope squaring off with the Atlas, the insane fool. As I stood there, I saw Machinski's Jagermech cut down by an enormous volley from a Battlemaster and one of the Awesomes. Energy weapons and short range missiles blew out the Jagermech's central torso and Machinski punched out just as the 'Mech's reactor went critical and exploded like a tac-nuke. The metallic, echoing, blast sent adamantite 'Mech bones, bundles of burning myomers and shattered pieces of armour flying up the slope and thankfully pushed the Kuritans back behind the MHQ vehicle for a moment.
     I took this second or two to quickly appraise my position, if I continued to burn jet fuel to get to the top of the ridge I'd be exposing my back to long range missile fire from the twelve enemy 'Mechs at the base of the slope. I remembered Burke-Jankowski's holomap table and recalled there it showed a gully at the far end of Ash Ridge, running in a twisting line back up to the crest of the slope, if I could make that I reasoned I'd have at least some cover behind me.
     So I hit the jets, but rather than join the staggering, limping, running, jumping handful of 'Mechs clustered in a loose line about the Marshal's Cyclops, in heading straight back up the loose gritty slope we'd come down, I soared away to the left making for my gully. Two very battered and scorched Pheonix Hawks followed me and as I landed down in the rocky, but much more steady ground of the high sided gully, that sloped upwards towards the edge of the ridge, I saw Sortek's Victor and Navarre's Catapult jetting up after us. Long range fire upon us from the Kuritan assaults began in earnest at that point, missiles fell like rain across the slope and to a lesser extent into my gully, and autocannon fire chewed up wafts of grey dust along, a Wasp was torn in half when a heavy autocannon burst ripped through it's paper thin rear armour and the ruined scout 'Mech exploded into a towering pillar of flame and smoke when it's Bical missile stocks were touched off.
     Without waiting to see if anyone followed me, I sprinted up the mercifully solid rock of the gully and round a corner, I could hear missiles screaming into boulders and the stone of the gully walls back the way I'd come in and I breathed a brief sigh of relief, I was out of the line of fire for the time being. I dashed on and up as fast as my somewhat wounded 'Mech could manage, whilst meanwhile I could hear some of the others behind me and garbled, terrified shouting filled the comm.
     Sortek - "What? Where did those Assaults spring from?"
     Burke-Jankowski - "On ME, muster on ME."
     Navarre - "Did you see what happened to Ivor, that Snake bastard in the Atlas stamped on him! That murdering swine."
     Unknown - "All dead, the others are all dead."
     Burke-Jankowski - "Muster for counter attack at the crest of the ridge."
     Sortek - "Bastards, bastards."
     Unknown singing - "In the ranks of death you will find him ..."
     Unknown - "Ma'ma, ma'ma save meee."
     Okay, that last one may well have been myself. This was, as you can imagine, far worse an experience than I could have envisaged, we'd been well and truly mauled, I had no idea how many of the Ninety-seventh Avalon Armour's tanks had survived their mad charge at the Dieron assaults, or what had happened to the Second Lexington. All that concerned me now was making the ridgeline and speeding back toward the fortified redoubt point at the end of the line of hills.

* * *

      I hit the jets where the gully ended in a low cliff and soared up and to my right, landing near the southern foot of Beetle Butte, it's towering dry grey-brown side rising before me, swinging further right I saw three or four Hussar 'Mechs jump up over the rim, then two more claw and pull themselves across even as distant enemy fire peppered the slope around them. One of them was the Marshal's very battered Cyclops and I was seized by the vicious urge to open up on that pigheaded, arrogant, stupid fool myself.
     As those 'Mechs that had followed me came up behind, I realised out of a battalion of thirty six 'Mechs, there were now just eleven of us left and almost all of us were badly damaged. A few hovertanks and APCs soared over the ridge, just as the Pheonix Hawk directly to my rear was hit by a volley of long range missiles and a PPC bolt cracked past myself.
      I turned slowly to see the worst sight of my life to that time. Spread in a great line and coming up the low northern slopes towards us at a fair pace were the rest of the Twenty-fourth Dieron Regulars; perhaps seventy 'Mechs, most of them heavies. The ground began to shake beneath me and I just stood there and gazed as long distance missile and autocannon fire began to hit amidst us.
     "Merde." Sortek gasped in horror as he saw them.
     "A trap. It was all a trap." I whispered. Burke-Jankowski's Cyclops was at my shoulder and his voice crackled over the comm.
     "Snake-bit indeed ... sorry boys, looks like this is where I end my command. Any of you who want to stand with me, I'd be glad of your company." Well, he wasn't having mine if I could help it, however it was deuced hard, even for a thick-skinned rogue like myself, to simply tip your cap call 'cheerio then' and speed off while everyone else linked arms and went in for the final scrum down. After all, in the unlikely event any of them survived, they'd ruin my name by telling the story of how I ran. Sortek's voice sounded over the comm.
     "I think I speak for us all sir, when I say I'd be honoured to stand here with you." A general murmur of consent sounded across the comm from the others and I desperately pummelled my terror befuddled brain for some way to politely run for my life. Strangely it was Sortek who provided me my answer.
     Sortek's Victor was already pretty savaged and while the others were proudly taking up positions at the base of Beetle Butte, behind great boulders that lay there from some past rock slide, he was hit by two PPC bolts from the advancing mass of Kuritans. The lightning arced across the body of his 'Mech and his leg actuators fused and locked in a flash of blue white electrical flame. Sortek screamed in frustration as his Victor teetered, then began to fall, landing on a boulder.
     "Get out of there leftenant. That's an order, you can do no more good here." Burke-Jankowski bellowed over the comm, whilst opening up with his Delta Dart long range missiles. The idea came to me as I saw Sortek pop his cockpit, the lucky swine was being ordered to run for it, I glanced around quickly, there were plenty of pretty nippy hovertanks and APCs to commandeer around the place.
     Moving behind the largest rock I could find, I began loudly shouting curses over my 'Mech's loudspeaker at the advancing Kuritans and hanging my left arm's weapon pod out the side, I started loosing wild shots off.
     "Come on you Snake swine, I'll show you how a Davion dies." Then, when I was sure I was out of the line of sight of any of our own side, most of whom were understandably fixated upon the advancing swarm of Dieron 'Mechs anyway, I fired the Federated 2-Shot missile launcher in my left arm pod ... down at my own 'Mech's foot.
     It wasn't a pleasant experience, the explosions at that close range threw me over and onto my 'Mech's back, but I was most gratified to find my 'Mech was now footless and crippled. I put on my best rueful voice and gasped into the comm.
     "Ahh ... uh ... I'm down ... I'm down damn them ... I can get up ... ahh shit." Burke-Jankowski's voice came over the comm.
     "Get out, if you have time, young Davion -zzzt- the Prince -zzzt- Hussars." His comm broke up, but I was already out my cockpit and running across the shaking ground for the nearest vehicle; a hover APC, bearing the badge of the Second Lexington. I glanced right to see the horrific vision of Kuritan heavy 'Mechs looming out of the great dust clouds their marching feet had raised, weapons thundering. Thankfully, for the time being, they were concentrating their fire upon the 'Mechs not me.
     "Darius here, here." Sortek called from the rear hatch of the APC, waving at me to hurry and I fell in just as the APC's driver hit the accelerator and we sped off. The last glimpse I caught of Burke-Jankowski's last stand has been seared into my memory ever since; the handful of Avalon Hussar 'Mechs huddled amidst the boulders in a ragged semi circle, firing for all they were worth, as dozens of generally much larger Kuritan 'Mechs advanced on them, taking hits but launching volley after volley into the doomed Hussars. Then for just a few seconds, amidst the near deafening gunfire and explosions, I could swear I could just make out the distant, faint strains of The Minstrel Boy, perhaps being played over one of the Hussar 'Mech's loudspeakers.
     Sortek slammed that APC's door, cutting off my view of the horrific scene, and the vehicle's acceleration caused us both to fall back into a slime of blood and gore covering the crew compartment; a missile had apparently exploded amidst the APC's infantry complement as they'd been about to dismount, my eyes stung with tears and I wept. Sortek seemed totally drained and stunned, he sat and stared at me, his hair plastered to his forehead, then leaning forward he grabbed my shoulder.
     "I wont forget Darius. You saved my life down there, in front of that damn missile launcher. I wont forget."
     I struggled out of his grasp. As the APC jigged left and right to avoid scattered enemy fire. Sickened by him, he'd been as much to blame for this catastrophe as Burke-Jankowski had in my opinion, him and those other damn fools in the Seventeenth who'd allowed their desire to win back lost laurels for their RCT to overcome their better judgement. Looking back now, I tend to believe they hadn't been bad soldiers, or more stupid than any others, it had just been an unfortunate combination of events that had allowed the Kuritans to exploit their weaknesses.   
     In the years since, as you know, this 'last stand' has been turned into an example of AFFS heroism and gallantry, there have been tri-vids and paintings and books. A few years ago, I finally accepted an invite to attend the now annual anniversary memorial gala held by the Seventeenth, on their homeworld of Cassias. There were several new paintings unveiled in the mess hall of the 'Mech regiment's barracks, solemn speeches of remembrance and Dan Sortek got up and made a turgid speech which ended in him sobbing about his guilt over surviving when the rest of his lance, company and battalion had died to a man. I'd had too much wine at luncheon, prior to his speech, however and caused a minor stir by dozing off and snoring loudly as he reached his summation.
     Still, as I was prodded awake by a sour faced, matronly old bag in widow's weeds, I must admit as the regimental anthem was played by the RCT's band in that echoing church, for some reason I began to cry myself, as for a moment I was on that slope again and certain I was about to die.
     As the music continued to surround me, I had to get up and leave the church and find a local knocking shop, in order to perk myself up. I shan't be attending the memorial again.
Now listen to me you benighted muckers. We're going to teach you soldiering. The world's noblest profession. When we're done with you, you'll be able to slaughter your enemies like civilized men. - HRH D. Dravot

Tokage

  • Master Sergeant
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  • Posts: 312
Re: The Misadventures of Darius Davion #1 - Darius and the Hound
« Reply #37 on: 07 February 2011, 16:20:52 »
33

     We hummed at top speed into the Recovery Point, held by the First Company of the Third Battalion of the Seventeenth, followed by maybe a dozen other hovertanks and APCs. I could see out of the driver's view slit that wounded 'Mechs and tanks from the Second Column were also limping back into the Recovery point. There was gunfire hammering away as we opened the rear door of the APC and Sortek and I staggered out of the stiflingly hot armoured vehicle and into the sunlight.
     I looked around and quickly spotted large numbers of Kuritan tanks moving towards us across the desert plain from the direction of Sandsedge itself. In the midst of the tanks were the assault 'Mechs that had caused us so much damage. I put my hand over my eyes and turned back towards Beetle Butte, a pillar of grey-black smoke hung in the air beyond the Butte, but I couldn't see any Dieron 'Mechs on our trail yet. In the air above us I noticed for the first time a savage string of dogfights was raging between our aerojocks and theirs.
     "You there, Sortek is it? Where's the Marshal? Where's the First Battalion? What're you doing here?" A ginger bearded Major came running over to us and I let Sortek field his questions, Sortek lowered his voice, clearly not wanting to cause a panic, but the shocked Major kept blurting stuff out loudly in amazement.
     "A trap ... assault 'Mechs ... slaughtered ... last stand ... all dead?" I saw tank crewmen and infantrymen manning dug in semi-portable weapons turning and listening in horror, then gazing back at the smoke visible beyond the Butte. The Major, his face white, turned to an aide beside him.
     "Get me a comm link to the Third Column. I need to know where the hell they've got to? If you can raise them, tell them to hightail it back here pronto! Huh?
     Tell them we've been caught on the hop. Tell them ... the Marshal's Column is lost. Presumed wiped out." I could feel the panic in the air, a few hours before these men had felt invincible, now the spectre of total defeat seemed to hang upon their collective shoulders. Turning briefly back to me the Major, whose name I never learned, nodded shortly.
     "Glad you made it out at least, wouldn't want to have the loss of a Davion on our conscience on top of everything else."

* * *

     So there you have it, more or less, my experiences at the Battle of Sandsedge. The commander of the Twenty-fourth Dieron Regulars and it's attendant conventional units had played the Seventeenth like a master. The Warlord of Dieron had never been on Mallory's World of course, they'd just invented that bit of false information and fed it to us in order to lure us into their trap, just as Brandon Corey had suspected.
     There had been three well positioned tank regiments in Sandsedge itself and thanks to a couple of lances of Ontos heavy tanks, they'd been more than able to beat back the light 'Mechs of the Second Column, after inflicting some pretty severe damage on them. The Snakes had also got very lucky by dint of the fact the Third Column had got lost if you can believe that, they'd swung too far west and by the time they got close enough to see what was happening the rest of the Twenty-fourth Dieron were in the process of massacring Burke-Jankowski and his valiant fools. The Third Column pulled back and was pursued by large numbers of the Dieron 'Mechs and so took several days to link up with the other survivors of the RCT. In their defence, even if they'd been with their Marshal under the slopes of Beetle Butte they wouldn't have made much difference and would probably have been lost too.
     The Seventeenth Avalon Hussars RCT was decimated, to put it mildly; it lost roughly half it's 'Mech regiment, the Second Lexington Regulars and the Ninety-seventh Avalon Armour had both been practically wiped out, whilst the Hundred and Twenty-third Recon lost about half their tanks. I believe I'm correct when I say we lost about twelve hundred men; including a Marshal, a Leftenant General, two Colonels, six Leftenant Colonels and God alone knows how many more junior officers. It took the Seventeenth nearly a year to regroup, patch up their 'Mechs and become battle ready again, they were to stay on Mallory's World while they did so and would gain revenge against House Kurita by defeating in battle the Second Legion of Vega later in '14 and then subsequently out-tricked their old enemies from Sandsedge and forced the Twenty-fourth Dieron to retreat off world shortly thereafter. By the way Sortek's Victor, which had been salvaged by the Snakes after Sandsedge, was recaptured at that time and was returned to him by his comrades about a year after he lost it. The Twenty-fourth returned to Mallory's World after a period of months and were to duel with the Seventeenth there for another two years inconclusively. It should be said the Seventeenth hadn't recovered to full strength even as long as twelve years after Sandsedge.
     The important thing at the time of the defeat was that the Seventeenth were effectively out of the campaign, they could only retreat, trying to regroup as they went and thus would leave the Twenty-fourth Dieron quite able to advance east and move to attack the rear flank of Prince Ian's beloved Fourth Guards.
     Sandsedge could have very well cost the Federated Suns not just a large part of an AFFS RCT, but Mallory's World entire. 

* * *

     As I stood quaking amidst the bloodied survivors watching hundreds of Kuritan tanks spread over the desert below us, I knew none of this, in fact I remember thinking we were all going to be wiped out. I was sat behind the APC, gulping warm brackish tasting water from a flask I'd found inside the vehicle, I heard someone shout my name and looked up bleakly to see Sortek running towards me.
     "Darius, Darius, quick old fellow, up you get." Oh Jerome, I cursed to myself, what now? Still I could hear the distant tread of those assaults and the volleys of tank fire drawing ever closer, so I wasn't about to get too comfortable here.
     "Darius, I've spoken with the Major and he's in agreement, you have to carry word to the First Prince of what's happened here today." I looked at him as if he was mad.
     "Dan, the Prince is over a thousand klicks from here. Why not just comm him?" Sortek briskly shook his head.
     "Those damn storms over the mountains I'm afraid, we're still not getting any signal through them. Besides, news of this ... disaster ... should come from someone the Prince trusts and anyway you were there too, right in the thick of it ... you can tell the Prince exactly what happened ... make him see ... well ... that we did our best. One of our fighters has been ordered to land ten klicks back from here, the Major has ordered you to accompany a fuel tanker back there, use it to fuel the aero-fighter and then have the pilot fly you to the Fourth's position." He handed me a data slug containing my orders along with a veri-code.
     I glanced up, the dogfights were still raging, but then again if all the Snakes fighters were here, as they seemed to be, we could scoot up into low-planetary-orbit and probably safely reach the Drop Zone and then the Fourth's position without much danger. Certainly less than I'd face if I remained there, so standing up, dressed in my smoke blackened cooling vest and shorts, I saluted Sortek. He returned the salute and then absolutely hugged me.
     "God keep you Darius. If I don't make it ... tell Hanse ... well just tell him it was an honour to be his friend." I nodded, pulling back pretty brisk like, as I remembered the Court-gossip about Sortek and Hanse being shirt-lifters.
     With that I dashed for the fuel truck Sortek pointed out, two infantrymen rushing behind me as a totally useless bodyguard, then piling into the cramped cab we set off and I left Sortek and my horrific time with the Seventeenth Avalon Hussars behind me.
     The Stuka waiting for me at the assigned rendezvous point sat on a flat dry mesa, it seemed much larger than I'd imagined as we drove up to it. It's armoured fuselage painted with orange and black tiger stripes and it's nose decorated with a cartoon fanged mouth. I saw the words Flying Tiger painted in flowing script under it's cockpit and below that the badge of the Forty-fifth Avalon Fighter Wing, a stylised bomb above the head of a 'Mech silhouette, with their motto proudly emblazoned; 'The Mechbuster Wing'.
Now listen to me you benighted muckers. We're going to teach you soldiering. The world's noblest profession. When we're done with you, you'll be able to slaughter your enemies like civilized men. - HRH D. Dravot

Tokage

  • Master Sergeant
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  • Posts: 312
Re: The Misadventures of Darius Davion #1 - Darius and the Hound
« Reply #38 on: 07 February 2011, 16:44:54 »
34

     As my flight from the remnants of the Seventeenth to the camp of Prince Ian and the Fourth Guards RCT was relatively uneventful I shall not detail it in great length here. Again I would refer you, if you're interested, to my official memoirs, where you can read of the cheery banter I swapped with the ex-racing car driver turned aerospace pilot, the thrill of being crushed into the back of his cockpit as we thundered up and through the faint wisps of cloud, the awe inspiring experience of cruising above the atmosphere where the curve of the planet was visible and sun beams glittered across the hard purple-black region where space meets sky.
     We'd made contact with the DropShips at the Fourth's DropZone and from them learned the position of the 'Bane, some hundred klicks south of the port of Harrison's Ferry, in the Bone Desert. We gave the bare bones details of the loss of the Seventeenth to the DropShips to forward to Prince Ian and it took a staggeringly brief seeming time for my pilot to begin his descent back down into Mallory's World's atmosphere. We hammered through traces of cloud, then down and through into the typically clear blue sky above Joshua, to be greeted with an amazingly vivid view of the desert far below, the pilot then hit his jets and we shrieked in like a falling star.
     Soon I could easily make out the Fourth's camp, it's great lines of tents, tanks, 'Mechs and vehicles, arrayed at the edge of what appeared to be the remains of a ruined town or city, half buried in the yellow-white sand. A landing strip was clearly marked out by winking red and green lights at the southern edge of the camp and after my pilot tipped his wings politely to the pair of Guard Stukas that came up to meet us, he took us down. I never felt in danger once during that flight, we had air superiority over the middle regions of Joshua at the time, though that was going to change all too soon of course, but I didn't know that then.
     After landing I shook hands with the pilot, waved goodbye and trudged through the unpleasantly familiar dusty white sand of the Bone Desert, which drifted lightly in the air and began to get into my nostrils, eyes and hair once more. It was a hot local evening and I was still only dressed in Sortek's spare cooling vest, shorts and soft soled MechWarrior's boots, my holstered Sternsacht still riding my hip. Blake, but I must have looked a sight with all I'd recently gone through.
     I was walking off the landing strip when a jeep came bumping along towards me from the tents at the edge of the strip. I waved tiredly as it skidded to a halt ahead of me, throwing up a white dust cloud that made me cough and splutter, a figure then jumped down from the driver's seat and stepped toward me through the dust.
     "Good evening MechWarrior Davion." I inwardly groaned as I recognised Clive Holloway's flat, uncultured, vowels. Dressed in tan fatigue trousers, sweat stained shirt and jerkin, dusty boots and a pair of mirrored sunglasses, his scarred face seemed as grim as ever as he snapped a salute. I thought this rather formal of the jumped up oik and went to get into the jeep without lowering myself to respond, at which he barked at me like I was some buck private in a bootcamp.
     "It's customary for a MechWarrior to salute an officer in this army." I instantly spotted his restored yellow and white Leftenant's epaulette and I groaned all the more, it seemed with Labroc dead and myself missing Hillnas had given Holloway his promotion after all. I drew myself up and saluted the swine. He was doubtless enjoying this small revenge and he walked around me, taking in my condition.
     "So, the wanderer returns. Missing for well over a T-week, last seen running into an enemy stronghold and yet here you are, alive and well ... relatively speaking." He leaned in towards me, so close my nose prickled at the sour smell of his sweat.
     "I'd like to know how exactly you've managed that?" Sensing he was simply making the most of this moment and confident I could win the Prince over with my story, as I had the officers of the Seventeenth, I decided to have some sport with this uppity peasant.
     "Well come along, you can be there when I make my report to my cousin, First Prince Ian. Oh ... hold up though, I doubt he'll be in need of a grease-monkey, so your presence might not be required." He couldn't help himself and blushed, I chuckled and jumped in the passenger seat of the jeep.
     "Hurry up there my good man, I've an appointment with royalty don't you know." He spat, shook his head in impotent disgust, walked around to the driver's seat and clambered in, then pausing he turned to look at me, taking off those glasses of his.
     "Darius ... what did I ever do to you? I know it was you who got Captain Hillnas to reverse my promotion before Colterville, but what I don't know is why? Why'd you do it?" I smiled at him and pointed at the wheel, positively gleeful this tough dolt still knew his place enough not to simply rough me up.
     "Drive on please." He swore, rammed his glasses back on and skidded the jeep around and back through the camp. It was an enjoyable ride for me, as word of my return from the dead had obviously gone around the RCT like wildfire, crowds would begin to appear as we motored through the lines; MechWarriors, tankers, infantrymen, Techs, I even nodded to a pair of cooks who were standing waving at me from the entrance to a mess tent.
     "It's Darius!"
     "Darius Davion's back! He's alive."
     "He's been in a 'Mech sure 'nuff."
     "Here Darius old chap, where have you been hiding?"
     Some simply stood and gawped like I was the walking dead, y'see back then no one ever got captured by the Kuritans and came back. The Snakes didn't take prisoners it was that simple, I was reported as Killed In Action when Hillnas returned to our lines outside Colterville after the failed attack on the Maglev Gate. My driving through the camp now over a T-week or more later was seen as nothing short of a miracle.
     Holloway swerved down past a company of crouched 'Mechs and I noted, though Techs were working on them, they showed quite a bit of damage and the company only numbered nine 'Mechs. We drove through the camp lines and up to a tall, yet half buried, old building at the edge of the ruins the Fourth were camped beside that evening.
     The building had an impressive ferrocrete dome, a broken colonnade of pillars, and showed ancient seeming cannon damage. A platoon of infantry in combat armour guarded it's approaches and a pair of Locusts plodded almost delicately past us on patrol, their sensor rods twitching like the antennae of giant insects.
     I swung out of the jeep ignoring Holloway and marched towards the armoured infantry, they were expecting me and six of them led me inside the dim, echoing, interior of the strange ruin. Within we passed through into a circular chamber, ringed with more Grecian style columns, with a pock marked and scarred decorative armour-glass floor, now covered in white desert dust, my mouth open I gazed up at the remains of a beautiful fresco depicting the various leaders of the Star League painted upon the towering synth-marble domed ceiling. We then crunched across the floor towards a doorway that seemed large enough to accommodate a BattleMech.
     More guards snapped off salutes as we passed through and I was suddenly aware of the sound of conversation up ahead, strip lights had been set up by some of the RCT's Techs, with trailing wires leading to portable generators, and they illuminated what once must have been a formal dining room, three long green plasteel military tables had now been set up down it's length and the RCT's command staff filled the tables, working away on E-pads and P-comps, running sensor checks or making what seemed like a myriad of comm messages. As I was marched down one side of the room I gazed up to find it had a twenty meter high ceiling, studded here and there with skeletal remains of long ago shattered chandeliers.
     The guards led me through the long room and down a spiralling flight of synth-marble stairs, down the side of which more power cables had been laid by our Techs. I asked one of my escort what this ruin was and he glanced at me and answered eagerly.
     "It's the old BSLA Diplomatic Mission. One of our recon patrols found it. It's location has previously been lost for decades apparently." I looked blankly and the fresh faced young Leftenant smiled and answered my unspoken question.
     "The Bureau of Star League Affairs, Diplomatic Mission. That ruined 'town' out there, it was all geared towards servicing this place. Every Star League planet with a population of over a million had one of these missions, they were the centre of the League's power on it's worlds. The Planetary Administrator was based here and it was through these places the League's laws flowed to the individual planets." He grinned sheepishly, realising he'd been talking like a book.
     "Here we are, if you'll wait outside, the Prince knows you're here and will call you in shortly." They left me in another vast but empty room and I sat in a rickety metal deck chair set beside the tall, closed double doors, before which two unspeaking armoured infantrymen stood with rifles across their chests and noses in the air.
     There was a good deal of conversation going on in the room I realised, as the echoes of my escorts departing footfalls faded off back up the stairs. Concentrating, I could make out a good deal of what was being said while sitting there quietly and recognised the voices, it was an important moment in the campaign and I shall lay down here what I heard and who I believe said what.

* * *

Prince Ian -     "No. I wont have it."
Gene Drivers -     "But Your Highness, you must, as Hanse and I have been reminding you, we have three entire RCTs sitting on their hands barely one jump from here. Bring them in and we can crush both the Second Sword and the damned Twenty-fourth Dieron and be home in time for Christmas."
Ian -     "No Gene, no. We don't need those reserves, like I've c-mailed Hanse twice now damn his stubbornness, and those units are not 'sitting on their hands' as you put it. They are waiting for H-Day. If we bring even one of those RCTs here we'll have to delay H-Day by possibly months, giving Takashi all the time he'll need. Also the Dragon might throw in his own reserves here to counter us and then we'll be stuck fighting over this blasted planet for years and the super-depots will certainly get completed. Look if H-Day goes ahead according to schedule it's very likely the DCMS will pull at least one of it's 'Mech regiments off this world."
Drivers -     "Sire, H-Day's still months off and it's my duty to point out that we are being led ever deeper into the Bone Desert by the Second Sword, Kurita's number one regiment. With the Seventeenth smashed beyond any usefulness, we will soon have the heavies of the Twenty-fourth Dieron hot on our tail and when they catch up to us, our prey out ahead of us there will turn around and we'll be caught between two fires.
     By all military good sense, you only have two reasonable choices. Either we retreat to fight another day, or you call in the reserves."
Ian -     "Possibly, possibly. Luke, I know they are in the dark at the moment about the fate of the Seventeenth, but what's the men's morale like, do they feel they need reinforcements?" 
Lucus Hillnas -     "Your highness, the 'Bane will follow you to hell and back."
Ian -     "I never doubted that Luke."
Hillnas -    "We'll follow where you lead Sire. I just wish we still had the Seventeenth watching our backs."
-long pause-
Ian -     "There is a third choice Gene. It came to me while I was drafting my last c-mail to Hanse."
Gene (wry voiced) -     "I didn't think we were at the point of surrender yet Sire." -general laughter-
Ian -     "Mercenaries Gene, mercenaries."
Gene -     "Ahh. Who've we got in the neighbourhood?"
Ian -     "No one major I'm afraid. I've been paging through my lists and as you know I'm playing a pretty fine balancing act preparing for H-Day, for example I don't want to risk interrupting the Eridani Light Horse raiding calendar. However I think I've found just the unit. Here, on Mara right next door so to speak, two 'Mech battalions of Lyrans going by the name of the Kell Hounds."
Gene -     "The Kell Hounds? Oh yes, those are the boys who had a spot of luck back in February against one of the Sun Zhang Cadre regiments?"
Ian -     "That's right old chap, I wouldn't say it was luck though, they really took the Ninth Cadre to pieces and even stole the DCA JumpShip that brought the Ninth to Mara!"
Gene -     "Oh yes I remember now, didn't I hear that they sent a c-mail to Luthien asking for Takashi to send another ship to pick up the Ninth's survivors?" -Laughter-
Ian -     "Damn fine. Damn fine that."
Gene -     "Still though, I heard the Kells were a little ... well ... dodgy. Mara aside they've barely seen action and I read in the Gazette that, even in Lyran space, they've been accused of being amateurs. I mean aren't they led by a couple of dilettante noblemen? Social Generals playing at being mercs?"
Ian -     "I don't know about that, but I judge by results Gene, as you know and so far they've earned their pay. Hell, they cost me enough, I may as well get some more use out of 'em."
Gene -     "Two battalions would make all the difference it's true. Well, I still think it would be safer to bring in one of the reserve RCTs, but it's your call Sire. How quickly can they be here?"
Ian -     "Ten days. Think we can survive for ten days Luke?"
Hillnas -     "Without a doubt Sire."
Ian -     "Damn that bungling fool 'Jankowski anyway. Did he know what it costs me to put an RCT in the field? If he was still alive I'd have him up before a court martial in a trice.
     Now then, where's young Darius. I could do with some good news and if I'm not mistaken he's going to have quite a story to tell us."

* * *

     There you have it. Ian could have thrown three more entire line RCTs at the Kuritans on Mallory's World and chose not to. Incredible isn't it? He thought he could win with just the Fourth if you ask me, it was in his voice when he was talking about the Kell Hounds, he only agreed to call them in to placate Hanse and Gene Drivers, who were both pushing either for a retreat off world or for Ian to commit some or all of his reserves.
     H-Day was of course the planned go-date for the Halstead Station Operation.
     Sitting out in that dusty antechamber, in that wobbly chair, I was amazed at Ian's arrogant stupidity, as I saw it then and still do to this day. I couldn't see that it would really matter that much if Ian went to Halstead Station in a year or so, it would certainly have been a preferable option to falling on Mallory's World. That was Ian for you though, he was enjoying himself and was like a gambler on Galaina, putting his entire remaining cash down on one more spin of the wheel. If it had come off he might have defeated Kurita's best and still been over the border at the head of his RCTs on Halstead Station in a few months time and the Inner Sphere would be a very different place today, of course like all gamblers he had the odds stacked against him.   
     Upon entering the circular room cluttered with E-pads, papers, maps, unit rosters, parts of the Prince's personal baggage and a table set with large plates of corned beef and cheese sandwiches and bottles of lager chilling in a rusty bucket full of half melted ice, I found Ian, Gene Drivers and Captain Hillnas were gathered to welcome me back to the RCT and I basically gave the same story as I had to the officers of the Seventeenth as regards my earlier adventures.
     Then when I reached my time with the Seventeenth, I told the tale fairly straight, knowing that there was every chance that lucky bugger Sortek would survive, to be able to confirm or refute anything I said here. Naturally though, as with anything, it all depends how you spin the raw facts. In this case I made it sound like I'd immediately spotted the dangers inherent in Burke-Jankowski's plan of attack and subtly talked Corey into voicing the doubts he did, knowing that a common MechWarrior, no matter what his last name was, could never expect to have his voice heard in a command level briefing.
     Then, naturally I claimed to have practically begged the late Marshal privately, on bended knee, into allowing me to come along for the ride, I think the way I put it to Ian was;
     "Whatever my concerns about the Marshal's strategy Highness, I knew it was my duty to be there with them." Ian had nodded his big head at that approvingly, as had Gene Drivers I noted.
     I continued with as detailed a description of the battle as I could manage, lingering upon the, for once, true story of my hearing Bentine's voice asking me about the rate of fire of short range missile launchers and my using that memory to lead Sortek's Lance in taking out the missile launcher and it's crew. I moved on then to the appearance of the Kuritan assault 'Mechs and the flight for the gully, claiming to have actually deliberately led those Hussars who'd followed me.
     I told the story of we few survivors seeing the massed ranks of the Twenty-fourth Dieron bearing down on us, then the preparations for the last stand and the loss of first Sortek's, then my own 'Mech to missile fire. Hanging my head as I gave a carefully prepared little speech.
     "I ... I feel like I deserted them Sire. I could have fought propped against a boulder or lying down. But I cut and run with Dan Sortek." Well, if I could drop him in the pan, whilst coming off as the suffering hero, racked with remorse and guilt over surviving when his comrades didn't, I would do my best to do so. Hillnas slammed down his beer bottle at that.
     "Don't be a damned fool Darius. What would that have gained us, save the loss of another brave man?" I did my best to snuffle a little, bite my lip, straighten my back and look forward over Ian's head awaiting the Hound's response. Ian gazed at me from under his thick bristling red eyebrows. I think he was still brooding over the cost he felt Burke-Jankowski had slapped him with by effectively losing his RCT, but he did also look at me with a degree of honest respect and before I left with Hillnas for our tent line, he held my shoulder hard in one of those great ham fists of his and growled;
    "You're staying close to my side for the next few days Darius. I need some of your luck to rub off on me."
Now listen to me you benighted muckers. We're going to teach you soldiering. The world's noblest profession. When we're done with you, you'll be able to slaughter your enemies like civilized men. - HRH D. Dravot

Tokage

  • Master Sergeant
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  • Posts: 312
Re: The Misadventures of Darius Davion #1 - Darius and the Hound
« Reply #39 on: 07 February 2011, 17:01:34 »
35

     Ten days may not seem a long time to you chaps, sitting comfortable in your armchairs, sipping Avalonian brandy and puffing on a cigar, but when you're deep in a half-poisonous dust desert, with the Second Sword of Light ahead of you and the Twenty-fourth Dieron due to turn up behind you at any moment, let me tell you it can seem like months.
     Ian sent his summons to the Kell Hounds on the sixteenth of October and within a day the previous situation of us trying to chase the Second Sword down into open battle was reversed. We received word from our air wing that the Twenty-fourth Dieron were moving fast around the north of the Salt Mountains, possibly in the direction of Colterville, which was then held by a garrison the Fourth had left behind, consisting of two of the RCT's conventional regiments. Comm chatter between the Twenty-fourth's forward elements and Kuritan positions deeper in the desert, doubtless belonging to the Second Sword, was soon detected and within hours our recon Lances and patrols began to clash with Second Sword units. These engagements were light skirmishes at first; resulting only in a bit of damage here, a 'Mech temporarily crippled there, but they let the Snakes know roughly where we were and the larger battle Ian had to avoid seemed imminent.
     Yorinaga and his Second Sword knew the rules of the game had changed and we had now become the prey. Within two or three days the Twenty-fourth Dieron had moved between Colterville and our DropZones and had effectively severed our lines of communication, the Second Sword's probing scout units were now pushing us ever deeper into the Bone Desert and the Prince had the doubly difficult job of manoeuvring to ensure he not only kept us out of reach of the Second Sword's main body, but that he didn't leave us open to a strike from the Twenty-fourth.
     The only way we were getting supplies during this period was through air drops, our fighters shuttled backwards and forwards between our desert camps and the DropZones, escorting the four or five Karnov UR Transport VTOLs that the Prince had shrewdly brought with us to Mallory's World. There had been a couple of dogfights between our aero-jocks and those of the Twenty-fourth, but so far the drops were still getting through.
     This all sounds pretty grim doesn't it? Well it was, just not for me. After all my awful luck during this campaign it seemed I'd finally come out on top, there were no spare 'Mechs needing me to pilot them thank God and so I was not involved in those desert skirmishes. My reputation in the unit was by then truly stellar and I was generally regarded as inhumanly brave, supremely resourceful and something of a good luck charm. As one fellow put it;
     "Bugger it all Dee, aside from beating the rest of us into Colterville by five T-days, you're going to be the only man-jack of us who gets to brag about having been at both Colterville and the Battle of Sandsedge!" He was right to be jealous, you can't buy that kind of publicity and I was itching to get back to civilisation to see how it worked with the ladies.
     That's not to imply my time traipsing about the Bone Desert with the 'Bane was particularly onerous for me. Far from it. Ian had been as good as his word when he said he wanted to keep me close to his side and I'd been spending the stiflingly hot desert days, far from where the lead and lasers were flying, in Ian's air conditioned mobile headquarters, or Gun Dog One as it was affectionately known to the AFFS. Ian spent much of his time closeted in there organising the airdrops with the precious DropShips and planning the next movements of the Fourth necessary in order to stay one step ahead of the Snakes. When the Prince was there too, I'd attend him, toady him as much as I thought prudent, fetch and carry for him, laugh at the appallingly vulgar Lyran jokes he liked to tell, join him in damning Burke-Jankowski and commiserate with the tight fisted miser when he moaned about the state of the nation's war-chest. When he was elsewhere, I'd cheerfully sit sipping recaff or artichar, laced with spirits I snagged out of the Hound's own drink's cabinet, chatting with the trio of lads who manned the MHQ's powerful comm system, whilst listening to the reports coming in from our prowling scouts and the occasional sounds of battle.
     In the evenings, when the Fourth would find the best cover it could and dig in, I'd stroll about the camp looking for mischief. I'd usually be accompanied on these night time promenades by MechWarrior Killian Rook, a fellow member of Hillnas's company who you may recall lost his Pheonix Hawk in that first battle we fought upon landing on Mallory's World and MechWarrior Moshe Galan of the Second Battalion who'd punched out when his 'Mech went supernova during the storming of Colterville.
     Rook, a very muscular dark skinned fellow who hailed from somewhere in the outback, where his family ruled an entire world like they were absolute kings if rumour was to be believed, was one of your tough, gentleman-duelist types and was bitterly unhappy about having had his 'Mech crippled so early in the campaign. He was arrogant, very quick to take offence at the smallest things, and in some ways reminded me of Roddy Kent.
     Moshe Galan was new to the Fourth, having recently transferred from the First Robinson Rangers, he was a career soldier through and through. The younger son of a loaded Robinsonian banking family, he had the carefree attitudes of the truly wealthy and I felt he would be a good contact for later life. One thing my father taught me early on was that one of the most essential things you need in life is a friendly banker.
      So we three, temporarily dispossessed, young gods would saunter about camp, taking drinks with the RCT's officers thanks to my surname, playing cards with the lower ranks, trying it on with the few attractive female members the Fourth included amidst it's ranks in those days, and generally treating what should have been a desperate military situation like we were on holiday. Boozing and gambling while camped deep in a war zone is strictly against AFFS regs of course, but we were Guards MechWarriors, as long as we weren't on active duty we were more or less our own masters.
     It was on the night of the twenty second of October that I was to allow my sense of well-being and safety to over-ride my common sense and I would lay the seeds that would end up casting me out of the bosom of the RCT and once more into the hell of the campaign.
     We'd been forced deeper into the Bone Desert and were on the northern edge of a broken region of dry plateaus, wadis and deep canyons, apparently known locally as Hell's Anvil. Our tents and camp lines were spread against the foot of a horseshoe shaped cliff face, along the top of which we could see the faint winking lights of 'Mechs patrolling. Killian, Moshe and I had had our orderlies clean, press and iron our walking out dress uniforms during the heat of the day and showered and scrubbed up we'd headed down the lines for Leftenant Chalmers's tent.
     Andy Chalmers headed Hillnas's Recon Lance and we'd heard he'd scrounged up some bottles of Kuritan sake, plundered when the 'Bane had liberated Colterville, and he was by all accounts prepared to share his good fortune. Chalmers hadn't been the same man after the repeated attacks against the walls of Colterville. He'd been good friends with Urqhart, who'd died during that dreadful attack on the Maglev Gate, and gossip was that Chalmers was cracking up and not sleeping well. Naturally we just wanted to try the sake, before toddling down to one of the card games run on the quiet by those rogues in the 'Bane's Arty Battalion.
     It quickly became clear that most of the rest of the 'Bane's MechWarriors and officers must have had the same idea as us that night, as when we turned the corner of the line of tents we could hear the sound of a fair number of people talking and laughing. Chalmers's tent was spilling out officers and MechWarriors, some still dressed in cooling vests and shorts, each holding little white bottles or cups of sake. Chalmers, his eyes rimmed with dark shadows, his face wan and drawn seeming, was hurrying around like a house-proud Avalon City matron, filling cups and even offering dry ration biscuits around like they were cucumber sandwiches.
     I noted immediately we arrived Holloway was standing talking quietly to a Tech-Leftenant, whose red jacket was covered in coolant fluid and oil stains, his grimy hands were leaving black fingerprints upon the white china cup he was drinking from and as I took them both in, I quickly decided it would be fun to have some sport with Holloway that night.

* * *

     As my cronies and I swiped a bottle of sake each and began to swill the foul tasting Snake muck, I realised that the best of the Fourth Guards 'Mech Regiment was visiting Chalmers that evening, doubtlessly only in order to drink his Kuritan sake. I was actually quite surprised that, knowing his propensity for enjoying other people's hospitality, the Hound hadn't stuck his muzzle around the corner and guzzled some of Chalmers's stash of captured booze.
     After I had tossed back my first bottle, well they were quite small and the stuff went down quickly, I took another and very loudly said to Rook.
     "I say it ain't right is it? Techs drinking with MechWarriors. What next, are we going to invite in the PBI latrine patrol over for tea and scones?" As intended my voice cut through the polite buzz of conversation and out of the corner of my eye, I caught Holloway's rather startled jump and his Tech-Leftenant friend's surprised head turn in our direction.
     I wasn't in the least bit worried. Remember at that time I was living under the Hound's protective shadow and was the darling of the RCT. Holloway could not afford to take too much offence to anything I said publicly, for if he started a fight it would be a real breach of regulations and besides I had Rook to club him down, on the other hand if he went the whole hog and challenged me to a duel, I could simply point out the fact that duelling was banned by the AFFS during active service and use it as one more stick to hit the peasant with. Rook, bless his brutal heart, actually thought I was being serious and immediately took massive affront to an officer of Techs 'pinching' MechWarrior's liquor.
     "Bloody right it's not right Dee! It's a damn disgrace, what is this a malfing merc unit or something?" Some of the other chaps were nervously laughing at our increasingly loud conversation and I was all glee as I noted Holloway's cut up mug was blushing furiously at our bare faced cheek. Make no mistake, reputation counts for a lot in any 'Mech regiment and that goes doubly so for a Guards unit. If Holloway could find no way to politely put us in our place it'd be around the RCT by breakfast;
     "Hey d'you hear how Darius showed up that Tech-chap in Hillnas's Company."
     "Oh really, well he was promoted up through the ranks, what d'you expect?"
     "Aye and Darius was probably doing the chap a favour."
     "Really, how so?"
     "Well, you know Darius, he'd probably spotted this Tech chap making an ass of himself and wanted to give him an excuse to slope off without doing himself any more damage."
     "Yeah, I expect so, damn but Darius is a top hole sort of chap ain't he just? Helping that commoner out like that."
      Well, you get the picture. Moshe, who wasn't really much of a snob, didn't join in and stood back chatting with a fellow Robinsonian from Third Battalion, so I relied upon Rook's quick temper and extreme views to carry me through.
     "Well I don't know though Rook. Perhaps a Tech can fight as well as a MechWa-"
     "Whaaat? A grubby fingered Tech will never be able to fight as well as the likes of you and I. D'you know why? They're bred to put 'Mechs together and we're bred to take 'em to pieces, d'you see?" I smiled thinly as I replied cool voiced.
     "Oh, I see old chap, it's all in the breeding then?" At that the Tech-Leftenant, knowing he couldn't win, said something softly to Holloway, put down his cup and stalked off into the desert night. Holloway was scarlet and doubtless aware of the many pairs of eyes that were watching him. He had to do or say something, or his good name in the RCT would take a fair knocking. I waited, pretty sure I was holding all the aces in this game.
     He made his move. Still carrying an empty sake cup, he stomped over and in a low voice said to us.
     "I will not tolerate this kind of behaviour from -" Rook jumped in at that.
     "Behaviour? What behaviour? We were having a private conversation." I leapt in at that point.
     "Yes sir, we were discussing the fighting merits of Techs and the like. Why would that be improper?" I smiled at him, meeting his furious gaze. He was hooked, he could only publicly take offence by reminding all there about his less than noble background and that was the last thing his kind ever want to do. His scars were livid white on his flushed red face and his fists were balled at his sides. Then without another word he turned on his heel and stormed away, to a great chorus of cheers, laughter and whistling from the assembled, slightly drunk crowd.
      You might be wondering why I was so cruel to Holloway? As he himself had asked me upon my return to the 'Bane, what had he done to me that warranted my tormenting him? Well I can only answer these questions honestly, I didn't like his kind outranking me or even being my equal, his kind are bred to serve ours. It's that simple. Also I'm a bully, always have been, it's in my nature. When I know I can get away with making someone else's life hell, I'll do it with a passion, because that's the kind of chap I am.
      If there is a moral minority reading these words, who are tutting in anger and disgust at my unrepentant attitude, then they may rest easy. Those few minutes of spiteful fun at Holloway's expense, would directly result in my final terrifying and horrific string of experiences on Mallory's World.
Now listen to me you benighted muckers. We're going to teach you soldiering. The world's noblest profession. When we're done with you, you'll be able to slaughter your enemies like civilized men. - HRH D. Dravot

Tokage

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Re: The Misadventures of Darius Davion #1 - Darius and the Hound
« Reply #40 on: 07 February 2011, 17:15:42 »
36

     The day after my shaming of Holloway at Chalmers's little soiree, Ian led a raiding party consisting of two companies of the 'Bane, aimed at luring the Second Sword away east, while we in the main body of the RCT were actually pushing due south into Hell's Anvil as fast as we could manage.
     I spent that day swilling booze-spiked recaff in Gun Dog One listening to the fractured comm reports from the Hound's probing raid. The initial contact between Ian's force and the Snakes was fierce but brief, during which our boys ambushed an enemy recon patrol and downed a couple of Kuritan lights, before the enemy rushed in reinforcements and Ian sensibly ordered the recall. I shall recount here the details of the comm chatter I then heard, which will give you some idea of Ian's character.
     I was stood alongside Gene Drivers, behind the trio of comm-Techs who manned the MHQ's forward comm-desk, as we heard the firing lull for a moment and Ian's gruff voice bark to his men.
     "Pull back. Pull back to muster point Gamma." There was more firing and one of the raiding force Leftenants cried out in response to Ian.
     "Your Highness, watch your right." There was a thunder of autocannon fire, then the Prince growled again.
     "Thanks Pete, now get out of here, I'll see you off."
     "But Sire, we can't just leave you."
     "That's an order Pete, I'm in the heaviest 'Mech here and have some new dance steps I want to try out on the Snakes." I couldn't believe my ears, aside from being struck by the stray thought that it seemed all the AFFS commanders on this campaign seemed obsessed with dancing with the enemy for some reason, the silly bugger was actually going to stand on his own in the face of what had to be a strong Sword force and buy time for his men to safely retreat.
     "He'll die for sure." I gasped aloud in horror, to which Gene, though looking and sounding worried himself, patted my shoulder.
     "Don't write him off yet Darius, that old dog still knows a few tricks." I turned my attention back to the comm signal.
     "Three Dragons on your left Highness." A younger man's voice broke through the sounds of battle.
     "Thanks, but get going now, for the last time this is an order. Retreat. First man back to the 'Bane gets to order lunch, I fancy pork-chops in gravy." Ian's forced levity was clear and his words were punctuated by his weapons fire.
     There was then a long period with minimal comm traffic, during which we all paced and sweated despite the cool air inside the MHQ. Each of us knew Ian might already be dead, or worse, captured and were pondering the collective disgrace we'd suffer for losing our First Prince, well I was anyway. Then, about twenty minutes after Ian's last comm, his voice crackled into the MHQ and a great sigh of relief went up.
     "Okay, where's my lunch. Gene, you there?" Gene stepped up and took a mike.
     "Yes Sire, it's good to hear your voice. Are you well?" Ian barked a quick laugh, then replied.
     "Well? I'm bloody marvellous. I bagged four more kills to my tally. When we get back to New Avalon I'll treat the 'Bane's officers to a ball in honour of my new score." Gene and the comm-Techs chuckled in relief, whilst I sagged and sank half a mug of almost neat gin to steady my nerves. I damned Ian's ridiculous, near suicidal bravery. He was the leader of the largest state in known space, the fate of billions hung on his actions and he was acting like a green rookie trying to win medals. I was no military genius, or expert on the rules by which a Fed Suns Prince fought, but even I could tell this was far from normal, or sensible. These thoughts were confirmed as, while Ian caught up with and bantered on with his returning raiders, Gene turned to me and led me by the arm into the Map Room, lowering his voice to a whisper.
     "Darius ... I ... ahh wish to consult you confidentially." He was all deference, despite being a Major General, while I was not even an officer at that time, but I motioned for him to go on.             
     "The Prince is a very brave and honourable man, we both know that. But he must stop placing himself in such dangerous positions. It's one thing for him to lead raiding parties, but to stand alone in the face of overwhelming Kuritan numbers is pure folly." He looked at me nervously and I nodded agreement, he then turned away slightly as if embarrassed.
     "Look Darius. I know you're a young blade just starting out on your career, but it's clear that the Hound likes and respects you. Well you and he share more than just your Davion blood, the same fires of bravery, honour and pride that light Ian's heart are to be found in yours too." I was getting jittery as Gene went on, I was already beginning to learn that when senior officers start making poetic speeches it's time to beat a hasty retreat and find a table to hide under. In this case, for once, I needn't have worried.
     "Can you speak with Ian about this. Stress to him how much we need him alive. He'll take it well enough coming from a man whose own courage has quickly become a byword throughout the RCT." I smiled, mainly in relief, as I'd feared I was about to be sent on some damn fool commando mission or something, whilst agreeing without reservation to offer my wisdom to the First Prince of the Federated Suns.

* * *

     An RCT on the move is pretty chaotic, but sitting in the stable, air conditioned, and comfortably decorated Royal MHQ, we saw few of the hardships the rest of the unit were enduring. Ian had arrived back still in his cooling vest and shorts at about noon and after he'd washed up and changed into a field uniform, we'd all sat down to a lunch of his pre-ordered pork-chops in gravy, though after I found what seemed to be a beak in mine I wasn't at all convinced there was much pork in it.
     Ian was animated and cheerful throughout the meal, excitedly telling his new war story in lingering and bloodthirsty detail, whilst myself, Gene and the other command level officers oo'd and ahh'd at the appropriate places like good little toadies. After the first course we had cheese and crackers for dessert and a glass of one of Ian's dreadfully cheap and nasty red wines.
     While the dirty dishes were being cleared away, I asked to speak with Ian privately and he nodded politely asking me to follow him up a ladder which led to an observation point built into the roof of the MHQ, sort of like a low conning tower such as you might find on a wet naval submarine. We stood with our hands on the raised ceramite plating gazing along the body of the long vehicle and beyond into the great mass of tanks, 'Mechs, and support vehicles that were motoring ahead, behind, and to either side of us.
     We were moving down a wide dusty valley, red rocked hills were dimly visible away to either side and the sky above was clear and blue. I turned and took in Ian's profile for a moment as he proudly surveyed his favourite RCT on the move; his big nose seemed slightly lumpen from this angle, his chin heavy with his drooping jowls, his eyebrows protruding and his thick hair catching the sunlight with a coppery sheen. I knew our fates might be linked to his and personally I expected to do very well from his patronage once we got off Mallory's World, so I was happy to act as Gene's tactful messenger of caution. Just as I was about to speak, Ian smiled and beat me to it.
     "It's beautiful isn't it?" He said and I tried to see what he was looking at, but all I could make out were the dust clouds of several hovertanks up ahead of us and a Catapult running along to our right.
     "Sire?" I enquired curiously.
     "The Fourth, Darius. The Fourth at war. This is how it should always be. We're outnumbered, practically cut off and faced with deadly, yet worthy, foes. There's no uncertainty out here is there? No politics beyond we either kill them or they'll kill us. This is how life was meant to be for men like you and I." I stammered an affirmative I think, but he wasn't listening anyway and rumbled on.
     "My father died in bed you'll know and his father was murdered by our own side. When I go ..." I interrupted him at that point like a good little toady, telling him he'd live to be a hundred and ten, but he smiled and shook his head.
     "No, no, Darius. I've always had a hunch I wont live a long life. I don't mind that, I just hope that when I do shuffle off this proverbial coil, it's in battle not like when father went and an honest death unlike what was done to Grandpapa." I jumped in again spotting an opening to bring up Gene's request for Ian to adopt a little self preservation.
     "Sire, you're First Prince of the Federated Suns. You cannot risk death in battle like you did today. You'll certainly never live to old age if you make a habit of doing that." He looked a little surprised at my blunt words, I'd decided to play the bluff, honest soldier you see. He frowned and squinted to his right away to the far off hill-line.
     "Darius, it is precisely because I'm First Prince that I must always act as an example of nobility, self sacrifice and honour. I cannot ask my subjects to do that which I will not. I will always be first onto the field of battle and last off of it. That's my pledge to my men and I've lived by those words since I took up the sword of state." He turned and looked at me, a light covering of white dust flecking his hair.
     "Gene's asked you to speak to me, hasn't he? Oh don't worry, you can tell him I agreed to be more careful, but between you and I, as one fighting man to another, I give you my word that I will continue to fight by the code of chivalry and honour men such as we revere. I would sooner die than leave the likes of you and your comrades behind on the battlefield."
     He then made an excuse, perhaps a little overcome with emotion, saluted and headed back down into his MHQ's interior, while I stayed up above watching his RCT trundle along. I have often wondered if Ian was having premonitions of his own death at that time, well he'd come close to being killed that very morning and I suppose that's enough to give even a war-horse like he was pause for thought.
     Make what you will of his words, I mention them here because they were the last real conversation I was to have with Ian and they would prove chillingly prophetic within a very short space of time.
Now listen to me you benighted muckers. We're going to teach you soldiering. The world's noblest profession. When we're done with you, you'll be able to slaughter your enemies like civilized men. - HRH D. Dravot

Tokage

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Re: The Misadventures of Darius Davion #1 - Darius and the Hound
« Reply #41 on: 08 February 2011, 17:47:07 »
37

     Later that same day our prospects grew even bleaker. The RCT had reached an arranged drop-point where our fly-boys would escort in the Karnovs carrying our daily water, ammunition and food supplies.
     I was in the Prince's MHQ, dozing on a bunk, when I was awoken by the sound of explosions and weapons fire. I fell out of the bunk and panicked for a moment, then ran to a vid-screen to see what was going on, the screen filled with an image of our vehicles scattering as what seemed like dozens of Kuritan aerospace fighters strafed over them. I could hear shouting from the comm-centre up forward and ran through the connecting door to find Ian bellowing into a mike.
     "Where are our Riflemen? What? Yes, you bloody cretin, we need them NOW!" I gazed appalled at view screens set upon one side of the expansive comm desk, that showed what were clearly aircraft burning on the ground, several of them.
     "Oh sweet Jerome ... are those what I think they are?" I gasped in shock and horror. Ian didn't turn, but snapped over his shoulder.
     "If you think they're our Karnovs ... then yes." Our supply lifters had been destroyed and for the next hour or so I watched the combined air wings of the Second Sword and the Twenty-fourth Dieron systematically slaughter the best part of our own fighter wing in the skies above us. Our boys were good, but they were badly outnumbered and taken by surprise had lost several fighters on the ground in the first few minutes of the Kuritan sneak attack. Eventually our Riflemen and a couple of lances of Partisan heavy tanks drove off the triumphant Snake aircraft, but by then the damage had been well and truly done.
     I well recall that evening the creeping feeling of despair that seemed to hang over us, as I sat at the back of a command briefing in the map-room of Gun Dog One and listened to Ian spelling out our situation. He typically started out in apparent good humour, but I could tell even his belligerent, near mindless, optimism in the face of military hardship was wavering.
     "Come along, come along, I'm a busy man. There's a card game down at the Artillery Battalion's lines I intend to make tonight." He began and there was general nervous laughter as his officers shuffled in and found chairs, during which time he continued his attempts at gallows humour.
     "Hullo there Matt, still not found a tailor who can make you a uniform that fits I see. Gene you sit over there next to Armand, yes Gene I know he still smells of garlic, that's the Fifteenth's mess's fault I'm afraid, it's why I wont eat over there. What's that Dick? You'd like me to hurry up because you're due to see a lady later? Well sorry, I'm afraid you'll just have to make do with Madam Palm and her five lovely daughters like the rest of us." His officers laughed and d'you know, crude and stupid as his vulgar gags were, I did note a slight relaxing as he stood up front, hands clasped behind his back and smiled, showing his large yellow teeth to us.
     "So then gentlemen, to business. As you are all aware we were caught napping today and were hit bad. We lost all but two of our air wing. All of our Karnovs were destroyed on the ground and we have thus lost not just our air superiority, but more importantly our only means of supply." He paused to let his words sink in before continuing, his sunken dark eyes moving from face to face.
     "There's no point sugar coating it, we're paddle-less and up shit creek. Our reinforcements, the Kell Hounds mercenary battalions, aren't due to make landfall for three more T-days and even then it's far from certain the Snakes will allow them to drop particularly close to our position.
     However we have one thing on our side I think Johnny the Snake has forgotten." I leaned forward as did the others at this, had I missed something ... did Ian in fact still have an ace up his sleeve?
     "That is, that we are the Fourth Davion Guards, the Dragon's Bane and we ain't never been beat!" His eyes shone and the assembled officers all cheered dutifully, as did I while my heart began to sink and my belly churn, this was his ace in the hole? More bluster, waffle and calls to simply keep on going.
     "We will play a little game with Yorinaga and his yobs. A spot of hide-and-go-seek I think." The war-mad bugger then proceeded to detail a very thorough plan of ambush, run, hide, move on by night, ambush again and so on. His projected route was shown on holomaps down to each rendezvous, every chosen ambush point and the various routes of escape. I'd learned my lesson after Colterville, so listened very carefully and even set about memorising the various maps.
     
* * *

     The next four T-days passed very slowly indeed, Ian led at least three more ambushes that I can remember, each time staying true to his promise to me to be the last man off the field. I personally continued to hide out in Gun Dog One, but there were no more night-time festivities, even us lucky members of Ian's inner circle and indeed the Prince himself were down to emergency rations of water and food.
     We hid during the sweltering daylight hours, concealing our 'Mechs and vehicles under bluffs, in caves, under camo-sheets and even sometimes actually buried under the dusty white sand. Our throats became parched, our bellies grumbled and we sweated from the heat, as well as nerves over the ever present threat of air attack, or the fear of the Second Sword's 'Mechs finally catching up to us.
     By night we'd drive, hell for leather, through the labyrinth of twisting canyons, valleys and dried up riverbeds that made up Hell's Anvil. Whilst our 'Mechs struck desperately at the pursuing and by that time dangerously close Snake forces, each time inflicting a little damage, taking some themselves and then pulling back down the prearranged escape routes, with Ian standing alone time and again to hold off the Sword 'Mechs until the last possible moment.
     The fateful air-raid we were all dreading actually happened on the twenty sixth of October, the day the Kell Hounds dropped safely outside the walls of Colterville, which was still held by the garrison troops we'd left there. It was early evening and we were beginning to move out of that day's hiding zone, which was a complex of shallow caves at the foot of a broken plateau and inside Gun Dog One I was avidly listening to the fractured, partially jammed, comm signals from the Kell Hounds DropShips as they were burning down through the atmosphere and their fighters were duelling with the Snake craft that had rushed up to meet them and prevent them getting too close to Hell's Anvil.
     The Prince had led most of our 'Mechs in two raiding columns to our north and so we were pretty much naked when we were hit. I've read and been told at later dates that it was a pair of lost Twenty-fourth Dieron Shilones that got lucky and hit us, they had been scrambled to meet the Kell Hounds and had somehow become separated from their wing. At the time all I knew was suddenly there was a pair of enormous seeming explosions from further up towards the front of the MHQ and I barely had time to throw myself to one side before a storm of fire and explosive blast ripped through the comm-centre.
     I came around to find the smell of roast pork teasing my nostrils and my mouth became pleasantly moist with saliva, seconds later I realised my legs were getting very hot. I looked down to see my blackened trouser legs were beginning to catch fire, little flames licking across them, kicking and squirming in terror I struggled up, to find there were fires everywhere. One of them crackling over the scorched corpses of the three comm-Techs who had been my companions throughout the Fourth's desperate chase, I gagged as I realised they were the source of the roasting pork smell that had awoken me and tempted my hungry senses.
     The comm-centre was gone, and judging by the flames billowing from the forward car Gun Dog One had taken at least one direct hit to it's front cab.
     Smoke began to choke me and despite realising painfully my body was a mass of burns and bruises I struggled as fast as I could for the connecting doorway leading to the map-room, my hands burning as they touched the ceramite armoured walls.
     I fell through the smoke and into the map-room, which had been partially thrown to one side, then continued on, smoke and flames at my heels, coughing at each breath, until I reached the nearest external door-hatch and pulled desperately on the release lever, only to find it was wedged or burned shut. The rear of the MHQ was completely buckled and twisted so I could see that I would find no exit there and spinning around I knew the burning front end of the vehicle was also a total no go. I looked back to the hatch before me and realised through my pain I was trapped in the shattered MHQ and if I didn't actually burn to death soon, the smoke would quickly suffocate me.
     I clawed at the unyielding hatch lever again and again, screaming at the top of my voice for help, my seared throat and lungs burning in pain. Then eventually, as the smoke began to fill the map-room around me, I sank down with my back to the hatch and wept.
     This was it then, all my dodging, running, hiding and scheming to keep myself safe had brought me was this, perhaps the worst death I can imagine. Dying either from breathing in scorching smoke, or feeling the flames first bubble, then crisp your flesh, melt your eyeballs and eat up your hair.
     As I was blubbing all the more, between choking on the fumes, I suddenly felt the hatch move behind me, spinning I began to hammer on the blasted thing as it seemed to bend outwards a little. As I was beginning to wonder what manner of man had the strength to pull a sealed ceramite hatch off like that, I was engulfed in smoke and fell forward into unconsciousness again.
     
* * *

     I've no idea how long I was out, I seem to recall a dream of being picked up in a great hand and a voice speaking to me, but I came to laying on my back with the feel of cool air on my face and opened my eyes to blink up at a clear night sky, studded with twinkling stars. I breathed deeply and was immediately rewarded by a sensation like someone had taken a cheese-grater to my throat, coughing and heaving I rolled over and onto my hands and knees. After about a minute I tried to take in my situation and surroundings. I realised I was still only wearing the burned remnants of my duty uniform and a pair of boxer shorts and my almost naked body was badly burned in several places.
     I had been lying some ten meters from the blackened, still smouldering, husk of Gun Dog One and in the centre of about a dozen other burned out vehicles. It was at that moment it hit me. I was alone. The rest of the RCT were nowhere to be seen. Looking down into the white dust at my feet my eyes locked onto something laying beside me, I leaned down and picked it up curiously.
     Brushing at the stiff piece of material I realised it was a red AFFS 'Mech Leftenant's epaulette ... strange I thought, it did not seem to have been torn or blown off a uniform ... then I dropped the thing like it was a poisonous serpent.
     "You bastard! You low-bred dog. I'll get you for this." I screamed at the top of my voice as with a rush of rage and fear I guessed what the epaulette meant. It had to have been Holloway, he must have pulled me out of Gun Dog One, using his 'Mech to break off the hatch, then presumably reported to the rest of the RCT, which would have anyway been fleeing from the Kuritan air-raid, that everyone inside was dead. This was the grease-monkey's revenge. He'd left me, naked and alone, for the Sword of Light to find. Even if by some miracle I survived to reach our boys, my only slight proof was the epaulette, which naturally represented a response to a decidedly questionable act on my part so would not be something I'd want to have to explain before a board of enquiry. Holloway could simply claim he'd searched the MHQ as best he could, but in the confusion of the fire he'd obviously missed me. There might be a few raised eyebrows, but certainly no danger of him actually being accused of anything untoward.
     I was still kicking and screaming at the epaulette when I felt the first distant tremor of the approach of at least one BattleMech.
Now listen to me you benighted muckers. We're going to teach you soldiering. The world's noblest profession. When we're done with you, you'll be able to slaughter your enemies like civilized men. - HRH D. Dravot

Tokage

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Re: The Misadventures of Darius Davion #1 - Darius and the Hound
« Reply #42 on: 08 February 2011, 18:16:14 »
38

     Standing in the midst of those wrecked vehicles, my body black from the smoke save for the red of my burns, I instantly knew the approaching 'Mechs were not those of our side. I remembered from my careful scrutiny of the Prince's plans and maps, that his raiders were retreating through two different canyons to link up with the main body of the Fourth. These had to be Sword 'Mechs. I cast about for somewhere to run to, there were the shallow caves we'd sheltered in during the day before, but they'd really only been good for avoiding being detected from above, a 'Mech's night-vision sensors would spot me in there like I was a turd on a pool table.
     I looked up and it struck me that if I could reach the top of the plateau, I could get out of their line of sight. The cliff looked to be about fifty meters tall, but it was rocky enough that unwounded I'd have easily been able to climb it. In my sore condition I'd struggle, but what other choice did I have?
     Dashing across the dust and past the remains of the MHQ, I began clambering up the cliff-face and I made pretty good going, as all the while the ominous, ground shaking, 'Mech footfalls drew ever nearer. I think I might have actually been successful had I not slipped at one point, after I put my hand in a small nest of rockmites and instantly flailed screaming backwards. By the time I recovered enough to scramble back up and begin pulling myself over the rocks again, I was suddenly aware of a powerful and unmistakable smell. It was that mixture of scorched metal, coolant fluids and burnt grease that when you've smelt it once you can never forget it and I knew it's source was directly behind me.
      A spotlight flicked on, trained directly onto me and I slowly turned to find myself at about cockpit level with a Second Sword DRG-1N Dragon, it's right arm mounted Imperator-A 60mm autocannon raised and trained upon me. As I clung there by my burnt hands to the rock face the 'Mech's pilot activated his loudspeaker.
     "Make another move and I shall end your life." His Anglic was fluent and I slid back down to the ledge as slowly as I could manage, this was it then either death here or at best a return to captivity and eventual shipment to Luthien, I turned on the narrow ledge and raised my hands.
     Thankfully my captor this time was not a member of Zakahashi's Zombies, otherwise there's no question I would have been killed on the spot. I was taken by one of the many lances that were fanned across Hell's Anvil, searching for the 'Bane, which was thankfully commanded by an honourable man, who like Minobu, didn't just blindly shoot prisoners as the DCMS regulations demanded.
     He apparently first called in a report of my capture before, using his 'Mech's left claw, helped me back down to the sand. I stood there surrounded by the Dragon and three other 'Mechs away in the darkness. With a slight metallic groaning sound, my captor knelt his 'Mech, then I heard rather than saw the cockpit canopy open and a ladder clatter down. Agile and wiry seeming, the 'Mech's pilot climbed swiftly down and turned towards me, a katana sword in one hand and a stubby little KK submachine gun pointed at me in the other.
     He'd left his neuro-helmet in his cockpit, so I could see he appeared to be in his early forties, with shaved greying hair, bright black eyes and swarthy skin. Dressed as he was in his dirty-white one-piece cooling suit and boots, I could see he was trimly muscled and tough looking.     
     "I am Chu-i Leon Gambetta, Fourth Battalion, Second Sword of Light. If I may enquire whom have I the honour to have captured?" I considered lying, but quickly dismissed the idea, as soon as Yorinaga got wind a prisoner had been taken fitting my description the game would be up, so I decided I'd better play my role as the noble and true Dashing Darius Davion.
     "MechWarrior Darius Davion. Fourth 'Mech Regiment, Davion Brigade of Guards."  I made sure to say the words proudly and they had the desired effect, Gambetta jumped visibly and was lost for words for a moment, then stammered.
     "You? The ... the prisoner who escaped at Colterville?" His rich, deep toned, voice was heavy with amazement.
     "That's right old chap," I said with a rueful grin. "Keep it to yourself though, this is getting to be a habit and we don't want people to talk."

* * *

     Gambetta was certainly one of the nicest Kuritan officers I ever met, mind you most of them, it has to be said, were either borderline psychopaths like Zakahashi, raving madmen like Suribachi on Hoff in '23, dangerously lethal professional killers like Yorinaga, Asano or Brahe, or treacherously slippery bastards like Conti or Samsonov, so he didn't exactly have a high bar to beat.
     While we waited for the rest of the Second Sword to arrive, Gambetta sat on the foot of his  'Mech next to me sharing a flask of cool, sweet water. He didn't bother to question me, he simply sat there with me taking it in turns to swig the water as more and more Kuritan lances converged on our position and a small crowd of curious Snake officers began to gather around us, while their lances formed a perimeter about the position and the sound of aero-fighters could be heard in the night sky above us.
     "Davion!" I recognised that triumphant Japanese accented rasp and instinctively moved closer to Gambetta's side as Zakahashi came pushing through the crowd, his pig-sticker already drawn. Gambetta stood and raised his hand before saying in Anglic;
     "Honoured Tai-i, this prisoner was taken by 'Mechs of the Fourth Battalion. You would do us a grave insult were you to try to take him from us." Zakahashi stood glaring at Gambetta, his pox-scarred face red with fury and for a moment I thought he would actually cut the Chu-i down to get at me again. However he lowered his sword and stabbed his finger in my direction.
     "That cowardly offal sitting there was taken by my Company first, he belongs to us." Gambetta shook his head firmly, but politely spoke again in a calming voice.
     "Tai-i Sama, I request we await the arrival of  Chu-sa Kurita, that he may decide this man's fate. This Davion may once indeed have been a prisoner of your Zombies, he was not so however when I captured him here tonight." Zakahashi looked fit to burst at that but, surrounded as they were by at least a dozen other Tai-i and Chu-i, he simply spat to his side and then leaned around Gambetta to fix me with a truly evil glare.
     "It is fate and the Will of the Dragon that sees you here again within the breath of my sword. When Yorinaga has done with you, your head will be mine." As he stamped back into the crowd I gulped and prayed Yorinaga still wanted me as a live trophy for the Coordinator. I gushed thanks to Gambetta for saving me from Zakahashi, but he waved away my thanks modestly. After that confrontation though I wasn't surprised to later learn Gambetta was known to his men as 'the Orator'.
 
* * *

     Support elements of the Second Sword soon arrived and further along the base of the plateau wall began to raise tents and prefabricated huts. I was hustled into a tent under the guard of ten DCMS infantrymen and Gambetta actually shook my hand before he headed off.
     "I'm sorry your career and life have brought you to this end." He said quietly to me, then turned and left, leaving me to slump down on the simple bunk and sob, he was sorry? I was bloody well in despair. I must have eventually slept though, as I was awoken by a sharp, hard prod in my belly, and jerking awake I found myself looking up into the handsome features of Sho-sa Narimasa Asano, who was standing above my bed and jabbing at me with the end of his scabbarded sword.
     "Up! Up! The Tono will see you now. Up Fedrat." Still barely clothed and aching from my burns and bruises I staggered after the beautifully dressed Snake officer, proud in his black tunic, trousers, polished jackboots and cap. Four of the infantrymen outside my tent fell in behind me and I noted they had such a low opinion of me that they didn't even bother to bind my wrists.
     The Second Sword had evidently all arrived by that morning, there were 'Mechs every where and I only recall fragments of what I saw as I was marched through their camp to meet Yorinaga Kurita for the second time; we passed two O5P monks in long red robes stained white along the hems with the dust of the Bone Desert, who were stood chanting before a line of twelve suited up MechWarriors, each of whom was knelt upon one knee, their heads bowed and their swords placed on the ground beside them ... a man was being flogged on a punishment rack, his back a mass of raw red wounds and blood, the bare chested sergeant wielding the long hide whip breathing hard with each draw of his muscular arms, before laying on again and carving another bloody line deep into the poor screaming victim's flesh ... a pair of deuced attractive female aero-jocks in skintight brownish-purple jumpsuits, that clung to their lithe bodies in wonderful ways, strolled past us chatting, their domed gold visored helmets under their arms ... finally we walked past a long trestle table where dozens of infantry grunts wolfed down what appeared to be bowls of rice, as we passed them some of the scum prodded their comrades and glared daggers at me, or spat in my direction.
     Eventually we reached a very large olive coloured command tent, in front of which fully armoured ceremonial guards stood to attention before fluttering pennants showing the Sword of Light sabre badge, the burning Kentares flag of the Second Sword and the House Kurita dragon banner. Asano, turned and ushered me through into a empty seeming cool, probably air conditioned, area hung with white and blue linen drapes decorated with images of clouds and mountains. Seated at the centre of the area on a floor covered by tatami mats, facing away from us was Yorinaga. I could tell it was him, even though he had his back to us, there was just something unmistakable about him.
     He was wearing all white coloured formal Japanese style robes, kamishimo to you scholars of Snake culture though of course I didn't even speak Japanese back then, I also wasn't then aware of the significance of the colour white, which to the Kuritans signifies death. Without any warning whatsoever Asano suddenly sliced his scabbarded sword hard across the back of my knees and I cried out in pain and fell face forward, the callous brute then held the point of the scabbard hard between my shoulders so I had to literally crawl towards Yorinaga at Asano's urging.
     As I stopped a meter or so from him, Yorinaga suddenly turned with a swish and rustle of his immaculate formal robes. His thin nosed face was alight with what seemed to me to be an uncharacteristic and wild excitement, his glittering eyes practically blazed at me and he smiled the sort of thin lipped grin you normally only expect to see on a shark. All in all he seemed quite the different man from the seemingly very calm and controlled chap I'd met in Colterville. Looking back I think it was the closeness of Prince Ian that was disturbing Yorinaga's usual serenity, as one flowery text I once read put it; 'he could almost taste the Hound's blood on the wind and was certain the duel he sought was very close now'.
     "Konnichiwa Davion Darius San, the winds of war and fate have brought you to us again, is this not a sign of a shared destiny?" He waved Asano back, and the sod knelt in that awkward cross legged fashion the Snakes affect, near the entrance. I wasn't sure if Yorinaga expected an answer to his question so I simply nodded.
     "Where is your unit and your cousin the First Prince at this time?" Now, previously most of the time I'd been in Kuritan hands I'd been fairly sure Minobu was protecting me from being killed, after I revealed information to the Kuritans, so I'd sang like a starbird. However I was far from sure I now enjoyed any such protection, certainly I'd not seen Minobu about the camp and had a hunch if I ratted out the Prince this time my head would then be off and gift wrapped to the Coordinator in time for Christmas Eve. Naturally if I played the stolid, brave soldier, who'd rather sell his own life than reveal anything of importance to the enemy, Yorinaga would probably hand me back to Zakahashi and his little box of pets. I decided therefor to try to stall him.
     "They're up ahead somewhere. I've honestly no idea where. We run by night and hide by day." Yorinaga watched me while I spoke, then said something in Japanese to Asano, who nodded and backed out of the tent. Yorinaga then nodded at me.
     "How did you escape from us at Colterville?" This I was happy to answer and I gave him yet another version of my escape, this time massively playing down my own involvement in the killing of any Snake soldiers and making the MVF sound like violent, rogue, madmen. I even ran on into the story of Sandsedge. After I eventually finished he sat back on his feet for a moment, frowning, and then staggeringly ... he laughed, a great belly laugh. It was as strange and unexpected then coming from that cold hearted sod as it sounds now and in later years there've been many who refuse to believe me when I tell them that this actually happened. The Yorinaga Kurita, the greatest Kuritan samurai of our time, reputedly a master of mental and physical self control, sitting there roaring with laughter at me.
      Well, it threw me and no error, but eventually, as you've probably found yourself, when someone just sits there and laughs until the tears are streaming down his cheeks, you just can't help but join in. So I did and there we were for what seems, in my memory, like it was several minutes, before he finally stopped and dabbed at his eyes with the edge of his sleeve, gasping for breath.
     "Do you know why I laugh Darius San?" He asked, clearly composing himself once more, and I stated perhaps because it sounded like a tall tale.
     "No Darius San, the Dragon only smiles when He has bested His prey and is preparing to feast upon it." I didn't like the sound of that at all and half turned as I suddenly became aware someone was behind me again, Asano was sat there once more, with a long distinctly sword shaped bundle of red silk on the tatami before him.
     "You tried to tell me nothing about Ian's location, yet gave me an epic tale about your escape from us at Colterville. You are like the Monkey that with his capering and screeching tries to distract the Dragon from His prey." Yorinaga said softly and I began to get very worried indeed and even began pleading with him.
     "Chu-sa please, this is not necessary, I can lead you to Ian." I meant what I said, but Yorinaga just smiled dangerously again, before speaking.
     "Time is of the essence in this hunt. Our prey, the Dragon's arch enemy, the Hound of War, runs fast, he turns with his pack regularly and his biting fangs wound us. I have not the time to dance at the tune raised by you Monkey. Asano kun if you please." He held out his hand and Asano shuffled forward to my left still on his knees, he then bowed, his head held low while his hands held up the red silken bundle to Yorinaga. Then after Yorinaga took it from him, Asano shuffled back to his place behind me.
     Reverentially Yorinaga drew back the silk wrappings, which I noted bore numerous black Kurita family crests, to reveal a pair of pig-sticker swords. Each was sheathed in a gleaming black lacquered scabbard and had red and black twined cloth bound hilts, set with gleaming triangular jewelblood studs. The Kuritan dragonshead crest, wrought in gold and more sparkling jewelblood, was set at the top of the hilts. Yorinaga picked up the longest of the two swords.
     "These swords were made at the orders of Coordinator Urizen Kurita, well over three hundred years ago. They have been passed through my family line down the generations since and were given into my keeping by Coordinator Takashi himself. Each blade has countless tales attached to it and has ended many lives at the will of the Dragon. For example, this wakazashi was the blade with which Coordinator Zabu redeemed his failings in war and life, by using it to open his belly. While this katana was that used by Jinjiro Kurita when he stood as kaishakunin for General Sorai, who had failed to protect Coordinator Minoru on Kentares.
     You should consider it a very great honour that your neck will test this katana's ancient edge here today." As his words sank in I sprang to my feet and instinctively made to turn to run, I vaguely heard a rustle of cloth from Yorinaga's direction and suddenly he'd struck my legs out from under me with a powerful and blindingly fast sweep of his own right leg.
     I hit the tatami hard onto my back and the wind was knocked explosively out of me. Then Asano was above me, dragging me up and onto my knees. Yorinaga now standing, moved to my side while struggle as I might, in my weakened state I could not break the iron grip of Asano's hands firmly holding my in that awful position. I was blubbing and crying again as Asano clouted me savagely from behind causing my head to dazedly fall forward and I was dimly aware of the cold touch of that evil sword on the back of my neck. Then there was a slight hiss, as Yorinaga swept the sword up for the stroke with which he would strike off my head.
Now listen to me you benighted muckers. We're going to teach you soldiering. The world's noblest profession. When we're done with you, you'll be able to slaughter your enemies like civilized men. - HRH D. Dravot

Tokage

  • Master Sergeant
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Re: The Misadventures of Darius Davion #1 - Darius and the Hound
« Reply #43 on: 08 February 2011, 18:40:40 »
39

     When the holy joes say that a brave man only dies once, but a coward dies a thousand deaths, they could not be more correct. Though stunned, from Asano's thump to the back of my head, I was aware of Yorinaga raising the sword rapidly in preparation for his sudden downward strike that would sever my precious noggin. I'm not proud of what happened next, but it's possible it saved my life. I only say possible because, due to what happened later the following day, I am now far from convinced Yorinaga did in fact mean to kill me. However I shall come to that shortly.
     My terror was so sickening, so all consuming, that I lost control of my bladder and kneeling there, on those pristine tatami, I literally pissed myself in fear.
     Oh go ahead, laugh it up. However I'd respectfully point out that until you've had one of the deadliest swordsmen alive decide he'd rather like to practice his cutting strokes on your neck and has one of his bloody thugs hold you down while he prepares to do so, I suggest that you should perhaps still your mirth and consider how brave you'd have been in my shoes.
     Well, that's all by and by, back then my reaction was to piss myself. I wasn't personally aware I had until the strong odour of urine hit my nostrils and I felt a warm pool forming between my legs. Asano smelt it first and saying something in Japanese, which was clearly a reaction of disgust, he sprang back gagging. Surprised to find my shoulders released from the bastard's vice like grip, I rolled forward as quickly as I could manage, expecting to feel the bite of Yorinaga's beastly sword somewhere upon my person at any moment.
     However as I rolled away from Yorinaga, leaving a trail of yellowish pools of steaming 'piddle', as mater would have described it, across his tatami, I half turned to see him still stood rigidly in his side on stance, his sword held raised beside his head in both hands, but his face a mask of what seemed to be a mixture of total surprise, disgust and loathing.
     Well, I wasn't looking the best I ever had I'll admit; blubbing, burned, frazzled, bruised, half naked and now lying cowering with the piss literally running down my bare legs. D'you know, amazing as this seems to me at least, I rather got the impression Yorinaga had never had someone who's head he was about to hack off piss themselves before. He seemed most put out. Indeed it was like I'd somehow committed a faux pas on the magnitude of passing the port the wrong way, using an incorrect piece of cutlery at a royal banquet or farting loudly just when you're leaning down to accept your nation's highest award. The last of those I did actually do by the way ... Hanse nearly forgot his words he was so shocked and angry.
     "A base and cowardly Monkey indeed. I could never stain this sacred blade with your filthy blood." Yorinaga said that in a tone that suggested he expected me to be sorry about that. Then he rattled off some Japanese in a harsh tone to Asano and with that the surprisingly strong little Snake grabbed me and began booting and punching me out the tent. As we left I heard Yorinaga say quietly to himself in Anglic;
     "I only pray that the Hound is a better man."
     Asano had me carried out and thrown into an outdoor shower stall. I tried to steady my very jangled nerves under that cool shower and it didn't take me long to realise that once again my rank cowardice had saved me from death at the hands of these insane warlike people where, had I been the brave fool society expected me to be, my head would have been on it's way to Luthien without the rest of me attached. Still, after the initial rush of relief at being whole and alive, it didn't take long for me to start fretting and worrying about being perhaps handed over to Zakahashi, or even simply shot.
     After I'd washed myself off, I stepped out naked and cupping my meat and two veg' protectively with my hands. A DCMS sergeant, with arms like treetrunks and a shaven, bullet shaped, head threw an orange boiler suit and white training shoes at me and I quickly dressed myself, uncomfortably aware the sergeant watched me with an unpleasant leer on his bulldog like features the whole time. Then I was dragged into a tiny, cupboard like, plasteel hut containing only a chair.
     It was clearly designed to catch the sun and I sweltered in there for the rest of that day. I must have lost a stone. But I wasn't about to complain and ask for different lodgings, I was just happy to be ignored. As night fell the little hut became cool, then actually chilly and I spent a disturbed night fitfully catnapping, then waking repeatedly with a start as I almost fell off the damned chair.

* * *

     It must have been just past dawn when I heard the lock being turned and the door opened to reveal the slim figure of Chu-i Leon Gambetta, wearing the dark grey duty uniform of a DCMS junior 'Mech officer. He motioned me with a black gloved finger to his lips to be quiet and handed me a tin cup. Cautious, I checked it and then gulped back the cold water it contained, whilst standing unsteadily. Handing it back to Gambetta I thanked him, he motioned again with his hand for me to be silent and handed me a tan coloured DCMS infantryman's field uniform.
     "Put this on and be quiet. Your life depends upon it." His hissed whisper made me start with surprise, I could see the hazy purple-blue of the dawn sky beyond him and was about to do as he said, before suddenly being struck by the extreme likelihood this was some kind of cruel game or trick. Holding the tan uniform in my hands I stared him hard in the face and whispered back at him.
     "Why? Why would you, a Sword of Light officer, help me?" He looked exasperated and shot a glance over his shoulder nervously, before he turned and harshly fixed me with those piercing dark eyes of his.
     "Because, at the orders of Yorinaga Tono, you're to be crucified tomorrow." I gasped and nearly dropped the uniform in a start of terror. Gambetta frowned as if struggling with his conscience there and then, before continuing in a barely audible voice.
     "I am ... privately, a Christian, as that is permitted within the Ivory Laws." He said that as though it explained everything. I gestured frantically at him to continue and he sighed.
     "Whilst I am loyal to the Lord, I also offer prayer to the Holy Trinity and I feel certain that this act would be blasphemous. My faith would never allow me to stand by, while a captive I have taken, is used in such a manner. Now hurry, do you want your freedom or not?" Well, even at the time I didn't buy it. Sure, I knew there were Christians living in the Combine who were also loyal servants of the Dragon, or 'the Lord' as they were encouraged to put it ... but one who was serving in the Sword of Light, the most fanatical and ideologically 'pure' formation in the DCMS? Even accepting that was possible ... would this unlikely person then risk his position and more importantly his life, to aid in the escape of a captive member of the Davion family?
     There could be only one answer to that, a resounding no!
     However what choice did I have but to play along with Gambetta and see where this strange game led? I quickly stripped down and changed into the infantry uniform and stepped out into the cool fresh dawn air and noticed the brutish sergeant slumped against the side of the plasteel prison hut. He snored softly and I noted an empty flask beside him. Gambetta nodded down at him.
     "That ape will catch the blame for your escape." We then hurried across the dusty ground to a line of parked hover-APCs. He chucked me a key card and pointed to the nearest of the vehicles.
     "Take it and go. You'll probably be picked off by our perimeter patrols anyway. But that's your worry not mine." With that he jogged away down a line of tents, leaving me standing before the APCs, I glanced around to see if I was being watched, but for all my best efforts I could see no one.
     Maybe ... just maybe? Could Gambetta have been on the level?
     Well, I pulled up the driver's hatch of the APC and jumped in, pulling it closed behind me with a soft clunk. The seat was comfortable and the control panel spread before me lit up, revealing a considerable number of red, amber and green lit Japanese kanji. It took me a couple of minutes of exasperated fiddling with the controls to get my head around the differences between the Kuritan vehicle and our equivalent. At one point two patrolling soldiers passed the front of the APC, laughing and chatting quietly to each other. For a dreadful second I thought they'd notice the sergeant snoring on his undoubtedly drugged booze, however he was well back in the shadows and they ambled past oblivious.
     After waiting a few minutes I hit the starter button and nudged the accelerator pedal then, whilst getting the feel of the vehicle, began edging through the Second Sword's camp. I was sure at any moment I'd be headed off by 'Mechs waiting for me, or perhaps even come under fire and be killed 'trying to escape', however after a few tense minutes of purring down quiet lines of tents and vehicles, I slid out through the lines. I couldn't even spot any 'Mechs or tanks out on perimeter patrol.
     This was of course all highly suspicious to put it mildly and it was while I was going through my memories of Ian's briefings it struck me like a PPC bolt.
     "They're going to follow me to Ian." I exclaimed aloud. It was obvious once it occurred to me, Yorinaga had realised that he didn't need to sully his hands by ordering, or overseeing, my torture to get an honest answer out of me as to where the Hound was to be found ... all he needed to do was to put me in a vehicle and track me from a distance, knowing I'd head straight for the protection that the Prince and his RCT would afford me.
     I could almost hear him making up some haiku about 'the Monkey and the Hound', the cheeky sod. Still Yorinaga clearly had the measure of me as, where your true blue hero types if placed in the same position would have led the Snakes in the wrong direction on the longest wild goose chase they could devise, I instantly decided to make for Ian regardless. If the Snakes followed me then so be it, but at least I'd be able to try for the RCT's main body, while the Prince and his MechWarriors took on the Second Sword.
     I remembered, it now being the local daylight hours of the twenty eighth of October, that Ian and a raiding party of two companies would be hidden in a gorge-like canyon, marked on Ian's tactical holomaps as Desolate Pass. If my memory wasn't playing me false I thought it was about sixty klicks roughly south of the Second Sword's camp and as soon as I felt safe I put my foot down and sped towards that fateful place.
     The journey was not easy, Hell's Anvil as I've said is a veritable maze of canyons, plateaus, hills, valleys and broken country covering thousands of square miles. You can get lost in there and never come out. So I was very pleased with myself for memorising numerous maps of the region during my time in the Royal MHQ over the previous few days, even so I had to turn back and try different routes several times when I drove into dead-end gullies and impassable canyons.
     It was during one of these double backs that I first spotted my pursuers. Driving back out of a deceptive box canyon I caught sight of a large dust cloud coming from the north and a pair of aero-fighters high in the blue morning sky above it. They kept their distance, but I was aware they were slowly catching up to me so I accelerated on and a couple of hours later I reached my destination.

* * *

     With my foot on the throttle I hurtled into Desolate Pass. Rarely, in my experience, has a place been so aptly named. It was a narrow dusty canyon about ten klicks long, that cut between two steep red rock cliffs, at it's entrance it was about half a kilometer wide, but it narrowed to about ten meters at the southern end. There were no plants at all, no animals, not even any birds in the stark blue sky above.
     It may be retrospective, given what occurred there that day, but I swear I remember feeling a sense of despair about the place, as if death was waiting for us all to arrive.
     I was making about a hundred and ten klicks per hour in the APC and checking my rear view-screen I could see the great cloud of dust sent up by the 'Mechs that were still hot on my tail. Two Snake Locusts were now gaining on me fast I noted, and several other lights were not far behind them. I was aware of aero-fighters now above me too, though they didn't then seem interested in attacking me.
     I knew if my memory was playing me correct there was meant to be an ambush party led by the Prince up ahead half way down the canyon. I had to let them know I was on their side before I got too close to them, so I hit an all channels open comm and began repeating.
     "Hound, this is Darius, Hound this is Darius. I have multiple Snakes on my tail. Please give me cover. I am in a Snake hover-APC, repeat a Snake hover-APC." I repeated this several times before I got a comm back, I guess the Snake aircraft were trying to jam us as it was broken and fuzzy.
     "Darius? Darius, -zzzzzt- -did you spring from? We took you for -zzzzzt- -many enemy?" I instantly recognised the Prince's gruff tones and sobbing quietly with relief narrowed my comm down to the frequency he was using.
     "Too many Highness. At least two companies, maybe more. They're onto your position, they spotted you by air. I managed to escape and steal this heap to try to warn you. Pull your men out now. Sire ... Yorinaga Kurita is with them." I'd prepared my story you see. Darius leading the Sword straight to Ian's position, would hopefully become Darius saving Ian's bacon.
     "Right-oh laddy-buck ... but you get yourself to the gap smartish ... I'm not leav -zzzzzt-" I cursed as the Kuritans overhead jammed us. I had to make maybe eight klicks to reach the gap at the end of this wretched canyon and was pretty certain Ian would be waiting for me there in his Atlas and would cover my retreat, as he had with his men on many another occasion over the last week or two. Once through the gap, I'd be able to link up firstly with the 'Mechs Ian had with him and secondly later the main body of the 'Bane, then hopefully the Kell Hounds too. Even then I wasn't sure about our odds against these blasted Kuritan regiments, but still my hopes were high that if I could just reach Ian and his Atlas I'd at least live another day and rejoin friendly forces.
     Suddenly a string of explosions thundered to my right, my APC rocked like a boat at sea and I skidded hard to the left, before hammering along forwards again. The Shilone that had now begun to strafe me screamed overhead and I could see the bloody thing arcing up and around in the sky ahead of me. A second Shilone rocketed away down the canyon, presumably to confirm the location of their prey. The Second Sword had clearly decided I'd now served my purpose and could safely be rubbed out.
     There followed a nightmare couple of minutes as I weaved and sped through volleys of Shigunga long range missiles and Diverse Optics laser cannon fire from the bastard above me. I actually took some glancing damage twice and each time thankfully the pretty frail armour of the APC held out, but only my desperate driving skills, the result of many misspent hours in my Lyran sports hover car as a young teen, saw me through.
     I knew I was getting close to the end of Desolate Pass, where hopefully Ian was waiting, when I saw a plume of smoke rising over the bluffs ahead. Ian had presumably downed the Shilone I'd seen headed his way. I was just breathing a premature sigh of relief, when I glanced right and saw the running legs of a Locust moving to cut across my path.
     "Jerrrome!" I swore and wrenched my APC left again, but this time smashed straight into the second Locust that had been gaining on me quietly. The Locust had ten tons on my APC and there was an almighty screech of metal on metal, my left side front end was crumpled in like cardboard, but thankfully the 'Mech was momentarily thrown off balance and it swerved clumsily away from me. Though my APC was now handling badly and pulling heavily to the left, I hurtled around the bend ahead and managed to stay ahead of the second Locust. As I levelled out into a long, but narrowing, stretch of the canyon I heard a steady chatter of heavy machine gun fire from the 'Mech behind me and felt bullets chewing into my APC's rear armour. The only good thing about the Locusts being in close to me was that damn Shilone that had been trying his damnedest to bag me had to pull off, for fear of hitting his own side's 'Mechs.
     My speed was dropping steadily I realised and I literally stamped on the accelerator, whilst screaming at the top of my voice.
     "Please, oh please, come on, come on, come ON!" It was just as I began to make out the vast, distant figure of an assault 'Mech, wreathed in the white dust cloud of retreating 'Mechs behind it, that I heard; zzzzatttt-boom-clatter-b-b-BANG.
     The damn Locust's Martell laser cannon melted through the rear of my APC and there was one hell of an explosion back there. My speed dropped to about fifty kph and the Locust actually overshot me and sped past, it's legs kicking up dust that spattered into my view-screen like static. I screamed a high pitch wail of terror and tried to dodge past the scout 'Mech, which had skidded to an ungainly halt and was turning, it's under-slung laser cannon swivelling down and around towards me. I glanced in the rear view screen to see the second Locust a bare thirty meters back, it's machine guns already firing on me, then it's laser cannon flickering a beam that seared the dust in a smoking line just to the left of my vehicle's flank.
     So there I was limping along in a half destroyed APC that was leaking smoke badly, with two light BattleMechs raining down fire on me at close range. The front Locust burned the front end of my APC and that was the end of the road, there was a whoomf of fire under my feet and I screamed in pain as shards of metal tore explosively through my left arm.
     My APC span to a stop, crunching down into the dust in a cloud of smoke. If I didn't get out soon the power-plant might explode, or any ammo stored in the rear turret for the twin machine guns might cook off. However through the white and black smoke haze I could make out the two suddenly very large powerful looking 'light' 'Mechs stalking in to finish their kill. I'd been so close ... so close.
Now listen to me you benighted muckers. We're going to teach you soldiering. The world's noblest profession. When we're done with you, you'll be able to slaughter your enemies like civilized men. - HRH D. Dravot

Tokage

  • Master Sergeant
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  • Posts: 312
Re: The Misadventures of Darius Davion #1 - Darius and the Hound
« Reply #44 on: 08 February 2011, 19:12:28 »
40

     The smoke was so thick I wasn't initially sure exactly what then happened, but I heard a thundering string of explosions and suddenly pieces of shattered ceramite armour clattered off my ruined APC. Then there was a final rolling explosion and I caught a glimpse of a Locust's severed leg falling into the smoke.
     As I was gaping at this wonderful turn of events I felt and heard what had to be the shrieking whoosh-whoosh-whoosh of long range missile fire and perhaps mingled within it the thunder of a 120mm autocannon. More explosions rocked me in my seat from behind and I took the moment to breath a prayer of thanks, wrench the near side hatch open and pile out of the burning APC and into the hot dust. Coughing and hacking, ignoring the many aches and pains of my superficial, though numerous wounds, I ran.
     I couldn't see where I was going and didn't care, so long as it was towards the source of that ranged fire that had saved me. I risked a glance back at one point and could see three black smoke plumes rising out of the white dust haze, I assumed marking the remains of my APC and the two Locusts.
     Suddenly I was out the cloud and into open air, under the harshly clear blue sky. Before me, some fifty meters away, towered First Prince Ian Davion's AS7-D Atlas, it was painted shining silver and flashed in the rays of Mallory's World's sun. I'd never been so relieved in my life, or felt so vulnerable at the same time, for the ground was shaking as I ran and I knew dangerously close behind me, through the smoke and dust cloud covering the wreck of my APC, possibly upwards of a battalion of BattleMechs of the Second Sword of Light were coming.
     Gasping for breath and limping somewhat from my lightly grilled legs, I waved frantically and the Atlas moved forward, seemingly very fast. I nearly fell over at the force of it's footfalls at this distance, but kept going, just praying the Prince watched where he was putting his machine's feet. I thought he was coming to pick me up ... he wasn't.
     At about ten meters from me he very smoothly leaned and dodged to his left as Doombud long range missiles began streaking out the breast of his mammoth 'Mech. My ears rang and I dived behind a large red boulder just up ahead. Ian's Atlas was now a mere ten meters or so ahead of me and perhaps five or six meters to my left. Being on foot, that close to an Atlas fighting, is simply terrifying. It's stamping feet make minor landquakes, it's weapons deafen you and there is a constant risk the pilot will misjudge where you are and kill you in any one of a dozen ways without even being aware of having done so.
     I tried to ignore Ian's 'Mech and risked a squint around the edge of my boulder, just in time to see Ian's very accurate fire tear the legs off an Ostscout. The ugly thirty five ton 'Mech's flaming torso smashed into a heap and I couldn't help but cheer. Though my instinctive jubilation died on my dry lips, as other shapes began to loom through the haze in the distance. Lots of shapes.
     I glanced behind myself to judge if I might risk running on for the gap and leaving Ian to it, however at that moment Ian stamped right to artfully dodge a volley of missiles that tore up great explosions across the ground for some way beyond him. I ducked, gasping with fear, back against the large rock and shook my head to myself ... there was no way I could chance that. A stray missile volley, or even Ian manoeuvring his 'Mech would kill me for sure.
     For what seemed to me to be the next half an hour or so, Ian stood alone against at least a Company of Snake 'Mechs. He exhausted his Doombud long range missiles in volley after volley, driving back enemy 'Mechs that tried to advance upon him trying to get into medium or close range. I'm sure I saw him down at least two more medium 'Mechs, but most of the time his very accurate fire was aimed at wounding and keeping the enemy at bay.
     His attackers were Zakahashi's Zombies I realised, as I could see Zakahashi's own Battlemaster at the centre of their formation and several times the bastard scored PPC strikes upon Ian's Atlas, each time molten and superheated shards of ceramite armour erupted and showered the ground. I had to twice throw myself out of the way of splashes of sizzling armour and then scramble rapidly back behind my scant cover.
     It occurred to me Ian was only standing and not making a fighting retreat, because he knew I couldn't safely run for the gap and he refused to break his oath and leave me. Strangely though, it never occurred to me Ian would actually be beaten. He seemed invincible as I cowered there looking up and across at his massive 'Mech as it dodged and was occasionally peppered with fire. I think I actually thought the Sword 'Mechs would back off and give him time to pull back, at which point I'd motion to him to pick me up and that would be that. Sounds insane now doesn't it? I certainly did not think this was Ian's last fight, I wonder sometimes if he did. Certainly knowing him, he probably wouldn't have done anything differently if he had known. This was the way he'd told me he'd wanted to go out after all, nobly battling worthy opponents and all that rot. 
     Ian switched to firing his laser cannons and the heavy 120mm autocannon and I realised he'd run out of missiles, then for the next few minutes I caught glimpses of the Snake 'Mechs edging closer and they began to score hit after hit on the Prince's Atlas. Armour and ruptured coolant fluid splattered and littered the dusty canyon floor all around us and I began to worry Ian might have to eject.
     Suddenly the enemy fire, which had been so heavy even my rock was being flailed by stray cannon and missile fire, ended. There was an immediate deathly silence as Ian paused in his own firing and the sound of one 'Mech approaching reached my near deafened ears. Risking a peek, I saw it as it came on, that fearfully graceful Warhammer, it strode out of the dust and smoke clouds some way off, but there was no mistaking it. Yorinaga was here. I saw the other Sword 'Mechs pull back and Yorinaga's 'Mech moved up for the duel that Snake swine had so long wished for.
     So there I was with a ring side seat for one of the most talked about 'Mech duels of the century. Solaris Games junkies have often plied me since with booze and meals to get my opinion of this fight. Badgering me with questions; 'Who was the better would you say?' 'Oh yes, Yorinaga won, but he waited until Ian had been badly wounded first.' 'Ian had the better 'Mech.' 'What an Atlas? Give me the twinned PPCs and that Holly missile rack any day of the week.' 'I hear Ian outfought Yorinaga, but Yorinaga won by a lucky hit on Ian's reactor.' And so on.
     As ever here I'll simply try to tell the truth, I knew Yorinaga was certain he would win this duel, he was an arrogant sod at heart like most of his family and at that time he'd never lost a 'Mech duel, so to be fair he had some cause to be. Still, even damaged, Ian's 'Mech packed a great deal of armour and Ian was piloting the thing like a master, indeed I'd not seen an Atlas move which such apparent agility and lightness before or since. I suppose at the end of the day Ian was doomed ... but I'm damned certain he didn't think that.
     One thing I will say is that it was over damn quick, like most death matches are between elite MechWarriors. Ian didn't wait for Yorinaga to bow or anything fancy like that, with an artful motion he half crouched and was suddenly spraying a thunderous autocannon volley. I heard an explosion and darted my head around to see the heavy calibre shells flay the Warhammer's left PPC, for a moment I thought it was actually going to tear the thing off, which would have really evened things up and  given Ian a chance, however the Kuritan's armour held and Ian switched to a double pulse with his laser cannons. The beams played across the Warhammer's central torso, leaving smoking, glowing red wounds.
     Yorinaga's 'Mech seemed to stagger back a moment as if reeling under the hits, then he sprang once again into lethal life. If you've never seen a Warhammer spring and doubt my description, then I'd wager you've never seen Yorinaga Kurita in action. Dodging and running he fired first his right PPC, then the left, then the right, then the left again. Each bolt hit Ian's Atlas and I was momentarily blinded by the dazzling blue-white lightning and fell back screaming in pain, my arm over my eyes.
     I heard two more PPC bolts crack off and then, while wondering how long Yorinaga could possibly keep up that rate of fire without shutting down from the heat build up, I heard a rumbling double explosion, followed by the whoosh-whoosh-whoosh of missiles coming in towards the Prince's Atlas.       
     
* * *

     Blinking my eyes open desperately I saw oily black smoke pouring from Ian's Atlas, out of what looked to be at least ten serious wounds in it's armour, coolant fluid spilled down it's great legs and fires raged through it's ruined innards. The final missile out of a volley of six impacted hard on the skull head as I watched and there was a dull thump of an explosion. I couldn't see that the missile had penetrated the cockpit armour, but suddenly the Atlas's arms went limp and the 'Mech leaned slowly to it's left.
     Time seemed to slow and I can recall thinking; punch out. Punch out you fool! But the cockpit remained sealed and for that endless moment the Prince's Atlas just stood there like a lopsided statue, fires gutting it's enormous body.
     I was on my knees behind my rock when it fell. It teetered and I realised it was coming down, just at the same moment it occurred to me that I was probably well within it's falling distance. With a dreadfully slow half turn it collapsed, it's back coming down first, it's arms spread and it's head lolling like it's neck was broken. The thing's enormous multi-ton left arm seemed to be headed straight for me and I leaped up and dashed away from my boulder, looking up and bleating in fear. One hundred tons of 'Mech smashed down a few meters in front and behind me, the left upper arm and hand missing my back by about what seemed like inches, the force of which threw me forwards, so that I landed face down beside that great skull.
     I've never known anything like it, my elbow actually popped out and back into it's socket, with the sheer kinetic force of the 'Mech hitting ground so close to my unprotected body. Blood burst from my mouth, nose and ears and I was smashed into unconsciousness for a brief moment, then the pain snapped me back into screaming agony.
     Pulling my poor wounded body into a ball I would have been happy to lay there, but for the heavy, jarring tremors of an approaching 'Mech. I instantly realised Yorinaga was coming to either confirm his kill, or to capture Ian. Pulling myself up, while rubbing at my agonisingly numb left elbow, the dust cleared before me momentarily, giving me a clear view of the fallen Atlas's partly blackened head.
     It lay facing me, as if gazing at me and I stood in the swirling, concealing dust and smoke, so close I could read the great black letters painted onto the 'Mech's chin; 'I, DAVION'. I was about to run, when I realised once out of this cloud I'd be all too visible to Yorinaga's gaze, I needed some kind of cover ... the cockpit had been partially burst open by the impact I realised, as I was quickly casting around for something, anything, to shield me and aghast I then saw a human hand flop slowly out, it was blackened and singed ... but it had moved on it's own. Ian was still alive.
     I dashed forward and ignoring both my own agony and the steady, increasingly heavy thud, thud, thud beneath my feet of the approaching Warhammer, I wrenched at the scorching metal of the cockpit and was rewarded by a blast of intense heat and choking electrical smoke. Ian had somehow managed to unclip himself from his seat harness and lay face down across his console and exit canopy.
     Ignoring his pinkish-red half-broiled skin, I grabbed him by his arms and threw him across my back, so that I had his body covering me from behind. Blake but he seemed to easily weigh a ton himself I recall, but fear leant me strength and I began a staggering run around the dome of the 'Mech's head, Ian's feet dragging through the dust behind me.
     "Dar- Darius?" I ignored Ian's pitiful rasping croak and kept going. It didn't even occur to me that if I survived I'd get credit for saving Ian ... all that was going through my head was that if the bullets started flying our way I now had a handy Prince shaped bullet catcher on my back. I could still feel the steady shudders of Yorinaga's 'Mech, then they stopped and I craned around desperately as Ian gasped again in my ear.
     "Darius ... tell ... -cough- ... Hanse ... tell him ... -gasp- ... don't trust ... trust-" I snarled at Ian to shut up as I glanced back at him and  caught a glimpse of the upper section of Yorinaga's Warhammer towering out of the smoke above Ian's wrecked 'Mech. Christ, but I'll see that sight in my nightmares until I'm dead and gone. I sped up as I watched the 'Mech swivel and open fire with it's PPC. The man-made lightning bolt struck some good way behind us, but the shock of the searing electrical explosion it created flung us both bodily forward into the air. Ian naturally caught the worst of it, as I'd intended when I'd picked him up in the first place, and we were spun so forcefully I actually landed half on top of him.
     I forced myself not to black out and lay there my hands over my head, aware of the smell of smouldering flesh and singed hair. I was about to leap up and try running for it alone, when I was suddenly aware of heavy gunfire behind me, I cringed expecting to be torn to pieces by another shot from Yorinaga. However the death shot didn't come, so lifting and turning my head I caught a glimpse of a Wolverine in the air, it's jump jets flaring, then landing through the smoke from the ridge behind and snapping off an amazing shot with it's chin mounted Magna laser cannon. It's lethally accurate fire literally blew off Yorinaga's 'Mech's left arm mounted PPC with a metallic explosion, just as the bastard had been raising it to finish Ian and I off.
     Beyond Yorinaga I could just make out a Shilone, hopefully that same swine who had been strafing me earlier, spiralling to the canyon floor and then exploding in a great pillar of flame.
     'Mechs were jumping down the canyon slopes either side of us and the ground was shaking ahead of us back up towards the gap. I watched an red painted Archer on the ridge top begin firing volley after volley of long range missiles away into the distance beyond Yorinaga. Several other non-jump capable heavy 'Mechs plodded along the ridge top firing down on the Sworder, while red winged aerofighters thundered low overhead coming up from the south.
     My head sagged in exhaustion as I saw that terrible Warhammer back away under heavy fire and I could almost feel Yorinaga's anger at being driven off his from fallen prey, robbed of his final glory.
     "Highness, we've made it. We've made it." I sobbed, but there was no reply. I sat up and realised I'd been laying, for at least a couple of minutes, bodily pressed down over Ian's head.
     With an awful sense of foreboding I looked down to see Ian's rumpled face, his hair practically seared off, his dead deep blue eyes open and staring, his mouth set in a gaping death grimace. It then suddenly occurred to me that, there was a possibility at least, I'd suffocated him to death.

* * *

     You will no doubt have seen the grainy holo-pics taken by Brandon Corey as he sped up in his hover-chair, right amongst the 'Mechs of Hillnas's Company as they rushed to rescue the Prince, while the Kell Hounds fought off the Second Sword. Study my face in that first pic and you will see the horror and guilt as I sit there rocking backwards and forwards, holding Ian's head in my hands and gazing into the holo-camera's lense.
     I had been weeping and pleading with Ian not to be dead when Corey approached, the company 'Mechs saw us and surrounded us, while Hillnas stopped his Marauder, crouched it and clambered down his cockpit ladder.
     Hillnas had dropped to one knee beside me and I heard him sigh bitterly, before he turned to me and tried to gently take my hands off Ian's head. I turned to him and blubbing, blurted out.
     "I meant to ... it wasn't me ..." Thinking he was about to arrest me for the murder of the Prince you see, I'd tried to deny everything and I even yanked my hands from Hillnas and tried to get to my feet, making to run away from him in blind funk.
     Hillnas, his blonde hair stuck to his tanned forehead pulled me easily back down and shook his head, tears running down his cheeks too.
     "You're wrong Darius. It's been you ever since you joined us, you've been the one who's led our charges, you're the one who's taught us to reach for new levels of bravery and honour. You saved his body ... you've been the best of us man." I shook my head and that was when Corey got his second pic as Hillnas embraced me, while we both wept over Ian's body. Of course Hillnas was crying manly tears through devastation at losing his beloved Prince and Commander, while I was crying for altogether different reasons.
     Corey wrote it up as follows for the Herald;
     Darius, his clothes burned from his body, his flesh seared, bruised and pierced by shrapnel, upon the approach of Kurita's demonic 'Mech had pulled Prince Ian's dead body from the fallen Atlas and unwilling to allow the Dragon to sink his claws into Ian's mortal remains and despite his own weakened condition, had carried Ian away from the firing Warhammer.
     Then, when nearly hit by a PPC bolt and unable to run any further, Darius lay his own body across that of the Prince, trying to protect his royal cousin's remains, at the almost certain cost of his own life.
     Saved only by the arrival of the Kell Hounds, who fought off the Second Sword 'Mechs in Desolate Pass, Darius was heard to berate himself over the fact the Prince had died and not he. Captain L. Hillnas, Commander of the Fourth Guards Company that first arrived back on the scene, later said to this journalist that Darius had tried to run back, on foot, into the battle that had still raged in that cursed canyon, presumably so that he could find death himself to ease his grieving heart.


* * *

     The 'Bane brought up a MASH truck and Hillnas and the boys escorted us back to the main body of the RCT. I remember being massively relieved as I heard a surgeon whispering to a nurse that the Prince had apparently suffocated in his cockpit and mentioned that he'd heard Hillnas state the same thing after taking a quick look at the Prince's downed Atlas. That final missile had knocked Ian unconscious and apparently set off internal fires in the cockpit that practically cooked the Prince alive.
     I slumped back into my clean linen sheets and breathed in and out a few times. I only had a faint inkling then, but I did realise my life had changed in Desolate Pass ... in truth I'd first knowingly led the enemy straight to my royal cousin, secondly had used his still living body as a human shield for myself and thirdly I had then in all probability killed him myself, though it must be said he looked badly wounded when I'd been carrying him and he may well have died even if I hadn't smothered him, or indeed allowed him to take the brunt of a close miss from a PPC.
     However, to the universe at large, besides all my other false heroics throughout this first month of the Third Battle for Mallory's World, I'd been the man who saved Ian's body from the clutches of House Kurita. To this day that's not changed, I quite undeservedly became one of the immortal names of the AFFS in that dusty canyon. Corey's holo-pics and accompanying story were sold on by his employers to just about every major news organ across the Inner Sphere. Like a great ripple over the next couple of T-months or so people opened their morning papers and saw me cradling my dead cousin, my face a picture of woe, then read of my heroic saving of his body from the wicked clutches of Kurita's best MechWarrior.
     At the time though, in that MASH truck, I was simply happy to have survived and I sank into a deep and dreamless sleep.
Now listen to me you benighted muckers. We're going to teach you soldiering. The world's noblest profession. When we're done with you, you'll be able to slaughter your enemies like civilized men. - HRH D. Dravot

Tokage

  • Master Sergeant
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Re: The Misadventures of Darius Davion #1 - Darius and the Hound
« Reply #45 on: 08 February 2011, 19:38:49 »
Epilogue

     I remained out of it for most of the next two T-days. When I finally came around, muzzy headed and aching from my many wounds, I was still in that MASH truck, but we were rolling into Colterville along with the main body of the 'Bane and the two battalions of the Kell Hounds. I was content to be fussed over by the pretty nurses, as our column drove up one of the city's, now half ruined, old trok roads.
     An hour or two after I awoke, Gene Drivers popped in to visit. He was wearing dust and sweat stained desert camo battledress and looked pretty peeky, but his accountant's features creased into a warm, though sad, smile at the sight of me sitting up and sipping a mug of recaff.
     "Darius my boy. Good to see you're back amongst the living." Even as he said it he flinched and shook his head in mute apology. He then pulled up a chair, sat down beside my bed and grilled me, in the nicest way, about how I came to be in Desolate Pass. It was no great problem spinning him a story about my second short stint of Kuritan captivity and then an invented story about how I escaped in order to try to warn the Prince that the Snakes were onto him. I recall I lingered over my near beheading by Yorinaga and he looked horrified.
     "Oh I don't think he mean to go through with it sir." I casually commented, enjoying seeing him getting incensed by this further evidence of Kuritan war crimes on Mallory's World.
     "He simply meant to try to scare me into revealing secrets, if you ask me sir." Gene snorted and replied to that in an admiring tone;
     "Pshaw, given your record over this campaign young fellow, it'd take a better man than Yorinaga Kurita to be able to do that!" Little did he know I thought. Gene then became serious again and actually placed his hand over mine, gentle like.
     "Listen Darius, Luke Hillnas told me something of what you said and did when he reached you and ... well the Prince's body. Ahh ... it may not be my place to say this, but you mustn't blame yourself. You did more than any man could have, in the circumstances, the Med-Techs are saying Ian was probably already dead when you pulled him out of his 'Mech and besides you saved his body from the Snakes.
      At the end of the day, son, you're a soldier. You did your best. But you shouldn't dwell on things you can't control. We're at war, people die. It's a hard fact, but there it is. You've a chance to really set out into a glowing career, but you can't let guilt and grief overcome you." The big ninny clearly thought I was tormented by surviving where Ian had not and I decided I'd better play up to keep up my act, I let my head sag and then mumbled.
     "I just wish ... I could have got him out, sir. I was so damned close."
     "Enough Leftenant. That's an order." He then got up and turned to leave, as what he'd just said sank in.
     "Leftenant?" I repeated and Gene turned and beamed down at me before replying.
     "Battlefield promotion. By Blake and all the Saints, if anyone's earned it you have. Also, as the ranking AFFS officer now on this planet, I mean to see a Silver Sunburst on your breast the next time you put on your blue and golds." He was as good as his word too.
     After he'd left me, I sat there in a state of daze. I'd not known by that time that I was now 'the Hero of Mallory's World' and in my first campaign had won not just promotion to Leftenant and a Silver Sunburst medal, but would soon be a famous and popular hero of immense proportions.
     For the next T-day or so I believe Gene kept most of the would be visitors away, to give me a chance to recover a little, but I still had a string of callers. Brandon Corey, for example, came in to congratulate me and show me his holo-pics, and read me some of the amazing tosh he'd written. Captain Hillnas showed up, actually seeming embarrassed by our shared emotion over Ian's corpse, but after a while stood and saluted, before backing out promising he'd hold a lance commander position open for me.
     Killian Rook and Moshe Galan popped in, on their way to the Setting Sun club the swines, but they seemed different around me and I caught both of them looking at me sideways a few times. It was a look I'd grow more used to down the years ... a curious mixture of respectful awe, envy and perhaps a little fear of the uncanny. Well, they believed the legend didn't they? So they thought I was a maniacally brave, fiercely bloodthirsty, noble-hearted Fed Suns hero and were clearly unsure now how to treat me.
     All in all I was feeling very well set up and I only fretted a tad over what might be happening beyond the breached walls of Colterville.

* * *

     Hillnas had filled me in a little and I learned the rest later. Basically, after the timely arrival of the Kell Hounds who then beat the Second Sword out of Desolate Pass, the campaign had reached a temporary stalemate and a lull that both sides seemed to have agreed to as an unspoken truce.
     The Second Sword were still deep in the Bone Desert somewhere, the Twenty-fourth Dieron were to our north and the remnants of the Seventeenth Avalon were scattered west of the Salt Mountains. Here in Colterville the 'Bane and the Kells licked their wounds and mourned the loss of Prince Ian. His body, by the way, was kept under constant armed guard at the heart of our camp, stored in a specially made ceramite casket, full of coolant fluid, to keep it fresh.
     We all learned later that as a reward for killing Ian, Yorinaga was promoted by Takashi to the rank of Tai-sa and formally given command of the entire Second Sword. A few weeks after Ian's death the Second Sword were rotated off of Mallory's World, but they soon returned and would then remain there fighting throughout the next three years of the Third Battle for the planet.
     The 'Bane were to remain on that crap-hole for that whole time as well, along with the rebuilding Seventeenth Avalon and elements of the Kell Hounds. Fortunately I personally would not be with them.
     I managed to get up and about at about local noon, on the 1st of November and was interested to receive a visit from one of Gene's aides. A timid looking young squib whose name escapes me, he fumbled with a leather file and then handed me an invite to the Fourth Guards farewell wake to their First Prince and Commander, which was to be held that night in the officer's billets. I was a little concerned to note those billets were located in the same hotel in which I'd previously been held prisoner by the Second Sword.

* * *

     Gene had had someone rustle up a dress uniform for me, complete with new red epaulette on it's right shoulder and a burnished golden half breastplate hung over the left. Good ol' Gene even arrived as I stood there stiff from my wounds, my left arm in a blue silk sling one of the nurses had provided and he pinned the ribbon of the Silver Sunburst he'd promised me onto my right uniform breast, while swearing he'd see to it Hanse formally awarded me the actual medal itself at a later date.
     I took a last look at myself before leaving the MASH car, I was considerably leaner than I had been a month before, my jet black hair had grown out into a romantic length and my face was badly bruised. I could only walk very slowly, or pain lanced through my burned legs and feet, whilst my arm as I say was in a sling. Damn but I looked the part though!
     Gene was wearing mess dress of a gold trimmed white half jacket over a white shirt, with tight blue pants, spurs and polished black shoes. It was a cool clear night and we chatted amiably as he led me across that damned square where I'd been taken prisoner by Zakahashi and his thugs. I shuddered however as we passed the spot where the severed heads had been lined up, and I saw faint brownish blood stains amidst the rubble here and there. Gene spotted my discomfort and asked if anything was wrong, I told him about the DCMS troops activities and his usually bland face became a mask of hatred for a brief moment.
     "Those bloody Snake swines ... I wish we could show those liberal idiots back home, who call for a negotiated peace with the Dracs, a little of what we've seen eh? Might shake some of those wrongheaded notions about 'cultural relativism' out of their drug-addled brains." At the time I'd nodded, not really knowing what he'd been on about, well the cultural relativism movement that's now widespread in our realm hadn't then been about long. He was right though, in my opinion. Oh, you know I'm no warrior, I'd have been more than happy to let the Dragon have Mallory's World, but then I'm a venal, self serving, coward and care for no one save myself. Gene was and is a decent chap and he knew that no Federated Suns citicen who had enjoyed the Six Liberties would want to live or die under the dreadful tyranny of Kurita's state.
     Anyway we slowly negotiated the steps to the hotel, and where I'd been previously dragged up by those bastard Snake grunts Gene now gave me his shoulder to lean upon. We then entered the air conditioned foyer, where several of the 'Bane's officers were waiting and joined us as we strolled on into the hotel's ball room.
     It seemed like there were over a hundred or more officers in that somewhat looted and scarred room and as we entered someone struck a crystal glass with a spoon three times, all conversation instantly died and everyone turned our way. I could see officers of all ranks from Subalterns up to Colonels, mainly from the 'Bane of course, who were dressed either in blue and golds, or the white and blue mess dress like Gene. There were also however a good few of the Kell Hounds officers here, done up in their own pretty smart dress uniforms; consisting of trimly cut waist length red jackets, which were double-breasted with black cloth cut in the form of their hound's head badge, white gloves, black pants and polished black jackboots.
     As we stood there in front of all those curious seeming faces I actually began to panic, until suddenly someone called out from amidst the throng;
     "Three cheers for Darius Davion ... HIP HIP ..."
     "HOO'RAH" The shout from all those men and women seemed so loud as to shake the partially stripped chandeliers glittering above us. I stood there amazed as they cheered on and then as the third hoo'rah echoed around the ball room they absolutely began singing For He's A Jolly Good Fellow and I was rushed by a great grinning mob of brother officers, chinking glasses, shaking hands, patting my back and making me wince in pain.
     Gene, eventually extracted me from the crowd and handing me a medicinal pint of stout smiled.
     "This may be a wake Darius, but you've given us hope to go on. If there are Davions like Hanse and you coming up, well ... all's not lost with Ian." I didn't know what to say, my reception by the RCT's officers had knocked me for six, I suppose I should have been feeling riven by guilt at profiting by my despicable acts throughout the course of the campaign. Naturally I wasn't. I was primarily then still just happy to be alive and safe. Later I'd come to be over the moon at my new fame and reputation. I didn't know then of course, that having a name as a legendary fire-eater and man of action tends to lead you into being forced into still more dangerous positions. That awful realisation would come later.
     "Oh, here let me introduce you to someone who's been itching to meet you." Gene led me through the clusters of boozing officers towards a small group of Kell Hounds mercs standing by a table, upon which a painting of Prince Ian sat propped up and draped in black silk ribbons of mourning.
     "Leftenant Darius Davion ... allow me to introduce the Baron von Arc Royal, Colonel Morgan Kell." Gene smiled as Kell turned to salute, then warmly shook my hand. Morgan Kell was only twenty seven then, despite having been leading his merc unit for three years by that time and was a tall, strong seeming, man with a clean shaven, youthfully handsome face, a mouth that often twisted into a sly grin, and long black hair.
     "I apologise for not getting to you sooner Leftenant. I shall regret our tardiness for the rest of my life. Ian was a great commander." I accepted his kind words, but I was a little thrown by the soft Irish lilt to his Anglic, which reminded me of the peasants back home. Perhaps because of that, I didn't like the look of him above half. He was dangerous I quickly decided, wild and possibly a little mad.
      He went on to introduce his brother Patrick, who being then in his mid twenties was a couple of years younger and was a smaller, quieter chap, with similarly clean cut good looks, but with buzz cut black hair. My attention was however immediately fixed upon a spanking little red head who was standing with them, she looked to be about twenty three, was petite, gracefully slender and from what I could tell had a very womanly frontage. Catching the direction of my, doubtless obviously lustful, gaze Morgan spoke again.
      "This is Captain Salome Ward. She was the pilot of the Wolverine that beat off Yorinaga Kurita." I was distracted at first by her name and gazing into her eyes I wondered if she could dance as well as her Biblical namesake was reputed to, however suddenly Morgan's words sunk in and I absolutely blurted out in disbelief;
     "What? This little cracker beat Yorinaga?" There was a sudden shocked silence in our little circle and I realised what I'd said, so tried to smooth the ruffled feathers by rattling on. "Ahh, that is, of course she did. Beautiful and deadly. A rare combination."
     Salome smiled thinly and shook my hand, cool as be damned.
     "And a dangerous one." She said dryly.
     I took the hint and besides quickly spotted the body language between her and Morgan, she was obviously his bed warmer. Mind you, that wasn't the only reason for her position in the Hounds, I'd seen her in action and she had to be one of the best and most overlooked MechWarriors I ever met ... she beat Yorinaga after all. Short of Morgan himself, there was no one else who ever managed that.
     "You must carry our sincere regrets to Prince Hanse when you reach New Avalon." Morgan interjected, cutting across my bows to stand proprietarily over Salome.
     "New Avalon?" I asked him confused, at which Morgan looked embarrassed, realising I was in the dark. Gene cleared his throat and placed his hand on my shoulder.
     "I'm sorry to do this to you son. I know you'll want to be back into the fray here again as soon as the fighting kicks back off ... but it wont do. You're wounded and need rest and recovery time. Besides, who could possibly make a better escort for the Hound's body than you, the chap who carried him from danger? A command circuit is being organised as we speak and you're to leave by DropShip with Ian's remains tomorrow." I did my best to look devastated, whilst inside cheering and laughing with joy. I was to leave for home tomorrow. No more Mallory's World, no more war, no more murderous Kuritans, no more filthy desert heat, no more beastly insects everywhere! Still, even then, I knew I had to keep up my act.
     "But sir ... I'll be fit and ready for action in no time. You can't send me back. I want to kill Kuritans. I need payback." Gene and the Kells smiled faintly and exchanged knowing looks of respect. But Gene was thankfully adamant.
     "It's an order Darius. You are to board the Royal DropShip tomorrow and escort the body of First Prince Ian back to New Avalon for his funeral and entombment. It's a signal honour. Now, let's hear no more about it. You can propose a toast at Hanse's coronation on behalf of the 'Bane while you're there, as we're staying on Mallory's World until we've done what Ian brought us here to do." He winked and I acted like the wind had been knocked out of my sails and though nodding agreement, I wandered off on my own to a buffet table and fumbled about one handed with a china plate bearing the Fourth's crest upon it's centre.
     As I was struggling to pile on some grub, a slender and blessedly familiar pair of feminine hands reached around me and began to help. Spinning, I came face to face with Jennifer Devlin. She was wearing a deuced attractive little black dress, with a white and gold trimmed Guards mess jacket over her shoulders with the sleeves hanging loose. A bandage circled under her blonde hair, her tanned skin seemed somewhat paler, her big green eyes were a little shadowed, but her sensual mouth was curled into a beautiful smile and she stood very close to me, gazing up into my face.
     "Hi Dee." She breathed and we were suddenly kissing, oblivious of the gasps of surprise and scandalised envy that several of the chaps closest to us made. I pulled back and babbled a needless stream of questions, which she waved off, while leading me out a side door, then up into one of the empty bedrooms.
     Well, we spent my last night on Mallory's World saying goodbye in the best possible way. I still look back very fondly on Jennifer, she wasn't the most famous, or the most beautiful, or the most deadly dangerous of my girls ... but she had that indefinable something and to this day I still sometimes find myself day-dreaming wistfully about her. She stayed on Mallory's World y'know, like she'd said she would, remained married to her distant husband, who eventually returned and settled down with her in later years and together they raised their family. I never met her again, to my slight sorrow.
   
* * *

      Distracted by my farewell tryst with Jennifer I nearly missed the DropShip, which put down just outside Colterville, while Kell Hounds aero-fighters flew overwatch. I ran, still in my now somewhat dishevelled dress uniform, out through the mustered lines of the 'Bane's 'Mechs, that were drawn up to honour the passing casket carrying Ian's body, while the RCT's band somewhere were playing a funeral march.
     "C'mon Leftenant step it up." Gene called from the ramp of the waiting DropShip and I turned once to gaze down the solemn avenue of BattleMechs, beyond which rose the scarred walls of Colterville. The blue sky seemed less stark and here and there clouds scudded along. With that I span and ran past Gene up the ramp, crunching a bug of some kind under my shoe as I went. Gene called out from behind me.
     "Your baggage is stowed, the Prince is aboard and you're to go to Cabin One. There's a surprise I've arranged waiting for you there." I waved to Gene and the cluster of slightly bemused seeming officers stood with him, including the Kells I noted, as the ramp began to rise. I then allowed myself to be guided by fawning crewmen to my cabin.
     As I entered eager to find what present Gene had arranged for me, I stopped short. There was a man sitting in the large double cabin. He was wearing the grey shirt, tan jacket, olive trousers and tan kepi of a 'Mech Leftenant of the Seventeenth Avalon Hussars. My heart sank as I looked down at him in horror and he turned in his seat to smile widely up at me and then leapt to his feet to grab my hand and shake it avidly.
     "Why there you are old chap. You're late you know. Well, isn't this is a wonderful turn up, we're to be cabin-mates all the way back to New Avalon." My dreams of a pleasant, peaceful and enjoyable journey home died, as I collapsed opposite Ardan Sortek and was forced to listen to his puerile opinions about the death of Princes, his excited thoughts on the good works he and Hanse could now begin and his undying respect for my own 'chivalric deeds'. It suddenly seemed like it was going to be a very long voyage.

-HERE ENDS THE FIRST FILE OF THE MISADVENTURES OF DARIUS DAVION -
Now listen to me you benighted muckers. We're going to teach you soldiering. The world's noblest profession. When we're done with you, you'll be able to slaughter your enemies like civilized men. - HRH D. Dravot

Tokage

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Re: The Misadventures of Darius Davion #1 - Darius and the Hound
« Reply #46 on: 08 February 2011, 20:05:44 »
Editor's Note -

The Disappearance of Darius Davion

     The celebrated AFFC soldier, General Darius Davion, disappeared from his personal pleasure yacht, the Naughty Natasha, while recharging on layover in the June system, some time between the dates of the twentieth of January and the tenth of February 3050. The Naughty Natasha was found drifting in space, unmarked and showing no signs of damage, or violent action. There was nothing apparently missing and no clues as to where Darius went, or why.
     Darius never lacked for powerful enemies and the list of possible assassins, or kidnappers, who might be behind this mysterious event are countless.
     As an old friend of Darius I made it a personal mission to try to learn the truth about what actually happened to him and I travelled to June as soon as I heard. Upon going through his personal computer files I discovered a massive collection of text files, apparently written by Darius and encrypted by him. Although it took me several months I finally cracked the encryption and found that these files were apparently secret memoirs of Darius's life.
     These memoirs are highly controversial, for they state that Darius, a holder of our nation's highest awards for gallantry and a byword for bravery across known space, was in truth a coward, a bully, a cheat, a womanising lecher, a regicide, a deserter and much else besides. I knew I would never be able to publish these memoirs openly for, besides the highly unfavourable light they cast upon Darius himself, they contain many state secrets that our government and rulers would not wish to be publicly known. So after a great deal of soul searching I have begun to post these files anonymously on various p-nets, in the hope they can serve as a lesson to future generations about what really happened across the Inner Sphere and Periphery over the last forty odd years.
     I have considered their authenticity from many angles. Numerous people have stated their belief that these files are fake, a clever hoax, or perhaps even a deliberate smear campaign orchestrated by the Maskirovka, or maybe the ISF. I can only say that where I myself am occasionally mentioned in several of the files, the events match my own memories almost exactly as to what was said and done at each given time, which suggests a degree of authenticity to me. Where possible I have made every effort to check events, dates and people mentioned, and each time have either found the facts match, or differ only in small ways that can be safely put down to a difference of perspective or memory. Also, given certain allegations Darius (or the author of the files claiming to be Darius) makes, for example, as to the true paternity of Romano Liao's heir, or his claims about several events involving the Kuritan royal family, I have discounted the possibility of an enemy state planting the files.
     Difficult as it has been for me, a patriot and for my part a dear friend of Darius, I believe these files are precisely what they claim to be. Darius speaking the truth about his life for the first and only time. Coming clean in a sense. Sometimes I can clearly hear and recognise my friend's voice amidst the spite, the bitter bile and the sickening selfishness, and I find myself smiling, then stop myself and feel very sad. I pity Darius, that he lived a lie for so long, but I strongly feel the public has a right to hear and read the truth about him.
     Some readers have asked for a layout of Darius's movements and in answer to them I thus include this brief and very patchy timeline, which I was roughing out shortly before Darius vanished, with a view to writing an authorised biography.
Brandon Corey
New Avalon
19 March 3051
 
             
The Known Movements of Darius Davion - 3013 - 3050

3013 - April - Sakhara (Fed Suns) (Darius and the Hound) While in his third year at Sakhara Academy, aged 19, Darius engaged in an out of curfew 'Mech race with fourth year cadet Justin Allard, which ended in Darius being expelled from the academy and deported from the planet.
- July to August - New Avalon (Fed Suns) (Darius and the Hound) Darius arrived at the Davion Palace and managed to gain an invite to attend Prince Ian. Ian awarded Darius a position as a MechWarrior in Hillnas's Company of the Fourth Guards.
- October - Mallory's World (Fed Suns) (Darius and the Hound) Darius saw action during the initial landings, the Siege of Colterville (where he was captured by and subsequently escaped from the DCMS), the Battle of Sandsedge, and was with the Fourth Guards during their fighting retreat through the Bone Desert. He was captured again and escaped to be at Desolate Pass when Prince Ian was killed in 'Mech to 'Mech combat with Yorinaga Kurita. Darius was credited with saving Prince Ian's body from the DCMS, was awarded the Silver Sunburst Medal and received a battlefield promotion to Leftenant, from Marshal Gene Drivers. Then along with Ardan Sortek, he accompanied Ian's body back to New Avalon as part of the official escort.
- November to December - New Avalon (Fed Suns) (Darius at the Coronation) Upon his return to New Avalon Darius was secretly co-opted by Hanse Davion into penetrating a Cabalist society within the Brigade of Guards, headed by Captain Jonathan Bright, which was dedicated to assassinating Hanse and seizing power in the resultant chaos. Darius was a pallbearer at Ian's State Funeral, following which he accompanied McKinnon's Raiders in the 'Mech assault on Bright's country estate which effectively wiped out Bright's group and their foreign backers. After attending Hanse's Coronation Darius apparently left New Avalon on a civilian liner.
3014 - First Quarter - Solaris VII (Lyran Commonwealth) While officially on the half-pay list and on extended leave, Darius seems to have spent the early part of this year on a 'gambling holiday' on Solaris. He is rumoured to have run afoul of certain criminal elements there and is known to have left, shortly after a private meeting with Count Truston of the MIIO. His movements are then something of a mystery.
- Marik Civil War - Several reports place him at Duke Anton Marik's headquarters on May 22nd, when the Duke begins the Marik Civil War. A holo pic snapped by a journalist on Nova Roma in September shows Darius in cooling vest talking with Natasha Kerensky, apparently on a battlefield. Other than this his movements during the early months of the Marik Civil War are unknown, beyond the fact that he was apparently serving with Anton's forces (whilst possibly on secret service at the behest of the MIIO) and even seems to have received a Crest of the Eagle medal from Anton.
3015 - Darius's service with Anton's rebel army continued at least until Anton's death and the fall of New Delos. One rumour states Darius was actually with Anton when the Wolf's Dragoon dependants were murdered and later when Anton was killed during the attack by the Black Widow Company. Darius appears to have been 'rescued' by Wolf's Dragoons, but his movements for the rest of the year are unknown at this time.
3016 - Movements unknown at this time. One unconfirmed report suggests he may have travelled throughout the FWL and the Marik Expanse of the Periphery during this time. He definitely does not seem to have returned to the Fed Suns.
3017 - First Quarter - Tharkad (Lyran Commonwealth) Accompanying Duchess Olivia Fenlon, who was on a diplomatic mission and whom he apparently met by chance while he was headed back through Skye towards the Fed Suns, Darius visited the Lyran Capital world early in 3017, court gossip at the time hinted at a possible romantic liason between he and Katrina Steiner. He apparently left Tharkad as part of a military fact finding tour of the LCAFs posititions along the FWL border.
Second Quarter - Lysidas (Lyran Commonwealth) While with the LCAF inspection party on the recently captured border world of Lysidas, Darius disappears again, this time during the Oberonic mercenary Redjack Ryan's brutal reign of terror on that world. Some scattered reports state Darius was kidnapped by Ryan and was taken with the mercs when they went pirate and fled into the Lyran Rift. One scurrilous report claims Darius was actually a member of Ryan's Rebels and is in fact none other than the notorious pirate 'Dirty' Dick Dergeezi; Redjack's 'First Gun' and 'Chief Torturer', until his apparent disappearance/death in 3018, and is the man who caused the poisoning of Lysidas's atmosphere, rendering half the planet uninhabitable. 
3018 - ? Darius is believed to have been held captive by Ryan (or served under him if you believe scandalous rumours) at least until the second quarter of this year. He certainly seems to have been tortured on the face of it as he was missing his left hand when he arrived back in the Fed Suns later in the year, after nearly five years away. How he escaped Butte Hold is not known.
3019 - June - Hesperus II - Darius is part of a Fed Suns business mission visiting the Defiance Industries factories, serving in the role as an unofficial military consultant with Federated Boeing, and actively participates in the Lyran defence of the world against the attack by Wolf's Dragoons. Darius is present at the Battles of Erewhon River, the Widow's Breakthrough - where he was notably the sole survivor on the Lyran side, and throughout the campaign. Darius is officially commended and thanked for his actions during the campaign by both Archon Steiner, and Duke Brewer. Some rather unpleasant backdoors Lyran rumours at the time claimed however that Darius was working both sides of the fence and possibly provided Natasha Kerensky with the information she used to cross the river, this seems highly unlikely even accepting Darius' friendly relations with the Dragoons.
Third Quarter - Nashira - Darius accompanies his old friend and comrade Ardan Sortek, as part of the 17th Avalon Hussars raiding force that hits Nashira. Darius was in the thick of the action throughout the two weeks of heavy fighting, and is credited by Sortek as being the man who courageously mounted a single handed surprise rush attack on the Kuritan positions about the space port, which ultimately enabled the raiders to escape the world.
3020 - Harrow's Sun (Federated Suns) Darius saw active service and combat during the Fourth Battle of Harrow's Sun. The details are as yet still classified by the AFFS.
3021 - First Quarter - Bromhead (Federated Suns) Darius is part of training exercise on Bromhead in the Capellan March at the time the world is attacked by the Taurian Lancers. Darius plays an important part in the battles which ensue.
- Third Quarter - New Ivaarsen (Federated Suns) (Darius and the Heartbreaker) Darius sees action during the Kuritan invasion of this world, he is known to have formed an attachment during the campaign to the notorious Crucis Lancer MechWarrior Paula Stillson and a friendship with Duke Stephen Davion. Darius was also heavily involved in the subsequent disgrace of Lt. General Arlin Stuart and MechWarrior Stillson. Darius was promoted to Captain and awarded the Gold Sunburst Medal at the end of the campaign.   
3022 - Galaina (Lyran Commonwealth) Darius was assigned as a merc liasion to Snord's Irregulars, saw action on Tamar, at the Battle of Vrance, then accompanied the Irregulars on an unauthorised raid into the Draconis Combine. He is rumoured to have been captured and imprisoned on Alshain, where Darius has mentioned to me he shared a cell with Magnusson and Miraborg ... the men who would go on to found the Free Rasalhague Republic in later years. How Darius escaped back to Lyran space is at this time unknown.
3023 - April-May - Hoff (Federated Suns) Following a scandal created by certain ' disparaging off-hand comments' made by Darius to the press about the NAIS, Darius was attached to Project Pheonix and posted to Hoff. He served with valour throughout the Kuritan campaign aimed at capturing the next-gen tech being worked on by Project Pheonix and was credited with saving the Pheonix Techs and equipment, winning membership into the KFS for his efforts.     
- Third Quarter  - New Avalon (Federated Suns) Darius was on New Avalon at the time of the death of Count Nicholas Truston, Minister of the MIIO, in a 'DropShip accident'. Certain comments he has made in my presence lead me to believe there may have been more to Truston's death than is publicly known and Darius may have been involved in an intelligence operation revolving around it.
3024 - January - La Blanc (Federated Suns) Due to his known connections to Natasha Kerensky, Darius was placed in charge of two Techs who were to be used in an ill conceived plan aimed at luring the Black Widow Company into leaving Wolf's Dragoons and switching contracts away from the Combine back into Davion service. Darius failed and took part in the resultant 'Mech battle between the Widows and The Bounty Hunter's Cadre.
- March - February  - Argyle (Federated Suns) (Darius and the Heartbreaker) Returning to the Davion palace on Argyle to report the failure of the La Blanc Proposal, Darius became involved in a public scandal involving the disgraced MechWarrior Paula Stillson. At the advice of Hanse Davion, Darius joined an expedition into the Periphery. His travels in the following months are hard to track, but he seems to have visited Micanos, Novo Franklin, then the Slavers World of Antallos, where he fell into the hands of the Bandit King Helmar Valasek. Why Valasek was on Antallos is not known at this time. Darius was later present at the Battle of Longbow Mountain in the Outworlds Alliance ... according to Outworlds sources a three way battle between Valasek's band, Outworlds forces and a Taurian military unit! (?)
3025 - May - September - Galtor III (Federated Suns) After returning to the Fed Suns, apparently considerably wealthier than when he'd left, Darius was assigned the rank of Major and placed in charge of Hanse's dummy Star League cache on Galtor III. From this position Darius goes on to serve with distinction throughout the Galtor Campaign, being notably present during the Battle of the Fake Depot, the Defence of New Derry, the Last Stand of the Raman DMM and the Final Battle for Galtor. Darius was awarded the Robinson Medal of Valor for his part in the campaign, which he described to me at the time as the worst fighting he'd yet seen.     
- November - Conroe (Federated Suns) Darius was involved in this campaign.
3026 - April - June - Ozawa and Markab (Federated Suns) Darius was attached to the 3rd Crucis Lancers during their campaigns against the 5th Sword of Light on these two worlds. Being famously present at the valiant Last Stand of the 3rd Crucis's Rearguard on Markab, where the C.O. of the 3rd was killed along with his Command Lance ... Darius was the only AFFS MechWarrior to manage to fight his way out of the battle.             
- November - Kittery (Federated Suns) Invited to give a lecture on his extensive battlefield experience by his old school chum Justin Allard, Darius was on Kittery at the time of the controversial battle between Liao raiders and Allard's 1st Kittery Training Battalion, this was the first time Darius saw action against Capellans. 
3027 - January - New Avalon (Federated Suns) Darius stood as a witness for the prosecution at the Trial of Justin Allard.
- Tharkad (Lyran Commonwealth) - Darius was with his good friend Ardan Sortek throughout the Silver Eagle Affair.
3028 - April to May - Misery (Draconis Combine) - Darius fought alongside Wolf's Dragoons during this famous campaign. How this came to occur is a mystery which I have yet to be able to discover.
3028 - August - Terra - (Darius and the Happy Occasion) Darius arrived uninvited at Hanse's wedding, dressed in the uniform of a Major in Wolf's Dragoons and in the company of Jaime Wolf himself. He was typically modest and reticent to brag as to how this came about beyond stating he'd 'helped the Dragoons out on Misery'. Darius was one of the Ushers at the Wedding and there were rumours at the time that Darius fought a secret duel with a Kuritan Otomo officer, who was in the Coordinator's Party, while on Hilton Head Island. 
- September to October - Tikonov (Capellan Confederation) -  Darius was attached to the Crucis Lancers Command Staff during the Invasion of Tikonov. He served with distinction at both the Battle of Bulun and the Siege of Tikograd.
- Northwind  - (Federated Suns)  Darius was involved in orchestrating the defection of the Northwind Highlanders, whom he has always affectionately called 'the Sweaties' to me, from Sweaty Socks - Jocks. The details of his precise movements are unclear, but he definitely arrived with one of the Highlander regiments and took part in the Highlander attack on the DCMS forces then on Northwind.
3029  - Darius's movements during this year are hard to trace, I am sure he was on Elgin at the time of the bomb attempt on Ridzik, he then served with Sortek as adc during Ridzik's brief reign as lord of the Tikonov Free Republic. One report I have uncovered suggests Darius was present in the Hotel Percheron at the time of Ridzik's assassination and that Darius was kidnapped by the Maskirovka assassin while trying to save Ridzik. From there Darius was smuggled across the border into Liao space and taken to Sian. He spent several months in bestial Capellan captivity, used and abused as no Fed Sun's soldier should ever be, until he was rescued during the attack of the Kathil Uhlans.
3030 - Following reports of a scandal involving himself and the Lyran officer Vanessa Bisla, Darius somehow came to be fighting for the Andurien/Canopus Alliance, during their initial invasion of the Capellan Confederation. The story behind this is at present unknown. One report seems to suggest Darius was captured during the campaign on Andarmax and taken back to Sian once again, where he was again subjected to yet more inhuman torture at the hands of Romano Liao. Capellan gossip of a restarted illicit liason between Romano and Darius should be treated with the contempt such blatantly false tittle-tattle deserves.
3031-32?-   Darius seems to have been back in the Andurien/Canopus Invasion of Liao again during this year. Details are few and far between at this time.
3033 -      Darius was definitely on Canopus itself some time in the first quarter of this year. The details are unknown at this time.                     
- Last Quarter - Tamar Pact Darius was involved in the training of the Rasalhaguian Tyr rebels at this time.
3034 - Darius fought for the FRR during the Ronin War. However the details are as yet unknown. He was decorated some years later by the FRR for his part in the fighting.
      Darius apparently left the Ronin War towards the end of the year and seems to have somehow come across the path of Maria Morgraine's pirates. Reports that Darius led Morgraine to Butte Hold and caused the formation of the Greater Valkyrate seem highly unlikely however. As do rumours that Darius struck up a relationship with Susie Morgraine-Ryan during this period. Darius was almost certainly a prisoner of the Ryan family once again however.
3035 - Darius seems to have escaped captivity in the Greater Valkyrate into the Oberon Confederation. His movements there are unknown at this time, however he reappeared towards the end of '35 at the world of Delos IV in the Draconis March aboard a vessel belonging to a previously unknown Periphery people, who Darius stated called themselves 'the Jarnfolk'. The facts of this epic Periphery odyssey are unknown at this time.
3036 - Wei - Promoted to Lt. Colonel, Darius was made AFFS Military Governor of Wei, in the Sarna March. He was ultimately honourably discharged from the position at the instigation of Melissa Steiner-Davion, when she famously replaced all AFFS troops on Sarna worlds with Lyran soldiers. There are numerous rumours of financial corruption, sexual misconduct and brutal treatment of the indigs connected to Darius's stint as Governor ... however this is not unusual in the Sarna March, where the Maskirovka constantly are at work fomenting anti-Davion feelings with black propaganda and these libels can be safely discounted.
3037 - January to March - Xanthe III (Greater Andurien) Darius was back fighting in the Wars of Andurien Secession, on the side of Andurien, in this period and was present at the death of Duncan Marik. He is even sometimes credited as the man who killed Duncan.
3038 - Early to Mid (Circinus Federation) Darius was part of a mercenary recruitment expedition to the Circinus Federation. Ultimately successful, Circinus Mercs fought for the Fed Com during the War of 3039, there are however rumours Darius became dangerously involved in Circinian politics and may even have taken part in the Circinian war for Dersidatz.   
- Late - Murchison (Draconis Combine) Darius was with Wolf's Dragoons during their ill fated raid on this planet.
End of '38-3039  - War of 3039   Darius's movements during the War of 3039 are confused - he seems to have been on Galtor III again, with the special forces teams, fighting a guerilla war against the Kuritan occupation army from late '38, through to March. Then was on Sadalbari from April through May. One report states he was captured there and spent some months behind enemy lines, rumours abound about this time he spent in Kuritan hands, one claim is that he was involved with a top secret ISF faction, another that he may actually have hidden amidst the Yakuza soldiers of Teddy K's Ghost army ... whatever the truth, amazingly he appeared again on An Ting at the end of July, where he is credited with saving the 1st Guards by some commentators. Part of the retreat from An Ting, he was on Thestria from August to September, then Exeter. For his amazing service throughout the war, elements of which have had to remain classified and out of the public domain for reasons of national security, he was awarded the Medal Excalibur and promoted at the end of war to full Colonel.
3040 - Fomalhaut (Draconis Combine) Darius was part of an unauthorised attack by the Guards on Fomalhaut, he was with the officers who later faced court martial on Caph, but seems to have been saved by direct order of Hanse.
3041 - October to November (?) - Antallos (Periphery) Perhaps because of his familiarity with the Slavers World, Darius was part of the AFFS force which hit Port Krin on Antallos seeking the arch criminal Damien Sorno.
3042 - Galtor III Due to his extensive knowledge of Galtor, Darius was part of the AFFS rescue mission to that world.
- Tortuga - Darius was attached to the 2nd Fed Com RCT and serves throughout the Tortuga Campaign. He is reported to have carried out a daring solo penetration of the inner most sanctum of Lady Death Trevaline and was instrumental in her capture. Trevaline's later attempts to maliciously smear Darius's good name by claiming a romantic connection to him have been widely, and correctly in my view, dismissed as the deluded ravings of a mad woman.
3043 - early 44 -  Darius is reported to have been on intelligence work at the climax of Operation Flush. His movements during this year are completely unknown, though I have reason to believe that he was on Terra at some point and may even have penetrated ComStar itself. Darius certainly knew more about ComStar theology in later life than anyone I've ever met...it was he that educated me in the truth about the Inner Mysteries, I shall not go into greater detail here, but I shall just say they don't worship toasters (or any other machines) as is commonly believed...there is a good deal more to it than that!
3044 - May - Marlette (Federated Suns) Invited to celebrate his fiftieth birthday at Fort Bourgogne, by an old friend, General Lester J. Otto, Darius was by chance present and fought heroically during the attack and destruction of that great border fortress by the Big MAC. He was awarded the Syrtis Medal of Honour for his part in the action.
- Skondia (Draconis Combine) Operation Baldur - Promoted to Lt. General Darius's first command was a disaster. The details are confused at this time, but malicious gossip states that Darius's was inept and caused the loss of nearly two entire RCTs. Darius was reassigned back to a staff position at the end of the campaign.
3045      ?
3046      October to December - Westover (FWL) Darius, while travelling in a civilian capacity, seems to have been involved in the Westover Crisis and has made mention to me of a secret Scourge of Death involvement in that planetary revolt. He even has stated to me that a Selaj pretender was behind the whole affair. Westover was historically a Scourgist hotbed, but FWL sources have poured scorn on these claims when I have raised them. The truth at this time is unknown.
3047 - April - Atreus (FWL) - Darius was present at the Wedding of Thomas Marik and Sophina Desiree of Oceana. Rumours abound at the time on Atreus of a plot by aging Janos loyalists to kill Darius at the wedding.
- June - Feb '48 - (Rim Collection) Darius is recruited/convinced by Professor James Moroney into accepting the position of Generalissimo of the Rim Collection Armed Forces. He travels from Atreus to the Rim Collection and is heavily involved in the final creation of that new Periphery nation. Lyran press reports at the time suggested Darius led the Rim Collection's nascent military in several fierce battles against pirate forces of the Bandit King Hopper Morrison.
3048 - Second to Third Quarters - Promoted to the rank of full General, Darius sees yet more action with the AFFS, this time on the Taurian Frontier, during the brush fire war that rages for a brief time following the Landmark and Pinard incursions. Darius mounts an ultimately unsuccessful 'independent diplomatic mission' to Taurus, for which he is officially reprimanded by Hanse Davion...though many of my colleagues in the press agree that Darius was nobly attempting to defuse a tense situation, that might escalate to total war. Regardless of the 'We're backing Darius' Press Campaign, Darius is ordered to 'retire to Killarney' by Hanse         
- Fourth Quarter - In retirement, Darius told me he intended to write his memoirs. He was fifty five.                                 
3049 - Darius spent most of this year on Killarney, presumably writing his memoirs.
- November - Highspire (Federated Commonwealth) Darius was on Highspire to receive the Pride of Sarna Medal, 'for his honourable contributions towards the de-Liaofication of the Sarna worlds', when the Thuggee Rebellion broke out. He was present at the Siege of the Fed Com Building
- December - Sian (?) (Capellan Confederation) Darius is rumoured to have been back on Sian at this time, perhaps kidnapped on Highspire, it seems possible he was involved in the Capellan Hussars Purge which occurred while he was there, his last c-mail to myself made mention of his meeting Sun Tzu Liao and having been 'pretty pleased with him - chip off the old block', whatever that means?
Now listen to me you benighted muckers. We're going to teach you soldiering. The world's noblest profession. When we're done with you, you'll be able to slaughter your enemies like civilized men. - HRH D. Dravot

mikecj

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Re: The Misadventures of Darius Davion #1 - Darius and the Hound
« Reply #47 on: 09 February 2011, 12:27:40 »
Maybe Sun-Tzu is Darius' offspring, not Hanse as suggested in the canon
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Tokage

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Re: The Misadventures of Darius Davion #1 - Darius and the Hound
« Reply #48 on: 09 February 2011, 14:03:32 »
Maybe Sun-Tzu is Darius' offspring, not Hanse as suggested in the canon

Questionable canon too - in that it's presented in the 'may or may not be true' bracket. ;)

As to Darius being the father ... we'd have to check the dates I guess.  8) ;)
Now listen to me you benighted muckers. We're going to teach you soldiering. The world's noblest profession. When we're done with you, you'll be able to slaughter your enemies like civilized men. - HRH D. Dravot

Dave Talley

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Re: The Misadventures of Darius Davion #1 - Darius and the Hound
« Reply #49 on: 09 February 2011, 14:54:03 »
looks like Darius has spent more of his life on dropships than any other single place,
except perhaps captivity :-)
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Tokage

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Re: The Misadventures of Darius Davion #1 - Darius and the Hound
« Reply #50 on: 09 February 2011, 16:17:12 »
Heh, true. He says of that subject in Chapter 1 of story #2;

     Jump travel can be a real bore. Sometimes you can get lucky if your ship has an easy going captain and a crew prepared to while away the days with cards, boozing, and good conversation. If you're really lucky there will be a willing female aboard with you and you can spend your time getting to know each other in interesting zero-g positions. However if, at it's best, it can be something like a rather cramped house-party, at it's worse it can feel like a stretch in prison.

From my own notes, here's some more Darius Data;

Darius' Campaigns serving with the AFFS or AFFC:

Mallory's World - 3013
Suppression of the Bright Cabal, New Avalon   - 3013
Nashira (Raid)   - 3019
Fourth Battle of Harrow's Sun   - 3020
Bromhead - 3021
New Ivaarsen - 3021
Rigil Kentarus -    3022
Hoff - 3023
Galtor III - 3025
Conroe - 3025
Ozawa - 3026
Markab - 3026
Kittery - 3026
(4SW) Tikonov - 3028
(4SW) Northwind - 3028
Galtor III (Special Duties)   - 3039
Sadalbari   - 3039
An Ting - 3039
Exeter - 3039
Antallos (Raid)   - 3041
Galtor III (Relief Mission)   - 3042
Tortuga -   3042
Marlette (Defence of Fort Bourgogne) - 3044
Skondia (Operation Baldur) - 3044
Menke (Raid) -    3045
Taurian Frontier Campaign - 3048
Benet III   - 3049

Ranks Officially Held:

Hauptmann General   -   AFFC
Major          -   Wolf's Dragoons
Generalissimo    -   Rim Collection

Medals & Decorations:

Silver Sunburst (FS)          - Awarded 3013 for actions on Mallory's World
Crucis Cross (FS)          - Awarded 3013 for actions on New Avalon
Crest of the Eagle (FWL/Rebel)   - Awarded 3014 by Anton Marik
Order of the Lyran Harp (LC)      - Awarded 3019 for actions on Hesperus II
Gold Sunburst (FS)         - Awarded 3021 for actions on New Ivaarsen 
Order of the Knights of the Federated Suns (FS) - Awarded 3023 for actions on Hoff
Robinson Medal of Valour (FS)   - Awarded 3025 for actions on Galtor III
Diamond Sunburst (FS)       - Awarded 3025 for actions on Galtor III
Order of Davion (FS)         - Awarded 3027 for actions during the Silver Eagle Affair
Liao Grand Cordon of Merit (CC)    - Awarded 3030 by Romano Liao (?)
Canopus Cluster (MC)      - Awarded 3033 for actions during Canopian invasion of the Cap Con
Tyr Cluster (FRR)         - Awarded 3042 for actions during Ronin War of '34
Rasalhague Star (FRR)      - Awarded 3042 for actions during Ronin War of '34
Andurien Legion of Valour (A)   - Awarded 3037 for actions on Xanthe III
Order of the Bushido Blade (DC)   - Awarded 3039 by Theodore Kurita (?)
Medal Excalibur (FS)         - Awarded 3039 for actions throughout the course of the war of that year
Federated Commonwealth Medal of Honour (FC) - Awarded 3044 for secret service on behalf of the state (Operation Flush)
Federated Commonwealth Star (FC)   - Awarded 3042 for actions during Tortugan Expedition
Syrtis Medal of Honour (FC)      - Awarded 3044 for actions on Marlette
Pride of Sarna Medal (FC)      - Awarded 3049 for earlier contributions toward the de-Liaoification of the Sarna worlds

Order of the Tamar Tigers (LC) - ?
Now listen to me you benighted muckers. We're going to teach you soldiering. The world's noblest profession. When we're done with you, you'll be able to slaughter your enemies like civilized men. - HRH D. Dravot

Centurion03

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Re: The Misadventures of Darius Davion #1 - Darius and the Hound
« Reply #51 on: 09 February 2011, 18:09:51 »
I can't wait to read more about Daring Darius!

Although, I can't help but wonder how many heroes of the Inner Sphere share
at least a few characteristics with Darius...